We have nine games today, but with seven games on the evening slate and just two starting early, I’m going to focus on the later games for our FanDuel contests. After a pretty ugly slate last night, it’s looking much better tonight. In Value Town, we have the Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies. The Jazz are dealing with injuries to Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood, and Memphis will almost certainly be without Mike Conley and Courtney Lee. I’ll break down what this means in my recommendations below. Good luck tonight.
Fade of the day: Mario Chalmers – I haven’t done this before, but we’ll see how it goes. Chalmers wasn’t very good last game, but he managed to salvage his line in the final minutes of the game. He’s now $4900, and despite his near triple-double two games ago, I’m just not interested in him tonight. Yes, Mike Conley and Courtney Lee will be out this evening, and yes Chalmers will play big minutes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a good play, and I’ll explain why.
First, Boston smothers opposing point guards, and their top wing defender, Avery Bradley, will be back tonight. Boston is an elite defensive team, and his return makes them even better. The Celtics are ranked second in defensive efficiency and are allowing the least fantasy points per game to opposing point guards by a significant margin. Every time I’ve taken a point guard against Boston I’ve regretted it, and I don’t think Chalmers is a skilled enough player to overcome this Celtics defense.
Secondly, there are fantastic plays at point guard, and you lock yourself out of them by rostering Chalmers. Usually I start my lineups with the no-brainer value plays and work from there, but Chalmers isn’t a no-brainer, and point guard is offering players like Michael Carter-Williams, Damian Lillard, and Russell Westbrook, while other positions have no one to spend on. It makes no sense to go value at point guard as all it’s going to do is force you to pay up for suboptimal plays. No thank you.
Michael Carter-Williams, Milwaukee Bucks, $7100 – MCW has been incredible, and he’s playing heavy minutes with Jerryd Bayless out. I haven’t seen an update on his status, but my assumption is that he’ll be out today. He and Greivis Vasquez are the only competition for MCW’s minutes, and both are hurt, and shouldn’t be an issue going forward considering how great MCW has been. He’s contributing across the board, his jumper looks better, he’s rebounding well, and he’s racking up assists. He’s on clearance at $7100 right now given he’s been crushing value lately. I love him against the Knicks and the matador-style defense of Jose Calderon. If he’s not the easiest play on FanDuel today, he’s darn close.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers, $8900 – Lillard sure didn’t look like a guy dealing with plantar fasciitis in his last game, posting 63.6 fantasy points in a loss to the Golden State Warriors. I love him today because he more or less is the Portland offense. Everything runs through him when he’s on the court, and when games are close, he’s going to play close to, or possibly more than 40 minutes. The Thunder is a good defensive team, and they certainly haven’t been bad against opposing point guards, but absurd volume trumps any sort of defense vs position stat you can find. Lillard’s playing at a very high level, and the Thunder has been allowing teams to stay in games that they probably should be beating easily. I’m expecting a close one here, and that will be a direct result of another huge game from Lillard.
Additional Plays: Russell Westbrook
Chris Johnson, Utah Jazz, $3600 – Johnson played 31 minutes yesterday with Rodney Hood out, and he’s in play again if Hood is forced to miss tonight’s game against the Lakers. I don’t have to spend much time explaining why I like taking players against the Lakers. They’re absolutely horrific on defense, and if you don’t believe me or their league-worst defensive efficiency, try watching them some time. It’s just brutal. Johnson posted 29.3 fantasy against a tough defensive Heat team, so I certainly have no issue with going the value route at shooting guard. He’s usable in all game formats, especially given shooting guard only has one guy (Harden) that you can really considering paying up for.
Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies, $4000 – Allen isn’t a guy that’s on my radar when the Grizzlies are healthy, but when both Mike Conley and Courtney Lee are expected to be out, he’s front and center. With both of them out last game, Allen played 38 minutes, parlaying that court time into a very nice 30 fantasy point performance. He’s not a great scorer, but he’s going to contribute enough across all categories to easily pay off his cheap price tag. Boston is a great defensive team, but they also play very fast, and those additional possessions are going to lead to more opportunities for Allen to earn fantasy points. The double punt at shooting guard is sure looking like a solid way to open up a lot of cap space, assuming all of the injuries go the way I expect them to.
Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz, $7300 – Hayward impressively (or not impressively?) managed to score less fantasy points than real points last night. With both Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood out, Hayward took a ton of shots and scored 34 points. Unfortunately, he didn’t do much else besides turn the ball over. He finished with 32.3 fantasy points, which is obviously a very solid return for his price. I like him regardless of Hood’s status as he’ll be taking on the Lakers. I’ve already touched on the circus that is their defense, so don’t expect Hayward to have much trouble scoring. I expect he’ll contribute more in the peripheral stats than he did last night, which should make a 35 to 40-point outing very likely.
Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets, $7100 – Gallinari has been terrific over his past four games, posting at least 32 fantasy points in each game. If Nicolas Batum is out again, I love Gallinari’s matchup as Charlotte’s wing defense will once again take a massive hit. Even if Batum is in, Gallinari has just been too good to avoid. He’s the clear top option in Denver’s offense, and it’s important to note that Will Barton seems to have fallen off the map. He’s no longer playing big minutes, and hasn’t been the same player when he’s on the court. I’m not sure exactly what’s going on there, but what I do know is Gallinari has been terrific and should keep things going against the Hornets. He’s a very safe cash game play that has plenty of upside for tournaments.
Cody Zeller, Charlotte Hornets, $4900 – Let’s be honest, power forward stinks today. The most expensive option is Derrick Favors, a guy who likely won’t play. Even if he does, it’s nearly impossible to roster a guy who is coming off of an extended absence. Zeller is still cheap despite his role increasing. He’s played over 30 minutes the past two games, and has pulled down double digit rebounds in each of his past three. He’s not much of a scorer, but I think he’ll finish with eight to ten points tonight. At $4900, he should do enough to finish with somewhere between 25 and 30 fantasy points, which is a very solid return. He’s a better cash game play because of his consistency, but his low ceiling makes him a bit less attractive in tournaments, though you can still make a case for him with how weak the power forward position is today.
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers, $7200 – Finding a power forward you can trust is difficult tonight. Kristaps Porzingis has a lot of upside, but his range of outcomes is incredible wide, and I’m just not comfortable taking on that kind of risk in a cash game lineup. I’ll pay a few hundred more and roll with Love, a player you can count on to get you 30 or more against the Sixers. Cleveland will almost certainly blow the Sixers out, and I very much doubt we see Love on the court in the fourth quarter. He should, however, do enough in three quarters to justify the $7200 investment. This is a safety pick. There’s almost no chance Love burns you in cash game lineups today, which is more than you can say about just about every other power forward option.
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies, $7500 – This is a perfect example of a “who the heck else are you going to use?” play. Center is dreadful today, and Gasol is likely going to be very popular despite a string of poor performances. He’s shooting 25% from the field over his past three games, and were it not for a fluke five-steal performance last game, he would have posted his third straight dud. The rebounding isn’t there, the shot isn’t there, and he’s not assisting much either. Yeah, this really sounds like a guy you want in your lineups, doesn’t it? The problem is, aside from one player that I’ll mention after this blurb, there’s no one else to use. Dwight Howard is questionable with his back injury, and given lineups lock an hour before Houston plays, we may not have definitive word on his status. Gasol should get back on track sooner rather than later, and I don’t mind using him as a blocker in cash games given he’s easy to fit into your lineups and will likely be high owned.
Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics, $4500 – Olynyk was recently promoted to the starting unit, and over his last three games he’s played 34, 29, and 33 minutes. Until Brad Stevens gives me a reason not to trust those minutes, I’m going to assume Olynyk will continue to see that type of workload. He’s not a consistent player, and even a $4500 price tag will be one that he fails to pay off from time to time. However, center stinks, and if you’d rather use your cap money to spend elsewhere, Olynyk is the guy you’re going to want to use. If he gets hot, he can post monster fantasy totals. He’s the ideal tournament play, and I think he’s viable in cash games given there is no center option I would consider to be safe.