The first giant slate of games has come and gone, and now we are presented with a quick three-game docket on a traditionally tight NBA Thursday window.
Much like the opening day schedule, tonight you may want to look for a “stars and scrubs” approach to building your lineups. However, we will be dealing with an unavoidable circumstance tonight: back-to-backs.
Of the six teams playing tonight, five of them are on a back-to-back. The Atlanta Hawks are the only team who will be coming off of a rest day, so keep in mind the risk of having minutes limited for big stars on the their second night of games in a row. Oftentimes it is safe to roll with star players no matter what, but in today’s rest-conscious NBA it is going to be worth studying a little closer.
Since it’s a small slate again today, my list of plays should be short and sweet, but before we begin, here are some quick thoughts from Wednesday’s monster 14-game slate:
- Mario Hezonja is coming sooner than later. He had 25 minutes yesterday and with only Evan Fournier ahead of him, he should ascend to the starting lineup within weeks.
- Jahlil Okafor had a strong debut, pouring in 26 points to go with 7 boards and 2 blocks. If the matchup is right, play him, because nobody is challenging him for minutes on this roster.
- The Boston Celtics frontcourt is a fantasy basketball mess. David Lee, Tyler Zeller, Amir Johnson, Jared Sullinger, and Jonas Jerebko all saw 10+ minutes. It’s only going to get messier when Kelly Olynyk (suspension) returns.
- It’s a small sample size, but Andre Drummond is 14-21 from the free-throw line through two games. It’s too early to say that he has taken a step there, but if he can remain close to even 60-percent from the charity stripe it would be a boon for his value.
- Like Okafor, Emmanuel Mudiay is getting all the minutes he can handle, and being allowed to play through his mistakes. That is a great thing for fantasy because he had 17 points, nine assists and five rebounds in his debut at less than $6k.
BUILDING BLOCKS – Studs and Must-Have Values to Build Your Core Lineup
Raymond Felton, PG, DAL ($3,000): I never thought I would type this in 2015, but Felton is a near must-play for fantasy tonight. He started at shooting guard last night—a result of Chandler Parsons’ absence shifting the lineup around—and played 33 minutes in a blowout win. Deron Williams is questionable for tonight’s game (if he plays, I still like Felton, although admittedly less than if Williams is out), so it could be a three-man rotation between Felton, J.J. Barea, and Devin Harris for the guard spots. There should be volume here for a minimum-priced player.
Paul George, SF, IND ($8,200): I recommended George last night, and he came through by nearly grabbing a triple-double. It won’t be easy against a normally tough Memphis defense, but the Pacers forward remains underpriced by at least $1k. He should be an elite play each night given the variety of categories he can contribute in.
Ian Mahinmi, C, IND ($3,900): Mahinmi is the starter in Indiana, and one of the best values on the board for Thursday’s slate. He played only 25 minutes last night but dealt with foul trouble against the Raptors. He still managed 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks, so even if Myles Turner makes his debut tonight, working in limited minutes shouldn’t hurt his value too much. The matchup against Marc Gasol isn’t all that great, but Mahinmi is the Pacers’ best defensive big, so that showdown should help solidify his workload.
DeAndre Jordan, C, LAC ($7,700): Jordan dealt with foul trouble against DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings last night, limiting him to only 27 minutes in the game. That should leave him rested for a matchup with Zaza Pachulia and the Mavericks’ thin frontcourt. The blowout factor here is real—the Clippers are favored by 11 points in Vegas—but on such a small slate, Jordan’s upside is worth investing in at his discounted price.
Three more studs to consider: Chris Paul, PG, LAC ($9,600) – Blake Griffin, PF, LAC ($9,400) – Marc Gasol, C, MEM ($8,300)
BARGAINS – Complementary Players Who Look To Have Favorable Pricing
Jeff Teague, PG, ATL ($6,900): Teague did not play up to standard in his first game (vs. Detroit), but he should have an easier go of things against the Knicks. On such a small slate, getting Teague at below market value could be a sneaky way to add another stud to your lineup.
Jerian Grant, PG, NY ($3,600): If you can’t stomach putting Raymond Felton into your lineup, Grant offers an interesting option at point guard. He looked drastically better than Jose Calderon last night, and even if he doesn’t start eating into his minutes he should get the benefit of playing with a good Knicks second unit.
Courtney Lee, SG, MEM ($4,200): The shooting guard position is a dumpster fire on Thursday, and Lee offers a modest floor at an affordable salary. The Pacers aren’t the defensive juggernaut they have been in the past, so Lee should have breathing room to get his shot off over the likes of Monta Ellis and C.J. Miles.
LOTTERY TICKETS – High Risk, High Reward Plays
C.J. Miles, SG, IND ($3,600): As I mentioned above, the shooting guard pool is not favorable on Thursday. That leaves the door open for Miles, who is typically a risky play because of his dependence on scoring. I am passing on “paying up” for Kyle Korver at $4,900 or J.J. Redick at $5,100, and if you don’t want to roll with Courtney Lee, Miles offers a cheap option with upside if he gets going.
Derrick Williams, SF, NY ($3,200): Williams absolutely went off last night against Milwaukee, scoring 24 points in 21 minutes of action. Skepticism rules the day here, as Williams is usually an inconsistent player, but he is a high-upside option for the “stars and scrubs” strategy.
Kristaps Porzingis, PF, NY ($4,300): Porzingis had a nice NBA debut, dropping 16 points, five rebounds, an assist, a steal, a block, and a three-pointer. That type of all-around production makes him a highly intriguing fantasy prospect, and his ceiling should remain high as long as he is the starter. Still, there is a risk playing a rookie in his second game, and that is why he is in this section.
BUYER’S REMORSE – Reasons for Skepticism
Deron Williams, PG, DAL ($6,100): Even if he plays, I have no interest in deploying Williams tonight. He looked fine against the Suns before exiting with a bruised knee but is coming back from a calf ailment that reportedly had him on a minutes restriction. Throw in the knee issue and a date with Chris Paul, and I’m out.
Monta Ellis, SG, IND ($7,100): Ellis did not inspire confidence in last night’s start. After dealing with a respiratory infection late in the preseason, he returned versus the Raptors, going 3-11 from the field and adding only six assists. Things probably won’t get better against Tony Allen and company.