First Cousins Once Improved

DeMarcus Cousins is on an unbelievable roll in the month of January and that should continue against a Charlotte team without Cody Zeller/Al Jefferson. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.

Guards:

James Harden, Rockets, $18,000 – At this point there are three sure things in life: death, taxes and me rostering James Harden at an $18,000 price tag on FantasyDraft sans Dwight Howard. If you read yesterday’s Today’s Plays article, I described how much more effective Harden’s game is without Howard and why. On Sunday, Harden messed around and got a triple-double yet his price went up exactly zero dollars. The Pelicans are one of the worst defensive teams in basketball and the Rockets have been playing small meaning Anthony Davis may spend a fair amount of time not protecting the rim/stepping out on his man. Davis’ presence hasn’t really dissuaded Harden from attacking in the first two games as he dropped at least 43.5 fantasy points in the two previous meetings which both featured an active Howard. Without the big man, I expect the pace of the game to kick up a bit and Harden to flirt with a triple-double yet again at the very least (if not produce his second straight). At this price, he averages value in games without Howard so just lock him in and move on.

Emmanuel Mudiay, Nuggets, $10,800 – Sometimes rostering a maturing player going through growing pains can be frustrating. On the one hand, the player flashes his potential quite often but yet he’ll make his fair share of bone-headed mistakes. Emmanuel Mudiay personifies this frustration although it has been much more bearable in the absence of Jameer Nelson because his minutes have been extended. While Mudiay still has not developed his jump shot, he has averaged 13.2 points per game (PPG), 6.6 assists per game (APG) and 1.2 steals per game (SPG) en route to 29.7 fantasy points per game (FPPG) without Nelson in January. All of this production comes despite averaging just 38.8 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from behind the arc. If he can struggle this mightily and still post respectable fantasy lines then bluer skies are ahead. There’s no reason to believe he can’t maintain the recent pace against a middle of the road point guard (PG) defense in the Atlanta Hawks. In fact, the Hawks are struggling as a whole recently as they have lost back-to-back games to the Kings and Suns on their road trip. I expect the Nuggets to at least keep this one close so Mudiay should have plenty of opportunity to meet value.

Beno Udrih, Heat, $7,800 – I never thought I would say this but the Miami Heat are in desperate need of Beno Udrih’s return. It turns out they are a totally different team without their starting PG, backup PG and starting shooting guard (SG)…who woulda thunk it? Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and Gerald Green could not sustain the offense with the whole top of the depth chart missing. Now that a true ball-handler will be active for the Heat, I expect them to give the Bulls a game even without Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside. While I like Johnson as a player, he proved during the recent stretch that he is better served as a role player rather than a main part of the offense. He is actually intriguing in tournaments because I think the return of Udrih will help him as well but the team will want to allow Udrih to play all the minutes he can handle. At his price, he should hold his weight quite easily.

Forwards/Centers:

DeMarcus Cousins, Kings, $19,600 – At this point fading DeMarcus Cousins is a risk and one I’m not willing to take. In the month of January, Cousins has failed to reach 10 rebounds once and 20 points once and those occurred in different ballgames. This covers a span of 11 games. He is coming off a 48 point (PTS), 13 rebound (REB) massacre of the Indiana Pacers as he literally put them away by himself at the end. There just was/is no stopping “Boogie” at this point in general and I sure as hell cannot see a Charlotte team slowing him down that will be without both of their starters in the frontcourt. It’s a simple equation: Cousins versus backups equals auto-start.

Kawhi Leonard, Spurs, $14,200 – Everyone is already all jacked up on Mountain Dew for the Spurs/Warriors game tomorrow. Let me be the voice of reason: the game really isn’t so great for daily fantasy purposes. For real basketball purposes, I absolutely cannot wait for this game to tip. It took until Jan. 25 for the top two teams in basketball to square off so the game is going to be a treat to watch. However, the production is no going to equal the hype. Golden State is used to playing an up-tempo style and the Spurs are going to try and slowww down the pace (they are the slowest-paced team). All of the Warriors come with inflated price tags due to the pace and none of them are great bets to reach their typical levels of production against a slow, excellent defensive team. For that reason, I would rather roster Spurs players who are already priced for their usual snail’s pace. Both Coach Gregg Popovich and Kawhi Leonard have got to be dying to win this game and show there is not one above-and-beyond best team in basketball. Leonard always plays big minutes but I think he plays around 40 minutes in a game the Spurs really want to win. Since Leonard averages 42 fantasy points per-36 minutes, the uptick to 40ish minutes should only help, and a stud getting that type of run is always deserving of consideration.

Josh Smith, Rockets, $7,800 – Admittedly starting Josh Smith is not for the faint of heart because the Rockets’ frontcourt is a mess right now. First of all, Dwight Howard was listed as out “for the next three to four days” exactly three days ago. While I think he sits because he hasn’t even practiced yet, there is a slight chance he suits up which would eliminate some of Smith’s appeal. Even assuming Howard sits, Smith’s minutes could be affected if Clint Capela and/or Terrence Jones were to find a groove. Also, Smith has a tendency to take illogical shots so he could get benched for decision-making as well. With all of that being said, I still think Smith is a worthy play due to upside alone. Do not forget Smith was effective with the Rockets last season and still they decided to let him walk. This seems like the frontcourt version of Ish Smith: a team allows an asset to leave, realizes their mistake and corrects it midseason. When they get their guy back, they allow him to shine. In two games back with the Rockets, he has put up 26.25 and 31.25 fantasy points in 21 and 23 minutes. Again, the Pelicans are one of the worst defenses and only four teams allow more points per game. Smith will likely play a majority of his minutes against the Pelicans’ awful backups so I think he has the same type of upside as he has shown over the past two games. There is a fair amount of risk but, assuming Howard sits, he could be used as a cash play. If Howard plays, reserve him for GPP only because he could still ball in limited minutes.

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called DailyRoto.com, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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