After an eventful All-Star break and trade deadline where DeMarcus Cousins was traded away to New Orleans, the NBA is back with a six-game slate that is sure to have some fireworks of its own. It will take some time to see how players on new teams will fit in, meaning there will be a lot to watch in the upcoming days. For tonight, however, here are four players to consider locking in as core plays!
Guillermo Hernangomez ($11,200)- Joakim Noah will be sidelined for another game tonight, so Guillermo Hernangomez finds himself in the starting lineup tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hernangomez has excelled in his three games as a starter this season, averaging 33.6 fantasy points on 11.66 points and 11 boards in those contests; in games where he has played over 20 minutes, he is averaging an impressive 29.6 fantasy points.
The Cavaliers typically present a tough matchup for opposing big men, allowing only 47.5 fantasy points per game to opposing centers, but things change drastically for the reigning champions without Kevin Love on the floor: according to NBAWowy.com, the Cavaliers have a putrid 47.5% team rebounding rate without Love on the floor this season, which would tie the New Orleans Pelicans for the second worst mark in the NBA. “Willy” has pulled down 10 or more rebounds in 16 of the games that he has played over 20 minutes, and he should be able to take advantage of the Love-less Cavs in tonight’s matchup.
In three previous contests against the Cavaliers this season, all with Love in the Cleveland lineup, Hernangomez averaged only 19.2 fantasy points – however, he managed to put up 20.2 fantasy points in 15 minutes and 32.8 fantasy points in 35.7 minutes in their two most recent contests.
Andre Drummond ($13,900)- The Detroit Pistons are fielding offers on the 23-year old Andre Drummond prior to today’s trade deadline, but until a trade goes down, Drummond makes for a great play against the Charlotte Hornets. Drummond is currently fifth in the NBA with 37 double-doubles on the season, and is tied for second with DeAndre Jordan with 13.8 rebounds per game on the season. Tonight, Drummond gets to face a Charlotte team that will be without both Cody Zeller and Miles Plumlee.
The Charlotte Hornets have been abused by opposing centers all season, allowing the fourth-most fantasy points (51.98), second-most rebounds (12.5), second-most points (29.3), and are tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves for most blocks allowed (1.6) per game to opposing big men. The Hornets are also allowing the seventh-most points in the paint to opposing centers (10.1) since losing Cody Zeller, which is where Andre Drummond attempts over 90% of his shots this season.
Drummond has seen limited time against the Hornets this season, getting ejected after 14 minutes in one game and playing only 25.1 minutes in their third matchup, but he put up 57.5 fantasy points in the second matchup of the season; Drummond is averaging 1.4 fantasy points per minute against them this season. Drummond’s current price is low enough where he offers plenty of upside in GPPs, and should easily reach 3x value tonight.
Kemba Walker ($14,200)- The Charlotte Hornets have been a disaster since losing Zeller to a quad injury, and Walker himself got off to a rough start to the month, before eventually turning things around just before the All-Star break. Kemba snapped his cold streak in his last two games before the break, shooting 54.5% from the field. The Hornets and Pistons will be heavily invested in tonight’s game, with Detroit leading Charlotte by 2.5 games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and Detroit leading Charlotte 2-1 in the season series, so Charlotte will lean on Walker tonight as they look for a win at the Palace.
With Reggie Jackson also on the trading block for Detroit the individual matchup could change, but for now, Walker faces off against one of the worst defensive point guards in the league in Jackson. Jackson ranks 82nd out of 89 point guards in defensive real plus-minus, and the Pistons post a horrid 110.4 DEFRTG with Jackson on the court compared to a 101.9 DEFRTG with Jackson off the court this season.
Walker has played over 35 minutes in the six games since losing Ramon Sessions to a torn meniscus, and without a reliable backup PG, Charlotte will be playing Walker extended minutes this season as long as games are close. Walker has averaged 1.20 fantasy points per minute against the Pistons this season, and has scored at least 38 fantasy points in the three prior contests against them; in their previous matchup in Detroit (back on January 5th), Kemba scored 48.8 fantasy points. Walker will need about 42 fantasy points tonight to pay off his salary, and has eclipsed that mark in back-to-back games.
LeBron James ($18,300)- The Cavaliers will be coming out of the break facing off against a very familiar foe in the New York Knicks, and LeBron James will be in the spotlight as he takes on Carmelo Anthony. The Cavaliers have defeated the Knicks in all of their previous 10 matchups, with Cleveland winning the last three meetings by an average of 22.7 points. Blowouts haven’t stopped James from putting up huge games against the Knicks however, as he has put up 58.2, 47.5, and 54.2 fantasy points in those previous three games, all of which featured a healthy “Big-3”.
Tonight will be a slightly different story for Cleveland as they will be without the services of Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, and possibly Iman Shumpert who is rumored to be on the trading block. LeBron has gone on record saying that he is going to carry the load for this team without Love, and he has done just that in the last two games, averaging 50.3 fantasy points and 36.5 minutes. James is posting a 31.6% usage rate and is averaging 1.44 fantasy points per minute on the season without Love. The Cavaliers may look to rest LeBron down the stretch this season, but as of right now, James is second in the NBA in minutes played per game at 37.5.
The New York Knicks and the Cavaliers both play at a league-average pace (99.2), but the Knicks currently rank sixth in the NBA in points allowed per game (109.2), and have allowed the Cavs to average 118 points per game in the three previous games this season. LeBron has seen his price hover around the $18,300 mark for the majority of the season, but he has met or exceeded 3x value at his current price in 48.8% of his games this season, and four of the eight games without Kevin Love this season.
Good luck with your lineups tonight, find me on Twitter @BrentHeiden1, and check out our great NBA content at DFSDatalytics.com!