Even against a slow-paced Jazz team, Lou Williams is simply too cheap because D’Angelo Russell remains out of the rotation. Coming off a 30-plus point explosion last night, Williams has a great chance to go off at a reasonable price tag once again tonight. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
Eric Bledsoe, Suns, $16,900 – The guard section tonight will start with Eric Bledsoe despite the fact Russell Westbrook is available on the slate. Instead of discussing the obvious at length, just realize Westbrook is well worth rostering in all formats if additional value opens up. Regardless of the additional value, Bledsoe is a guard to build a lineup around as he will draw the juicy matchup against the defense that ranks dead last in PG efficiency defense. Sure the price has risen to unusual levels for Bledsoe but the performance has justified it: Bledsoe is averaging a ridiculous 44.8 fantasy points per game (FPPG) so far this month (by far the most of any month this year). The game opened with a slate high 229.0 over/under and the Suns are listed as 6.5 road underdogs so the game should prove to be both high scoring and close. For what it is worth, Bledsoe dropped 60 fantasy points in his last meeting against this very Nuggets team on Nov. 27 and he possesses that sort of upside once again in this absolutely elite matchup.
Lou Williams, Lakers, $10,200 – Targeting players against the Jazz is not my favorite thing to do but Lou Williams has plenty of factors working in his favor. For one, Williams comes off the bench, meaning a large portion of his minutes will likely come during stints in which beastly rim protector Rudy Gobert finds himself on the bench. Furthermore, starting PG D’Angelo Russell is expected to be out once again which should only open up additional minutes and usage for supporting players such as Williams. With Russell out of the rotation, Williams’ usage rate (USG%) increases from 30.0 with him to 31.9-percent, his minutes per game increase from 23.3 to 26.7 and his average FPPG increase from 26.1 to 31.5 (in a 14 game sample without Russell). In each of his last three meetings against the Jazz, Williams has managed at least 28.5 fantasy points including a 58.5 fantasy point explosion when Russell was sidelined. Utah’s bench defense is nowhere near as formidable as the starters so Williams should still be able to flourish despite the game’s reasonably low projected total (203.5 points). At this depreciated price tag, Williams is a viable option in both cash games and GPPs.
Jameer Nelson, Nuggets, $8,800 – Emmanuel Mudiay is listed as “extremely doubtful” for Thursday’s contest so we can safely go ahead and assume he is going to sit out. Therefore, Nelson should be in line for some extra minutes as he has played at least 28 minutes in all three previous games Mudiay has missed this year. In those contests, Nelson has managed at least 29 fantasy points twice and flopped once (against the Timberwolves). His upcoming opponent, the Suns, rank smack dab in the middle in terms of the PG efficiency defense and the Nuggets are implied to score a whopping 117.8 points. Most of Nelson’s offense comes from the mid-range and around the perimeter so it is noteworthy that the Suns have allowed the second highest field goal percentage from 10-14 feet (45.8-percent) and the fourth highest from 20-24 feet (40.0-percent) which are some of Nelson’s sweet spots. Additionally, Nelson has attempted 127 three-pointers from the top of the key (compared to just 111 shot attempts from 10-24 feet) and the Suns have allowed the second highest three-point percentage to opponents from 25-29 feet as well. Basically, anywhere Nelson looks to create offense, he should have space. The $8,800 price tag is simply too cheap for both the safe floor and potential upside Nelson possesses in this spot.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves, $18,200 – The Pacers have struggled against opposing Cs all season long especially on the boards. Not only have they allowed the second most rebounds (REB) to Cs but also the second most offensive REB and they rank 23rd in efficiency to the position. Myles Turner is athletic enough to step out on Karl-Anthony Towns when shooting but he is not physical enough to bang with him down low. Towns has yet to square off against the Pacers in 2016. Comparable Cs, however, have all enjoyed monstrous performances against the Pacers. Here are the players and their fantasy point output against the Pacers so far: DeMarcus Cousins 63.5 fantasy points, Hassan Whiteside 57.5, Nikola Jokic 51.5, Dwight Howard 49.5 and the list goes on and on. Westbrook is my highest projected scorer on this slate but Towns is not far behind and he will save you $4,000-plus in salary. Ideally, value will open up and both will be able to be fit into a single lineup, but for now Towns rates as the best value amongst the expensive options.
Nikola Jokic, Nuggets, $17,200 – What really is there to say about Nikola Jokic at this point? Josh Lloyd laid out the case for him an upper-echelon player on the league on Twitter when he laid out the advanced statistics between Jokic and Towns side-by-side. In fact, the per-36 minute numbers are virtually identical as well as both are excellent two-way centers with the ability to step out and hit a jump shot as well. To be fair, Jokic is actually a superior passer and produces defensive statistics at a more efficient rate so this price tag is nothing to scoff at. In the month of January alone, Jokic is averaging 23.4 points per game (PPG), 10.7 rebounds per game (RPG), 4.6 assists per game (APG), 1.2 steals per game (SPG) and 1.1 blocks per game (BPG) en route to 47.4 FPPG. With Jokic playing a healthy amount of minutes in a fantastic game atmosphere such as this, he should flirt with 50 fantasy points as long as Coach Mike Malone does not mess with his minutes (and that seems like a thing of the past).
Harrison Barnes, Mavericks, $11,900 – Rostering Mavericks can be maddening because they play at such a slow pace and, other than Seth Curry, are almost never priced favorably. This is only the second time in the month of January Harrison Barnes has been priced under $12,000 so he certainly fits the bill on Thursday. Despite the fact the Thunder ranks sixth in defensive efficiency versus opposing SFs, Barnes has played a ton of PF this month too. Okay so the Thunder defend that position well also but the pace of this game (Thunder rank eighth in pace) should lead to a typical, solid Barnes outing. Strangely, Barnes has produced 64.7-percent consistency in games where his team was implied to score less than 100 points (97.3 on Thursday). Interestingly enough, Barnes has produced 80.0-percent consistency (meaning hitting value at his price) in games with an over/under greater than 200 with his price tag below $12,000 this year (five instances and he has come through four times). Playing this trend, I feel safe deploying Barnes in this spot as he rarely seems to drop a total dud…and that’s really all we are asking for on this strange slate.