Each Tuesday and Friday, I’ll be analyzing the players and teams involved in the (projected) highest-scoring games of the night. Those vegas guys that set the over/under totals tend to know their stuff, so we should definitely use their hard work to our easy advantage. Total points in a game translates quite well to fantasy points for the players involved in that game in the National Basketball Association, so we’ll be looking to start our teams each night with players from these games.
Clippers @ Lakers Over/Under - 208.5
The Lakers second outing (218 points) was a little more promising than the first (198 points) for those of us looking to target high scoring matchups to draft our players from. You can just assume that in every Lakers game, Kobe will come out gunning. He hoisted up a ridiculous 25 shots in 28 minutes in the Wednesday matchup with the Suns, but it’s just hard to see Bryant playing much in the 4th quarter this season with just how bad the Lakers roster is. Outside of Bryant, it looks like Ed Davis may be the only other viable option on this Lakers team for tonight, which is crazy considering this game is the highest point total of the night. Davis played a team-high 33 minutes against the Suns scoring 14 points with 9 rebounds while adding 2 blocks and 2 steals. Davis has shown flashes in the past and with rookie Julius Randle likely done for the season, he’s now the most likely candidate to make people question how Carlos Boozer still has a starting job in the NBA. Jeremy Lin hasn’t necessarily been outplayed, but he’s certainly taken a backseat minutes-wise to Ronnie Price in the season’s first two games. I hope this has more to do with Lin working his way back into shape from injury than it does Byron Scott’s actual preference because I just don’t think I can stomach many more Price, Wes Johnson, Carlos Boozer lineups from the Lakers. With the Lakers starting to get healthy, it removes Wes Johnson from his already shaky volume-play status, which shouldn’t upset anyone.
On the Clippers side of the ball, we have a much more diverse set of options. Basically any of their players that aren’t small forwards are in play, despite them playing the second game of a back-to-back. With Darren Collison out of the picture from last season, a lot of roles have been made much more clear for the Clippers, which is great for us fantasy owners. Jordan Farmar is operating strictly as a backup to Chris Paul who played 38 minutes to Farmar’s 10 last night. Paul should dissect the Lakers in this one with his passing after only posting 7 assists last night. Jamal Crawford played 27 minutes and that should be consistent for him going forward with upside for more when he’s really feeling it. He often operated as the point guard last night even with Jordan Farmar on the floor and the Clippers used quite a few 3-guard sets in the second half last night. Crawford had a lot of his big night’s last year in blowouts, which I expect tonight’s game to be. Blake Griffin struggled with his jumper and foul trouble throughout the game last night and had a semi-quiet evening for him, he should be a solid play tonight with massive upside, but likely won’t reach the 38 minutes from the previous outing. DeAndre Jordan is probably the ideal play in this one as he should clean up the glass and dominate the Lakers unathletic frontline. Jordan averaged 13.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.5 blocks against the Lakers last season.
Spurs @ Suns Over/Under - 205
The Suns continue to be one of the most fun teams in the NBA to watch, playing at a fast-pace and featuring quick, creative guards that can both score and pass. Eric Bledsoe posted an impressive line of 16 points, 6 rebounds and 9 assists in just 26 minutes in the Suns first game of the season against the Lakers. While the going won’t be so easy tonight against a much tougher Spurs defense, he should see at least 5-8 more minutes in a competitive game. With P.J. Tucker still suspended for two more games, it opens up extra minutes on the wing, but it hasn’t really made the Suns rotation much less crowded. Isaiah Thomas played just 20 minutes off the bench, even in the blowout last game, and while he looked fantastic scoring 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting, it’s hard to trust him as his minutes could fluctuate even more based on game flow and performance. Marcus Morris was the biggest beneficiary of Tucker’s absence in game one, scoring 21 points, but still playing just 29 minutes. Gerald Green played a quiet 22 minutes off the bench. Look for Morris to start again and potentially play more minutes in a closer game if he’s shooting it well again. I still believe Markieff Morris is the Suns best non-point guard on the roster and expect his breakout game of this season to come sooner rather than later and they’ll need his post scoring presence often in this one against a tough Spurs team defense.
It sounds like Kawhi Leonard will be back tonight for the Spurs after missing the first game with an eye issue. That means we can essentially throw out the wing rotation from the first game. Expect Leonard to step right in and play about 30-34 minutes in this one, but remember he started last season slow and could do so again, but his upside is immense this season. Marco Belinelli will shift back to an unusable bench role and both he and Danny Green will see their shot attempts and minutes decrease. Manu Ginobili had a very nice first outing and should play in the mid-20s in minutes as long as he can manage his aches and pains. There is always the risk of rest when you play Ginobili. Tiago Splitter sounds likely to remain out, leaving plenty of court time for Boris Diaw off the bench once again. Matt Bonner played just 15 minutes despite starting game one. It’s also very hard to argue against Tim Duncan in any game he’s expected to get 30+ minutes as he offers some of the best and most efficient per-36 numbers in the league. I’d love to see Splitter get back in the lineup and let Duncan operate in the high-post spot he dominated for so much of last season, but Duncan has proven he can be effective in any lineup and with two full days of rest since their first game, he should be ready to go for another 30 minutes tonight.
76ers @ Bucks Over/Under - 202.5
The Bucks come into this game after looking much better than advertised in their first game of the season, taking an expected playoff team in Charlotte to overtime after building a big second half lead. Brandon Knight had a monster game and it’s possible learning under a pure point guard like Jason Kidd will help him reach the immense potential his physical talent suggests. He’s shown flashes in the past, but has never been able to consistently do it night-in and night-out. He’ll look to follow up his opening night line of 22 points, 8 rebounds and 13 assists with another great line against the league’s worst defense. Donald Sloan poured in 16 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists against the Sixers. Yes, Donald Sloan. Brandon Knight is a lock-and-load type play tonight. I expect this game to be Jabari Parker’s coming out party as an NBA player as well. He didn’t flash much in his first action, scoring just 8 points on 9 shots without much else, but he did play a healthy 37-minutes and we can give him a pass on his first game due to jitters and being matched up with an elite defender like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Khris Middleton surprisingly got the start next to Parker and didn’t disappoint, dropping 17 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists. I expect Middleton to be similar to last year, where he’ll look solid most games when he gets minutes and then disappear others. Always use him at your own peril. Larry Sanders looked good in his first game, but was part of a 3-man center rotation that included both Zaza Pachulia and John Henson off the bench. The Bucks have been quiet about what was ailing him in preseason and I’d like to see him play extended minutes before running him out there in my lineups.
On the Sixers side of the ball, there were few bright spots on opening night. However, Tony Wroten was a huge one as he usually is when he starts at point guard. Wroten piled up 22 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals, while just turning the ball over one time against Indiana on Wednesday. While it’s hard to see Wroten repeating those totals nightly, the 21 shot attempts he took could be the norm until Michael Carter-Williams returns from injury. That should be enough to vault him into consideration in almost any matchup, especially one as favorable as the Bucks. The other bright spot was Nerlens Noel playing 35 injury-free minutes. While his offensive game is still a major work in progress, there’s enough there to rack up points in favorable matchups. He’s not going to shoot 2-of-11 every night. He’ll likely play a lot of center in this one with the Bucks playing small often, a position the Bucks have struggled mightily to defend in recent years. The other Sixers seem to be splitting up their playing time pretty evenly and were equally unimpressive on Wednesday. Alexey Shved was the lone spark off the bench, totalling 18 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists in 24 minutes. It’s hard to expect him to match those totals, as we’ve rarely seen him do this before, but he’s worth monitoring as one of the few NBA-caliber players on the roster. Just don’t watch him try to play defense. KJ McDaniels still has a ton of upside, but he was nearly silent in his first NBA action. He did play 20 minutes, but it’s probably smart to let him get his feet under him before using him in daily fantasy contests.