Good morning and welcome to another edition of the FantasyDraft “Core 4”, brought to you by DFSDatalytics.com! We have ourselves a short five-game slate tonight, highlighted by the most electric player in the world playing against the worst team in the league. Below are two guards and two big men that I am finding a way to play in my lineups tonight. Let’s get right to it!
DeMarcus Cousins ($17,700)
Let’s get this out of the way right now. DeMarcus Cousins was benched last game as he only finished with 25 minutes. Per Cousins, it was the first time he wasn’t on the court during crunch time since his rookie year, six seasons ago. Remove that last game out of your head and think of tonight as a new slate. Cousins is only $17,700 on FantasyDraft tonight as his companion Anthony Davis is $18,900. Before the benching last game, Cousins was averaging 22.1 PPG and 13.4 RPG while playing 33.6 MPG since being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. Adding Cousins to New Orleans hasn’t paid off quite yet. They are 3-6 since his arrival and Cousins was benched and suspended for two of those three wins.
Cousins’ matchup tonight is one of the best in the league for big men. The Portland Trail Blazers are 27th in DvP vs PF’s and 20th in DvP vs C’s this season. Portland has yielded the ninth most defensive rebounds per game while allowing the seventh most points in the paint in their last three games. I understand the situation is different, but Cousins has had great success against the Trail Blazers this season. In their three meetings, Cousins has averaged an incredible 38.7 PPG and 10.3 RPG! At the end of the day we’re talking about one of the best players in the league being underpriced due to a previous benching and limited minutes. It was a matchup based decision by head coach Alvin Gentry. Lock and load Cousins.
Jordan Crawford ($7,700)
Everyone loves a value pick in the “Core 4” right? Jordan Crawford fits the bill tonight. He’s priced at just $7,700 on FantasyDraft and has played 20 or more minutes in three straight games. Not many people have heard of Jordan Crawford, so for those who do not know him, he is a shooting guard for the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s been a journeyman as he’s played for five teams in five seasons. He provides immediate scoring off the bench for a team that traded away all their bench scoring. Not only is Portland brutal defensively down low, they are brutal defensively everywhere as they are 26th in defensive efficiency. I’m finding any way possible that I can attack this team on a short slate like tonight.
As you can tell I don’t have any problems pairing Jordan Crawford with DeMarcus Cousins tonight. Portland has allowed the second best three-point percentage this season giving up 38.1% from behind the arc. They have allowed the fifth most points to opposing teams as well. In his three games for the Pelicans this season, Crawford is shooting 54.3% from the field and 55.6% from three-point range. In Crawford’s career, he is shooting 40.7% from the field and 31.1% from three-point range, so regression is bound to happen soon. However, I’m willing to ride the hot hand again tonight at his very affordable price tag on FantasyDraft. Crawford is the first of two value picks tonight that I think will exceed value.
Zaza Pachulia ($7,400)
This may not be a sexy play. This may not be the best play. However, this WILL help you fit in the biggest stud on the slate which I will cover with my next player. Zaza Pachulia is only $7,400 on FantasyDraft tonight. It’s rare that I recommend a player who is averaging only 18.7 MPG this season, because I am a firm believer in minutes equals money. However, with Kevin Durant off the floor, Pachulia averages 1.13 fantasy points per minute. That’s good for a cheap punt play in such a fantastic matchup that tonight is. Pachulia also receives the biggest rebounding boost with Durant off the floor. The Warriors opponent tonight the Philadelphia 76ers are 25th in rebounding differential this season.
One of my favorite players to target in NBA DFS is Jahlil Okafor. Sure, I think Okafor can be a nice talent in this league, but as of right now he’s not even close to where he needs to be and Philadelphia is just throwing him into the fire. His defense has increased from being last among all centers in defensive real plus-minus to 44th among 68 centers. A few games ago Okafor allowed Jusuf Nurkic to go bonkers for 28 points, 20 rebounds, eight assists and six blocks! Don’t expect that type of production, but a double-double from Pachulia tonight seems likely. It’s not going to feel great when you lock Zaza Pachulia in your lineup, but in this matchup he has a chance to pay off his salary and you are saving to get this guy…
Russell Westbrook ($23,900)
We have been down this road before whether to pay up for Russell Westbrook or not. I’m here to tell you that he needs to be in your lineups tonight. The Oklahoma City Thunder are ONLY -6.0 favorites playing in Brooklyn against the Nets. The price tag of $23,900 on FantasyDraft is steep, but that might just keep his ownership at a respectable number as value on tonight’s slate is hard to come by. However, the Nets in their last seven games hold a record of 3-4 and for what it’s worth they have double the wins at home versus on the road this season. There is no need to fear a blowout of any sort tonight. Don’t make the mistake of leaving the highest scoring player on the slate out of your lineup.
In the Thunder’s last meeting with the Nets, they won 124-105 as Westbrook played 34 minutes and totaled a triple-double on 30 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists. This game took place in the middle of December, so both teams basically have gone in different directions since then. The Thunder are competing for playoff seeding in the Western Conference, as the Nets have basically wrapped up the worst record in the league. I can’t stress enough how awesome of a matchup this is for Westbrook tonight. Brooklyn is first in pace, 28th in defensive efficiency, last in opponent’s points per game and 28th in rebounding differential. They are the worst team in the league and are facing the energizer bunny!
With those four players locked into your rosters, you’ll be left with $10,825/per player remaining to fill out the rest of your lineup. It may look like a stars and scrubs start to the lineup, but you can easily go balanced after these high upside players. Good luck with all your contests today!