Hello everyone and welcome to another Thursday edition of the NBA Core 4! With only three games tonight, the core plays will probably come with high ownership, but these are the four guys to consider building around on this short slate.
Stephen Curry ($17,900)
The numbers “3” and “1” have not been kind to the Warriors over the past year. First, Golden State blows a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, then, the Warriors found out on March 1st
According to NBAWowy.com, Stephen Curry has a 34.2% usage rate without Durant on the floor this season, which would be the highest mark of his eight-year career. In 501 total minutes without Durant this season, Curry is averaging 1.48 FantasyDraft points per minute, which would be the second-highest mark of his career behind last year’s 1.5. Curry’s increased production without Durant comes primarily from an extra 4.63 FGAs (field-goal attempts) per 36 minutes, but he is also seeing an increase in rebound opportunities and assists.
The matchup tonight against the Bulls isn’t completely ideal, they rank 20th in DvP against the PG position, but there are a few exploitable weaknesses for Curry. As most NBA fans know, Stephen Curry is career sniper from 3-point range, shooting 43.8% from 3-point range, and the Bulls are allowing the fifth highest 3-point percentage to opposing guards this season (37.2%). With Jerian Grant in the starting lineup, the Bulls defense against has been even worse as they have posted the fifth highest DEFRTG (110.7) to opposing PGs and a 39.1% opponent 3-point field goal percentage. The increased usage and lack of defense make Curry an excellent play to build lineups around on tonight’s slate.
Alan Williams ($8,800)
The Phoenix Suns organization has shifted its focus to a new “youth movement” and it is because of that new direction that Alan Williams, Tyler Ulis, Alex Len, and Marquese Chriss have seen increased time on the floor since the All-Star break. With Tyson Chandler currently out of the rotation, Alan “Big Sauce” Williams has filled in as the second big man off the bench and has outplayed the incumbent starter in Alex Len. In the three games since the All-Star break, Williams has averaged 23.4 minutes per game off the bench, and while the minutes haven’t been there in all three games, he did play 34 minutes against the Bucks and 22 minutes against the Memphis Grizzlies. Williams has scored 20.75 FantasyDraft points in two of those games, but he put up a whopping 48.75 FantasyDraft points in his 34 minutes against the Bucks. Williams is putting up 1.24 FantasyDraft points per minute on the season, despite playing only 235 minutes in the Suns’ 60 games.
The Hornets have been a target for opposing centers all season long, allowing 51.75 fantasy points per game to opposing big men, and allowing 44.9 rebounds per game. Williams is pulling down 23.3% percent of available rebounds while on the floor this season, which would rank him near the top of the NBA with players like DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard, and Hassan Whiteside. Williams is listed as 6’8” so he may not be on the floor while the Hornets have Zeller out there, but he should be in line for a decent amount of minutes tonight which will give him a great chance to pay off his salary.
Russell Westbrook ($23,800)
Russell Westbrook will take his “Triple-Double World Tour” to Portland tonight to take on the Trail Blazers and he can write his name in the history books with another great performance tonight. Westbrook has notched a triple-double in four consecutive games, giving him 30 on the season, and he will look to tie Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson as the only players to record more than 30 triple-doubles in a season. Russ has scored 40 or more points in his last two triple-doubles, including a game against the vaunted Jazz defense, and has tied James Harden and Oscar Robertson with five 40-point triple-doubles for the most 40-point triple-doubles in NBA history. If all that wasn’t enough, “Muscle” Westbrook also has five 40-point games in his last 14 match-ups and scored 42 against the Portland Trail Blazers in their match-up on Feb. 5.
The DvP position numbers don’t paint a great picture for Westbrook’s match-up tonight, as the Trail Blazers rank 8th against PGs allowing 43.44 FantasyDraft points per game, but digging a little deeper into the numbers tells a slightly different story. The Trail Blazers are allowing opposing guards to score 58 points per game against them, according to NBAStats, which is the third-highest mark in the NBA and over half of the points scored against Portland come from the guard position. The Trail Blazers are also allowing the fifth most rebounds to opposing guards (23.5/game) and they are allowing a league-high 14.9 free-throw attempts per game to guards. The weaknesses of Portland’s defense complement Westbrook’s game perfectly, and he will be in line for a huge performance tonight. Russ will need to rack up 71.4 FantasyDraft points to hit 3x value tonight, a mark he has reached in four straight games and 10 times in his last 20 games.
Kemba Walker ($15,500)
Tonight’s fourth core player to build around is going to be Kemba Walker as he faces off against the Phoenix Suns. Walker is coming off another solid performance against the Lakers where he poured in 30 points in 33 minutes and has now scored at least 30 points in three of his last four games since the All-Star break. Walker has snapped out of his early-February shooting funk and has shot 52.9% percent from the floor in his previous four contests and has at least 18 field-goal attempts in three of those four games. Kemba is playing big minutes for the Hornets (37.5 minutes/game) as they fight for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and will continue to play a significant amount of minutes as the Hornets do not have a quality backup PG on the roster with Ramon Sessions out.
Walker’s opponent tonight, the Phoenix Suns, have found themselves lacking on the defensive end as of late and have surrendered at least 130 points in three of their last six games, and average 117 points allowed over that stretch of games. The Suns are allowing opponents to shoot 47.9% from the floor and 40.4% from 3-point range in those six games. The Suns have allowed opponents to shoot 47.3% from the floor and 39% from 3-point range on the season, so the increased numbers from their last six games are not an outlier for Phoenix. With the increased pace, lack of defense, and Walker’s role on this team as the primary offensive weapon, Kemba can be expected to put up another solid performance. Walker would need to score 46.5 FantasyDraft points to reach 3x value tonight, a number he has eclipsed twice over the last four games.
As always, good luck in your contests tonight. You can find my projections and more great NBA content over at DFSDatalytics.com