Without LeBron James, Kevin Love enjoys a sizable uptick in usage rate and will square off against a Rockets team that struggles to cover opposing power forwards. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
James Harden, Rockets, $18,600 – At this point, fade James Harden at your own risk. Despite squaring off against a Pacers team on Sunday that ranks third in efficiency to opposing shooting guards (SGs), Harden scored 57.5-plus fantasy points for the fourth consecutive game. In fact, Harden has scored at least 48.5 fantasy points in each of his last seven games and at least 53.75 in six of his last seven. Harden is just on an incredible roll right now so good luck to any defense who is going to attempt to stop him. With that being said, the Cavaliers will be without their best defender on Tuesday: LeBron James. If he were active, he likely would have slid over and attempted to guard Harden for extended periods of time. Without James active, J.R. Smith will likely attempt to keep him in check. Although Smith is a solid defender, unless he is elite he is just another guy to Harden. You simply cannot worry about plus defenders against Harden unless they are the absolute best and Smith does not fit that bill. Therefore, at a reasonable price still below $19,000, just keep throwing Harden out there and reaping the benefits.
John Wall, Wizards, $17,600 – Playing in Golden State is a risky proposition for one reason: there is always a chance for a blowout. The Warriors have yet to lose at home this season in 35 tries and the Wizards are 3.5 games out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference at this moment in time. In other words, there is a giant talent disparity between these two teams so worrying about a lopsided total is within reason. Still, it’s hard to ignore the 65.25 fantasy points John Wall dropped against Stephen Curry and co. earlier this season…even if the game was played in Washington. Also, the Warriors play at the second fastest pace in the NBA and allow the fifth most fantasy points to opposing point guards (PGs). Bradley Beal is constantly dealing with injury issues and therefore Wall has had to put the entire offense on his back. He is producing a 28.9-percent usage rate (usg%) this season but that total is up to 29.5-percent this month. Even if Wall only plays three quarters, he will have to do absolutely everything for his team in three quarters. Basically if the worst possible outcome occurs, he still should have a safe floor. If by chance the Warriors actually compete, then the sky is the limit for the three time All-Star.
Kyrie Iriving, Cavaliers, $12,300 – As mentioned in the Harden tidbit, LeBron James has already been ruled out of Tuesday’s contest for rest purposes. James is a ball-dominator so a large chunk of the offense needs to be made up for in his absence. No single player benefits more from James sitting out than the PG Kyrie Irving. This season, Irving’s usg% in games James is active is 28.7-percent versus a whopping 37.8-percent without James. Crazily, in the two games Irving has played without James this season, Irving has averaged 30.5 points per game (PPG). By comparison, he only averages 18.9 PPG alongside his star teammate. Aside from the usg% uptick, Irving has played 4.5 minutes per game (MPG) more in James’ absence as well. All-in-all, his role just expands in every way possible, and he is able to run the offense like he is comfortable doing. His price has taken a plunge recently and in no way reflects his current role as the top option in the offense. He is probably my favorite overall play on the slate against a fast-paced Rockets team that allows over 105 PPG.
Nicolas Batum, Hornets, $13,200 – In two meetings versus the 76ers this season, Nicolas Batum has yet to top 31.5 fantasy points. Let Karl-Anthony Towns’ monster game yesterday show how past data against a team can be overrated because Towns hadn’t eclipsed 27 fantasy points against the Suns in two prior matchups against the Suns this season either. All he did was drop a 50 burger on them because it was a star player against a bad defense. Over the long run, talented players are going to produce in favorable spots even if there is one or two outlier performances along the way. I think Batum is your classic case of having under-performed against his opponent twice and therefore will be overlooked. Digging deeper into the matchup, Philadelphia allows the second most fantasy points to opposing small forwards (SFs) and also ranks 27th in defensive efficiency versus the position. Furthermore, they will likely be without their best rim defender in Nerlens Noel and one of their better rebounders/defenders in Jerami Grant. Batum should get whatever he wants against this team and the great part about him is his ability to fill the stat sheet. Even if he isn’t scoring, Batum provides a healthy mix of production in the assist (5.7), rebound (6.2), steal (1.0) and block (0.7) categories as well. They say the third time is the charm and I am a firm believer that will be the case for Batum.
Kevin Love, Cavaliers, $12,000 – One player is simply not enough to select from the Cleveland Cavaliers because so much production will be need to made up from their best player (who is also a superstar) sitting. The slack for James’ missing production will have to be picked up by multiple players as opposed to just one sole player benefiting when a role player sits out. Like Irving, Love enjoys a drastic spike in usg% with James out as his total increases from 23.1-percent to 29.7-percent. Strangely, Love has only averaged exactly one fantasy points more per game sans James this season, but that is about to change. Only the Kings allow more FPPG to opposing power forwards (PFs) than the Rockets and Houston also ranks second to last in defensive efficiency versus the position. In other words, this is one of the best few possible matchups Love could draw whether or not the team had all their major pieces active or not. Now that their superstar SF will be out as well, this mid-tier price is too good to pass on. There is serious profit potential to be made here and Love may be my favorite overall play on the entire slate.
Ian Mahinmi, Pacers, $9,200 – The Bulls are an absolute mess as they allowed 100-plus points to their opponent yet again last night in a loss to the Hawks. Heading into Monday’s contest, the Bulls had been allowing a whopping 106.6 PPG this month which was nearly four more per game than their season average. One aspect that has not changed for the Bulls all season has been their struggles against opposing centers (Cs). While the rest of the defense is clearly worsening by the minute, the Bulls were never strong against opposing fives (another word for centers) to begin with. Only three teams allow more rebounds per game (RPG) to opposing centers and only six allow more FPPG. Mahinmi and the Bulls have met thrice this season two of those led to at least 29 fantasy points. In his lone letdown (20.75 fantasy points), Mahinmi still managed seven points (PTS) and seven rebounds (REB). Lately, Mahinmi’s minutes have been on the rise as evident by him playing at least 30 minutes in four of his last five games. He did not reach the 27 minute plateau, let alone 30, against the Bulls in any of his prior meetings. If he sees extended minutes against this horrendous defense, he should come with an incredibly safe floor. Oh by the way he is coming off a 19-11 double-double versus the Rockets (41.25 fantasy points) so his ceiling ain’t too shabby either.
*Stats are accurate as of Monday, Mar. 28