Coming into tonight, LeBron James has eclipsed 64 fantasy points in five of his last six games including a 67.25 burger against the Pistons just five days ago. Once again, you will want to start the “King.” Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Pistons, $11,100 – Normally, this article would start with Russell Westbrook against the lowly Nets, who rate as the worst defense in the entire league, but the snowstorm on the East Coast has that game in doubt. In case it does not play, along with the game in New York as well, the focus of this article will be on the players in games virtually guaranteed to play through. Having said that, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is more of a secondary play in cash games and someone worth targeting more so in tournaments. While his price is uncomfortably high, all other factors are working in his favor plus the fact he struggled in this matchup just a few days ago. His recent mediocre performance should keep his ownership percentage down despite the fact he will square off against a defense that ranks dead last in defensive efficiency against opposing SGs so far this season. Although Caldwell-Pope’s minutes are down slightly this month, he is still averaging 31.8 per game which gives him plenty of time to do damage against the defense allowing the most points per game (PPG) and three-pointers per game (3PPG) to SG position. Prior to his 20 fantasy point flop on Mar. 9 versus the Cavaliers, Caldwell-Pope had managed at least 29 fantasy points in three of his previous four meetings against the Cavaliers. While there are certainly a wide variety of potential outcomes, plenty of those involve Caldwell-Pope exceeding his price tag (especially if he comes out shooting well).
Jordan Crawford, Pelicans, $7,700 – Similarly to Caldwell-Pope, Jordan Crawford’s production could be a bit volatile based on how he is shooting but his price tag helps alleviate a ton of the concerns. Whereas Caldwell-Pope will cost over $11,000, Crawford can be rostered for a sub-$8,000 cost and he has scored 19 real points in two of his three games so far for the Pelicans. In fact, over his three game reign with his new team, Crawford has scored 39 total points and has averaged 26.92 fantasy points per game (FPPG) and 24.33 minutes per game (MPG). The team needs offense outside of their big three (Jrue Holiday, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins) and Crawford has been the guy to step up. His skill set is perfect as he is a solid outside shooter and even an above average passer as evident by his 12 assists (AST) in three games. On paper, the Trail Blazers rank in the middle of the pack in terms of FG percentage allowed and defensive efficiency to opposing SGs but Crawford has ranked third in the team in usage rate (USG%) since joining the Pelicans (behind only Cousins and Davis). With plenty of FG attempts on the horizon at an affordable price tag, Crawford is worth taking a shot on in all formats.
LeBron James, Cavaliers, $19,600 – Since Westbrook’s game may or may not end up happening, LeBron James rates as the next best superstar to roster. Just five days ago, James dropped 29 points (PTS), 13 rebounds (REB), 10 AST and two steals (STL) on the Pistons en route to a ridiculous 67.25 fantasy points. With Vegas only listing the Cavaliers as 8.0 point home favorites, the game should be expected to remain close for a majority of the game yet again which means James should play a healthy amount of minutes yet again. Amazingly, James has averaged a whopping 39.1 MPG in six games so far this month which easily would rate as his most MPG in any month this season. By comparison, James is tied with Kyle Lowry for the league lead in MPG and both are averaging 37.7 over the entirety of the season, so these are even more minutes than he is used to (and he normally plays a lot). So far, James has played 234.7 minutes this month and produced 365.25 fantasy points. In other words, James is averaging an absurd 1.56 fantasy points per minute (FPPM) in the month of March and he literally just displayed his potential upside in this matchup last week. Fade James at your own peril.
DeMarcus Cousins, Pelicans, $17,700 – On Saturday, DeMarcus Cousins was 50-plus percent owned in just about every single cash game on FantasyDraft and he finished with a pathetic 19.50 fantasy points. Credit to FantasyLabs for posting a scouting report on Cousins and noting he has continuously played awful on Saturdays throughout the course of his career for whatever reason; whether it be due to drinking on Friday nights or just pure coincidence. Either way, Cousins’ performance the other night is nothing to worry about because he yet again struggled on a Saturday by getting in early foul trouble and then was scared to play aggressively for the remainder of the game. Coach Alvin Gentry ended up benching him for the final 14:25 of the game and cited game flow as the only reason. Essentially, Cousins should be fine moving forward and he now draws a matchup against a Trail Blazers team that ranks 27th in defensive efficiency versus opposing frontcourts. The team has improved in rebounding and defensively since the arrival of Jusuf Nurkic but Cs have still averaged the 14th most PPG against the Trail Blazers since he came to town. How is this possible? One possible explanation is the fact Nurkic has allowed 1.39 points per possession (PPP) to spot up shooters which rates significantly worse than any other player on the Trail Blazers (Noah Vonleh ranks second worst at 1.23) or even the Nuggets (his previous team). Cousins should be able to step out on him, and if he can establish that shot, he should be able to do whatever he wants all evening long. At just about the cheapest price Cousins will ever be listed at, he is worth rostering in what should be a bounceback performance.
Draymond Green, Warriors, $14,300 – Two frontcourt players priced at similar price points are going to be difficult to choose from tonight: Draymond Green and Andre Drummond. Since Drummond is typically better at home, and now the Warriors are well-rested, so Green gets the edge. Opposing Cs are well worth targeting against the 76ers and do not sleep on the fact Green plays C for extended stretches throughout the course of a ballgame. Not only do the 76ers rank 29th in defensive efficiency versus opposing Cs but they have ranked 27th against opposing PFs over the last five games as well. Over the course of the season, the 76ers rank 19th in frontcourt defensive efficiency and that incorporates a whole bunch of time with Joel Embiid on the floor. Recent results are more telling as the 76ers have been blocked by frontcourt players 6.2 times per game over the course of their last five games. During that span, the Celtics rank second with 5.2 so the difference is quite significant. Neither Jahlil Okafor nor Richaun Holmes have the athleticism to compete with Green while he is playing C and Dario Saric does not have the strength. Even with the Warriors listed as huge favorites, Green will likely get his at home before the game is over.
Zaza Pachulia, Warriors, $7,400 – Zaza Pachulia is in play for literally all the same reasons as Green except Pachulia never plays PF. Pachulia will play limited minutes each half against Okafor who is one of the worst defenders in the entire league and one of the most blocked players in the entire league. It should not take long for Pachulia to rack up PTS, REB and even BLK in just a short period of time in just about the best possible matchup. Since his price is much more affordable than Green’s, Pachulia can safely locked into cash game lineups.