Read on for the top four picks at each position and a sample lineup for Wednesday’s FanDuel NBA games
A robust 10-game schedule is on tap for Wednesday night, headlined by ESPN’s doubleheader that opens with two Eastern Conference teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended on Dec. 7; however, the combatants couldn’t be more different from a Fantasy NBA standpoint.
The Chicago Bulls are basically a two-headed monster, with Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol as the only fantasy-worthy players on a regular basis. I had high hopes for Nikola Mirotic after he won the starting gig over Joakim Noah, but he has been a letdown so far with fairly comparable numbers to last season despite getting an extra 4.5 minutes per game on average.
On the plus side, Butler has picked up where he left off earlier this year. As the reigning most improved player, “Jimmy Minutes” has actually seen his playing time somewhat curtailed (down from 38.7 to 37.1 per game) but in new coach Fred Hoiberg’s up-tempo system his stats are virtually unchanged, which is a good thing in his case.
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Gasol had some injury-related concerns in the preseason that seem to have festered, as both his scoring (down from 18.4 to 14.8 PPG) and playing time (reduced from 34.4 to 29.1 MPG) have suffered so far.
Having said that, the Spaniard formerly known as “Meal Ticket” can still provide ROI in the right match-up since he is averaging a double-double in addition to 2.2. blocks per game, which would be a career best if it holds up.
The Boston Celtics came into the season as a team that was better known for depth than fantasy standouts, but a couple of mid-level players have emerged from the greenish haze as preferred options for DFS purposes:
Point guard Isaiah Thomas has solidified his claim to the starting gig in the absence of incumbent Marcus Smart, whose price was consistently less than Thomas’ despite the fact that the Pizza Guy was coming off the bench.
While Thomas has actually scored higher as the sixth man (22.3 vs. 20.8 PPG), the former stat occurred in a limited, three-game sample so given the differential in playing time (28.3 vs. 31.6 MPG) a correction would probably have been forthcoming given the loss of starters’ minutes over time.
Another profiteer from Smart’s absence is shooting guard Avery Bradley, as the sixth-year man from the University of Texas has improved his scoring (16.2 vs. 13.9 PPG) and three-point shooting (45.0 vs. 35.2 percent) over last season.
The latter stat is probably unsustainable given his career 37.1 percent average from behind the arc, but while Bradley has the hot hand he definitely merits consideration as a roster filler whose cost is generally below the $6,666 median.
Since only a half-game separates the Bulls and Celtics in the standings, Wednesday night’s tilt is truly a pivotal matchup among two inter-conference foes that are already jockeying for position before the All-Star break. It’s hard to ask for much more from a nationally televised game that has implications in both reality and fantasy at this juncture.