The Tuck(er) Rule

P.J. Tucker has averaged over 36 minutes per game in the contests Clint Capela has sat this season so he is well worth using at just $8,600 with nearly 40 minutes on the horizon. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.

Guards:

James Harden, Rockets, $21,800 – Chris Paul has already been ruled out for Friday’s contest against the Clippers so the Rockets will once again be the James Harden show…and the James Harden show only. This is a significant development for fantasy purposes because Harden has garnered a 38.8-percent usage rate (USG%) with Paul off the floor this year compared to 33.1-percent when they are playing alongside one another. With Paul off the floor, Harden is averaging a ridiculous 1.71 fantasy points per minute (FPPM) and he has averaged over 36 minutes per game (MPG) in the contests Paul has missed this year. By doing simple math, 36 minutes at 1.71 FPPM equates to around 61.56 fantasy points in an average performance, and the Clippers’ three guards literally rank as three of the four worst players on the team in terms of defensive efficiency. Harden should get to the rim at will in this matchup and DeAndre Jordan is nothing more than an average rim protector. Essentially, Harden should be destined to smash against this team ill-equipped to defend him.

C.J. McCollum, Trail Blazers, $14,500 – Just a season ago, C.J. McCollum was an auto-play any time Damian Lillard sat due to injury. While this price point seems unusually high for the 2017 version of McCollum, he becomes a completely different player without Lillard in the rotation. Over a five-game sample last season, McCollum averaged 31.2 points per game (PPG), 4.2 rebounds per game (RPG), 4.6 assists per game (APG), 1.2 steals per game (SPG) and 46.6 fantasy points (FPPG) without the team’s starting point guard (PG). If those numbers are not eye-opening to you, then none ever will be, and McCollum is matched up against a team tonight that ranks dead last in efficiency defense against opposing backcourts over the last five games. If you fade McCollum tonight, you hate money.

Eric Gordon, Rockets, $11,400 – Another player whose role will increase in the offense without Paul in the rotation will be Eric Gordon. In 13 games sans Paul this season, Gordon has averaged 22.0 PPG including a whopping 11.2 three-point attempts (3PA) per game, or one more then Harden in said sample size. Hell, Gordon has attempted 16.5 field goal attempts (FGA) per game without Paul as well, and many of his looks are wide open and set up by a driving Harden. Even though he has shot 40.0-percent in the games without the former All-Star PG, he has still managed to score 32.1 FPPG. Not only should the team get to the rim at will versus this squad, but the Clippers also allow the second most points per possession (PPP) to opposing spot up shooters (1.03), behind only the Cavaliers. The Clippers are a 3.4th percentile defense against the play type and this team takes more jump shots than any other team. In other words, the Clippers are doomed, and the Rockets are, well, not.

Forward/Center:

Kyle Kuzma, Lakers, $12,700 – With Brook Lopez out of the rotation due to an ankle sprain, Kyle Kuzma has played 39-plus minutes in back-to-back games and has put his elite scoring skillset on display. In those two contests, Kuzma has scored 25 and 38 points (PTS) respectively which has led to 40 and 58.25 fantasy points. The last time Kuzma failed to attempt at least 16 shots in a game was Dec. 9 versus the Hornets and Lopez was active in that game. Coach Luke Walton only trusts a few guys in the rotation enough to consistently play them in big minutes of close games but Kuzma has become one of those players. In fact, the 40-fantasy point game mentioned in this tidbit came against the Warriors just two games ago and tonight will be the rematch. Although this game will be played in Oracle Arena, and Kuzma may be forced to see more Draymond Green defense (looks destined to play), it will not matter if given around 40 minutes once again. If Kuzma can drop 43 and 58.25 fantasy points against a frontcourt defense like the Rockets in consecutive meetings then he can do it against virtually anyone.

P.J. Tucker, Rockets, $8,600 – Quite obviously, the Rockets stack is worth investing in tonight, although the focus to this point has been the backcourt. However, Clint Capela is listed as doubtful for Friday’s tilt against the Clippers as well, so P.J. Tucker will enjoy a minutes boost in his absence. Capela has already missed two games this month and Tucker’s 36.6 MPG in those two contests ranks third most on the team behind only Trevor Ariza and Harden. In those games, Tucker is averaging exactly a double-double (10.0 PPG and 10.0 RPG) with 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG and 27.0 FPPG. Other than Jordan, Tucker can match up and defend any non-PG on the Clippers with ease, and the Clippers are loaded with forwards around Tucker’s height. To put it differently, Tucker should be expected to play a similar, huge minute allotment that he has the previous times Capela has sat, which makes him a fantastic value at $8,600.

Nene Hilario, Rockets, $7,200 – Last but not least, Nene Hilario quietly played 26 minutes last game, but he played poorly so hardly anyone noticed. In that contest, the Rockets squared off against a Lakers team without their starting center, so there was not even a need for big minutes from Hilario. Tonight, against a Clippers team featuring Jordan, Montrzel Harrell and Willie Reed, Hilario’s size will be necessary to counter. This could mean Hilario pushing 30-minutes once again and he is a 1.04 FPPM producer with both Capela and Paul off the floor. Chalk last game’s poor performance up to an anomaly as he will not typically flop with the current constitution of the rotation. Give Hilario another chance and reap the benefits when he delivers.

*Note: stats are accurate as of Friday, December 22

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 DailyRoto.com, 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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