Unleash the Dragan

Marquese Chriss has already been ruled out for tonight, and Josh Jackson is doubtful, so plenty of minutes should be available for Dragan Bender once again. Fade him at your own risk. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.


Guards (G):

Chris Paul, Rockets – Coming off a 70-plus fantasy point explosion versus the Trail Blazers, Chris Paul is finally showing his absurd potential without James Harden in the rotation. When Harden went down, Paul was averaging nearly 2.0 fantasy points per minute (FPPM) without Harden on the floor, but we knew that could not continue with him facing mostly first units (that number has since dropped to 1.76). Heading into this game, Paul has topped 50 fantasy points in three of his last four games, and he will now face a team that has allowed the fourth most fantasy points per game (FPPG) to opposing point guards (PGs): The Suns. To this point, only the Mavericks rate worst in terms of defensive efficiency versus PGs than the Suns, and only two teams (including the Mavericks) have allowed more points per game (PPG) to the position. As if that were not enough, the Suns play at the third fastest pace in the league and they rank 27th in overall team defensive efficiency. In other words, there should be an abnormally high number of possessions for Paul to do damage and he will be facing one of the worst defensive teams in the league. This all sets up incredible well and, despite the hefty price tag, Paul is worth spending up for.


Devin Booker, Suns – Speaking of players who dominate their respective team’s usage, Devin Booker continues to be a player worth investing in, especially with the rotation set to tighten without Marquese Chriss and Josh Jackson. Looking at the 124-minute sample size without Chrss, Jackson, Eric Bledsoe (traded), Mike James (released) and Greg Monroe (destined for zero minutes) on the floor, Booker is averaging 1.17 FPPM and is garnering 42.2-percent of the usage! By comparison, Paul’s usage rate (USG%) with Harden on the bench only sits at 31.9-percent, so Booker is legitimately the Suns’ entire offense. The other great thing about rostering Booker is the fact he plays all the minutes. Heading into tonight, Booker has played at least 38 minutes in five of his last 10 games and at least 30 minutes in each of those contests. For what it is worth, Booker dropped an 18-10 double-double in just 30 minutes in the first meeting against the Rockets, and the team was blown out of the gymnasium in that one. On Friday, the Suns are playing at home, and are only listed as 7.0-point underdogs, so the game should remain close throughout. Consequently, the sky is the ceiling for Booker.


Bradley Beal, Wizards – Another game, another guard blew up against the Magic on Wednesday as Malcolm Brogdon dropped a season-high 40.25 fantasy points against them (14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists). No team has allowed more fantasy points to opposing guards than the Magic this season and that includes the Suns who play at a much quicker pace. The Magic’s backcourt defense is simply a dumpster fire and one worth targeting against literally every single time they play. While John Wall’s price rose significantly following a 30-10 double-double from him the last time out, Beal’s price point is still well within the realm of reason. This season, Beal has averaged exactly 2.50 FPPG more with Wall in the rotation comparatively to when he has been inactive, and the Magic rank dead last in defensive efficiency versus opposing shooting guards (SGs). To put it in layman’s terms: this is the nuts matchup for Beal so if you fade him tonight then you are never going to play him.


Forward/Centers (F/C):

Domantas Sabonis, Pacers – To be fair, Domantas Sabonis faced a difficult rebounding matchup against the twin towers of Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo his last time out, but that will not be the case on Friday. The Cavaliers are a small team and one that ranks just 21st in rebounding rate this year and, most importantly, their center is a power forward (PF) playing out of position (sort of like Sabonis). Prior to his seven rebound outing against the Heat, Sabonis was averaging more than 11 rebounds per game (RPG) in the absence of Turner, and he should be expected to get back to his double-double ways in this contest. The Cavaliers will be playing on the second end of a back-to-back so the Pacers only being listed as 1.5-point home underdogs makes sense and they should give this team a game (at the very least). Over the course of their last three games, with Kevin Love starting at center, the Cavaliers rank 25th in defensive efficiency versus opposing centers and they have allowed 16.0 RPG to the position (which is more than any team is allowing for the season). People may overlook Sabonis because of his disappointing outing in his last game but that would be a mistake. UPDATE: Sabonis is not on this slate so simply replace with Clint Capela!


Ersan Ilyasova, Hawks – In the month of January, Ersan Ilyasova is averaging 31.0 FPPG despite his typical, inconsistent ways. If there ever were a blowup spot for Ilyasova, it would be at home against the Nets with his team favored by 3.5-points. Ilyasova is averaging a season-high 29.6 minutes per game (MPG) in January, so looking at his previous data in this matchup (teams have not played since Dec. 4) is misleading. John Collins almost fell out of the rotation completely a few games ago and, meanwhile, Ilyasova has topped 30 fantasy points in seven of his last 10 games. The Nets rate as one of the worst five defenses against the PF position according to defensive efficiency so minutes should equal fantasy production for Ilyasova here. In past matchups, Ilyasova has averaged nearly 1.0 FPPM against this team, so 30 minutes should equate to around 30 fantasy points most of the time. With a tiny bit of variance against a fast-paced Nets squad, Ilyasova’s upside could stretch closer to 40 fantasy points.


Dragan Bender, Suns – The easiest play of the entire night is Dragan Bender with both Marquese Chriss and Josh Jackson likely out. Chriss left before halftime of the team’s Jan. 7 tilt against the Thunder which led to Bender starting the second half. It only took a full half’s worth of minutes for Bender to rack up a career-high 20 points (PTS) to go along with six rebounds (REB), four assists (AST), one steal (STL), three blocks (BLK) and a whopping 43.50 fantasy points. Now, not only will he draw the start, but he will not have to compete with Jackson for minutes either. The Rockets allow teams to get out in transition against them at the highest rate and that could lead to Bender trailing from behind open threes. More importantly, the inactives will lead to another huge role for Bender who is way too cheap for his role tonight. Luckily for Bender, Ryan Anderson starts at PF for the Rockets, so he is one of the few weak spots in the defense, and Bender should take advantage in 30-plus minutes. Lock him into all lineups.


*Statistics are accurate as of Thursday, January 11

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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