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NBA Matchups

How They Jrue It Up

by Mike Gallagher
Updated On: January 30, 2019, 12:53 am ET

Washington Wizards (front end) at Cleveland Cavaliers

Team Totals: Wizards 113.3, Cavaliers 105.8

 

The Cavaliers have a horrible defense right now with a 121.3 defensive rating in January. They’re about the same on the road (121.8) and at home (120.7), but the Cavs do play at just a 95.6 pace at home this month (99.4 on the road). Their 46.8 total rebounding percentage is 27th this month is actually worse than the Wizards, so there should be some stats available for the DC boys.

 

Not surprisingly, Brad Beal leads the Wizards in scoring against the Cavs, and he did so with John Wall in the lineup for both of those. Beal’s January has been fantastic with averages of 27.6 points, 5.7 boards, 6.1 dimes, 2.0 steals, 0.7 blocks and 3.3 treys. He’ll probably see a lot of Alec Burks this time with Beal dropping eight points and three dimes on just 20 possessions last game, so he could be in for a big evening.

Thomas Bryant’s minutes look to be back on the rise with a 30-minute, double-double effort on Sunday against the Spurs. He has not committed more than three fouls in any of his last five games, and it certainly helps that Ian Mahinmi is a game-time call. Plus, the no-center lineup (Satoransky, Beal, Otto, Ariza, Green) has been gashed in the last 15 games with a 123.7 defensive rating, so he could have a longer leash today. This could also be a Tomas Satoransky, Trevor Ariza or Otto Porter spot just because the Cavs defense is that bad.

 

On top of the bad defense, the Cavs starting unit is among the worst in the league on offense. The five-man lineup of Collin Sexton, Alec Burks, Rodney Hood, Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic has just a 89.6 offensive rating in 84 January minutes. Although, the Wizards interior defense has been among the worst in the NBA this month, allowing a league-high 22.3 makes at the rim thanks to a league-high 69.2 FG%. Breaking it down by positions for January, they’ve allowed the most makes at the rims to forwards while they’ve been in the middle of the pack against guards and centers. That could be a good sign for Cedi Osman, who has attempted 6.0 shots per game at the rim over his last three. All of his shots beyond 10 feet have also been open (9.3 attempts), so he’s getting much better overall. Coach Larry Drew said that Osman’s recent run is “growth” and he’s making the right play, too. It's Cedi Osman and he's burned us before, but it's a strong matchup.

 

Besides Cedi, it’s hard to get too excited about any other Cav despite how the Wizards struggle on defense at times. Larry Nance played just 17 minutes on Sunday after 21 on Friday, so maybe he’ll split with Ante Zizic. Collin Sexton’s shot selection hasn’t improved and it’s so Cleveland that Matthew Dellavedova leads the team in assists per outing. Jordan Clarkson could be an option, but this would need to avoid garbage time.

 

Prediction: Wizards 116, Cavs 104

 

Milwaukee Bucks at Detroit Pistons

Team Totals: Bucks 112.3, Pistons 105.3

 

Revenge game? Khris Middleton has a team-high 22.0 points per game against the Pistons this season. Plus, Reggie Bullock (ankle) is doubtful for today and Bullock has been the main defender for Middleton this season by a lot (72 possessions for Bullock, Stanley Johnson second at 13). Bullock being out would be a win for Middleton, especially if it’s Luke Kennard in the first unit .Stanley Johnson would still be a solid matchup for him.

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Blake Griffin have gone head-to-head against each other. They’ve guarded each other for more than 90 possessions on the season for tops on each of their teams. Giannis’ usage rate is slightly down when Blake is on the floor at just 28.0 and he does have 6.0 turnovers per 36, but still his other per 36 stats are solid with a 24/10/9 line. Plus, he only had a 17.1 usage rate against him last year and a 28.8 two years ago. It’s not a smash spot for GA, but he could still be a guy to go after if you want to fade James Harden (more on that below).

 

Eric Bledsoe seems to be at the mercy of his matchups lately. He’s played great against the Mavs, Magic and Hawks while he’s struggled against the Grizzlies, Heat and Thunder in his last seven -- he was right in the middle in a mediocre matchup against the Hornets. This should be a good matchup for him with likely a lot of Bruce Brown on him. Bledsoe has scored 20.7 points per game against the Pistons this year, too. Brook Lopez and Malcolm Brogdon have been solid, so they could be sneaky play. Although Brogdon is probable with a chest issue.

 

The Bucks interior defense is among the best in the NBA. They only allow 13.7 makes at the rim this season (Heat a distant second at 15.8, Grizzlies third at 16.1). They also allow the second-fewest free throw makes per game in the NBA (Pacers). That basically takes Andre Drummond off the table after he averaged 11.7 points, 9.7 boards and 1.0 dimes in his previous three games.  Blake Griffin also hasn’t been great with just 42.6 DFS points per game against the Bucks this year. As stated above, he’ll have to guard Giannis, so that’s a negative because of possible foul concerns.

 

It was Luke Kennard who subbed in for Reggie Bullock in the last game and he should see the lion’s share of Bullocks minutes, assuming he’s out. Although, it does make some sense to put Stanley Johnson on Middleton. For DFS, I would probably just roll with the starter because both aren’t great per minute anyway. Reggie Jackson’s minutes are up, but all the size on the Bucks could take him off the floor in some spots. Bruce Brown should see plenty of minutes on Bledsoe.

 

Prediction: Bucks 117, Pistons 107

 

Oklahoma City Thunder at Orlando Magic

Team Totals: Thunder 113.3, Magic 108.3

 

Unfortunately, coach Steve Clifford probably won’t put D.J. Augustin on Russell Westbrook too much, if at all. Last year with the Hornets, he put Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on him with 94 possessions compared to Kemba Walker at just 13 in the two games. Evan Fournier guarded Paul George more than double anyone else last year, so he might guard PG again. That could mean Jonathan Isaac may see a lot of time on Westbrook to make it a little tougher on him in what should have been a favorable matchup. Plus, Aaron Gordon has talked about how he likes to guard the best player, so he’s an option as well. And hey, maybe the extra size on him could make Westbrook want to get to the rim more often. Of course, Westbrook is on a heater with three straight trip-dubs, and he’s armed with a 31.4 usage rate over his last dozen games. It’s a Westbrook day regardless.

 

Assuming PG does have Fournier on him, it could also be a productive day because he did have a 71.4 eFG% against Fournier last season. Road PG has also been busy with a 29.2 usage rate (26.9 at OKC), and recently he’s been on fire with 31.4 points per game for 55.2 DFS points in his last five. He’s making treys, getting to the line more and his steals are up. OKC’s offense is also flying since Christmas at 12.7 seconds per possession while the Magic are in the top half for time allowed. Fire him up and he could go off because of Clifford's focus on Westbrook.

 

Terrance Ferguson’s minutes are up as he cuts into Dennis Schroder’s chances. He’s somehow scored 14-plus points in three straight, but you’d be banking on t-Ferg making three-plus treys in DFS. Jerami Grant could have smaller guys on him at times, so maybe he can benefit there. Adams wasn’t great vs. Nikola Vucevic with per-36 stats last year of 11.8 points, 9.9 boards, 2.0 blocks and 1.3 steals. He's also questionable with an ankle issue. If he's out, you'll be looking at Nerlens Noel, of course.

 

It might be tough to count on Nikola Vucevic. He loves to go up against smaller fives, but that’s not the case against Steven Adams. Per 36 last year, Vooch put up 15.1 points, 6.6 boards, 6.6 dimes and 1.3 blocks (55-minute sample), and he shot just 18.8% against him two years ago in a small 34-minute sample. D.J. Augustin gets a revenge game, but it’s a really tough spot. Aaron Gordon has been solid in his last two with 22.5 points, 10.5 boards, 5.0 dimes, and 2.5 treys. He’ll need to play a whole lot today. But besides him, it may be tough to look at any other Magic players. Jerian Grant will be the backup PG, as well.

 

Prediction: Thunder 116, Magic 104

 

Chicago Bulls (front end) at Brooklyn Nets (back end)

Team Totals: Bulls 105.3, Nets 112.3

 

The Bulls are in hot water because they’re… Boylen. No good? Last week, coach Jim Boylen talked about his team and some plans on how to get better. He said some gems you say to a high school team, including to play “Chicago Bulls basketball" and the team has “got Bulls across our chest.” But what about when they wear the four-star City Edition jerseys? Anyway, some other notes included that he wanted to play through the post more, and that he wanted to shoot between 15-45 treys per game -- nice specific range, guy. He is all about toughness and of course there was the NBPA issue about practicing after a back-to-back set. Plus, Chandler Hutchison played 41 minutes after suffering a fracture to his toe prior to that game, and Boylen even mentioned Hutchison playing through it. “There's part of me that likes that," he said. What?! Boylen also said Kris Dunn did “over-dribble some” on Sunday and Boylen said he liked how Markkanen had a 21-15 line, but of course Zach LaVine missed another 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left as the Bulls lost at home to the Cavs. *Dark Helmet voice* Everybody got that?

 

One big rotation change from the Hutchison injury was Wayne Selden basically taking all of his minutes, playing 38 minutes with 15 points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and three 3-pointers on Sunday. Selden hasn’t been very active in his time with Lauri and LaVine with only a 13.5 usage rate in 57 minutes, and he only has a 14.6 usage rate this month, too. For DFS, he’s only scored 22.6 points per 36 this season, but of course he could still be an attractive play because of the volume. Shaquille Harrison subbed in for Selden both times while Antonio Blakeney subbed in for Zach LaVine. It’s probably fair to assume he’ll start again after Boylen said Selden “filled in pretty well” for Hutch.

 

Since Boylen’s comments about getting the ball into the post more, Lauri Markkanen has been busy with 34.9 minutes per game, averaging 18.7 points, 9.7 boards, 1.3 blocks and 3.3 treys in those three. The Nets are outstanding at limiting threes this year, and Markkanen did only average 11.0 points in 33.3 minutes per game in his previous two outings vs. BK.Still, Boylen is likely going to focus the ball to Markkanen after not going to him enough late on Sunday.

 

Bobby Portis has liked playing against the Nets this year, averaging 16.5 points, 8.0 boards, 0.5 blocks and 1.5 treys in just 22.0 minutes per game in those two. The problem is Boylen wanted to use Robin Lopez against Ante Zizic on Sunday, which kept Portis at just 19 minutes per game.  That could drop his ownership in DFS, too. As for Robin, he’ll be really tough to trust with the deadline looming, but Portis could still be a strong DFS play.

 

Zach LaVine could find himself in a good spot. In the last game, Spencer Dinwiddie held him in check while he was effective in most of the other matchups for 27 points total. Plus, Joe Harris may be limited in the B2B. Kris Dunn has fared well in his career against the Nets, but his per-36 stats with LaVine will almost always scare me away in DFS: 11.2 points, 4.1 boards, 7.6 dimes, 2.8 turnovers and 0.6 treys.

 

The Nets have been cautious on back-to-back sets. In the last game, Joe Harris and DeMarre Carroll missed a game, and two B2B sets ago D’Angelo Russell and Ed Davis sat out. On Monday, Treveon Graham, Allen Crabbe, Jared Dudley, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, and Dzanan Musa all did not play. Joe Harris (hip soreness) was questionable, but both Graham and Harris are not on the report today. In other words, as of Tuesday afternoon, nobody is resting yet. D’Angelo Russell also did not play in the final 8:42 of Monday’s game, and coach Kenny Atkinson chalked it up to rebounding. "It was rebounding in the zone, there were some rebounds he could've gotten,” Atkinson said about sitting D-Lo vs. Boston. “It was a teachable moment." D-Lo sitting out late in games has usually led to an explosion in the next one. He didn’t close against the Rockets on Jan. 16, but erupted to match his career-high 40 against the Magic on Jan. 18. Plus, Russell didn’t close on Dec. 26 in a close win over the Hornets, but he blew up for 33 points on Dec. 28. He’s been solid against the Bulls this year with 20.5 points per game in the two outings and he'll be chucking today at home.

 

Jarrett Allen has played great against the Bulls this year, averaging 17.5 points, 9.0 boards, 1.5 dimes and 1.0 blocks. He did most of his damage against Wendell Carter Jr. (25 points on 60 possessions), but this could still be a favorable spot for him. Shabazz Napier is still too cheap on the DFS sites, and the B2B factor should help him. Even with Russell on the floor with Dinwiddie off, he’s still at 15/5/4 per 36, but he has been a star without D-Lo and Spence with a 24/3/6 line per 36.

 

Considering how rough of a season Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is having, you would think he is limited in a B2B. That could open up minutes for Aussie rookie Mitchell Creek while Theo Pinson could also really step up. Coach Kenny Atkinson said the Nets may not have won on Friday without Pinson, so him only scoring three points on Monday was a surprise. He’ll be an option in DFS today in the B2B. If the Nets do sit a bunch of guys, Rodions Kurucs could be worth a look as a volume play.

 

Prediction: Nets 109, Bulls 97

 

New Orleans Pelicans (front end) at Houston Rockets

Team Totals: Pelicans 112.0, Rockets 122.0

 

Anthony Davis (finger), Nikola Mirotic (calf) Julius Randle (ankle), and E’Twaun Moore are all not going to play. Plus, the Pelicans were looking to deal Randle over the weekend, so he might be out for a couple more. All this means the Jahlil Okafor show sponsored by a Mostly Vegan diet will get another episode. In the last four, he’s averaged 19.8 points, 10.8 boards, 2.8 blocks and 1.5 turnovers (40.9 DFS points). Since Kenneth Faried joined, the Rockets have allowed a double-double to each of the four centers, so he will be busy, assuming no foul trouble.

 

There are two ways to look at Jrue Holiday. His per-36 stats without AD, Mirotic and Randle on the floor this season (92 minutes): 29.3 points, 7.0 boards, 7.8 dimes, 1.6 steals, 1.6 blocks and 3.9 treys on a 29.5 usage rate with a 63.9 TS%. On the other hand, a concern would be that Chris Paul locked him down in the last game with no points allowed on 17 possessions, and just 1.3 points per game on 7.7 possessions last season over the three games. Still, he probably won’t see all the CP3, so Jrue offers big upside today.

 

With no Moore again, that should put Darius Miller in the first unit again. He went off for 21 points in his last start against OKC. Cheick Diallo could be an option just in case of Okafor foul trouble while this might be a sneaky Frank Jackson spot after 12 points in 26 minutes when Randle and Moore didn’t play against OKC on Thursday. It’s tough to justify playing Solomon Hill and his 8.9 usage rate while Elfrid Payton hasn’t really stepped up lately either.

 

Chris Paul is back and played 25 minutes on Sunday, scoring 12 points with five rebounds, six assists, three steals and two 3-pointers. Coach Mike D’Antoni said CP3 is expected to see 30 minutes in this matchup, and MDA sounded encouraged after Sunday. “"Second half was better than the first half, but he had a spurt there where he's Chris Paul," D’Antoni said. In the one game against the Pelicans this year, it was Elfrid Payton on CP3 for the majority of possessions (28) with Jrue Holiday also getting some time on him (18). A 30-minute CP3 in this matchup could be very useful, especially if he's open off James Harden passes -- and he should be.

 

James Harden didn’t slow down with CP3 back on Sunday with 40 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, one steal, three blocks and four 3-pointers. He played 23 minutes without CP3 on the floor, and that’s where he feasted the most with 25 points, seven boards, six dimes and two 3-pointers. He actually didn’t have any assists while CP3 was on the floor on Sunday, but of course he still had a 42.4 usage rate with CP3 vs. 44.7 without. On the year, there’s a pretty stark difference in usage rate for Harden, posting a 32.4 usage rate with CP3 and a ridiculous 41.5 usage rate without him. Last year, it was also 37.0 without vs. 30.4 with CP3.

 

Matchup wise, it’ll be a lot of Jrue Holiday, who in two games has limited Harden to 27 points, nine dimes and six turnovers with only five made free throws and only a 45.8 eFG% on 86 possessions. Last year, Holiday also guarded Harden more than any other player in the league with 118 possessions for 36 points, and shockingly NBA.com had Harden at zero free throws. Harden also had 43 minutes on the court against Anthony Davis last year and his numbers weren’t much different compare to time with him except for more dimes per minute. Harden is on the biggest run in the DFS era, but this is a tougher spot for him.

 

How about Kenneth Faried? He’s been outstanding next to Harden, posting per 36 stats of 16.1 points, 11.1 boards, 2.1 dimes, 1.4 steals and 1.8 blocks in a 101-minute sample. Of his 36 minutes in Sunday, Faried played 13 minutes to both CP3 and Harden, 15 with just Harden, and nine with just CP3. He’ll get Jahlil Okafor, who has been brutal against halfway decent centers in his five gaves. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 20 points in 48 possessions, Marc Gasol scored 16 in 31 possessions, and even Steven Adams scored 16 in 51 possessions.

 

Eric Gordon has not been very good when he’s next to Harden and CP3, posting per-36 stats of just 10.2 points, 2.2 boards, 1.5 dimes, 0.3 steals and 1.8 treys on a 33/26/100 shooting line. He scored 30.6 per 36 when he’s not next to either, and that won’t be happening anymore. If you wanted to run out P.J. Tucker or Austin Rivers because of the matchup, it’s not a terrible idea. This month, the Pelicans are allowing the most no-dribble treys and the most wide-open treys, so it will be bombs away.

 

Prediction: Rockets 127, Pelicans 115

 

Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs

Team Totals: Suns 104.8, Spurs 117.8

 

Deandre Ayton (ankle) is doubtful for today, but he is getting close with some on-court work this week. That puts Richaun Holmes in a favorable spot after his strong Sunday with 12 points, 10 boards, one assist, one steal and four blocks in 27 minutes. He started the second half over Dragan Bender, and he would likely be starting today. He is way too cheap on DFS sites today.

 

T.J. Warren (ankle) and De’Anthony Melton (ankle) are both likely out until after the All-Star break. Both Josh Jackson and Elie Okobo have basically squandered their chances without Melton and TJW out. Jackson has a woeful -41.5 net rating in the last two games while Okobo isn’t far behind at -34.0 -- Dragan Bender is the worst a -49.1. Those guys would have to be on short leashes, especially Okobo.

 

Devin Booker finds himself in a tough spot against coach Gregg Popovich, who has limited Booker to just 13 points in the last game and 15.0 points per game last season. He’ll get trapped too much to feel comfortable on offense. Besides Holmes, Kelly Oubre should see huge minutes and could benefit from Jackson’s struggles. Mikal Bridges should be busy as well and could fill up the defensive stats. How has Jamal Crawford only taken seven shots and two free throws in his last 44 minutes?

 

DeMar DeRozan (knee) remains out for his third straight. Coach Gregg Popovich said it was bumps and bruises before his first DNP, so this is a little worrisome. Predictably, LaMarcus Aldridge has been a monster over the last two with 29.0 points, 10.5 boards, 4.0 dimes and 1.0 blocks, and per 36 in a bigger sample LMA sits at 30/13/4 over 280 minutes without DeMar. Chalk City.

 

Rudy Gay has also been outstanding with LMA and without DeRozan, posting a per-36 line of 22/8/5 in 166 minutes. Derrick White has been a little underwhelming in this time with a 12/5/5 line per 36, but he should have a field day with Okobo on him. Davis Bertans also went berserk in 28 minutes with 21 points against the Wizards, and Marco Belinelli should see minutes in the mid-20s, as well.

 

Prediction: Spurs 120, Suns 106

 

Philadelphia 76ers at Los Angeles Lakers

Team Totals: 76ers 119.3, Lakers 112.3

 

The 76ers should be getting their guys back with Joel Embiid, Wilson Chandler and Jimmy Butler all expected to play today. Although, Embiid now has a stomach issue and didn’t go through shootaround, but he is expected to play. He is well rested and hasn’t played since Jan. 23, and for the most part Ivica Zubac has been decent this year except against Karl-Anthony Towns, who gashed him for 27 points on 47 possessions in two games. Embiid has some similarities to his game and he has a 34.4 usage rate in his last six active games. If not for the stomach illness, he would have been a target.

 

Ben Simmons continues one of his best months of his career, averaging 18.3 points, 10.2 boards, 9.1 dimes and 0.9 steals in January. Ben’s scoring is down when he’s next to Jimmy and Joel, but still he’s put up a per-36 line of 16/10/9 with a steal and a block. The Lakers are going to have a tough time covering him, and now the Embiid stomach issue gives him a higher ceiling. Given all the Jimmy drama lately, it may be tough to use him in DFS unless we hear The Process is out.

 

As for the Lakers, they’re going to be a little thin. LeBron James (groin) is still out, and Kyle Kuzma (hip) will not play. Kuzma said he hurt his hip on Jan. 19 against the Rockets, and he hurt it again on Thursday against the Wolves. He did not play on Sunday and coach Luke Walton said he didn’t want to play Kuz if he moved around like he did on Thursday. Josh Hart is going to play, but his minutes will likely be held in check now that Rajon Rondo is back. With Kuzma out, Super Cool Michael Beasley should see volume again while Brandon Ingram would get more shots. Without LeBron, Lonzo Ball and Kuzma, Ingram has per-36 stats of 21.3 points, 6.0 boards, 4.0 dimes, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks. In that sample, Ivica Zubac has been even better with 25 and 14 with five blocks per 36, but of course The Process will be a tough task. Without Kuz and possibly a limited Hart, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would also be very, very busy in a tough matchup. Rajon Rondo should also be a triple-double threat.

 

Prediction: 76ers 116, Laker 108

Mike Gallagher

Mike Gallagher has covered fantasy hoops for eight years and this season is his second with NBC Sports Edge. You can find him on Twitter talking about a player's shots at the rim.