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 @ Pelicans Over/Under - 211
The Suns continue to look better and better with Alex Len in the starting lineup as they’ve now strung together a few wins and seem to have their much-needed confidence and swagger back. Eric Bledsoe just dismantled the Lakers for 22 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists last time out and continues to assert himself as the alpha dog in this hot-hand rotation. The Suns have begun using more three-guard lineups lately, which I believe is the main reason for their success. It has also solidified the value of Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, both of which were almost unplayable in fantasy early in the season due to their inconsistent roles. Dragic has been played at least 31 minutes in 12 straight contests and makes for a solid play nightly now, while the much lower priced Thomas has played at least 24 minutes in 9 straight games and continues to cook off the bench. Markieff Morris has cooled off quite a bit, but he remains a solid power forward option as his price has come down to earth with him. Alex Len has been impressive as a starter, but is tough to recommend tonight against a giant Pelicans frontline. They haven’t been lockdown good, but that’s not needed against a player like Len, who could easily find himself in foul trouble in this game as well with Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday all aggressive going to the rim. The rest of the Suns have been minimized by this new three guard look.
Jrue Holiday has been rock solid over the last month or so and while he does offer some upside from time to time, it often comes in unpredictable games. This matchup does look appetizing though, at home against the Suns fast-paced, small squad. Jrue has shot 5% better from the field at home this season, but he’s been more consistent night-to-night than he’s been in years past. Look for him to be the Pelican to get off to a hot start, causing the Suns to adjust their defense. At that point is when Tyreke Evans will take over. Whenever Eric Bledsoe is not on them, both of the Pelicans shot creators are going to be attacking relentlessly in the pick and roll with Anthony Davis. Davis should have a monster night, but his price is still pretty insane. I don’t expect to see a lot of Omer Asik in this game, especially while Alex Len is out of the game, which in the past few games, has been more than half the court time. The Pelicans will likely use mostly the Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis frontcourt that they are sometimes reluctant to use, but this is the perfect situation to deploy it at length. Anderson is an intriguing play, but he’s more relegated to tournament play tonight as there are many power forward options on this slate. John Salmons has been ruled out of this game, which means we should see about 10-15 minutes for the Luke Babbit and Dante Cunningham duo.
Wizards @ Mavericks Over/Under - 209
The Wizards got a monster game, including 33 points and 5 threes, from Bradley Beal last night as he continues to find his game after a getting a late start to the season. If they can get that kind of production from him even semi-regularly, it takes a lot of pressure off the hobbled Nene to facilitate offense. Look for the Wizards to go back to him early tonight and see if he can keep the magic going from last night against a less than 100% Monta Ellis this evening. John Wall is still an excellent play as it’s unlikely he only takes 10 shots again and still managed to rack up 40 fantasy points on those 10 shots last night. Outside of those two, it’s hard to feel really good about anyone on the Wizards. All of their big men are playing pretty limited minutes most nights right now. Kris Humphries has been a true boom or bust play, following up his 37 fantasy point performance with just a handful of points last night. Nene Hilario hasn’t played over 25 minutes in what feels like years and Marcin Gortat has a lot of 27 minute games this year as well. Paul Pierce and Rasual Butler were already not playing enough minutes to be useful in fantasy and now Martell Webster is healthy once again.
Sticking with the perimeter theme, the Mavericks have been getting some great perimeter play of late. With Tyson Chandler out last game, they played small with a dual point guard lineup for most of the night that proved to be pretty effective. Chandler looks likely to return tonight, but I’m going to avoid a banged up big man in a neutral matchup. Dirk Nowitzki is coming off a big game without Chandler, but he’s been playing heavy minutes lately and if their full roster is healthy, I think they try to get him some extra rest in this one. Monta Ellis is going to play tonight and he’s been surprisingly unaffected by the arrival of Rajon Rondo as a ball handler. It’s actually gotten Ellis some easier looks than he’s been used to lately and Ellis is just playing at an all-around high level at this moment. Rondo continues to be tough to peg, he’s playing more aggressively, but will he continue to take 15 shots per game on a team with many more weapons than the one he left having taken just 15 shots over his final 4 games? I’m going to keep taking his scoring binge until it disappears, if you tell me Rondo is going to take 15 shots, I’ll take him almost every time and that’s just what he’s been doing lately. Chandler Parsons had a big game, knocking down 5 threes while playing mostly power forward the other night. I think that position actually suits his game a bit better and that was true in Houston as well. We’ll see if the Mavericks continue to try and use him in that capacity with Chandler back.
Lakers @ Nuggets Over/Under - 215
The Lakers remain a mess, but they’re starting to get some more consistent play from their peripheral players. Ed Davis has been solid of late and seems to be stealing some minutes from the struggling Jordan Hill at center. He’s by far their best and most likely big man to help them in the future, so it would be smart for them to keep giving him 30 or more minutes a night. Jordan Hill and Carlos Boozer both won’t likely be back next season, while Davis probably will. Kobe Bryant is a fine play, but if he’s going to be as passive as he was last game going forward, we’d probably need his price to come down. However, this is Kobe we’re talking about and he’ll be launching shots at his usual rate before we know it. Ronnie Price is fairly useless in fantasy while Kobe is on the floor as he doesn’t get much work as a shot creator. Wes Johnson has looked much more engaged lately, but that also started with Bryant off the floor, so it remains to be seen how long that will continue.
The Nuggets have been playing some really improved basketball, at least offensively lately and of course, it’s been driven by the elite play of Ty Lawson. Last time out, Lawson racked up 28 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists. He’s going to try to replicate those numbers tonight against the Lakers league-worst point guard defense. Lawson is also benefitting from the improved and lengthed playing time of Kenneth Faried lately, who has been a monster on the glass and finishing. Over the last 3 games, Faried has averaged 21 points and 19 rebounds in 33 minutes. If he keeps seeing extended minutes, he’s going to become a double-double machine with this kind of effort. It really makes you wonder where this has been all season and whether his attitude or playing time is holding him back from doing this all the time. He could of course fall flat at any point, but for the prices he’s at right now, he’s almost impossible to ignore. Wilson Chandler has averaged 40 minutes per game in the last three games with Danilo Gallinari on the shelf and the Lakers aren’t going to slow him down if he’s playing that many minutes. Look for the Nuggets to run plenty of plays for Chandler, especially at times where Lawson is off the floor. Timofey Mozgov has a great history against the Lakers, but his minutes and production have been very spotty this season.