It’s a 10-game slate, with the top nine offenses in action, including an early season epic cage match between the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. Lots of totals into the 200s and only a couple of blowout watches. Let’s break the games down so that you can get ready for the $1 Million Back to the Court contest going off tonight. Any questions, hit me on Twitter @JasonWalker_72.
San Antonio Spurs @ Washington Wizards
Line: Spurs -3.5
Both teams are in the top half of the league in offensive rating (OFFRAT) and the Wizards have been playing up tempo (5th in pace) while the Spurs have been slower than league average. Neither team played Tuesday night and no major injuries impact the game.
As this season has dawned, there are three defensive teams that are standing out. The Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs. John Wall and Bradley Beal have been excellent to start the season, but the Spurs starters are all in the high 80s in defensive rating (DEFRAT), with only the Thunder rising up above 100 points per 100 possessions against them. Wall and Beal are real good, but at 9.3K and 6.3K respectively and with a 10-game slate to pick from, they aren’t great plays.
As for the Spurs, the Wizards frontcourt of Kris Humphries, Marcin Gortat, Nene and Otto Porter have all started off less stellar than their backcourt mates on the defensive end, putting Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge on the radar. Since the Spurs didn’t play Tuesday and don’t play again until Saturday, it’s possible, should the game be as close as Vegas thinks it’ll be, that Duncan could get regular minutes but at 6.1K, that’ll be good enough for cash games, but lacks the upside for tourneys.
– LaMarcus Aldridge ($7,200)
– Kawhi Leonard ($7,800)
– Marcin Gortat ($5,700)
– Bradley Beal ($6,300)
Boston Celtics @ Indiana Pacers
Line: Celtics -2
The Celtics have been one of the paciest teams consistently, month over month, for the last 14 months. The Pacers want to be more pace and space, but it’s a work in progress and the pace is below the league average. Both teams are in the bottom seven in OFFRAT and the Celtics are fourth worst in eFG%. Even with the pace, it’s hard to see either team shooting well enough to get to that number, just as the Pacers/Pistons struggled to get to their 200.5 numbers Tuesday night, scoring only 176.
Brad Stevens is going to play a lot of his guys even minutes, leaving no firm grasp on who will be on the floor the most, making picking a fantasy winner on this team nightly a rough task. One guy that does stand out is Isaiah Thomas. Thomas is a high usage player that will get to the free throw line among the most in the league. Thomas comes off the bench and immediately picks up tempo, already exhibiting a personal pace (110.76) that is higher than his teammates.
On the other side, the Celtics are playing tough defense so far this season, continuing on their better than averaging DEFFRAT last season and making it harder for the Pacers to hit value throughout their lineup. Paul George’s price actually went down $100 to 8K, but the path to even 48 DK points is obstructed by his usage minded guard teammates. Monta Ellis and Rodney Stuckey both carry mid 20s usage rates along with George. Ian Mahinmi suffered a back injury Tuesday night against the Pistons so Myles Turner will inherit Mahinmi’s 24 or so minutes and could be an interesting play at 3.6K.
– Isaiah Thomas ($6,300)
– Paul George ($8,000)
– George Hill ($6,200)
– Rodney Stuckey ($3,800)
Toronto Raptors @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Line: Thunder -9
Both teams are in the top half of the league in pace and OFFRAT, firmly supporting the 210.5 game total. Defensively, the Thunder have started out in the bottom ten in DEFRAT, while the Raptors are in the top five.
Top five defensive rating for Toronto will do little to toss a bucket of water on how well both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are playing early on. Any notion that Billy Donovan taking over would stifle one, the other or both has, so far, proven unwarranted. Westbrook and Durant both are enjoying a high usage rate, but it’s Westbrook that’s standing out in DK points due to his 30 points, 7 rebound, 9 assist and 2 steals averages. Durant is shooting well and even getting to the line more that Russ, but can’t match the peripherals to warrant the 9.5K salary he calls for.
Toronto played Tuesday night and as I said yesterday that with Wesley Matthews watching DeMar DeRozan that it would be a Kyle Lowry game, this game is more likely to be a DeRozan game, with Lowry having to chase Westbrook around. Defensively, the Thunder can be had, so Jonas Valanciunas could be in play if the pace doesn’t tempt Dwane Casey to go smaller. Luis Scola’s dad game has been effective, too, getting more minutes and could play a role in this game as well.
– Russell Westbrook ($10,500)
– Serge Ibaka ($6,400)
– Jonas Valanciunas ($6,000)
– Luis Scola ($3,300)
Philadelphia 76ers @ Milwaukee Bucks
Line: Bucks -10.5
Both teams are among the slowest and worst defensive teams of the season. Offensively, the Bucks are doing well and making shots, being among the leaders in eFG% while the Sixers miss a lot, being third worst so far this season. Milwaukee gets Jabari Parker back and is watching the ankle of Michael Carter-Williams. Also, they are still potentially without OJ Mayo and John Henson. As for Philadelphia, Robert Covington is questionable.
The Sixers have already proven to be interesting in that somebody always seems to emerge from the previously undiscovered and prove rosterable. Whether it was Tony Wroten, Ish Smith, Covington, Alexey Shved or whoever, somebody starts getting minutes and makes value. In the last game, this person was backup PG T.J. McConnell, who scored 34.75 DK points and saw his salary go from min to 3.3K. With only Isaiah Canaan at PG and Tony Wroten/Kendall Marshall out and the Bucks being so bad defensively, he’s an interesting tourney punt play. Elsewhere, Jahlil Okafor has been good offensively, but isn’t putting up the peripherals that would make his DFS game complete and that’s probably because Nerlens Noel is usually owning all of your peripherals. Noel has had a couple of less than value games, but they were against Utah and Cleveland.
The Bucks landed Greg Monroe in the offseason and he’s come right in and delivered the strong inside scoring and rebounding they were hoping they’d get. His usage (22%) isn’t as high as you’d expect because Giannis Antetokounmpo has raised his game, and his usage. Giannis has already seen his salary go up $900 early on to keep up with his all-around game. He’s grabbed nine, nine and eight rebounds in the three games they’ve played and scored at least 20 points in each game as well. If Carter-Williams misses again, Jerryd Bayless is a target as he played 47 minutes with both MCW and OJ Mayo out.
– Nerlens Noel ($7,000)
– Giannis Antetokounmpo ($6,900)
– Greg Monroe ($8,100)
– Jerryd Bayless ($3,800)
Orlando Magic @ Houston Rockets
Line: Rockets -8.5
Both teams are in the top half of the league in pace and among the worst OFFRAT teams as well. Defensively, the Magic emerge as alright while the Rockets are sixth worst, which is why they’ve struggled to be competitive so far this season. Neither team has shot the ball well with the Rockets being fifth worst and the Magic ninth worst.
It’s surprising the Rockets are such a strong favorite as their defense has been bad and they haven’t been able to make shots. James Harden is always going to be heavy usage, heavy free throw player and so even with his own inefficiency on offense, he continue to produce DK points at a 6X clip. Ty Lawson has taken the expected backseat and has only a 15.6% Usage Rating. Dwight Howard returned and posted solid numbers as his price doesn’t look right next to his name, as he’s only 6.9K. Against the Magic and Nikola Vucevic, Howard is in a good spot to get to 40 DK points if he plays the minutes he got his last time out.
The Magic, with new head coach Scott Skiles, have spread the usage around very evenly. Four starters have over 20% usage rates and nobody has more than 24% (Tobias Harris). The biggest beneficiary of this has been Evan Fournier, who started the season under the radar but has now emerged with games of 36.75, 28.75 and 47.25 Tuesday night at New Orleans. He’s getting 37 minutes per game and his price is still 4.4K. He’s under the radar no more. As poor as the Rockets have been shooting and as long as he can resist fouling Howard, Nikola Vucevic has a nice floor and room to exceed value as well.
– James Harden ($10,000)
– Dwight Howard ($6,900)
– Evan Fournier ($4,400)
– Nikola Vucevic ($7,700)
New York Knicks @ Cleveland Cavaliers
Line: Cavaliers -9
The Knicks have been around the league average in pace, while Cleveland has been slower than average. The Cavs are one of the best offensive and defensive teams in the league, while the Knicks have been above average offensively while more average defensively. There is a chance of blowout here as the Cavs excellence and being at home could mean an early night for LeBron James and Kevin Love. Kyrie Irving is still working his way back and doesn’t have a clear date for return and JR Smith is going to miss another game — they both have knee injuries. For the Knicks, Arron Afflalo is still struggling with an injured hamstring as is likely out again while Kristaps Porzingis’ neck injury suffered in his last game likely won’t keep him out at all.
Carmelo Anthony’s price is down to a tempting 8.4K but with LeBron on the scene, it has to suppress his value a little more. He’s going to use 30% of the possessions anyway, efficient or otherwise, but with James on him, he won’t get the points he needs to get to 48 DK points. Kristaps Porzingis has had a nice beginnings while playing about 24 minutes per game. He put up a double-double with tremendous peripherals in 24 minutes against San Antonio, taking down his first 40+ DK game. We’ll see if he can stay out of foul trouble against Kevin Love, but he’s clearly got the all around game to produce and is 4.8K. And just like it was in Orlando, we lament that Kyle O’Quinn doesn’t play more minutes. Alas. Overall, if we can’t pay up for Melo and Porzingis and KOQ aren’t playing more minutes, you’re good staying away from the Knicks.
For the Cavs, LeBron has been great and that’s not breaking news, but with JR Smith out, gritty, gutty Matthew Dellavedova has been crushing value in his stead. DellyTime has games of 28.75 and 30.75 for his puny 3.8K price tag, so don’t hurry back JR. With the blowout factor in place, it’s hard to go in for Kevin Love and the three headed center monster of Mozgov, Varejao and Thompson won’t be in play until one of them misses time and those minutes are so dispersed.
– Matthew Dellavedova ($3,800)
– Mo Williams ($5,500)
– Kyle O’Quinn ($3,900)
– Kristaps Porzingis ($4,800)
Brooklyn Nets @ Atlanta Hawks
Line: Hawks -8.5
Both teams are playing slow and the while the Hawks have maintained their positive net rating between OFFRAT and DEFRAT, the Nets are completely inverted, being among the worst in both categories. The Hawks are likely without Thabo Sefolosha and just played Tuesday night which probably means more rest for Kyle Korver, leaving Kent Bazemore in play for more minutes and usage.
As stated previously, the Hawks give up the offensive glass, giving opposing centers free reign to collect defensive rebounds. Brook Lopez usually does well against the Hawks because he’s so much bigger than Al Horford that Horford moves out to the perimeter offensively, greatly reducing personal foul rates. Against the Heat we saw this Tuesday night, as Hassan Whiteside played 31 minutes and had zero fouls. Jarrett Jack loves to come back to Atlanta, where he went to college, and play, and he’s using 25% of possessions so far this year, but with Bazemore and Dennis Schröder likely lining up at the 2-guard if Korver rests, then you have to like Joe Johnson grinding his way to value with his 4.7K price tag.
For the Hawks, if Korver sits, Bazemore is a solid play at 4.2K as he will see the minutes. Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Horford are all in play against the currently woeful Nets defense but their minutes are always kept low anyway, with any chance of being far ahead, that will drop and additional minute or two. Millsap is the safest of the three to play.
– Brook Lopez ($6,800)
– Joe Johnson ($4,700)
– Kent Bazemore ($4,200)
– Jeff Teague ($6,500)
Portland Trail Blazers @ Utah Jazz
Line: Jazz -6
The Utah Jazz are the slowest paced team in the league and the best defensive team as well. Portland plays with the top half of the teams in the league in pace, and both teams are shooting the ball with the top half of the teams as well.
Derrick Favors may miss Wednesday’s game with the flu and, if he does, it makes for an interesting guessing game of who will assume the 28% of Jazz possessions vacated by Favors. Trey Burke, Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward all have mid 20s usage when Favors isn’t on the court. But when all three on on the court at the same time and Favors isn’t there, which has only happened for 28 minutes since the beginning of last season (with no Enes Kanter and Dante Exum, too — thanks, nbawowy.com!) it’s Hayward that emerged as the biggest user at 32%. However, Hayward has to go against Al-Farouq Aminu and his stellar defensive rating so it may mute the additional value. One player that has great value even in low pace games is Rudy Gobert who has Mason Plumlee and Meyers Leonard to play against. With Terry Stotts usually facilitating an outside-inside offensive approach, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum taking the reins of the offense and Gobert’s presence inside, there will be a lot of jump shots, giving Gobert plenty of opportunity to corral errant attempts.
Meanwhile, on the Portland side, it’s all about those guards, Lillard and McCollum. They are using 32.1 and 26.5 percent of plays, respectively. Aminu, with his great peripheral skill set, has been around 32 DK points regularly and saw his price hop from 4.7 to 5.5K as a result. Like Gobert, his game translates better to slogfest as this game looks to become.
– Rudy Gobert ($7,000)
– Trey Burke ($4,600)
– Al-Farouq Aminu ($5,500)
– Damian Lillard ($9,000)
Sacramento Kings @ Phoenix Suns
Line: Suns -9
This should be a fun game to watch as the undercard for the last game we’ll preview tonight. Both the Kings (2nd) and the Suns (10th) are playing a pacy game. The Kings have had a more efficient offense than Phoenix, but the Suns have been better defensively. DeMarcus Cousins is looking at a Friday return, so he’s out for tonight.
As expected with Cousins out, Rudy Gay did use more possessions, getting to around 30% Tuesday night against Memphis. He wasn’t able to convert to justify a 7.6K price tag, but he’ll find the pace of the game and the Suns more to his liking. Gay did not play power forward much, if any, as Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos both played significant, if not terribly productive, minutes.
With Cauley-Stein likely to continue in the power forward role, this could make things more difficult for Markieff Morris, leaving the game to a more-guard oriented usage game, with Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight getting most of the production. The Kings starting backcourt, Rajon Rondo and Ben McLemore, have been awful defensively, and it’s been that way for McLemore for all of last season, too.
– Rudy Gay ($7,600)
– Willie Cauley-Stein ($4,600)
– Eric Bledsoe ($7,700)
– Brandon Knight ($6,700)
Los Angeles Clippers @ Golden State Warriors
Line: Warriors -8
Ahhhhh…the main event. Two teams that play fast paced, high efficiency basketball and hate each other. Makes for excellent basketball goodness with all the fantasy fixings. Andrew Bogut is questionable with complications stemming from his recent concussion.
It’s a testament to how thoroughly dominant the Warriors have started out that they are eight point favorites against the Clippers, who have been playing great themselves. Stephen Curry has been great — even in the two games he didn’t play a full game (28 minutes against Memphis and Houston), he still posted close to a 50-burger. At 10.1K, even against Chris Paul, as he looks to play a full game, he’s ridiculous. Curry’s supernova start has been so dominant, and his usage (34%) so profound, he’s suppressed the DK points from his teammates below the salary level that Klay Thompson and Draymond Green costs. One player still making value beyond Curry is Festus Ezeli, who has been filling in for Bogut at near minimum salaries. His price, however, has jumped to 4.1K, making it a little more touch and go to value for him.
Blake Griffin has been great, too, using 31.4% of possessions and averaging between 45-50 DK points. He’ll see a lot of Draymond Green, who has gotten so efficient defensively. Of the starters for the Warriors, it’s Curry that is the least strong defender, though still strong, just weaker by comparison. So it could be that Chris Paul is the one that has the big game here.
In the end, it’s a big game, has a huge game total and both teams are really motivated to excel due to strong emotions so this is the stage that the biggest stars shine brightest. Have exposure to this game, sit back and enjoy.
– Stephen Curry ($10,100)
– Festus Ezeli ($4,100)
– Blake Griffin ($9,600)
– DeAndre Jordan ($7,800)