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Daily Fantasy Basketball Strategy: February 4, 2016

We’re trading big slates for small slates every night now that the NBA is planning around Super Bowl Sunday and heading into the All-Star break, meaning there are just four games Thursday after a jam-packed 11-gamer Wednesday. Let’s take a look at what Vegas thinks about the slate before getting into the top plays for action on FantasyDraft.com. If you haven’t already signed up at FantasyDraft, sign up through our referral link to receive one month of Front Office content. For more information about FantasyDraft, check out this informative article by Seth Klein as to what makes FantasyDraft such a great spot to play DFS at.

Vegas lines and totals

New York @ Detroit (-4.5) – total of 202.5
L.A. Lakers @ New Orleans (-10.5) – total of 209.5
Toronto (-1) @ Portland – total of 204
Houston (-7.5) @ Phoenix – total of 214

Lakers-Pelicans and Rockets-Suns are the obvious games to target, with the latter being a bit more appealing thanks to a lower spread and a higher total. I don’t expect the former to be over after three quarters either, despite the hefty spread, so a full game from somebody like Anthony Davis should be in the cards, barring his usual in-game injury. Knicks-Pistons and Raptors-Blazers profile as the tighter games of the night but also the lower-scoring ones, and I’m generally focused on the first two for fantasy value tonight, as those are the teams with bigger defensive holes. Here’s a refresher on the FantasyDraft scoring system.

Point = +1 PT
Made 3pt. shot = +0.5 PTs
Rebound = +1.25 PTs
Assist = +1.5 PTs
Steal = +2 PTs
Block = +2 PTs
Turnover = -0.5 PTs
Double-Double = +1.5PTs (MAX 1 PER PLAYER: Points, Rebounds, Assists, Blocks, Steals)
Triple-Double = +3PTs (MAX 1 PER PLAYER: Points, Rebounds, Assists, Blocks, Steals)

Now, for the top options and values at each position:

GUARD
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James Harden ($19,200) – Harden is an easy play tonight against the Suns, as he’s been cruising along lately regardless of whether Dwight Howard plays. Howard is due back tonight, but Phoenix’s perimeter defense is a disaster despite having a burgeoning young on-ball stud in Devin Booker and Harden is averaging 30.8 points per game in his last five, along with 8.4 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals.

Damian Lillard ($15,800) – Lillard isn’t anywhere near Harden’s level Thursday night with a matchup against Kyle Lowry and the Raptors, but his success in Portland this season can’t be overlooked. Lillard averages an extra 0.7 points, 1.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists per game and 0.9 threes per game at home this year, and the Raptors have actually been allowing tons of fantasy points to opposing PGs over the past few weeks. If you can fit Lillard into a lineup with Harden and Brow, it may be worth a look.

Reggie Jackson ($12,000) – Jackson is in a similar boat to Lillard as far as performing better at home this year, but he also has a favorable matchup with the Knicks. Jackson hasn’t been on top of his game lately, averaging just 16 points and five assists in his past four games, so there’s risk here even with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope set to miss the game, locking Jackson’s minutes in further assuming Brandon Jennings sees a few of his minutes alongside him.

Devin Booker ($11,100) – That burgeoning young stud I mentioned earlier? Yea, he’s a nice play Thursday too. Harden isn’t exactly known for his defense and Booker, along with Markieff Morris, should be the focal points of the Suns offense until the latter is traded, if he is. Booker went for 27 points and five rebounds with six threes in his first game under new coach Earl Watson, and another big scoring night wouldn’t surprise.

Norris Cole ($10,700) – Picking on the Lakers in DFS is a fun exercise, especially in the backcourt. Jrue Holiday‘s price tag is over $2,000 higher, but he and Cole have put up similar production of late thanks to Cole hanging onto the starting role. Holiday has been the more popular DFS play more often than not, but I don’t think that’s wise anymore, as his price seems to have settled in while Cole’s might be a little low. I’ll take the sure minutes in the starting role, as well, but Holiday is in play in GPPs.

Patrick Beverley ($9,300) – Patrick Beverley has been playing good ball in the six games since he returned from injury, averaging 10.8 points, 4.8 boards, 3.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.0 threes per games, providing nice all-around value despite a lack of scoring. He’s even been producing nicely during Harden’s big games as well, which hasn’t always been the case in the past, and I’d confidently roll Beverley out as a nice way to save a few dollars Thursday.

Cheap risk option(s): As long as Tyreke Evans misses another game with his ongoing knee issue, Bryce Dejean-Jones ($8,000) is a viable cheap play at the guard spot. He’s only averaging 9.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game, but those numbers do plenty to pay off his value and a matchup with the Lakers means he should be able to hit those averages, particularly the scoring and defense. Cory Joseph ($8,100) and Brandon Jennings ($7,800) are also possibilities under the $9,000 threshold, as Joseph could see a few extra minutes on the wing if James Johnson sits and Jennings could see more time next to Reggie Jackson with Caldwell-Pope out.

FORWARD/CENTER

Anthony Davis ($17,900) – Thursday is a double-stud night, with both of the players with salaries over $17,500 representing excellent value for their price. The upside in Davis tonight in undeniable against the Lakers, as Julius Randle isn’t exactly a defensive stalwart capable of handling Davis at power forward. When he plays center alongside Ryan Anderson, it’s even more difficult to envision Roy Hibbert guarding him. The Brow is always risky in cash settings because of his propensity for injury, but he’ll be owned at a high enough rate Thursday to mitigate some of that risk. And if he plays the whole game, it may be tough to win without playing both Davis and Harden.

Dwight Howard ($13,200) – Like Lillard, Howard isn’t much in comparison to Davis, even from a dollar-for-dollar standpoint, but he could be in for a good night against the Suns, assuming he keeps his cool and avoids another ejection. This game projects to be very fast-paced with Harden leading the way, which leads to many shot attempts. More shots equals more rebounding opportunities and extra chances for blocks, in addition to Howard’s normal usage, which makes him a solid play Thursday.

Trevor Ariza ($11,100) – Since scoring 60 points in a two-game stretch, Ariza has predictably slowed down, averaging 10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals in his last four games. Thursday’s matchup with the Suns should fit his style, however, and the Rockets’ propensity for small ball of late seems to have helped Ariza reach his potential as a stretch 4. Phoenix will likely start Markieff Morris again at power forward, meaning Ariza should see plenty of minutes with the Suns avoiding the twin tower look of Alex Len and Tyson Chandler in a high-octane game.

Markieff Morris ($10,500) – Speaking of Morris, how much did he hate Jeff Hornacek? His 30-point, 11-rebound, six-assist performance in 41 minutes Tuesday against one of the better defenses in the NBA was extremely impressive and reminded everybody of Morris’ potential when he actually cares. The Rockets have been better against PFs since moving to their smaller lineup, but they still are one of the worst overall defenses against the position and small ball plays into Morris’ hands. He’ll be popular, but possibly necessary to place in cash games.

P.J. Tucker ($9,800) – Another Sun whose minutes are locked in, T.J. Warren‘s injury has further solidified Tucker’s high-minute role, especially since he’s a trade candidate like Morris. Phoenix will want to showcase both players along with Booker, and while Tucker is never a high-usage player, he usually hits value when he sees 35-plus minutes, like he has in four straight games and five of his past six.

Stanley Johnson ($8,300) – With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out due to injury, Johnson is the likely candidate to step into the starting lineup against the Knicks, especially since New York plays Arron Afflalo at the 2 and Afflalo likes to play in the post, meaning a Reggie JacksonBrandon Jennings combination would be way too small. Johnson has been trending up lately even in a bench role, and a chance to play with the ones should guarantee him 30 minutes of court time. His usage rate may drop a bit, but he’s still an excellent value Thursday night.

Cheap risk option(s): Houston’s small-ball lineup has also benefited Corey Brewer ($7,800), although he’s still in the habit of alternating good and bad games. His last game was good (10 points, four rebounds, two steals, two blocks) and he’s still a solid cheap option if you’re willing to risk him putting up a stinker. He’ll never have a play drawn up for him in the starting lineup, but this game could see him get a few good transition opportunities. Moving back to the Pelicans, Omer Asik ($7,000) has improved of late, although he’ll still never be worth his contract. He plays better when Davis sits but with averages of six points, 10 boards and a block over his past three, all of which Davis played in, Asik has a good chance to meet his price tag tonight against the Lakers.

CASH GAME RANKS

This isn’t necessarily an order of who will score the most fantasy 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.

GUARD
1) Norris Cole
2) James Harden
3) Patrick Beverley
4) Bryce Dejean-Jones
5) Devin Booker
6) Reggie Jackson
7) Damian Lillard
8) Jrue Holiday
9) Jose Calderon/Langston Galloway
10) DeMar DeRozan

FORWARD/CENTER
1) Markieff Morris
2) Anthony Davis
3) Trevor Ariza
4) Omer Asik
5) Stanley Johnson
6) P.J. Tucker
7) Dwight Howard
8) Corey Brewer
9) Andre Drummond
10) Mason Plumlee

As always, I’ll do my best to update this article as news breaks throughout the day if at possible and before the first game starts at 7 p.m., so follow me on Twitter @christripodi for last-minute updates and suggestions.

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