Thunder Buddies

Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo have possessed a strong positive correlation this year so a big game from one typically coincides with a big game from the other. In a fast-paced environment versus the reigning champs, expect monster performances from both of them. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.


Russell Westbrook, Thunder, $23,900 – Even with a rematch of Nuggets/Rockets from this weekend featured on this slate, Russell Westbrook stands out as the top player to roster. Sure James Harden will face the team that ranks dead last in defensive efficiency against opposing PGs but the Rockets are at home which means they could easily blow the Nuggets out of the building. Meanwhile, the Thunder are only listed as 3.0 point underdogs at home against the Warriors in a game equipped with a 222.0 point over/under. In three previous meetings against the Warriors this season, Westbrook has produced 48, 73.25 and 72.25 fantasy points respectively and those all came with Kevin Durant healthy. Since he went down, opponents have had an easier time competing with them as they have not been blowing at teams at nearly as high of a rate. As long as this game remains close, there is almost no scenario in which Westbrook does not flirt with at least 70 fantasy points once again due to the ridiculous pace (both teams rank in the top seven of pace). While Harden is a difficult fade, Westbrook is an impossible one because failing to use him should single-handedly lead to a lineup finishing outside the PayoutZone.

Kemba Walker, Hornets, $14,600 – For a long while now, I have preached using PGs versus Dennis Schroder because he is literally the worst defender against spot up shooters at his position by far (at least amongst starters). Additionally, the Hawks rank sixth in defensive efficiency against opposing PGs and will be without one of their top help defenders (Paul Millsap has been ruled out for at least two games). Heading into this game, Walker has struggled in back-to-back performances which should keep his ownership level down even though he has averaged 44.63 fantasy points against in the Hawks in two previous meetings. The presence of Nicolas Batum should only help open up the floor and alleviate some of the attention from Walker so this is certainly a prime spot for a bounceback.

Victor Oladipo, Thunder, $12,700 – Surprisingly, both of the Thunder’s starting guards have registered a positive correlation so far this season meaning their big games often coincide with one another’s. Westbrook’s presence and aggressiveness often leaves Oladipo uncovered which leads to assist opportunities that produce positive fantasy points for both on the same play. Furthermore, when both are amidst solid performances it is likely because the team is competing and remaining in the game throughout the entirety. Heading into this game, Oladipo has reached at least 32.50 fantasy points in five consecutive games and he has taken at least 14 FG attempts in every game during that span. Considering the likely pace of this game, the guards are going to be needed to get out in transition regularly so Oladipo’s ceiling could be quite substantial assuming all goes right for him and the team on Monday.


Bismack Biyombo/Nikola Vucevic, Magic – After Nikola Vucevic missed the team’s practice on Sunday, it is feeling unlikely that he plays tonight in an elite matchup against the 76ers. Not only do the 76ers rank dead last in efficiency against opposing Cs but they have been blocked by opposing frontcourt members above and beyond the most times per game (6.5 compared to the Hawks in second with 5.0) over their last 10 games. As if that were not enough, Cs have produced the third most rebounds per game (RPG) against the 76ers including the fifth most offensive RPG. If Bismack Biyombo draws the start, he literally could not ask for a better matchup especially considering Biyombo is a lot more physical than any active C on the 76ers roster. On the other hand, if Vucevic were to end up playing, he would be facing a 76ers team he has dominated for years (averaging 43.4 fantasy points per game (FPPG) against them over his last nine meetings). Regardless of who starts at C for the Magic, they are someone you will want in your DFS lineups.

Dwight Howard, Hawks, $13,200 – Sans Paul Millsap on the court, Dwight Howard actually leads the Hawks in fantasy points per minute (FPPM) with 1.20 mostly due to his uptick from a 23.1-percent rebounding rate (REB%) next to Millsap versus 24.8-percent without him. The subtraction of an important member of the frontcourt should only further solidify Howard’s minutes and he has played at least 30 minutes in four consecutive games. Now, his minutes should be even more efficient and the Hornets struggle to contain the position (25th in defensive efficiency)…especially those of the larger variety. In each of his last three meetings against Cody Zeller, Howard has topped 37.75 fantasy points including 43.25-plus in each of his meetings as a member of the Hawks. While Howard does not rate as an absolute must-play due to a slightly inflated price tag, he is very likely destined for 40-plus fantasy points.

Ersan Ilyasova, Hawks, $9,900 – Although Howard is certainly enticing, the direct beneficiary to Millsap’s absence is Ersan Ilyasova who will pick up the most minutes of anyone in the rotation. In all likelihood, Ilyasova will end up starting and should manage at least the 27 minutes he played last game (if not more). Referring back to last game, the one game sample personifies Ilyasova’s substantial upside as he produced 23 points including 4-5 from beyond the arc, four rebounds, two steals and a block en route to 37 fantasy points against the Trail Blazers. Marvin Williams is actually above the 80th percentile in terms of defending opposing jump shooters but Ilyasova has still produced 0.91 FPPM against him in his last three meetings combined…and so far he has averaged 1.16 FPPM without Millsap on the court as a member of the Hawks (second best on the team). Most of all, Ilyasova is underpriced as neither 20 points nor a double-double are out of the question with him playing big minutes. As long as Millsap remains out and Ilyasova can be rostered at a sub-$10,000 cost, he will continue to be well worth using.

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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