The NBA regular season comes to a close on Wednesday, and a lot has been decided. But there is some jockeying for playoff seeding still to be done, and a little attempt at breaking a record you might have heard about. Your job here is as much as discerning who is going to be going all night in game 82 as it is going to be breaking down matchups and skill sets.
Stephen Curry – GS vs. MEM – $10,600 – The Warriors have plenty of external pressure at this point, you don’t get to 72-9, six games up on a 66-win Spurs team, without your own personal desire for greatness. A 38-point night would get Steph to 30 points per game on the year, and would probably mean 73 wins too. Personally, I am rooting for them to break the record, and I think they will – but I hope Memphis keeps it close enough that we need a little magic from Steph down the stretch for it all to come together.
Damian Lillard – POR vs. DEN – $8,700 – The Blazers need a win to guarantee they stay in the five spot. But with home court off the table, who knows if they care? I assume they will be going all out to win, but consider Lillard an upside play with some risk. Against this Denver lineup, accustomed to letting the pace of the game flow and players get up plenty of shot attempts, Lillard could easily give you 40+ DKFP at what is a steep discount compared to Steph, leaving you more wiggle room at the other positions as you try to construct your roster.
Kemba Walker – CHA vs. ORL – $8,400 – Home court advantage is off the table due to tiebreakers, but Charlotte could still leapfrog Boston for the 5th spot in the East, changing their first round opponent from Miami to Atlanta. How they decide to play it tonight is up in the air, so there is definitely risk here, but if they prefer to draw the Hawks in round 1, Walker could be a sneaky huge play for tonight. With Batum nursing a sore ankle, it would make sense for him to sit here, and that leaves Walker with as many looks as he can handle against one of the worst defensive backcourts in the league. After putting up 36.25 DK FP against the #1 ranked Celtics, this tilt against the out-of-contention Magic should feel downright easy.
Ramon Sessions – WAS vs. ATL – $5,200 – With Wall out, Sessions is getting plenty of run, and the thing about these backup players is that they typically are not as affected by the team’s position in the playoff race – they have something to prove anyway. Averaging more than 30 minutes a game over their last four, he has put up 40+ DKFP in three of those. And the Hawks, despite looking like they are right in the thick of a four-team race, are actually locked into the 4 seed in the East right now, so they could easily rest a number of starters, putting a serious dent in that top-rated defense.
James Harden – HOU vs. SAC – $11,300 – The Rockets are sitting in a virtual tie with the Jazz for the eight and final playoff spot in the West, thanks mainly to the play of Harden. He is averaging over 34 ppg for their last five, and it’s not a fluke: he’s over 30 per game since the All-Star break. Combine that with six rebounds, nine assists and a couple of steals, and you’re looking at the most productive player in the NBA for the past two months. Against a depleted Kings squad with nothing to play for and a playoff spot on the line, I would be shocked if we didn’t see 45+ DKFP in this one.
Devin Booker – PHO vs. LAC – $7,000 – I also like McCollum in this spot, and as I mentioned before, he’s still got something to play for. But in my mind, so does Booker. Phoenix might be out of contention, but Booker is a rookie who seems to play with something to prove every night, and who is looking to secure his playing time for next year. That might not be contingent on this one game, but I can imagine that’s how it feels to the young guard.
Dwyane Wade – MIA @ BOS – $6,400 – At this exact price, you also have Klay Thompson, so you know that’s going to end up being a key decision for plenty of fantasy owners as they try to construct their lineups for tonight. While neither of them have a great matchup on paper, I wouldn’t be surprised to see big nights from both of them. Wade is the kind of player who can cut through a defense that gives less experienced players fits, and he showed it in their previous meetings this year, averaging 24.5 points per game in their two previous meetings (to go along with totals of 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 steals).
Rodney Hood – UTA @ LAL – $5,300 – It might be Kobe’s final game in a Lakers uniform, in front of his home crowd, but this isn’t just a show as far as Utah is concerned. Utah needs a win and a Houston loss to get into the playoffs, and if you’re choosing making the playoffs versus being the last team in the lottery, you might as well get a few more games on TV. Hood has been one of the more consistent options for the Jazz recently, producing in a number of different categories, to the tune of 25+ DKFP in seven of his last nine.
Giannis Antetokounmpo – MIL vs. IND – $9,800 – The Bucks don’t have anything left to play for, but, neither do the Pacers. And the Pacers have a need for rest, whereas the Bucks have plenty of rest coming up right around the corner. Paul George and a bunch of other stars likely won’t see a ton of action tonight, if any, so even if Giannis’ minutes are limited somewhat, the time he does spend out there should be highly productive. Or maybe SF is just a position to save money on tonight. But if you’re going to go big here, this is the guy to do it with, with 49.75 or more DKFP in five of his last six games.
Gordon Hayward – UTA @ LAL – $7,300 – The go-to option for the Jazz lately, he has scored 40+ DKFP in each of their last three as they have tried to push for that final playoff berth. Against a Lakers team that is likely going to be half paying attention and going through the motions, the only real question is going to be whether Houston had already wrapped up the 8th seed with a win over the Kings (8:00 EST) when the Jazz games tips off (10:30 EST). Since you won’t know that as you’re setting your lineups, play these Utah scorers with the knowledge that they are all upside plays, not guys you want to trust in a cash game.
Jae Crowder – BOS vs. MIA – $5,700 – In a night full of playoff implications, this game is the most, um, implicated. If the Celtics lose to Miami, the Heat and Hawks stay at #3 and #4 in the East, respectively, and the Celtics could be #5 or #6. If the Celtics win, though, the Heat will fall to #5, the Celtics will win home court advantage, and could get back to as high as #3 in the East if Charlotte loses. A lot hinges on this game, just like a lot of the Celtics’ success hinges on the play of Jae Crowder. Whenever the Celtics are involved in a competitive game, Crowder sees 30+ minutes – in their last six games, that has happened four times. In those four games, he has averaged over 33 DKFP per game, with the potential for double-digit scoring on top of usable production in every other category on any given night.
Matt Barnes – MEM @ GS – $5,600 – You’d like to think that Memphis is going to show up and try to put a stop to the Warriors grand plans tonight, even though the game doesn’t mean anything for their prospects as they can’t pass Dallas. These two teams just met in Memphis on Saturday, and while Golden State eeked out a one-point win, Barnes went off. In 40 minutes he hit three threes on his way to 24 points and 15 rebounds, good for 51.25 DKFP. 75% of that would be something in the range of 19-10 and at this price, I would take it, happily. Memphis has very few other options to turn to, and Barnes has the veteran presence to handle the situation.
Draymond Green – GS vs. MEM – $8,600 – The big three – they’re all here. You know they want this win – I just hope it doesn’t come back to bite them. I am not saying Houston or Utah is going to beat them in round 1, but maybe they don’t roll over and get swept and give the Warriors an opportunity for the little rest I bet they are secretly hoping for. In the meeting on Saturday, Green had 23 points, 11 boards, some assists a few blocks, a steal – you know, the usual. He is someone who I expect to see particularly fired up in front of this final home crowd, so I would be surprised if he doesn’t match or improve on those numbers.
Zach Randolph – MEM @ GS – $6,700 – Again, Memphis is going to at least try to put their best foot forward on the big stage tonight, and their best feet still include Z-Bo after all this time. He had just 23 DKFP against the Warriors a few days ago, but that’s about his floor. When they need a bucket, in their diminished state, he is one of the first guys they turn to – he did have 19 attempts on Saturday, after all. If he can improve his efficiency even a little, that kind of opportunity could mean a big fantasy outing.
Dirk Nowitzki – DAL vs. SA – $5,700 – Dallas needs a win to guarantee staying in front of the Grizzlies and avoiding either the Warriors or the Spurs in round 1. And it’s not that OKC presents a much easier matchup, but with a victory, they could actually jump ahead of Portland and earn a matchup with the Clippers instead of one of the top three. After going more than two weeks without scoring 20+ points, he has done it in two of their last three matchups, and against a Spurs team that could be resting everyone to some extent, I expect to see the late season surge continue out of this veteran.
Marvin Williams – CHA vs. ORL – $5,300 – I am not going to lie, PF is a tricky one tonight. But Williams is getting as much time on the court and as many opportunities as he can handle with Batum getting some rest – he is versatile enough to be helpful on the wing. He has at least 24.25 DKFP in each of his last six games, making him at the very least a solid cash game option tonight.
Hassan Whiteside – MIA @ BOS – $8,900 – In a game the Heat need to have, Wade will be dominating the ball on offense, but they’d be foolish not to try to exploit the advantage Whiteside is capable of providing them over the Celtics’ big men down low. He had 15 rebounds and 8 blocks against this frontcourt the last time these two teams met, which tells me he was taking whatever position he wanted down on the block. The Heat lost that game by 12 – maybe he should have had more than nine field goal attempts? We’ll see what happens this time around.
Dwight Howard – HOU vs. SAC – $6,100 – I know, Dwight is hard to trust, especially with the way he has seen a diminished role on offense this year (and in particular lately). But with something to play for, against a team that doesn’t, he could fall backwards into a double-double here. Interesting note about the way the league is heading though: only four or maybe five of the top ten centers on the board tonight are even going to be in the postseason, and that is including guys with injuries who aren’t playing right now. Take a look at the top-ten most expensive point guards – you’ll be seeing a lot more of them over the next month or two.
Marcin Gortat – WAS vs. ATL – $5,800 – With no John Wall, this team is just very limited on offense. And no matter whether this game “means something” or not, they are going to play it. Someone has to be out there, and for the Hawks, it might not be any of their starters. That could leave Gortat playing against a bunch of backups, as the only real offensive threat on his own team. As far as guys not playing for playing seeding or a record, I am as confident in Gortat tonight as I am about anyone else.
Willie Cauley-Stein – SAC @ HOU – $5,100 – OK, so maybe it wasn’t fair for me to talk about Sacramento not having “any of their top players” in my discussion of Howard. WCS will be out there. He can rebound. Dwight won’t exactly be playing against a chair, in other words. But there should be plenty of chances for production from each of them. Stein gives you upside close to 30 and a floor close to 10, so he is tough to trust, but you do have a center spot to fill and in a bigger tournament, you could do worse for this price.