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I've always had a bit of a contrarian streak in me, which is why you don't see Russell Westbrook in my lineup tonight. It's not that I don't think he is worth $13,300 -- his record-breaking price for tonight -- it's about playing the odds.
OK, Westbrook has topped 50 points in each of his last nine games, and is averaging a truly absurd 78.5 FanDuel points per game over the last five games, a number that seems like a typo no matter how many times I check the math. This isn't about Westbrook's worth to your team, but about the strategy of team-building in a big tournament.
Even at this price, Westbrook is likely to return positive value, and should continue to be the highest producer in the game. If you are playing in a head-to-head or 50/50 game tonight, Westbrook is probably a must-play, because he is the safest bet to have a 50-plus point game.
However, variance is much more important in tournament play. If everyone goes with Westbrook, your chances of standing out are much lower if you do. If he fails to break the 40-point barrier, that is going to sink a lot of teams in a tournament, which could allow your Westbrook-less lineup to rise ahead of the Westbrook-dependent players.
Going away from Westbrook is a risk, there's no doubt about it. Westbrook is putting up some unprecedented numbers lately, and this isn't a case against him, per se. If you play five lineups tonight, it might make sense to have three of them feature Westbrook.
But there's always a chance he disappoints, as he did the last time he faced the Clippers. That was also, coincidentally, the last time he failed to record 40 FanDuel points. Westbrook falling short of expectations is a long shot, but this is at least an argument against having him in your lineup.
Chicago at Philadelphia
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 401.9
Joakim Noah had just 18.8 FanDuel points in his last matchup against the 76ers, but that was at the nadir of his struggles with a knee injury. He has been much better of late, and is averaging 7.0 assists per game over the last 12.
Brooklyn at Miami
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 385.7
Hassan Whiteside's suspension will leave plenty of rebounds and minutes to go around, but I can't trust either Udonis Haslem or Chris Andersen at this point in their careers.
Orlando at Milwaukee
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 391.2
Victor Oladipo is riding high right now, but this Bucks team could be a tough test, as he was held to just 27.5 FanDuel points in their last meeting, and didn't break 20 in their first.
LA Clippers at Oklahoma City
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 388.6
DeAndre Jordan has yet to break the 30-FanDuel point mark against this team, and could have a tough time living up to his lofty price tag.
Atlanta at Denver
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 397.2
I very nearly went with DeMarre Carroll tonight, but I am a bit worried about the Hawks turning this one into a blowout early. But there should be plenty of points and possessions in this one, which could lead to a fertile Fantasy ground.
Minnesota at Phoenix
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 403.3
Eric Bledsoe had just 25.4 FanDuel points in the last game agaisnt the Timberwolves, and has struggled agaisnt them all season. However, with Brandon Knight likely out with an ankle injury, I'm rolling the dice on him figuring it out.
Detroit at Golden State
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 390.9
This game should feature a fast pace and plenty of missed shots by the Pistons, which could make Andre Drummond a sneaky-good play; he still leads the league in offensive rebounding rate. However, the Warriors completely shut him down in their last matchup.
Houston at Portland
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 388.1
Affalo hasn't had a truly huge game since getting to Portland, but this could be a good opportunity; he's guaranteed 30-plus minutes, and the Rockets allow the 11th-most FanDuel points per minute to shooting guards.
My roster for March 10 at FanDuel.com:
PG Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves at Phoenix ($8,200)
PG Dennis Schroder, Hawks at Denver ($5,000)
SG Eric Bledsoe, Suns vs. Minnesota ($8,300)
SG Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks vs. Orlando ($7,000)
SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Hornets vs. Sacramento($5,600)
SF Michael Beasley, Heat vs. Brooklyn ($4,200)
PF Zach Randolph, Grizzlies at Boston ($8,000)
PF Kenneth Faried, Nuggets vs. Atlanta ($6,400)
C Joakim Noah, Bulls at Philadelphia ($7,000)
Zach Randolph, PF, Grizzlies at Boston ($8,000)
Randolph hasn't been quite dependable of late, and I haven't had him in my lineup much as a result. However, that should change tonight, with the Celtics on the way. Boston plays at a fast pace and throws plenty of undersized lineups out on the floor, which means Randolph could thrive, as he did in throwing up 39.2 FanDuel points in just 27 minutes in their last matchup. According to RotoGrinders.com, the Celtics allow the seventh-most FanDuel points per game to opposing power forwards, and I don't expect that trend to turn around tonight.
Dennis Schroder, PG, Hawksat Denver ($5,000)
Maybe it's because point guard is the deepest position in the game, but Schroder's price hasn't climbed nearly quickly enough to match his contributions for the Hawks of late. Schroder has at least 24 FanDuel points in each of the last five games, and is averaging 29.6 in that span. He has done that despite topping the 30-minute mark just once, including a 28.4-point showing in 18 and a half minutes Monday agaisnt the Kings. The Hawks have another terrific matchup on the way tonight against the Nuggets, and Schroder could see plenty of playing time, both with Jeff Teague and as his replacement if (when) the game gets out of hand. If you want to save some money at point guard, this is the place to do it.
Michael Beasley, SF, Heat vs. Brooklyn ($4,200)
Beasley hasn't been efficient at all for the Heat, scoring 12.2 points on 12.4 field-goal attempts per game, but he can have some value when his role is big enough. He has 49.3 FanDuel points over the last two games, while racking up 70 minutes combined, including some team at both power forward and center. The Heat will be without Hassan Whiteside tonight, so we might see Beasley serving as a nominal big man. As weird as it sounds, Beasley might have become indispensable on a 10-day contract for the Heat, and could see 30-plus minutes yet again tonight. There aren't many players under $4,500 you can say that about.
Overpay of the night
Kemba Walker, PG, Hornets vs. Sacramento ($8,100)
No injury can possibly come at a good time, but Walker's knee injury struck at a particularly bad time, as he was finally starting to hit his stride after a slow start. He was averaging 42.1 FanDuel points per game through the first seven games of January, before a torn meniscus sidelined him for the last month and a half. He is officially probable and has told reporters he will play tonight, but you probably can't just throw him in your lineup right away after this kind of layoff. There is no word of a minutes limit, but you have to imagine they will ease him back into action for at least the first game, especially with Mo Williams playing so well in Walker's stead. This is a great matchup, and if Walker was, say, $2,000 cheaper, I might have some interest. But there's no way to justify targeting Walker when he is the sixth-most expensive option at the position.
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CT: Let's wait until we actually get a timetable for this injury. As of Tuesday evening, his status for tonight's game isn't even known yet. However, this injury did not look great, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him miss at least a few games. If it comes out to be less than a week, there's no reason to drop Knight for Canaan, but if it gets to two weeks, then you probably have to consider it, especially with Canaan starting to his stride. This injury is such a bummer because Knight was starting to find a comfort level in Phoenix, racking up 26 assists in four games prior to the injury. We'll have to keep a close eye on this injury, because it could wreck your Fantasy season if you have him.
CT: The concerns about the Hawks resting starters are very real, given Mike Budenholzer's demonstrated tendency to do that already this season. However, you're still giving up two of the three best players in this deal, and I'm not sure how many games Teague would have to miss to make that not so. Hayward and Bledsoe are probably a push here, so it really comes down to Teague vs. Gordon. He has played four of the team's last five games, and has 76 points, 26 assists, six steals and five 3-pointers; Gordon has 74 points, 17 assists, six steals and 15 3-pointers in his last five. That is pretty close to even, overall, but it assumes Gordon will play every game from this point on while Teague will miss one of every five. With the Hawks nearly assured the No. 1 seed, it is certainly possible Teague gets that much time off, but it's a risk. I would want a better second player than Gordon back.
Waiver Wire flier
T.J. Warren, F, Suns
Coming out of North Carolina State, there was little question Warren could put the ball in the basket, but the Suns' decision to sign him seemed curious given their logjam on the wings. Of course, they also signed Isaiah Thomas when they had two All-Star caliber guards on the roster, so it's clear fit and overlap are less important than talent for Phoenix at this point in their development cycle. Warren has talent, and he's going to get the chance to show it now, with Knight's injury. He scored 11 points in 24 minutes off the bench Monday against the Warriors, and is averaging 16.5 points per-36 minutes since the All-Star break. If he can get 25 minutes, Warren might be able to give you a dozen points and five rebounds per game, and could be deep-league relevant for a few games or weeks.