We only have a small two game slate to end the first half of the NBA season, but I think it is going to be highly played since a five day layoff comes immediately after it. Both games should be high scoring. Washington and Milwaukee has a total of 211 with only a 1 point spread, so Vegas expects the Bucks to win it 106-105. The Other game has a higher total at 222 with OKC currently a 12 point favorite over the Pelicans. This one could get out of hand, but we may still see more minutes than usual for the starters with a long rest coming for everybody. Here’s a breakdown of the options at each position for tonight based on price and potential returns.
Russell Westbrook ($11,200) – We always talk about it being tough to fade the stars on a short slate. Well this is a very short slate with only two games, so it’s going to be tough to fade Westbrook. On a large slate we can usually find other ways to make up the points with a combination of mid-range value plays, but the options are limited here. If Westbrook does what Westbrook do, he is likely to finish with a line that flirts with a triple double and finish with 55-70 fantasy points as he has done in 11 of his last 12. In a paced up matchup against a weak defensive New Orleans team, he could even be closer to his ceiling value in this one. It’s going to be tough to figure out a way to approximate that many points with cheaper options, so he is almost a must play in all formats.
John Wall ($10,000) – The total is at 211 with a one point spread here, so we should see both teams put up some numbers. Wall is averaging 60 fantasy points per game over his last four contests. He is scoring over 20 and has double digit assists in all four as well. He has basically been matching or exceeding the production of Westbrook over the last week or so. If you think that OKC game turns into a blowout, or you want a lower owned path that saves you some cash for a tournament, than John wall is the guy to look at instead of using Westbrook.
Jrue Holiday ($6,800) – I find myself locking Holiday in the G spot on my roster and deciding between Wall and Westbrook for the PG slot. The reason for this is that Jrue is priced so well for a guy who has been throwing up huge numbers in recent games. He has gone 5X or better in four of his last five games with returns of 35, 36, 28, 55 and 45 fantasy points. The last two games were returns of 6.5 and 8X on his salary. With Evans and Gordon out, Holiday has been asked to pick up more of the scoring load and the usage. He has delivered on that request and done so for a 40% discount from Westbrook and a 33% one off of Wall. If you decide to fade the top two guys and spend up elsewhere, I doubt you can get that done without Jrue being in your lineup and having a huge day. If he does though, you will have a huge leg up on others who were forced to go cheap elsewhere after spending for one of the top two mentioned.
UPDATE Toney Douglas (PG-$3,000) will start for the Pelicans tonight after news that Bryce Dejean-Jones will not play broke. Douglas at a minimum price point is a terrific value option on a short two-game set. He should play at least 25 minutes for a New Orleans team that is severely depleted in the back court. Dejean-Jones injury also opens up a slight boost for both Jrue Holiday and Norris Cole.
Jerryd Bayless ($4,400) – Jason Kidd loves Bayless and is giving him about 20-25 minutes since his return from injury. That has come at the expense of Michael Carter-Williams minutes as he is down to about 25-28 now. MCW is also a decent value price at $5900, but Bayless has been putting up about the same number of fantasy points and doing it for $1500 cheaper. The paced up game vs. Washington is a good spot for him and he is my favorite salary saver at only $4400.
Khris Middleton ($6,900) – Middleton is having a strong first half of the season. He is currently playing a robust 38ish minutes a game in his recent starts. He has done well in those starts with a consistent return of around 35 fantasy points for just above or below 5X value. In fact he is the ideal consistent player as he has ht between 4.5 and 6.7X in 14 of his last 17 starts. Washington is a paced up matchup for him and they struggle to defend wing players. Middleton is too pricey to hope for a return of 8-10X anymore, but he is a great cash game play with a consistent return of around 5X.
Bradley Beal ($6,500) – Beal is the only other option on the high end and the only one worth swerving off of in a tournament. He too has been consistent with a return of just shy of 5X in 3 of the last 4 games and a huge 7.2X return in the most recent fourth game. He was being taken along slow since returning from injury, but his minutes now are closer to the 30 range than the 25 he was seeing. For $400 I still like the safety in minutes and fantasy points for Middleton more, but on a slate where we all need to find someway to differentiate in tournaments, I think Beal has the best shot to outscore Middleton at the SG spot and be the nuts at the position on the day.
Dion Waiters ($4,600) – If I needed to save at the position, I think Waiters would be the way I tried to do so. He is a gunner who tosses up a ton of shots. He will get some points that way. When he has big scores, it’s usually because he has more than the two-three rebounds or assists he normally brings in. His big games have come when he picks up 3 steals, or has 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Add those stats to his scoring numbers and he has flashed some scores of 30 points which would be useful. Waiters is seeing a ton of minutes, 35-40 of them a game recently. He has still failed to reach value even with that amount of floor time, so it’s mostly a GPP thing if you want to roll the dice on him.
Kevin Durant ($10,400) – If you can afford to do it, Durant is the likely top scorer at the position. What it really comes down to for me is whether you want to spend up for him or one of the other point guard options? I do not think there is enough value to get both and still have a solid group of cheap plays you like with a docket this small. Therefore while KD and Westbrook/Wall might get you 130-140 points between them, how much do you think the group of players below $4800 you need to use to make them fit can add on a day like this? Stars and Scrubs is a viable approach on days when you have enough decent options among the scrubs to make it work. I’m not sure we have that here. Durant is a consistent 45-55 fantasy points and ha flashed the occasional 60-70 point ceiling. He is pricey, but the option beneath him are worse than what that money could buy at PG if you drop down to Jrue from one of the $10K guys there.
Jared Dudley ($4,500) – Giannis Antetekounmpo and Otto Porter will both be popular, but I do not love either of them. Sure Giannis has a great matchup, but the minutes are erratic since Kidd returned and he has not been reaching cash game value, let alone flashing tourney upside. Porter has not been much better. He had only gone over 4X in one of his last 6 games and that was a 40 point outburst vs. Charlotte. The rest of the time he was in the 3X range or below and that would kill a roster. If I can not or do not pay up for KD, than the way I would look is for Jared Dudley. He is my favorite of the cheap options and may see increased minutes depending on the status of Humphries and Nene. He has gone 5X or better in 5 of his last 7 games/. It only requires a score of 24-30 fantasy points for him to do it, so the bar is low and he has crossed it often. You need some guys you can trust as salary savers and Dudley is one of them for me.
Anthony Davis ($9,700) – I do not love Davis today, so let’s start with that. He is still likely to be the top scorer at the position though, so we have to talk about him. HE is solid for cash games. He tends to play about 36-40 minutes and he puts up just shy of 50 fantasy points often when he does for a tad below 5X. The problem for me is he has only gone 6X or better in one of his last 18 starts. The tournament upside with him is non-existent these days. The other problem I have is deciding who to pay up for. Between KD, Westbrook, and Wall, I would put Davis no better than fourth on that list. We said you can not pay for three of them today and in most spots even two is a struggle, so if you want to pay up at all, would you not be looking to those other three first? Sure a Davis GPP bullet at lower than expected ownership might be a sneaky play, but with a 1 for 18 streak of upside games, I would rather spend up elsewhere.
Ryan Anderson ($5,700) – This is by far the toughest position to roster today. I do not want to spend up on Brow, but there is really slim picking beneath him. Serge Ibaka is nothing more than a role playing rebounder right now for OKC. KD and Westbrook dominate the ball and Ibaka’s role is to defend and grab defensive boards. Jabari Parker played too well when Kidd was out, so obviously he is getting less minutes now. Jason Kidd is maddening as a coach, and you might as well take Jabari off your radar if Kidd is going to keep him closer to the 25-30 minute mark as opposed to the 35-40 minutes he was seeing. With Ibaka and Jabari both losing time, that probably makes Ryan Anderson the swerve. Anderson is very feast or famine. I still prefer Jabari in cash for the consistency of his minutes, but the upside GPP is Anderson for me. That game should feature a ton of points and I think Adams is too slow to check Brow. That means if they go Anderson and Brow together, Ibaka will likely draw the brow assignment with Anderson being able to find some room to shoot with Adams on him away from the basket. It may sound like grasping at straws and I admit it is a little, but the options are very limited at the position on only a two game slate.
Greg Monroe ($7,000) – Monroe and Gortat are the only two options here t consider, so I went back and checked the game logs. Gortat played in two of the three meetings this year and put up only 22 fantasy points on average in each. Monroe had one bad game of the three with 16 fantasy points, but went for 37 and 42 in the other games. He is fresh off a 50 fantasy point game last out as coach Jason Kidd slid him to the bench, but still gave him starters minutes. With John Henson out, the big man rotation is less crowded, so it is safer to take Monroe now, than when Kidd has a full bench to fiddle with. The only game below 4.5x was against Utah in his last 15 starts, so he has flashed the consistency and upside to be the top pick on the day.
Steven Adams ($4,300) – If you want to go cheap, the two options are really the Thunder guys of Adams and Kanter. Adams sees more minutes and is more consistent for a floor. Kanter can explode for big scoring games and may have the higher ceiling. I still like Adams for cash and tourney a bit more at the $4300 price tag. I would not argue against either for a tourney, but Adams is clearly the better cash play for me based on his consistency of fantasy points, minutes, and the discounted price.