• It’s MLK day, so don’t forget that we’ve got a bunch of early starts from around the league. We’ll start with some great matchups for the early going and highlight notable matchups in the late slate.

    Knicks @ Hawks

    We don’t yet have a spread because of Kristaps Porzingis’ (Achilles) status still in the air. Even if he does suit up for this game, it’d be a good idea to avoid him. He’s averaged 8.0 points (6-of-23 from the field), 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.5 blocks and 0.5 treys in the last two games before sitting out. Both teams are playing the second game of a back-to-back and with the early start, it could be a bit of a sloppy game from the tip.

    The Knicks have yielded the eighth highest (219.9) fantasy points in DraftKings, being fourth worst against opposing shooting guards (40.9). That means Kent Bazemore becomes a viable option in both cash games and tournament. Baze is averaging 18.0 points (12-of-24 from the field), 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks and 3.0 threes in the last two games. There’s risk, but he’s got more leash now that Korver is in Cleveland. Tim Hardaway Jr. should be a good punt option in this matchup as well. Mike Dunleavy dropped a season-high 20 points in 23 minutes against the Bucks last night, but let’s give it a few games before deploying him. Additionally, power forwards and centers have also done well against the Knicks, so Paul Millsap should have a solid outing, but he’s almost always an option if you can afford to fit him in your lineup. Dwight Howard falls into the same boat and is a good target at center for the early slate.

    The Hawks sit in the bottom half for total fantasy points allowed against opposing teams. They’ve been good at locking down opposing centers (43.8), so Joakim Noah gets even less trustworthy in this matchup (if that’s even possible). The Hawks are susceptible to opposing point guards, yielding the sixth most (48.4) fantasy points against that position. That means Derrick Rose should meet value, but the ceiling is low, so let’s keep him to cash games only. Lance Thomas started against the Raps last night, but only played a few minutes before suffering a concussion. Justin Holiday filled in and looked good, so he has value as a punt option. Mindaugas Kuzminskas could also benefit from Porzingis and Thomas sitting out, but Holiday is the better option in my mind.

     

    Blazers @ Wizards -3.5 (220.0)

    At 220.0, this game has the highest total in the early slate. It should be a high scoring affair with both teams ranking in the bottom 10 for opponent points allowed. The Blazers also sit in the top 10 for pace (99.83) and points scored (108.1).

    Moe Harkless (calf) remains questionable and while Allen Crabbe started in his absence, he should only be considered in tournaments. He’s been everywhere all season. C.J. McCollum has been steady since Damian Lillard’s return and if you feel like spending a bit more at shooting guard, C.J. isn’t a bad option. Ed Davis is also questionable, but that only means Meyers Leonard moves up in the depth chart. Washington has given up top 10 value against opposing power forwards, which means Al-Farouq Aminu is a solid affordable option. On the other hand, the Wiz have held point guards to fifth worst value on the season. I would probably think about spending a bit more to use John Wall than Lillard in this instance.

    On the Wizards end, Wall (wrist) and Otto Porter (hip) are probable as they play through their respective ailments; they should be safe to use. Portland have had their issues against opposing bigs, so Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat make great targets and their respective salaries will give you flexibility elsewhere. One gleaming matchup issue is Portland has held shooting guards to third worst value in the league, so I would avoid Bradley Beal in this one.

     

    Pelicans @ Pacers -5.5 (214.0)

    The Pelicans and Pacers matchup should be another juicy one with both teams allowing the third (Pelicans – 222.4) and fourth (Pacers – 221.9) most fantasy points on the season. The Pelicans get shredded by opposing point guards at fourth most (50.4) points given up. While Indiana has given up the second most points to power forwards (46.2).

    Anthony Davis is always a great option, but this matchup should be a good one, even for the Brow’s standards. If you’re looking to spend big, then look no further than Davis. Tyreke Evans has been trending up and is averaging 18.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.3 steals in the last three games. Terrence Jones moved into the starting lineup and should find himself there again, unless Alvin Gentry has a change of heart after losing to Chicago on Saturday. He’s a bit on the pricier side, but I don’t mind it in this matchup. Solomon Hill has put up sneaky value in the last two and he faces up against his old squad. He’s on the radar in tournaments.

    As I mentioned earlier, point guards have played well against the Pelicans, so Jeff Teague could be worth the price tag in this one. Paul George was awful in against the Nuggets in London and there are probably better places to spend than here. Thaddeus Young is a valid option as the Pelicans give up seventh best value (44.5) against power forwards. Myles Turner isn’t as good as most nights as he squares off against AD, but if you’re set on him, then I’m not going to hold it against you.

     

    Cavs @ Warriors -7.5 (224.5)

    Fantasy aside, this should be an entertaining game to watch as the Warriors look to avenge Christmas Day. This is the highest total of the day, so there should be enough offense to go around in this one.

    The Warriors have been pretty stingy against all positions except opposing centers. Tristan Thompson wasn’t great last time against Golden State, but he remains a cheaper center option if you need it. Let’s face it, Kyrie Irving loves playing against the Dubs and is averaging 23.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.4 treys since returning to the lineup. LeBron James has been returning value and should have another strong game against their Western Conference counterparts. I’m a little cooler on Kevin Love as he hasn’t quite found his stroke, posting 17.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.6 threes and little else on 35.9% from the field in his last five. The quantity is there, so he still makes sense as a high option. Kyle Korver had his best game with Cleveland, dropping 18 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and four triples in 25 minutes on Friday. It’s too early in his Cav career for me to confidently recommend him though. Iman Shumpert has moved into the starting lineup and is a viable tournament option, but I’d probably look elsewhere.

    Cleveland have let opposing shooting guards torch them as they give up third best (41.5) fantasy points to the two guard. That should mean a good night for Klay Thompson, but he was pretty mediocre in their last meeting. Still, you won’t have to spend a fortune on him, so keep him mind. Steph Curry and Kevin Durant are pretty matchup proof, so you could use them whenever they make sense in the budget. Draymond Green has been up and down, so he’s probably the only Warrior I’d be slightly hesitant towards. Despite having a tonne of All-Star votes, I’d be steering clear of Zaza Pachulia. He only played 13 minutes last time against the Cavs.

     

    Jazz @ Suns +5.5 (202.0)

    The Jazz aren’t the most alluring matchup in fantasy, but there are enough interesting notes here to highlight. The Jazz are the best in keeping their fantasy opponents limited (192.6 total), while the Suns have had plenty of issues.

    Just when the Jazz look healthy, Rodney Hood hyperextended his knee on Saturday and will likely be out with the Jazz’ next game coming on Friday. Joe Ingles should enter the starting lineup as we’ve seen before and Alec Burks has been trending up since returning to the lineup. The latter can be left alone until he starts seeing 20-plus minutes consistently. The Suns have given up top five best value in the league against opposing points guards and George Hill has looked solid every time he’s been able to suit up. The Suns have also given up eighth best value to opposing centers, so Rudy Gobert could have another good night on his hands. If you don’t want to break your back at center, Gobert makes a lot of sense. Gordon Hayward has provided steady value at his price tag and should get some added usage with Hood out. Derrick Favors has been better lately, but I’m not in love with him as an option tonight.

    There aren’t many strong options on Phoenix’s side due to the matchup, but it’s worth noting that Devon Booker has barely missed a shot in the last four games. He’s posting 31.0 points on 54.9% from the field on 20.4 attempts. He’s white hot right now and is probably the only Suns player to really consider at the moment. Brandon Knight (wrist) sat out last game, but I haven’t trusted him all season. Tyson Chandler has been returning value, but squaring up Gobert usually ends up badly.

     

     

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