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At the end of four weeks doing this column, I wish I could say I have solved the secret to winning on a nightly basis. The fact of the matter is, you're going to take your lumps when you do this every night, and you just have to accept that.
However, I'm starting to get better. My winning percentage is creeping up lately, and I've been in the money in a few of the big tournaments so far this week. And one big reason for that is that the game just gets easier to figure out as the season goes on.
We can make assumptions about this season based on how we think teams are going to play, but for the first few weeks, it's mostly just guessing. The teams that were good last season and brought back the same players should generally be good this season, but there are always factors we simply cannot see coming. However, each game is a new data point, and we've started accumulating enough to really tell us some stuff. Early season flukes can still stun you, but most teams probably are more or less who they will be at this point.
Another factor that helps making your lineup easier -- and this might not sound like the nicest thing to say -- is injuries. Like it or not, they're a fact of the game, and every team in the league has one or two guys who are ready to step in and contribute meaningfully if they get the chance. Sure, the kind of blights the Pacers and Thunder have suffered so far can make the game even more unpredictable, because those teams have no foundation to build on when the injuries hit.
However, as you'll see with my lineup tonight, there are some teams and injuries that you can take advantage of with some confidence. Since the prices tend to fluctuate more slowly than any given player's actual value might, this is probably the best way to find steals.
My roster for Nov. 21 at FanDuel.com:
PG Aaron Brooks, Bulls at Portland ($4,100)
PG Tony Parker, Spurs at Minnesota ($6,400)
SG Klay Thompson, Warriors vs. Golden State ($7,800)
SG Monta Ellis, Mavericks vs. L.A. Lakers ($7,400)
SF LeBron James, Cavaliers at Washington ($10,400)
SF Shabazz Muhammad, Timberwolves vs. San Antonio ($3,900)
PF Paul Millsap, Hawks vs. Detroit ($8,600)
PF Taj Gibson, Bulls at Portland ($5,900)
C Gorgui Dieng, Timberwolves vs. San Antonio ($5,500)
Shabazz Muhammad, SF, Timberwolves vs. San Antonio ($3,900)
The Timberwolves' roster is missing four of their five opening night starters, with Ricky Rubio (ankle), Kevin Martin (wrist), Thaddeus Young (personal) and Nikola Pekovic (wrist) all sidelined Friday night. Muhammad is starting to come alive, and has thrived playing in the team's small-ball lineups recently, scoring 17 and 18 points in the team's last two games. This could be a blowout, but the Timberwolves are so thin right now, Muhammad could end up playing big minutes no matter what. At $3,900, he could provide a ton of return on investment tonight, allowing you to go for big money players elsewhere.
Taj Gibson, PF, Bulls at Portland ($5,900)
Pau Gasol hasn't been ruled out for tonight's game, but it wouldn't be terribly surprising if he sat out his third straight while nursing a strained calf. The Bulls simply have to be patient with Gasol, given his injury history, so Gibson could be in line for a huge role Friday. He played 41 minutes and had 41 FanDuel points Monday, and could be in line for a similar outing, given how well he can fill up the box score. Gibson's role limits his overall value, but there's no denying his ability.
Gorgui Dieng, C, Timberwolves vs. San Antonio ($5,500)
Dieng's value has gone up $600 since the team last played Wednesday, which makes sense since Dieng dropped 32.4 FanDuel points against the Knicks Wednesday. The Timberwolves had almost no big men available Wednesday, and that could be the case again tonight, so expect big things from Dieng again, even if this isn't the best matchup for him. The Spurs will make things tough for the young big man, but centers are averaging 33.7 FanDuel points per-36 minutes against the Spurs, so he should still have a solid outing.
Overpay of the night
Jeff Green, PF, Boston at Memphis ($6,900)
Relying on Green in any given matchup can often feel like a fool's errand, given his consistent inconsistency. He followed up a 28-point game against the Suns by scoring just 11 points on 13 shots against the lowly 76ers this week, which just highlights how difficult it is to rely on him. A matchup against the stingy Grizzlies, who allow the second-fewest points per game in the league this season, only makes him that much less attractive. The Grizzlies allow just 25.6 FanDuel points per-36 minutes to top opposing small forwards, so steer clear of Green, if you can.
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CT: A healthy McRoberts makes this a pretty easy call, but who knows when we'll see that at this point. He has played just 86 minutes in the Heat's first 12 games, however, and it's awfully hard to say just when he'll be back to full strength due to a variety of maladies. He is playing on a minutes limit and has little chance to make a big impact right now. O'Quinn has dealt with injury issues of his own, but has been taking part in practice and shootaround recently, and could return early next week. He has a solid all-around skillet, a La McRoberts, but brings more defense and rebounding than McRoberts' combination of shooting and passing. All things considered, McRoberts is the more valuable player, but O'Quinn might be ready for a significant role sooner, which could swing the balance in his favor.
@markandrewbrown: Is Eric Gordon turning it around for some value or am I being fooled by a semi solid two weeks?
CT: What I'm going to need to see from Gordon before I start believing he is turning it around is some consistency attacking the rim. He has scored in double figures in each of the last three games, but is still doing much of his work away from the rim, with only five of 23 field-goal attempts in that time coming within 5 feet of the rim. His shooting might be regressing to the mean after a cold start, but a jump-shooting Gordon holds little value for Fantasy owners, given how many other ball handlers this team has. There is no need to give up anything of value to pick him up.
Waiver wire fliers
Gorgui Dieng, C, Timberwolves (71 percent owned)
Dieng is starting for the Timberwolves for the next few games, due to a wrist injury to Nikola Pekovic. He will return to a bench role as soon as Pekovic is healthy, but this is a good reminder that he is someone you need to own in all formats, even when he isn't contributing much off the bench. In 17 career games as a starter, Dieng is averaging 11.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. Couple that with the fact that Pekovic has missed an average of 22.3 games per season over the last three, and Dieng is someone who has tremendous value and is worth a roster spot, even if you won't start him every week.