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Some nights, you can't help but love the slate of games laid out before you. You can look at even a limited schedule with four or five games and pick out at least a few matchups you really like to pick on. That isn't the case tonight, at least not for me.
The Warriors-Wizards matchup could be a mess for Fantasy purposes, and the same goes for Pacers-Thunder; both games feature strong defensive squads in matchups that could feature fairly slow paces. Cavaliers-Pistons is a bit better looking, but the Cavaliers have had a tendency to blow teams out lately, and the Pistons are still figuring out how to best integrate Reggie Jackson into the offense, so this one could get ugly.
Raptors-Mavericks is probably the best combination of the night; both teams are just middle-of-the-pack defensively, though neither plays at the kind of fast pace we look for in the best Fantasy matchups. Add in the Raptors' overall inconsistency and the major struggles Kyle Lowry and Rajon Rondo are going through, and you can't exactly feel great about this one either.
If you can look at this schedule and crack the code, good luck. I'm a bit stumped, myself, and don't feel great about this schedule overall. It could be a somewhat slow night for Fantasy purposes based on the matchups, which might make it hard to stand out.
Golden State at Washington
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 379.3
Two of the toughest defenses in the league could make for an ugly matchup here. I'm avoiding this one entirely, despite the short schedule.
Cleveland at Detroit
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 394.3
Timofey Mozgov has been a great pickup for the Cavaliers, but Andre Drummond still had 44.4 FanDuel points against them in a late-January matchup.
Indiana at Oklahoma City
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 384.9
This one could be ugly, but are you counting out Russell Westbrook at this point? Eness Kanter could also be a good play as the team's second option.
Toronto at Dallas
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 388.4
No, I don't feel great about having Jonas Valanciunas in my lineup. However, this isn't a great night for the center position, and the Mavericks' rebounding issues at least give Valanciunas a chance for a big double-double.
My roster for Feb. 24 at FanDuel.com:
PG Russell Westbrook, Thunder vs.
PG Reggie Jackson, Pistons vs. Cleveland($4,400)
SG Rodney Stuckey, Pacers at Oklahoma City($5,100)
SG Spencer Dinwiddie, Pistons vs. Cleveland ($3,500)
SF LeBron James, Cavaliers at Detroit($10,600)
SF Al-Farouq Aminu, Mavericks vs. Toronto($4,300)
PF Greg Monroe, Pistons vs. Cleveland($7,700)
PF Serge Ibaka, Thunder vs. Indiana($7,200)
C Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors at Dallas ($5,900)
Reggie Jackson, PG, Pistons vs. Cleveland ($4,400)
If you are playing in a big tournament, you almost want to go away from Jackson, simply because he is such an obvious choice. It's going to be awfully hard to stand out from the pack when one of your two point guards is in 50 percent of leagues; that is a high number, but it isn't out of the question for Jackson tonight. Jackson struggled a bit in his first game with the Pistons, and the Cavaliers are no longer a disaster on defense, but it's awfully hard to talk yourself out of him at this price. He had 28.5 FanDuel points in his Pistons debut, despite shooting just 38.9 percent from the field; if a few extra jumpers go in, he could post a huge line. His price may end up settling in $2,500 higher than this, so get him in while the getting's good.
Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, Mavericks vs. Toronto ($4,300)
If you put a role player like Aminu into your lineup, you are usually going to be tempering expectations. He isn't a big scorer, which means he has to rely on defense and rebounding to make a big contribution for you, which is always risky. However, Aminu could see an expanded role tonight, with Chandler Parsons nursing an ankle injury, and that usually means good things for him. He averages 22.9 FanDuel points per game when he gets at least 20 minutes of playing time, and had 49.5 points over consecutive nights the last time Parsons was out. The Raptors usually take good care of the ball, but you only need a few blocks or steals from Aminu to punch his value up tonight, given what else he can do.
James Johnson, SF, Raptors at Dallas ($4,500)
Continuing in a theme, Johnson is a lot like Aminu, though he may be an even safer version. He is averaging 26.7 FanDuel points per game over the last five, including at least 19.8 in four of those five. He has eight steals and seven blocks in that stretch, and at least two combined in four of five as well, and that's where his real value comes from. Johnson is capable of the random 20-point outburst, but you aren't counting on that. What you want him for is his defense; Johnson has at least two blocks or steals in 18 of 46 starts, and is averaging 25.2 FanDuel points per game as a starter. Add in the fact that the Mavericks are a poor rebounding team, and we could get a solid floor out of Johnson, with the potential for more.
Overpay of the night
John Wall, PG, Wizards vs. Golden State ($9,100)
John Wall has yet to face off against the Warriors and their league-best defense this season, but I'm a little wary of relying on him. It's not that he's a bad bet to be productive against them; after all, he is averaging 48.3 FanDuel points in two games against the league's No. 2 defense, Milwaukee. However, there aren't a lot of bad options to choose from tonight on the whole, given the short schedule and talent available, so Wall is at least a question mark against this tough defense.
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CT: There was some excitement about Payne coming out of college, but he hasn't done much to justify it so far. However, Booker is a very underwhelming Fantasy option even at the best of times, and doesn't have much upside to speak of, so why not take a chance on Payne. He started and played 29 minutes Monday, and posted the first double-double of his career. He shot the ball poorly, but you have to like the situation he is in right now, with a Timberwolves team that has lost two power forward candidates in the last week. Go for the upside.
CT: This is a really tough one to make a call on. When healthy, Durant is clearly the best player in the group, but I'm not sure you aren't getting the next three best; Green scores and shoots a bit less than Matthews, but his all-around game just might make up for it. If you would end up sitting Green in most weeks, it probably isn't worth pulling the trigger, but if you are looking at Green as an upgrade on your fourth forward or guard, then I think it could be worth it even if Durant is back. Favors and Bledsoe should see expanded roles down the stretch, while Matthews has to fight off Arron Afflalo in crunch time. Add in the great uncertainty surrounding Durant's foot, and I would go for it.
Waiver Wire flier
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, Pistons
Caldwell-Pope is playing very well lately, at least based on his previously established level of production. Through the first 136 games of his career, Caldwell-Pope has just two streaks of more than two games topping 50 percent shooting from the field. He has one four-game stretch in Dec. 2013, and then another of three games in the same month one year later. He clearly has the tools to be a solid wing in Stan Van Gundy's offense, but the results have been largely underwhelming. However, he is averaging 14.0 points per game in just 27.1 minutes over the last 10 games, while shooting a solid 43.2 percent from the field. He really doesn't do much else, but Caldwell-Pope is averaging 1.9 3-pointers per game for the season at an average success rate, so at least he is giving you that. His skill set is relatively easy to replicate in today's NBA, but maybe the addition of Reggie Jackson can get Caldwell-Pope's game to another level. He is a borderline starter as a guard, but the recent lottery pick's pedigree makes it worth taking a flier on him in any category-based format.