The NBA doesn’t just have games on Christmas – they go out of their way to have good games on Christmas, which is very nice of them. You can celebrate that by winning enough to pay off three credit cards worth of gifts, and then some. Good luck, and Happy Holidays!
Be sure to check out the Christmas Edition of the NBA Game Breakdown for more Christmas day analysis!
Christmas Day NBA Tournaments
POINT GUARD TARGETS
- Russell Westbrook @ SA – He is averaging 28-6-8 with a pair of steals in December. He came back from his injury hot, and then got his running mate back which only helps to open up the floor. No one is going to deny this guy his opportunities, and when the rest of the chances are going to a guy like KD, the defense doesn’t know what to do.
- Stephen Curry @ LAC – There are only ten teams playing on Christmas, and point guard feels like an impossible decision. Even if you want to spend on a stud, where? In Westbrook and Curry, you have two of the very best options, and that’s not even getting into a discussion about Chris Paul, John Wall and Kyrie Irving, who certainly could go off for big games of their own. He only had twelve points in his last game out. Chances are, that doesn’t happen again.
- Derrick Rose vs. LAL – With Paul, Kyrie, Wall, Westbrook and Curry all available, are you really going cheap at PG? Well, maybe because Rose was in that group not too long ago, you can get a pass, considering you are still getting some savings. Rose has 29 and 25 point games in his last two – if his game is coming back to him, he should be more expensive than he is, and that will get rectified eventually.
- Jose Calderon vs. WAS – He hit that double-double threshold last time out with 15 points and 10 assists. There is virtually no chance of him out-performing any of the above-referenced point guards, but if you want to spend elsewhere, he at least has a chance to not lose it for you. I’m sorry, with this level of options, I cannot be any kinder than that. He’s far down the list, even with only ten teams going.
- Tony Parker vs. OKC – For just $3,000 you only need Parker to score about 18 fantasy points for him to present value on Christmas day. Oklahoma City’s defense against the PG this season has been subpar at best this year and Parker, albeit coming off of an injury, is at a bargain bin price tag for this 5-game slate of games.
SHOOTING GUARD TARGETS
- Kobe Bryant @ CHI – We’re just going to assume he’s playing. But that being said, you should probably check. But if he’s playing, he’s taking 20 shots, scoring 25 points, and grabbing a half dozen boards. You can basically jot it down.
- Klay Thompson @ LAC – It’s tough being constantly outshined by your teammate. As awesome as Curry is, Thompson would be the star of almost every other backcourt in the league. 43% from three-point range? On nights when the chances are there, he’s not going to let you down, and this could end up being a high-scoring affair.
- Bradley Beal @ NY – 2-3 from behind the arc in his last one, you know this guy – with maybe the prettiest stroke in the league – can hit from deep. That hasn’t proved to be the case this year, as he has worked his way back into the rotation, but if his improvement last time out was a fore shadowing of better shooting coming from Beal sooner rather than later, you could see his price rise in a hurry.
- J.J. Redick vs. GS – He can play some defense (but not in a way that gets steals or blocks). He’s a solid teammate, who rarely seems out of position, and usually makes the right pass, even if it’s not flashy. But from a fantasy perspective, you care about one thing with him and one thing only, and you know what it is. In his last three games he’s gone 5-8, 5-8, and 3-6 from three-point range. Ride it while it’s hot.
SMALL FORWARD TARGETS
- LeBron James @ MIA – I feel like if me and the guys putting together the NBA schedule hung out, we’d get along well. Because this is awesome. “Sorry, kids, can’t right now, gotta see whether LeBron is going to hug Wade or not.” I’ve written this before, but I’ll do it again – this season ha been a breathtaking testament to how freaking good this guy is at basketball. He was the biggest, baddest guy on the court half the time with Miami, and he played like it. We all wanted him to. “GET IN THE PAINT!” He was towering over everyone, and they were constantly getting beat up on the boards – it looked like he belonged there. But now, in Cleveland, he’s out there with some bulk. There are no ballhandlers on the team other than Kyrie, and LeBron – well, he’s adjusted, and quickly. He’s playing against the best basketball players in the world, and yet he has been able to excel and help his team in a completely different way than he was just a few months ago. Dominating down low and getting out on the breaks has been replaced with finding his open teammates and constantly demanding ball movement. And to be honest, it looks like he is having more fun doing it. You want to see evidence of how he’s improved with his teammates over the course of just three months, take a look at two averages: Assists – October, 4.5; November, 7.6; December, 8.5 and Field Goal : October, 42.2; November, 48.5%; December, 52.2%. He’s finding ways to help Cleveland every night, and he’ll find a way to help you too.
- Kevin Durant @ SA – Yeah, the NBA is definitely finding a way to make it tough despite a limited number of options. There might not be that many games, but you could go so many different directions with your roster, and this is certainly one of them. His price tag is high, but it could be higher, and he’s the only guy out here with the upside of a Westbrook or a LeBron, and even if you’re only saving a few hundred over guys like that, that’s something.
Injury Note: Kevin Durant is questionable for Christmas Day. Check injury reports for more info closer to game time, but if he sits then Reggie Jackson and Perry Jones should both see a lot of minutes in his absence.
- Paul Pierce vs. Knicks – He has a history of playing well against the Knicks, and he seems to like playing against other superstars at his position. And when that superstar also happens to only seem to care about defense occasionally, the situation is ripe for Pierce to step up and contribute. He just can’t do it every night anymore, but if you choose wisely, you can get serious value out of this guy for his price. He hasn’t had any massive games lately, but he’s been getting the minutes, and a throwback game could be coming Thursday. He’s shown there are still a few in the tank, and imagining one coming in a national game against the Knicks just seems believable.
- Marco Belinelli vs. OKC – With Leonard missing some time, Belinelli has seen a spike in court time, and while he’s not doing a ton with the chance, the price is right. He is at least getting you close to double-digits in points with a handful of other stats thrown in for good measure. If Leonard somehow comes back and plays on Thursday though, forget I said anything about this.
POWER FORWARD TARGETS
- Blake Griffin vs. GS – Any time Chris Paul doesn’t get mentioned as a stud point guard play, you know there are a lot of good options out there, because he could lead the Clippers to a 120 point night at any moment, and when they are doing anything at all, Griffin is involved. He’s one of those players whose value only goes up in a daily format, when you don’t have to worry about little things like free throw %, you just sit back and watching his totals climb.
- Pau Gasol vs. LAL – A revenge game if you believe in that kind of thing. And if you don’t, then it’s just another great matchup for a player who has been performing at a high level. Can’t really argue either way. Gasol has shown himself to be a threat for 20-10 against anyone, and he could surpass those figures in this one, which isn’t going to hurt your chances if you have him rostered.
- Tristan Thompson @ MIA – Anderson Varejao left Tuesday’s game with a leg injury, and if he can’t go, Thompson might actually be the one in line for more minutes if the Cavs decide to go with a slightly smaller lineup. Thompson has very likely earned the right as the best-performing big man off the bench so far this season, as he is averaging 9-7 with a block in only 25 minutes of action. If he gets even a small boost in PT, you could see his usefulness rise in a hurry.
- Amar’e Stoudemire vs. WAS – Luckily for him – if not for Knicks fans – he’s not really expected to play defense much, so the Knicks have no problem running him out as a center or a PF in their lineup at any given moment, knowing they’re giving their opponent a matchup to exploit, because they are banking on Stoudemire himself being a matchup nightmare for those lumbering big men. Even after all his injuries and surgeries, lumbering he is not. He’s healthy right now, so you might as well take advantage while you can.
- Boris Diaw vs. OKC – This is a gut call you’ll have to make, wondering if Ibaka is going to spend more of his night worrying about Duncan, because that could leave Diaw open for some cheap rebounds and points. But if the Thunder deal with the situation differently, Diaw could end up in a fight for every single fantasy point he gets, so the downside here is significant, but as far as cheap upside goes, he might be one of the better plays at the position, which is thin on Thursday.
- DeAndre Jordan vs. GS – He has been a monster on the boards of late, with 22 in his last effort, against the Hawks. That was his second game with more than 20 boards out of his last five, and there is no reason to believe that is going to stop against the Warriors. And he can run for a big man, getting a lot of his points when they do come in mismatches caused by Chris Paul putting pressure on the defense, a situation that wouldn’t surprise you in any game, and particularly one like this, against a backcourt that likes to expend a good deal of it’s energy on offense.
- Joakim Noah vs. LAL – As discussed with Gasol, the matchup is right. And, since he returned from his most recent bout with injury, he has been getting a full complement of minutes, so as always, the only question is whether he’ll score at all. Double digit rebounds in three of his last four, and an ability to produce everywhere else (an assist, steal and block in his last game), the floor is relatively high on this one, but don’t expect a performance that wins you a tourney.
- Marcin Gortat @ NY – He’s been playing just shy of 30 minutes a night on a productive offense, averaging 13-7 this month. Those figures don’t need a very big boost to turn into a very productive fantasy night, and the Knicks are not exactly flexing their muscles in the paint so far this season. 16-10 is well within range, and could be exactly what you are looking for at this position, so you can spend the big bucks elsewhere.
- Chris Andersen vs. CLE – With Bosh unlikely to dress tonight and Justin Hamilton + Josh McRoberts both out, Anderson is a pretty safe bet to see around 25 minutes in a matchup against a Cavs frontcourt missing their best interior defender (Anderson Varejao). Anderson’s ceiling is relatively low, but at his cheap price point he offers enough value to warrant consideration at a thin Center position.