January 11, 2017, 2:18 pm
This evening we are looking at a six game slate, with five teams coming in on a back to back. Although it may seem obvious to check which teams have played the night before, it’s also very important to check which teams will be playing the following night. Before diving into the games I would like to touch on what is likely the most important part of tonight’s slate, Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden.
There is really no right answer when trying to decide what you want to do with Westbrook and Harden. At this point in the season it’s become clear that both of these players can be considered matchup proof. Although my lean would be Russ given his cheaper price tag across both sites, I would be very comfortable starting cash or GPP lineups with either of these guys. You can virtually guarantee that one of the two will be the slate’s leading scorer, with the potential of a ceiling game where they would become ‘must haves’ in order to cash.
Below I will break down the game with the highest total, as well as the game I will be targeting the most. I will also highlight my favorite plays for each position.
CAVALIERS @ TRAILBLAZERS +3.5 (219.5)
Coming in at the highest total of the night, it seems that Vegas didn’t forget the last tilt between these two teams which remains one of the highest scoring games of the season. The game took place in Cleveland, where the Cavs steamrolled the Blazers 137-125. I think that this is a great game to target but I am a little wary with a suspicious spread. Pay attention throughout the day as I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the Big 3 for the Cavaliers rest this game, something we have seen frequently over the last few weeks.
One of the great things about the Cavaliers is how concentrated their fantasy point production is. One of my biggest flaws with the Cavs is treating them like the Warriors, which is absolutely not the case. Unlikely the Warriors, it’s very possible for all of the studs to provide incredible fantasy value in the same game. Like every other Cavaliers game, I am looking at LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
We’ve seen Irving play at an extremely high level of basketball lately and that should only continue given his plum matchup against Damian Lillard’s soft defense. Although I personally don’t plan on cashing Kyrie tonight, I would have no issue with it as he offers legitimate 50 fantasy point upside at a mid-ranged price. Consider him a good cash play and a great tournament play.
I will primarily be looking at LeBron and Love in this matchup, dreaming that they replicate their performances in the last meeting. It’s important to note that the Blazers have been much better defensively with the return of Al-Farouq Aminu, however, he will not be deterring me from jamming these guys into my lineups.
Most will remember Love‘s 34-point first quarter the last time these teams met. I expect him to have another great game as the Trail Blazers have been getting absolutely crushed at the power forward position, giving up the most fantasy points in the league. Love appears to be healthy again after missing a few games due to food poisoning and makes for a great play for both cash and GPPs.
LeBron James is near a lock for production every time he takes the court and tonight should be no exception. Like Love, the King has a very nice matchup down low and should make for one of the strongest plays of the slate in cash and GPPs. He is especially desirable on DraftKings where he comes in at $9700.
As mentioned earlier, monitor the status of this game up until tip as we could see some players ruled out. If one of the Cavaliers’ Big 3 is ruled out, you’ll find me going nearly all in on the other two in every format.
On the Trail Blazers side of the ball, you can look at the usual suspects in Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Mason Plumlee. Players like Allen Crabbe, Moe Harkless, and Aminu have been rotating large fantasy games but I’m not interested in playing whack-a-mole and guessing at who’s going to go nuts.
Lillard appears to be fully recovered from his ankle injury and makes for a great target if you are looking to get exposure to the Blazers. Kyrie might rival only Dame in poor defense and should allow Lillard to do as he pleases. Although I would not trust Dame for cash games, I think that he makes for an excellent tournament play. Dame is especially appealing on DraftKings where his price has dropped to just $8500.
During Lillard’s absence we saw C.J. McCollum‘s price tag rise substantially on both sites to match his increased role in the offense. Now that Dame has returned, it’s important to make sure that prices have adjusted accordingly. McCollum is simply priced completely out of range for me at $8700 on FanDuel and I won’t be considering him there. He makes for an interesting leverage tournament play on DraftKings, where he sits at $7800.
Mason Plumlee is the final player that I’m considering on the Blazers tonight. He has had some monster games this season but has also seen very volatile minutes. I don’t particularly love targeting the Cavs down low, but will be considering Plumlee here for his huge upside. Plumdog is a legitimate triple-double candidate and could find himself as one of the best point per dollar plays if this game shoots out.
WIZARDS @ CELTICS -5.5 (217.5)
It seems as though every Celtics game over the past few weeks has been a shootout. That trend should continue tonight with the Wizards coming to town as both teams rank in the bottom half in defensive efficiency. Avery Bradley is very likely to miss this contest, giving it a great chance to remain close all game. Note that both teams are on the second leg of a back to back.
The Wizards starters have been playing ridiculous minutes all season, seeing almost no change on back to backs. I think you can look at the entire starting lineup tonight, although I am focusing on John Wall and Marcin Gortat.
John Wall makes for my favorite play of the night for both cash and GPPs. After a stint of being priced in the $10,000s on both sites, Wall has dropped down to $9500 on FanDuel and a mouth watering $9200 on DraftKings. As has been the case for almost every Wizards game this year, Wall will need to play as many minutes as he can handle to give his team a chance to win. Although I would err on the side of caution given his 40 minutes last night, there has been no talk of limited minutes so I fully expect him to play close to that amount again tonight. Isaiah Thomas has been one of the very worst defenders this year and I expect him to be totally exploited by Wall. Get him in your lineups!
It’s pretty incredible the amount of minutes Gortat can play and the number of double-doubles he can pile up without getting priced appropriately. He has been crushing on a nightly basis and now draws the Celtics who have have been one of the league’s worst rebounding teams — and that is when Avery Bradley plays.
Due to Ian Mahinmi remaining out, the Polish Hammer should again see close to 40 minutes assuming the game stays close. Gortat makes for a solid cash play on both sites (especially DraftKings) and should also be considered a great tournament play as his ownership is repeatedly much lower than his play warrants.
I’m not particularly targeting any of the remaining Wizards starters in Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris but would look to them in that order. Beal is likely underpriced on both sites and makes for a solid option at a usually tough position. He has shown the ability to completely shoulder the offense at times, showing he has a serious ceiling. He is even more appealing than usual given the size of the slate. Porter and Morris are strictly tournament plays for me given the volatility of their fantasy outputs.
Assuming Avery Bradley sits this game out, Thomas finds himself in an excellent spot this evening. IT2 has been playing out of his mind the past few weeks, seeing his highest price tags and ownership percentages in years. Although I don’t typically target John Wall, I think it is very possible that we see Thomas exceed 50 fantasy points tonight given his workload. I will not be cashing him tonight but will be sure to mix him into my tournament lineups.
Similar to the Trail Blazers’ second-tier players, I am not particularly interested in guessing which punts on the Celtics will have big games. For that reason I will be completely avoiding the likes of Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson and the rest of the sub $5000 plays. I will be focusing on Al Horford and Marcus Smart, who both receive significant bumps without Bradley on the floor.
We’ve seen Smart absolutely crush in his last two games, including last night where he played 38 minutes and posted a 16-4-5 line with four steals. Although he has potentially become too expensive for my tastes on DraftKings, Marcus finds himself in the bargain bin at $5200 on FanDuel. Assuming Avery Bradley misses this game, Smart will be one of the first players I plug in on FanDuel.
I always like targeting Horford due to the versatility of his game. There is something about your center being able to drain 3-pointers that gives you a lot of comfort in their floor. I love Horford in this matchup with Gortat and plan on having plenty of exposure to him. The loss of Bradley should leave some extra rebounds on the defensive side and I expect Horford to be the main beneficiary. Although Horford is out of cash consideration for me due to the strength of the center position, I would not feel comfortable fading him tonight given the upside of the matchup.
Below are my favorite plays overall at each position as well as my favorite value plays.
Top play: Mike Conley $6900 DK, $7200 FD
Seeing as I raved about John Wall above, I will mention my second favorite play at point guard. Conley seems to get up for these games against top point guards and comes with a very nice price. Conley should crush this matchup if he can see minutes into the mid-thirties. I expect that to be the case as Memphis should be competitive.
Value play: Marcus Smart $5200 FD
Tonight I am not really looking for value plays at the point guard position outside of Smart. Assuming Avery Bradley sits this game out, Smart becomes near a must play for me on FanDuel. Smart has thrived the past two games in the starting position and should have no problem paying off his cheap price tag.
Top Play: James Harden $12,000 DK, $12,400 FD
Shooting guard is extremely bare tonight and it feels wrong recommending anyone but Harden for my top play. He draws a nice matchup against the Wolves and shouldn’t have any trouble controlling the game. If you can afford him, he is a great place to start your lineups due to positional scarcity.
Value Play: J.J. Redick $4500 FD (If Austin Rivers sits)
It’s tough enough to hit on a starting shooting guard, let alone looking for a value play. I won’t be bargain hunting at this position unless we see Austin Rivers sit this game out. The Clippers might have a few too many shooters for me if Austin Rivers suits up tonight, however, I will be quick to look to J.J. Redick on FanDuel if Rivers was to miss this game.
Top Play: Kevin Love $8100
You won’t be getting Kevin Love at low ownership tonight but the matchup is too good for me to care. Love should easily pay off his price tag with the potential to absolutely smash if the game remains close.
Value Play: Nemanja Bjelica $3000 DK
It appears to be very likely that Zach LaVine will miss tonight’s game. There are a bunch of players on the Wolves that could eat up the missing shots but I really like Bjelica’s chances of making value at minimum salary. This is a tournament only play for me that could give you close to 10x upside.
Top Play: Andrew Wiggins $6400 DK, $6300 FD
As much as I would love to talk about LeBron James here, Andrew Wiggins deserves some serious attention. The likely absence of Zach LaVine provides a ton of opportunity and Wiggins is one of the main beneficiaries. At a very affordable price tag and a tough position, Wiggins makes for one of the strongest SF plays on the board.
I won’t be looking at any SF value for tonight’s slate, with the exception of previously mentioned Bjelica who qualifies for both small and power forward on DraftKings.
Top Play: Deandre Jordan $7000 DK, $7500 FD
DeAndre Jordan typically makes for one of the most popular plays during Blake Griffin’s absence but something seems to be different this time around. For some reason Jordan has come at relatively low ownership despite being incredibly consistent. I will be looking to D.J. in both cash and GPPs.
Value Play: Marcin Gortat $6000 DK
Gortat doesn’t qualify for your typical value play at $6000, however, he is simply too cheap to pass up. He makes for one of the best DraftKings plays of the night and should be considered for both cash and GPPs. I will very likely be looking to play two centers when possible given the value.