Welcome to your Thursday morning! I hope all of you are enjoying this week and are ready for some NBA tonight. We have a short five-game slate with a double-header on TNT. This article is designed to give you some core plays that I find to be in great matchups. My core plays will highlight two guards and two big men that I am locking into my lineups. Good luck tonight!
D’Angelo Russell ($13,400)
It’s always nice when young and talented players get the playing time that they deserve. That’s exactly what is happening with the Los Angeles Lakers lately. After the All-Star break when the Lakers traded away Lou Williams, they have opened playing time to the young guns. Some of these players are still a year or two away like Brandon Ingram, but some are ready for the big stage like D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. Russell’s minutes and production have been a little more consistent than Randle’s during that time. Also, the matchup is better as the Phoenix Suns are 26th in DvP vs point guards this season.
Russell has played 30 or more minutes in every game except for against San Antonio where they lost by 21 points, and he played 29 minutes. Not only is the individual matchup good for Russell tonight, but the pace of this game is going to be very up-tempo. Phoenix ranks third in pace and 26th in defensive efficiency, whereas Los Angeles ranks sixth in pace and 29th in defensive efficiency. The O/U on this game is 230.0, which is the highest on the slate. I love the idea of pairing Russell with an opposing point guard from Phoenix for a mini game stack, but Russell at his price of $13,400 on FantasyDraft is a lock.
Jusuf Nurkic ($13,200)
The Portland Trail Blazers seem to be on every short slate lately. They are coming off of a big road win in Oklahoma City where they beat the Thunder 126-121 for their third straight win. Now they come home and welcome the struggling Philadelphia 76ers. Jusuf Nurkic did not have the best game against the Thunder as he dealt with foul trouble most of the night and only finished with 25 minutes. However, when he was on the floor he got it done! Nurkic finished the game with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Regardless if it wasn’t the best game he’s had, he still had an impressive 34.4% usage rate.
Jahlil Okafor is currently questionable for the 76ers tonight, but I wouldn’t mind if he decided to tough it out and play. Okafor is the stone worst defensive center per defensive real plus-minus! If Okafor can go or not, Nurkic is still in a great spot. Over the last three games, Philadelphia is 24th in points allowed in the paint. In comparison, Philadelphia is also last in the league in DvP vs centers this season. With the usage and production that Nurkic has had since joining Portland, he should be able to provide upside at his price of $13,200 on FantasyDraft. If he stays out of foul trouble, he’s a lock for 30+ minutes tonight.
Damian Lillard ($16,400)
As you can tell by my selection, I am very fond of pairing Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic tonight. Per ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the Trail Blazers have just a 26% chance of making the playoffs this year. The backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are doing whatever they possibly can to get this team back into the playoff picture. This backcourt duo is currently averaging 33.6 combined PPG, which would rank fifth in the entire league over the last 20 years. That’s very impressive! My selection tonight of Lillard over McCollum is mainly due to Lillard’s upside that he has shown over the last six games.
Damian Lillard has been one of the best players since the All-Star break. Over that period the Trail Blazers have played six games and Lillard has averaged 28.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG and 7.2 APG. Lillard has had over 40.0 FantasyDraft points in each of those six games and an average of 48.6 FantasyDraft points. Lillard has shot 49.2% from the field and 41.9% from 3-point range during that stretch. Surprisingly another benefit to playing against Philadelphia is they rank fifth in the league in pace this season. That will only benefit Lillard and the Trail Blazers who are projected for the most points on the slate tonight.
Alan Williams ($12,300)
There is nothing like a spark off the bench who comes in and instantly fills up the stat sheet. Alan Williams has been that for the Phoenix Suns over the last week. He is more equivalent to a lightning strike than a spark with the way he has been playing. Phoenix has won three of their last four games and he is a big reason why. Williams has recorded a double-double in four straight games while averaging 14.0 PPG and 12.5 RPG. His matchup tonight with Los Angeles Lakers is an amazing one. The Lakers are 29th in DvP vs centers and have allowed the fourth most points in the paint this season.
Alan Williams is not a secret anymore as you can tell by his $12,300 price on FantasyDraft tonight. However, if anyone does not think he is worth that price tag in this matchup, then they are sadly mistaken. As I mentioned above with the pace of this game and high projected totals, exposure here is a must. He has been an absolute monster off the bench and has been outplaying current starter Alex Len. Over the last four games, Williams is averaging 27.3 MPG compared to Len’s 16.0 MPG. With Tyson Chandler out of the normal day rotation, it’s William’s time to shine and he’s running away with the job.
After locking in these core four players you will be left with $11,175/player which will give you plenty of room to go balanced or more of a stars and scrubs lineup. Good luck with your lineups tonight, and check out our great NBA content at DFSDatalytics.com!