With our first taste of basketball in the books with three compelling games last night, for Wednesday we have the first real full slate of games of the season. You’ll have your choice from just about every possible option, and will finally be able to see what your favorite team looks like after a long off-season of draft picks and free agency. Good luck.
Today’s NBA targets breakdown looks at Wednesday’s 14-game slate, with an eye towards the studs, sleepers and mid-range players you want to have rotating in your lineups.
Chris Paul @ SAC ($9,400) – The most important cog on one of the favorites in the West, Paul averaged 26-10 last year, good for just over 55 fantasy points a night. Whether the Kings are going to be better or worse than they were last year, they are going to be involved in some high scoring games, and when the Clippers are scoring a lot of real-life points, Chris Paul is scoring a lot of fantasy points.
Damian Lillard vs. NO ($8,900) – I think there is a chance Westbrook emerges as the best option for the Thunder tonight, but writing about him and Paul both is boring. Lillard, on the other hand, is not boring. We’ve never seen Lillard as the #1 option, but that’s exactly what he is going to be tonight, and going forward. The Pelicans might have Davis patrolling the middle, but they don’t have the guards to keep Lillard from getting his shot, especially with Evans missing time. For a savings over the top options, he might end up being the best value of the group.
Goran Dragic vs. CHA ($6,600) – Dragic averaged 16-5 in 26 games with the Heat last season, and is coming into this season as the starting point. He’ll be at the helm of what I think could be an improved offense, and if you see those numbers go up even a little, the price will be going up too. Starting off against the Hornets should get that process started nicely.
Isaiah Thomas vs. PHI ($6,500) – The Celtics’ mid-season addition from last year is a threat to score basically whenever he puts his mind to it, and while he is not likely to start – at least as the season opens – he will receive starter’s minutes as one of the team’s best options on offense.
James Harden vs. DEN ($10,100) – I feel the need to mention Harden here because if you are putting together a roster centered around one of the real super-duper uber fantasy superstars, you are choosing between Westbrook, Harden, LeBron, KD, Anthony Davis and Cousins. The case for Harden is simple: 250 three pointers made, more than seven assists a night, a half-dozen rebounds. Fifty fantasy points.
Jimmy Butler @ BKN ($7,600) – The Bulls played last night, as you might have heard, and edged the Cavs in a 2-point victory. They had four starters score in double-digits, and none over 20. That’s going to be their recipe for success this season, and as such, there is a solid chance that Butler’s scoring takes a dip, at least as long as Rose stays healthy. However, scoring is not the only thing that Butler does well (17-5-2 with two steals and a block last night). He can produce fantasy points in a number of different ways, but more importantly, any regression has already been priced in. He ended last season costing $8,200-$8,600 depending on matchup, so at this price, he remains a solid play.
Kobe Bryant vs. MIN ($6,400) – This is a guy who, in the 35 games he played last year, averaged 40 fantasy points per game. I understand that it’s hard to know exactly what to make of him anymore, but he is going to take tons of shots and, well, he’s going to shoot a lot. So, yeah.
Khris Middleton vs. NY ($5,400) – Middleton is the opposite of Kobe, a player who can be fantasy relevant without having to score a ton. That being said, with Antetokounmpo and Parker both out right now, if he is going to get it going in a big way offensively, it’s probably now, to begin the season.
LeBron James @ MEM ($9,800) – This is not necessarily saying I will definitely spend this much on my small forward if I am putting together just a single lineup or only a couple. It’s me saying that I would go with LeBron over KD for tonight, if I was suddenly faced with that decision. If you’re playing 20 lineups, you should probably have each of them in at least one, because they both clearly have “best performance of the night” potential every time they step on the court. But if forced to choose I am going with LeBron based partly on KD’s matchup with San Antonio (he has a co-lead dog in Westbrook, and I could see the PG having more opportunities in this particular game), and partly on the way the offense flowed through James once Kyrie went down last season – he has triple-double upside every night.
Paul George @ TOR ($8,000) – He only played 6 games last season, so there is some risk here, but make sure you don’t assess the same level of risk to tonight that you did to George in your season-long leagues. Because right now, he is looking healthy and explosive in the preseason, and if he is himself again, he’s going to cost a lot more than this really fast.
Andrew Wiggins @ LAL ($6,300) – The Lakers are not going to be able to guard anyone all year long. Wiggins started coming into his own in a big way down the stretch last season, and this year, the 6′ 8” scoring machine is actually set to begin the year as the starting shooting guard for the Timberwolves. He is coming into the year as their best player, and on a mediocre team, that is going to lead to a crazy number of opportunities to produce. I would want him on my season-long team, and I definitely want him in DFS in the early going, because this price is going up.
DeMarre Carroll vs. IND ($5,500) – I suppose it depends somewhat on who is guarding him, but if the Pacers put C.J. Miles anywhere near him on the defensive end, Carroll will be able to score. But he’s always been able to score. And the way that he has been playing in the preseason, following up on the success he had in the last couple of years in Atlanta, shows that he is capable of more than just putting points on the board. He averaged a couple of threes, a half-dozen rebounds and more than a steal a game last year, and if he gets similar minutes, he should be able to get you similar production, even if he is the third or fourth scoring option. His 26 fantasy points per game from last year is not out of the question, and that’s good value at this price.
Anthony Davis @ POR ($10,400) – The preseason favorite for NBA MVP this year, he is already the most expensive player on the board for this contest. But here is the thing: usually, the most expensive guys don’t really have a ceiling that much higher than other superstars, they just get there more often. Chris Paul and Damian Lillard have the same 60 point upside, but Paul gets there 50% of the time and Lillard 15% of the time – that’s the difference. But Davis does so many things, scores fantasy points in so many ways, it seems like he has no ceiling. It seems like you could see a 100-fantasy point game out of him at some point. Is 50-20 with ten blocks possible? Yes, yes it is.
LaMarcus Aldridge @ OKC ($8,100) – Quite possibly the second best power forward in the West (in a format that makes KD a 3, anyway), Aldridge has spent his career in an offense that allowed him to get isolated on a wing or a block, decide whether to face up to the basket or back his defender down, and make his move. That’s not the Spurs offense. I think this was the best signing of the off-season, but the benefits might not show up in the box score right away.
Chris Bosh ($7,300) – Fully cleared by his doctors after sitting out much of last year with a blood clot in his lungs, you have to assume he is fully healthy and ready to go or he wouldn’t be out there. He even went 32 minutes in the Heat’s final preseason game, clearly ramping up towards regular season action. As more of a primary option for the Heat, his numbers clearly spiked post-LeBron, so we’re all hoping for something like the 21-7 he averaged in just over 40 games last year.
Markieff Morris vs. DAL ($6,600) – He is the rare player who manages to take usefulness and scrappiness and turn it into fantasy value. He does all the little things you love to see from a guy on your favorite team, taking charges, setting solid picks, boxing out, etc. It’s beautiful to watch for a basketball purist. But he turns that into enough blocks and steals and rebounds, and combines all that with an ability to hit an open mid-range jumper and create his own look in the post, and all of a sudden he is a very productive PF, both on the court and on your fantasy team.
Marc Gasol vs. CLE ($8,300) – DeMarcus Cousins facing off against DeAndre Jordan clearly represents the best matchup of big men for the night, but the thing is, they can both defend. Sure, there might be a big game there, but I wouldn’t want to count on it, which leaves Gasol as the most expensive center left on the board. Gasol might not have his best rebounding game of the season against the Cavs front court, but he should be able to get his shot at will, which should be enough for him to create value at this price.
Nikola Vucevic vs. WAS ($8,200) – Vucevic can rebound better than anyone on the Wizards, and it’s not close. Also, interesting to note, he can rebound better than anyone on his own team, too, and that’s even less close. He wants all of the rebounds in this one.
Mason Plumlee vs. NO ($5,900) – Who else is going to do work for Portland? Overall, you’re just going to see his usage increase. You’re just going to have to approach the Blazers in a different way this year – all of a sudden, these are all guys playing on a pretty bad team. And, as you know, players on bad teams can have tons of fantasy upside – even though the player might not be that great, he’s involved.
Tyler Zeller vs. PHI ($3,000) – The Celtics are going to be really tough to utilize to any great extent this year, because with Bradley, Smart, Crowder, Turner, and Thomas at the 1-3 and Amir Johnson, Sullinger and David Lee at the 4, who knows who is going to get the most run, or be the most productive. Maybe eventually Stevens settles on a consistent rotation, but for now it is up in the air. And maybe all those 4’s means they play a lot of small ball, but when you are looking at the Center position, there are only two guys: Zeller and Olynyk. Olynyk is priced higher at the moment, but Zeller is the starter, and against this Philly team he could provide plenty of value at this price.