Good morning and welcome to another edition of the FantasyDraft “Core 4”, brought to you by DFSDatalytics.com! Tonight, we have a nice seven-game slate. Moving forward, focusing on teams and players who are fighting for the playoffs is a very good strategy. That strategy will also include more guaranteed minutes. Good luck tonight!
Russell Westbrook ($23,900)
This may be cheating that I’m telling you to lock in Russell Westbrook, but I just want to make it clear that he is my favorite play on the slate tonight. The price tag is high at $23,900 on FantasyDraft, but he’s playing against the Golden State Warriors. Many people will look to James Harden as he’s recorded four straight triple-doubles and is hosting the Denver Nuggets who he just had 83.0 FantasyDraft points against. Harden is not a bad play, but when it’s between these two potential MVP’s, I side with Russell Westbrook. He continues to run the league as he leads in points with 31.7 PPG and usage with 41.8%. Westbrook has three straight triple-doubles as his statistics have climbed since Victor Oladipo returned. The field goal attempts have gone down with Oladipo and Kanter back, but the assists have skyrocketed.
The OKC Thunder are jockeying for playoff seeding in the Western Conference tonight as they host Golden State. Unfortunately, Kevin Durant will not be playing tonight as he is still out due to injury. There will be no trash talking back and forth between these two like we saw last game. However, there is no doubt animosity around these two teams, especially Westbrook. Not too long ago Stephen Curry was asked who he would pick for the MVP and he sided with Harden. Word got around and when Westbrook was asked about Curry’s answers he responded with, “Who’s he?”. I love when Westbrook is spoon-fed bulletin board material. In their last meeting, the Warriors won in OKC 130-114 despite Westbrook’s outstanding stat line of 47 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Lock in the MVP tonight.
Taurean Prince ($7,000)
For those of you who do not recognize the name Taurean Prince, he is a small forward for the Atlanta Hawks. Prince has come on as of late providing a spark off the bench. Prince has played heavy minutes in three out of his last four games. If we remove the game against the Spurs where Prince only played 10 minutes, he is averaging 13.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG and most impressively 3.0 BPG in 30.3 MPG. Paul Millsap and Kent Bazemore are out of the lineup tonight giving Prince solidified minutes off the bench. The Hawks will likely start Tim Hardaway Jr. tonight with Prince keeping his reserve roll. The best part about Prince tonight is that he is only $7,000 on FantasyDraft. That salary relief will allow you to pay up for either Russell Westbrook or James Harden. Hop on the train now as this will be the cheapest he will get.
Since losing three straight games, Atlanta has fallen to the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. The crazy thing is, they are only 3.5 games ahead of the ninth seed so every game from here on out is crucial. Their opponent the Charlotte Hornets are one of those teams trying to get into the playoffs. A sneaky stat that benefits Prince tonight is that the Hornets are last in the league allowing 5.7 BPG to their opponents. A great defender and shot blocker like Prince will be licking his chops all night long. Another peripheral stat that will benefit Prince is now that Paul Millsap is out, Atlanta needs someone to step up in the rebounding department. Charlotte ranks 28th in the league in opponent defensive rebounds. With rebounding and blocks being Prince’s best attributes, this matchup suits him very well.
Kemba Walker ($14,600)
As I mentioned above the Charlotte Hornets are playing for their playoff lives right now and there is no person I would rather have on the Hornets than Kemba Walker. Walker is known for being a clutch player and is also known for playing extremely better at home. He has caught a little bit of a funk in the last two games as he’s shot just 27.6% from the field and failed to score 20 points. You may think 20 points is a lot for him to score, but prior to the last two games Walker had scored over 20 points in nine straight games. If there is any recent bias due to his last two games I want to take advantage. During that nine-game stretch where Walker went bonkers, he averaged 45.0 FantasyDraft PPG. The only game Walker failed to score over 40.0 FantasyDraft points was in a 121-81 win where he played 24 minutes.
Playing against the Atlanta Hawks backcourts is one of the best matchups in the league. The Hawks rank 23rd in DvP vs point guards this season allowing 48.0 FantasyDraft PPG. Dennis Schroder has been attacked all season and there’s no reason not to continue that trend tonight. Out of 90 possible point guards, Schroder ranks 84th among them in defensive real plus-minus. He’s the third worst starting point guard so Walker should be able to dominate this matchup tonight. In his first two games against Atlanta, Walker averaged 19.5 PPG, 8.0 APG and 5.5 RPG. The price is a little bit expensive at $14,600 on FantasyDraft especially when Russell Westbrook is already in the lineup, but the position that he’s in tonight is too good to pass up. Lock and load Walker as he tries to will the Hornets into the playoffs.
Nikola Vucevic ($14,200)
With the second worst record in the Eastern Conference, the Orlando Magic don’t have much to play for in these last few weeks of the NBA season. Can’t tell that to Nikola Vucevic though. Vucevic has been outstanding as of late. Over the last eight games, Vucevic is averaging 19.0 PPG and 11.8 RPG. He has five double-doubles and six games over 40 FantasyDraft points during that stretch. Three of those 40-point games are in a row as he’s averaging 40.75 FantasyDraft PPG in those last eight games. Being priced at only $14,200 tonight seems like a fair deal. Vucevic always comes with a slight concern due to his minutes. To continue with this thread of his past eight games, Vucevic has averaged only 29.5 MPG during that time. The minutes aren’t an issue when he averages 1.21 FantasyDraft points per minute.
Playing at home against the Philadelphia 76ers is always a matchup to exploit. It’s paid off in the past, so why not go back to the well for more fantasy goodness? Philadelphia is just 9-24 on the road this season, but Orlando is only favored by -5.0. Jahlil Okafor is currently questionable, but I’m hoping he toughs it out and plays so Vucevic can exploit him! Okafor ranks 68th out of 69 centers in defensive real plus-minus this season. If he’s unable to go, it’s not like back centers Richaun Holmes and Dario Saric are that stout defensively. Holmes (71st) and Saric (91st) out of a possible 94 power forwards, rank near the bottom in defensive real-plus minus. Philadelphia also ranks 25th in FG% and 23rd in rebounding differential, so there are plenty of opportunities for Vucevic to lock up another double-double tonight.
With those four players locked into your rosters, you’ll be left with $10,075/per player remaining to fill out the rest of your lineup. There are some good value plays on the slate tonight which is why I suggest paying up for Westbrook or Harden, whatever suits your fancy. Good luck with all your contests today!