1 PM UPDATE – Andre Drummond is now probable tonight. If he’s a full go, he is too cheap on DK/FDRAFT at his respective salary on those two sites. I am adding him to the core for now on DK/FDRAFT. I am also adding Zach LaVine on FD/YAHOO where his price is more manageable.
3 PM UPDATE – We have OKC news galore. Nerlens Noel is out. Terrance Ferguson is out. Danilo Gallinari is out. Steven Adams is still questionable. Give Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Schroder bumps. If Adams is out, the Thunder will have to use a ton of small ball lineups, and Muscala would become an elite value. I am not adding any OKC players to the core, but they do have viable options.
News is going to shape this slate, so take the early morning plays with a bit of a grain of salt. I’ll wade through the waters as best as possible given the short slate and impactful injury news.
1) LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
FanDuel: $10,900, SF DraftKings: $10,400, PG/SF Yahoo: $55, PG FantasyDraft: $18,400, F
There is plenty of value out there tonight, so you can afford to spend up on one of the most expensive options on the board. It’s a bit of a moving target with both Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis questionable, and we need to keep an eye on the news throughout the day.
However, LeBron James is shaping up to be a fine play regardless of what the other news brings about. This is a nationally televised game on the road in Philadelphia against a Sixers team that has won four of their last five games. James has been held under 45 fantasy points just once in the last 11 games he has played. The floor is steady and secure, which is just fine as a cash game starting point. He is a triple-double threat anytime he takes the floor.
In addition, we still don’t know how healthy Anthony Davis is. Kyle Kuzmaplans to play tonight but is far from 100% right now. JaVale McGee is questionable with the flu. The Lakers lack depth and health up front at the moment. If Davis happens to sit, it moves James from a comfortable cash game play to a priority play in all formats. CourtIQ shows that James has a 36.2% usage rate with Davis off the floor this season.
Do I think LeBron is a 100%, must play, need-to-get-him option? Right now, no. You can very easily pivot to any of the other non-injured high salary options tonight. However, James has the best floor of the bunch, and the salary isn’t an issue given the value plays that are available. For that reason, he’s my pick as a cash game starting point.
(Tournament pivot: Ben Simmons and Zach LaVine are two elite tournament options tonight. We know Simmons is capable of putting the Sixers on his back, and he might do so tonight. It’s a big game against the mighty Lakers, and both Embiid and Richardson are out. We saw Simmons explode for an 80 fantasy point game earlier this week. The matchup isn’t ideal, but the upside is there. The same goes for LaVine on a Bulls squad that has simply been ravaged by injuries in the frontcourt. LaVine owns a 34.1% usage rate with Markkanen and Carter off the floor this year, and this is a winnable game against the Cavaliers.)
2) Thaddeus Young, Chicago Bulls
FanDuel: $4,500, PF DraftKings: $4,400, PF Yahoo: $14, PF FantasyDraft: $8,500, F
I don’t like targeting Thaddeus Young any more than you do. Trust me on that one. It’s very difficult for me to put him in this article today.
Fortunately or unfortunately, circumstances dictate his inclusion here. The Bulls have been ravaged by injuries on the interior, and they are now without both Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. That leaves the following players available to pick up the entirety of minutes at power forward and center:
That is generously including Hutchison, who stands 6’7” and might be the worst player in the NBA. He managed to make five of six shots last night to salvage ten points, but his lines are generally as hollow as it gets. Outside of these four players, the Bulls have no other size. If they don’t have at least two players from this group on the floor at any given time, then they are playing four guards. That isn’t going to work against a Cleveland team that does roll out some size.
Barring a blowout, Young should play 32-34 minutes in this game. He currently sits around 0.95 fantasy points per minute. That should put his baseline projection at around 30 fantasy points. That is more than enough to pay off a mid-$4,000’s price tag on FD/DK.
It’s uncomfortable, but he is safe given the matchup and circumstances, and he’s an elite value on a short slate.
(Tournament pivot: Go for one of the other Chicago big men if you are feeling a little frisky in a GPP setting. Don’t go for Hutchison. That leaves Kornet and Felicio as the other options. Yes, it’s just as uncomfortable as playing Young — but one of these players is going to put up some numbers tonight. Cleveland ranks dead last in the NBA in defensive efficiency.)
3) Derrick Rose, Detroit Pistons
FanDuel: $6,800, PG DraftKings: $7,500, PG/SG Yahoo: $30, PG FantasyDraft: $13,400, G
Rose is listed third here because he comes with a few caveats.
A) We need to make sure Rose is in no way limited on the second leg of a back-to-back set.
B) Rose is a little less appealing on DraftKings, where he has been priced up to $7,500. I am waffling about removing his core tag on that site, but the salary cap is simply more difficult on DK these days. Zach LaVine is all the way up to $9,200 over there. I’ll keep Rose for now, but he is at risk of being removed pending what the news cycle brings.
Alas, if Rose has no restrictions tonight, and if Andre Drummond happens to sit again, we can expect Rose to carry the Detroit offense. He looks as explosive as he has looked in several seasons, and he seems healthy. He’s starting again. He’s playing extended minutes. It’s as close to the old D-Rose as we can expect in his 12th NBA season.
In the month of January, Rose is averaging 22.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists over 30.7 minutes per contest. All of those marks represent incremental upgrades over his season averages. He is the leader of this team with Andre Drummond banged up right now, and the potential is there tonight against a Brooklyn team that ranks 9th in the NBA in pace. Rose should be ready for a fun showdown against Kyrie Irving, and he is a solid mid-range cash game option.
(Tournament pivot: He doesn’t play the same position, but Kevin Love is another intriguing mid-range play tonight. The big man wants out of Cleveland and is clearly not happy right now. His numbers have sagged over the past two weeks. However, this is an intriguing matchup tonight against the Bulls. Chicago ranks just 27th in the NBA in team rebounding differential at -3.6 rebounds per game, and now they are also without both Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. Love should thrive against this interior unit, and his ability to shoot from outside should cause problems in this game. It’s a winnable game for Cleveland, and hopefully Love steps up with one of his biggest games of the year.)