Nikola Jokic is out once again tonight so expect the Nuggets to roll out a bunch of smaller lineups and play Kenneth Faried an extended amount of minutes once again. At his mid-tier price tag, he should be locked and loaded into any and all lineups regardless of format. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
John Wall, Wizards, $18,000 – This game sets up well for the entire Wizards squad because all of the Knicks just played insane minutes their last game because it went to quadruple overtime. Some of their players will be playing tired which explains the 8.0 point spread. With Derrick Rose likely to miss this contest, John Wall will be defended most of the time by Brandon Jennings who quite literally ranks last on the Knicks in terms of defensive box plus/minus (DBPM) and is tied for fourth to last in defensive rating (DRTG). For the season, the Knicks rank 19th in defensive efficiency versus opposing PGs but that number would probably be worse if Jennings were to have played more minutes. Basically, Wall should beat him like a drum as he has to every other Knicks PG who has tried to guard him over the past two seasons. Since the start of 2015, Wall has produced at least 40.25 fantasy points in every meeting against the Knicks including two 61-plus fantasy point explosions. Although rostering Harden is an enticing proposition, Wall is the logical alternative with at least comparable upside.
Jameer Nelson, Nuggets, $11,200 – Emmanuel Mudiay traveled with the team which is a bit strange after he was already ruled out of this game but that more so affects his status for Wednesday. As long as nothing crazy happens, Mudiay will once again sit this one out and Jameer Nelson will draw the excellent matchup against the Lakers’ PG defense (or lack thereof). In fact, the Lakers rank 28th in PG efficiency defense and dead last in overall team defensive efficiency so far this season so the matchup is certainly ripe. As expected, this game opened with a reasonably close spread (Nuggets 3.5 point favorites) and a substantial over/under (225.5) points, so Nelson should see 30-plus minutes in an incredibly fantasy friendly environment. Sure the price is rising but Nelson simply cannot be overlooked in this spot.
Brandon Jennings, Knicks, $10,200 – As noted in the Wall tidbit, the Knicks all played huge minutes last game including Brandon Jennings who logged 53 of them. Luckily, the team had a day to rest and the roster really does not offer many alternatives to Jennings with Rose out. In the six games Rose has sat out this season, Jennings has averaged 15.2 points per game (PPG), 4.0 rebounds per game (RPG), 6.3 assists per game (APG) en route to a whopping 31.5 fantasy points per game (FPPG). Hell, even his usage rate (USG%) rises substantially sans Rose (from 17.6 to 20.5-percent). On paper, the matchup is not overly favorable considering Wall ranks above average in terms of DBPM and the Wizards rank sixth in defensive efficiency against opposing PGs. Even if Jennings only turns in an average performance without the starter, he should at least flirt with value at this mid-tier price tag.
DeMarcus Cousins, Kings, $20,100 – Although Darren Collison had been averaging 19.5 PPG over his last four games heading into Monday, he struggled against the 76ers to the tune of just eight points (PTS) on 3-7 shooting. Now, he will face the tough individual defense of Patrick Beverley meaning his scoring should be limited yet again. With that being the case, and with Rudy Gay slated to miss the rest of the season, literally the only possible way the Kings stay in this game would be from a big game from DeMarcus Cousins. Over the course of his last five games, Cousins has been on another level; he has not sunk below 54.50 fantasy points and he has topped 63 fantasy points thrice during the span. Only two teams have allowed a higher defended field goal percentage within six feet than the Rockets even though they have only surrendered 0.77 points per possession (PPP) on post ups. In other words, they are being beat by dribble penetration and Cousins is the absolute best C in the league at taking the ball to the rack. Additionally, the Rockets rank fourth in pace this season so the Kings will have to up the tempo in order to compete. As icing on the cake, Cousins produced 55.25 fantasy points against the Rockets in these two teams’ only meeting so far this year, so there is a sample size of success. Fading Harden will lead to the Wall/Cousins duo fitting comfortably into the same cash lineup and I believe that is the preferred play on this slate. UPDATE: The more I look at it, the more I think I prefer Anthony Davis of the two especially in tournaments.
Kenneth Faried, Nuggets, $10,600 – Here is your play of the night: Kenneth Faried. With Nikola Jokic still on the sidelines, the Nuggets seemed comfortable rolling with smaller lineups and relying heavily on Faried playing C. Overall, Faried played 37 minutes in the last game and seven of the Nuggets’ 12 most common lineups in that game featured Faried at C (even though he started at PF). The Lakers certainly possess the personnel to go small and roll with three guards at a time which bodes well for Faried over the likes of Jusuf Nurkic (who only played a measly 15 minutes). Even if the minutes decrease slightly, the Lakers rank 29th in defensive efficiency versus opposing Cs, 19th in defensive efficiency against opposing PFs and they allow the ninth most RPG overall to opponents (including the 11th most offensive RPG). Combine all of these factors and Faried is simply not a player you want to fade in what should prove to be his second straight explosion (49.75 fantasy points last game).
Spencer Hawes, Hornets, $9,100 – Like many of the aforementioned names, Spencer Hawes will benefit from a teammate sitting this one out. In his case, it is Cody Zeller who has already been ruled out for Tuesday which is unfortunate for him against a fast-paced Trail Blazers squad (ninth in pace). To this point, the Trail Blazers are one of only eight teams to have allowed 5.0-plus three-pointers per game to opposing frontcourts and they rank 26th overall in defensive efficiency to opposing Cs. Although Hawes has produced a few mediocre outings in a row, he has averaged 26.4 minutes per game (MPG) and 26.0 FPPG in 10 games without Zeller this year. At this price tag, 26 fantasy points would very nearly equate to 3.0x value aka it would put a fantasy team on pace for almost 300 points (286 to be exact). In a fast-paced environment against a team that struggles to cover the three-point line (especially big men), there is reason to believe Hawes should bounce back and at least flirt with value. With a little bit of luck, Hawes could potentially exceed value and put those who rostered him in an excellent spot to potentially win the $7,000 Pick and Roll!