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If LeBron James isn't quite the dominant force he once was, he still has the power to change the landscape of the league, as he showed with his move to the Cavaliers this offseason. On a smaller level, he can also still drastically affect the Fantasy landscape, as the mere risk of him sitting out does tonight.
James sat out Tuesday's game with a sore left knee and his potential absence tonight casts a shadow over everything as you settle on a FanDuel lineup. He might play, but you can't put him in your lineup tonight until you know for sure. Writing this the night before, it simply isn't a risk I am willing to take.
I will, however, gamble that James will sit, by putting Kevin Love in my lineup. He has been hugely disappointing for Fantasy owners this season, but had 18 points and 16 rebounds in his first game without James by his side. The Bucks have been a solid defensive squad this season, but injuries have forced them into playing smaller lineups than they might otherwise want; Love should be able to exploit that.
I built my lineup from there, with another injury replacement sliding in next to Love at power forward in Cody Zeller. Zeller's role is in less doubt, with Al Jefferson out Wednesday and Friday, though it is fair to wonder just how much he'll be able to take advantage of that. At that price, I'm willing to take a flier.
This lineup is based on a FanDuel game that includes the early games on Wednesday's schedule, so keep that in mind. I have a few players from the Kings-Celtics and Heat-Pacers games, so my night could be decided fairly early on. It sure would be nice to ring in the New Year with a win.
Sacramento at Boston
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 401.25
As you'll see below, I'm all in on the Kings' big guns against the Celtics. This should be a high-scoring game, and the Celtics allow the seventh-most FanDuel points per game on the season.
Miami at Indiana
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 377.47
Even with a tough matchup, Dwyane Wade is playing too well not to at least consider him here.
New York at LA Clippers
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 384.85
Amid the constant injuries in New York, Tim Hardaway Jr. remains a good value.
Charlotte at Houston
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 387.55
If you can get Dwight Howard in your lineup, that's probably a good call. This Hornets team is small right now.
Milwaukee at Cleveland
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 391.74
With Kyrie Irving back Tuesday, Dion Waiters' time as a value play might be over. I still like how Jared Dudley is playing, especially against a team he can play power forward against for stretches.
New Orleans at San Antonio
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 389.69
The same second-night-of-a-back-to-back caveats apply with the Spurs as always here. Why do you think I have Marco Belinelli in my lineup?
Phoenix at Oklahoma City
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 387.13
Kevin Durant practiced both Monday and Tuesday, so it looks like he could play tonight. However, it's still tough to justify buying in on him with a price over $10K.
My roster for Dec. 31 at FanDuel.com:
PG Darren Collison, Kings at Boston ($7,400)
PG Goran Dragic, Suns at Oklahoma City ($7,100)
SG Marco Belinelli, Spurs vs. New Orleans ($4,200)
SG Dwyane Wade, Heat at Indiana ($9,100)
SF Rudy Gay, Kings at Boston ($8,800)
SF Gerald Henderson, Hornets at Houston ($4,600)
PF Kevin Love, Cavaliers vs. Milwaukee ($8,500)
PF Cody Zeller, Hornets at Houston ($4,900)
C Roy Hibbert, Pacers vs. Miami ($5,300)
Kevin Love, PF, Cavaliers vs. Milwaukee ($8,500)
The good thing about betting on Love tonight is, even if LeBron plays, he's got a pretty high floor. Not as much as he once did, but even if he isn't the focal point of the offense, you'll get something from him. That isn't the case for all injury replacements, which is essentially what he is at this point. He's a pretty good bet for 30-plus Fantasy points no matter what, as he had 35.2 in his last matchup with the Bucks. And if LeBron sits, Love slides up the team's offensive hierarchy and becomes even more valuable.
DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kings at Boston ($10,800)
As poor Mason Plumlee learned Monday, no mere mortal big man is a match for Cousins. You need a unique combination of length and strength to slow him down, and it's safe to say nobody on this Celtics roster possesses that. Opposing centers are averaging 39.45 FanDuel points per game against Boston this season, the fifth-highest mark in the league, and Cousins dropped 22.0 points and 11.5 rebounds in two games against them last season. He's expensive, but there's a reason for that. He should be worth it.
Roy Hibbert, C, Pacers vs. Miami ($5,300)
Hibbert got off to a strong start this season, but has fallen off hard in December for the second year in a row. However, he has to be happy to see the Heat on the schedule, a team he has dominated since Chris Bosh got here. He is averaging 14.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game against Miami since the start of the 2010-11 season, and had 16 points and 15 boards against the Heat in their lone matchup this season. His blocks fall from 2.1 to 1.35 per game against Miami, but he more than makes up for that with the rest of his production, and his lengthy struggles have brought his price down to a very manageable level. As frustrating as he is, this is a night to trust Hibbert, if there ever is one.
Overpay of the night
Chris Bosh, C, Heat at Indiana ($8,400)
Bosh was never really a liability against the Pacers during the Heat's four finals runs, because his ability to stretch the floor was vital against a rim protecter like Hibbert; just see Hibbert's deflated block totals for proof. However, his personal struggles were not overstated against this team, as the statistical record shows. In 29 games since joining the Heat, Bosh is averaging just 14.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game, according to Basketball-Reference.com's Play Index tool. He had just 21.9 FanDuel points against the Pacers the last time they played, so steer clear tonight.
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@jhun88: Looking to win a keeper league this year. I can offer Joel Embiid and need a guard that excels in 3-pointers, steals and percentages. Ideas?
CT: It's really hard to say how Embiid should be valued, since we've never seen him play in the NBA and know about his injury issues. I'd venture to guess that there will be wildly varying opinions on his value around your league, so you probably want to shop him around first and see who likes him the best. Your upside is probably someone like Darren Collison or Jeff Teague, but that probably depends on finding someone who is really interested in Embiid and may not have much left to play for this season.
CT: Unless you really need help in blocks, the answer has to be Zeller. Biyombo has been unable to really carve out a consistent role since his first few seasons, and didn't even average 5.0 points per game in nine starts a year ago. Zeller should give the Hornets more offensively, which is definitely where they'll miss Jefferson the most, so he should be the player who benefits. However, I'm not sure he'll even be a low-end starting Fantasy option with Jefferson out.