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.
Lakers @ Mavericks Over/Under - 213.5
The Lakers sound like they’ll be without Kobe Bryant again today after he was a fairly surprising inactive yesterday due to both of his achilles tendons being sore. That means Wayne Ellington will draw another start, but he’s been far from impressive in some extended minutes thus far. Nick Young also hasn’t seen a huge uptick in production, which has been kind of surprising, but I believe he’s still the play in this situation. Jordan Hill had a nice game yesterday, but will have to deal with Tyson Chandler on the second of a back-to-back, which is no easy task. Hill is the safest play in terms of minutes on the Lakers, but I’m not sure that puts him in play on such a big slate. Ed Davis has also been playing well of late and gets a much better matchup than Hill against the Mavericks power forward rotation, which has been very weak defensively. Carlos Boozer playing fairly well off the bench has really capped his upside, but he’s the better player here and the one the Lakers need to develop going forward. Ronnie Price has been the biggest beneficiary of Kobe Bryant sitting out as he’s played 25 or more minutes in four straight games and turned in his second consecutive 8 assist outing with Kobe Bryant out of the lineup. He’s actually used as a point guard with Ellington in the game, so I’d expect him to keep playing well if Kobe sits once again.
The Mavericks rotation could get interesting tonight with both Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis questionable after missing shootaround with an illness. If both of them were to sit, the remaining Mavericks starters would be elite plays. Rajon Rondo would take over almost all the ballhandling and playmaking duties while Chandler Parsons would become the go-to scorer, causing both to be dramatically underpriced. I think Rondo is a solid play in this one even if the whole roster suits up, but Parsons is a guy you can only target if someone is sitting out right now. Tyson Chandler will be an elite center play no matter who plays for the Mavericks. He chewed up and spit out the Suns terrible center rotation for the second time in as many weeks on Tuesday and will likely do the same to the Lakers for as long as he’s needed. If both Dirk and Monta suit up, I wouldn’t feel great about rostering anyone from this game on the Mavericks side of the ball as they’ll likely put the game out of reach early and get some rest in the second half.
Wolves @ Nuggets Over/Under - 211
This is the game I’d most like to attack tonight, but it’s increasingly tough to find players you can trust on these two teams. With Mo Williams back in the lineup and looking pretty healthy, Zach LaVine has become almost non-existent. Williams has been productive, but you never know when his back will act up on him and I’d like to see him in the starting lineup before trusting him to play more than 20-25 minutes on any given night. Chase Budinger had two solid games where he played extended minutes, but the Wolves are going to give Shabazz Muhammad and Andrew Wiggins every opportunity to soak up the wing minutes, so Budinger is going to be a hit or miss option based on how he’s shooting that night. Muhammad’s usage rate is so high that he’s impossible to ignore and this matchup is much softer than Tuesday’s with the Cavaliers. I prefer him to Wiggins, who probably has more multi-category upside, but tends to disappear more often than Muhammad at this point. Gorgui Dieng had by far his best game of the season on Tuesday with 20 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 steals and we know he has this kind of upside. Tonight’s matchup with the Nuggets should give him every chance to replicate that performance, but I wouldn’t expect another quite that good. Thaddeus Young has simply not been consistent enough for me to recommend.
Ty Lawson played 42 minutes against Brooklyn on Tuesday and racked up 29 points on 10-of-20 shooting, while still adding 9 assists despite the big scoring night. He’s been one of the better fantasy players in the league lately and he continues to carry the Nuggets on his back. He’s an elite play tonight and is my second favorite point guard play overall behind Russell Westbrook. The rest of the Nuggets rotation is generally in flux. Both Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov start nearly every game, but rarely play a stable number of minutes and Faried has been as frustrating to own as anyone as he often finds himself planted on the bench for long stretches with no rhyme or reason. Wilson Chandler has seen his minutes solidified with the injury to Danilo Gallinari and he’s one of the only other Nugget I truly trust enough to play, even in tonight’s high-scoring bout. Arron Afflalo has disappeared too often on offense and none of the Nuggets backups are playing consistent enough minutes to warrant consideration even in the best matchups.
Suns @ Kings Over/Under - 213.5
The Suns continue to be one of the toughest rotations to predict in the NBA, but Isaiah Thomas working his way into a heavier role is going to start solidifying the minutes a little bit if this continues. It all comes down to how long the Suns can play small for in any given game. They’ll easily be able to play small at shooting guard all game in this one as the Kings don’t have a big body at the position and it’s been their weakest defensively. Look for Thomas to play a solid game on his former home court, where he should be very comfortable. I can’t see him playing less than 25 minutes tonight. That likely means that Goran Dragic will be capped at around 30 minutes and playing off the ball quite a bit. Eric Bledsoe remains the most consistent bet for minutes in the backcourt, but his production has been weirdly quiet at times this season. Overall, the player you want from the Suns most night’s is Markieff Morris, but even he has struggled with consistency of late. That said, Jason Thompson is going to be no match for him and is a foul machine, so look for Morris to build on his 7-for-11 shooting against the Kings in the last meeting. Alex Len has looked pretty good as a starter, but I can’t imagine him not getting into foul trouble against DeMarcus Cousins tonight and there are simply better center plays.
This game should produce a lot of scoring for the Kings, but outside of DeMarcus Cousins, the other Kings players seem overpriced from playing without him for a few weeks. Jason Thompson is rarely worth more than the minimum with Cousins in the lineup and he’s priced far above that right now, as is Reggie Evans. Rudy Gay was a solid price play for most of the season until Cousins sat out and his price skyrocketed to nearly 20% of the salary cap. He’s still a solid play, but at this point, he’s not going to pay for his price as the second option on offense. Darren Collison has also slid down a peg with Cousins back. He’s still playing heavy minutes though and his price hasn’t changed much other than possibly being more accurate. The pace of this game should create plenty of opportunities for the Kings point guard, but if Eric Bledsoe is on him for much of the game, he’s going to struggle with turnovers and getting in the lane. Ben McLemore is another player who was useful at times with Cousins out, but his play actually seems to elevate with the defensive attention Cousins draws. He’s scored at least 22 points in two of the last three games and has been playing a healthy 36 minutes per game over his past four. Keep an eye on McLemore in this one as a price play at a weak shooting guard position.