Starting centers have been lighting up the Magic lately and Marc Gasol has been a staple of consistency this season so do not hesitate to deploy him in your DFS lineups tonight. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
C.J. McCollum, Trail Blazers, $12,700 – Damian Lillard is listed as doubtful on Monday which means C.J. McCollum will now be relied upon to run the entire offense. In a six game sample size last season, McCollum averaged 36.8 minutes per game (MPG), 26 points per game (PPG), 5.5 rebounds per game (RPG), 6.5 assists per game (APG), 1.0 steals per game (SPG) and 45.3 fantasy points per game (FPPG). Although the sample size is small, similar trends have unsurprisingly unfolded this season; McCollum sports a 24.5-percent usage rate (USG%) and averages 1.05 fantasy points per minute (FPPM) with Lillard on the floor this year versus a 32.0-percent USG% and 0.99 FPPM with Lillard off the floor. If McCollum is to see 36-plus minutes again, that puts him on pace for around 36 fantasy points conservatively. At that rate, he would put a fantasy team on pace for score 283 fantasy points but the sample size from last year suggests his ceiling is much higher. Sure there is a threat for a blowout but the ability to roster the number one scoring option on an offense for a sub-$13,000 cost does not come around every day. Take the value when it is given to you and just lock McCollum into lineups. NOTE: Allen Crabbe averaged 25.0 FPPG without Lillard last season as well.
Eric Gordon, Rockets, $11,600 – These exact two teams just faced one another on Dec. 21 although that game was played in Phoenix and Monday’s tilt will take place in Houston. Past matchup data can be misleading but there are a few noteworthy tidbits to look at. For one, Eric Gordon took 17 shots in 28 minutes in what proved to be a high-scoring, fast-paced affair (Rockets won 125-111). Considering both these teams rank in the top eight of pace and each allow 106-plus PPG, this outcome was not a shocker. The Rockets offense is a fun one for daily fantasy because it is fast-paced and plays to the strengths of all players involved. James Harden dribbles up the floor, the team spaces the floor and Harden either drives to the basket or drives and kicks to one of the three-point shooters. For that reason, Gordon is averaging a whopping 8.8 three-point attempts per game this year. Due to the uptick in pace this matchup provides, it is not farfetched to believe Gordon will attempt at least 13 three-pointers once again this go-around. Even if the team were to blowout the Suns, the risk of minutes dwindling is alleviated by the fact Gordon comes off the bench. In a game where Gordon will attempt plenty of shots once again, there is a high probability he will score a ton of points. Consequently, he is a viable play in any and all formats.
Clippers Guards – Coach Doc Rivers said he “doubts” Chris Paul will play on Monday night so both Austin Rivers, Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford will all gain a boost in value with Paul out. While there is always the threat for the team to get blown out without their best two players (Paul and Blake Griffin), at least the game will be played at home in the Staples Center. Additionally, the Nuggets are only 12-18 this season so it is not exactly like they are a superpower. UPDATE: As I am writing this, J.J. Redick just left Sunday night’s contest against the Lakers as well. Therefore, all of these players will be in for additional minutes and usage upticks. In limited sample sizes, Crawford averages 0.82 FPPM without the trio (370 minute sample), Rivers averages 0.77 FPPM (370 minute sample) and Felton averages 0.67 FPPM (358 minute sample). Felton darn near triple-doubled last night, Crawford led the healthy players in scoring and Rivers simply had an off shooting night (3-9). In all likelihood, playing a few of these guys (if not all of them) is going to be the play so pick and choose the ones the ones you feel best about. For me, I rank them Felton, Crawford and Rivers in that order but am not opposed to rostering any of them.
DeMarcus Cousins, Kings, $19,500 – Deciding between James Harden against the Suns and DeMarcus Cousins versus the 76ers is not easy but Cousins gets the nod due to price alone. While Harden will cost $21,400 to include on a roster, nearly $2,000 can be saved to roster Cousins who projects rather similarly in a plus matchup of his own. The main question is whether or not Joel Embiid will guard Cousins or whether Jahlil Okafor will because there is a gigantic difference in their defensive skills. Embiid is one of the league leaders in field goal percentage differential allowed within six feet of the basket. In other words, Embiid holds opponents to 17.3-percent below their average field goal percentage from within six feet of the basket. Meanwhile, Okafor only limits opponents to 2.5-percent below their average so there is quite a gap in defensive ability. Either way, though, the 76ers rank dead last in defensive efficiency against opposing centers so Cousins is in a great spot to eat them up. Maybe most importantly, the Clippers allow the second most PPG (21.4) to the center position of any team in the league (behind only the Trail Blazers). Build around Cousins on Monday.
Paul Millsap, Hawks, $15,100 – In a 456 minute sample size this season, Paul Millsap averages 1.18 FPPM sans Dwight Howard and the team’s starting center has already been ruled out on Monday (although he strangely traveled with the team). Two games ago, the Hawks squared off against the Timberwolves in a similar situation (without Howard) and Millsap dropped 46.50 fantasy points in 39 minutes. In concurrence with the aforementioned FPPM average, the outcome is almost exactly as it should be on average. With the team missing Howard once again, Millsap will have no choice but to play big minutes. Since minutes lead to production in daily fantasy basketball, Millsap is worthy of playing even at this semi-inflated price tag due to his ability to fill up a box score. UPDATE: Dwight Howard will play tonight so Millsap becomes for a secondary play than a must play.
Marc Gasol, Grizzlies, $13,600 – Here is the entire list of players averaging at least 5.0 RPG, 0.9 SPG and 1.0 BPG so far this season: Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, Gorgui Dieng, Mason Plumlee and Marc Gasol. Over the course of the last five games, these are the fantasy point outputs by the opposing team’s best center against the Magic: 41.0 (Brook Lopez), 35.75 (Jonas Valanciunas), 63.75 (Hassan Whiteside), 21.25 (Guillermo Hernangomez) and 27.5 (Thomas Robinson). As a whole, the Magic rank 26th in defensive efficiency against opposing centers partially due to a 53.0-percent field goal percentage allowed to the position. Consistency and Gasol are basically synonymous and lately has been no exception; he has averaged 39.0 FPPG over the course of his last five games that he has played alongside Mike Conley. At this price tag, just an average performance would equate to around 3.0x value or enough to justify rostering him in both cash games and GPPs.