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This was a weird night to try and set a lineup. In fact, I couldn't settle on just one. And not, because I couldn't find enough players I like, which is usually the case.
No, Monday's schedule is one of the best I've seen all season, all things considered. We've got some excellent Fantasy matchups on the way, and plenty of injuries or other absences pushing cheap players into larger roles, where they can provide the most value.
I quickly decided on a handful of value plays to build my lineup around tonight, settling on Matthew Dellavedova, Dion Waiters, Nick Young, Rudy Gobert and Tristan Thompson, all of whom should see much bigger roles than usual, thanks to injuries. Though you never want to see injuries, they are the lifeblood of Daily Fantasy, since the prices tend to move fairly slowly on a game-by-game basis. When a player like Kobe Bryant or Kyrie Irving -- both of whom are expected to sit tonight -- don't take the floor, these are your best chances to jump on their understudies, who should come cheap.
As easy as those decisions were, they made filling out the rest of my lineup difficult, because I only had a few spots to choose from, and not much flexibility. Strangely, the big-name guys tonight don't have great matchups for the most part, with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant facing the Warriors, Anthony Davis going against the Wizards, and James Harden facing the Bulls.
I've been on a bad losing streak of late, so I'm going to cheat a bit tonight. I stuck with the same core of cheap players mentioned above, but swapped out a few different stars for multiple lineups. In one, I've got Jeff Teague against the Clippers paired with Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge against the Lakers. In another Durant is joined by Chris Paul against the Hawks and Kevin Love against the 76ers.
Hedging your bets is never a bad idea on FanDuel, especially if you are going to be entering a tournament with a few thousand people in it. Your chances of landing on the right lineup to beat thousands of rivals if you enter just one are pretty low, which is why you want to focus on head-to-head or 50/50 games if you only want to put one lineup in. However, if you want to get into the money on the big tourneys -- where the return on investment is highest -- hedging is the way to go.
Cleveland at Philadelphia
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 410.77I'll waiot
With LeBron James and Kyrie Irving likely out tonight, there is plenty of value to be had in Cleveland. Good luck figuring out who to pounce on, though.
Charlotte at Boston
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 395.79
The Celtics have been vulnerable against big men of late, so this might be a good time to take a flier on a cheap Cody Zeller.
Dallas at Brooklyn
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 389.64
Sadly, you probably can't rely on Mason Plumlee anymore. Deron Williams might actually be a decent play, given his depressed price point, though the Mavericks defense has been much improved since adding Rajon Rondo.
Houston at Chicago
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 385.79
There's a lot of star power in this one, but I want to stay away from Derrick Rose against this matchup.
New York at Memphis
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 384.11
Cole Aldrich has been a really useful cheap option of late, but it's asking a lot to expect him to keep it up against this matchup.
Denver at Minnesota
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 410.79
I really, really wanted Kenneth Faried in my lineup tonight, but couldn't find room for him. The Timberwolves allow the sixth-most FanDuel points to opposing power forwards, and Faried is rolling right now.
Washington at New Orleans
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 379.4
The Wizards just kill FanDuel value this season, even if they aren't the best defense. In a little while, you'll see why I am staying away from Anthony Davis.
Indiana at Utah
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 380.83
Two of the slowest teams in the league going up against each other is a good excuse to stay away.
L.A. Lakers at Portland
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 398.76
The Lakers have been surprisingly feisty at times without Kobe Bryant, but the Blazers' stars should feast here. I thought about going with Nicolas Batum here, given his price.
Oklahoma City at Golden State
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 384.25
Draymond Green has been absolutely absurd lately, averaging 11.5 FanDuel points per game on just steals and blocks over the last four. Still, this kind of pace -- 5.5 blocks and steals per game -- just can't be sustainable, and his price keeps climbing. This is a tough matchup too.
Atlanta at L.A. Clippers
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 384.62
Jeff Teague has been tremendous of late, which is why I've got him in one of my lineups. He has at least 37 FanDuel points in four straight, though this a tough matchup, against a Clippers team that allows the fewest FanDuel points per game to point guards.
My roster for Jan. 5 at FanDuel.com:
PG Matthew Dellavedova, Cavaliers at Philadelphia ($3,600)
PG Jeff Teague, Hawks at L.A. Clippers ($8,200)
SG Dion Waiters, Cavaliers at Philadelphia ($5,400)
SG Nick Young, Lakers at Portland ($5,000)
SF Kevin Durant, Thunder at Golden State ($10,500)
SF C.J. Miles, Pacers at Utah ($5,500)
PF LaMarcus Aldridge, Trail Blazers vs. L.A. Lakers ($10,300)
PF Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers at Philadelphia ($6,100)
C Rudy Gobert, Jazz vs. Indiana ($5,300)
Kevin Love, PF, Cavaliers at Philadelphia ($8,500)
With LeBron James out lately, Love is starting to show the skills that made him an All-NBA player for so long in Minnesota. He had 48.5 FanDuel points Sunday against the Mavericks, and should be the focal point once again for the Cavaliers tonight against the lowly 76ers. The Sixers have improved their defense from a year ago, but they are still a gold mine for Fantasy purposes, as no team allows more FanDuel points per game to their opponents. With Cleveland's Big Three shrunk to one tonight, Love should get all the shots he wants.
Matthew Dellavedova, PG, Cavaliers at Philadelphia ($3,600)
The numbers Dellavedova is putting up lately won't blow anyone away, but they're just fine for our purposes. FanDuel is all about wringing excess value out of each lineup spot, and Dellavedova's been a good source of this lately, even with his pedestrian production. He's averaging 19.8 FanDuel points per game over the last five, which only looks good when attached to his bargain-basement price. With Kyrie Irving likely to join LeBron James on the sidelines tonight, Dellavedova should once again provide a good return on investment.
Rudy Gobert, C, Jazz vs. Indiana ($5,300)
As you'll see later on, I've become a believer in Gobert. Entering the league, I thought his feet were a bit too slow to become a difference-maker, but his all-around game has probably already surpassed Enes Kanter for the Jazz. What makes him so valuable for tonight is that Kanter has already been ruled out, clearing the way for another 30-plus minute night for Kanter. He had 40.7 FanDuel points in his most recent game, and has at least 20 in eight of his last 10 games, despite wildly fluctuating playing time. The Pacers have some tough interior players, but Gobert is playing too well right now to worry about the matchup, especially at this price.
Overpay of the night
Anthony Davis, PF, Pelicans vs. Washington ($11,200)
I'm sure this will come back to bite me, because Davis is capable of things that just about nobody else in the league is. Still, the Wizards just kill Fantasy value this season, especially at the big man positions. They allow the second-fewest FanDuel points to opposing power forwards and the fourth-fewest to centers, which means Davis is going to have his work cut out for him. So much of Davis' value in the FanDuel scoring format comes from his shot-blocking abilities, but the Wizards take fewer shots in the restricted area than all but eight teams, so opportunities to swat shots away may not be as plentiful as usual. Given his incredible all-around game, Davis still has a chance to be extremely valuable, but you need him to be the class of the league at his price, and I'm just not sure this is the matchup for him to do it against.
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CT: Valanciunas is certainly the sexier pickup right now, given his eye-opening play of late. Of course, they still only amounts to 7.8 points per game, despite 75.0 percent shooting from the field. Still, there might not be a better shot-blocker in the league than Gobert, who is putting up 3.6 per-36 minutes, while tossing in 12.4 rebounds in that span as well. Still, though he might be “a bit boring,” Valanciunas is the better option here, thanks to sheer volume. He's averaging seven more minutes per game than Gobert overall, and has him besting in scoring, rebounding and free throw shooting. I definitely wouldn't drop Valanciunas to pick up Gobert, but adding Gobert is a smart move anyways. I've been stunned by how competent he looks on both ends of the floor, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him usurp Enes Kanter in the rotation down the road.
CT: Henson has more of a track record, to be certain, but it's not like it is terribly long. He was a very useful Fantasy option for long stretches of last season, but has had trouble sustaining consistent playing time with three different coaches. This season, he has to contend with two other big men for playing time, in Larry Sanders and Zaza Pachulia, while Nurkic really only has one, in Timofey Mozgov. Yes, JaVale McGee is still around, but that's not much of a barrier anymore. Nurkic has somewhat shockingly been the much more productive player this season on a per-minute basis, and has less standing in his way for a big role. Henson is a more sure thing, but you're probably looking for the upside play here, which is Nurkic.