*** I’m using DraftKings’ pricing, so the picks will be geared towards that site. But assuming there isn’t a major difference in salary, these plays can be used anywhere. And as always, make sure to check for the latest injury news and lineup changes. ***
Russell Westbrook (OKC) $10,400 v. Bulls
The spread is OKC -9, and the Bulls have been pretty good against opposing point guards this season. That said, I still like Westbrook tomorrow. I think the game will stay close enough for the Thunder starters to see their full allotment of minutes, and with Noah on the shelf, the Bulls’ last line of defense will be substantially compromised. Westbrook should be able to get to the rim at will and post a big line.
Beno Udrih (MIA) $4,000 v. Pelicans
ASSUMING GORAN DRAGIC IS OUT (currently a game-time decision), Udrih is probably a must play. Dragic missed Tuesday’s game, and Udrih filled in nicely; posting a 14/6/3 line in 34 minutes. At $4,000 in an up-in-pace game, Beno is a near lock for 6x value.
Kobe Bryant (LAL) $6,400 v. Clippers
This is the best of bad options. Both James Harden and Klay Thompson get severely down-in-pace match-ups (Spurs and Cavs, respectively), Jimmy Butler will see about 25 minutes of Andre Roberson, and Dwyane Wade hasn’t been playing enough minutes to substantially outperform his salary.
At this stage of his career, Kobe Bryant is a jump shooter; the best kind for our purposes: one without a conscience. The Clippers have traditionally defended opposing SGs very well, but that’s at least in part a result of DeAndre Jordan patrolling the paint. Jordan isn’t floating out 15-18 feet to contest Kobe’s jump shots.
Kobe’s seen at least 27 minutes and 15 shots in each of his last five games, and he’s scored at least 35 DK points in four of those five. If you’re into narratives, I’m sure Kobe wants to put on a Grinch-like performance and spoil Christmas for the little brother Clippers.
Kawhi Leonard (SAS) $8,400 v. Rockets
Spurs-Rockets might be the most competitive game on the slate. Emphasis on might. In any event, Kawhi tends to be the most “Pop-proof” of the San Antonio stars. This is a big pace-up game, with Houston seeing roughly five more possessions per game than the Spurs. It’s a great spot for Leonard given his proclivity for filling up a box score. As an example, Kawhi averaged four steals per game against the Rockets last year. He has a nice floor and big upside.
Chris Bosh (MIA) $7,000 v. Pelicans
The Pelicans rank 29th in defensive efficiency and 10th in pace. That’s a dream combination to target in fantasy, and as you might expect, it’s a plus match-up across the board for the Heat. The Pelicans have also been playing a lot of Davis at center, which allows the Heat to counter with one big. Down the stretch in close games, Erik Spoelstra has opted to go with Bosh and leave Whiteside on the bench when he can. I think that’ll be the case here, and I doubt Hassan sees more than 27 minutes.
LaMarcus Aldridge (POR) $6,900 v. Rockets
LMA has only cracked 30 minutes three times in his last 10 games, but I think this might be a spot where Pop unleashes the Kraken. Aldridge’s price is indicative of his average performance. If you scroll through his game log, you’ll see lots of 25-30 and some 45-50+ FP games. That’s what you want in GPPs; someone who can return more than 6x value on their salary when they hit. Aldridge should see about a 15% bump in his per minute fantasy production against the Rockets, and he’ll probably play 3-5 more minutes than his usual 29. It’s an exploitable situation, and you should take advantage.
Nikola Mirotic (CHI) $4,700 v. Thunder
A lot of players will gravitate towards Bobby Portis, but I think you should zag and go with Niko. Mirotic has a solidified role in the rotation, and the majority of Noah’s minutes (out 2-4 weeks with a shoulder injury) will probably be divvied up by Gasol, Gibson, and Mirotic with Portis getting a little look (at least initially). Mirotic has only seen 25 and 22 minutes in his last two, but that’s largely a result of poor shooting. If he’s hitting, he will be on the floor. If he’s not, Portis will gobble up some of his minutes. Mirotic instead of Portis is a calculated risk that should put you, on average, in better position to win a GPP than if you were to go the other way.
Tim Duncan (SAS) $5,500 v. Rockets
If you’re looking for reasons why I like Duncan, just scroll up and reread the blurb on LaMarcus Aldridge. Everything there applies here. He should see more minutes than usual in a plus match-up at an unresponsive price.
Enes Kanter (OKC) $4,200 v. Bulls
No one in the NBA does more (fantasy-wise) with less minutes than Enes Kanter. He has four double-doubles in his last 10 games while not playing more than 25 minutes in any contest. That’s pretty insane. The Bulls were already as tough as a wet paper towel upfront, then they lost Noah. They’re also playing at a much faster pace this season (7th in the league), and it’s actually a pace-up (!) game for the Thunder. He likely won’t see more than 22 minutes or so, but he can still easily pay off $4,200 in that time. He got 42.5 FP in only 23 minutes against the Lakers last week, after all. If you’re looking to save a little cash, this might be a good place to do it.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone! Good luck in your games tomorrow!