Yesterday was home to one of the toughest NBA slates in recent weeks and quite frankly I don’t want to live in a world in which you have to roster Jeff Teague for any chance to win money in daily fantasy basketball. But that’s life sometimes and no matter how much research or how many lineups you have, the stars may not align.
Today is a new day with eight games in front of us. You’ve got a few good teams in great spots, a few recent value-smashing plays in extremely difficult ones, and a couple of tanktastic matchups to unpack for value. As always, this column will pair best with Awesemo’s rankings and ownership projections to determine the right directions to take your lineup. Maybe also a white zinfandel. Reds go best with football.
Follow me @ChrisSpags and tweet me with how your lineups are looking; I heard from a few of you this weekend who got out of slumps thanks to Awesemo’s picks and my writeups so I’m curious to see how many folks we can get on the right track with about four weeks left of regular season basketball. As always you can skip to the end of the column if you want to get right to Awesemo’s Slam Dunks, even though you’d be a total cad to do so. But without further ado, let’s break down the slate.
Milwaukee Bucks (110.75 implied points) at Cleveland Cavaliers (113.25 implied points)
The Bucks are up slightly on their performance in their last 10 games while the Cavs are flat in line with theirs. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been on a heater lately going for 5x or more in 3 out of his last 4 games with games of 68 and 72 DK points in his last two. He has a history of excelling in games versus LeBron James and the Cavs and there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case here. Khris Middleton has had one 50 DK point game versus the Cavs the year (in a matchup in which Giannis also got a hair under 60 DK points) and, according to DVP over the last 10 games, is in the best spot of the night. At his price the upside is questionable but he looks like a very steady play. Eric Bledsoe’s been playing well in his last few games with Brandon Jennings lightly nipping at his heels but the Cavs have actually been somewhat limiting to point guards over their last few games. With his price on the rise in a slate of this size, there should be better options to go to at point guard. Jabari Parker’s price seems low enough to be interesting on FanDuel but at his minutes, it’s hard to be into him there or at a little more expensive on DraftKings. Lastly, John Henson isn’t the most attractive option but there isn’t a ton to limit him inside and he gets around 30 minutes a game. If you like sucky fantasy centers who make silly faces, you may have found your man.
Milwaukee has given up a ton of production at small forward lately, LeBron has been annihilating everything in sight with Larry Nance out, the math here isn’t hard. He seems to equally relish going at the young Buck Giannis with two 60 DK point games this year back when the Cavs were a much more dysfunctional squad before their trades. Jeff Green was an Awesemo Slam Dunk pick his last time out and returned the favor with a little under 7x value. He played 40 minutes last game and, though this matchup is less favorable than the Bulls one was on paper, that’s a lot of time on the floor, a great reason he’s graded as an A value play in Awesemo’s rankings. Ante Zizic did in fact play a little more versus the Bulls but didn’t get over 20 minutes. On a per-minute basis he looked great and there’s upside at his low price but he’s unlikely to get to the full run of minutes you need for him to smash value in a big enough way. Kyle Korver played well before missing last game due to a personal reason/sore left foot. Rodney Hood’s already been ruled out so Korver should be in play versus a Bucks team really giving up a ton of threes lately. If Kevin Love returns tonight after being upgraded to questionable with his gimpy hand, throw all this out the window besides the LeBron part.
It’s also worth noting the Cavs will be without their coach Ty Lue due to a health issue he’s taking time off to recover from. This could be a spot where the Cavs really bring it to honor their ailing coach while the real man in charge LeBron carries the Cavs with everything he has to keep them in the game.
Los Angeles Lakers (106.75 implied points) at Indiana Pacers (111.25 implied points)
The Lakers’ implied points are down a lot on their totals over the last 10 games while the Indiana Pacers are up A LOT more. This is the first time I’ve used caps lock to establish its importance so you know it must be a lot a lot and, yes, the Pacers are at a 12.1 point increase over their last ten games would qualify for a vigorous underlining. But first: The Lakers. With Domantas Sabonis out again and Myles Turner questionable, Al Jefferson currently projects as the big man of choice versus Julius Randle, the Lakers’ lone A grade for fantasy points tonight on Awesemo’s rankings, and Brook Lopez. And given that Jefferson singlehandedly guided Marcin Gortat to his best game all season in his start versus the Wizards, Lopez and Randle look mighty tasty. Indiana has given up great performances to centers recently even before Al took over and they also allow bigs to stretch the floor pretty well so, even if Turner is in, the situation should play nicely into Brook’s hands. Isaiah Thomas, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Lonzo Ball aren’t in bad matchups either but given the depressed total for the Lakers, the bigs’ value, and maybe some Kyle Kuzma, seem like the best place to look.
I assume Vegas somehow presumes the Pacers are going to get back to running this game with the Lakers’ pace based on the giant increase in their projected points total over their recent performance. The aforementioned Al Jefferson should be one of the higher owned players on the slate if Turner is out after a good performance last game where he didn’t see much action in the fourth quarter with the Pacers only able to keep up by going small. Turner’s younger legs seem like they would be a better play versus the feisty Lakers but it’d be hard to question Al if he’s the last big standing, despite the risk of the Pacers needing to go small again. These shifts have also affected Lance Stephenson; due to the reallotment of bodies with injuries and the second unit shift to small ball, on a per-minute basis he sees a big boost with Turner and Sabonis out, evidenced by his big game versus Washington. Victor Oladipo has been deathly quiet lately and his minutes have also been down despite his price staying high industrywide. You’d have to assume if the Pacers are scoring a ton, particularly in a fast paced game, that he’ll drive the action but it’s a tough leap of faith. Thaddeus Young was sick last game and looked the part with a hideous effort. He had two solid games before that though and his price dropped due to the sickly performance so he may be worth a gander.
Charlotte Hornets (106.25 implied points) at Philadelphia 76ers (114.75 implied points) – ONE AWESEMO SLAM DUNK
The Hornets’ implied points are down a noteworthy amount on their recent performances while the 76ers are up a bit on theirs. Jeremy Lamb will be a highly owned player on tonight’s slate filling in for Nicolas Batum, whose recent great play will come to an end thanks to an Achilles injury. And that’s why Jeremy Lamb is Awesemo’s first Slam Dunk of the day:
“Starting in Batum’s place, Lamb will be reprising his role from early in the season where he was priced in the 6k’s. He’s under 5k on both sites today, so get him in your lineups.”
At around 1 DK point per minute with Batum off the court, there’s a lot of sense in locking him in despite the chalkiness. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would in theory benefit from Batum’s absence but the numbers don’t reflect that with him somehow taking less shots in Batum’s missed games this year. But the biggest beneficiary when Batum is out has been Kemba Walker, forced out of his late-season malaise to actually drive the offense like he did when he thought the Hornets were going to trade him. He did not play well at all versus the Knicks, in fact one of his worse games of the year. And he’s also had issues with the Sixers and their defense this year, putting up a dud a few weeks ago. He’s a risky play but there’s reason to think he could be a low-owned home run if the fates line up. Dwight Howard also sees an uptick in usage and production with Batum out and fared well versus Embiid in their last matchup. If the Hornets keep it close, a Howard-Kemba-Lamb trio could be a very different lineup that has real upside if the Hornets haven’t totally quit.
The Hornets have been leaky everywhere on defense so all of your favorite Sixers should be considered again. Because there’s a chance of a blowout and Sixers production can go a variety of ways, the key thing to look at is their correlations. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid correlate positively, both Simmons and Embiid correlate negatively with Saric and also negatively but slightly less so with Robert Covington. JJ Redick and Ben Simmons are a worse correlation than Simmons and Covington but Redick and Embiid are a negative but close to neutral correlation. If you understood this, congratulations on getting a great score on your LSAT. Dario and Covington, Saric in particular, have yielded some minutes to Ilyasova lately, making both a bit riskier than usual. Redick is gunning again at a higher rate and Charlotte has given up many threes on the wing lately. It’s hard to say how the Hornets respond to adversity at this point of the year though so a blowout is a very real possibility.
Denver Nuggets (106.75 implied points) at Miami Heat (108.75 implied points)
The Nuggets are facing substantial decrease on their recent scoring while the Heat are only seeing a minor decrease on theirs. The Heat’s fantasy defense hasn’t wavered much despite Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside missing the last few games so value here may be tight. Nikola Jokic can overcome any matchup and his price is down a little bit despite a few steady games in a row. Between Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, or even if the Heat get creative with James Johnson, it’s hard to imagine any of those guys being able to fully limit Jokic. Will Barton returned to the starting lineup last game with Gary Harris sidelined with a knee injury but he’s the likely recipient of Josh Richardson D and that hurts his appeal a bit for me. Jamal Murray’s not in a great spot and even though Goran Dragic has slipped substantially in Defensive Real Plus-Minus, the Heat have done their best work limiting point guard fantasy output.
On the Heat side, the back court and bigs should see the biggest boost in Denver’s D. Goran Dragic has seen two very solid games in a row with the Heat players out and his price is falling industrywide to show for it. Josh Richardson played 30 minutes despite his gimpy foot and with two days to rest, he should be closer to full health in a good spot. James Johnson’s been doing a little bit of everything since the recent Heat injuries and though he never feels secure enough to me, the track record is there of late and the Nuggets push up usage at his position. Bam Adebayo’s been steady and unspectacular but he got the most minutes he’s seen in a while in the Heat’s last game. At a similar run of minutes, Bam could really excel versus Denver. Kelly Olynyk has also played well and gotten a ton of usage with Whiteside out. If he flipped minutes with Bam he’d be a lock but at a slightly decreased amount of time on the court, he can definitely sink a lineup if his shot doesn’t fall or Paul Millsap defends him particularly well for stretches.
Chicago Bulls (106.5 implied points) at New York Knicks (111.5 implied points) – ONE AWESEMO SLAM DUNK
The implied totals would be a light decrease on the Bulls’ last 10 games and substantial increase on the Knicks’. And as expected with the Bulls’ injuries, Cameron Payne and Denzel Valentine were must plays in their starts last game with Valentine in particular going for 11x value in a game versus the Cavs where he hit an unreal eight three pointers. Cameron Payne also gets the privilege of being the second Awesemo Slam Dunk of the day:
“With Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine out, the Bulls are going to need a high usage player to lead the way tonight. Valentine and Antonio Blakeney also fit the bill, but my favorite play tonight on the team tonight is Payne based on the salaries on both sites.”
Cristiano Felicio picked up the slack with Noah Vonleh’s toe injury and the Bulls not particularly interested in actually winning games. If Vonleh remains out, Felicio is in another good spot where his special lack of talent may carry him to success despite himself, though the Knicks should limit rebounds more than Cleveland did. Paul Zipser picked up a start last game too and returned a solid value at only 23 minutes played. He is not good but he is viable salary filler. Antonio Blakeney hit 6x value last game and missed 10 out of his 14 shots. There’s a lot of upside at a very low price but also a pretty low floor.
Antonio Blakeney just woke the fans up pic.twitter.com/OhW1uCgRQ1
— Steph Noh (@StephNoh) March 18, 2018
The Knicks inexplicably blew out the Hornets, leading to some wonky minutes and performances last game. Assuming the Bulls can limit the runaway train of success that the Knicks looked like versus the full-quit Hornets squad, a lot of guys who busted last game can have value tonight versus a Bulls team that allows a DVP boost across the board. Tim Hardaway, Michael Beasley, and even Emmanuel Mudiay should all be under consideration given the big point total, as should Kyle O’Quinn. Trey Burke has looked better lately too and the Bulls certainly aren’t going to stop his tendency to chuck. There’s a lot to like on the Knicks in a game I have to think will go down to the wire. If the Bulls can keep up with LeBron but not Tim Hardaway, I’m going to be very confused.
Memphis Grizzlies (102.5 implied points) at Brooklyn Nets (108.5 implied points)
The projected scores present a noteworthy increase for the Grizzlies along with a slight decrease for the Nets. Tyreke Evans didn’t do as well as I thought he might versus Denver but Brooklyn should present a better matchup for him. As of writing this, Marc Gasol missed shootaround and is questionable with an illness. If he’s out, Tyreke looks close to a lock for me due to how he dominates the offense with Gasol off the court. If Gasol plays, Tyreke is a little less appealing but Gasol in the vaunted “Center Vs the Nets” role would look good. Though it is worth noting that the centers who really crush value versus the Nets tend to be high-rebounding rate/putback centers rather than ones who stretch the floor and run the offense like Gasol does. People may flock to Deyonta Davis if Gasol is ruled out but the better play would likely be JaMychal Green, a player who can fill that Center vs the Nets role despite the lack of a center tag. Dillon Brooks and Jarell Martin played well versus Denver, way better than one might have expected, and Brooks has some appeal this game but neither feels terribly secure to me.
Allen Crabbe should be back from his illness and with Memphis allowing threes and increased production on the wings, he may be back in an interesting spot where you can snag him at a lower ownership, though his usage is pretty brutal overall lately. DeMarre Carroll’s has been good lately, though it’s possible his recent upturn is in part due to Crabbe’s illness and absence. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has also played well lately, and is the best-graded Net on Awesemo’s rankings as a result, but may lose his starting spot back to the returning Crabbe. Memphis tends to limit a lot of the stuff he’s great at, namely twos and boards, so it could be a night to jump off the train before it derails. D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, and Spencer Dinwiddie also have played in a mostly equal three-guard rotation over the last few games. LeVert’s usage and price make him the most interesting, Russell has the highest ceiling currently, and Dinwiddie has mostly stunk. Jarrett Allen also logged the most minutes he’s gotten in a month outside of one overtime game in the Nets’ most recent game which is something to note at his price.
Golden State Warriors (98.25 implied points) at San Antonio Spurs (105.25 implied points – ONE AWESEMO SLAM DUNK
The implied totals represent a big decrease on the Warriors’ usual output while the Spurs are flat with their last 10 games. The big question here: Is it time to jump off the Quinn Cook train? Logic says yes now that Cook’s price has worked its way upwards with the Warriors’ recent injuries and since the Spurs are the Spurs, playing a point guard in Dejounte Murray who owns the best Defensive Real Plus-Minus in the league. But the Spurs have allowed increased production to point guards, including big games to Rajon Rondo and Lonzo Ball, over their last 10. Quinn Cook won’t get the peripherals of those guys so there is a logic to fading him. But don’t blindly write him off when he’s played like this:
.@QCook323 was cookin’ again tonight in Phoenix 👨🏽🍳 pic.twitter.com/X23cU7FgCc
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) March 18, 2018
Nick Young is getting Danny Green or Kyle Anderson D and I am not so into that. But Awesemo disagrees, making Nick Young our last Awesemo Slam Dunk for the day:
“The prices of Draymond Green and Quinn Cook have been raised significantly to reflect the absence of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson. Young saw over 40 minutes in their last game and the Warriors are going to need him to play a similar number of minutes tonight with their lack of wing depth. I think based on his current role he should be priced at least 6k on both sites, so 5/5.5k is a steal!”
Draymond’s been the other primary beneficiary of the Warriors’ injuries and he’s had two very good games versus the Spurs this year. Is he able to do the same with the Spurs’ D centered around stopping him? I’m not quite so sold, particularly with his price reaching astronomical points by his standards. Maybe Andre Iguodala finally gets going as the least dangerous offensive cog for the Spurs to worry about?
The new-look Warriors have really only given up a production boost at shooting guard in their last few games, allowing big games to the surging Buddy Hield and the not-even-remotely surging Marquis Daniels along with Josh Jackson’s big performance (he’s a swingman but technically was picking up Devin Booker’s slack). This leads me to think Danny Green is a play yet again with him quietly hitting around 7x in his last two games. Kyle Anderson has historically been summoned into duty to great success versus the Warriors but that’s unlikely to be the case with Kevin Durant sidelined today. I’d look at Patty Mills before thinking Anderson will match the 40 DK point games he’s had versus Golden State earlier this year. LaMarcus Aldridge responded to the plus matchup versus Minnesota with his first good game in a while and, though this Warriors team is more of a down-pace defensive team due to their lack of firepower, Aldridge should be in line for another big game and full workload. And Pau Gasol had his first good game in a while last time but save yourself and avoid him unless there’s news of him returning to the starting lineup. The minutes simply have not been there.
Detroit Pistons (104.5 implied points) at Sacramento Kings (101 implied points)
The totals present a substantial boost on the Pistons’ recent performance and a slight decrease on the Kings’ performance. Andre Drummond has been back to his old form on this West Coast swing and there is zero reason to think he won’t do the same tonight. His price is way higher on FanDuel but on DraftKings it’s hard to see any way Drummond doesn’t get close to a 6x game. Blake Griffin also faces a favorable DVP matchup with the Kings and after both he and Drummond both put up 50 DK points just two games ago versus a much tougher Denver team, I’m in on this unconventional stack again tonight. I’d have some faint interest in Reggie Bullock but the rest of the Pistons stink to varying degrees so unless you think there’s a blowout afoot and want to go to Dwight Buycks and Eric Moreland, I’d stick to the top two.
Vegas tends to underrate the Kings lately, who have been very competent against much tougher opponents within their last few games. But there’s only one real source of production lately and that’s been Vivek Ranadive’s Steph Curry, Buddy Hield. Three straight 40 DK point games in matchups where the Kings have scored both a lot and very little combined with Bogdan Bogdanovic being ruled out make me think Buddy will be one of the most highly owned players on the slate, particularly when coupled with the Pistons’ penchant for letting teams bomb threes. The Pistons have given up increased production to point guards and that may mean a larger than usual opportunity for De’Aaron Fox, who also gets a usage boost with Bogdan sitting. Willie Cauley-Stein hasn’t had a good game in a while but the Pistons have allowed increased productions and usage to the center spot so maybe going head-to-head versus Drummond will stir some sort of improved play, though he’s played slightly worse without Bogdan this year. Skal Labissiere played only 21 minutes versus Utah despite Zach Randolph sitting for rest; he tends to see a few more minutes with lineups shifted when Bogdan is out and he’s an A value on Awesemo’s rankings but there may not be enough upside to justify the risk.
Awesemo’s Slam Dunks of the Day
Starting in Nic Batum’s place, Lamb will be reprising his role from early in the season where he was priced in the 6k’s. He’s under 5k on both sites today, so get him in your lineups.
With Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine out, the Bulls are going to need a high usage player to lead the way tonight. Valentine and Blakeney also fit the bill, but my favorite play tonight on the team tonight is Payne based on the salaries on both sites.
The prices of Draymond Green and Quinn Cook have been raised significantly to reflect the absence of Durant, Curry, and Thompson. Young saw over 40 minutes in their last game and the Warriors are going to need him to play a similar number of minutes tonight with their lack of wing depth. I think based on his current role he should be priced at least 6k on both sites, so 5/5.5k is a steal!
Thanks for reading and make sure to tweet me @ChrisSpags and let me know any feedback or questions. Like I mentioned in the opener, I really did hear from a fair amount of folks this weekend who’ve been improving thanks to my ungodly amount of words along with Awesemo’s picks and data so it’s nice to hear when things work. Good luck out there and see you guys tomorrow!