The Pelicans were not a good defense to begin with and now will be without their best defender for the remainder of the season. Look for Luol Deng to take advantage on Tuesday. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
Russell Westbrook, Thunder, $18,900 – First and foremost, Kevin Durant is listed as questionable for Tuesday’s tilt against the quick-paced (seventh in the NBA) Rockets. If Durant does not suit up, Russell Westbrook immediately catapults to the top overall play on the slate no questions asked. Westbrook’s usage rate (usg%) catapulted to 37-percent without his partner in crime and that was even less than the 40-percent he managed without Durant last season. Right now, DeMarcus Cousins leads the NBA in usg% at 35.5 so quite obviously the uptick to well beyond the league lead is eyebrow-raising. Even assuming Durant plays, Westbrook has scored at least 44.5 fantasy points in all three meetings versus Houston over the past two seasons with the star small forward (SF) active…In fact, Westbrook has averaged 54.7 fantasy points per game (FPPG) over the three game sample. Patrick Beverley is widely regarded as a solid defender but this year is the first time in his career he has registered a negative defensive box plus/minus rating. According to basketball reference, defensive box plus/minus is defined as a box score estimate of the defensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league-average player, translated to an average team. In other words, Beverley is performing slightly below an average defender and therefore should not be a deterrent from rostering Westbrook. On a four game slate, take the only superstar not currently listed on the injury report (James Harden is questionable as well) and sleep like a baby.
Kemba Walker, Hornets, $14,800 – After struggling on Monday versus the Spurs, Kemba Walker has now failed to reach 40 fantasy points in three of his last five games. In his prior seven games to this recent streak, he eclipsed 40 fantasy points six times over a span of seven games. Can you really blame Walker for a sub-par outing against San Antonio? Virtually every player who faces them underperforms but people may look at the recent struggles and worry. Considering Walker will square off against the Nets and their point guard (PG) defense ranking 26th in terms of efficiency, he should rebound in a big way on Tuesday. In two previous meetings versus the Nets this season, Walker has scored 39.75 and 39 fantasy points respectively. Walker has stepped up his rebounding recently and has now grabbed at least seven boards in three straight. In other words, if Walker can simply find his shot which was off last night, he has enough of a well-rounded game to produce a monster performance. At a price of $14,800, he’s best left for cash because the upside is slightly capped, but he is a rock solid cash option nevertheless.
Jrue Holiday, Pelicans, $14,600 – One player who certainly possesses the necessary upside for tournaments even at his substantial price is the Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday. Reports surfaced yesterday that the team now may shut Ryan Anderson down for the year after already shutting down Anthony Davis this weekend. According to nbawowy, Holiday sports a 31.7 usg% with both Anderson and Davis off the floor. Just for reference, that is a substantial uptick from 28-percent with both playing next to him. While the Heat present a difficult matchup and allow just the second fewest FPPG to the position, Holiday managed 39.5 fantasy points against Chris Paul and his elite defense on Sunday (aka the first and only game without both Anderson and Davis this year). The offense is going to have to come from somewhere, and while Toney Douglas and Tim Frazier should certainly step up, Holiday is destined for the top scoring role by default. All of the Pelicans usuals that remain standing are in play since they’ll all enjoy increased roles but none are safer bets than the former All-Star PG.
Zach Randolph, Grizzlies, $12,000 – All Zach Randolph has done after missing a few weeks due to injury is triple-double and then double-double in consecutive games. The team is missing two-thirds of their core (Mike Conley and Marc Gasol) so Randolph is forced to step up his game in all aspects. Sure the time is significantly worse but his fantasy outlook is significantly better. As long as the Grizzlies are playing another crappy team, the odds of them getting blown out remain unlikely, and therefore Randolph can play his full complement of minutes in an expanded role. His current role warrants closer to a $14,000 price tag yet his price increased exactly zero dollars after last night’s 37.75 fantasy point performance. He is simply too cheap and there is too much profit potential at this price point to pass on him.
Luol Deng, Heat, $11,100 – As noted in the Holiday blurb, the Pelicans will be without a few of their main pieces likely for the rest of the year. Even prior to their absence, the team ranked 29th, or second to last, in terms of defensive efficiency to opposing small forwards (SFs). Now without Davis, the Pelicans lack their top rim defender so the task only becomes easier for Luol Deng. Can you really blame Deng for struggling versus LeBron James in his last outing? The Cavaliers allow the third fewest fantasy points to the position and James is an excellent defender. Prior to the dud, Deng had produced at least 33.25 fantasy points in six consecutive contests. Chris Bosh has been out for a while but it should be noted Deng averages 34.7 FPPG without him. At his current price, his average without Bosh would more than eclipse value. To review, he is facing an awful defense especially versus his position. Many may choose to disregard his existence because he is old and boring but he rates as a core cash play for me on this tiny four game slate.
Marvin Williams, Hornets, $10,000 – Similarly to Walker, Marvin Williams struggled against the Spurs yesterday but a matchup versus Thaddeus Young is the always the perfect elixir. Despite back-to-back outings failing to reach 20 fantasy points, Williams is still averaging 27.4 FPPG in March. Having played last night, Al Jefferson’s minutes limit will likely either hover around 25 or he’ll be deemed inactive. Therefore, Williams should play around 30 minutes versus Young who clearly is a huge reason the Nets rank dead last in defensive efficiency to opposing PFs. The former second overall pick is only three games removed from a 26 point, nine rebound (REB) performance that literally led to GPP victories on FantasyDraft (winner of the Pick and Roll rostered him that night). There is no reason Williams cannot approach that sort of upside once again in a dream matchup and that’s why I’ll have a difficult time fading him in any format. UPDATE: Marvin Williams is listed as a game-time decision with an ankle injury. If he cannot go, Cody Zeller emerges as a prime play at his bargain ($7,000) salary.
*Stats are accurate as of Monday, Mar. 21