Ricky Rubio should excel tonight against a Kings team that is left with frontcourt members who all struggle to cover the pick-and-roll. When he and Karl-Anthony Towns are able to get in rhythm, that is when he blows up for substantial fantasy point totals…and tonight should be a prime spot. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks, $19,200 – As per usual, Giannis Antetokounmpo is amongst the most expensive players on the slate (third most expensive on Monday) and extremely viable. The masses are going to note the individual matchup against LeBron James is difficult but it has not slowed down Antetokounmpo in recent meetings. Each of the last four times Antetokounmpo has squared off against the Cavaliers, he has topped 47 fantasy points…and he has eclipsed 54 fantasy points in three of his last four meetings. Although he stands 6’11”, Antetokounmpo is really the team’s PG and the Cavaliers rank 25th in defensive efficiency against opposing ball-handlers. Like most teams, the Cavaliers play at a faster pace than the Bucks so this should prompt Antetokounmpo to get out and running. The return of Khris Middleton should only help Antetokounmpo’s cause moving forward because he spreads the floor. Not only should this help create space for Antetokounmpo to drive to the hole but it also should lead to more assist opportunities when Antetokounmpo kicks it out. With most spending up for James Harden, who actually faces a reasonably tough matchup, Antetokounmpo should prove to be a bit contrarian due to his substantial price tag. Considering the guy has topped 51 fantasy points in four of his last five games, there should be no hesitation to pivot from Harden to the Bucks superstar.
Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves, $12,300 – Ricky Rubio is typically a player I target in fast-paced affairs but tonight is an exception despite the fact the Kings play at just the fourth slowest pace in the NBA. Over the course of their last 10 games, the Kings rank 22nd in defensive efficiency versus PGs and Rubio is on quite the roll. Since the calendar switched to February, Rubio has only failed to reach 31 fantasy points twice in 11 games and he has topped 40 fantasy points in six of his last 12 games. As always, Rubio is a volatile player but his big assist games virtually always correlate with big scoring games from Karl-Anthony Towns and the Kings really have no answer for him. On paper, the Kings have rated as a solid team against the pick-and-roll but they lost a solid defender in DeMarcus Cousins and gained a putrid overall defender in Buddy Hield at the trade deadline. Basically, the defensive landscape has changed drastically as of late and it remains to be seen if they can defend pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops in a similar fashion. Assuming this game remains close and approaches the 212.5 projected total, Rubio should be able to produce one of his patented double-doubles.
Monta Ellis, Pacers, $7,800 – Even the return of Thaddeus Young to the rotation has not significantly affected Monta Ellis’ minutes output as he still managed to play 27 minutes on Saturday. To be fair, he only saw 24 minutes of court time on Friday after 30-plus minutes in three consecutive games. Having said that, this matchup against the Rockets sets up perfectly for guards on the Pacers to play more than a usual game. The Rockets are filled with guards by trade surrounding James Harden so it does not make a ton of sense for guys like Al Jefferson or Lavoy Allen to play a lot to match up with the likes of Ryan Anderson or Eric Gordon. Instead, smaller assets such as Ellis are going to be needed to guard Gordon, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, James Harden, etc. Minutes equal production in daily fantasy basketball and Williams had topped 21 fantasy points in seven straight games before his 18.25 fantasy point flop last time out. The Rockets are a solid defensive team in terms of efficiency but they still allow 108.2 points per game (PPG) and Ellis simply gets buckets. Look for the man to go back to getting buckets once again in this matchup.
Gerald Henderson, 76ers, $6,700 – Since the trade deadline, Gerald Henderson has played 31 and 30 minutes respectively in his two games after playing 30 minutes just once in his previous 13 games. Now, the 76ers will be forced to take on the second fastest paced team in the league that also happens to be the best team in the league: the Warriors. One thing Henderson does when he is on the court is shoot as the extended playing time has led to 25 shot attempts in his last two games and he has only made eight of them. All he needs is 20.1 fantasy points for 3.0x value and he has averaged 23.0 since the trade deadline so this seems like an excellent spot for him to exceed value (assuming the team can keep it reasonably close).
Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves, $19,200 – One tidbit not mentioned in the Rubio blurb is the fact Coach Tom Thibodeau is inarguably the most reliable coach for fantasy purposes. No coach relies on his starters more than Thibodeau so Rubio and Karl-Anthony Town’s minutes are amongst the safest on the slate (as always). Six players are averaging more minutes per game (MPG) than Towns this season and two of them are other Timberwolves (Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins). Furthermore, the Kings allow the third most points per possession (PPP) on post ups and the roster is left with players who struggle to defend the pick-and-roll. Both Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos have allowed more than 1.0 PPP on pick-and-rolls to the roll men (Koufos 1.36 and Cauley-Stein 1.04). In a projected close, high-scoring contest, he should be able to dominate for the second consecutive game (37 points and 22 rebounds his last time out).
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kings, $10,100 – With DeMarcus Cousins shipped out of town, the second half of the season is Willie Cauley-Stein’s time to shine. As predicted, the team has committed to the youngsters lately as Kosta Koufos’ playing time has declined to around 20 MPG whereas Cauley-Stein has averaged around 32 minutes his last two games. As a whole, Cauley-Stein has produced a 19.8-percent usage rate (USG%) this year but that number has ballooned to 22.6 the last two games. Clearly his size will be needed to match up against the size of Towns and Gorgui Dieng so 30-plus minutes should be a virtual guarantee. If he is able to stay out of foul trouble, Cauley-Stein should be in a great spot to crush value despite the rising price tag. In this role, he is closer to a $12,000 player.