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With almost exactly half of the season in the rearview mirror, there is still a lot we don't know. We don't know if the Cavaliers can be a contender despite their starpower. We don't know if the Thunder can be either, for that matter, which is almost more surprising than the Cavaliers' case.
But 40-something games are plenty for some other reliable trends to emerge. We know the Heat still can't really slow down big men, for one thing. Sure, Hassan Whiteside's been a nice find for them off the scrap heap, but he hasn't really solved their problem against the best of the league's bigs. In the last five games, the Heat have been picked apart by the likes of Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge -- not to mention Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee.
I point at all that to say that DeMarcus Cousins is probably a great play tonight. There's always the risk with Cousins that he'll find a way to get into foul trouble or get tossed from a game, but he has been better about that this season, and has been pretty much unstoppable lately. Cousins has at least 40 points in the last five games, including 60-plus in the last three. I don't see any reason why Whiteside will be able to slow him down, which makes Cousins the best bet of the elite guys.
Another thing we can know with a fair amount of certainty at this point is that those same Kings can't really slow anyone else down either. They got off to a decent start defensively, but have dropped to 26th in points allowed overall, while playing at one of the quickest paces in the league. That should be a great game for Fantasy purposes, and I like Mario Chalmers, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside tonight at their prices. I might even take a flier on Shabazz Napier, who started the team's last game, if I really wanted to go for a cheap upside play.
Most of the time, we don't really know anything, we just make educated guesses. On those rare occasions where we can look at something with a greater degree of confidence, it's best to take advantage.
Detroit at Indiana
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 399.13
The Pacers are still a goood defensive team, but they did just give up 52 points to Mo Williams. With how well Brandon Jennings is playing these last few weeks, he's a worthy choice.
Memphis at Orlando
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 393.21
Victor Oladipo has put up good showings against even tough defenses lately, so I'm not worried about him at this point.
New Orleans at Philadelphia
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 414.53
The Pelicans are playing much improved defense of late, allowing just one opponent to top 100 points in their last seven games.
Brooklyn at Washington
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 386.6
Even with Mason Plumlee playing well lately, I don't like him in this game. The Wizards kill Fantasy value.
Chicago at Boston
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 402.21
The Celtics have allowed 100-plus in seven of the last eight games.
Atlanta at Toronto
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 394.14
The Hawks have been able to rest their starters this week, which should be a good sign as they enter a game against a slumping Raptors' defense.
Golden State at Oklahoma City
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 392.67
Second night of a back-to-back for the Thunder against the Warriors, they might have trouble keeping this one close.
Denver at Dallas
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 404.12
The Mavericks' bench went nuts when these two teams faced off earlier in the week, but I wouldn't expect the same tonight. The starters will almost certainly all be back playing their usual roles.
Portland at San Antonio
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 385.22
LaMarcus Aldridge has 51.3 FanDuel points per game in two matchups against the Spurs this season.
Minnesota at Phoenix
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 410.44
This is a great matchup for the Suns' trio of point guards, and Markieff Morris makes sense agains the league's worst defense too.
LA Lakers at Utah
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 404.97
With how well Rudy Gobert is playing, he still has plenty of value even coming off the bench. Especially against a bad Lakers' frontcourt.
Miami at Sacramento
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 395.81
With Dwyane Wade almost certainly sitting out again, Mario Chalmers and Luol Deng will get their shots, and come at a cheap price against a Kings' defense that has fallen apart.
Cleveland at LA Clippers
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 400.39
After getting benched in the fourth quarter of their last game, can you trust Kevin Love at this point?
My FanDuel.com roster for Jan. 16:
PG Goran Dragic, Suns vs. Minnesota ($6,900)
PG Mario Chalmers, Heat at Sacramento ($5,300)
SG Victor Oladipo, Magic vs. Memphis ($7,100)
SG Eric Gordon, Pelicans at Philadelphia ($4,800)
SF Luol Deng, Heat at Sacramento ($5,500)
SF K.J. McDaniels, 76ers vs. New Orleans ($4,600)
PF LaMarcus Aldridge, Trail Blazers at San Antonio ($10,000)
PF Channing Frye, Magic vs. Memphis ($3,900)
C DeMarcus Cousins, Kings vs. Miami ($11,500)
Tyson Chandler, C, Mavericks vs. Denver ($7,100)
This one didn't work out for me Wednesday, when Chandler sat out against the Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back after hurting his ankle. With two full days to recover, however, I'm hoping Chandler can get on the floor this time around, because the matchup is still great for him. The Nuggets allow 38.52 FanDuel points per game to opposing centers, the eighth-most of any team, and have had their shots blocked more often than 27 teams. Assuming Chandler's ankle injury is as minor as it initially seemed and he is able to play, you'll like having him tonight.
LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Trail Blazers at San Antonio ($10,000)
It's been hard to find a more dependable option than Aldridge this season. He has scored at least 35 FanDuel points in 28 of 35 games so far which makes him a solid option on any given night no matter what the matchup is. For whatever reason, however, he has been especially good against the Spurs, averaging 51.3 FanDuel points against them in their two previous matchups, including 40.3 in the worst of the two. The Spurs aren't a bad defensive team, but Aldridge has just dominated them so far, and there's no reason to think that will change. I had Anthony Davis in my lineup initially, but I like Aldridge for $1,100 less tonight.
Mario Chalmers, PG, Heat at Sacramento ($5,300)
Chalmers had just 20.9 FanDuel points Wednesday, a reversal of a season-long trend where Chalmers has been a dynamite option with Dwyane Wade sidelined. Wade is unlikely to play tonight, and the Kings are a much less formidable opponent than the Warriors, who boast the best defense in the league. Chalmers ripped through the Lakers for 36.6 FanDuel points Tuesday, and is averaging 28.1 in 24 games he has played 30-plus minutes. Expect him to bounce back nicely against this soft defense.
Overpay of the night
Kevin Love, PF, Cavaliers at L.A. Clippers ($9,700)
Anytime you can drop 16 percent of your budget for the night on a third offensive option who gets benched in fourth quarters, you've got to do it. That's a bit more harsh than I want to be toward Love, but I'm not sure he deserves much more than that at this point. He's averaging just 34.3 FanDuel points per game for the season, and has been inconsistent and unreliable with LeBron in the lineup. Love's price will drop another $1,000 or so and make it easier to get him in the lineup, but I can't justify this kind of investment, especially with so many better players available for a similar price.
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@jhun88: Pulled off semi-risky move -- I traded Lance Stephenson for Nikola Mirotic. Lance has hurt me more than helped all year. What do you think?
CT: I think this was a mistake. Yes, Lance has been dreadful as a shooter this season, making just 38.6 percent of his attempts, leading to just 10.1 points per game. Of course, he's still adding 6.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists, solid numbers from the shooting guard spot. I get being frustrated with Stephenson's production, and the trade rumors swirling around him have to scare you, but I think this was selling too low for him. I'm not sure there's any way to get anything better, which is why I wouldn't have even done the move. You're frustrated with Stephenson's play and health, but Mirotic's inconsistent role isn't going to be much better.
CT: I'm all-in on both Payton and Muhammad as contributors, but Payton's got to be ahead of Muhammad -- even without accounting for the few weeks he'll miss with an abdominal injury. I'm not sure I would drop Hill for Muhammad at this point, because there are real questions about what his role will be when Kevin Martin gets back from injury.I would rather have Payton than Hill at this point, however, as he's already starting to live up to the Baby Rondo talk. He still can't hit a jump shot, but Payton is shooting 40.7 percent from the field over the last 10 games, a good enough number, given all else he does. Payton is averaging 8.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game in that span, and is already a decent starting Fantasy option, with even more room to grow.
Waiver wire flier
Eric Gordon, G, Pelicans
I don't really think you should go add Eric Gordon, if I'm being honest. Yeah, he has scored in double figures in four straight games, while averaging 3.8 assists per game in that stretch, but I'm still not buying in. After years of underperformance and injury, I need more than one good week to change my opinion on a player. Gordon's shooting the ball well during this stretch, nailing 47.1 percent of his shots from the field and 45.8 percent from 3-point range over the last five. Still, he's not getting to the free-throw line at all, and as long as that is the case, you're relying on him being able to hit jumpers consistently. If you need a guard in a deeper league, take a chance on Gordon, but I'd be shocked if you're starting him in two weeks.