Good morning and welcome to another edition of the FantasyDraft “Core 4”, brought to you by DFSDatalytics.com! We have a small five-game slate tonight with a lot of bad defenses on display. There is a double-header on TNT tonight with playoff implications on the line. Good luck tonight!
Jamal Crawford ($7,700)
With their win over the Washington Wizards last night, the Los Angeles Clippers kept their fifth spot in the Western Conference where they remain 1.5 games back of Utah and 1.0 game ahead of OKC. With only six games left for Los Angeles, every game is crucial. Tonight, they will travel to Phoenix to take on the 22-53 Phoenix Suns. It’s tough to call it a must-win game for them because they already made it into the playoffs, but it would be a win they need to have to keep their playoff positioning. Los Angeles has won five of their last seven games as Phoenix has lost nine straight. The Clippers will be without Austin Rivers tonight as he left last night’s game with a hamstring injury. With Rivers sidelined, the second unit will run primarily through Jamal Crawford who costs only $7,700 tonight on FantasyDraft.
Having a ball-dominant guard like Rivers out of the lineup is great news to Crawford who is a ball-dominant guard himself. Crawford gets a dream matchup for any guard playing against Phoenix tonight. The Suns are 26th in DvP vs point guards and 27th in DvP vs shooting guards this season allowing over 40.0 FantasyDraft PPG to both positions. During this nine-game skid, Phoenix has allowed 113.4 PPG as they continue to be one of the worst defensive teams in the league. They continue to play at the second-fastest pace in the league and are 27th in defensive efficiency. The best part about this matchup for Crawford is that Phoenix allows the best 3P% to opponents this season at 38.1%. Crawford has averaged 15.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 4.3 APG vs Phoenix this season, which is impressive for a bench player.
Karl-Anthony Towns ($19,500)
If there is one thing that we learned about the Minnesota Timberwolves and head coach Tom Thibodeau is that he is going to play his starters and stars a plethora of minutes regardless of the situation. In the playoff hunt, up by 20-plus, down by 20-plus, it simply doesn’t matter. Three of the top five players who lead the league in minutes are Timberwolves players. Andrew Wiggins (37.2 MPG), Zach LaVine (37.2 MPG) and Karl-Anthony Towns (36.9 MPG). LaVine has been out for quite some time due to injury, but those minutes are just absurd. That leads me to my pick of Karl-Anthony Towns who is an expensive $19,500 on FantasyDraft tonight. The steep price is warranted as Towns has been on a tear lately. In three of his last four games, Towns has had over 50.0 FantasyDraft points. Steep price, but worth it!
It’s extremely rare to see, but the Timberwolves have the highest line of any game on the slate tonight as they are favored by -10.5. The matchup tonight for Towns is nearly the best matchup for centers in the entire league. The Los Angeles Lakers come to town as they rank 29th in DvP vs centers this season allowing an average of 55.3 FantasyDraft PPG to the position. They are also 29th in most points allowed in the paint, last in the league in FG% defense and last in defensive efficiency this season. Towns leads the entire league in points in the paint with 13.8 PPG. What’s even better about this matchup is Towns is playing at home where he averages 2.8 PPG and 1.6 RPG more versus on the road this season. Towns is my building block of the night and there is absolutely no reason not to play him in this great matchup!
Kris Dunn ($7,700)
I know what you’re thinking already. Why didn’t you pair Towns with Ricky Rubio since they correlate so well? The fact is, I still would pair Towns with Rubio, but I also wouldn’t mind a sprinkle of Kris Dunn! Pointing out Dunn and what he has done for the Timberwolves lately is a must. Playing Dunn, Rubio and Towns together in a lineup, especially on such a short slate like this would be very contrarian. Dunn comes in at a ridiculous price of $7,700 on FantasyDraft tonight. It’s an uptick in price, but Dunn has averaged 30.0 MPG over the Timberwolves three game road trip. During that time, Dunn has averaged 12.3 PPG and 4.3 RPG. It’s odd for a backup point guard to average 1.3 APG during that time, but he’s made it up with averaging a crazy 3.0 SPG and 1.7 BPG. Dunn is too talented and is too cheap tonight.
I didn’t mention this above with Towns, but the Lakers and Timberwolves played in Los Angeles just six days ago as the Lakers won 130-119 in OT. Minnesota blew a late lead like they have been doing all season and were outscored 21-10 in OT. This was Dunn’s coming out party as he played a career-high 33 minutes as he filled up the stat sheet in Staples Center. Dunn finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists, three steals and two blocks for a remarkable 33.3 FantasyDraft points! For what it’s worth, Towns had 25 points and 13 rebounds. Like how they are against centers, the Lakers are 29th in DvP vs point guards as well allowing an average of 50.5 FantasyDraft PPG to the position. There is not a lot of value on tonight’s slate, but I have a feeling Dunn will be lower owned than he should be tonight.
Jusuf Nurkic ($14,700)
After their huge win a couple nights ago against the Denver Nuggets, the Portland Trail Blazers have now won 12 of their last 15 games. The win solidified a 3-1 head to head edge for Portland over Denver as they currently lead them by 1.0 game for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. Jusuf Nurkic had all the revenge narrative going into that Denver game as he was traded just before the trade deadline to Portland. He finished with a career-high 33 points and 16 rebounds against his former team. After the game Nuggets head coach Mike Malone said, “Jusuf Nurkic kicked our ass. He was very physical.” The narrative won’t be as strong for Nurkic and the Trail Blazers tonight, but it’s still a big game at home against the Houston Rockets. Portland is winless in two tries against Houston this season.
I’m not expecting an outburst of 62.0 FantasyDraft points like last game, but playing against Houston is a matchup that Nurkic can exploit tonight. Houston ranks 28th in DvP vs centers this season allowing an average of 53.3 FantasyDraft PPG to the position. Houston is also last in the league in points allowed in the paint this season which bodes well for Nurkic who has taken only six career three-point shots. Since joining Portland, Nurkic has been an unbelievable asset. He has averaged 15.0 PPG and 10.4 RPG in 19 games, while shooting 51.4% from the field. All of which are career-bests. He has recorded a double-double in five of his last six games. He is the same price as Andre Drummond at $14,700. You can play them both due to their great matchups, but I also think Nurkic will provide lower ownership of the two.
With those four players locked into your rosters, you’ll be left with $12,600/per player remaining to fill out the rest of your lineup. That is more than enough wiggle room on a five-game slate! Good luck with all your contests today!