After a small slate on Sunday, the NBA is back in full swing with a nice 10 game slate here. We are down to the last ten games or less for most teams, so motivation is something we need to consider. Teams that are securely in the playoffs are resting players and teams out of it are letting the young guys get some run. You really need to pay attention to the news flow in order to know who is trying to win and who may be taking their foot off the gas. At 8 AM Monday morning the number of questionable and doubtful players is already two columns long, so expect some crazy late news around lock. For now, let’s take a look at each matchup today with an eye towards fantasy value.
|Probable||Paul Millsap (ATL), Pau Gasol (CHI), Taj Gibson (CHI), LaMarcus Aldridge (SAS), Damian Lillard (POR), Jrue Holiday (NO)|
|Questionable||Jon Leuer (PHO), Tyson Chandler (PHO), Kenneth Faried (DEN), Nick Young (LAL)|
|Doubtful||Manu Ginobili (SAS), Tim Duncan (SAS), Tony Parker (SAS), Deron Williams (DAL), Zach Randolph (MEM), Larry Nance, Jr. (LAL), Zach Randolph (MEM)|
|Out||Anthony Davis (NO), Ryan Anderson (NO), Chandler Parsons (DAL), P.J. Hairston (MEM), Mike Conley (MEM), Meyers Leonard (POR), Jae Crowder (BOS), Blake Griffin (LAC), Kawhi Leonard (SAS), Marco Belinelli (SAC), DeMarcus Cousins (SAC), Rajon Rondo (SAC), Rudy Gay (SAC), Goran Dragic (MIA), Terrence Ross (TOR)|
Editor’s Note (6:04 PM ET): Goran Dragic is OUT of tonight’s game against Brooklyn. Dwyane Wade ($6,500) will likely receive a boost in both minutes and usage rate tonight. Also, Josh Richardson ($4,200) is a likely beneficiary of Dragic’s absence. He’s played 34 and 33 minutes in his last two games, averaging 27.75 DKFP. Look for Richardson to see an increase in usage when he’s on the floor tonight.
Editor’s Note (3 PM ET): DeMarcus Cousins (35.4pct USG), Rudy Gay (22.2pct USG), Rajon Rondo (18.8pct USG) and Marco Belinelli (19.7pct USG) are all OUT tonight for the Kings. Overall, the four players ruled out account for four of the five highest usage rates on Sacramento this season. This team isn’t very good to start and sitting their three best players tonight won’t help much. The upside is that guys like Seth Curry, Darren Collison, Kosta Koufos, Willie Cauley-Stein and Omri Casspi should all benefit. As a tournament flier, Seth Curry is especially interesting. He’s averaged over 21 DK FPPG over the last two games in 24.5 minutes per game.
Brooklyn Nets @ Miami Heat
Line: Heat -10
This one does not look like one of the more competitive matchups we have today, but the 211 total for Nets/Heat game is somewhat interesting. Neither team is usually known for playing high scoring games, but both actually have been lately. The Nets had been playing lower scoring games, but 7 of the last 8 have now gone over 205 points with more than half of those being 218+ totals. For Miami, they have also played over 212 in 6 of the last 7. They have been known as a slow paced defensive minded team. They are still playing great defense, but they have upped their own scoring output. The Nets basically rely on Lopez to handle most of the scoring load with very few other options. Miami is weakest on the interior, so Thaddeus Young would be my #2 target.
As for Miami, they have a lot of weapons right now. Hassan Whiteside should make it a tough day for Lopez when the two actually play at the same time. Whiteside is a beast on the boards and the top shot blocker in the NBA, seeing starter minutes despite coming off the bench. Goran Dragic has also picked up his game of late with 40 DraftKings points in 4 of his last 5 games. He is in that mid-range sweet spot where he is not cheap, but not overly expensive either. The other option is Luol Deng. Deng has been starting at the four with Bosh out and that has allowed him to up his rebounding numbers consistently. He was banged up for a few games, but has nothing but 30 and 40 fantasy performances sandwiched before and after the injury. I am shying away from Wade, Amare, and Joe Johnson as they have all taken a step back in recent games.
- Goran Dragic ($6,500)
- Hassan Whiteside ($8,400)
- Brook Lopez ($7,100)
- Thaddeus Young ($6,400)
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Toronto Raptors
Line: Thunder -4
This should be a very interesting game between two teams still playing for something. OKC needs to keep winning to lock up their playoff spot. Toronto still has an outside shot at home court throughout the Eastern Conference finals. Both teams want to win, but go about doing it differently. Toronto is a hard nosed defensive squad, while the Thunder are an offensive machine. Strength takes on strength in this matchup, which is a very interesting proposition. It seems to be a better spot for the Raptors who will be paced up by OKC. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are the two main beneficiaries of the uptempo pace. They handle much of the scoring for the Raptors and will be the two guys carrying them today. Jonas Valaciunas is also an interesting option. He is playing with that hand injury wrapped up, but it has not slowed him down recently. He is averaging 12 points and 11 rebounds per game for 30+ fantasy points since returning from injury three games back.
“Durant probably has the softer matchup, so I think it makes sense to look his way a little more tonight”
For the Thunder, it is always easy to know who to target. Westbrook and Durant will be the guys to do most of the scoring and have the highest usage rates. Guys like Waiters, Kanter, Ibaka, and Adams are always interesting options. The problem I have is none are consistent. Westbrook and Durant are the constants and they have such high usage that anyone else is basically just a crap shoot. Lowry will make it a rough day for Westbrook, but Westy is too good not to get some numbers anyway. Durant probably has the softer matchup, so I think it makes sense to look his way a little more tonight.
- Russell Westbrook ($10,400)
- Kevin Durant ($10,000)
- Kyle Lowry ($8,400)
- Jonas Valanciunas ($5,200)
|Player Targets||Levitan's Leverage||Cheat Sheet|
|Game Breakdowns||Click For More||Tournament Plays|
New York Knicks @ New Orleans Pelicans
Line: Knicks -4
With all the injuries to the Pelicans, I would not doubt the Knicks are favored here despite being on the road. Without status updates on Jrue Holiday and Norris Cole, we just do not know. Cole has been out for a few weeks and Holiday has missed the last two games. There is a good chance neither guy plays here today. In their absence, we have seen a whole bunch of guys increase their roles. Toney Douglas and Tim Frazier have been handling most of the backcourt duties. Each has been a solid value option. Frazier has been slightly better on a per dollar basis with Douglas outscoring him slightly on most nights. From there, we have the mess of big guys between Gee, Cunningham, Babbit, Asik, and Ajinca. Trying to sort through this mess is not easy. Gee and Cunningham have both seen 35+ minutes lately, so as far as minutes go, they are the safest. Gee is my favorite of the cheap options if I decided to use any of them.
For the Knicks, we have a few guys to consider. Carmelo is always the top guy to look at. His minutes and volume of shots alone is enough to make him viable on a nightly basis. His rebounding and assist numbers are also higher this year, so he is definitely in play. Kristaps Porzingis is the second guy I would look to. He has played well lately and is seeing more minutes as well. The price is below where it had been earlier in the year, so he is not too expensive that we don’t have a floor and he also offers us upside. The last guy to look at is Jose Calderon. Calderon is cheap and playing big minutes at the point. He has produced well in the recent wins for the Knicks and has a solid matchup here against a weak New Orleans backcourt.
- Jose Calderon ($3,900)
- Kristaps Porzingis ($6,100)
- Tim Frazier ($4,100)
- Alonzo Gee ($3,300)
Atlanta Hawks @ Chicago Bulls
Line: Hawks -3
It looks like both of these teams will be healthy for this matchup and that should make this a good game. Atlanta has been weak all year on the wings and they are messing with the rotation a little bit there. The constants for the Hawks would be where I focus. Al Horford has a great matchup with a weak interior Bulls defense and he should be able to put up a nice stat line for a reasonable price. Paul Millsap is the top option here though. He had a monster game last out and has a weak matchup to exploit against the Bulls. The last piece I look at is Jeff Teague. Teague is facing a Chicago PG defense that has been torched by some bad point guards lately as well, so there is little fear he plays poorly. Those three are the safest options for the Hawks and each offers some upside with a soft matchup.
“If I take exposure to this game, I probably want it more on the Atlanta side of things…”
For Chicago, I am not really sure where to look. Butler is not 100% and still expensive, so he is out of play. I really like Pau on offense if his minutes restriction is lifted. If not, Taj and Mirotic are still pretty cheap and will play big minutes. Derrick Rose is playing a lot of minutes and has a high usage rate in that pick and roll offense. I do not love his matchup with Schroeder and Teague, but he can make value just based on his potential volume. The Hawks have been on a roll and Chicago on a losing streak. If I take exposure to this game, I probably want it more on the Atlanta side of things.
- Derrick Rose ($5,800)
- Jeff Teague ($5,500)
- Paul Millsap ($7,900)
- Al Horford ($6,800)
Phoenix Suns @ Minnesota Timberwolves
Line: Timberwolves -6
Neither of these teams are playing particularly well, but both could produce some decent fantasy lines. Both of them are playing with short rotations and neither of them play much D. Those two things alone make this a game we want exposure to. The Timberwolves have shortened up the rotation late in the year here. Rubio, Lavine, Wiggins, Towns, and Dieng are all seeing big minutes. Towns is by far the most talented and has the biggest upside. He is also the most expensive, so not the easiest to fit into a lineup. Still his scoring and rebounding have produced a slew of 40 and 50 point performances that have carried many lineups into the money. Rubio is the most volatile of options, but also one of the sneakiest. He has gone 7X or better in 4 of his last 8, with a pretty safe 5X floor in most of those games as well. His ownership remains surprisingly low on a nightly basis and he too has found himself on a few recent winners. Throw in the good matchup against a high paced bad defensive team and these guys become very interesting.
On Phoenix, we have a problem with frontcourt depth that can be exploited for fantasy upside. If Tyson Chandler is out, Alex Len sees bigger minutes. If Jon Leuer is out too, the same goes for Mirza Teletovic. Teletovic is cheap, so he is my main option in this case. He played 32 minutes and threw up 34 fantasy points with those two sitting out last game, so I would hope to see that again if the scenario stays the same. Devin Booker is the other Sun I really like. His minutes are huge and he is gunning when out there. Booker is averaging over 36 minutes per game and has taken 20+ shots in each of his last three. I expect to see that continue here today. Brandon Knight is viable as well, but a little pricey for his recent production. I am not opposed to anyone in this game actually as I expect a ton of points and a lack of defense will make it one of the better spots to target.
- Karl-Anthony Towns ($8,100)
- Ricky Rubio ($6,900)
- Devin Booker ($6,500)
- Mirza Teletovic ($4,700)
San Antonio Spurs @ Memphis Grizzlies
Line: Spurs -7
We know Manu, Duncan, and Parker are definitely out, so the Spurs will have some minutes to chew up. Kawhi Leonard and Zach Randolph are questionable for their respective teams and both guys are a big part of the fantasy production each team produces. If Kawhi is out too, LaMarcus Aldridge is the only real starter to play. He has thrown up some massive games in the scoring column when that happens, so he is almost a must play for me. With the other bigs all out, I would also think we see an uptick in David West’s minutes and production. Patty Mills, Kyle Anderson, and Danny Green should also see more usage, so all of them are interesting if we get news that Kawhi will sit.
“Overall I expect the Spurs to win this game but the Grizzlies might offer more fantasy value tonight.”
On the Grizzlies side, Randolph is an elite play when he is active. When he doesn’t play, this team really struggles. His absence most directly impacts JaMychal Green, who has seen his salary drop with Randolph healthy and might be cheap enough tonight to be back in consideration. Matt Barnes would be my second choice for Grizzlies to target. I like him more than Tony Allen and Lance Stephenson who would also get a tick up if Z-Bo sits. Jordan Farmar is the interesting guy to watch here as well. He got the start and big minutes in his last game and his price is still dirt cheap. Overall I expect the Spurs to win this game but the Grizzlies might offer more fantasy value tonight.
- LaMarcus Aldridge ($7,300)
- David West ($3,700)
- Jordan Farmar ($3,700)
- JaMychal Green ($4,800)*
*If Zach Randolph is ruled out
LA Lakers @ Utah Jazz
Line: Jazz -14
This should be one of the lower scoring games on the slate, but I still think the Jazz are in play against a putrid Lakers defense. For the Lakers, I am not a fan of anyone. If Kobe, Russell, Clarkson, and Williams are all active, then it hurts all four of them in terms of fantasy production. If Bass, Nance, and Randle are active too, then the same goes for the big guys. Throw in the fact they face one of the league’s best defenses and it is tough to like any of them. Byron Scott has shown his love for playing everyone 20-25 minutes and that will kill the fantasy value for all of them with everyone healthy. I love Julius Randle, but not if he is only going to play 24 minutes here.
For Utah, we can definitely look at a few guys. Shelvin Mack has a great matchup and has produced well lately. He is the unquestioned lead guard now and has seen big minutes. Derrick Favors should eat this weak interior alive and I expect a big game from him tonight. Gordon Hayward should also have a field day here. Kobe is too old and slow and uninterested in playing defense to stop him, so this should be a great spot to roll him out too. The Jazz have a soft matchup against a bad team here, it’s just that simple.
- Shelvin Mack ($5,900)
- Gordon Hayward ($6,600)
- Derrick Favors ($7,000)
- Julius Randle ($6,400)
Dallas Mavericks @ Denver Nuggets
Line: Nuggets -2
If you think this line is wrong, I can assure you it is not. Dallas might look better on paper, but the game is not played on paper. Deron Williams and Chandler Parsons are out. That means we will see a lot of Barea, Felton, Harris, and Wes Matthews on the floor for the Mavericks. It also means a lot of Dirk, Salah Mejri, and David Lee at the big guy spots. Dirk had a horrible game against the Kings last time out. In fact so did most of the Mavericks, who were blown out. This team is not good right now and I think it hurts all of their production overall. I like Felton and Wes Matthews the best here, but I hate the four guys being active. It makes each a slightly less appealing play. Dirk is the likeliest high scorer for Dallas, but he too is expensive and coming off a bad game. He is priced at a point where he really needs to go off and I am not sure he does on this slate. With all these problems, it is no secret why Dallas will struggle again here.
For the Nuggets, we seem to be having some new faces pop up and produce. Jokic and Nurkic are basically splitting time right now. Jokic looks cheap at $6K, but if he only plays 24 minutes I would rather have Nurkic at $4100. No one else really interests me except for DJ Augustin. Emmanuel Mudiay has seen his minutes dip in the last two games and the uptick has gone to Augustin. It’s always dangerous trying to figure out Mike Malone and his rotations, but Augustin and Nurkic have both seen more minutes, are cheap, and have returned great value in the last few games.
- Raymond Felton ($4,300)
- Wesley Matthews ($5,000)
- DJ Augustin ($4,700)
- Nikola Jokic ($6,000)
Sacramento Kings @ Portland Trailblazers
Line: Kings -11
If you are looking for fantasy production, this game should have a ton of it. Both teams play fast and are completely allergic to defense. With both teams used to scoring a ton, a 220-240 point combined total is not unreasonable here. The big question is whether or not Boogie Cousins plays. When Boogie is out, we have a clear blueprint of the uptick in production. Many use Rudy Gay, but that has not been the right move lately. The production uptick has been going to Rajon Rondo and Kosta Koufos who will likely draw the start. Koufos and Rondo had big games a few days back in this same situation, so I would be looking there against a weak PG and Center defense from the Blazers.
On the flip side, we have a few nice targets as well. Lillard should put up huge numbers in a fast paced game against a team that allows a ton of open 3-point shots. It is also a great spot for CJ McCollum who faces the worst shooting guard defense in the league. Those two are the high usage guys on the Blazers, so the should be the top beneficiaries. Mason Plumlee is also worth a look here for Portland. With Meyers Leonard out, his production has been pretty solid and his price tag remains pretty cheap. Those three would be the guys I look for in what is likely to be one of the highest scoring games on the day.
- Rajon Rondo ($7,600)
- Kosta Koufos ($3,500)
- Damian Lillard ($9,500)
- CJ McCollum ($7,200)