Russell Westbrook, Thunder, $20,200 – On a two game slate against a defense that allows the seventh most points per game (PPG), it’s a risky proposition to fade Russell Westbrook. Most of Oklahoma City’s production comes via the duo of Westbrook and Kevin Durant and the Thunder carry an implied total of 116 on Thursday. The second greatest implied total for any team on the slate is the Bucks at 106.3. Essentially the Thunder are expected to score the most points of any team by almost 10 in a fast-paced game so Westbrook should light it up. Westbrook’s 10.0 assists per game (APG) rank second in the NBA and only Draymond Green has triple-doubled on more occasions this season (10 versus Westbrook’s eight). While the Thunder opened as 11.5 point favorites, even in the worst case blowout scenario Westbrook should get his before the game gets out of hand. Assuming the Pelicans keep it close into the fourth quarter, Westbrook possesses 70 fantasy points and triple-double upside…which can be said for exactly zero other players on the slate.
Bradley Beal, Wizards, $12,000 – Bradley Beal started on Tuesday, played 32 minutes and scored 26 points (PTS) with four steals (STL) en route to 44.25 fantasy points. The team still seems to be scaling back his minutes on back-to-backs but he is almost full-go on all other occasions. While the Milwaukee Bucks play at a significantly slower pace than the Wizards, they rank 28th in defensive efficiency against the shooting guard (SG) position. Ideally stacking the other game is the play but many of the salaries are inflated for the greater style of play and it’s near impossible to look your lineup using all three stars from that game (Westbrook, Durant and Anthony Davis). Beal is coming off three straight games in which he has scored at least 22 real PTS and 30 fantasy points (including Saturday in Charlotte when he scored 22 PTS in 20 minutes) and will be exploiting the weakness in the Bucks defense. He’s an excellent mid-tier option to pair with stars on Thursday because he’s a great bet for 2.5x value with the upside to top 3x.
Norris Cole, Pelicans, $9,800 – The news of Bryce DeJean-Jones being listed as doubtful for Thursday because his second 10-day contract expired raises the stock of Norris Cole. In 11 games with the Pelicans this season, DeJean-Jones is averaging 19.9 minutes per game (MPG). Assuming he does not get his contract situation figured out in time, his minutes will need to be dispersed amongst the rest of the team and Cole/Jrue Holiday would be the largest individual beneficiaries. Cole has averaged 30.8 MPG over the past nine games and the absence of DeJean-Jones probably earns him another four to five minutes minimum. During the last nine game stretch, Cole has surpassed 30 fantasy points four times and he would flirt with 30 yet again if the minutes were extended. For $9,800, 30 fantasy points would equated to more than 3x value and would deem him viable in both cash and GPP formats.
Kevin Durant, Thunder, $18,500 – Almost everything in the Westbrook tidbit applies to Durant. Most of the Thunder production goes through their two staples and the matchup for Durant actually may be slightly better than for Westbrook. New Orleans ranks dead last in defensive efficiency to opposing small forwards (SFs) and Durant has averaged 29.7 PPG since the New Year. A case could be made for using Westbrook and Anthony Davis but my preference is with Durant in cash due to Davis’ propensity for injury and the fact Serge Ibaka is a tough defender. Take the two studs from the top projected total, enjoy their steady production and move on in cash formats.
Greg Monroe, Bucks, $12,500 – Coach Jason Kidd announced right before last game that Greg Monroe would come off the bench but “would play his usual allotment of minutes or more.” Kidd is a difficult coach to trust as he will occasionally adjust the rotation in mysterious ways so many decided to jump off the Monroe bandwagon after his benching. Well, that turned out to be a horrific move because he dropped 54.5 fantasy points on the heels of a 29 and 12 double-double. He will yet again come off the bench on Thursday but Tuesday taught us how little this means. Monroe is still the most consistent producer on the Bucks and, despite the subpar matchup, he will spend more time against the second unit than usual which should help his efficiency. Since the Wizards play at a must faster pace, their style of play may force the Bucks to speed up and that could lead to more rebounding and scoring opportunities for Monroe. Similarly to Beal, he’s simply a reliable mid-tier option on a difficult slate to find consistency. He’s one of the few guys on the slate you can roster and then sleep like a baby (metaphorically of course).
Ryan Anderson, Pelicans, $10,400 – Instead of paying up for Anthony Davis in cash, settle for the cheaper alternative at power forward (PF) on his own team: Ryan Anderson. No bench player averages more PPG than Anderson’s 16.9 this season and he mixes in 5.9 rebounds per game (RPG), 1.1 assists per game (APG), 0.6 steals per game (SPG) and 0.4 blocks per game (BPG). If he were to just hit his 28.4 fantasy point per-game (FPPG) average, he would be at 2.73x times value. In a game that is projected at 220.5 points with DeJean-Jones missing from the rotation, Anderson may have to pick up some scoring. There certainly is some risk for him suffering through a poor shooting night and/or the game getting out of hand, but some risk will need to be taken on a two game slate. A pure scorer in a high scoring game feels like the correct risk to take.