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.
Suns @ Lakers Over/Under - 214
This bout is one of the highest over/unders we’ve gotten all season from Vegas thus far and this matchup produced 218 points just a week ago in Phoenix. Kobe Bryant has struggled shooting the ball in every game in the young season, but to his credit, he’s also averaging almost 40 fantasy points per game on the year. He’s taken 25 or more shots in two of his last three contests and at least 15 in all four. Bryant is a rock solid option at a weak shooting guard position nightly, and especially in faster-paced matchups like this one. Carlos Boozer continues to come up as an interesting price-play in daily, but he had just 4 points, 4 rebounds and 8 turnovers last time these teams met. He’s awfully hard to trust. Jeremy Lin broke out with a 35 minute, 17 point, 9 assist line against the Clippers at home, then fell apart the next night against the Warriors going 0-for-6 with 5 fouls and 5 turnovers. Lin will be inconsistent this year playing next to Kobe, but this looks like a decent spot for him at home. Wes Johnson is consistently playing 30 minutes, but he’s cracked 20 fantasy points just once and even at a near minimum salary, he’s not returning enough value. Jordan Hill is the second Laker you want to be looking hard at tonight, as he’s turned in back-to-back 33 minute, 23 point, 5 rebound performances, while adding 3 blocks in the second one. He’s always a risk for foul trouble, but the Suns are one of the more jumpshot heavy teams in the league, which should help him avoid that somewhat.
Eric Bledsoe is the player you really want to target for the Suns. He dropped 16 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists and 3 threes on the Lakers in the first meeting in just 26 minutes. Look for the Lakers to be a bit more competitive at home and let Bledsoe get his full 32 or so minutes of run while trying to top that line. I have a hard time playing Goran Dragic with Isaiah Thomas playing so well off the bench, but the talent is still there. He’s been playing 30+ minutes a night and obviously has a great matchup with Lin. Thomas on the other hand, is red hot, but hard to trust, as he’s barely exceeding 20 minutes a game right now. Markieff Morris is the other play i would target in this matchup. Carlos Boozer will start the night on him and was just called out by his own coach as an awful defender. Morris wasn’t needed to score much in the first game as the Suns controlled the game most of the way, but he followed that up with a 20 point, 10 rebound performance against a tough Spurs team. He could match those numbers this evening. With P.J. Tucker returning, I’m reluctant to play any of the Suns wings, even given the matchup. Marcus Morris has played well as a starter, but Tucker started almost every game he played last season and Gerald Green is going to get buried further down the bench, while still getting minutes. This is a situation to monitor, rather than attack.
Cavaliers @ Blazers Over/Under - 202
The Cavaliers are still trying to figure out how to play together, but it did start to come together against the Bulls in their last game. LeBron James poured in 36 points on 30 shots and dominated the game, as he should nightly. Look for LeBron to take a little more control of this team until they get all the bugs worked out. He’s an elite play almost every time he plays right now. Kevin Love has been solid, but hasn’t shot the ball well yet, going a combined 11-for-31 thus far on the season. He is averaging 15 to boards to keep him at 45 fantasy points a night though, so there’s not a lot of complaining to do. He’ll have some monster games when he’s shooting it well from three. Dion Waiters gave up considerable minutes to Matthew Dellavedova in the second game of the season, which is not a good sign for his fantasy prospects. Anderson Varejao looks like an awfully unexciting fantasy option right now, playing just 28 minutes per game and giving way to Kevin Love on the boards. Kyrie Irving is another Cavalier that hasn’t shot the ball all that well yet, but I do love the matchup with a banged up Lillard tonight. Irving is historically a much better shooter at home, but I think at a slightly depressed price, he can be useful in this one.
The Blazers have been a bit up and down this year and Damian Lillard comes into this matchup with the Cavaliers struggling and a little banged up. Lillard dealt with an ab strain during the last game and could never get his jumper going, finishing 4-for-18 and leaving him just 11-for-41 on the season thus far. That’s brought his price down a bit as he heads into a great matchup with Kyrie Irving, who has been one of the league’s worst defensive point guards since being drafted. Lillard carries some risk, but also immense upside tonight. The other Blazers star, LaMarcus Aldridge, has been just the opposite through three games. Aldridge has knocked down 27-of-57 shots thus far on the young season and was a sizzling 10-of-20 last outing. He finally found the rebounding prowess he added last season, grabbing 13 against the Warriors. Aldridge should get another 20 shots up tonight. Wesley Matthews has been one of the more consistent shooting guards on the young season, which of course, isn’t saying much. Matthews has a premier matchup tonight, facing off against the disinterested Dion Waiters and the undersized Dellavedova all night. He’s played at least 33 minutes, taken at least 12 shots and made at least 46% of his field goal attempts in each game thus far. The Blazers still have no bench to speak of outside of Steve Blake as a facilitator. Robin Lopez has seen his minutes scaled back with the addition of Chris Kaman and his price hasn’t been affected by it yet, so he can safely be ignored for now.
Rockets @ Heat Over/Under - 200
The Rockets looked outstanding on offense last night against the Sixers, as everyone does, but their defense left a lot to be desired. James Harden may well be the best offensive player in fantasy basketball right now and it’s going to really boost his assist numbers having Trevor Ariza consistently knocking down open threes. Harden should go at Dwyane Wade early and often in this one and it should be a highly entertaining matchup to watch. Isaiah Canaan struggled with some foul trouble last night, but still salvaged a nice game. He’s nothing special in terms of talent, but for a near-minimum salary, he can provide value anytime he’s starting and getting 30 or so minutes. Keep an eye on Patrick Beverley’s status before deploying him tonight. Trevor Ariza and Terrence Jones are both guys I prefer to play in home games, but Jones does have a nice matchup with Shawne Williams tonight, which he should be able to take advantage of in the post, as Williams is really more of a small forward-type player. Dwight Howard is a fine play as always, but I expect Harden to continue to run the show on offense outside of great matchups for Dwight and a meeting with Chris Bosh is far from a great matchup.
Erik Spoelstra has done an impressive job leading the Heat to the East’s only 3-0 record on the year. His rotations are some of the most impressive coaching work I’ve seen in the past couple years. He’s manufactured his rotation so that one of Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade is on the floor at all times, which is how I believe most 2-star rotations should be designed. Also known as, the opposite of what Scott Brooks has been doing with the Thunder over the past few years, playing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook together almost exclusively. This rotation has allowed Dwyane Wade to spend time as a featured scorer for much of the game, while also allowing Bosh to be the true go-to player in the offense. Despite the tough matchup, I think Bosh’s outside game should give Howard trouble in this one. Wade is a high-upside play against the James Harden turnstyle, but he’s struggled with his jumper in two of three games thus far. His best asset remains his position. Luol Deng played 36 minutes last game and started to look comfortable with the Heat, but I just don’t see a lot of upside there as he plays third fiddle. The rest of the Heat roster leaves a lot to be desired from a fantasy perspective. After Wade, the Heat are trying to work in four guards; Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers, Shabazz Napier and James Ennis. That’s just not going to lead to a lot of productive nights for anyone. Shawne Williams has been solid, but with Josh McRoberts working his way back into shape, his minutes will start to dwindle, this may be the last night he’s in play at all.