This article last updated 10/24/2018 – Featured image from Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
I hope everyone had a successful night on the small slate yesterday. I had some Blake Griffin, but not enough. I didn’t expect a 50-point outburst, and you can never predict OT. He has been playing well this season, and he’s still priced reasonably across the industry, so it’s not like it would have been a stretch to play him, but he also wasn’t a lock for a big game last night. Let’s see if we can identify some good plays for tonight’s huge 11-game slate.
On a big slate like this, one of the first things we should try to do is narrow down our player pool, so that it’s not so overwhelming to look at the massive list of options. I’m going to change the format of my article a bit today. It was suggested that I might want to post something more concise for the more casual reader, but I do believe that some people benefit from pulling the curtain back a bit and seeing some commentary as to why certain players are identified as targets. I’ll begin with some thoughts on which games are my favorite to target, move on to my top projected players, and follow it up with some analysis. Please don’t expect to see this format every day, as the extra information equates to extra time, which I don’t always have available. Without further ado, let’s get to it and win some money!
Games to Target
Scoring is up across the NBA this season. The lowest Vegas O/U for tonight’s slate is the Spurs vs. Pacers game at 211.5, which is crazy on a slate of this size. While Vegas lines are not locked in stone, they are a good indicator of the pace of a game, how competitive a game should be, and are a good way to quickly identify which teams to target.
LAL @ PHO – Vegas O/U 236.5 – LAL favored by 3.5 with an implied team total of 120 points
This game has the highest total of the night. The winless Lakers are favored by 3-1/2 points, and will still be without Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram, who are still serving their suspensions. The Lakers would be the preferred team to target in this game, as they provide some nice value options and are playing at the second-fastest pace in the league to start the year.
DAL @ ATL – Vegas O/U 234 – DAL favored by 1.5
This game is the third-highest total of the night, but it is basically a pick ’em, with the Mavericks being slight road favorites. The Hawks have been surrendering massive fantasy point performances to opposing players, and the Mavericks have guys that are getting big-time minutes at reasonable prices. I like players from both teams in this game, but the Mavericks are the preferred fantasy team tonight.
CHA @ CHI – Vegas O/U 230.5 – CHA favored by 4.5
Another game with a total over 230 and a favored road team. The Hornets have had relatively concentrated fantasy production, so they aren’t a team I am interested in stacking, but that does make identifying players to target from their team relatively straightforward. The Bulls got Kris Dunn back for one game, but he is ruled out for the next 4-to-6 weeks, which will continue to provide opportunities to find value from their backup guards.
If you’re building multiple GPP lineups, you should never decide to completely fade entire games, as there will be fantasy value to be had from every game every night, but these three games provide the most fantasy upside of the night.
Projection-Based Rankings By Position
These rankings are based on my personal NBA model’s daily projections. I will provide rankings for raw point projections and PT/$ value projections. I am going to try to format this in a way that is easier to read today.
Targets and Analysis
My model projects LeBron James and James Harden to have nearly identical production tonight, as the two clear standouts from a raw points perspective. If you’re putting a stud on your team, these would be the two guys I would look to first. LeBron has the softer matchup against a Suns team who is relatively week defensively, and his team has the higher implied total. This is the first game of the season when LeBron has been the highest overall projected player in my model, so on any teams where I’m paying all the way up, he’s going to be my guy.
DeAndre Jordan and Kevin Love are both priced much lower than the top tier of players but have excellent outlooks for tonight. Love looks like he did when he played in Minnesota now that LeBron and Kyrie Irving are out of the picture. In 3 games to start the year, he is averaging 20.7 points, 4 assists, and 14.3 rebounds per game across 35.7 minutes. These are all up from his career averages. The biggest difference this season is that he is at a 30% usage rate for the team. His previous career high was 27.7% in the ’13-’14 season, but most of his NBA career has been between 20-24%. This spike in usage is boosting his production, and if he can improve his efficiency closer to his normal rate, the fantasy production will continue to rise. DeAndre Jordan looks like a great play tonight, but Enes Kanter may be even better. Kanter is $1100 cheaper, but I only have him projected to get about a point less than Jordan. That $1100 goes a long way when building lineups tonight, but both guys are very viable options.
Recency bias will have people shying away from Dennis Smith Jr after he was basically non-existent in the game against the Bulls a couple of nights ago. I had a lot of Mavs exposure that night, so I was watching the game, and I have to say I was disappointed in his involvement in the game that night. Despite playing the most minutes he has all season, he seemed to be standing around and watching the game. I’m not ready to write him off yet, though. He should see another 30 minute game against the Hawks, and I think he’ll have a big bounce-back night.
Kemba Walker is priced significantly lower than guys like John Wall and Stephen Curry, but he is producing similar results. He has not had a fantasy game lower than 35.9 FD points (which was in a complete blowout game that he only played 26 minutes in), and he’s had 2 games over 50 FD points, but he’s still priced at only $8400. His usage is an absolutely insane 35.5% this season, and he’s putting up career-best numbers so far in points, turnover rate, and overall player efficiency.
I’m going to speed this up a bit to try to get through all of the positions.
Other guys I really like tonight are:
- Goran Dragic
- JJ Barea
- Trae Young
- Cameron Payne
Zach LaVine looks like he’s going for a scoring title this year, with over 30 points every game this year. Kris Dunn is out, so he gets a boost because of that, although Dunn playing the other night didn’t seem to impact his game negatively at all.
Devin Booker is the strongest play tonight in a high-scoring game for the Suns. I also do really like James Harden if spending up.
Other guys to consider:
- Wesley Matthews
- Kent Bazemore
- Josh Hart
- Kevin Huerter
LeBron James should be in for a big game tonight, and he’ll likely be wildly popular. Kawhi Leonard is a nice pivot off of LeBron, saving $2100 in salary and offering somewhat similar upside, but in a much tougher matchup. Other guys to like:
- Taurean Prince
- Dorian Finney-Smith
- Jeff Green
- Justise Winslow (first game of the season for him – could be on minutes restriction but he’s cheap)
- Omri Casspi
- Justin Jackson
Kevin Love is a great play at $8500, and he’ll be on over 60% of my lineups tonight. I also like what Kyle Kuzma showed the other night, and he should be in for similar production tonight. Besides those two, the other power forwards I’m looking at are:
- Marvin Bagley III
- Dwight Powell
- Markieff Morris
- Ryan Anderson
- Alex Poythress
- Josh Jackson
- Jaren Jackson Jr
- Bobby Portis
Enes Kanter is my second-highest projected Center tonight, slightly behind DeAndre Jordan, but at much better PT/$ value. Those two are my favorites. I also like:
- Deandre Ayton
- Alex Len
- Javale McGee