Emmanuel Mudiay has picked up his production in the absence of Danilo Gallinari and will square off against the worst defensive backcourt in the league on Thursday. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers, $13,800 – Having played on Wednesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be on the second end of a back-to-back on Thursday. This season, the two players who lead the team in minutes on back-to-back situations are LeBron James (35.3 minutes per game (MPG)) and Kyrie Irving (33.5 MPG). No team has allowed more fantasy points to opposing point guards (PGs) this season than the Lakers and Irving has averaged 1.19 fantasy points per minute versus them in eight previous career meetings. Furthermore, Irving will be coming into the game hot as he has scored at least 33.75 fantasy points in six straight games including at least 20 points (PTS) in each. The only other expensive guard option worth considering is Kyle Lowry who faces a brutal matchup against an Atlanta team that ranks in the top five of defensive efficiency versus PGs. By default, Irving then becomes the player to spend up on at the position for cash games although I am still intrigued by Lowry as a tournament option.
Emmanuel Mudiay, Nuggets, $11,700 – Apparently Emmanuel Mudiay is coming along in his development process as he has woken up in a big way over the past four games. After a stretch of four consecutive games failing to reach 30 fantasy points, Mudiay has now scored at least 31.25 in four straight with 39.50 in three of those. Without Danilo Gallinari, Mudiay has produced a usage rate (usg%) of 26.6-percent which is quite an uptick from the 25.0-percent he had been averaging with Gallinari active. His opponent on Thursday, the Phoenix Suns, rank dead last in defensive efficiency to opposing backcourts. It’s projected that a majority of Suns games as blowouts (for good reason) these days due to having the second worst record in the Western Conference. However, their opponents sport a 26-38 record themselves so the spread is only projected at 7.0. If this game remains close, Mudiay should play a healthy allotment of minutes (33.5 past four games) against a terrible defense. I like his shot to approach 40 fantasy points yet again at his mid-tier price which would equate to him crushing value. Safely deploy him in all formats as he clearly is adjusting nicely to his larger role in the offense.
Devin Booker, Suns, $10,400 – I was lucky enough to attend the Knicks/Suns game yesterday night and Devin Booker put on an absolute show. He led all scorers with 32 PTS and 20 of those came in the first half. Coach Earl Watson pulled his starters with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter or else Booker may have played minutes in the mid-40s. Wednesday marked the seventh consecutive game Booker played at least 30 minutes and the fourth consecutive game he reached at least 29 fantasy points. At just 19 years old, Booker has now scored at least 27 PTS in three of four games and is emerging as the team’s top scorer…at least until Brandon Knight returns (which could be Thursday night). Even if Knight is deemed active and plays some minutes, he plays a different position than Booker and will just alleviate some of the defensive attention. Oh by the way only three teams allow more fantasy points to opposing shooting guards (SGs) than the Denver Nuggets so expect Booker to light up the scoreboard yet again.
LeBron James, Cavaliers, $17,500 – One of the best players in basketball versus the team allowing the second highest field goal percentage feels like a “gimme”…and it is. The Lakers are an excellent matchup for opposing small forwards (SFs) as they rank dead last in defensive efficiency to the position. Over the past two seasons, LeBron James has squared off against the Lakers three times and here is his game log in terms of fantasy points: 54.0, 48.0 and 58.75. In fact, the 58.75 occurred on Feb. 10 of this season so it’s not like the Lakers have drastically improved since that point. Even in what should be a lopsided battle, James should be able to get his in three quarters even in the worst case blowout scenario. If by chance the Lakers are able to compete with a Cavalier team playing their second game in two nights, James’ ceiling could reach triple-double levels. There are no other real superstars on the slate and plenty of attractive mid-tier values so James is a no-brainer especially in cash games.
Alex Len, Suns, $12,300 – Alex Len’s night didn’t start with a “bang” per se on Wednesday evening as he picked up two quick fouls in four minutes. At that point, his only contribution to the box score was a single basket. Len returned in the second quarter and ended up playing 28 minutes. Despite the rocky start, Len managed a 12-10 double-double to keep his double-double streak alive at six games. His 30.50 fantasy points actually were the least he has produced over this six game streak and he overcame a disastrous quarter. On Thursday, the matchup gets better as Denver ranks in the bottom half of both efficiency and fantasy points allowed to both frontcourt positions. Also, the game should remain close down the stretch so Len should get back to playing 30-plus minutes as he had the previous five games to Wednesday. Sure his price continues to rise but so does his production and he’s evolving into one of the league’s more consistent centers (Cs). As long as the Suns have nothing to play for, they may as well continue to develop him down the stretch which will lead to plenty of fantasy bliss.
Al Horford, Hawks, $12,000 – Toronto is one of those teams that possesses a clear weakness in their defense and the Hawks possess a weapon at the position to take advantage: Al Horford. Considering Jonas Valanciunas started for them last season as well, it’s no surprise Horford led the Hawks in fantasy points per game (FPPG) against the Raptors in 2015-16. The sample size is only one game this season but Horford dropped 29.25 fantasy points in just 31 minutes in the first meeting versus Valanciunas and co. Many perceive Horford as an unexciting option but he hasn’t failed to reach 25 fantasy points in each of his past 14 games. Even on his off days he possesses a solid floor which makes him easy to stomach for cash games. Horford has been quiet over his past three games but his production will be needed against a tough Raptors defense on Thursday. If he comes anywhere close to his average against this very team over the past few seasons, he will reach 3x value and justify his price in all formats including tournaments.
*Stats are accurate as of Wednesday, Mar. 9