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This has not been a good week for me. I'll admit that up front. I had late, unexpected scratches ruin my lineups on two separate occasions, and then saw the frisky 76ers foil my plan to load up on Magic players Wednesday.
However, I found success last Friday loading up on stars in my FanDuel lineup and ended up ahead for the week, so I'm hoping for similar luck this week. And I've brought out the big guns to help me do it.
I have mostly avoided the Cavaliers so far this season, a policy that hasn't led me astray as they have predictably struggled to figure things out. I think that changes tonight, and I'm going with two-thirds of the New Big 3, including my first selection of LeBron James.
Theories abound about why James has struggled this season, with everything from injury -- a balky back has limited him at times since last season -- to intentional semi-sabotage -- ESPN.com reported he may be pulling his foot off the pedal in order to motivate some of his younger teammates to play his way.
Whatever the reason, James is averaging just 37.8 FanDuel Fantasy points per game this season, down from 45.2 per game a year ago. However, I'm betting he and Kyrie Irving can figure things out tonight against a Nuggets team that is bleeding points. The Nuggets ranked 28th in the NBA in points allowed per game last year and are in the same spot through four games, thanks to a blistering pace and disinterested defense.
If I'm going down, at least I will do so feeling confident in the matchups I've picked on tonight. Including Denver, my team's opponents for Friday night rank 28th, 29th, 27th, 22nd and 21st in points allowed per game so far, with only Lance Stephenson's matchup against the Hawks representing a somewhat tough one.
I'll go down swinging either way.
My Nov. 7 FanDuel.com roster:
PG Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers at Denver
PG Donald Sloan, Pacers at Boston ($5,800)
SG Lance Stephenson, Hornets vs. Atlanta ($6,900)
SG Arron Afflalo, Nuggets vs. Cleveland ($5,600)
SF LeBron James, Cavaliers at Denver ($10,400)
SF Gordon Hayward, Jazz vs. Dallas ($7,300)
PF Taj Gibson, Bulls at Philadelphia ($6,000)
PF Trevor Booker, Jazz vs. Dallas ($4,100)
C Roy Hibbert, Pacers at Boston ($5,600)
Chandler Parsons, SF, Mavericks at Utah ($6,700)
I mean, I know Parsons struggled in the first game of the season, but this price strikes me as absurdly low. Is there a Handsomeness Tax being invoked? How can Parsons cost less than $7,000 while riding a three-game 20-plus points scoring streak. He hasn't done a ton else to fill up the box score, but he did have 39.6 FanDuel Fantasy points in his last game and gets to take on the 26th-ranked Jazz defense. He didn't make sense for my lineup, but he might for yours.
Roy Hibbert, C, Pacers at Boston ($6,300)
Hibbert was a punchline last season, and that seems to be reflected a bit in his low price. However, he has been productive in nearly every game this season, even when his scoring touch has been off. He was held scoreless on five field-goal attempts Wednesday against a tough Wizards frontcourt, but still managed 24.8 points on the strength of his defense, rebounding and passing. He has been asked to take on a bigger role for the Pacers and has proven adept at doing so four-fifths of their 2013-14 starting lineup still out. That he's going against a Celtics team that is weak in the frontcourt and allows a ton of points only helps his case.
Tristan Thompson, PF, Cavaliers at Denver ($4,900)
With Kevin Love around, you're certainly rolling the dice on Thompson at this point. However, he has played at least 20 minutes in each game so far, and has a pretty secured role in a rotation that goes just eight-deep at this point. You're basically hoping for a night like Thompson had last Friday, when he registered 16 points and 13 rebounds, and that might not be asking too much against a Nuggets team that looks terribly disorganized defensively.
Overpay of the night
Brook Lopez, C, Nets vs. Knicks ($7,200)
The Nets haven't talked about a minutes limit for Lopez, but it seems inevitable for a big man with as many injury issues as he has. It seems like he might be best used in smaller stretches anyway after he struggled badly in 35-plus minutes against a pretty underwhelming defensive frontcourt in Minnesota in his most recent game. He might thrive tonight, but I don't love him in a game that promises to have a snail's pace.
CT: For the next month or more, Jackson is going to be the best player in this deal, and probably by a pretty wide margin. However, once Westbrook and Durant are back, he might be the third-best player of the four, behind both Ariza and Young. Long-term, the Ariza-Young side wins out, but Jackson is going to be a must-start player until Westbrook gets back, which could tip the scales to that side.
CT: I'm not even sure it makes sense to say this is "giving up" on Jabari Parker. Ten days ago, you would have traded Parker for Dragic without question; as much upside as Parker has, he is unlikely to be as good as Dragic was last season. And even if the presence of Isaiah Thomas has created some issues in Phoenix's backcourt so far, Dragic is also unlikely to be as bad as he has been so far. Dragic is still shooting 51.1 percent on shots inside of the arc, but is a miserable 0-for-11 on 3-pointers. The chances of a 36.1 percent 3-point shooter missing 11 in a row is about 137-to-1, so this is probably just a string of really bad luck for Dragic. He's a good buy-low candidate.
Waiver wire flier
Chris Copeland, F, Pacers
Chris Copeland was basically a non-factor for the Pacers last season after posting solid numbers as a stretch-four for the Knicks two seasons ago. Even on a team as desperate for floor spacing as last year's Pacers were, Copeland's defensive deficiencies kept him off the floor entirely. Now, with the Pacers so devastated by injuries that they applied for and were granted a "Hardship Waiver," Copeland has become the team's top offensive option and has responded well. I suppose. He's not efficient whatsoever and is basically chucking it every chance he gets, but you can't really argue with 17.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game off waivers. Before long, David West, Rodney Stuckey and George Hill will come back and limit Copeland's usage, but for now, he is a solid option in category-based Fantasy formats, especially with the insane volume of 3-pointers he is throwing up.