We have 10 games on tap for tonight, and, as always, injury news we have to deal with. Today’s picks are going to feature some “what if” scenarios as, of this writing, key players are questionable. I’ll talk about who stands to benefit if those players miss, while offering some other options we can use if certain value plays never materialize. As always, good luck in your FanDuel contests, and be sure you check the NBA Starting Lineups Page to ensure your selections are active tonight.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors, $10,700 – The Warriors have suggested they’d like to rest Draymond Green for the next two games, and my suspicion is that the only way he’ll suit up is if he manages to convince the coaching staff to let him play. He just doesn’t strike me as a guy that would ever want to take a game off. If he does sit and we get confirmation ahead of roster lock, Curry becomes a must play to me, even at $10,700. He’s only seen 81 minutes of court time without Green this season, but his usage rate increased from 31.4% to 37.3%, and his assist rate ballooned from 28.8% to 34.9%. Curry already produces fantasy points at a ridiculous rate. When you take away the second-best producer on the Warriors, he’s just going to have to do even more. Now, consider Golden State will be playing a Nuggets team that has been horrible at defending three pointers and routinely get roasted by opposing point guards. To me, Curry is the top play of the day and I don’t think it’s particularly close.
Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets, $5,000 – After an extended absence, Mudiay returned to the starting lineup and played 39 minutes against Charlotte. We shouldn’t expect efficient performances, but he did manage to post 26.8 fantasy points, which is an excellent return for only $5,000. If Draymond Green sits tonight, I expect Denver to at least keep this game respectable, which should lead to another heavy workload for Mudiay. Golden State is an elite defensive team, but they fly up and down the court, and the fast pace and extra possessions lead to productive fantasy outings for opposing players anyway. In this matchup, it’s hard to envision Mudiay not paying off his bargain barrel price tag.
Arron Afflalo, New York Knicks, $4,700 – This pick hinges on the status of Carmelo Anthony. Anthony left yesterday’s game after spraining his ankle, and reports from yesterday suggested that he’ll be a game-time decision. Hopefully we receive word on his status earlier in the day. If Anthony is ruled out, Afflalo becomes a serviceable value play at the shooting guard position. His usage rate increases from 18.5% to 23.7% with Anthony off the floor, and he’s already shown this season that he’s capable of taking on a much larger offensive role if Anthony is forced to miss time. Point guard is a stacked position today, so I’m trying to identify value at other positions where I can. If Anthony is out, Afflalo becomes a solid target in both cash games and tournaments tonight.
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat, $7,300 – Wade rarely sees more than 32 or 33 minutes per game, but he’s playing at an extremely high level right now. He owns one of the highest usage rate in the league at 31.7%, and his 26.9% assist rate is very solid as well. He draws a favorable matchup with a Clippers team that doesn’t really have a wing defender that is good enough to keep up with him. Shooting guard tends to be a position where the high-priced players aren’t great values, and given Wade is a $7,300 player that frequently returns over 40 fantasy points, I like targeting him in all game formats tonight.
Otto Porter, Washington Wizards, $6,100 – Contrary to what you might think, Porter doesn’t really see much benefit from the absence of Marcin Gortat. Gortat is out for tonight’s game, and I’ll talk about who actually benefits from that later on. So, why do I like Porter if don’t think Marcin Gortat’s absence helps him? Well, he manages to return around 30 fantasy points almost every night. He’s a five category contributor that just seems to be able to do enough stuff on the court to grind out a solid fantasy score each and every night. He’s a solid cash game play tonight, and he does offer enough upside to be worth a look in tournament lineups as well.
Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets, $7,200 – Gallinari has been on fire since returning from injury, playing at least 34 minutes per game and returning no less than 32 fantasy points. I love him tonight in what should be a very fast-paced matchup with the Warriors. Obviously the Warriors are the much better team, but I think Denver can stay close if Draymond Green sits out to rest tonight. Gallinari is the primary scoring option whenever he’s on the court, and along with scoring, he contributes enough rebounds and assists to give himself a high floor and ceiling in most matchups. I think he’s a lock for at least 30 fantasy points, and wouldn’t at all be surprised if eclipsed 40 tonight.
Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks, $6,300 – Porzingis is already a high-usage player that’s producing over a fantasy point per minute, so this pick really isn’t dependent on Carmelo Anthony’s status. I do think that Porzingis’s production becomes a bit more stable if Anthony is out tonight as he will be the clear focal point of the offense. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the Knicks will be taking on a bad Nets team that doesn’t defend well and struggles against opposing power forwards. At this price, Porzingis is almost certainly going to be the highest-owned player in both cash games and tournaments tonight, but I don’t think you can fade him. He’s an excellent scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker, and I think he’s a near lock to crush value tonight.
Drew Gooden, Washington Wizards, $3,800 – Last game Gooden played 27 minutes off the bench with Marcin Gortat out, and I would expect the same tonight. Gortat has already been ruled out for tonight, and given Kris Humphries is also very unlikely to play, Gooden’s role off the bench is solidified. Despite starting, Nene Hilario is on a minutes limit and probably won’t see much more than 20 minutes of court time. Gooden is a capable scorer and rebounder that should be able to pay off his cheap $3,800 price tag if he sees nearly 30 minutes again. Plus, I like the matchup against a Bucks team that’s ranked 29th in defensive efficiency and 27th in rebounding rate.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings, $10,600 – I think there’s enough value at other positions that you can easily pay up for Cousins tonight at center. He’s the clear top play, and my second-favorite play of the day behind Stephen Curry (if Green is out). Cousins has scored at least 50 fantasy points in his past four games, eclipsing 60 in two of them (one was overtime against Dallas). He’s playing at a very high level right now, and he draws one of the best matchups imaginable against New Orleans. The Pelicans are ranked 28th in defensive efficiency, 24th in rebounding rate, and are allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing centers. Cousins is going to score at will against this team, and given he’s been much more active on the glass lately, his ceiling is extremely high tonight.
Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets, $8,200 – Howard has been playing a ton of minutes, and he’s been one of the more consistent players in terms of fantasy production lately. Minnesota is not a tough team defensively, and they’re average in terms of rebounding. Also, they haven’t defended opposing centers particularly well, and I would expect business as usual for Howard. He’s likely to finish with around 40 fantasy points again tonight, and he’s my second-favorite play behind Cousins. I do think you need to try to get Cousins into your lineups tonight, but Howard is certainly an acceptable play if you simply cannot find enough cap space to make it work.