NBA Core plays 12/29/19

) James Harden, Houston Rockets

FanDuel: $11,500, SG DraftKings: $10,700, PG/SG Yahoo: $59, SG FantasyDraft: $19,600, G

I will not be making a single lineup that does not include James Harden tonight. Cash games – play him. Tournament lineups – play him. Anything in between – play him.

The circumstances in Harden’s favor tonight are simply too good to ignore. I don’t care if he is 75% owned on this short slate. Let the other 25% of people make the mistake. You can differentiate your GPP lineups in other spots.

Westbrook is expected to rest tonight.

Capela is likely still going to be out tonight.

Here is a look at the CourtIQ results with Westbrook and Capela off the floor this season.

Yes, that shows a usage rate of FIFTY TWO percent and production that hovers around 70 fantasy points per 36 minutes… and that does not even factor in the fact that tonight’s matchup is absolutely golden against a Pelicans team that ranks 5th in the NBA in pace and 22nd in defensive efficiency. They also rank dead last in our Defense vs. Archetype tool against combo guards. Harden is going to put up absolutely monstrous numbers in this game, and I would prioritize him ahead of Luka Doncic and LeBron James by a fairly wide margin.

(Tournament pivot: Everyone is going to want to pay up for Harden, Doncic, and/or one of the two LAL studs tonight. Stars and scrubs builds will be very common. That is going to leave the rest of the high-end plays (think the $8,000 to $9,000 range on FD/DK) relatively under-owned. That makes Brandon Ingram a really intriguing play. The HOU/NO game has the highest Vegas total on this slate and a fairly close spread, and Ingram has proven capable of big performances at times this season. Pair him with Harden and some other pieces from this game as an intriguing GPP game stack if you like, as well.)

2) Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans

FanDuel: $5,000, PG DraftKings: $5,400, PG Yahoo: $18, PG FantasyDraft: $10,400, G

The numbers have not been earth-shattering with Lonzo Ball over the past few games, but things are at least trending in the right direction. The most notable item is that Ball has regained his starting spot and has played 30+ minutes in back-to-back games. The Pelicans have won both of those games. Don’t expect the rotations to change much with the team riding a three game winning streak.

This means that we should be able to pencil Lonzo in for around 30-34 minutes tonight. While his numbers haven’t been elite from a production stand point, he has still been fairly consistent with at least 23 DK/FDRAFT points in six straight. The last game was a bit of a drag in the FD/YAHOO scoring system. However, it is also worth noting that his two starts with 30+ minutes have come in difficult matchups against the Pacers and Nuggets, two slow paced teams that also rank in the top ten in the NBA in defensive efficiency.

Tonight’s matchup against an up tempo Houston squad should lend itself to more production from the New Orleans point guard. His price remains very affordable on every site, as well. This is the spot to hop aboard before the price tags rise a bit. Assuming he keeps his spot in the starting five, Ball merits core play consideration in cash games tonight.

(Tournament pivot: Give the wing players for the Kings a look as GPP pivots. They aren’t consistent, and they draw a tough road matchup in Denver. That keeps them far away from the core play discussion. However, Fox and Bagley are both likely sidelined again, which leads to additional opportunities. Both Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield are both high upside GPP options that might be owned in the single digit percentages.)

3) Additional FD Value – Nemanja Bjelica, Sacramenton Kings

FanDuel: $4,500, PF

I will also note that I am tagging Bjelica as a core play on FanDuel only. His price has been adjusted appropriately on the other sites, as he is looking at more court time with Marvin Bagley sidelined for a few games and Dewayne Dedmonbegging for a trade. In the first full game without Bagley last night, Bjelica played over 30 minutes and posted an 11/6/4 line. That is a solid, steady line that can be considered as his baseline for as long as Bagley remains sidelined.

According to CourtIQ, Bjelica has played 533 minutes this season with De’Aaron Fox and Bagley off the floor. In those minutes, Bjelica has seen a 3% usage boost (to 21.9%), and he scores almost four additional fantasy points per 36 minutes. He has scored 1.07 fantasy points per minute in those situations. Even if we reduce his efficiency to around 1.00 fantasy points per minute thanks to a difficult road matchup in Denver, that still gives us a projection of around 30 fantasy points if he grabs 30 minutes again. Given that information, he is simply too cheap at $4,500 on FanDuel.

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