Fantasy Basketball

Daily Fantasy Basketball Strategy: December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone as we approach the happiest time of the year. Regardless of the shortcomings or misfortunes that plagued us this year, now is a time to relax, enjoy spending time with the family and do what we love doing: playing fantasy basketball.

Typically the NBA likes to reserve marquee matchups for Christmas Day in order to suck viewers in and make sure they stay tuned for a majority of the day. This year, honestly, they didn’t do a particularly great job. None of the games’ spreads are less than six points and the battle of Los Angeles (Lakers/Clippers) comes with a spread of 11 points (in favor of the Clippers, of course).

Still, basketball is a funny game and there’s always a possibility these oddsmakers are wrong and at least a few of these contests turn out to be competitive. This is a perfect slate for you to become your own oddsmaker and try and visualize how games will turn out. If you have an inkling that, say, the Rockets are going to give San Antonio a game at home…then start more Rockets than common knowledge might suggest. The same holds true for any of these games, but I suspect Cleveland/Golden State is going to end up the most highly owned game on the slate (and for good reason considering the game’s over/under currently sits at 212). In my opinion, that game should be the closest of the faster-paced contests on the slate and is why I’ll be stacking at least three to four players from it. So without further ado, here are the (free!) plays I suggest for Dec. 25:

Point Guard

“The Play”: Primarily I’d like to focus on the Cleveland/Golden State game in cash but Chris Paul‘s price still hasn’t risen to where it should be. Paul had struggled early on in the season and was hovering around an uncustomary 16 point, eight assist type average but has now double-doubled in five of his past six ballgames. There’s a chance the Lakers do not put up a fight and this game is over after three quarters but that’s a risk I’m willing to take because Paul scored at least 35 fantasy points in all four meetings last season…he played more than 34.5 minutes just once. On Jan. 1 of last season, he dropped 52 fantasy points (24 points, two rebounds, 11 assists and three steals) in just 31 minutes of action. If this game is going to be a blowout, it’s because the stars show up in a big way and dominate. By the time the starters would be pulled, I think they will have already produced a significant enough amount to satisfy fantasy owners. The pace of this game should be great and, if the Kobe Bryant led Lakers happen to show up, you’re making it rain by having rostered Paul over Stephen Curry or Russell Westbrook because the production could be similar (enough).

Other Options: Naturally the alternatives to CP3 are Curry and Westbrook who both find themselves in excellent matchups. This is a slate to go multi-lineup because it’s difficult to fit two or more guys priced at $10,000-plus without having to use a total nothing scrub. Curry will certainly be a target of mine in tournament lineups as Kyrie Irving is still recovering from fractured knee cap surgery and will be the one attempting to cover him. At the same time, Westbrook makes a lot of sense as well because the Bulls lack a true rim protector (especially without Joakim Noah) and Derrick Rose simply cannot stick with him. In terms of fantasy points scored, I think Curry finishes with the most followed by Westbrook and Paul. In terms of value, I like Paul one with Curry and Westbrook right on his tail but all are certainly in play on the slate so you’ll want to get creative in tournaments.

Patrick Beverley returned from injury on Nov. 25 and since the very next game his floor hasn’t sunk any lower than 17.75 fantasy points. For a guy priced at $4,700, that’s an awfully stable level of production and therefore he makes for a super cash game option. Derrick Rose dropped 43.25 fantasy points on Oklahoma City in the first meeting in 37.5 minutes and I think he’ll be forced to play big minutes yet again as neither Kirk Hinrich nor Aaron Brooks stand a chance in hell at slowing down Westbrook…Rose can’t either but he has the best chance. Otherwise Lou Williams,freshly coming off a dud game, should end up under-owned as people overlook his streak of seven straight games with at least 26.75 fantasy points prior to the flop versus Oklahoma City. Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving can be used as a GPP shot just in case his minutes ramp up (17 minutes in his season debut and 19 minutes on Wednesday) and I think a full-out fade of Goran Dragic is in order as the Pelicans have stepped up defensively versus point guards (PGs) since Jrue Holiday started to play bigger minutes.

Shooting Guard

“The Play”: The Chicago Bulls’ roster carries exactly one consistent player: Jimmy Butler. Aside from Butler, Pau Gasol typically brings it offensively but his defensive game is lacking at times and no one else is even in the conversation. Butler simply brings it every night on both sides of the floor and plays a huge allotment of minutes so his floor sits higher than most. Even in tough matchups, he can average less than a fantasy points per minute but still put up a solid fantasy day due to playing 40-ish minutes. Oklahoma City only allows the 11th fewest fantasy points to the shooting guard position and Butler still managed 26 real points on 8-20 shooting in the first meeting. Westbrook and Kevin Durant will bring the offense and the Bulls offense goes through lulls at times. In other words, the Bulls will have to rely on Butler to provide the offense yet again for extended stretches in order to compete with an offensive juggernaut like Oklahoma City. He’s a virtual lock for 30 fantasy points and is a much better value than paying up for James Harden against the San Antonio Spurs.

Other Options: Harden should prove to be contrarian but I don’t see the need to own many shares. The San Antonio Spurs could stick Leonard on him, and even if they don’t, they rank first in terms of shooting guard efficiency defense. Cleveland’s defense is much improved this season versus the shooting guard (SG) position but Klay Thompson can explode in any given game. He’s a prime tournament-only target as we’ve literally seen him on NBA Jam-esque fire and score 37 points in a quarter. If the Lakers are going to compete, they’re going to need Kobe Bryant to continue shooting at a higher percentage (45 percent or better in four of the last five games). If he does, he should more than justify his mid-tier price tag in the battle of Los Angeles. Manu Ginobili, Jordan Clarkson, J.J. Redick, Tyreke Evans and Dwyane Wade are all viable fill-ins if the salary left over dictates, but all besides Evans are better left for tournaments. Wade draws an excellent matchup against New Orleans but he has scored over 30 fantasy points just three times in the last six… aka not enough consistency to really have any faith.

Small Forward

“The Play”: If there is one player to roster on this whole slate, LeBron James in a game where he is motivated to beat the team the media believes is the best in basketball would be that guy. Again, this game does possess the highest over/under of the slate, so the pace should be quick especially in Oracle Arena (because the fans’ energy could translate to the Golden State players). Mostly, I don’t think James will want to come off the court much because he’ll want to prove his three man show of him, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving can compete with and/or beat any team in the game. James typically plays big minutes, but he should push 40 minutes in this one as they’ll simply need him on the court at all times to compete with one of the deepest teams in the league. Golden State is the eighth ranked team in terms of defensive efficiency but they play at such a fast pace that they’ve allowed a middle-of-the-road total of fantasy points to the position. Regardless of who they put on James, he should be able to contribute to multiple facets of the game and should even push a triple-double. Stacking two stars is ideal but if the punts scare you, James is the one stud you’ll want on your fantasy team.

Other Options: Both Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard are logical alternatives in and around the same price range. Durant scored 52 fantasy points against the Bulls earlier this season and they still have no one that matches up particularly well against him. Leonard, as always, looks like a fantastic cash game option due to his supreme consistency. He rarely ever dips below 35 fantasy points and costs $1,600 less than James and Durant each. Don’t even mess around with Trevor Ariza versus Leonard… he’s the league’s top defender by far. Due to the drafting of Justise WinslowLuol Deng‘s fantasy value seemed destined for a steep decline but has made a rebound recently as he is consistently playing around 35 minutes once again and has scored at least 23 fantasy points in four of his last six games (with 17.50 fantasy points being the floor). He’s not exciting but the New Orleans Pelicans allow the second most points per game of any team so there’s room for additional production. Otherwise the options are shot in the dark guys such as Andre Iguodala, Tony Snell, Doug McDermott, Lance Stephensonetc. Of the bunch, I like Iguodala one and then McDermott as the Bulls very easily could get blown out of the gym, leading to backups playing extended minutes.

Power Forward

“The Play”: In a perfect world, starting Anthony Davis along with other studs would be fantastic, but in a world with a salary cap it is flat impossible. Therefore, we’ll have to dip slightly lower in terms of price and, oh hey, LaMarcus Aldridge draws an elite matchup. The Houston Rockets allow the most fantasy points to the power forward (PF) position and rank last in terms of defensive efficiency. Considering the Rockets play at the sixth quickest pace, it isn’t a surprise to see them at the bottom of fantasy points totem pole with an efficiency rating so poor. Aldridge has been a frustrating player to own this season because his role in the offense is extremely toned down from last season. Portland played at the 12th fastest pace last season and Aldridge’s usage percentage sat at 30.2 percent. This season, the Spurs play the fifth slowest brand of basketball and Aldridge’s usage rate has fallen all the way to 25.6 percent so naturally there has been a production drop-off. Christmas Day is not the team to fear that trend because his price has stabilized around his new production recently and he has produced at least 30.75 fantasy points in two of the last three games. Against Clint Capela, Terrence Jones and co., Aldridge should have no issues eclipsing that total yet again and providing around five times value on a short slate. With a bit of volatility, he could be in for a monster game at a discounted cost to the top options.

Other Options: Davis is viable in all formats and I actually have him projected for the highest overall point total on the slate but his inability to stay healthy for a full game is scary. Therefore, he’s an elite tournament target as per-usual. Who on the Lakers is going to stop Blake Griffin? No one; the answer is no one. If looking for a value, how about Bobby Portis who suddenly is viable even in cash games with Joakim Noah out at least two weeks. Coach Fred Hoiberg has vocalized his intent to allot Portis extended minutes prior to the Noah injury and now Portis is destined to play. He’s a beast on per-minute basis (45.90 fantasy points per-36 minutes in his limited sample) and could double-double in 20 minutes of action…sort of similar to Enes Kanter. At just $3,300, he’s a prime start in order to fit the studs. Otherwise, Kevin Love, Serge Ibaka, Ryan Anderson and Chris Bosh could all pop but I only like Bosh for cash out of the bunch. Otherwise, they’re nothing more than tournament options to mix and match with some of the elite plays.

Center

“The Play”: You know who is probably the most under-appreciated player in daily fantasy basketball? DeAndre Jordan. Just because he doesn’t score many real points, he seems to get overlooked and end up with lower ownership percentages than he should on a nightly basis. The last time Jordan failed 10 rebounds (aside from his Dec. 16 ejection), the Beatles were atop the musical charts. Sidenote: they’re now on spotify which kicks serious ass. Okay anyways, so that was obviously an over exaggeration but Nov. 29 was the exact date of the last time he registered a single-digit rebound total in a game he was not ejected from. That’s a string of 12 consecutive full games and is not an anomaly for Jordan. Furthermore, the Lakers rank dead last in defensive efficiency and allow the fourth most fantasy points to the center position. Even if the game gets out of hand early, it’ll likely be due to the Clippers dominating the boards, leading to fast breaks. Jordan has been known to have those six point, eight rebound quarters before and should easily end up with a double-double. Even with Hassan Whiteside‘s minutes trending in the right direction, I prefer Jordan for $400 cheaper, especially in cash games.

Other Options: Speaking of Hassan Whiteside‘s minutes, they’ve been trending in the right direction and he’ll square off against maybe the best matchup a center could ask for: New Orleans. They rank 30th in terms of fantasy points allowed so, as opposed to other positions, Jordan and Whiteside are somewhat of a toss-up for the top spot. In fact, I could be convinced rather easily in using Whiteside over Jordan if I had the leftover $400. Also, for a guy averaging a nearly 16 and 11 double-double, Pau Gasol‘s price of $7,600 is pretty reasonable. He put together a near bare minimum double-double in 32 minutes versus Oklahoma City earlier this season and that’s probably a good barometer of what’s coming yet again. Andrew Bogut seems poised to play more minutes than usual against Timofey Mozgov and same goes for Tim Duncan against Dwight Howard. I actually love Bogut as a salary saving option as he tends to push 25 minutes in competitive game and Bogut averages 1.125 fantasy points per minute. Want to go against the grain? I think Dwight Howard possesses plenty of upside even against San Antonio and many will be off of him. This could be a good time to buy as he, like Lou Williams, just burned fantasy owners his last time out.

Good luck and Merry Christmas! Grind on…

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