Welcome to NBA Thoughts presented by FantasyDraft where I try to identify three players that have an opportunity to reach or exceed 3x their salary-based value. On FantasyDraft, this means for a player priced at $10,000, we want to be able to comfortably project them for 30 fantasy points, hopefully with upside for more.
With The Association gearing up for the All-Star Break this weekend, we have an incredibly robust fourteen game set. There will be a lot of temptation to cover as many different players as possible, however, with so many options available, the “popularity” will be spread across many players. On large slates like tonight, it is often beneficial to focus in on a few specific players that you feel strongly about since the rest of the field is going to be inherently spread out. Let’s dive right into the plays for tonight.
Kyrie Irving, $15,600 – This one is pretty simple. Kevin Love remains sidelined, and it will be Kyrie Irving who gets the biggest usage and production bump with Love off the court. Without Love, the Cavaliers are essentially down to two players that can create offense, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. We saw this scenario come to fruition last night in Minnesota, where Irving shot a whopping 27 times (while only making 10) and made just 2/10 three point attempts.
Yes, playing on a back to back is somewhat concerning after playing 37 minutes last night, but the matchup against the Pacers is nothing to fear, and this game features a hefty projected point total of 219.5 with the Cavs as 5.5 point favorites. Since the All-Star break is right around the corner, expect Cleveland to lean on Kyrie and LeBron once more tonight at home against the Pacers since the Cavaliers do not play again until Thursday, February 23rd. As a bonus, Irving has also been quite a bit better at home this season, averaging 1.7 more assists and shooting 50% from the field as opposed to 42% on the road. Irving seems like a strong bet for the 45 FantasyDraft points we need to make this play pay off.
Larry Nance Jr, $8,400 – Nance is playing exceptionally well for the Lakers over the last few games, averaging over 25 minutes per night during the last five games with well over a fantasy point per minute during that stretch. As he continues to regain his strength and is nearing full health, Nance has been stealing minutes from Julius Randle and with nearly the entire roster at Coach Luke Walton’s disposal, it is certainly a fluid situation in Los Angeles right now with the minutes distribution.
As a reminder, this is a tournament-only recommendation because it is not safe to assume Nance will continue to see 25+ minutes, but he should see a minimum of 18 minutes here and I have him projected for closer to 25. It is a fantastic matchup for Nance who scores a relatively high percentage of his fantasy points via blocks and steals and in transition, all areas where this young Phoenix squad can be easily exploited. The Suns are perhaps the worst team at stopping transition in the entire NBA, and Nance ranks in the 98th percentile on points per possession while in transition. At his current price point, Nance has a relatively safe floor and upside to completely smash his value threshold if things fall his way in the Valley of the Sun.
Nikola Jokic, $18,300 – After completely obliterating the Warriors to the tune of 17 points, 21 rebounds, 12 assists and 2 steals last game, nobody is sleeping on Jokic anymore (they shouldn’t have been anyway). Now with his price tag reflecting his current level of production, there is some risk to rostering him since he can get into foul trouble at times.
However, this should also serve to keep his popularity in check and he still has tremendous upside at this price point and it is a great matchup against the traveling Timberwolves who had a hard fought home loss to the Cavaliers last night in which all of their starters played heavy minutes, including 39 and 38 for big men Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng.
Now, the Timberwolves must play a back-to-back on the road in the altitude in Denver, where Jokic has performed even better than he does away from the Pepsi Center. Jokic should thrive in a number of ways tonight, both on the boards and as a distributor and as a scorer in what should be a fantasy gold mine of a game with the Nuggets favored by 5.5 and a huge 227 projected point total. Jokic is the 7th most expensive player on FantasyDraft but certainly has the upside to be the top overall scoring player on the slate.
Good luck out there tonight! ~ DraftCheat