Facing a Raptors team that allows the fourth most points per possession in the post and also struggles to cover three-point shooters, there are many ways Karl-Anthony Towns can potentially torch this defense on Wednesday. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
Jeff Teague, Pacers – In a matchup at home against one of the better teams in the division, Coach Nate McMillan will obviously be trying his best to win this game. In order to compete with the Cavaliers, the starters are going to have to play big minutes which could mean longer stints on the court for the likes of Jeff Teague, Paul George and even possibly Myles Turner. Of the aforementioned trio, Teague clearly draws the best individual matchup as he will square off against Kyrie Irving’s defense (or lack thereof). Amongst all starters, Irving’s defensive box plus/minus (DBPM) ranks by far the worst and the team and only the likes of Kyle Korver and Jordan McRae have produced worse tallies. Additionally, Irving is tied for third to last on the team in defensive rating (DRTG), behind only Korver and Richard Jefferson. Basically, it is no surprise the Cavaliers rank 23rd in defensive efficiency to opposing PGs because Irving, the man playing a majority of the minutes at the position, struggles to cover them. Teague topped 40 fantasy points in his first meeting against Irving as a member of the Pacers and there is no reason he should not be able to at least approach a similar total in the second meeting.
D’Angelo Russell, Lakers – Following a total letdown, it is possible people start sulking once again about how unpredictable Coach Luke Walton is and inevitably D’Angelo Russell should see a bit of a depressed ownership level. In my opinion, this is the wrong time to sour on him because Walton does what any good coach should do: leave in the players playing well and rest his starters when they are up big. Last game, both were true against the Knicks as the Lakers were absolutely crushing them so Walton decided to rest Russell for the likes of Lou Williams who led the team in scoring with 22 points (PTS). Now, squaring off against the Pistons in Detroit, Russell is well-rested and ready to rock versus a defense that ranks 27th in defensive efficiency to opposing PGs and has allowed the fourth most points per game (PPG) to the position. In order for the Lakers to put up a fight, they are going to need a big game from their star PG who was on a streak of 40-plus fantasy points in three consecutive games until his 20 minute flop last time out.
Nik Stauskas, 76ers – This one is not going to be insanely fun to watch but Nik Stauskas is destined for 30-plus minutes against the Spurs and is priced darn near the minimum. Over the course of Stauskas’ last 10 games, he has averaged 30.5 minutes per game (MPG) including 35-plus minutes in two of his last four games. This has led to 25-plus fantasy points in three of his last six games. Interestingly enough, the team was getting blown out by the Pistons in their last game and Stauskas finished the game as the mop-up duty PG so he is virtually blowout proof as well. In his last meeting against the Spurs just six days ago, Stauskas shot 2-10 and yet still managed 19 fantasy points. At this price tag, 19 fantasy points would be close to approaching 3.0x value and that may be his floor considering Kawhi Leonard is going to shutdown whomever starts at SF so more of the offense will need to funnel through Stauskas and others. Although he is probably a better fit for tournament lineups, Stauskas is sneakily a player with an excellent chance to exceed value.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves – Since the beginning of January, Marc Gasol, Nikola Vucevic, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, Brook Lopez and Rudy Gobert have all broken 40 fantasy points in meetings against the Raptors (the first three names all actually broke 50 as well). Why are the Raptors so susceptible to the position? For one, the Raptors allow the fourth most points per possession (PPP) on post-up plays and opponents score on them at the fourth highest frequency on those plays as well (which are similar metric but not exactly identical). Furthermore, the Raptors allow the eighth most PPP to the roll man on pick and roll plays so bigs are able to dominate this team in multiple ways. For Karl-Anthony Towns’s sake, the fact the Raptors have also allowed the third highest three-point percentage this year gives him even another weapon to slice up the defense with. If paying up for one player, Towns is the guy.
Nikola Jokic, Nuggets – Complementing Towns with another well-rounded C is not the worst idea in the world considering Dwight Howard has no chance of sticking with Nikola Jokic. It is not that Howard is not athletic but Jokic likes to hang around the high post and Howard is more effective as a defender in the post. Like Russell, Jokic is coming off a disappointing game but he was in foul trouble from the get-go and still registered 32.50 fantasy points in 24 minutes or about 1.35 FPPM. This will be the first time Jokic faces Howard as the full-time starter so there is no previous data but Jokic has also proven he is close to a $20,000 player when he is on. This is an extremely reasonable price tag for a player averaging 1.37 FPPM over the course of the season. Assuming Jokic is able to stay out of foul trouble, there is no reason he should not play more than 30 minutes and flirt with 50 fantasy points yet again.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kings – Both Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein are in play with DeMarcus Cousins suspended but Cauley-Stein gets the nod as the slightly superior play. In years past, Koufos would always emerge as the better play of the two because he would start and play most of the minutes. Now, with the Kings consistently rolling out starting lineups with twin towers, both these players should be expected to start alongside one another. In terms of game flow, Cauley-Stein should see extended minutes in virtually all scenarios whereas Koufos would more than likely sit during the stretch of a blowout. Other than these two, the team does not have many alternatives left at the C position other than Georgios Papagiannis (and it would take quite the beating for him to enter the game). Sans Cousins, it is difficult to expect the team to play without anyone so I will take the player I am projecting to play more minutes in the worst case scenario. Cauley-Stein and Koufos are virtually even in terms of fantasy efficiency on a per-minute basis so Cauley-Stein is the one to roll out in all formats. To be fair, though, both players could easily exceed value.