With important status updates to come on LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kyle Lowry, if you don’t have access to a computer or phone to adjust your lineups near lock time, it might be best to stay on the sidelines. There are plenty of deeper options to use if any of those three are sitting, but this article will rather focus on the four known quantities to lock into a core – without worrying about injuries.
Isaiah Thomas ($16,000)- According to defensive real plus-minus ratings, the two worst defensive point guards in the game right now are facing off – Isaiah Thomas and Dennis Schroder. Thomas has a DRPM rating of -4.40, while Schroder has a DRPM rating of -3.39. Targeting either point guard is a comfortable spot considering they’re going up against each other, but the preference would be Thomas here because of his overall value to the Celtics. With Boston making a push in the East, every game from here on out is important, and Thomas is the key to that for the Celts.
It’s yet to be determined if Avery Bradley will be able to play – as he was able to get in some pregame work before Sunday’s game against the Pistons – but even if Bradley does suit up, it’s likely that Brad Stevens doesn’t push him too hard. Thomas owns a ridiculous 37.3% usage rate with Bradley off the court, averaging 1.35 FantasyDraft points per minute. To put things in perspective, only Russell Westbrook has a higher USG rate than that on the season.
Because of Schroder’s defense, the Hawks have been a team to target all year long when rostering point guards. Atlanta is currently giving up the 11th-most fantasy points to the position as well as the seventh-most three-pointers. As a team, ATL is giving up the third most 3PM per game. There’s a lot of extra value in that in this matchup, because a lot of Thomas’ points come from behind the arc; Thomas is averaging 8.4 3-point attempts per game, making 3.2 of them.
This game has a healthy over/under of 214 at the moment with Boston favored by only 4.5. That small spread could prove important, with the Hawks having played in so many blowout games as of late; in fact, six out of the Hawks’ last eight games have ended with a double-digit point differential, so if Vegas has this as a close game, there’s even more reason to target it.
The last time these teams met, Thomas erupted for 46.5 FantasyDraft points, scoring 28 real life points and five 3-pointers made.
Tyreke Evans ($10,600) – Tyreke was inserted into the starting lineup on Saturday against the Hornets, but only played 22 minutes. He’s already said that his minutes will likely stay near the 27-minute mark throughout the season, and the main reason he played just 22 was because the Kings were losing in a blowout. Vegas has this game much closer, as the Timberwolves are only five point favorites.
After the trade Evans was involved in, there was speculation that he would eventually be bought out; in fact, inserting him into the starting lineup only means that the Kings have carved him an important role moving forward. After sporting a 27.3% usage rate playing alongside Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday in New Orleans, expectations for Evans’ USG in Sacramento were fairly high, and they’ve delivered: in the two games playing for the Kings, Evans owns a 26.2 usage rate. Because he’ll be handling the ball a lot, Evans has great peripheral upside. He’s a great source of rebounds and assists, to go along with points.
Even though he’s not playing 30 minutes, it doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t have a high ceiling. Evans has already had three games on the season where he’s scored more than 35 FantasyDraft points – including one in which he scored 48.5 against the Nets. The matchup against Andrew Wiggins is enticing; around the league, Wiggins has a reputation for being an above average defender, but the numbers couldn’t be further from the truth: Wiggins is actually ranked dead last amongst all active small forwards, with a defensive real plus-minus rating of -2.96.
Giannis Antetokounmpo ($19,200)- It’s already been announced that the Bucks will be without Khris Middleton tonight when facing the Cavs, which means Giannis will be doing all the heavy lifting. He leads the entire team in usage with Jabari Parker and Middleton off the court, averaging 1.38 FantasyDraft points per minute.
Leading up to the All-Star Break, it looked like Giannis was tiring, from an “eye test” point of view- from the 25th of January up until the break, he had only exceeded 50 points three times. Expectations were low in his first game back after the break as he was in a tough matchup against the Jazz, but he torched Utah for 64 FantasyDraft points – scoring 33 real life points to go along with 12 rebounds and five steals. The rookie looks fresh again, and now gets to face a Cavs team he’s crushed all season long – he’s averaged 56.9 FantasyDraft points against them over their last four meetings.
Whether he’s officially a point guard or a small forward, it doesn’t really matter, as the Cavs have been vulnerable to both positions this season. Cleveland is currently giving up the fifth-most fantasy points to small forwards, and the seventh-most fantasy points to point guards. Rostering “The Freak” against poor rim defenders is an almost automatic play: he’s shooting 69% on shots near or at the rim, 45.1% on shots near the free throw line and under 37% everywhere else. Cleveland is mediocre when it comes to the rim protection needed to stop Giannis, as they have a defensive field goal percentage of 45.5%, which is ranked 15th in the league.
Myles Turner ($12,000) – Listing Turner here is also a reminder to ensure exposure to this game; with an over/under currently sitting at 231, this game is easily amongst the best of the night to target for fantasy purposes.
Myles Turner, along with Jeff Teague and Paul George, is one of three guys in this Pacers lineup that’s averaging over a fantasy point per minute. In tonight’s game, Teague is off the table as he’ll draw an awful matchup against one of the league’s best defensive point guards in Patrick Beverley. Paul George has an affordable price tag, but has been battling leg cramps as of late and his game logs prove that something is clearly wrong. PG13 has only topped 30 fantasy points once over his last five games, so he’s hard to trust in cash games (worth a flyer in GPPs). After eliminating Teague and Paul George, Turner offers the highest upside and the best exposure in this matchup.
Turner and the aforementioned Teague are the only two Pacers that have shown consistency recently, but Turner especially: over his last seven games, Turner has failed to score 30 fantasy points just once. The matchup is great for him, with Houston allowing the third-most fantasy points to the center position. Turner is also a player that thrives in up-tempo games, because of his knack for steals and blocks – he’s ninth amongst centers in steals per game, and second in blocks.
These teams have faced each other once this season and he had a monster game scoring 45.5 FantasyDraft points. He recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, which is also the last time he managed 10 rebounds. That night Turner also blocked four shots, and had three steals. Considering the upside, the consistency, and Turner being the lowest-priced of the three “relevant” Pacers, he’s a big part of the Core.
Good luck with your lineups tonight