Gordon Hayward is averaging 43.7 fantasy points per game and 37.1 minutes per game in a three game sample size without both George Hill and Dante Exum this season. Now, with both deemed inactive, he will draw a juicy matchup against the NBA’s worst defense. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
Russell Westbrook, Thunder, $22,000 – Since James Harden is coming off a game where he broke 100 fantasy points, he actually has leapfrogged Russell Westbrook in terms of price, meaning the Thunder PG is not the most expensive player on the slate. For him, that is a rarity because he is a walking triple-double and the best player in daily fantasy basketball. The only potential downside to this matchup is the fact the Bucks rank fourth in PG efficiency defense over the course of the last three games which correlates with Malcolm Brogdon’s move to the starting lineup in the absence of Matthew Dellavedova. Beyond Brogdon, who is a rookie, Milwaukee is a middle of the road defense in terms of rim protection so this is a minor fork in the road. Over the course of the last two seasons, Westbrook has averaged 50.5 fantasy points per game (FPPG) against this team and he has yet to play a game against them without Kevin Durant during that stretch. For what it is worth, the Bucks are 9-8 against the spread at home this year and the team only opened as 2.5 point favorites against the Thunder in a game with a projected 212 over/under. While the line in the Rockets game is no doubt going to be superior, Westbrook remains the safest play on the entire slate…especially since he is slightly cheaper. UPDATE: The more I think about it, the more I think James Harden is the superior cash play. Even so, Westbrook is certainly viable in all formats for all the aforementioned reasons.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks, $18,600 – Absolutely no one on the Thunder is capable of guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo which explains why he dropped 73.5 fantasy points against them the last time these two teams squared off. The return of Victor Oladipo certainly does not help the Thunder’s cause but Antetokounmpo has a solid seven inches on him. The Thunder play the eighth fastest brand of basketball so far this season so Antetokounmpo and company should be forced to play up in pace a bit. Assuming no minimum priced value emerges, it is damn near impossible to set a favorable Harden/Westbrook lineup. As long as Kyrie Irving returns to the Cavaliers, Antetokounmpo, who is averaging nearly the identical amount of fantasy points as LeBron James this season, would edge out “The King” for option 1B in fantasy lineups. Again, this is projected to be a close, high-scoring game so the game environment certainly is favorable.
Clippers Guards – Once again, this situation is dependent on the status of Chris Paul but there will be viability here one way or another against the lowly Suns. UPDATE: As I am writing this, Chris Paul has been deemed doubtful for Monday night. Therefore, the plethora of remaining guards will face an elite matchup against a Suns team that allows 112.9 points per game (PPG) and ranks second in pace. As if that were not enough, the Suns rank 22nd in PG efficiency defense and 28th against SGs and, oh yeah, the Clippers guards are all still reasonably priced considering their expanded role sans the team’s best player. In a five game sample without both Blake Griffin and Paul this year, Raymond Felton has averaged 33.1 minutes per game (MPG), Jamal Crawford has averaged 31.5 MPG and Austin Rivers has averaged 29.1 MPG. During that same sample size, Felton has averaged 27.7 FPPG, Crawford 26.3 FPPG and Rivers 22.4 FPPG. Strangely, Rivers is listed as most expensive ($9,700) with Crawford next ($9,200) and Felton listed as the cheapest despite the statistics suggesting they should be priced in the exact opposite order. Consequently, Felton presents the best value with Crawford next and Rivers rounding out the trio. Any and all of them could potentially post a monster performance in this game so all are worthy of consideration.
Gordon Hayward, Jazz, $15,000 – Both George Hill and Dante Exum have already been ruled out for Monday night’s tilt against the Nets so Gordon Hayward is firmly in play once again. With George Hill on the court, Hayward has averaged 1.01 fantasy points per minute (FPPM) this year. However, when both Hill and Exum are off the court, that efficiency cranks all the way up to 1.18 FPPM…so clearly a substantial difference. In a three game sample without both PGs this year, Hayward has played at least 34 minutes each game and has put up 46.0, 34.75 and 50.25 fantasy points respectively with the two solid performances coming against two subpar defenses (Kings and Lakers). Tonight, Hayward will face a Nets team that given up the most PPG of any defense and they also play at the fastest pace in the league. In order for Hayward to reach 3x value, he needs to hit 45 fantasy points and he has accomplished that in two of the three games sans Hill/Exum. With the team facing the worst defense in the entire league, his potential floor and ceiling both climb higher than usual. All-in-all, fading Hayward just feels like a mistake on a night where he could potentially give all the high priced studs (other than Westbrook/Harden) a run for their money in terms of raw fantasy point output (assuming the game remains close and the line opened with the Jazz as only 6.0 point favorites).
DeAndre Jordan, Clippers, $13,600 – As noted in the Clippers guards tidbit, the matchup against the Suns overall is a favorable one and DeAndre Jordan has succeeded in his one prior game in a similar situation. On Feb. 22 of last season, the Clippers played the Suns sans Blake Griffin and Jordan dropped a ridiculous 40.75 fantasy points in just 26.7 minutes. The Clippers won that game in blowout fashion (124-84) which explains the limited minute total for the team’s starting center. This go-around, the game should be expected to be competitive considering the Clippers will now be missing their best two players. Despite a once great defensive specialist Tyson Chandler being on the roster, the Suns rank 24th in defensive efficiency to opposing Cs including allowing the third most PPG. Last year, Jordan averaged 39.5 FPPG without Griffin and his total only sits at 35.5 FPPG so far this year. In the long run, that total should be on the rise and this game is a prime spot for him to shine. At a mid-tier price tag, Jordan presents one of the best overall values on the entire slate.
Greg Monroe, Bucks, $9,100 – Here is a name I bet you did not expect to see on this list. Trusting Jason Kidd’s rotations beyond Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker can prove to be frustrating but this is a spot where trusting Kidd is worth the risk. This matchup features a battle between two offensive-minded Cs off the bench who both could easily be starting for their respective teams. Over the course of his six year career, Enes Kanter has posted a positive defensive box plus/minus rating exactly zero times. In other words, in this specific metric (which I personally trust), he has graded as a below average defender since joining the NBA. Meanwhile, Monroe is coming off a game where he played a whopping 34 minutes so Kidd’s trust in him seems to be improving as time goes on. In fact, Monroe has now topped 30 fantasy points in three of his past five games. The good news is the price tag is still reasonable and a 30-plus fantasy point performance once again would result in him crushing value. While there is still some level of volatility, this is one of the best possible matchups he could possibly ask for. If comfortable taking a risk on an unpredictable coach, this is a prime spot to deploy Monroe.
Honorable Mentions: Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre Jr. (if Bradley Beal is out)