We have a small slate of only four games going on for Thursday, but it’s tough to figure which games we want to target here. We have some pretty high spreads which always is tough because of the blowout risk. The LA Lakers and Sacramento game should be the highest scoring of the bunch, but all of these games are right around the 200 total. That means we have a lot of ways to go with it, despite only having a few options to choose from. It should be a good night to play as ownership may not be as concentrated as we normally see with such a small number of games. Let’s take a look at some of the top options.
Ish Smith ($6900) – Ish smith has been a stud fantasy performer since the trade back to the 76ers. Many will shy away due to the rising price, but he’s still been very good. He has scored over 40 fantasy points in 3 of his last 5 games. He is consistently over 30 minutes a game and can rack up points and assists in his time on the floor. Atlanta is playing at a quicker pace than they were last year and their defensive efficiency is down. Ish is getting a little pricey to expect big tournament upside out of him, but he is a solid cash game play due to his new role as the unquestioned starter in Philly.
Darren Collison ($6000) – Rajon Rondo has a bad back and may likely be out again on Thursday. When he is out, we see a huge minutes, usage, points, assists, and shot attempts boost for Collison. He has played over 30 minutes in three of the last seven games and scored a minimum of 39 points in each of those. With Rondo out, we can reasonably assume he sees those 30+ minutes. 39 points would be 6.5X value at his current price of $6K. Throw in the fact that he faces a Lakers team that has been letting every fantasy point guard look like a point god against them and you have one of the best plays of the evening.
Patrick Beverley ($4100) – Beverley is losing minutes to Ty Lawson, which has dropped his price and his production. In this game though, we are likely going to see Ty Lawson sit. I do not expect Beverley to get 48 minutes, but he should see an uptick. He played 30+ minutes only twice in his last dozen games. Both times he score a minimum of 27+ fantasy points. With Lawson out, I expect to see him get those minutes bumped up. At $4100, he would need just under 25 points to be 6X value. He has done better than that when he gets his minutes, so no Lawson would make him a very solid play for me here.
Jimmy Butler ($8200) – Butler has been on fire lately and has produced some huge fantasy games. Derrick Rose went out with an injury an Butler put the team on his shoulders. Even with Rose back, he is still on a blistering pace. Over the last four games, he has not scored less than 41 fantasy points and had a ceiling game of 58 two back. Even at above $8K, those numbers make him cash game safe with tournament upside. Butler has always contributed across the board stats, but when he picks up his scoring like this, he becomes a fantasy superstar. He is averaging 31 points and has ticked his shot attempts up towards 20 over this recent run. That means he is looking to score more and that is good for his fantasy upside. This is one of the closer spreads today at only 5.5 and one of the higher totals at 205. All of these things point to another solid showing for the man they now call Jimmy Buckets.
Rodney Hood ($5800) – Hood’s price has been creeping up, but it’s still a tad low for his new role in this offense. Alex Burks went down and Hood picked up extra minutes and responsibilities as the #2 wing scoring option behind Hayward. He had a horrible game last time out against the Spurs, but the Spurs have shut everyone down this year so it was not surprising. The three games before that though, he played an average of 35 minutes and scored right around 40 fantasy points in each. He is likely to see some James Harden D in a paced up game at low ownership off his disappointing outing last time. He should perform much better here at much lower ownership which makes him an excellent option in tournament play.
Nik Stauskas ($3500) – Nik “Sauce Castillo” Stauskas is an interesting cheap option on this slate. He is back in the starting lineup and back to playing 28 minutes per game over his last three. He had a big game of 30 fantasy points two back, but is more likely to get you 15-20. That may not sounds great, but his price is dirt cheap. a 20 point game would make him a great value at the price and allow you to pay up for studs at other spots. If he can repeat his 25-30 point ceiling, then he will be a value added guy that can help you win a tournament. He draws some Kyle Korver defense in this one, so it is a good spot for him.
Gordon Hayward ($7400) – Hayward is easily my favorite play at the SF spot on this slate. It is a very weak position and the options are limited. Hayward and Rudy Gay are the highest cost options to consider and Hayward has more safety and upside than Gay does. With Burks, Favors, and Gobert all likely to remain out, he has been forced to do a little more in every category. His minutes, points, rebounds, and assists are all up and that has translated to bigger fantasy scores. I do love Hayward for a huge game here, but he put up over 40 two games ago against the Rockets in a paced up game, so I expect him to be near that again in the rematch here.
Kent Bazemore ($6100) – I do not love this play, but Bazemore has seen his minutes and his scoring crep up lately. He has a great matchup with Philly and should be able to produce a good game. He is averaging over 30 minutes in his last 4 games and has produced about 33 fantasy points in that stretch on average. The blowout risk is my only concern, but Bazemore has been one of the guys who has seen a few extra minutes even when games get a little out of hand.
Jae Crowder ($6400) – In the last nine games, Crowder has averaged about 33 minutes on a team that everyone is scared of the rotation. That has made him one of the better cash game options on a nightly basis. He has scored 5X value in 7 of his last 9 games and has even flashed some upside above 6X during this run. He contributes across the board with double digit points, 6-10 rebounds 2-3 assists and 2 defensive stats (Steals or Blocks) each game during his recent run. He gets very little love from players who tend to gravitate towards the bigger names, but his production has been so solid that he deserves your attention, even at $6400.
DeMarcus Cousins ($10300) – Cousins is a monster and gets an easy matchup with a bad defensive Lakers team that plays at a high pace. He is coming off a huge 70 point performance in a double overtime game, so everyone is going to be on him today. I debated the merits of fading him, and while there is an argument to be made about doing so in tournaments, you will be crazy for not using him in cash on this small slate. It is very tough to fade the guys likely to be the top scorer on the night and still find your way to the top of a tournament. Cousins has averaged 30 points, 14 rebounds, and some steals, blocks, an assists in each of his last 4 games. That’s a floor of well over 50 with upside into the 70s. Even at $10K, he still feels like a good deal in a great matchup here.
Nikola Mirotic ($5200) – Mirotic is a little too cheap for what he is producing right now.. He has started a bunch of recent games at the SF spot and has put up a minimum of 5X in his last three while playing at least 28 minutes in each. His floor has been 25 and his ceiling 40 in this new role. At a price around $5K, that gives makes him cash game safe at 5X value and gives him 8X upside for tournaments. The Total here is one of the higher ones and the spread one of the smaller ones, so it makes a lot of sense to look his way today.
Pau Gasol ($8000) – Pau’s price never seems to move, but his production has ticked up. His has not scored less than 4.3X in any of his last 9 games, so while expensive, he is cash game safe. He had 5X or better in 7 of those games as well with an 8X and back-to-back 7X performances in his last two. He faces a Boston team that has struggled to guard and stop centers all year, so the matchup s solid. The total here is one of the highest and the spread one of the closest, so we should see him get normal minutes. With as hot as he has been and as good as this matchup is, I expect another big game out of Pau today.
Jeff Withey ($5100) – Withey has been the cheap center play for over a week now and will remain so as long as Favors and Gobert are out. In his last 8 games, he has not been under 5.5X value and has flashed 7, 8, and 10X value over this recent run. His minutes have jumped up to nearly 30 a game and he is coming up with 10-12 points, 7-8 rebounds, and a ton of blocks and steals that have pushed up his fantasy scores. Dwight Howard has been good lately on the other side, but Withey is still cheap enough and seeing enough minutes to get to value if he avoids foul trouble. The Rockets play fast too, so the paced up game should float all fantasy scores on Utah.