Greetings everyone and thank you for checking out my Valentine’s Day edition of the Core Plays article! Unfortunately, the NBA only scheduled three games tonight, so there were only three players I felt warranted being called core plays. I will avoid telling you that LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins and Karl-Anthony Towns are great plays, so let’s take a look at those three other players to consider building around tonight.
Kyrie Irving ($15,600)– With Kevin Love sitting tonight’s game against the Timberwolves out due to knee soreness, Kyrie Irving becomes one of the top plays on the slate and is the first core player to target.
According to NBAWowy.com, Kyrie Irving sees the biggest boost in USG and production without Love on the court this season. Kyrie’s usage rate increases from 31.6 percent to a whopping 36.3 percent without Love, but more importantly, he averages an increase of .19 fantasy points per minute without the All-Star power forward on the floor. Kyrie’s Per-36 numbers without Love show that Kyrie takes an extra 2.63 shots and 2.13 free throws without Love on the floor as well.
In five games without Love this season, Kyrie Irving has averaged 42.4 fantasy points per game, which includes a 41 fantasy point performance against the Timberwolves on February 1st. Irving had a 14 point, 14 assist double-double in that contest, but only played 30 minutes.
The Timberwolves have been an absolute sieve on defense in the month of February, surrendering 111.9 points per game and allowing opponents to shoot 49.5 percent from the field. The Timberwolves have allowed opposing guards to shoot a league-high 42.7 percent from three-point range as well, an area that Kyrie has improved on this season.
Darren Collison ($13,300)- With Ty Lawson listed as questionable tonight, and a plethora of other injuries in Sacramento, Darren Collison comes in tonight as the second core player to target. Collison has seen his price jump $2,600 since his last game against Atlanta, but he has averaged 40 minutes and 39.5 fantasy points over the past two games. We can pencil in Collison for another game of near 40 minutes if Lawson sits out again tonight, and anytime you can get someone playing that many minutes against the Lakers, you have to lock him in.
Collison is has scored at least 20 points in three-straight games for the Kings, averaging 22.7 points during that stretch, and he faces off against a Lakers squad with the second-worst defensive efficiency to opposing guards, allowing 110.4 points per 100 possessions. Opposing guards have shot 48 percent from the field against the Lakers this season, and with Collison’s recent stretch of six games in which he has shot an impressive 51.6 percent, I am confident that he can reach value tonight even at an increased price tag. Note: This pick is highly contingent on the status of Ty Lawson. Collison’s value takes a big dip if he is able to return.
Matt Barnes ($10,100)- Another player that has taken advantage of the injuries in Sacramento has been Matt Barnes, and he is the third core player to consider locking in tonight. The 36-year-old forward has found himself playing over 30 minutes in five of his last six games, and while it is likely that his legs give out on him soon, that shouldn’t happen tonight against the Lakers.
Since moving in to the starting lineup for the Kings, Barnes has almost doubled his season average in rebounds per game (5.3) and has pulled down 10 or more rebounds in five of the last six games. The Lakers have allowed opponents to grab 44.4 rebounds per game against them this season, with that number dropping to 42 per game over the last three, but Barnes still has an opportunity here to put up a solid game. Since inserting Brandon Ingram in the lineup three games ago, the Lakers have allowed opposing forwards to shoot 49.6 percent from the field against them, and have surrendered 54 fantasy points per game to opposing SFs over their last three games. Those three games saw Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 68 fantasy points, Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris put up 29.75 and 28.5 and Carmelo put up 37.25 fantasy points. Obviously Barnes isn’t on the same talent level of Giannis and Melo, but he has exceeded 3x value at his current price tag three times over his last five games.