Daily Fantasy Basketball Strategy: December 26, 2015
After an off day Thursday and a five-game Christmas Day slate, the NBA returns in full force with 13 games Saturday. The two early matchups won’t be included in DraftKings’ big tournaments, so they won’t be included in my picks here despite the fact that those games provide some top-notch DFS plays. Let’s take a look at the Vegas lines for Saturday.
Vegas lines and totals
Houston @ New Orleans (-1.5) – total of 211.5
Memphis @ Charlotte (-3) – total of 194.5
Miami @ Orlando (-3.5) – total of 190.5
Boston @ Detroit (-1) – total of 204.5
New York @ Atlanta (-7.5) – total of 201.5
Indiana (-4.5) @ Minnesota – total of 206.5
Chicago @ Dallas (-3.5) – total of 201.5
Denver @ San Antonio (-14) – total of 194.5
Philadelphia @ Phoenix (-12) – total of 204
Los Angeles Clippers @ Utah (PK) – total of 195.5
Cleveland (-7) @ Portland – total of 197
Rockets and Pelicans should be a fun game filled with lots of offense and terrible, terrible defense. A game only a DFS player could love, if you may. Chicago-Dallas is another nice-looking fantasy matchup with a few others over 200. Overall, though, this slate is lacking firepower for the amount of games it provides. With that in mind, let’s see who the top picks of the day are.
Chris Paul ($8,700) – Chris Paul is finally playing like, well, Chris Paul. He’s scored at least 43.75 fantasy points in five straight games, which easily hits his value at his price, which is unlikely to be under $9,000 next time he’s available. Paul’s matchup against a Jazz team that struggles to cover opposing point guards only adds intrigue to this pick.
J.J. Barea ($4,300) – This pick assumes Deron Williams misses Saturday’s game. Most players don’t return five days after hearing a “pop” in their hamstring, let alone the injury-prone Williams. Barea topped 50 fantasy points in his start Wednesday against the Nets, and while the Bulls certainly aren’t as bad as Brooklyn defensively, Barea’s price is still far too low for what he brings to the table. Assuming he sees minutes in the mid-30s again, he should drop at least 30 points in what projects as a high-scoring game.
Cheap risk option: The 76ers haven’t really provided great fantasy options of late, but Isaiah Canaan ($4,000) could be an exception to that Saturday. While the Suns are projected to blow out the Sixers, they aren’t a good team themselves and might actually allow Philadelphia to stay in the game until the middle of the fourth quarter. What an accomplishment. If that’s the case, Phoenix’s porous backcourt defense could result in a nice night from beyond the arc for Canaan.
James Harden ($10,400) – Harden turned it on in the second half of Friday’s win over the Spurs, and for an encore he goes from the league’s best scoring defense to its second-worst. He’s been good on the second half of back-to-backs this season too, and he’s scored 70.75 and 51.25 fantasy points in his last two such games. He’s not the only star in a great spot in this game, either.
Jimmy Butler ($7,500) – After Harden, shooting guard is a tough spot to fill Saturday night. Butler is always a reliable source of 30-plus points, a mark he’s dipped below just twice in his past 11 games. Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol may take a slight backseat on the second night of a back-to-back, and Butler’s matchup with Raymond Felton is far from scary. You’re going to want to lock in a solid score at SG if you can’t afford Harden, and Butler may be one of the few chances to do that.
Cheap risk option: I really don’t think much of the SG position Saturday night with some of the elite Christmas Day teams off the board, but Kyle Korver ($4,200) is a player whose never highly owned with some potential. Korver can get hot at any moment and while the Knicks haven’t been as bad against shooting guards or three-point shooters as they were last season, Korver has 23.75 or more fantasy points in four of his past five games with a 30-pointer mixed in as well. He’s worth a flier Saturday.
Tobias Harris ($6,500) – I’m 1-1 in my last two Harris recommendations, as he hit for 32 fantasy points against Houston after falling flat for 20 the prior time against Atlanta. Well, here we are again, as Harris gets a Miami defense that is very solid everywhere except at small forward. Luol Deng isn’t what he used to be after Tom Thibodeau ran him into the ground, and Harris should take on more offensive responsibility with Nikola Vucevic dealing with Hassan Whiteside.
Matt Barnes ($5,800) – Much like the shooting guard position, small forward is devoid of obvious options Saturday. I’m trying to pay up at other positions, which leaves the mid-tier open at SF. I’ve been playing Barnes heavily of late and it finally burned me Wednesday against Washington, as he scored just 10.25 fantasy points in 23 points against the Wizards. He gets a matchup with fellow stretch-four Marvin Williams and the Hornets, who have bled fantasy points to power forwards of late. Barnes still has at least 32.75 fantasy points in four of his past six, and I’m willing to go back to the well one more time here while others are probably jumping ship.
Cheap risk option: Small forward is just a batch of players I’m comfortable with from previous recommedations, if we’re being honest, and Stanley Johnson ($3,700) is the cheap guy I’m looking to play in GPPs. He has at least 24.5 fantasy points in two of his past three and gets a good matchup against the Celtics weak wing defense. Johnson can get minutes a few different ways, making him a nice potential boom under $4,000. Just be ready for the bust, too.
Anthony Davis ($10,200) – Saturday’s high-scoring matchup between the Pelicans and the Rockets is going to have some fireworks between James Harden and Davis. Neither team defend the other’s position well at all, and Davis has been playing at an extremely high level of late. His price has also dropped about $600 due to his prior struggles, making this a rare opportunity to get Brow’s 70-point upside for significantly less than $11,000.
Taj Gibson ($4,900) – Gibson has seen minutes in the low-to-mid-30s since Joakim Noah got hurt, and he’s responded with two straight strong performances. Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks are absolutely hideous when it comes to defending power forwards, although not quite as bad as Houston, so this is a prime spot for another 30-plus points from Gibson unless Fred Hoiberg does something to his minutes, which seems unlikely after he helped key a road win in Oklahoma City.
Cheap risk option: Sticking with value in Chicago, Bobby Portis ($3,500) has finally gotten an opportunity to put his insane fantasy potential on display. His per-minute numbers are comparable to players who cost more than double his salary, and while he’s unlikely to exceed 20 minutes Saturday, that’s more than enough for him to clear the 20-point plateau. I’m even considering him in cash games until his price gets into the $4,000s.
Marc Gasol ($7,300) – Al Jefferson will come off the bench in his return, so Charlotte’s interior defense will remain status quo for at least another game (read: poor), not that the sometimes-apathetic Jefferson would make a huge difference anyway. Gasol’s across-the-board contributions from the center position give him a solid floor on most night, and he should be able to meet value in a favorable matchup Saturday.
Karl-Anthony Towns ($6,900) – Towns’ only two busts over the past 12 days were against the Spurs, who he still double-doubled against, and usage hog DeMarcus Cousins. The Pacers have neither an elite interior defense or a big that demands touches and draws foul, leaving the door open for Towns to bust right through it. Expect points in the mid-to-high-30s from Towns on Saturday.
Cheap risk option: I never thought I’d find myself in this position, especially as a Dwight Powell owner in my dynasty league, but it’s time to show JaVale McGee ($3,100) a little love. Always tantalizing on a per-minute basis, McGee played 18 and 17 minutes in his past two games that weren’t on the second night of a back-to-back set. With similar minutes Saturday in a good matchup with the Bulls, he could push for 20 fantasy points at near-minimum price.
Cash Game Ranks
This isn’t necessarily an order of who will score the most DraftKings points. Rather, the rankings are aimed to find the best price, value and production combo to help you win cash games, also taking into account potential ownership levels for each player.
As always, follow me @christripodi for updates to these picks as news breaks throughout the day, although I won’t be around in the hour before 7 p.m. lock. Stay locked to Twitter and Rotoworld for updates closer to game time.