Kevin Durant will head to Washington to square off against his hometown team and the matchup is projected to be both high-scoring and close. The Wizards struggle to cover opposing small forwards so tonight could be one of those vintage dominant performances from arguably the game’s best scorer. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
Mike Conley, Grizzlies, $14,600 – Only four teams rank worse in terms of defensive efficiency against opposing backcourts than the Suns this season so it is no surprise Mike Conley has terrorized them. In the two previous meetings, Conley has averaged 50 fantasy points per game (FPPG) on the heels of 30.5 points per game (PPG), 3.0 rebounds per game (RPG), 7.0 assists per game (APG) and 2.0 steals per game (SPG). In fact, Conley has managed at least 34.5 fantasy points in each of the meetings and that includes the second meeting where the Grizzlies blew out the Suns 110-91. The Suns allow the second highest FG percentage from 20-24 feet (40.4-percent) and also the eighth highest from inside five feet. Conley is both an ample shooter and possesses the ability to get to the rim so this matchup is favorable for him in so many ways before even considering the uptick in pace (Suns play at the third fastest pace). Despite the substantial price tag, do not overthink this one: start him.
Nicolas Batum, Hornets, $13,800 – In terms of overall team defensive efficiency, the Lakers rank 29th this season behind only the lowly Nuggets. Additionally, they play the sixth fastest pace in the league so that should help speed up the Hornets on the road. Sure Nicolas Batum’s splits suggest he is a superior play at home but he is coming off a 50.50 fantasy point performance against the Clippers on Sunday. Notably, Batum has now taken 17-plus shots in three consecutive games which also coincides with Frank Kaminsky joining the starting lineup. Digging deeper into the numbers, Batum has registered a 21.5-percent usage rate (USG%) with Cody Zeller in the lineup compared to 22.3 when he sits. There is a direct correlation here as Kaminsky helps space the floor and helps create a scheme that better suits Batum’s style. As icing on the cake, the Lakers rank 25th in defensive efficiency versus SGs and have allowed the second most PPG to the position (23.7). He may fly a bit under the radar but he will be a player I will be targeting in any and all formats.
D’Angelo Russell, Lakers, $12,400 – Supposedly the team has made a commitment to playing the youngsters for the remainder of the season so it is time to go back to the D’Angelo Russell well. Admittedly, Russell is a difficult player to get right sometimes but he has now topped 28 fantasy points in four of his last five games and has played 27-plus minutes in all the productive games during that stretch. The Hornets low key present an excellent matchup for Russell as they are the worst team at defending the three-point line as they allow the most threes per game (11.3) and the ninth highest three-point percentage. In one game versus the Hornets earlier this season, Russell averaged 1.3 fantasy points per minute (FPPM) as he produced 32.25 fantasy points in 25.8 minutes on the heels of a 15-5-5 performance. Assuming Coach Luke Walton and the organization hold strong with their youth movement, there is no reason Russell should flop in this spot.
Kevin Durant, Warriors, $17,900 – Targeting SFs against the Wizards is a profitable strategy as the team ranks 18th in defensive efficiency against the position so that is clearly where they are the most susceptible. As per usual, the Warriors are playing in the game with the highest projected total of the slate but they are only listed as 6.5 point favorites. Essentially, the game is expected to remain close especially with the team playing a solid Wizards squad on the road. The Warriors have been favored by 6.5 or less points 33 times this season and Kevin Durant has averaged 50.11 FPPG in those contests. There is no sample size against Otto Porter this year but Durant has averaged nearly 1.50 FPPM against him last year in four meetings. Basically, if spending up for one player, it does not get any safer than the five time scoring champ.
Marcin Gortat, Wizards, $12,000 – The return of Zaza Pachulia is not ideal as the Warriors had been struggling to cover opposing Cs in his absence but the team still rates as 19th in defensive efficiency versus the position overall. Side note: Pachulia could be a nice play as his minutes should get extended to match up against Gortat. Anyways, Gortat has been a bit cold lately but there is nothing like playing the best team in basketball to help wake you up. His minutes were down last game but prior to that he had still been flirting with minute allotments in the mid-30s and had just failed to register a double-double in a few straight. Prior to Feb. 13, Gortat had been on a streak of eight straight games with at least 35.50 fantasy points and this is a prime situation for him to revert back to similar form. The speed of the game should lead to more rebounds and Gortat has fared slightly better at home this season. He is amongst the best options in the mid-tier price range tonight.
Jusuf Nurkic, Trail Blazers, $11,600 – Okay so last game did not work out so well but Jusuf Nurkic only played 21 minutes to match up against Jonas Valanciunas who only played 22 minutes. Part of the reason the Trail Blazers acquired Nurkic is to be able to use him to match up against other true Cs…and Andre Drummond certainly fits the bill. Expect Nurkic to flirt with 30 minutes tonight and the last time he did that with the Trail Blazers he racked up 44.50 fantasy points against the Magic and Nikola Vucevic. On paper, the matchup against Drummond is not great but the minutes are more valuable anyways. So far, his tenure with the Trail Blazers has been quite predictable so hopefully that trend holds true once again tonight. Do not be shy with your Nurkic shares on this slate.
UPDATE: Most of the best values come at the F/C positions so Gortat and Nurkic are not players I will have a lot of. Instead, I will be building around the likes of Durant, Draymond Green and Marc Gasol and pairing them with great values such as Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac, Alan Williams and Zaza Pachulia. Both Gortat and Nurkic are still fine plays but it is hard to fit them with all these other plays.