LeBron James is simply underpriced in a Christmas Day matchup against a Warriors team that he nearly averaged a triple-double against in the NBA Finals just a season ago. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
Zach LaVine, Timberwolves, $12,600 – Over the course of his last 10 games, Zach LaVine is averaging a ridiculous 40.0 minutes per game (MPG). For a player averaging 0.86 fantasy points per minutes, that leaves him at about 34 fantasy points per game (FPPG) in an average matchup…and this is no average matchup. In fact, it projects much better for him considering the Thunder rank fifth in pace and will no doubt be missing their excellent defensive starting shooting guard (SG): Victor Oladipo. Sans Oladipo, the Thunder have ranked 20th in defensive efficiency versus opposing SGs over their last five games and the position is averaging a whopping 30.6 actual points per game against them during that span. LaVine is coming off a monstrous 40 point performance versus the Kings and has scored 20-plus points in five of his last six games. In a game where the team will likely have to play at a faster pace than usual to keep up with the Thunder (especially with the game being played in Oklahoma City), LaVine presents one of the best overall values of the slate.
Clippers Guards – At least one of the team’s secondary guards is going to be worthy of rostering on Christmas but it is all dependent on the status of Chris Paul. Officially he is listed as questionable, and Raymond Felton is listed as the starter, but NBA injury reports mean less than the words of a corrupt politician. In all likelihood, fantasy owners are going to have to guess here with the slate locking early on Christmas Day. In my opinion, the likeliest scenario is the team holding him out of this one so he can get right, which would deem Raymond Felton and Austin Rivers two of the best bargains of the slate. Paul sat out last game and Felton played a healthy 34 minutes in his absence. Considering the fact he is listed at nearly minimum price ($6,900), he does not even have to be overly effective to absolutely crush value. Meanwhile, Rivers has scored 25-plus fantasy points in each of the last three games Paul has missed. If Paul were to play, J.J. Redick would get a gigantic boost as he only averaged 0.28 FPPM without both Blake Griffin and Paul compared to 0.85 FPPM with Paul in and Griffin out. Either way, Crawford will be relied upon for his scoring off the bench so he is worthy of consideration as the team’s third or fourth scoring option regardless of the availability of the team’s star PG.
Tony Parker, Spurs, $7,300 – On Christmas Day of all days, Tony Parker can safely be expected to play some big minutes. Not only did Parker sit last game so now he is on an additional day of rest but the team will square off against a solid Bulls squad as well. For what it is worth, Parker has played at least 27.5 minutes in every Christmas Day game he has been involved in including 29 minutes last year against the Rockets. The price is the most attractive part of rostering Parker as he will only cost you $7,300. Even at age 34, Parker is still averaging 0.74 fantasy points per minute which equates to 20.1 fantasy points per 27 minutes (which seems like a reasonable projection). For cash games, this output would put a team on pace for 275 points and that is assuming Parker is a pretty mild expectation. Hell, Parker has topped 25 fantasy points in three of his last six games so clearly his ceiling is higher. Without fear of Parker sitting, he is an extremely viable option.
LeBron James, Cavaliers, $18,300 – In the NBA Finals last year, LeBron James averaged insane numbers: 29.7 points per game (PPG), 11.3 rebounds per game (RPG), 8.9 assists per game (APG), 2.6 steals per game (SPG) and 2.3 blocks per game (BPG). The problem with those numbers is the fact James averaged 42.0 MPG and that would be a high-end outcome for this game against the Warriors (even though the Cavaliers certainly want to win). On competing sites in the industry, James costs approximately 20-21-percent of the budget and yet he can be rostered for 18.3-percent on FantasyDraft. Amongst all players on this slate, James averages the 11th most fantasy points per dollar at his current salary. Basically, James is just way too cheap in a great matchup where the team will be forced to play up in pace against a Warriors team that ranks third in the category. Fading James is an incredibly risky move if hoping to succeed on Christmas Day.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves, $15,200 – As noted in the LaVine tidbit, the Timberwolves also will be paying up in pace which means Karl-Anthony Towns will have the opportunity to fill up the box score even more so than usual. In each of his last three meetings against the Thunder, Towns has managed 40-plus fantasy points and has shot 53-plus percent from the field. Although Steven Adams is a solid defender, he has not exactly slowed down Towns in the past. Towns has added the three-pointer to his repertoire this year which makes him borderline unstoppable. Amazingly, Towns has upped his otherworldly efficiency from last year as he is scoring more per-minute and also has improved as a passer. If Towns were to just produce an average outing (44.51 fantasy points), he would put a fantasy team on pace for 293 fantasy points. Assuming the pace enhances his game whatsoever, Towns should come through in a bag for those who roster him.
Al Horford, Celtics, $12,400 – Speaking of players who are great bargains for their price tag, only Jimmy Butler and Marcus Smart have averaged more fantasy points per dollar at their respective costs than Al Horford. This season, Horford is quietly averaging 37.3 FPPG and 33.0 MPG. He pretty much always goes overlooked due to his non-flashy style. Despite having signed Joakim Noah mostly for defensive purpose, the Knicks rank 17th in defensive efficiency against opposing Cs and they allow the third most PPG (21.3) to the position. Horford, whose specialty is still scoring, should have no problem racking up the points against this Knicks frontcourt.