Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the FantasyDraft “Core 4”, brought to you by DFSDatalytics.com! We have ourselves a nice 8 game slate tonight, highlighted by the Nuggets/Lakers game which has opened with a massive 231 Over/Under. There will be some injury news to monitor throughout the day, but I’ll do my best to navigate around that and give you the four guys that I’m likely to build my lineups around.
Nikola Jokic – C – Denver Nuggets ($18600)
“The Joker” had had himself an off-night on Saturday – only picking up 2 assists – but still managed to get to 45.5 FantasyDraft points. At this point, that seems to be his floor as long as he’s getting the minutes. It was also the second leg of a back to back for the Nuggets, coming the night after his first game back from the flu. Ever since that rough patch of games coming out of the all-star break, Jokic has been a monster; he’s averaged 53 fantasy points per game over his last five games.
As of this writing, the Nuggets currently have Wilson Chandler and Jameer Nelson listed as questionable to miss this game against the Lakers. For some reason, Jokic actually loses 4.3% USG with those guys off the court, but he’s still averaging 1.21 fantasy points per minute without them. That’s not enough to get concerned, as Jokic against the Lakers is almost as good as it gets matchup-wise.
The one time he faced Los Angeles this season, Jokic scored 29 real life points to go along with 15 rebounds, for 56.2 fantasy points. That was another game with a very low assist total, again only two. That shouldn’t be expected again, with the Lakers giving up the sixth-most assists to centers this season. The Lakers are allowing centers to do pretty much whatever they please, giving up the second-most overall fantasy points per game to the position. On a night with no Westbrook or Harden to pay up for, Jokic is easily the stud to pay up for.
Nikola Vucevic – C – Orlando Magic ($13000)
Vucevic returned from his four-game absence with anAchilles injury on Saturday against the Cavs, and wasted no time taking over the offense. In only 28 minutes, he attempted 20 field goals, scoring 20 real life points to go along with 16 rebounds – a total of 42.5 FantasyDraft points. That’s at least 40 fantasy points scored in five of his last seven games.
Over the last four weeks, only two teams have given up more rebounds to centers than the Kings. In that span, Vucevic is averaging 0.41 rebounds per minute, with a 31.3 usage rate, and scoring 1.30 fantasy points per minute. He’s a bit underpriced because he missed those four games, but as long as he’s playing regular minutes, it’s really hard to not love him considering that price tag.
This game itself isn’t anything to get overly excited about, as it currently holds a 207 over/under – but smaller point totals effect guards and wings more than they do big men, so the total doesn’t carry as much weight as it would otherwise. As well, some people may look at previous matchups with the Kings and notice that Vuc has underperformed in most of those games which could hinder his overall ownership, but it’s important to rememberthat those games came against a Kings team that had DeMarcus Cousins. As you can tell by the rebounds the Kings been giving up as of late, this is a much better matchup to exploit.
If you’re worried about the injury lingering on, Vucevic insisted it wasn’t anything to fret about moving forward . . .
“I also knew that it wasn’t something that was going to keep me out for a long while. It just needed some time to calm down and then I could come back.’’
Jamal Murray – SG – Denver Nuggets ($8100)
It was mentioned at the top of the page that Jameer Nelson could end up missing this game against the Lakers. If word that he’s out comes down early, this as no-brainer as it gets. Just plug Murray in and move on. Murray still makes a great play, regardless of when news comes out; if Nelson is out after lock, there will be much lower ownership on Murray, and he’s a nice play even if he’s coming off the bench.
Murray’s scored double-digit real life points in 7 of his last 8 games, and over the last two weeks, his usage rate is 27.1% (ahead of Jokic), and Murray’s averaging .96 fantasy points per minute in that time. Coach Malone has been praising the hell out of him too:
“It’s not worth knocking Denver’s locker room off its axis and swapping Murray for Nelson. Not right now.
Yet, Murray’s glow has clearly captivated Malone, and who can blame him? The No. 7 overall pick in last summer’s draft will likely stay in his backup role, as long as Denver’s in the hunt for the eighth seed. Although Malone didn’t close the door on a change Saturday before the Nuggets topped Boston.
“I love that role for Jamal right now,” Malone said. “But 18 games to go, that can definitely change.”
It’s not just that Malone is considering a lineup change, it’s that he’s trusting Murray to play meaningful minutes in the fourth quarter for them. He scored 11 of his 14 points in the last game against Sacramento and played the final 16 minutes in the game against Washington last Wednesday. After that game against the Wizards, Coach Malone had this to say about Murray regarding his minutes moving forward . . .
“It’s important for his development and maturation. And it’s only going to speed up his development”.”
Those quotes from BSN Denver and coach Malone should make it clear that Murray is a fine play no matter of the status of Nelson. Getting to the matchup against the Lakers finds even more reason to gush: after the Nets, no other teams are giving up more fantasy points to opposing point guards than the Lakers. The last time these teams met, Murray put up 24.5 FantasyDraft points in 27.4 minutes. Rostering him gives you a nice cheap way to get exposure to the game of the night.
D’Angelo Russell – PG – Lakers ($14300)
As you can probably tell, stacking this game is going to be a very popular thing to do. Anyone that’s going to get at least 25 minutes in this one has to be heavily considered considering the pace and high expected total.
Russell’s price has really come up recently, but it’s warranted. It’s finally reached the point in the season where “DLo” is constantly seeing 30 minutes or more and over the last two weeks, he’s averaging 1.16 fantasy points per minute with a 28.4 usage rate. Russell is also averaging over 18 field goal attempts over his last nine games. The last time the Lakers faced the Nuggets, he played 34.2 minutes, and scored 51.2 FantasyDraft points (22 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds).
The Nuggets are almost just as bad at limiting point guards as the Lakers are: Denver is giving up the third-most fantasy points to the position, the fifth-most real life points, and the sixth-most assists. These two teams are the fifth and eighth fastest teams in the league, so expect tons of points from the guards in this game. Also, the Lakers are starting to experiment with their lineup as the season season winds down. Last night, they removed Nick Young and Tarik Black from their starting lineup and replaced them with David Nwaba and Ivica Zubac (NOTE: if Zubac is starting again tonight, he’d qualify as the fifth player in a Core 5. He’s an excellent play if starting). Without a shot chucker like Nick Young in the lineup, Russell should see even more shot attempts, as crazy as that sounds.
With those four guys locked into your rosters, you’ll be left with $11,500 average remaining per player to fill out the rest of your lineup, which offers a lot of wiggle room. Good luck with all your contests today everyone!