With four games on the slate, this Thursday is actually busier than most. And with the NFL showcasing Tennessee and Jacksonville, why not watch NY-CHI or OKC-GS and save your football-watching-energy for the weekend? Here are a few guys you can target for that action at every price point, and every position:
POINT GUARD TARGETS
- Russell Westbrook @ GS ($11,700) – Durant might not have been DURANT since his return, but one thing he has done is open up the floor for Westbrook. The PG has not yet had a game under 40 points since KD returned, and he has 50+ fantasy points in each of his last three. In a game that could end up being high-scoring and super competitive, expect Westbrook to make his presence felt in a big way.
- Derrick Rose vs. NY ($7,300) – Listen, we are all aware that if Rose is in the process of gradually working himself back to pre-injury form, and he keeps on that track, eventually he’s going to be a fantasy superstar once again. Right now, he’s not priced like it. If you manage to see the shift coming, serious value could be in play, because he is the type of player you consider even when he’s the priciest on the list, when he’d going right. He’s finally getting close to 30 minutes a night, and has used the opportunity to net 30+ fantasy points in three of his last four. At this point, you are hoping for the big scoring night, because he is producing in all the other categories – and you know those nights are coming.
- Brandon Knight @ SAC ($6,900) – 30+ fantasy points on 20+ actual points scored, on an average of 16 shot attempts per game – that’s what happened as soon as Jabari Parker went down. Knight is a capable role player who is seeing that role increase, at least on the offensive end, with Parker missing time. In the short term, until the team works out some kind of permanent solution, you can likely count on Knight continuing to see those increased opportunities.
- Patrick Beverley vs. NO ($5,500) – In his last three outings, he has logged 46, 40, and 40 minutes. Safe to say he has recovered from his injury. He is a versatile guard who can score, but doesn’t need to in order to give you some value on your fantasy roster. Rebounds and defensive stats are well within his wheelhouse, and when you’re running point on a team with this many scorers, the assists are always there to help pad the bottom line.
SHOOTING GUARD TARGETS
- James Harden vs. NO ($11,600) – Can I carve out the room in my salary cap to afford him? That’s the only question you need to be asking yourself about this guy at this point. He is awesome. He can score seemingly at will, and do everything else he wants to on the court, too. And his usage rates are off the charts. He’s not had fewer than 49.5 fantasy points in his last six and has blown past 60 in each of his last THREE. Go for it if you can.
- Klay Thompson vs. OKC ($7,400) – The question you ask yourself on this one is “what’s Steph Curry going to do?” Thompson has been producing across a number of categories, and can explode on any given night when he is scoring well – that’s the key driver in him being a good selection, or a contest-winning selection at this price. But every single time he hoists 20+ shots, he’s basically a lock to get you 40+ fantasy points. And with Westbrook concentrating on Curry, this could be a night for Klay.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo @ SAC ($5,500) – All about potential. His field goal percentage fluctuates in a way that makes “wildly” seem like too weak a phrase. He’s raw, but man, he can fill a stat sheet. He had an ankle issue last week, but seems fully recovered, logging a full complement of minutes. There is always risk with a player who is not the focal point of what his team does, but Giannis is a very good bet for 25+ fantasy points if his recent performances are any indication.
- Ben McLemore vs. MIL ($4,700) – He’s getting all the minutes. His scoring, rebounding, assists and defensive stats are all inconsistent (hence the price tag). But he is CAPABLE of producing in any of those categories every night, which means he is a good bet for 25ish fantasy points, and if he ever manages to put it all together for a night, he could be the pick that makes you look like a genius. For that one, night, anyway.
SMALL FORWARD TARGETS
- Rudy Gay vs. MIL ($9,200) – KD is going to erupt some night and never look back, but it is tough to spend more than 20% of your salary on a guy who hasn’t cracked 41 points but once since his return. That potential you see is already almost completely baked into the price. And Carmelo is facing a solid defensive team in the Bulls, who are expecting their anchor back, as Noah plans to return Thursday. So, Gay. With five games with 40+ points in his last ten, and only one game with under 35 points, he’s scoring as much as KD right now, for a $1,400 savings.
- Draymond Green vs. OKC ($7,500) – He could very well draw a tough defensive assignment in this one, which could perhaps limit his effectiveness on the other end. One of the things that makes him so valuable to the Warriors, and fantasy owners, could mitigate that, however: he is listed here as a SF, but he really can play a number of positions, and contribute in any number of ways. His upside might not be the same as a Carmelo or a Durant, but when you can rebound, score, play D and dish, and you’re getting upwards of 35 minutes a night on average, 30 fantasy points is not a hard target to hit.
- Trevor Ariza va. NO ($6,500) – 46, 43, 44, 44, 44, 42. Those are the minutes Ariza has played over the last six games. He has been a key piece of the Rockets’ success because of all he can do on the court, and he might actually be one of those players who is more useful to his real team than to your fantasy team. But, the price is right. You’re not paying that much for those minutes, and he is nothing if not consistent. He has scored between 38 and 32 fantasy points in those five contests, and there’s no reason not to expect the same tomorrow. He is not going to be the guy who goes off and wins you a contest, but he’s not likely to lose it for you either, and he is a definite consideration if you’re taking on a bunch of 50/50s and not the bigger GPP contests.
- Khris Middleton @ SAC ($5,600) – With all of their frontcourt injuries, the Bucks have been playing a fair share of small ball, and Middleton has been one of the beneficiaries. He hasn’t been inserted into the starting lineup, but is still seeing a significant bump in minutes, and he has been productive all season with the time he was getting. It is easy to expect a slight bump in all categories for him going forward, which will put him in range to net you 30+ fantasy points on any given night.
POWER FORWARD TARGETS
- Anthony Davis @ HOU ($11,800) – I know you know about this guy, but he’s worth mentioning here only to mention that after leaving a game early last Friday with a chest contusion, and then missing another game entirely, he returned to action wearing a protective check. But if you had any concerns about the injury or the extra gear affecting his game, let the 31-9 with three blocks and a steal he put up on his return reassure you.
- Pau Gasol vs. NY ($9,400) – He’s been nothing short of dominant, averaging 19-12-2-2. Who knew he still had it in him? A double-double machine with block potential, in a great match-up. It’s almost a no-brainer.
- Amar’e Stoudemire @ CHI ($6,000) – Between him and Pau being legit starting fantasy options, it almost feels like 2006. But here we are, and these guys are still producing. Stoudemire might have been tough to spend a draft pick on with all the risk associated with him, but he’s healthy and productive right now, and $6,000 is NOT too much to invest.
- Ersan Ilyasova @ SAC ($5,200) – Ilyasova has been part of the largely injured frontcourt in Milwaukee, but it looks like he may be the first to return to action. This pick needs to be monitored closely to see if he even plays, but he should definitely be on your radar. He was averaging 10-4 with fewer than 20 minutes a night earlier this year, and when he returns he will be in line for an increased role almost right away if he shows he can handle it.
- Dwight Howard vs. NO ($9,000) – He has got two games under his belt since returning from injury, and he’s showed that he was certainly ready to come back, with 53 fantasy points in each of the two contests. 26-13 with a pair of blocks, followed up by 24-16 with 4? I’ll take it. Gotta love not having to worry about free throw %, huh?
- Joakim Noah vs. NY ($7,100) – Noah and Cousins would be the only other two center options tonight that could even possibly be considered “studs,” and both are questionable. There is no new news on Cousins, who has been missing time after dealing with a bout of meningitis, so he is truly a toss-up. But Noah has said he “fully expects” to play tonight after a full practice on Wednesday, and the Bulls could definitely use his kind of contributions. If he is 100% healthy coming back, you would expect him to see a full workload, which should give him plenty of opportunities to produce.
- Omer Asik @ HOU ($5,800) & Steven Adams @ GS ($4,300) – I put these guys together because they have the same risk, and the same upside. The risk is boiled down simply: playing time. Neither one of these players sees the good side of 25 minutes on the court with any kind of regularity and that’s not changing anytime in the forseeable future. And the upside can be boiled down just as simply: rebounding. Asik is averaging 11 rebounds a game, and has been doing it consistently all year, which explains the higher price tag than Adams. Adams is averaging only about seven boards on the year, but has seen those figures spike to closer to ten over the past couple of weeks, including 10, 11, 8 and 10 in his last four. As you know with any big man, a base of double-digit rebounds is a great place to start, getting you some easy-to-predict fantasy goodliness and providing immediate upside in the form of an ever-present threat to log those valuable double-doubles.