Evan Fournier has been pushing 40 minutes on a nightly basis and dropped 21 points against the 76ers last week so he’s a virtual must-play on Sunday. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers, $17,100 – I’m not sure Stephen Curry is human after the game-winning shot he hit last night but I’m not sure Damian Lillard is either. Most players diagnosed with plantar fasciitis are hampered by the injury for the remainder of the season or at least forced to miss sporadic games. Since Lillard missed seven games at the end of December/beginning of January, he has yet to miss a game and his season has even improved since the injury. In the month of February, Lillard is averaging 29.3 points (PTS), 3.7 rebounds (REB), 7.8 assists (AST) and 1.7 steals (STL) in 36.2 minutes per game (MPG) or 48.7 fantasy points per game (FPPG). On the second end of back-to-backs this season, Lillard is averaging 37.3 MPG and 43.3 FPPG. On Sunday, the Trail Blazers will head to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to play the eighth fastest paced Indiana Pacers. On paper the matchup isn’t great as the Pacers have allowed the seventh fewest FPPG to opposing point guards (PGs) but they actually rank 20th in defensive efficiency against the position. Right now Lillard is unstoppable so the pace of the game should matter more than who is guarding him. On a five game slate, the incredibly high floor of Lillard is extremely valuable in cash games and, as always, Lillard possesses a ceiling as high as anyone on the slate.
DeMar DeRozan, Raptors, $12,900 – DeMar DeRozan’s price decreased due to one bad game against a solid defensive team in the Cleveland Cavaliers. Players have bad games…it is inevitable. In the game prior to Friday’s dud, DeRozan scored 46 fantasy points due to a 31-4-4 line so there is simply no need to worry. Toronto and Detroit have squared off on two prior occasions this season and two players have stood out in terms of fantasy point outputs for the Raptors: Kyle Lowry (38.4 per game) and DeRozan (37.8 per game). Lowry costs a whopping $2,600 more for a player who has had similar success in the same matchup. Detroit allows more fantasy points and ranks worse in terms of defensive efficiency to the PG position than shooting guard (SG) but DeRozan is simply the best value on the team. Sometimes players’ skill sets are just superior to their price and the recent dip from $13,300 to $12,900 presents a buying opportunity. He should easily flirt with 3x value so deploy him as a rock solid option in cash.
Evan Fournier, Magic, $11,100 – Googling his last name is terrible idea but rostering him in cash games is a fantastic idea. Prior to last game, Evan Fournier had played at least 40 minutes in five of his past seven games and played at least 34 minutes in the “outlier” games. Apparently Coach Scott Skiles has found his guy and that’s noteworthy for fantasy purposes since he is well-known for messing with most players’ minutes. In 42 minutes against the Philadelphia 76ers last week, Fournier scored 21 PTS en route to 35.75 fantasy points. Without Tobias Harris, Fournier averages 18.3 points per game (PPG) and 30.8 FPPG this season but he has scored at least 20-plus points in four of his last six games. The minutes are leading to production and they should yet again against an awful Philadelphia team. Fournier may be the first but he will not be the last member of Skiles’ Magic team mentioned in this article as I think multiple members of their team present excellent values for today’s slate. UPDATE: EVAN FOURNIER IS OUT TONIGHT. Mario Hezonja will start in his place but Victor Oladipo becomes the best play among Magic guards.
Nikola Vucevic, Magic, $14,200 – Only four days I touched on just how enticing the 76ers matchup has been to Nikola Vucevic over the course of his career. Here was my argument: “In 10 prior meetings against the 76ers, Vucevic has failed to reach 36.75 fantasy points just twice. Those two outlier outings resulted in 26 and 27.25 fantasy points so it’s not even like they were complete failures. Essentially Vucevic owns the 76ers and has topped 49 fantasy points half the times he has over faced them over an extended sample size. This current Philadelphia team has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing centers (Cs) and ranks third to last in defensive efficiency versus the position. In other words, if you do not use Vucevic in this matchup you are wasting a golden opportunity.” After that epic rant, Vucevic delivered yet again with 35 PTS, nine REB and four AST (53.75 fantasy points). He simply owns this team and still must be started despite costing $1,000 more than the last meeting.
Gorgui Dieng, Timberwolves, $12,000 – February has been kind to Gorgui Dieng mostly because Coach Sam Mitchell has been kind to Dieng. This month Mitchell has committed to starting Dieng next to star center Karl-Anthony Towns and it has led to Dieng averaging 34.0 FPPG in 36.6 MPG. As positive as the new role is for fantasy purposes, his matchup against Dirk Nowitzki may be even better. The Mavericks allow the fourth most fantasy points to opposing power forwards (PFs) and athletic types really give Nowitzki in his elder age fits. Dieng is nearly averaging 3x value this month and a matchup with Nowitzki should help propel him over the 3x plateau deeming him one of the best overall plays on the slate.
Aaron Gordon, Magic, $12,000 – Magic stack initiate! Only four teams allow more PPG than the Philadelphia 76ers and Gordon’s price is just finally adjusting to his role without Harris. Gordon is now the team’s starting PF and he hasn’t played less than 27 minutes in any game since Feb. 3. He is one of those players who contributes across the board statistically so his floor is rather high. Feb. 3 coincidentally is also the last time Gordon failed to record either a block (BLK) or a STL over the course of a full ballgame. Only two teams have allowed more fantasy points to opposing PFs than the 76ers and Gordon reached 3x value even at this price in the last matchup. All three Magic players listed in this article are priced at costs I am comfortable paying so there is no reason to worry about having too much stock in one single team. Do not finalize any lineup without having at least a little exposure to the Magic in an elite matchup to their players across the board (Philadelphia ranks in the bottom nine of defensive efficiency to every single position this season).
*Stats are accurate as of Saturday, Feb. 28