The Chicago Bulls will be without Pau Gasol on Monday which equates to an insanely cheap price tag for Taj Gibson considering the extended minutes and role he appears primed for. 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, $17,300 – There are nine games scheduled for Monday evening and plenty of them project to be high-scoring affairs. Despite a battle between two of the NBA’s eight highest scoring teams, the Trail Blazers only sport the sixth highest implied total on the slate. Although there a handful of teams projected to score more points (PTS), Damian Lillard has to be among the handful of individuals projected to score the most PTS on Monday. Prior to Mar. 11, Lillard had scored 20-plus PTS in 15 consecutive games and currently he is amidst a streak where he has scored 32-plus fantasy points in 20 consecutive games. Even though his scoring output the past two games has stunk by his standards, he still dropped a 19-10 double-double last game en route to 39.5 fantasy points. He still has managed 60-plus fantasy points in two of his past five contests so clearly he possesses the elite upside necessary for tournaments. Although Lillard only managed more than 25 fantasy points twice in four matchups versus Oklahoma City last season, he is a different/improved version of himself this year. His usage rate (usg%) is up from 26.9-percent last season to 31.7-percent this season due to the losses of both LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez. Therefore, it’s easy to rationalize how Lillard produced 57.75 fantasy points in his latest meeting versus the Thunder on Jan. 10. This is an excellent opportunity for Lillard to pick his scoring back up and the pace of this game deems him a safe option in all formats.
Jrue Holiday, Pelicans, $14,600 – Speaking of fast-paced, only one team plays at a quicker pace than the Warriors. In other words, the Pelicans will enjoy a sizable uptick in tempo on Monday and that sort of pace is conducive to Jrue Holiday’s style. Over the past two seasons, Holiday has squared off against the Warriors twice when Eric Gordon was inactive; he managed 27.75 and 58.75 fantasy points respectively in those contests. There is a drastic difference in Holiday’s role when Gordon plays versus when he sits. This season alone, Holiday is averaging 28.1 fantasy points per game (FPPG) with Gordon active versus 39.2 FPPG when he sits. Holiday enjoys a sizable boost in minutes (4.9 per game) and usg% (4.8-percentage points) when the starting SG sits and the team essentially becomes the Holiday and Anthony Davis show with Ryan Anderson providing the scoring punch off the bench. Golden State allows the fifth most fantasy points to opposing PGs and Holiday has eclipsed 50 fantasy points in three of his past four games. He is coming off a stinker so some may choose to fade him based on the recency bias but that would be a colossal mistake. Even at a substantial price, Holiday is worth using in both cash and tournaments as he should flirt with 50 fantasy points at the very least once again with the upside to surpass those expectations.
Lance Stephenson, Grizzlies, $10,100 – Until Lance Stephenson’s price reaches $12,000, I am not going to consider fading him even in a reserve role. Playing off the bench has not affected his production the past two games 45.13 fantasy points over that span. The team is lacking a true ball-handler without Mike Conley and Mario Chalmers so Stephenson is taking it upon himself to try and fill that role the best he can. Stephenson actually relishes the opportunity to handle the ball as much as possible so the recent success is no coincidence. Furthermore, he has played at least 30 minutes over the past two games so Coach Dave Joerger is committing to him. The only obstacles holding Stephenson back over the past few seasons were team construction and minute limitations but neither of those are obstacles on the Grizzlies. His price tag is simply too cheap for his new role and sharp DFS players should continue to lock him until the pricing algorithm fully adjusts. UPDATE: Lance Stephenson is listed as questionable with a wrist injury. Ray McCallum is in play whether he suits up or not but would become an absolute must-play if Stephenson were to sit.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves, $14,100 – The Minnesota Timberwolves only average 101.3 points per game (PPG) which ranks 20th in the NBA. On Monday night, the Timberwolves are expected to score approximately 109.3 PTS against a Phoenix team that allows the second most PPG (108.0). Overall, the Suns actually rank in the top half of both defensive efficiency and fantasy points allowed to opposing centers (Cs) but the Suns have struggled over the past three contests. With Alex Len playing the majority of minutes at center as opposed to Chandler, the Suns have dropped to 26th in efficiency the last three games which is a sizable drop-off from the season average. Consequently, there is absolutely zero reason to be afraid of rostering Karl-Anthony Towns who is amidst a magical rookie season. Towns is averaging 7.3 more FPPG than the next rookie (Jahlil Okafor at 30.4 per game) and clearly is the leader for the Rookie of the Year Award. This month, Towns has stepped up his production even further and is averaging 42.4 FPPG. In other words, Towns is averaging greater than 3x value at his current cost this month so he warrants consideration in all formats. While Lillard and Holiday are enticing, Towns is my top priority on this entire slate.
Nicolas Batum, Hornets, $13,200 – Nicolas Batum continues to shine at home and legitimately warrants consideration every time he plays in the Time Warner Cable Arena. The Hornets will play game six of a seven game homestand on Monday and all Batum has done in the previous five games is eclipse 30 fantasy points in each. Batum continues to average a whopping 38.3 FPPG at home versus 27.7 on the road and the Mavericks rank 22nd in defensive efficiency to opposing SGs. For full disclosure, Batum moves around between the two and three on offense, so at times he will face difficult matchups against the Mavericks small forward (SF) defense. They rank in the top eight of both defensive efficiency and fantasy points allowed to the position. However, if Batum just reaches his season average at home, he will be knocking on the doorstep of 3x value. Considering he plays a majority of SG, the matchups will be positive for longer than they will be negative in this game and Batum can produce across the board even if his shot is off. At this price, he is best suited for cash games but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who wanted to throw him in a tournament lineup or two as well.
Taj Gibson, Bulls, $8,300 – Typically Taj Gibson only ever factors into cash game consideration but the Chicago Bulls need him more than ever now. The team announced Pau Gasol will miss the next ballgames due to swelling in his knee and Joakim Noah is out for the season. Essentially, Gibson, Bobby Portis, Nikola Mirotic and Cristiano Felicio are all the Bulls have left in the frontcourt. With the aforementioned collection the only men standing, Gibson should play minutes well into the mid-30s by accident and his price has fallen to just about as low as it will ever get. At this bargain cost, Gibson only needs 24.9 fantasy points for 3x value and Gibson has averaged 23.8 FPPG versus the Raptors this season in three meetings…all without Noah and none without Gasol. No Gasol certainly raises the possibility for a blowout but it also greatly increases Gibson’s floor and even ceiling. There isn’t even a ton of risk here at the sub-$8,500 price tag so lock him into lineups without thinking twice.
*Stats are accurate as of Sunday, Mar. 13