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 @ Bucks Over/Under - 209.5
The Suns have cooled off a bit as their frontcourt has started to really struggle once again. Alex Len is having a hard time staying on the floor for long stretches due to foul trouble and mistakes and the Suns really don’t have much behind him. They’ve been trying to use Markieff Morris some as makeshift center in small lineups, but that’s led to foul trouble issues as well as being matched up with bigger players in the post-up opportunities he was so effective on early in the season. With both Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe playing great basketball, Isaiah Thomas has returned to being an afterthought in the Suns rotation despite his still impressive per minute production. I’ll never understand why he chose to go to Phoenix knowing they already had two great point guards, but that’s a thought for a different day and different post. the three-man small forward rotation of P.J. Tucker, Gerald Green and Marcus Morris has been incredibly productive for the Suns, but predicting it on a night-to-night basis is nearly impossible. If you have to use one of them tonight, Green is generally my choice due to his remarkably high usage rate off the bench. Bledsoe has been impressive and seems to be fitting more comfortably into the playmaker role than he was early in the season. He’s posted at least 8 assists in four of the last five games, while Goran Dragic is performing his role off the ball, shooting 51% from the field and 44% from three over the past six games.
Continuing to surprise the NBA, the Bucks remain highly competitive even as they keep losing players like Jabari Parker, Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders lately. Zaza Pachulia has really stepped up for them in the absence of Larry Sanders, averaging 12.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals over the last six games as the starting center. He’s not going to play heavy minutes or wow you offensively, but he’s a rock solid NBA center. John Henson has gotten it going as well, being the only other NBA caliber big man on the roster right now. Henson’s 2.5 blocks per game over the last six contests ranks 3rd in the NBA over that span. He’s also contributed well on the glass and is a decent scorer, so keep an eye on his minutes as the Bucks rotation continues to evolve. Brandon Knight is another Buck that’s red hot, averaging 17.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 31 minutes per game. He’s the one constant that’s been there for the Bucks all season, but his assist numbers are down a bit right now, as they are using Giannis Antetokounmpo more and more as a playmaker at this point. Antetokounmpo has played 30 or more minutes in four straight contests and has scored in double-figures in three of those, while adding an average of 8 rebounds per night. He’s going to continue to emerge as a playmaker as he gains confidence, but his price is going to rise with him.
Pistons @ Spurs Over/Under - 189.5
The Pistons have been playing great basketball since they released Josh Smith. Their offense flows much better with shooting threats on the wings and it’s allowed them to play Andre Drummond extended minutes. Drummond has been a monster lately when he’s played heavy minutes and it looks like their goal is to play him about 38 or so minutes each game if they can. That’s great news for him and fantasy owners as he’s easily a 1+ fantasy point per minute player even in extended minutes due to his rebounding and defensive stats prowess. Brandon Jennings has been playing better as well now that his usage rate has risen and he doesn’t have to involve three big men at once. He’s not playing heavy minutes, so he’s going to be up and down, especially when he’s not shooting well, but I think he has a strong finish to the season in him if he remains on the Pistons. Greg Monroe has been playing very limited minutes, but has been producing admirably in them. They are somewhat due to blowouts, but it’s also clear the Pistons are just not committed to him as a building block. There’s no reason for him to be sitting on the bench with Joel Anthony out there if he’s part of their future, so it makes him hard to pay for. Jodie Meeks has been a key part of expanding the Pistons new offense, but his free looks are coming from poor rotations by opponents, a mistake that the Spurs defense rarely makes. The rest of the Pistons are all playing pretty limited minutes and are too volatile to use tonight.
Tim Duncan is my top play of the night in this one. The Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe combination is horribly slow footed and lost on defense. Duncan is going to slice this defense up like swiss cheese. While his usage rate may be lower with Tony Parker back, the matchup here should make up for it and Duncan has having a very impressive season overall outside of the games he sits out. Speaking of Parker, he’s likely very close to 100% if the Spurs are putting him back on the court and he will start tonight. For a discounted price, he’s a very smart, yet risky play. He’s aggravated this injury a few times, but tonight should be different as they vowed to hold him out until he was fully ready after the last time. Manu Ginobili’s style should eat away at the weak defensive wings of the Pistons and he’s been playing great basketball of late off the bench. Marco Belinelli will likely see a bit of a reduced role with Parker back and he hadn’t been all that effective anyway. Danny Green has been playing pretty well, but with the Spurs full roster nearly intact, he seems a bit overpriced in games where no one is sitting, the same goes for Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter as well. Neither is likely to play heavy minutes in this one.