Tonight is one of my favorite slates in a long time. First of all it’s a Thursday, which is typically a slow day, but yet there are six games to choose from. Secondly, there is one game that stands out well beyond the bothers: Kings at Pelicans. Right now the over/under of that game sits at 216.5 with the Kings only favored by 2.5, so there is going to be plenty of scoring and the game should remain close. You’re damn right the focus for today will be on that game with a sprinkle of the others. Without further ado, let’s get to grinding…
“The Play”: One player in and we already are focusing on the game of the night for DFS purposes. Eric Gordon will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a broken hand and Tyreke Evans is listed as questionable. Even if Evans plays, the team says he will be on a minutes limit due to his troublesome right knee. Without Evans or Gordon on the floor Jrue Holiday averages 1.23 fantasy points per minute versus 1.05 with both of them. His usage rate also increases 27.7 percent from an initial 25.9. Regardless if Evans suits up or not, I love the prospects for Holiday as the Pelicans will also likely be without their top scorer in Anthony Davis. At times when Davis nor Evans are on the floor, Holiday is a 1.31 fantasy points per minute producer aka nearing the elite range. In a game with the expected quickest pace of the night, you’re leaving points on the table if you fade Holiday.
Other Options: Holiday is not the only Pelicans point guard (PG) that interests me. Norris Cole typically draws the start and should play around 30 minutes. His price has been on the rise lately so he’s the bottom priority of the three. I actually think I prefer Toney Douglas who has played at least 23 minutes in each of the last two games, posted at least 29.25 fantasy points in each and is priced at $3,600. He’s better suited for tournaments but I can deal with him in cash games as well if you want to fit a stud or two tonight (and there’s a few that you will want to fit). Otherwise, Kyle Lowry is listed as questionable against the Knicks. Over the past two seasons, Lowry has produced at least 45.5 fantasy points in each of his three meetings against the Knicks. If he cannot go, Cory Joseph would emerge as the value play of the night. Jeff Teague finally played down the stretched yesterday and still sits at a reasonable price. Both Kobe Bryant and Lou Williams are questionable so D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson would certainly gain a ton of value if one or both of them sat. Last but not least, you have to consider Rajon Rondo in a track meet against the Pelicans though I think he’s a better GPP play. Late Breaking News: Jose Calderon is questionable tonight so Jerian Grant would emerge as a value play if he were to sit.
“The Play”: Assuming value emerges tonight, and there are a handful of important players listed as questionable, I would love to figure out a way to fit Jimmy Butler in my lineup with all the other expensive pieces I’ll be spending on. The Lakers allow the most fantasy points to both opposing PGs and shooting guards (SGs) so the matchup literally could not be better. Typically a Lakers/Bulls matchup is an assumed blowout but the current line only sits at 7.5 in favor of Chicago. This is because the Lakers allow 101.9 points at home and score 95.2 points (-6.7 point average margin) versus 109.7 points allowed to 97.1 points scored on the road (-12.6 point average margin). Butler leads the league in minutes so he should have plenty of opportunity to torch the Lakers. The only thing I would say is watch for late line movement if Bryant or Williams sit out because the line could increase to around 13 which would make the play slightly less desirable (but still viable nonetheless).
Other Options: Shooting guard is ugly tonight other than Butler. Khris Middleton is on quite a roll having scored at least 31.50 fantasy points in eight consecutive games but he’ll face a slow-paced Memphis Grizzlies team tonight and Tony Allen (one of the best defenders in the game) is expected to play. Allen will likely cover Middleton all night which makes this an extremely difficult matchup for him but not one that is impossible. I like him best for tournaments and the same goes for DeMar DeRozan. The Knicks are a slightly above average defense against opposing SGs but DeRozan is priced just $800 less than Butler on DraftKings so I’d like to find the money to spend up if at all possible. Unless Carmelo Anthony sits (Arron Afflalo would gain value), I do not really say much else besides maybe Gary Harris or Will Barton against a Washington that struggles against opposing wings. I would probably prefer Harris of the two for the cheaper price tag.
“The Play”: Sure Barton and Harris are viable but Danilo Gallinari is the Nugget of choice tonight for me. Gallinari is enjoying the best season of his career and it’s not even like he’s all of a sudden playing a ton more minutes than he ever had; he averaged nearly the same minutes per game (MPG) in 2010-11. He is just an improved player because his per-minute averages have improved as well and he is averaging 32.38 fantasy points per game (FPPG). This month Gallinari has taken his game to an even higher level as he is averaging 23.3 points and five rebounds in January. While Gallinari’s minutes are typically down on back-to-backs (31.8 MPG), the matchup mitigates the concern. The Wizards allow the second most fantasy points to opposing small forwards (SFs) but it’s not like Otto Porter Jr. is a bad defender. Washington is simply the fifth fastest-paced team which awards plenty of opportunities to opposing players to produce. To me, this is an $8,000 player currently priced at $7,000 in one of the best possible matchups so he is one of my favorite overall options on the board tonight.
Other Options: Similarly to the SG position tonight, there isn’t exactly a plethora of admirable options at SF tonight either. Paul George should approach 40 fantasy points but other options priced similarly or slightly above are much better comparatively. While Carmelo Anthony traveled with the team, he is still listed as questionable. He can go off in any matchup but the Toronto Raptors play at the fifth slowest pace and allow the fifth fewest fantasy points to opposing SFs. Actually Omri Casspi is somewhat intriguing to me because I do not think DeMarcus Cousins nor Willie Cauley-Stein will be able to keep track of Ryan Anderson (likely starting for Anthony Davis). He’ll have to play extended minutes just to shadow the elite opposing shooter. Alonzo Gee had a big game earlier this week but he’s a punt option only. Kent Bazemore and Giannis Antetokounmpo are alive and well but not sure they are DFS options for tonight (just thought I’d acknowledge their existence).
“The Play”: Drum roll please…the guy you absolute 100-percent cannot fade tonight is…you guessed it: DeMarcus Cousins. While you can fade anyone you want in tournaments, this just seems like a night where if you choose to not use Cousins, you will be going home a loser. In his last six meetings against the Pelicans dating back to Mar. 31, 2014, Cousins has dropped at least 51.5 fantasy points in each game. This season the Pelicans are allowing the most fantasy points to opposing centers (Cs) of any team. Even if you consider Cousins a power forward (PF) at this point because he starts next to Cauley-Stein, the Pelicans will be without their best help defender in Davis. To reiterate, this game is projected at 216.5 points and is likely to remain close. Fade Cousins at your own risk because I think he could have a 50 fantasy point floor tonight. Yes, I said floor.
Other Options: The Indiana Pacers, who do not really possess a true PF on their roster, somehow defend the position well as they rank seventh in defensive efficiency against the position. Paul Millsap coming off a big game last night will get a chance to tee off against them and I think he’s a cash play only. The hashtag “#FreeBobbyPortis” may come to life tonight as Nikola Mirotic will be out until the All-Star Break and Joakim Noah is already essentially done for the season. Minutes basically have to open up for Portis by default which is a good thing against a fantasy-friendly Lakers team. He’s my preferred punt in tournaments and actually could be cash viable but it’s a bit risky. The other must-play at PF tonight is Ryan Anderson as I think you need to fit both him and Cousins. Anderson averages 16.6 shots in games without Davis versus just over 13 during games in which Davis plays. He also kicks up his FPPG from 28.1 to 29.9. I wouldn’t worry about Cauley-Stein as a defender because he will have issues stepping out on Anderson. Vegas projected the Pelicans to score 106 points so if they are going to get there then the league’s leading bench scorer is going to have to deliver. When I eluded to stacking the hell out of this game, I truly meant it.
“The Play”: Myles Turner still remains too cheap. Despite Ian Mahinmi returning (and double-doubling) last game, Turner still played 18 effective minutes off the bench en route to 25 fantasy points. The Hawks are coming off a back-to-back so they may play their starters slightly less than usual so Indiana may choose to turn to their bench rather quickly as well. While I’d love a high-priced stud at the position, there’s simply no way to do it with higher priority studs already having been rostered at other positions. I think Turner is simply a better player than Mahinmi so he will end up passing him eventually. I’m guessing he reaches 20 minutes tonight so if he can produce at his usual potent pace, he should be able to reach value.
Other Options: If getting cute and fading one of the aforementioned studs, Pau Gasol faces a Lakers team that allows the second most fantasy points to Cs but his price has ballooned all the way to $8,700. Willie Cauley-Stein is still cheap at $5,100 but I’m afraid the matchup does not fit his skill set and he may not play 30 minutes because Casspi will have to guard Anderson and the Pelicans will play a lot of smaller lineups. Greg Monroe, Al Horford and Marcin Gortat are all viable but good luck fitting them alongside Cousins.
Good tuck tonight.