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.
Mavericks @ Celtics Over/Under - 214
The Mavericks have become one of the most complex and frustrating teams in the NBA in terms of predicting fantasy production since the arrival of Rajon Rondo. Monta Ellis has given up some of his ball handling and creation duties and while he’s still a solid option, he looks to have been sapped of much of his upside and he’ll have to deal with Avery Bradley for most of the night, making him tough to pay for. Chandler Parsons has seen his shot attempts decrease as well and the only useful game he’s posted since Rondo’s arrival was the game Tyson Chandler sat out and he played most of his minutes at power forward, while knocking down 5 threes. Dirk Nowitzki is still their go-to scorer in crunch time, so he’s still in play in games that are supposed to be competitive. The line on this game is -6 because it’s in Boston, but I could see the Mavericks running away with this one after a couple days to rest their legs. Rajon Rondo is impressive when he’s highly motivated and I’d expect him to be going up against the only other organization he’s ever played for, so he’s my favorite play on the Mavericks tonight. Look for him to continue to shoot more than he was in Boston and his assist totals will only climb. Tyson Chandler is a solid play every time he suits up as the Mavericks really have no depth behind him and he’s been rejuvenated this season, racking up rebounds at a staggering rate.
The Celtics have just been a trainwreck in terms of fantasy value since Rondo left. Jared Sullinger had been in a huge funk, that he just broke out of yesterday, but he remains the best choice for consistent production on this team. Sullinger should be able to rebound well if Nowitzki isn’t highly involved in the offense all night and he should be able to score wise ease on Dirk as well. Jeff Green has looked disinterested since the Rondo trade and it’s hard to blame him right now. It’s hard to see what the Celtics “plan” is right now. They are playing guys like Jameer Nelson and Evan Turner while young players like Marcus Smart are having trouble finding playing time. Smart remains dirt cheap, but he’s rarely playing more than about 25 minutes and doesn’t seem overly involved in the offense while he’s out there. Turner started at point guard yesterday and was pretty impressive, approaching a triple-double in just 23 minutes. He’ll likely draw the start again tonight and is worth a look due to his small forward eligibility while he plays point guard. Tyler Zeller has been solid, but I’m not a fan of playing big men against Tyson Chandler. Kelly Olynyk also continues to be right on his tail for increased playing time at center, not to mention newly acquired Brandon Wright, who hasn’t played much yet.
76ers @ Suns Over/Under - 209
The 76ers have reverted to playing some terrible basketball again lately. Michael Carter-Williams remains the engine that drives this team and he’s just 3-for-27 over the past two games, both big losses. He has to play much better due to his usage rate, for this team to compete at all. Nerlens Noel is playing through an ankle injury and has not shot well of late either, there are simply too many other power forward options tonight to strongly consider him. Tony Wroten has been stuck in a weird middle ground between featured player and bench player, where he doesn’t play a ton in competitive games or blowouts and it’s making him very hard to roster, however this seems like an ideal game flow setup for him and he could pay major dividends at his price. Robert Covington is the only true shooter on the Sixers right now and he’s getting a ton of run because of it lately, around 35 minutes per game. With his scoring upside and underrated peripheral production, he’s a lineup consideration each time the Sixers play. The rest of the Sixers roster simply isn’t talented enough fantasy-wise to be considered most nights when they are healthy.
The Suns have fully committed to Eric Bledsoe are their star it seems and it’s working wonders for them. It sure took them long enough. Bledsoe has been on fire, averaging 21.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 2 steals per game over his past five. I don’t see him slowing down tonight against a Sixers team who doesn’t have anyone who matches up well with him. Goran Dragic will likely cede some extra minutes to Isaiah Thomas in the likely blowout tonight, so I’d avoid him and be sure to keep an eye on Thomas fitting into some lineups, especially tournaments. Markieff Morris has been very average lately, but the Sixers have been killed by big men all season and he should see a nice boost in his numbers across the board in this favorable matchup. Alex Len has been pretty impressive as a starter, despite rarely seeing extended minutes, both due to foul trouble and fatigue. That said, he should produce well tonight in a matchup with the league’s only center defense worse than the Suns.
Raptors @ Warriors Over/Under - 215
Kyle Lowry continues to carry the Raptors while DeMar DeRozan is out and he’ll have to do so again tonight against another of the NBA’s elite teams. The Warriors are a top five defensive squad this year, but Lowry gets the one weak link in going against Curry to start the game. Curry has been much better this season, but he’s still the weak link on the perimeter. Lowry may see some of Klay Thompson as well, but his usage rate can buoy his value through any matchup at this point if the game is competitive. Outside of Lowry, it’s been hard to find any consistently good fantasy plays on the Raptors lately. The big man trio of Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas and Patrick Patterson have all had their moments this season, but predicting which one will have the best game on any given night is a fools errand most of the time. Valanciunas has really taken a step forward this year and outside of foul trouble, he’s become much more consistent, so he’s the one I would choose if I’m taking a Raptors big man tonight, especially with Andrew Bogut still out of the lineup. Terrence Ross has been quietly solid at shooting guard as he’s playing heavy minutes to keep his shooting on the floor for spacing purposes. The problem is he’s shown literally zero upside this season. Lou Williams and James Johnson have both been excellent per minute producers, but inconsistent ones at that. Williams is the easier one to trust as you know he’ll get his shots up when he’s out there. Johnson has been very up and down in the starting lineup, having three really great games and three disappearing acts so far. Landry Fields may return and steal his starting spot back as well.
This may be the best game flow Stephen Curry has seen in quite a while, as he’s played over 31 minutes just once in the last five games. This is 100% due to the soft spot in their schedule and I expect him to approach 40 minutes tonight with a full line. The same goes for the very quiet Klay Thompson lately. He needs his full compliment of minutes to be useful as he’s not much of a peripheral stats guy. Draymond Green on the other had is, and he’s been posting dominant fantasy lines in these easy matchups and even with David Lee back, I don’t see him giving up any minutes in competitive games. Marreese Speights has been starting with both Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli both injured, but even if he starts once again, I don’t see him replicating his uber-efficient performance against the hapless Sixers the other night. The Speights Cowboy, some people still just call him Marreese, has been an underrated offensive weapon for the Warriors this year, but they simply refuse to play him more than 20 or so minutes. With his price rising and power forward being stacked on a nightly basis, I think you can do better tonight. Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala continue to have an issue with both producing night to night as they steal minutes from each other.