It is a Thursday, so we only have a small four game slate as we usually do. Two of the games are likely to be very high scoring. Those are the Sacramento/Dallas game and the OKC/Golden State matchup. The Games between San Antonio/New Orleans and Miami/Phoenix are the two which could be lower scoring as both Miami and San Antonio are good defensive teams who should slow down their opposition. Both of those slower paced games have a chance to have a high spread. Miami is already favored by 14 and the Spurs do not have a line as of this morning. That leads me to believe we may see some of the Spurs starters rested, so keep an eye on that throughout the day. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the top plays we may have available on the board.
Stephen Curry ($10800) – Both Steph and Westbrook are in play today. If you want to fit them both in, it can be done. With other great players on this small slate though, I think you need to take a stand one way or the other. For me, that stand is going to be on Team Curry. Curry is $400 cheaper and his team is favored to win and playing at home. He has averaged more fantasy points than Westbrook has in the two recent meetings, so he gets a slight edge there. OKC had a tough one with the Clippers last night that went down to the wire, so they may be tired while Golden State is fresh and rested. Westbrook tends to give you more of a well rounded stat line, while Curry relies on huge point outputs and 3 point bonuses for his upside. He has been draining double digit 3 point field goals in his last few games, so those points can add up fast. I think both guys are viable options here on a short slate, but if I have to take a stand on one over the other, Curry is my guy.
EDITOR’S NOTE (5:45 PM ET): Steph Curry is still questionable tonight. We would expect him to play in a marquee matchup but he did miss Tuesday’s game and is certainly far from a lock to go tonight. If he were to miss this one, look for Shaun Livingston to pick up the slack again. Livingston played 34 minutes on Tuesday and had 22 fantasy points.
Rajon Rondo ($8200) – On such a small slate it is tough to find contrarian plays to use in a tournament. Rajon Rondo does fit that bill today though. It should be a very high paced game against the Dallas Mavericks and Rondo does have a little bit of revenge on his mind after the debacle from last season. Most people are trying to figure out how to fit Steph or Russ or both into a lineup today. That leaves Rondo as the guy who is likely to go lower owned. He offers a $2000 discount to the top two options and has the same 50+ point upside. I do think Steph and Russ outscore him today, but Rondo has the ability keep it close enough that he might wind up being the top play on a dollar for dollar basis.
*Rajon Rondo is QUESTIONABLE tonight and if he sits Darren Collison ($5,500) would benefit to see the highest increase in minutes
Norris Cole ($4700) – We need some salary savers in order to fit in some of the studs today and Norris Cole is one of my favorites at the point guard position. San Antonio is a solid defensive team, but point guard is one of those spots you can attack them at. Cole has been seeing consistent minutes for the Pelicans. He has averaged 33 minutes over his last 3 games and has not returned less than 5X in any of them. He has flashed his upside with two of the last three going for 8X or better and that kind of return could be the thing that pushes you up the charts in a GPP. If you play a high priced stud at the PG spot, you likely need a cheap option at the G Spot in order to make it work. Of all the cheap options available, Cole has been the guy who has shown the most consistency and upside.
Klay Thompson ($7600) – The Shooting guard position is pretty weak today. If I was going to pay up for anyone, it would be Klay Thompson. Klay is very scoring dependent for his fantasy value, but that’s ok in a game we expect to be high scoring. He put up over 40 fantasy points a few days ago when these teams last met, so I like his track record. He has also been shooting it pretty well and taking a few more shots, so he does have the potential to be the highest scoring option at the position. With that being said, I think it makes more sense to pay up elsewhere and save money at the shooting guard spot today.
Check Out Tonight’s Small Slate Stars
Wes Matthews ($4900) – I think the reason I am against paying up at shooting guard today is because I can get Wes Matthews for under $5K. Matthews has gone 5X or better in six of his last seven contests. He is averaging about 32 minutes in those games and he has raised his shot attempts well over 10 per game. He has an excellent matchup against a fast paced Sacramento team that gives up tons of points. Sacramento has been one of the worst teams in the league at guarding opposing shooting guards, so this is an excellent spot for Wes.
Kevin Durant ($10300) – Kevin Durant is way too good to fly under the radar, but he is likely to be lower owned than the point guard duo in the same game. Durant is a few hundred dollars cheaper and is coming off a 68 fantasy point performance when these two teams met a few days back. Durant has been more assertive on the offensive end and has gone from a guy who consistently reached value to a guy consistently reaching upside. He went 6.6, 6.7, and 5.5X value in his last three games, so it’s been a good stretch for KD. He is averaging 32 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 defensive stats over his last 3 games for a robust 63+ fantasy points. That’s a return of over 6X on his average, so do not get so caught up in cramming Westbrook and Curry in that you forget about Durant.
Kawhi Leonard ($7700) – Due to salary constraints, I think Leonard will be higher owned than KD will be on this slate. $7700 is a lot easier to fit in with an $11K point guard than a $10K small forward like Durant will be. Durant is likely the high scorer at the position, but Kawhi has returned every bit the same level of value consistently. He has seven straight games of 40+ fantasy points which is a solid return of 5.3X or better over this stretch. New Orleans likes to play fast and high scoring games, so Kawhi is in a good paced up matchup here. He has averaged 38 fantasy points this year in two meetings with the Pelicans, so I can not see him having a bad game in this matchup here.
Chandler Parsons ($6800) – The price is getting close to the max point for Parsons, but I really like this matchup for him. He faces a fast paced and weak defensive Kings team here. Parsons has been more aggressive on the offensive end and it has led to 4 games in the past 8 where he had 42 or more fantasy points. He was not really needed in the last one, so it was no surprise he did not go off. The Mavericks had that game well in hand, so he was not needed to be an offensive force. I think he is primed for a big bounce back game here and could be low owned if the price rise and last game log scare others away.
Mirza Teletovic ($5700) – Mirza is no longer cheap, but he is still in a really good spot. The Suns will have trouble rolling the two big man team out there against a Heat squad that starts Amare in the middle with Dragic, Wade, Deng, and Joe Johnson on the outside. In fact, I think it would be a mistake for them to go with the two bigs to start, because they will have no one on the second unit to contend with Whiteside when he subs in. If they are smart and decide to hold one of the two bigs, that probably means more minutes for a guy like Mirza. Mirza has been producing really well for this phoenix team in limited minutes. He has gone over 5X in 8 of his last 10 and flashed close to 50 fantasy point upside along the way. I much preferred using him when he was below $5K, but I think this game sets up nicely for him to reach close to his ceiling value.
DeMarcus Cousins ($10700) – Cousins is a monster. There’s no other way to put it. He has 50+ fantasy points in 8 of his last 11 games with no fewer than 30 in any of them. In his last six alone he has averaged over 58 fantasy points and has only been under 55 once. He has double doubles in 22 of his last 27 games with the misses being games of 7, 8, 5, 8, and 9 rebounds. He gets a high paced matchup against a pretty solid defensive Mavericks team, but they really do not have anyone to match up with him. Dirk and Zaza are too slow and David Lee is too small. Cousins skill set makes him a near impossible matchup for anyone. A lot of the attention is being geared towards the OKC/Warriors game, but Cousns is probably the safest bet for 50 fantasy points on the day and his ownership will likely be lower than it should be for a guy who is this dominant.
Anthony Davis ($9800) – At first glance, people will likely skip right over Anthony Davis due to the tough matchup with a solid defensive Spurs team, but that might be a mistake. Davis has actually performed pretty well over the past two years against San Antonio. This year alone he has games of 62 and 53 against the Spurs which means he is averaging over 6X in this matchup. As much as Cousins is flying under the radar, Davis may be flying even lower. The real kicker for me is that he is over $1000 cheaper than the other superstars on this slate, so there is a real case to be made for using him in tournaments as a low owned play with upside that saves salary from the likeliest chalk.
LaMarcus Aldridge ($6600) – This price seems way too cheap for a guy with Aldridge’s abilities. He is asserting himself more and finally looking comfortable in that offense. In two previous games vs. New Orleans this year he has gone 6X and 7.4X. He was more expensive in both of those previous matchups. Aldridge is coming off 40 and 50 fantasy point performances in his last two games. He gets a matchup against a higher paced team here as well. He will also likely be asked to play a few more minutes to help slow down Anthony Davis on the other side. While everyone is looking to pay up for the Cousins, Davis, and Draymond Green’s of the world, you can sneak in with a reasonably priced Aldridge at $6600 and still have a chance for a big score. Aldridge can put up 40-50 fantasy points as easily as any of those other guys, but he’s the only one that can do it and return over 6X at his current price.
David Lee ($4300) – If you need extreme salary savings here, Lee is your guy. He was in foul trouble last game, which is why the numbers look putrid, but he basically double doubled in both of the games before that in about 20-25 minutes of work. With Dirk playing less minutes and feeling the rigors of a long season, Lee has a role on this Mavericks team. He should see 20-25 minutes again in this game and has a chance to sneak in close to the double double numbers we have seen him put up recently. If he can do that, he will give you huge bang for the buck and be one of the better per dollar performers at any position on the day.
Hassan Whiteside ($8300) – Whiteside is the only center that is even over $6K on the day, so he would be the high priced option regardless. His recent play though backs up his status here. He has six games in a row of 5X or better. In four of those games he has gone for 50+ fantasy points. With Bosh out, he has been asked to pick up his scoring and responded by averaging 20 points over these last six. He has added averages of 15.5 rebounds and 4 block shots to that scoring increase and that is why he has been a staple in winning fantasy lineups over the last week. His matchup today with the Phoenix Suns is solid. It gets even better if the Suns roll their two big lineup to start and Whiteside winds up facing Mirza Teletovic at the center spot on the second unit. My only fear is that the game gets ugly and Whiteside is rested late in the fourth quarter. We have seen that happen before with Amare finishing games when the score is not close and lately the Suns have not been playing many close games. Still at $8K, Whiteside is one of the cheaper ptions with 50 point upside at any position today, so you might want to figure out a way to get some exposure to the man that has been killing it day after day over the last two weeks.
Alex Len ($5600) – Len has been very good whenever he sees big minutes. He has played 34 in each of the last two games and averaged 42 per game in the process. In fact he has not been below 6X in any game this year where he saw 30+ minutes of action. The Suns are making an effort to get this guy more minutes and he has rewarded them with good numbers. He is averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds over his last five games and four of those five have been returns of 6.3X or better. Len’s price is coming up, but he is still cheap based on the production he has given to you. The matchup vs. the slower paced Heat is not ideal, but Len has more upside and consistency than option like Bogut, Kanter, Adams, Zaza or Chandler. With slim pickings at the center spot today, I expect Len to be highly owned and one of the best per dollar performers we have to choose from.