Both Nikola Mirotic’s minutes and fantasy production are on the rise in the month of January so do not hesitate to roster him at a reasonable cost against the fast-paced Thunder. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
Russell Westbrook, Thunder, $23,300 – Even though there are only three games on the slate and inactives have not been announced, Russell Westbrook can already be locked and loaded into any and all lineups. On this slate, literally only Westbrook possesses 80 fantasy point upside and if you are caught without him then RIP to the night. Since making the switch to Michael Carter-Williams as the starting PG, the Bulls rank 29th in defensive efficiency against the position…and now they will face the best in the business. May the force be with anyone who decides going the contrarian route and fades Westbrook in order to be different. Barring injury or ejection, Westbrook should prove to be the highest scoring player on the slate by far, as per usual.
Deron Williams/J.J. Barea, Mavericks – Deciding between these two Mavericks PGs presents a conundrum because Deron Williams has played significantly better in the absence of J.J. Barea this season (at least from a fantasy perspective. In 20 games without Barea, Williams has averaged 13.7 points per game (PPG), 7.3 assists per game (APG) and 28.6 fantasy points per game (FPPG) compared to 14.2 PPG, 5.1 APG and 26.1 FPPG without him. Barea returned last game (Jan. 7) for the first since Dec. 21 and played 17 minutes yet he is averaging 24.8 minutes per game (MPG) when Williams is active alongside him. In other words, his minutes should be on the rise which will not necessarily affect Williams’ minutes much (more Seth Curry’s) but rather his production slightly. Still, the team will square off against a Timberwolves team that ranks 27th in defensive efficiency versus opposing PGs and plays a similar, slow-paced style of basketball. Essentially, it is the same style of play the team is used to playing. It also should be noted Kris Dunn, the Timberwolves’ backup PG, ranks third on the team in defensive box plus/minus (DBPM) while Ricky Rubio ranks sixth (and slightly below a league-average player). That fact helps enhance the matchup for Williams but Barea is simply a more productive player than his price tag ($7,800) suggests so both are firmly in play…you will simply have to see which works better in terms of roster construction (and I am not opposed to using both in the same lineup as they rarely play minutes together – only 71 total this year).
Buddy Hield, Pelicans, $8,700 – Here are Buddy Hield’s shot attempts by the month this season (in chronological order): 8.0, 7.7, 9.2 and 12.3 (this month)…and here are his minutes per game by month (again chronological order): 17.7, 16.5, 22.3 and finally 29.8. Clearly, he has seen an uptick in playing time and it has directly affected his ability to put up more shots on a consistent basis. For a player known as a pure scorer, this can only lead to good things in terms of fantasy. Unsurprisingly for a young, developing player, the uptick is minutes has actually lead to an increase in fantasy efficiency (fantasy points per minute (FPPM)) almost by the month. In January, Hield is averaging a season-high 0.92 FPPM due to both his highest assist percentage (15.4) and rebound percentage (8.7) of any month so far this season. Hield is developing as a player and playing an expanded role in the offense and yet his price tag does not accurately reflect the change. Pounce on this price tag while you still can.
Anthony Davis, Pelicans, $19,900 – On a three game slate, there are a surprising amount of seemingly reliable values which makes it easy to roster both Westbrook and Anthony Davis in the same lineup. Instead of trying to compile a 100-percent accurate grouping of mid-tier players, why not just take the likely two highest scores on the slate and try to pair them with the proper values? Some people get too cute on FantasyDraft by attempting to roster two $14,000 players instead of something like a Davis/Nikola Mirotic duo (who we will get to). Stars are some of the least volatile players in the league so even a bad game should result in 45-50 fantasy points whereas a 20-25 fantasy point flop from a mid-tier player quite simply kills a lineup. Rather than taking that chance, go back to the well with Davis against the Knicks as he just torched them for 23 points (PTS), 18 rebounds (REB) and 51.50 fantasy points in their last meeting on Dec. 30. Do not be the guy who lets mid-tier players burn you on a slate where the studs are easily rosterable.
Nikola Mirotic, Bulls, $9,200 – Another reason why the Westbrook/Davis duo is so attainable in lineups is because Nikola Mirotic’s recent play deems him a solid value at this price tag. Over the course of his last 11 games, he has only failed to take at least 10 shot attempts twice and he is averaging 11.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 24.9 FPPG during that stretch. At this price point, 24.9 fantasy points would put a fantasy team on pace for 271 fantasy points and that is simply just an average performance during this recent hot streak. Oklahoma City plays the eighth fastest brand of basketball which is faster-paced than any team they have played during this recent span other than the Wizards (he finished with 22 fantasy points in 21 minutes against them). Since Robin Lopez has struggled as of late, both Mirotic and Cristian Felicio have enjoyed an uptick in minutes this month and Lopez faces another tough matchup (versus Steven Adams) on Monday. Consequently, Mirotic should be expected to see closer to the 28.9 MPG he has averaged this month as opposed to his season average of 23.5 MPG. As a 0.92 FPPM producer, he is a serious threat to even exceed 3.0x value at this cost, putting a lineup on pace for well over 300 fantasy points.
Donatas Motiejunas, Pelicans, $6,000 – In Donatas Motiejunas’ season debut last game, he was allotted 20 minutes and made the absolute most of them: he played 20 minutes, scored 11 PTS, grabbed five REBs and finished with a whopping 25.75 fantasy points. One would assume he would be awarded for his solid play with at least a similar amount of minutes in the following game. On paper, the matchup against Kyle O’Quinn is not overly favorable (his 2.6 DBPM ranks second on the team) but Motiejunas should see a mix of him and Lance Thomas (10th on the team in DBPM). Instead of overanalyzing, just take solace in the fact that a player who has averaged at least 0.83 FPPM over the course of the last two seasons is priced at minimum price in a reasonably substantial role. Additionally, Terrence Jones’ minutes dropped to 16 on Saturday in order to account for Motiejunas’ arrival into the rotation. Coach Alvin Gentry clearly seemed to make the conscious decision to play Motiejunas at the expense on Jones which should promote some confidence in his staying ability in the rotation. As is the case for most bench players, if Jones were to get hot, it would likely limit Motiejunas’ minutes. Whenever a solid talent is priced at the bare minimum, this is a risk worth taking.
Honorable Mention: Carmelo Anthony (price point is simply too enticing to overlook)