James Johnson has topped 20 real points and 37 fantasy points in back-to-back games. With Hassan Whiteside already ruled out with an eye injury, Johnson will be called upon to step up for his team once again against a Suns defense allowing nearly 113 points per game. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
Goran Dragic, Heat, $13,300 – Your NBA leader in drives per game is none other than Goran Dragic and he will face a middle of the road defense in terms of rim protection. Most importantly, the Heat will face a 10-25 (28.1-percent win rate) Suns team that will be on the second end of a back-to-back. Even though the Heat will be without two of their best players, Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow, there really is no fear of a blowout. Without both Whiteside and Winslow on the floor, Dragic averages 1.21 fantasy points per minute (FPPM). Assuming he comes back and earns a full allotment of around 30-32 minutes or so (had been dealing with a back injury), he projects somewhere in between 36-39 fantasy points in an average performance. Considering the Suns defense ranks as one of the worst three in league in terms of both defensive efficiency and points (PTS) allowed, it is not unreasonable to project Dragic for an uptick in efficiency from the norm. On a slate lacking the usual elite guards, Dragic stands out as one of the best plays at the position regardless of cost.
T.J. McConnell, 76ers, $8,500 – Sergio Rodriguez is listed as doubtful once again so T.J. McConnell will once again be the only true ball-handler active for the 76ers on Tuesday. In the last game sans Rodriguez, McConnell played a whopping 36 minutes, scored 17 PTS and dished out eight assists (AST) en route to 32 fantasy points. With literally no possible alternatives on the roster, he simply has to see extended minutes by default. There is nothing scary about the matchup against the Timberwolves either as they rank 28th in PG efficiency defense. Although McConnell only averages 8.2 points per-36 minutes, he still has managed an average of 0.82 FPPM due to his ability to fill up the box score. On a per-36 minute basis, McConnell averages 3.3 rebounds (REB), 8.4 AST and a whopping 2.3 steals (STL) so he can rack up the fantasy points without scoring the basketball. Despite the rising price tag, there is simply too much upside to pass on for a reasonably efficient player destined for 35-plus minutes once again.
Seth Curry, Mavericks, $8,400 – The Mavericks are not exactly a team usually oozing with fantasy potential considering they rank second to last in pace and average a league worst 95.1 points per game (PPG). Even so, Seth Curry has been providing stable production off the bench while J.J. Barea has been dealing with a left leg muscle strain. As of Jan. 2, Mavericks beat writer Tim MacMahon reported Barea is not supposed to play this week so his status seems to be set. Someone whose status is not set yet is Deron Williams who is listed as questionable with an illness. He did not practice on Monday so there seems to be a legitimate shot he sits this one out. Curry is worth a shot at this price tag regardless as he has topped 21 fantasy points three of his last four games and seven out of his last nine. However, he would emerge as a prime play in all formats were Williams to sit as he would no doubt be in line for 30-plus minutes of playing time in that scenario. If looking for a source of salary relief with upside, Curry is your man regardless of the status of the team’s starting PG (although his stock would clearly be significantly enhanced if Williams were out).
DeMarcus Cousins, Kings, $20,500 – In his last three meetings against the Nuggets, DeMarcus Cousins has absolutely dominated them. Dominant big men have all had their way against the Nuggets this year (despite their solid defensive rating against opposing Cs). For instance, Anthony Davis (94.25 fantasy point outburst), Karl-Anthony Towns (first career triple-double), Hassan Whiteside (25 PTS, 16 REB), Brook Lopez, Draymond Green, Kristaps Porzingis, Andre Drummond, Joel Embiid and Paul Millsap have all averaged at least 38.5 fantasy points (some players have played multiple games) in their meetings against the Nuggets this year. Clearly, Cousins is one of the game’s elite and he has topped 58 fantasy points in each of his last three meetings against this very team. With Rudy Gay listed as questionable and possibly out once again, his absence would only enhance Cousins’ usage rate (USG%) although it is not absolutely pivotal for Cousins’ success. If paying up for one player on this slate, Cousins clearly stands out above the pack.
Andre Drummond, Pistons, $13,700 – Another team in which opposing Cs have had success against is the Pacers except the success actually shows up on the stat sheet; the team ranks 18th in efficiency to Cs and they have allowed the second most REB per game (RPG) to the position (16.6) as well. Andre Drummond is obviously one of the game’s best rebounders as only Hassan Whiteside is averaging more boards per game. An interesting trend that has been developing for Drummond is his home/road splits: he is averaging 34.1 FPPG on the road compared to 40.4 at home. Luckily for Drummond and those looking to roster him, this one will be played in the friendly confines of The Palace of Auburn Hills. When the teams played earlier this year, Drummond only put up 32.75 fantasy points but he missed the double-double bonus by a single point and he shot 36.4-percent. Drummond will head into this game having managed at least 15-15 (both PTS and REB) in consecutive games so he should be a solid bet to top his previous numbers in this one. At a sub-$14,000 cost, Drummond is an excellent cash game investment with tournament upside as well.
James Johnson, Heat, $10,800 – The best was saved for last as James Johnson arguably is the best play of the entire slate especially on a per-dollar basis. With Hassan Whiteside out of the picture, Johnson played 34 minutes last game and absolutely filled up the stat sheets: 20 PTS with four three-pointers made (3PM), seven REB, three AST, one STL and one block (BLK). Amazingly, this performance came on the heels of a 22 PT, three REB, six AST, two STL and two BLK performance the game in which Whiteside suffered his eye injury…and all of that was in just 24 minutes. Although Willie Reed will draw the start at C, he is nothing more than a temporary fill-in not too dissimilar from Salah Mejri when he starts. He will only play a limited amount of upsides, possess a limited amount of upside and eventually find the bench in order to clear extended playing time for superior talent (Johnson). In his ninth NBA season, Johnson is nearly matching a career-best in FPPM (0.98) since he is averaging a career-high 16.6 PTS per-36 mins. With the ability to literally fill up the entire box score against one of the league’s worst few defenses, Johnson’s upside stretches far beyond the $10,800 price tag. Lock and load him in any and all formats.