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NBA Matchups

Talk of the Towns

by Mike Gallagher
Updated On: January 22, 2019, 4:57 pm ET

Sacramento Kings (back end) at Toronto Raptors (front end)

Team Totals: Kings 109.3, Raptors 120.3

 

De’Aaron Fox might be at risk of losing minutes today. Coach Dave Joerger has been trying to limit his minutes. He did look tired on Monday in Brooklyn with just nine points, three boards and six dimes in 29 minutes.  There’s a lot of pressure on Fox with his 31.5 minutes per game at the break-neck pace. In fact, among the 80 players with more than 30 minutes per game, no player has a faster pace than Fox at 106.04. Plus, he’s a second-year guy who had trouble staying healthy in his rookie season, so it makes sense to reel him back in a tad. Plus, they’re playing one of the best teams in the NBA on the road in a back-to-back set, so why not sit him? If so, you would be looking at Yogi Ferrell as a punt along with Frank Mason. Plus, Bogdan Bogdanovic would also be looking at additional ball-handling responsibilities.

 

Buddy Hield’s offense in January is among the best in the NBA, averaging 22.3 points, 4.5 boards,  1.9 dimes, 0.3 steals and 4.5 treys. He has a 67.5 TS% this month with a 22.8 usage rate in 31.7 minutes per outing. If not for Klay Thompson’s ridiculous Monday night, Hield’s TS% would be first among players with at least a 20 usage rate and 30 minutes per game in January (54 qualifiers, Klay’s TS% in January jumped from 64.0 to 69.3). Hield also shoots the ball better on the road this year, but he hasn’t really seen a boost with Fox off the floor this season (0.4 usage rate boost). He's still not too expensive in DFS either.

Two players who have been effective with Hield on the floor and Fox off have been Bogdan Bogdanovic and Harry Giles. Per 36, Bogdan sits at 21.6 points, 4.1 boards, 6.1 dimes, 0.9 steals and 2.9 treys, and Giles has 19.6 points, 10.7 boards, 5.4 dimes, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks. Both of thsoe guys have offense run through them quite a bit, so they could be names to watch if we hear Joerger wants to dial it back. Willie Cauley-Stein has been solid lately, but the matchup is tough with the Raptors limiting bigs quite a bit these days. Garbage time could be a factor to also help Giles' playing time.

 

Coach Dave Joerger looks to finally be done with Nemanja Bjelica after playing him just five minutes on Monday. Bjelica’s playing time has really trended down with 21 minutes on Jan. 14, 19 on the 17th, and 15 on the 19th. It’s possible Joerger just starts Justin Jackson, who produced on Monday with 14 points, five rebounds, one block and two 3-pointers in 29 minutes. However, the Nets smashed the Kings in the third, leading to a -19 in plus/minus for Jackson, so it might be a risky situation to go after Jackson. Although, that would change if he is announced as the starter. Plus, you might want to be careful with Marvin Bagley, who hasn’t played in both games of a back-to-back set since Dec. 8, so that’s another possible positive for Jackson. Also, Bagley did start the third over Bjelica on Saturday.

 

Follow me on Twitter @MikeSGallagher for lots of stats like these.

 

Oh hey, Kawhi Leonard (rest) is listed as out today. He hasn’t played since Jan. 16 with a DNP on a back-to-back set on Thursday, and then surprisingly another one on Saturday. The Raptors play on the front end of a back-to-back set before they get a tougher game at Indiana tomorrow, so it makes sense to sit him. If he does play, he could be an option, but there’s huge risk, of course.

 

Kyle Lowry did play in the back-to-back set last week, so he should be all set for a favorable matchup. Per 36 without Kawhi, Lowry has 19.5 points, 6.2 boards, 10.6 assists and 1.7 steals in a 495-minute sample. In the last game vs. the Kings, Fox was terrific on defense against Lowry with only six points and five dimes allowed in 48 possessions while he scored five on Mason in just seven possessions. He’s solid even if Fox plays, but he would be an elite option without him.

 

The last time the Kings played the Raptors, Toronto had a full roster. Serge Ibaka went for 14 and 14 with three swats, and he could be in an even better spot sans Kawhi. Per 36 with Kawhi off and Lowry on, Serge has 28.7 points, 10.9 boards, 1.8 dimes, 1.8 blocks and 1.1 steals in a 258-minute sample.

 

Pascal Siakam also lit up the Kings with 21 points, and he’s had his best DFS month so far with 35.6 DFS points thanks to finally hitting a 20 usage rate for the first time in his career over any month. Although, it hasn’t been just the scoring with Siakam sitting at 8.9 boards and 3.6 dimes per game in 2019. Coach Nick Nurse trusts Siakam to bring the ball up after some boards, and obviously that game-winning shot against the Suns last week hammers home the point that he has come of age. Siakam sits at 18 and nine without Kawhi per 36 on the year. Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet would be options as well.

 

Prediction: Raptors 119, Kings 103

 

Portland Trail Blazers (back end) at Oklahoma City Thunder (back end)

Team Totals: Blazers 110.8, Thunder 116.3

 

The Blazers get a tough matchup here after a tight win over Utah on Monday night as they move east to face the top-three OKC defense. The Blazers are 4-3 when they are on a B2B, but they are 1-3 on the road in that situation. Damian Lillard was a B2B stud last year, but he has struggled this year in seven games. Plus, he didn’t have a strong game against OKC with 23 points, eight dimes, two steals, four turnovers and nothing else in 36 minutes. He struggled against Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schroder, and he didn’t fare well vs. Westy last year with 10 points per game over 38.7 possessions. Dame is better on the road, but still this is a tough spot.

 

C.J. McCollum did play well against OKC last year with 27.8 points per game. Last year, it was a mixture of guys, but this year Terrance Ferguson kept him to two points on 31 possessions. He’s tough to get a beat on in DFS, but this may be a tougher spot, too. He has been good in B2B games, though. Jusuf Nurkic may be on his best three-game run of his career, averaging 15.7 points, 10.0 boards, 7.3 assists, 4.3 blocks, 0.3 steals and 2.7 turnovers for 50.0 DFS points, including a 22/8/7 line with six blocks vs. Rudy Gobert last night, too. He even had a 22-point, eight-board game against OKC last year. Plus, per 36 over the 98 minutes last year he faced Steven Adams, Nurkic was at 24.3 points, 12.1 boards, 2.2 steals and 1.5 blocks. Nurkic is right on par on B2B sets and his numbers are similar on the road, so it might be a chance for him to keep it rolling.

 

Presumably, the Blazers won’t be playing Moe Harkless in a back-to-back set because he hasn’t played in both games of a B2B all year. That should be Jake Layman in the first unit after his stellar 18-point game last week in his last start. Although, that was against  the Cavs, and this time he’ll likely see some Paul George. He’s still an option as a punt and he did score 11 points in 12 minutes off the bench in the last one vs. OKC. Evan Turner could also be a low-key punt off the bench, and maybe Seth Curry gets more minutes, especially if the Blazers have to attempt a comeback. Besides that, there’s not much going in with Al-Farouq Aminu, Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins.

 

Russell Westbrook sure is struggling with his shot this month, sitting at just 46.3 TS% this month, but he’s still on pace for his highest scoring full month at 23.5 points per game. That’s due to Westbrook playing 37.6 minutes per game, which is 3.0 more minutes per game than he was playing in the 2018 portion of the season. He also put up 31 points against the Blazers in the last one and 25.0 per game in the fourth outings last year. Sure, he’s been below average on shooting in the paint, in midrange and from deep this month, but he should get enough opportunity to put up a big line.

 

Paul George was the star of the show in that 111-109 win earlier this season, scoring 37 points in 37 minutes. He made a season-high 12 attempts from the line in that game and he’s also going to the line these days at 7.9 times per game over his last nine. Like Russ, the volume is up with George playing 38.0 minutes per game in those nine, averaging 27.2 points, 7.2 boards, 3.7 dimes, 2.2 steals and 4.0 treys. Harkless was decent on him, but PG lit up Al-Farouq Aminu in the last game with 14 points in 17 possessions. He was just OK against the Blazers last year, but this is a new PG, and again not having Harkless should work in PG-13's favor.

 

Terrance Ferguson is starting to eat into Dennis Schroder’s minutes. Schroder had a bonehead play against the 76ers on Saturday, and his playing time is starting to suffer as T-Ferg gets more minutes. Ferguson could be a punt play as his minutes trend up, but you’re counting on him making 3-pointers with some hustle stats. Steven Adams was not very good in 30 minutes vs. Nurk in the last game with four points and 10 boards, and he was just OK last year per 36 with 14.3 points, 7.0 boards and 3.3 turnovers over the 98 minutes last season. Jerami Grant could be an option, especially with his 2.2 blocks per game over his last five.

 

Prediction: Thunder 114, Blazers 107

 

LA Clippers (front end) at Dallas Mavericks (back end)

Team Totals: Clippers 109, Mavericks 113

 

The Clippers are going to be without Danilo Gallinari (back), but Lou Williams (hamstring) is expected to play. Considering it’s his second hammy issue this season, Williams is likely going to have a minutes cap. Coach Doc Rivers had some interesting quotes after Sunday regarding his thought process on why he started Patrick Beverley for Gallo. ”We tried to put the four vets and the young guy, Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander], and go for it,” Doc said. “And we told them earlier that we’re going to sub in and out a lot. We did that. We told Tobias [Harris] and Pat [Patrick Beverley] and Avery [Bradley] they’re going to play a lot of minutes tonight, and to use a time-out if they need it.” That’s an interesting quote for the guards, so possibly Pat-Bev and Bradley could still see minutes with a limited Lou. Today, Doc said “we’ll see” on who will start. Let’s start with who we know will start.

 

Tobias Harris. Doc called him “phenomenal” after his 27/9/9 line in a win over the Spurs. It was no fluke with Tobias owning a usage rate boost of six without Gallo and Lou, putting up per 36 stats of 27 and 10 even before the big Sunday. Without Gallo, he should be a chalky DFS option with a very high floor.

 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should also be a bigger part of the offense. Two games ago, Doc said he wanted to see SGA use his size more and be aggressive. SGA was aggressive on Sunday with 15 shots from the field, but it was a tough matchup against Derrick White (39 possessions, two points on the homie Derrick). It should be a much better spot for him today with Jalen Brunson and/or Dennis Smith Jr. likely on him. He’s really cheap in DFS, too.

 

Doc wants to play Johnathan Motley. After Friday, Doc said Motley had “sea legs," was doing the right things, and he even played him at PF. Motley was able to get to 18 minutes on Sunday with 10 points, four boards and one steal. He may have a shot at 20 minutes, which could be enough given his 32.4 usage rate in his seven games so far. Montrezl Harrell getting another start could be tough against DeAndre Jordan. He only scored five points in 31 possessions against DAJ in the last one.

 

The Dennis Smith Jr. story is about as mainstream as boy bands in the 1990s, so I’m sure you guys know the deal. Perhaps the Big L/underground side of the story is DSJ is listed as a probable starter today, and ESPN’s Tim MacMahon says a bench role was never discussed before DSJ left. That could get him close to 30 minutes, so maybe he plays with an extra edge tonight. His return would make it tougher to play Maxi Kleber and Jalen Brunson. Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes would be a little riskier as well.

 

DeAndre Jordan has been busy against the Clippers in two games, averaging 13.5 points, 22.5 boards, 3.5 dimes, 1.0 steals and 0.5 blocks in 33.0 minutes per game. He has actually shot 73.3% at the line at home this year and he’s scored better in Dallas, as well. Revenge game at home against the shorter Trez could be another high-board game with scoring in the teens. Dwight Powell will back up DAJ, of course.

 

On Monday, Luka Doncic became just the second teenager ever to drop a triple-double (Markelle Fultz is the other). Doc Rivers had some high praise for Doncic, comparing him to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Rivers said it was “a big freaking difference” when Luka was off the floor, so he will likely be the focal point of Doc’s defensive game plan. Although, Doc’s plan didn’t work in the last game with Luka going for 32 points with a career-high four steals. He’s much better at home, and he had at least a 30 usage rate in the four games prior to his triple-double Monday. He is priced way up there in DFS and he hasn't been great in B2B sets, so he will likely have a lower ownership. Plus, the DSJ return could impact him negatively.

 

Prediction: Clippers 111, Mavericks 110

 

Minnesota Timberwolves at Phoenix Suns

Team Totals: Timberwolves 117.8, Suns 113.3

 

These teams just played on Sunday with the Wolves winning 116-114 at Minnesota, and the Suns had to start Dragan Bender at the five with Deandre Ayton (ankle) and Richaun Holmes (foot) out. Karl-Anthony Towns was looking like he had a monster game with 28 points, six boards, two dimes, two steals and one 3-pointer, but he only finished with 30 points despite playing 19 minutes in the second half. In that second half, he did not go to the line, he missed all three from deep, and he went just 1-of-5 from the field from his remaining shots. KAT has recently struggled in the second half with just 16 points in his last three second halves combined, but the other two involved either foul trouble against the Spurs or a blowout loss to the 76ers. Dont' forget in the nine games prior to his second-half struggles, KAT averaged 28.3 points, 16.2 boards, 4.0 dimes, 1.0 steals, 3.1 blocks and 1.7 treys on a 53/35/77 shooting line The Suns are going to start Dragan Bender on him again, which should again be great news for KAT after he scored 16 points on just 42 possessions against him overall. KAT is a little better at home, but the matchup is just too good. Coach Igor Kokoskov did use more double-team action against KAT to somewhat limit him, but it proved costly as the Suns blew a lead and the other strong offensive player went off. Who?

 

Derrick Rose was the opposite of Towns with 29 points in the second half after just two in the first, including a game-winning shot and 17 in the third. The playing time of 38 minutes might be the biggest surprise of all with no other game in January resulting with more than 29 minutes (three other games). Coach Ryan Saunders mentioned Rose playing so much, and said the team needed all of it. Saunders also said he spoke with the training staff about playing Rose so much, so he might not be getting to 35-plus minutes again. Rose himself said he is not 100% and mentioned his heel and ankle getting healthier. He’s also playing at a 108.4 pace this month to put him first in the NBA among the 190 players with at least 22 minutes per game this month. He should have Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre on him again, which should lead to another big game.

 

Another big change was the small-ball lineups Saunders used. The surprising lineup used was Rose, Jerryd Bayless, Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Tolliver and Dario Saric for four minutes. Saunders said he liked that lineup in this matchup, so that means you can’t really trust Gorgui Dieng, and of course Josh Okogie played just 11 minutes because of Rose getting hot -- Rose also played three minutes without Teague or Bayless. Saunders said Bayless gave the Wolves good minutes, leading to 22 minutes. That’s because Jeff Teague couldn’t play the final 16:29, and his ankle issue looks to be bothering him again. He is going to be really tough to trust as he fights through his lingering left ankle (side note: his fantasy owners have to hope the Wolves stay in the playoff hunt). Plus, he might not play, which makes Rose and Bayless options. Possibly Okogie, but it may be tough after losing so much run on Sunday.

 

As of early Tuesday afternoon, the Suns are not expected to have Holmes and Ayton. Dragan Bender really stepped up in the starting lineup on Sunday, scoring 12 points with 10 rebounds, two assists, one block, one turnover and three fouls in 29 minutes. Coach Igor Kokoskov said Bender was “phenomenal” and credited Bender for learning the double-post defensive coverages. If Ayton and Holmes are both out, Bender looks like the play over Quincy Acy.

 

Devin Booker looks to be healthy. The Suns even played him into garbage time on Saturday with less than three minutes left in the 135-115 loss to the Hornets, which is interesting considering the B2B. On Sunday, Booker did have five fouls in his 33 minutes, but he didn’t have any fouls in the first quarter with lighter playing time in that frame and in the third, as well. Perhaps the back-to-back made Igor shorten up Book’s minutes, and he had a similar rotation plan in Book's first game back. The Wolves obviously won’t have Robert Covington, and it will be a combination of Josh Okogie, Andrew Wiggins, Jerryd Bayless and Derrick Rose all guarding him, and he gets his first home game since returning from injury. Plus, his price is down a bit in DFS to put him in a big spot. Warren should also be a solid DFS volume play after a team-high 38 minutes as he routinely played 35-42 minutes in close games these days. Plus, the Wolves wanting to go small more often suggests that Saunders is a little worried about Warren.

 

As for the rest of the Suns, they used some ridiculous lineup combos, including 10 combos in just the fourth quarter alone in that close game on Sunday. T.J. Warren played the whole fourth, Bender played 10 minutes, Mikal Bridges was at 9.5, Booker was at 9.2, Jamal Crawford played 8.2, Kelly Oubre played 5.6 minutes, Josh Jackson played just 3.5 minutes, and Acy picked up the remaining 2.2 minutes that Bender didn’t get at the five. KAT had an interesting comment after the game and said he tried to trick Mikal Bridges by yelling “ICE” to help get Derrick Rose a clean look. That aside, Igor said he liked the defense Bridges provided on Rose, so he should get another shot.

 

So you probably noticed that Elie Okobo and De’Anthony Melton aren’t in that fourth-quarter group. Back on Saturday, Melton started the game, but the only second half minutes he saw were the last three in garbage time. Okobo didn’t play at all in the first half, and coach Igor talked about it after the game. "I wouldn't say that [Melton] didn't have a great game,” Kokoskov said. “We were trying to find something else. Two rookies, we're expecting them to have good games, bad games." Plus, Jamal Crawford is cutting into both of their playing times. Igor has said that he sat Crawford in back-to-back sets, but that’s not the case here. You probably want to avoid the PG situation here for DFS.

 

Prediction: Timberwolves 119, Suns 112

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.