• This is such a fun stretch of the season both as a fan and as a DFS player. Several teams are tanking, but most teams are sprinting towards the playoffs and jockeying for position. Tonight’s slate includes 10 games, most of which should be competitive. For fantasy purposes, I see most of the value in the Blazers/Spurs game and in the Lakers/Rockets game. Let’s dig in and look at options for your lineups tonight.

     

    Point Guard

    Ricky Rubio ($7,400)

    I’ve been writing up and playing Ricky Rubio, and I am going to continue to play him in cash games and tournaments. Tonight he faces the Celtics and Isaiah Thomas, one of the worst defenders in the league. Thomas can score, but his skills on the other end are lacking which presents the opportunity for Rubio to keep the hot streak going. Last game against the Wizards on Monday, Ricky had 22 points and 19 assists.

    His game has been headed in this direction, and Monday was not a fluke. Though Rubio’s usage for the season is 16%, he has been handling the ball and shooting more often lately, especially over the last nine games (usage rate 21.1% in that span). The Timberwolves need his scoring if they are going to keep winning.

    With Brandon Rush and Gorgui Dieng in the starting lineup, shot creation falls on the shoulders of Towns, Wiggins, and Rubio. Ricky’s crafty passing and court vision keep defenders on their toes. Now that Rubio is supplementing his passing with scoring, he is a handful for teams. His DraftKings production reflects this, as he has scored 34+ DK points in nine straight games. I am optimistic that tonight will be another strong outing.

     

    Shooting Guard

    Jordan Clarkson ($5,900)

    A few months ago, the Lakers were eyeing a playoff spot. Those days are long over as the Lakers now have a two-game lead for worst record in the Western Conference. It’s tank time in Los Angeles which has playing time implications. Lou Williams is out of town, and Coach Walton is giving the young guys a chance to develop.

    One result is that Jordan has played four straight games of 33+ minutes. With over 30 minutes of game time tonight against the Rockets, Clarkson should be incredibly valuable. Jordan is a scorer and he has no reservations about putting up 15 or more shots in a game. Two games ago against Philadelphia, he dropped 30 points in a 52.5 point DraftKings performance. Interestingly, his usage rate in that game was 28.2%, just one percent higher than his usage rate since All-Star Break.

    Even at a usage rate like 25%, the Laker has shown the ability to get hot and really light up the scoreboard. The downside is that he is basically a pure scorer. A cold night likely results in a dud from a fantasy perspective. However, this game should have so many possessions that Jordan would have to shoot horrendously to not deliver a decent fantasy total.

    I view Clarkson as a high floor, high ceiling play tonight in a quick matchup with the potent Houston Rockets. If the Lakers get blown out like they should, Walton still has incentive to keep Clarkson on the floor to further his development. If the Lakers hang in the game, it will be because of hot three-point shooting, and Clarkson is a necessary ingredient in that potential outcome. I like him in cash games and tournaments.

     

    Small Forward

    Kawhi Leonard ($9,800)

    With just a quarter of the season remaining, the Spurs are in a stellar position to finish first in the Western Conference. Their plans have been shaken up slightly with LaMarcus Aldridge‘s heart issues, but Kawhi Leonard is leading the charge toward home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

    The season has been slightly disappointing for Aldridge, but he began to play solid basketball recently. From a fantasy perspective, it’s worth noting that he was more involved in the offense recently than he was at the beginning of the season. When you take him off the floor, Kawhi’s role becomes much larger within the offense and on the glass.

    With LaMarcus off the floor, Kawhi’s usage spikes 4.5%, his assist rate jumps 4.9%, and he rebounds 1% higher than with Aldridge on the floor. Although the rebounding number seems low, any increase is significant, particularly considering that the Spurs take on the Blazers tonight who play fast which means potentially more rebounds. Any extra board here or there could be huge from a fantasy perspective.

    I expect tonight to be a signature Kawhi performance in a game that has significant meaning for both teams. Unless the game becomes a blowout (which it should not), Kawhi’s floor is super high. At an almost $10k price tag, his upside may not be high enough to roster him heavily in tournaments, but I love him in cash games.

    UPDATE: LaMarcus Aldridge will play tonight and will not face a minutes restriction. This is negative news for Kawhi, but he is still in play for tournaments. I will not play him in cash games.

     

    Power Forward

    David Lee ($5,500)

    The pricing on DraftKings has been pretty sensitive this season with quick reactions and sharp price jumps when a player’s role increases or decreases dramatically. Given the matchup tonight and absence of Aldridge, I am shocked that David Lee is not more expensive.

    At $5,500, David Lee should hit value even at conservative projections. Additionally, there is opportunity for Lee hitting 6x or 7x his price. When David Lee starts, he tends to play 25-30 minutes. For instance, he played just shy of 30 minutes last game against Atlanta and scored 28.5 DraftKings points in a mediocre matchup. If he plays 30 minutes tonight, he should get a double-double given the more favorable matchup and his track record in games that he has started this season.

    The Spurs starting lineup is clearly respectable even without Aldridge, but Green and Dedmon do not shoot enough for the Spurs to win without a big contribution from David Lee. The only way the Spurs score efficiently without a strong David Lee game is if Kawhi’s usage is crazy high which would be fine because we are going to own Kawhi. The Leonard/Lee pairing is a nice upside play and also a hedge to some extent. This is the direction I am going tonight.

    UPDATE: LaMarcus will play tonight and will not be restricted. Originally he was listed as “out indefinitely” so the quick return to the court is unexpected. David Lee is no longer in play tonight.

     

    Center

    Ivica Zubac ($5,300)

    As previously mentioned, the Lakers are focused on the future, and their rotations are much different than they might be if they were hunting down a playoff spot. Timofey Mozgov has been shut down for the season, and Ivica Zubac should be playing a full load of minutes for the remainder of the year.

    Against Denver last game, Zubac scored 25 points with 11 rebounds en route to a 43 point DraftKings performance. He shot 12/15 from the floor in that game, but even at a more sustainable shooting percentage, he should score a lot of points tonight. The Rockets are going to be running and gunning all night long, so Zubac will have many possessions to rack up points and rebounds.

    As opposed to Clarkson, Zubac is not a scorer only so we do not need him to be spectacularly efficient if he plays 25+ minutes. Ivica scores, rebounds, and blocks shots. The Rockets do almost all of their damage from beyond the arc and from inside the paint. Therefore, Zubac should have a few opportunities to block shots from a driving James Harden or a Clint Capela inside shot. He is as valuable as anybody tonight, and I will roster him in cash games and tournaments.

     

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