Russell Westbrook is the best player in daily fantasy basketball and draws a phenomenal matchup against a fast-paced Lakers team that struggles to cover opposing point guards. Essentially, there is no reason to fade him tonight. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
Russell Westbrook, Thunder – On competing sites, Russell Westbrook costs far more in terms of percentage of budget which actually deems him a bargain on FantasyDraft despite the fact he is listed as the most expensive player on the slate. Only one team rates worse in terms of defensive efficiency against opposing PGs than the Lakers and only three teams allow more points per game (PPG). Both the Lakers and Thunder rank inside the top seven of pace this season so this game should prove to be a track meet…and Vegas agrees because this game opened with a 221 point over/under. Even though the Thunder are listed as 10.5 point favorites, Westbrook often plays deep into games even if they are up by a substantial margin. Gauging by their roster, it is difficult to assume they will blow out any opponent so Westbrook’s minutes should be projected at around his average of 34.6 per game. As icing on the cake, Westbrook has topped 67 fantasy points in each of his last two meetings against the Lakers so clearly the combination of favorable pace and matchup works for him. Fading him is simply a risky proposition with all the value already available on this slate.
John Wall, Wizards – On paper, the matchup against the 76ers is not incredibly favorable any longer as T.J. McConnell has helped solidify the team’s PG defense. Over the course of their last 10 games, the 76ers only rate slightly below average in terms of defensive efficiency versus PGs (17th) but, to be fair, they have still allowed the ninth most PPG to the position (24.2) over that span. Similarly to Westbrook’s matchup, part of the allure of rostering Wall in this spot is the fact his opponent plays at a fast pace (eighth fastest in the NBA). In two meetings against the 76ers this year, Wall has produced 42.50 and 48.25 fantasy points respectively which are actually disappointments compared to his sample size from 2015-16. Last year, Wall topped 53 fantasy points in all three meetings against this team. What should help improve this matchup, though, is both Nerlens Noel and Ersan Ilyasova have been shipped out of town which leaves Jahlil Okafor as the guy attempting to protect the rim. Quietly, Ilyasova was one of the kings of drawing offensive fouls so the risk of Wall fouls while driving to the basket have been significantly decreased with him off the squad. All-in-all, Wall is in a pretty fantastic spot and is worth pairing with Westbrook in cash games.
Jeremy Lin, Nets, $9,900 – In order to roster the duo of elite PGs, salary is clearly going to need to be saved the rest of the way. Most are not willing to take the risk of rostering a player in his first game back from extended injury but the team has no reason to play him unless he is 100-percent. He has been out for so long because the team has been waiting for him to fully heal. Basically, the fact that he is ready to return should signify the team’s confidence in his health and the extended absence has caused his price to plummet. Furthermore, Lin is returning to the absolute best possible matchup a PG could ask for as he will square off against the worst defense against the decision in term of efficiency. Over the course of their last 10 games, the Nuggets have allowed 115.1 PPG (prior to last night) so just about every game they play in is a shootout. Even if Lin is limited to 20-25 minutes, he has averaged by far a career-best 1.19 fantasy points per minute (FPPM) and 25.6-percent usage rate (USG%) this season. In other words, he does not exactly need extensive time in order to produce and he is guaranteed to shoulder a large part of the offensive load as long as he is in the game. Although he is a bit risky, he is worth investing in, especially in tournaments, if only due to drawing the ideal opponent in his return.
Marcin Gortat, Wizards, $12,700 – Joel Embiid is still out and Nerlens Noel has been sent out of town so the combination of Jahlil Okafor and Richaun Holmes will be tasked with attempting to stop Marcin Gortat. Literally no team has allowed fewer points per possession (PPP) to roll men in the pick and roll than the 76ers but Embiid and Noel are the vastly superior Cs at defending the play (and at defending in general). Opponents post up at the seventh highest percentage of plays against the 76ers and Okafor is the weakest defender of the bunch. Meanwhile, Gortat ranks 20th in PPP on post ups amongst players who average at least 1.0 post up possession per game. Add in the quick pace and his propensity to run the pick and roll against a poor individual defender and Gortat rates as one of the best values on the entire slate. Now, factor in his six double-doubles in his last nine games and his 38-plus fantasy points in seven of his last nine and he is bordering on must-play.
Dario Saric, 76ers, $12,600 – Speaking of must-plays, Dario Saric is the biggest beneficiary of the 76ers moves at the trade deadline so he needs to be locked and loaded into DFS lineups until his price exceeds $13,000 at the very least. Especially with Ersan Ilyasova out of the rotation, additional minutes have been solidified for the 22 year old Croatian. Sans Embiid, Ilyasova and Noel on the court, Dario Saric leads the team in both USG% (25.3) and FPPM (0.99). With an expanded role on the horizon, Saric is in a great spot to ball tonight against a Wizards defense that ranks 29th in defensive efficiency versus opposing PFs. Four of the 76ers’ seven most common lineups without the aforementioned frontcourt trio feature Saric at PF and the other three feature him at C. The team has already listed Saric as a probable starter, so against a Wizards team that starts Gortat, the team is more likely to roll with Okafor or Holmes at C in order to match up. Therefore, Saric will have an opportunity to take advantage of the Wizards’ defensive deficiency while being featured in the 76ers offense. As the number one option on offense, he should manage to exceed value at this mid-tier price tag (as long as the game remains reasonably close).
Bobby Portis, Bulls, $9,800 – The Bulls have moved on from the Taj Gibson era so it is officially the beginning of the Bobby Portis era moving forward. This price tag is on the outer edges of comfort but at least the matchup is ripe: Phoenix ranks 26th in team defensive efficiency and they allow putbacks at the third highest frequency. Heading into this contest, Portis has played 26-plus minutes in two of his last three games and he has managed at least 24 fantasy points in each of those games. I wish the price was a bit more affordable, but if no other value emerges, Coach Fred Hoiberg has already said he is going to extend Portis’ minutes. If the team is going to look to develop him, he should at least be in line for a healthy amount of playing time. UPDATE: After taking a longer look at the slate, I prefer Pau Gasol in cash games for the same price. Portis is still a fine GPP play.