With twelve games on Wednesday and no games on Thursday, you’ve got one more night to concentrate on hoops before you turn your attention to turkey and football.
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Today’s NBA targets breakdown looks at Wednesday’s 12-game slate, with an eye towards the studs, sleepers and mid-range players you want to have rotating in your lineups.
Russell Westbrook vs. BKN ($11,300) – A night with no Golden State in action is a night with no question about the top dog at the point guard position. It is honestly amazing to think about, but a guy like Chris Paul’s upside is his average. Hence, the price tag. There is a chance that maybe his opportunities decrease a little bit now that Durant is back in action, but probably not. The fact of the matter is, there is plenty of room for two superstars in the same lineup – it just turns everyone else into just a supporting cast. In other words, it’s everyone else on the Thunder whose fantasy value might take a hit, not Westbrook’s.
Brandon Knight vs. NO ($8,200) – Knight has been over 30 fantasy points in five straight. And in two of those, we’re talking REALLY over: 68 against Denver and 78 against the Lakers. The Pelicans might not be quite as good of a matchup as those two, but they certainly don’t scare you away, either. And you don’t need 60+ points to make a player worthwhile at this price tag.
Isaiah Thomas vs. PHI ($7,700) – Thomas perhaps has the most clearly defined role on this team night in and night out, as the best scoring option they have in virtually every possible matchup. But while the shots are usually there, his minutes can fluctuate on occasion – but right now we should see less of that with Smart set to miss a couple of weeks – and more predictability is never a bad thing in fantasy. He is averaging 19-6 with a pair of threes and more than a steal a night so far in November, and should be able best all of those numbers in this matchup.
Ish Smith @ PHO ($6,200) – As long as Jrue Holiday remains on his minutes restriction, it feels like Smith will continue to be a value. Sure, it was even easier to recommend him a week-and-a-half ago, when he only cost $4,500, but he is now averaging 30 fantasy points a night over his last ten games, and you don’t have to cost $4,500 to be worth the price with that kind of production. Even with Holiday back, he is still averaging almost a dozen shot attempts a night over his last five.
Eric Bledsoe vs. NO ($8,400) – Bledsoe is so central to everything the Suns are trying to do right now that he is a worthwhile consideration in every matchup (i.e., his usage = consistency). But he is also such an explosive player on both ends of the court that when the matchup is right and he is playing well, there almost seems to be no limit to his upside at times. When everything is working for him, he reminds me of a mini-Westbrook, with his ability to rebound, assist, score and pile up defensive stats, all at the same time. He missed Monday night’s game with a sore knee, but it was more precautionary than anything, so you should expect him back at full strength for this one.
Bradley Beal @ CHA ($6,600) – Another player who has missed some time recently, this will be his third game back since his shoulder injury. He had 22 shot attempts in 35 minutes to lead the team in both categories last night, so I think it is safe to assume he’s feeling a lot better. I wish I could guarantee him 22 shots again in this one – because if that happens in this matchup, I feel like he is going for 40.
Avery Bradley vs. PHI ($5,900) – I mentioned this briefly above when talking about Thomas, but the issue with the Celtics’ guards as fantasy options isn’t a lack of talent. If anything, there is too much of it to go around, so as much as we hate to see injuries to a young, rising star like Marcus Smart, at least in the short term, it does help us predict minutes and usage for this team a bit more accurately. He has been over 25 fantasy points (with a high of 42) over his last six, something he has accomplished pretty consistently all season long when he is in the game for 30+ minutes.
Danny Green vs. DAL ($4,500) – It’s as simple as the fact that he is playing. He’s getting 25 minutes a night, at least, on the most efficient offense in basketball. At only $4,500, he is getting you 20+ fantasy points night in and night out. He might have scored 18 and had 33 fantasy points the other night, but I am not recommending him on the chance it happens again. I am recommending him for cash games because of his high floor, not some perceived high ceiling.
LeBron James @ TOR ($10,100) – The super-elite options tonight are Westbrook, Harden, LeBron, Durant and Anthony Davis. So what would lead you to spend on James? Amazingly, it is NOT upside. He might be the best of that group, however, if you are entering a cash game. He has scored more than 40 fantasy points every single night in November, helping teammates like Kevin Love and J.R. Smith establish themselves as scoring options, rebounding, putting up defensive stats, and scoring himself when the team needs it. He is playing very efficient basketball right now, and it is translating well for fantasy owners and the Cavs as a team.
Rudy Gay @ MIL ($7,000) – Gay hasn’t had fewer than 13 shot attempts since October. He has always been a guy who can rebound and play defense, help rotate the ball, and fill a lane on a fast break. But the way he has been used offensively has varied with seemingly every stop, every coach he has had his whole career, and this season is a microcosm of that. When he is getting you 20+ “real” points, he is getting you 35+ fantasy points – a trend I expect to see continue in this particular matchup.
Trevor Ariza vs. MEM ($5,700) – He has played over 30 minutes in each of his last three, and scored over 30 fantasy points in three of his last four. For long-time fantasy hoops players, this is a “been there, done that” situation – everyone has relied on him enough times that they’ve been burned at least once. But, you can’t let that make you stay away forever – Ariza has now had 19-9 and 18-8 games inside of the last week, and staying away from that level of production for ever because you don’t trust his name is a good way to lose.
Jeff Green @ HOU ($4,800) – There is a reason his price has climbed more than $1,000 in ten days. And that reason is not his recent production, it’s his past production. Follow me? Lot’s of players get hot for a few days, and their price doesn’t always react so quickly. But with Green, we have seen him do it before – we have seen him produce on offense, and on defense, so when it seems like maybe – just maybe – his role is changing, his price needs to change quickly to reflect that new reality. In his last six games, his low point for minutes has been 28, and he is all of a sudden a threat for 35-40 fantasy points (averaging 28/night over that stretch).
Anthony Davis @ PHO ($10,800) – He’s a classic upside play. With a 60-fantasy-point average over his last three full games, he gives you a legit shot at 70+ every night. That’s Westbrook/Curry territory. But with the injuries this year, the consistency just isn’t there, so there is definitely risk built into this price. A power forward who is averaging 29-16 with three blocks – if healthy – could be the MVP, even on a last place team.
Kevin Love @ TOR ($8,300) – This has, to me, been one of the least appreciated stories of the season. Love is all of a sudden making the deal that brought him to Cleveland look like the consensus bargain everyone thought it was when it first happened. That’s what’s possible when he’s playing like one of the best power forwards in basketball, no matter what Wiggins is doing in Minnesota. Averaging three full points and two full rebounds more than last season, his efficiency numbers are what they were for the Timberwolves, and it is making everyone on this Cavs team better.
Kristaps Porzingis @ ORL ($7,000) – It’s nice when the 4th overall picks actually pans out, huh? Clearly the Knicks front office knew what they were doing here, because for fans it’s easy to get nervous about a rookie coming from Europe, usually just because we don’t really know much about them, haven’t seen them play too often. But he is the real deal, averaging 13-9 for the season and 18-10 in the last couple of weeks. A classic floor-stretching 4, he can rebound and block shots while knocking down the three, a perfect fit for basically every modern NBA game plan and right now the Knicks are taking full advantage. You should too.
Serge Ibaka @ BKN ($6,400) – Ibaka has been up and down with both his scoring and his rebounding this year, which is what makes him hard to trust. It’s nice when a big man, for example, needs to score to reach his upside, but always has that base of 10 rebounds you can count on. Ibaka doesn’t have that, but in this matchup, it should feel that way. He should be able to have free range on the boards against forwards like Thaddeus Young, and the Thunder have the big men in Kanter and Adams to at least keep a body on Lopez.
Andre Drummond vs. MIA ($9,400) – With Whiteside – at the very least – not at 100%, Drummond should be able to have his way with this Miami frontcourt. Bosh has been playing great, but just isn’t the type of guy who is going to offer a lot of competition to Drummond in the paint. He should have his fill of defensive rebounds in this one, and should easily have enough looks to grab yet another double-double. His floor feels like it is somewhere right around 35 points in this one, with easy 50-point upside.
Karl-Anthony Towns vs. ATL ($7,400) – Timberwolves fans were rightly excited about Wiggins coming back in the Kevin Love trade – any recent #1 overall draft pick is exciting. And here we have another one. This kid, coming from Kentucky, has proved the Minnesota front office correct for choosing him first overall, rewarding them thus far with 15 points and 10 boards a game, numbers you would be satisfied with out of a veteran, never mind a 21-year-old kid who is still learning as he goes.
Jahlil Okafor @ BOS ($6,900) – In the first game of the season, Okafor went for 26-7 with a steal and two blocks. This is game #2 between the Eastern Conference rivals, the Celtics have proved to be a tougher matchup against big men (12th in fewest fantasy points allowed to centers). That success, though, comes mainly from their ability to run Sullinger out there at center and create small-ball matchup problems that render other centers ineffective. Okafor should be able to keep up in that sort of contest, and if he does find himself matched up one on one with Sullinger on the block at any point, Sixers coaches, Sixers fans and fantasy owners should all rejoice, because he should own that matchup.
Bismack Biyombo vs. CLE ($4,000) – With Valanciunas out, Biyombo is going to get more minutes than he’s used to. On Sunday, that was 31, which he converted into 6 points and 14 rebounds. The Cleveland frontcourt is not a great matchup, but he was never going to be a big scorer anyway. Hopefully Toronto can surround him with enough shooters to keep the Cavs from collapsing the paint all night, and if they can, he should be an easy candidate for double-digit boards.