Basketball Picks Daily Fantasy Expert Advice
Daily Fantasy NBA Basketball Picks for FanDuel and DraftKings - 12/29/16
Well, it's that weird time between Christmas and New Years where you're working off your holiday dessert calories and preparing for your New Year's Eve alcohol calories, so what better time than to fire up a small Thursday NBA slate? No better time, says I. As of this writing both FanDuel and DraftKings basketball lineups are looking phenomenal, so hopefully this will be a good mood article. Those are the best kind. I love you guys. Really, I do.
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Deron Williams FD - $6400 DK - $5900
Opponent - LAL
Proj Pts FD - 31.12 DK - 33.41
Williams had averaged 5x+ points per dollar over his prior 8 games before last game's stinker, and that was of course strictly due to the game getting out of hand. His usage has been excellent as well, averaging 17 shots per game in the 4 games leading up to the last game. With Dirk still relegated to 15-17 minutes per game, it's hard to imagine that changing against the Lakers. The Lakers have allowed Showtime performances (if you know what I mean) to opposing point guards all season, allowing the 6th most fantasy points per game to them. On a relatively shallow slate (and a rough slate for the position), I expect Williams to be a unanimous cash game play unless some big news comes out.
Shelvin Mack FD - $4000 DK - $4400
Opponent - PHI
Proj Pts FD - 22.66 DK - 24.82
After Williams, things get a little bit dicier. When things are questionable at a position, I like to try and escape it cheaply. Enter Shelvin Mack. Utah's back-up point guard has been playing a 33-34 minute rotation with George Hill on the sideline, and as of now, there is no word that he is returning. The report from Wednesday morning was that Hill might give it a shot, and if he does, Mack's value plummets completely - but if he's out, Mack has a great spot against the sub-par Philly back court.
Russell Westbrook FD - $12500 DK - $12700
Opponent - MEM
Proj Pts FD - 59.08 DK - 62.84
Something tells me a lot of people are going to play Russell Westbrook tonight, and it's hard to blame them. The thundering triple-double machine has put up 59+ fantasy points in each of his last 6 games, and when the position is shallow, he typically feels like an excellent way to just set it and forget it. There are just a couple of problems, though. Memphis has allowed the 7th fewest fantasy points to opposing point guards this season, and there's a decent chance Westbrook gets the Tony Allen treatment in this game. That doesn't mean as much as it used to, but frankly Memphis' PACE (3rd slowest in the league) just continues to complicate things. We're not calculating optimal lineups just yet, but as crazy as it sounds, Westbrook might wind up on the outside looking in. Or he might be an every lineup guy. We'll have to check back in and see if any cheap plays come around.
If Mike Conley sits, Andrew Harrison looks like a terrific play. He nearly played every minute of the game on Tuesday, and given their lack of ball handlers, I'd guess he'd be in line for the same treatment here.
DeMar DeRozan FD - $8400 DK - $8300
Opponent - PHO
Proj Pts FD - 42.21 DK - 43.98
If you think DeRozan and the Raptors won't be out for blood after last night's bludgeoning at the hands of the Warriors, I've got a bridge to sell you. DeRozan is one of those not-quite-superstar guy that can occasionally struggle to support his lofty price in some match-ups, but this ain't one of them. The Suns play the 2nd fastest pace in the league, and the extra possessions alone would be enough to cover the difference on the slight premium you pay on DeRozan. Throw in the fact that they are a bottom 8 shooting guard defense, and you've got an every line-up cash game guy on your hands.
Wesley Matthews FD - $5500 DK - $5700
Opponent - LAL
Proj Pts FD - 26.37 DK - 28.86
There's going to be a lot of juicy value coming from the Mavs tonight, and as I write that, I realize it might be the first and last time I'll ever do so. I'm normally not so cavalier in recommending Wes Matthews, but the combination of this being a tough slate in general and the excellent match-up here has me sold. Matthews was actually decent in reduced minutes against the Rockets, and there's no reason to believe he won't go right back up to his 37+ minute rotation in a fantastic spot against the Lakers. Vegas likes this game to be relatively close, and the Lakers' bottom 5 shooting guard defense is really all you need to put Matthews in the elite play category.
Josh Richardson FD - $4400 DK - $5000
Opponent - CHA
Proj Pts FD - 24.29 DK - 25.82
This play loses considerable luster if Dragic returns to action, and as of this writing, it looks like he might. I still think you could do worse than Richardson, though, simply on account of his high minute totals. It's not easy to find a dude who plays mid-high 30s minutes per game on salaries like these, and while he can absolutely disappear from time to time, 5x points per dollar is completely within the realm of possibility here. I'd prefer the above guy for cash games if Dragic returned, but would give him a long hard look if Dragic sat again.
Harrison Barnes FD - $6300 DK - $6800
Opponent - LAL
Proj Pts FD - 34.87 DK - 36.54
More Dallas guys, if you please. Barnes was a significantly more interesting fantasy player when D-Will and Dirk were both shelved, but this current version of him is plenty suitable when the match-up is right. And that's exactly the case against the Lakers here. He'll be seeing a lot of Brandon Ingram in this one, and the youngster just hasn't gotten it done on the defensive end this season - the Lakers have allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing small forwards. It's hard to imagine Barnes being anything less than the highest owned small forward tonight.
Justise Winslow FD - $5100 DK - $5600
Opponent - CHA
Proj Pts FD - 29.95 DK - 31.56
Like Richardson, this play goes from good to great if Dragic winds up sitting. And like Richardson, the play loses some of its appeal if Dragic returns. The nice thing about Winslow is that he chips in across multiple categories. That's a good thing, because in spite of his increased number of shots this season, he's still a pretty horrific offensive player. What really sells this play is the match-up. Charlotte has been sneakily horrible against small forwards all season, allowing the 5th most fantasy points to them in spite of playing a league average pace. Winslow looks like a very high floor, if limited ceiling play.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist FD - $4700 DK - $4800
Opponent - MIA
Proj Pts FD - 26.99 DK - 28.06
Now I'm not thrilled to play guys against the Heat in most circumstances, but DFS is often times about finding the exceptions to the rule. I think this might be one of them. MKG has only recently slotted into a 30+ minute rotation, and his price simply hasn't caught up quite yet. He lost minutes in a blowout of the Magic last night and still managed 5x+ points per dollar. He gets by on excellent across-the-board contributions to make up for his lack of scoring, which tends to give him a very high floor on these prices. The Heat have been basically a league average match-up for opposing threes this season, and while that should get a bit worse with Winslow operating at full capacity, it's far from a disaster.
It wouldn't surprise me if LeBron wound up in optimal line-ups tomorrow. The game has a high total, and while the Celtics have some reasonable wing defenders, it's just going to be tough to spend all your money. I'd be fine rolling him out there even if it isn't the most interesting play.
Power forward is laughably bad tonight, which I guess is nothing new. I've stared at this position for 20 minutes and have barely put together any recommendations, so please hold your nose while I do my best.
Kevin Love FD - $8300 DK - $8200
Opponent - BOS
Proj Pts FD - 39.9 DK - 42.63
I'm already feeling kind of lousy about the position, but the perverse lack of safety at the 4 just might have me willing to fill one spot with Kevin Love. On the season he's averaged just about 4x points per dollar on this price, which is obviously pretty terrible, but there's a little more to see here than that. With the Cavs it all starts with the match-up. They're so versatile offensively that they can afford the luxury to pick which star will get the ball in any given game, and there's a decent amount pointing to Love being that guy here. The Celtics have reasonable defenders for LeBron (Crowder) and Kyrie (Smart, Bradley), but really don't have any obvious answer to Love. Defending the opposing 4 has been an Achilles Heel for them all season - they've allowed the 5th most fantasy points to opposing power forwards in spite of being a league average defense overall. Okay, that's a lot of words for a dude I didn't claim to like very much, and at the end of it all, I kind of love Love.
Amir Johnson FD - $4100 DK - $4000
Opponent - CLE
Proj Pts FD - 18.55 DK - 19.48
Your requisite "guy who isn't that great but happens to be cheap compared to his price." Any praise as a basketball player I attempt to level Johnson's way will just sound like back-handed compliments, so I'll just talk about his value as a DFS commodity. He's locked into about 25 minutes per game right now, and since he's what passes as a decent defender at the 4 on this team, it stands to reason that he'll get at least that many minutes against Love here. Given that he's provided a steady diet of 5x+ points per dollar on these prices recently, it's not hard at all to imagine him replicating those performances here. Or at least not sucking to the point where you just want to quit. But hey, that's power forward.
Enes Kanter FD - $5400 DK - $5100
Opponent - MEM
Proj Pts FD - 28.75 DK - 30.14
It's a high risk, high reward play, but Steven Adams has gotten into foul trouble so frequently recently that Kanter has put up big time numbers in four consecutive games. He's been showing up on DFS radars as a result, and he's also quite a bit more expensive than he has been. It's just a numbers game with Kanter - if he's really going to play high 20s minutes he's a great play against almost any opponent, but that's no sure thing against a Memphis team with a tough front court. The options might just be so bad here that you jam him in and shut your eyes if he winds up getting more rest than usual. Yay power forwards!
Keep an eye out for Nerlens Noel news. Early speculation is that he'll play reasonable minutes tonight with Embiid out, but I'd need to hear something pretty definitive before trotting out a guy who hasn't topped 10 minutes since returning from injury.
Rudy Gobert FD - $7500 DK - $7400
Opponent - PHI
Proj Pts FD - 35.62 DK - 37.18
Gobert is riding a little bit of a downswing at the moment, but that should all start turning around this Thursday night. He disappointed against the Lakers, yes, but the simple fact that he's a sure thing for 35+ minutes in close games is pretty much all I need to know in a match-up this good. Without Embiid the 76ers just don't have anyone that can remotely compete with the Stifle Tower on the glass, and their sloppy drives could lead to extra blocks for him as well. Being a center against Philly is just a good place to start when Embiid is out - the 76ers have allowed the 3rd most fantasy points to opposing centers this season. Love the guy in every format.
Jonas Valanciunas FD - $5700 DK - $5300
Opponent - PHO
Proj Pts FD - 27.84 DK - 29.09
A lot of the Toronto guys are going to be big time starts tonight on account of this game having the highest total, and I expect JV to be one of them. He's been solidly a fantasy point per minute guy recently, and while that's not necessarily fantastic on 26-28 minutes per game, that number has a decent chance to go up against the Suns. They've allowed a top 10 total in fantasy points to opposing centers, and more importantly, they play a fast pace that should let Valanciunas get more opportunities on the glass and in the paint. It's hard to call it a slam dunk since the minutes have been erratic, but I believe he has as much points per minute upside as anyone tonight.
Consider: Hassan Whiteside. He's been anything but safe recently, but in a decent match-up with the Hornets he's got tremendous bounce back upside.