Big Wednesday brings a hearty 12-game slate. There is so much to cover and an atlas full of paths to take tonight. Which stars are in the best position? Which value plays make the most sense? There are a lot of those types of questions to answer tonight so let’s sort it all out. As always, if you have any questions, hit me on Twitter @JasonWalker_72.
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Washington Wizards @ Charlotte Hornets
Line: Hornets -3
Very high game total here, surprising due to the Hornets reputation for slow pace. However….the Hornets are actually closer to the league average and the Wizards are the third fastest so buckle up, America. Also, both the Wizards and the Hornets are in the top 10 in offensive rating (OFFRAT) with Charlotte fourth and Washington 10th. Defensively, the Wizards are ninth worst and the Hornets are smack dab in the middle of the league at 15th. Nicolas Batum is questionable with an illness, though Paul George’s game against these Wizards last night (61.5) might encourage him get back to it.
The Wizards got Bradley Beal back last night and he was fine, but showed that he will be splitting the usage with John Wall, keeping the latter below the value line, as Wall has not made value on his salary in the last five games. The frontcourt is where you can attack the Hornets, and that would mean possibly Marcin Gortat at 5.5K and maybe Nene is he gets the start at 3.6K.
The Hornets are at home and that usually means gimme some Kemba Walker (7.4K), but John Wall is an underrated defensive player and might hinder Kemba from being able to reach value. As we discussed yesterday about the Pacers, the wings are where you attack the Wizards, as Paul George and CJ Miles can attest to after both going nova last night. That brings Batum (if feeling better) and perhaps Jeremy Lin into play. With Beal in for Washington, the Hornets probably won’t be able to use a lot of the Walker/Lin backcourt due to size disadvantage versus when Garrett Temple or Gary Neal are in the game. If Batum can’t go, or if the Hornets don’t start PJ Hairston, watch for Jeremy Lamb (4.6K).
– Bradley Beal ($6,600)
– Marcin Gortat ($5,500)
– Nicolas Batum ($7,300)
– Kemba Walker ($7,400)
New York Knicks @ Orlando Magic
Line: Magic -1.5
The Knicks have been slowing things down and are now sixth slowest in the league while the Magic are also below the league average at 12th slowest. Both teams are below average in OFFRAT and right at the league average in defensive rating (DEFRAT). CJ Watson is questionable for the Magic with his injured calf muscle.
Brace yourselves, but the Knicks are actually better than the league average in fantasy points at every position. They are weakest at defending the point guard position, which would be great for Orlando if Elfrid Payton wasn’t so inconsistent. Payton is a fine tournament option as the ceiling is there and the matchup is good for him, but he’s had back to back nights of subpar production (10.5, 24.8) which belies his 6.1K salary. The Magic spread the production and usage out so much as a team, it’s hard to zero in on one player. The most consistent producers are Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic.
Ladies and gentlemen, the #FreeZingis campaign has been a massive success and now we must pay the price, 7K, to be exact, for the joy of rostering the rookie big man. And he might still be worth that salary tonight in a plus matchup for him. A sneaky play, given the poor play of Magic point guards defensively, is Jose Calderon, who has been playing consistent minutes at the point and when he has a plus matchup, as he does tonight, he can make value at his small 4K salary. Carmelo is fairly high priced (8.4K) and with Porzingis playing well Anthony’s usage has started to decline, ever so slightly, using “only” 27.7% over the last four games.
– Nikola Vucevic ($6,800)
– Elfrid Payton ($6,100)
– Kristaps Porzingis ($7,000)
– Jose Calderon ($4,000)
Philadelphia 76ers @ Boston Celtics
Line: Celtics -10.5
The Celtics are the fifth fastest paced team in the league and the Sixers are 15th. The Celtics defense took a hit against Atlanta last night, but are still sixth overall in DEFRAT, while the Sixers are seventh worst in the league in that category. Offensively, Philly is by far the worst OFFRAT team in the league, which is whey the total seems low, and Boston is 15th. Marcus Smart remains out for the Celtics.
Should he play the minutes at center, Jared Sullinger should be able to get what he needs to against Jahlil Okafor, who is giving away a lot defensively in the middle, with a personal 108.9 DEFRAT. CJ McConnell can be attacked, too, giving Isaiah Thomas (7.7K) a chance to atone for last night’s game in Atlanta where he scored a mere 21.5 DK points. Avery Bradley (5.9K) has been great while Smart has been out, getting 38.3, 42, 29.3 and 38.5 recently and don’t discount an Evan Turner (5.1K) REVENGE GAME as he, too, is getting some good run with Smart out.
On the other side teams hit the C’s from the three and the four, putting Robert Covington (4.8K) and Nerlens Noel (5.9K) in play for the Sixers. Now is the time to play Covington before his price gets too high and his inconsistency kicks into play. A great tourney play on any Sixers basketball occasion is Jerami Grant, because of his low salary (4.4K), consistent minutes in any game script and his ability to score from multiple positions and accumulate peripherals. Lastly, while McConnell’s salary his lifted into the 5K scope, Isaiah Canaan’s minutes and production has quietly risen. Canaan played 28.5 and 26.5 minutes the last two games and produced 28.5 and 26.25 FP at his still under 4K (3.8K now) salary.
– Jared Sullinger ($6,400)
– Isaiah Thomas ($7,700)
– Robert Covington ($4,800)
– Nerlens Noel ($5,900)
Miami Heat @ Detroit Pistons
Line: Heat -1.5
The Heat are the fourth slowest team and best defensive team in the league by DEFRAT. They are also a top 10 OFFRAT team. The Pistons are the ninth slowest team in the league and also the ninth best defensive team, but can’t match the Heat in offense, being third worst by OFFRAT standards. Hassan Whiteside is sick, is questionable for the game, but did make the trip. Luol Deng is also questionable with a sore hamstring.
The Heat are tough defensively, but that could change if Whiteside misses the game and would give Andre Drummond (9.4K) a significant bump. However, if Whiteside does play, the Heat become most vulnerable at SF, where Marcus Morris (6.2K) has been consistent all season. He did have a down game against Milwaukee Monday (10.3 DK pts), but has the matchup to bounce back here and hadn’t been under 30 minutes played for at least 10 games before that one. If anything, it could depress ownership at a tough position. The Heat are the best at defending the point guard position, making Reggie Jackson (7.4K) a tourney play at best.
Fouls have not been a concern for Whiteside this season, having only gone to five fouls once this season. Drummond has been super tough defensively, but with the Pistons’ poor offensively efficiency, it offers a nice floor for Whiteside if he plays. The power forward position has been problematic for Detroit defensively, so the comeback season for Chris Bosh is an interesting tourney play at 7.7K. Dragic has gotten some personal issues out of the way and been more productive recently, turning in two games of 33+ DK points in the last four and has a manageable salary at 5.2K.
– Marcus Morris ($6,200)
– Andre Drummond ($9,400)
– Hassan Whiteside ($8,300)
– Goran Dragic ($5,200)
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Toronto Raptors
Line: Cavs -1.5
The Cavs are the third slowest team in the league and the Raptors are the ninth slowest. Offensively, both teams are in the top 10, with the Cavs third and Raptors eighth. Defensively, the Raptors are eighth best and the Cavs are 11st best. These are two of the top teams in the league and the spread shows it. Mo Williams is expected to play for Cleveland while Jonas Valanciunas is out for Toronto.
With Val out for the Raptors, this is a plus for Tristan Thompson , who is filling in at center for Timofey Mozgov, who is out for the Cavs. Bismack Biyombo can block shots but is a zero offensively and is not a solid overall defender, by DEFRAT standards. In games like this, where two top teams do battle, it’s custom made for the stars to play big minutes and play big overall. LeBron James has been super consistently over 40-45 DK points and is my top guy at SF tonight, even with Durant back in OKC. Kevin Love has been great, too, this season but at his price of 8.3K, I’ll go with Thompson instead.
The Cavs are tough all over defensively, but they can be attacked at SG, where JR Smith presides. It just so happens that DeMar DeRozan plays that position, and he is third among players that get more than 25 minutes per game in free throws attempts per 36 minutes with 9.3 FTA per 36. This is more than even Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis. Biyombo is in play as well at 4K as he did make value with 23 DK points in his last game against the Clippers on Sunday.
– LeBron James ($10,100)
– Tristan Thompson ($5,800)
– DeMar DeRozan ($7,200)
– Bismack Biyombo ($4,000)
Memphis Grizzlies @ Houston Rockets
Line: Rockets -3.5
Memphis is the seventh slowest team in the league while the Rockets are eighth fastest. Both teams are bottom ten in DEFRAT, with Houston being fourth worst and Memphis being eighth worst. Defensively, the Rockets are sixth worst while Memphis is 11th worst, but getting better recently. Dwight Howard is expected to play for the Rockets while Patrick Beverley is a game-time decision, but even if he plays will be coming off the bench in a mess of a PG situation for the Rockets. Zach Randolph’s situation less some lineups astray as he was active, but only because of other injuries to the Grizzlies as he did not play and is highly questionable for this game against the Rockets. Brandon Wright is out as well for Memphis.
Zach Randolph’s status opened up value for a lot of Grizzlies players, including JaMychal Green (3.5K), Jeff Green (4.8K) and Matt Barnes (3.4K), all of whom shared those vacated Z-Bo minutes and produced 23, 36.3 and 31.8 points, respectively. The Rockets have been made opponents 10% better at both SF and PF this season, so while they are tourney plays only, all of those guys are back in play should Zach miss again tonight, as expected. With Randolph out, Marc Gasol (7.3K) is a solid cash game play, as he and PG Mike Conley (6.8K) take on the usage load in that scenario.
The Rockets are all about Mr. Harden (10.3K) , who is averaging a raw 6 boards and 6 assists per game to go with his massive scoring. His usage rate is 33.2% this season and the Grizzlies have been below average against SG. In Memphis two games ago, Harden got 42.5DK points. Howard (7.4K) has been playing well offensively when he’s been on the floor this season, but Gasol has been good defensively from a fantasy perspective, and the team is sixth best overall at defending the position.
– Marc Gasol ($7,300)
– JaMychal Green (S3,500)
– James Harden ($10,300)
– Dwight Howard ($7,400)
Sacramento Kings @ Milwaukee Bucks
Line: Bucks -5
Sacramento is the fastest team tonight at 103.12 poss/gm, the Bucks are the slowest, at 94.6 poss/gm. Both teams are bad defensively, with the Bucks being second worst and the Kings being eighth worst. The Kings are 10th worst at OFFRAT and the Bucks are 14th best. The big news is that DeMarcus Cousins (10.6K) is doubtful with a sore back, though the game total would seem like it’s including him, so keep an eye on that one.
With Cousins doubtful and the Bucks being attackable at the SF/PF positions, this puts Rudy Gay (7K) very, very much in play. When Cousins is off the floor and Gay is on the floor, Gay’s usage is 29% and produces over a DKPPM. Kosta Koufos (4.2K) got the starts when Cousins missed before and Willie Cauley-Stein would also benefit if the Kings went big in Boogie’s absence. However, they could go small and start Gay at PF, which would definitely bring Marco Belinelli (4.3K) and Omri Casspi (4.7K) into play more. But Gay is the play with Cousins out and Koufos is the prime replacement at C. Rajon Rondo (9.3K) went for 55.3 with Cousins out last against Miami.
The Kings are a giving defense all over, so there will be very little resistance to Greg Monroe (7.2K) and Jabari Parker (4.3K), with Monroe being a tremendous tourney play given the massive slate and focus elsewhere. Michael Carter-Williams is very much a tourney play as well as his poor consistency isn’t great for cash games, but he leads the team in usage and his salary has come down (-$1,200 to 5.6K) to where he can pop the 40-burger in a good spot and make good value, such as the spot he’s in tonight. If Giannis Antetokounmpo sees more time at the 2 than the 3, he’s in play here at 7K, as well.
– Rudy Gay ($7,000)
– Kosta Koufos ($4,200)
– Greg Monroe ($7,200)
– Jabari Parker ($4,300)
Atlanta Hawks @ Minnesota Timberwolves
Line: Hawks -3
The Hawks and Wolves played a fantastic game in Atlanta earlier in the season and both teams are in the top half in pace. The Hawks are sixth best in OFFRAT while the Timberwolves are more towards the middle. Defensively, the teams are nearly identical in DEFRAT in the middle of the league. Kent Bazemore and Tiago Splitter both missed last night’s home game against Boston and are questionable for tonight. Nemanja Bjelica is questionable for Minnesota.
The Hawks are prime for a little mental letdown, after dominating the Celtics, who typically give them fits, and on national TV on TNT, where the Hawks typically fold up for some reason. Given that the Wolves gave the Hawks fits, led by Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, one could expect another good game tonight. Though Wiggins had a big game in Atlanta, Thabo Sefolosha played less than 20 minutes in that game and the recent lineup shift from Sam Mitchell would put Wiggins squarely in the Thabo crosshairs for closer to 30 minutes tonight, limiting his effectiveness. KAT is firmly in play tonight, however, given the Hawks defensive strategy of abandon the offensive glass. Ricky Rubio can take advantage of the Hawks PG defense, too, and is a solid cash game play at 7.1K. Finally he’s not a cash game play, but Kevin Martin kills the Hawks when he gets serious minutes, so if he’s starting, he could be trouble for 4.1K.
For the Hawks, if he goes 28-30 minutes again for the Hawks (and why not given his lockdown performance against the Celtics), then Thabo Sefolosha (4.2K) is a great play. He’s scored 23.3 and 39.8 in his last two games, but keep an eye on Bazemore’s status, because Budenholzer could very easily lower the workload for Thabo if he has more options, especially in a four games in five days stretch here for the Hawks. Al Horford is a solid 7K play, as is Paul Millsap, who stays at 8.2K and has produced 43 or more DK points in five of his last seven games.
– Karl-Anthony Towns ($7,400)
– Ricky Rubio ($7,100)
– Thabo Sefolosha ($4,200)
– Al Horford ($7,000)
Brooklyn Nets @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Line: Thunder -12.5
The Thunder are the sixth fastest team in the league and Brooklyn is 10th slowest. the Thunder are the second best offense in the league and the Nets are fifth worst. Finally, the Nets are the fifth worst defensive team in the league while OKC is middle of the league in that category.
Huge number for this game which has both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant going against a Nets team that is very shaky. Westbrook, with Durant out, never scored as low as he did once Durant returned. At his 11.3K salary, Durant’s presence hurts Westy’s chance at solid value for his number. Durant, however, is only 9.6K and has scored 45, 59.3, 52, 52.3 and 69 in five of his last seven full games. The Nets give up significantly more points to the center position and the backcourt spots, and with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson playing lockdown defense on the SF position, it may take the total bloom off the Westbrook/Durant DK points rose in terms of value, because the volume will still be there. When Westbrook and Durant are on the court, nobody else gets more than 17% usage (Ibaka).
For Brooklyn, the best plays of the night are going to be Brook Lopez (7.5K) and Hollis-Jefferson (4.0K) in that THJ is getting more than 30 minutes per game now and his salary hasn’t caught up yet and Lopez should be able to get his inside against Enes Kanter, part of the time.
– Kevin Durant ($9,600)
– Russell Westbrook ($11,300)
– Brook Lopez ($7,500)
– Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ($4,000)
Dallas Mavericks @ San Antonio Spurs
Line: Spurs -9
Dallas is the tenth fastest team this season and the Spurs are the fifth slowest. The Spurs are the second best defensive team and are so, so close to the Heat for the top spot. The Mavs aren’t bad either, tenth overall defensively. San Antonio is seventh best offensively and Dallas is 12th. LaMarcus Aldridge is questionable for the game tonight.
The Spurs are so tough defensively, that only the PG position has even a neutral matchup tonight. Deron Williams (5.9K) is the beneficiary of this, but moderately so. The matchups are so poor for the Mavs, that the only other reasonable play among the starters is Dirk Nowitzki (6.3K).
The Mavericks can get beat up front, so Tim Duncan (6.2K) and Kawhi Leonard (8.4K) are in play for the Spurs. Leonard has taken another step up and his last five games have been 44.3, 42, 36.8, 35.8 and 56.8. With Aldridge out, Leonard’s DKPPM jumps from 1.18 to 1.38 and his usage is near 28%. Duncan is always a threat to get popped, especially in the fourth quarter, but with LaMarcus possible missing, it puts him in play.
– Deron Williams ($5,900)
– Dirk Nowitzki ($6,300)
– Kawhi Leonard ($8,400)
– Tim Duncan ($6,200)
New Orleans Pelicans @ Phoenix Suns
Line: Suns -4.5
The Pelicans are the seventh fastest team in the league and the Suns are second fastest, so plenty of possessions in this game tonight. New Orleans and Phoenix are both middle of the pack offensively, and defensively the Pelicans are dead last while the Suns are 13th worst. Tyreke Evans is trying to play tonight and is questionable. Eric Bledsoe missed Monday’s game with a sore knee and is questionable for today.
If Evans plays, it has a major impact on the usage and other game behaviors we’ve come to know this season from New Orleans. Evans had a 27% usage rate last season and Anthony Davis had a 29% usage with Evans on the court last season. He’ll be limited, minutes-wise, I’m assuming based on their Jrue Holiday plan, but Evans will cut into Holiday, Ish Smith and Eric Gordon’s established rates this season. Best to stay away from all involved except Davis if Evans is active.
For Phoenix, the backcourt is the place to attack the Pelicans and this is one area where it doesn’t matter if Evans plays, because he was below average defensively last season. Brandon Knight (8.2K) is in play despite his very high salary and Markieff Morris (5.4K) is a solid play for his salary.
– Brandon Knight ($8,200)
– Markieff Morris ($5,400)
– Anthony Davis ($10,800)
– Jrue Holiday ($4,400)
Utah Jazz @ Los Angeles Clippers
Line: Clippers -5
The Jazz are the second slowest team in the league and the Clippers are the 12th fastest. Utah is the ninth worst offensively rated team and the Clippers are the fifth best. Utah is seventh best defensively and the Clippers are tenth worst. Rudy Gobert is questionable with a sore tailbone for Utah.
The Clippers are most vulnerable in the frontcourt, so if Gobert does miss, it’s all the Derrick Favors you can roster. Guarding Blake Griffin would likely fall on Trevor Booker in a non-Gobert scenario, keeping Favors out of foul trouble. Favors has slowed of late, but he’s still a top 20 player when it comes to non-scoring peripherals and leads the starters in usage with 26%. Gordon Hayward has picked it up of late, scoring 29.5 or more DK points in six of his last seven games and sees his usage go up with Gobert out.
Hayward is also the Jazz’s weak link defensively, but the Clippers have been hard pressed to find someone to fill that SF gap for them as Paul Pierce ages. Given Utah’s defensive prowess, it makes Griffin and Chris Paul less appealing at their high prices (9.3 and 8.5K, respectively). DeAndre Jordan is less dependent on offensive scoring to get his value, so he is in play at 7.3K tonight. If Gobert plays, then he’s definitely in the mix at 6.4K and Favors is downgraded slightly.
– Derrick Favors or Rudy Gobert ($7,400 or $6,400)
– Gordon Hayward ($6,300)
– DeAndre Jordan ($7,300)
– Chris Paul ($8,500)