Dion Waiters is out indefinitely so James Johnson will be relied upon to play a larger role on the offense for the foreseeable future. Facing a Trail Blazers team allowing the third most fantasy points per game to the power forward position, Johnson’s ascension should begin tonight. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
DeMar DeRozan, Raptors, $14,300 – One of the most frustrating players to roster over the course of the last week or so has been DeMar DeRozan and this matchup dictates it is still worth going back to the well. Players spot up against the Pacers at the sixth highest frequency and the Pacers rate at about league average in terms of points per possession (PPP) allowed to the play type. Furthermore, the Pacers rank 22nd in defensive efficiency versus opposing SGs and DeRozan has averaged 37.1 fantasy points per game (FPPG) against them over the last two seasons…all with Kyle Lowry in the rotation. At least DeRozan’s minutes have been there lately and he simply has had a two game lull in which his usage has been way down. It is only a matter of time until he is back and firing up around 20 shots on a nightly basis. Without Lowry in the rotation, DeRozan is averaging 1.24 fantasy points per minute (FPPM) so the law of averages suggests a big game is looming right around the corner (and probably coming tonight).
Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves, $13,800 – An ongoing theme in this article is going to be the solidified minutes of players on a Tom Thibodeau coached team especially considering tonight only features a five game slate. As of late, Ricky Rubio has not only been dishing out assists (AST) at his usual, exceptional rate but he also has attempted double-digit shot attempts in seven consecutive games including at least 14 attempts in four straight games. In tune, his aggressiveness has led to 20-plus real points (PTS) in four consecutive games. While the passing prowess is nothing new, the willingness to shoot certainly is and this should be a welcome sign for those looking to roster him. Although many consider Jrue Holiday a solid defender, the Pelicans’ metrics against opposing PGs do not reflect that trend; they rank 23rd in defensive efficiency versus opposing PGs and allow the fourth most points per game (PPG) to the position.
Jusuf Nurkic, Trail Blazers, $12,600 – Similarly to Robin Lopez last night, matchup is not always the be-all and end-all as the battle of size also leads to additional minutes. What am I talking about with Lopez? Last night, Lopez squared off against Rudy Gobert and still exceeded value because he played 30 minutes which was enough time for him to produce even against a great defender. The same should hold true for Jusuf Nurkic tonight who will square off against Hassan Whiteside and the Heat. Despite having Whiteside on the roster, the Heats actually allow the seventh most PPP on post up plays and allow the 11th most PPG to opposing Cs. Over the course of his last six games, Nurkic is averaging a hefty 12.8 PPG, 10.7 rebounds per game (RPG), 3.5 assists per game (APG), 1.5 steals per game (SPG) and 3.0 blocks per game (BPG) en route to 38.5 FPPG. Whiteside has improved slightly against the pick-and-roll this season but the Heat still allow the seventh most PPG to the roll men on pick-and-rolls and Nurkic unsurprisingly runs the play at the highest frequency of anyone on the Trail Blazers (slightly edging out Ed Davis who is out for the season). All signs point to a solid performance and heavy minutes from Nurkic despite having to square off against a talent like Whiteside.
James Johnson, Heat, $11,500 – The loss of Dion Waiters certainly opens up some additional minutes for guards on the Heat but it also helps open up James Johnson’s game as well. In 581 minutes playing alongside Waiters this season, Johnson has registered a 18.1-percent usage rate (USG%), 8.5-percent rebound rate (REB%) and 0.85 FPPM versus 24.1 USG%, 11.0 REB% and 1.11 FPPM in 1,050 minutes with Waiters off the court. Other than Nurkic, the Trail Blazers possess a collection of forwards from 6’6” to 6’9” aka players Johnson matches up with pretty well. In other words, Johnson not only will see an uptick in production but he should see an uptick in minutes in order to match the Trail Blazers size-wise as well. Quietly, Johnson is one of the best plays on the slate.
Gorgui Dieng, Timberwolves, $9,800 – Now that Nemanja Bjelica will miss the remainder of the season, additional frontcourt minutes have opened up for the likes of Gorgui Dieng and even Shabazz Muhammad. As of late, Bjelica had been stealing time from Dieng but that is no longer an option for Coach Thibodeau so Dieng should once again flirt with minutes in the mid-30s like the rest of the Timberwolves starters. In this matchup specifically, there is no doubt his size will be needed as the team takes on the twin towers that are Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Regardless of who he guards, there is some risk of foul trouble against bigs who create contact but Dieng has now played 28-plus minutes in four straight heading into Sunday including 31-plus minutes in two of his last three. Against the size of the Pelicans, 30-plus minutes is the more than likely outcome so he should have plenty of time to reach value at this reasonable mid-tier price tag.
Shabazz Muhammad, Timberwolves, $7,800 – Here is a guy whose price tag will be rising in the near future as he steps into a role similar to the likes of Bjelica prior to his injury. Muhammad had a quiet first game filling in even though he made 7-10 shots from the field but they only resulted in 18.75 fantasy points. Sure Muhammad is reliant on scoring but now he should be locked into around 28-plus minutes on a nightly basis and double-digit FG attempts (at the very least). During his last two games alone, Muhammad is averaging 17.5 PPG and the team is now devoid of two major offensive contributors (Zach LaVine, Bjelica) so Muhammad is the natural next man up to provide the offense necessary. Before the masses catch on, go ahead and start Muhammad yet again tonight against a Pelicans team whose bench is full of players picked off the street.