We can let out a huge sigh of relief after the insane NBA schedule the last two days. Even though I much prefer 6 - 8 game slates since you have a chance to create some unique lineups, 2 game slates are so much easier to manage and analyze than the 12 game mega slate we had last night. Of course it will be challenging to differentiate our lineups from the rest of the crowd, it can still be done if you are willing to fade some of the big names and go all-in with the more obscure players.
As usual, here is the table that shows my model's outputs as well as the top 5 optimal lineups for DK and FD. Click on the link below for the model's outputs and of course the images below show the best possible lineups using my model.
You will see that Joel Embiid is the consensus top player for tonight. The Process has never won a regular season NBA MVP award so you can bet that he is plenty motivated to continue his torrid pace with exactly one month left in the NBA regular season. Reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic has gone nuclear over his last 3 games and he was already the favorite to win before those stretch of games. I am sure the sportswriters will be watching both games very closely tonight (both are nationally televised on TNT), especially given that Embiid and Jokic face some formidable opposition. In the case of Jokic, this will be his 4th game in 5 nights and 5th game in 7 nights. I highly doubt the Nuggets doing any load management tonight but one has to wonder how much Denver has left in the tank after an intense schedule. The other three teams were idle last night so we should get some quality basketball this evening.
Let's breakdown the slate by position. My focus will be on FD when discussing fantasy scores and salaries but my analysis can also be applied to DK.
PG: Stephen Curry and Seth Curry
Not often do I get to choose two brothers for the same position but here we are with the Curry family as the PGs I think we should roster tonight. Both have struggled to reach value lately with the elder Curry scoring under 40 FD fantasy points in his last two games and the younger Curry not even cracking 20 FD fantasy points in his last three games. That is exactly why we must roster both of them. Ownership will probably be higher with Kyrie Irving and Monte Morris who both have looked sharp lately but I highly doubt Irving will repeat his 50 point effort from two nights ago and Morris's success is largely tied to Jokic who I think will have an "off night" tonight. The Curry brothers are both exceptional shooters so I highly doubt that Seth will continue to shoot 30% from the field and I also highly doubt that Steph will attempt just 12 FGs. As long as the shots are falling and they are getting opportunities to fire away from long distance, we should hit 5-6x value for the Curry brothers given their suppressed salaries.
SG: Moses Moody and Klay Thompson
While I usually don't like to play too many players from the same team, we really don't have too much of a choice on such a short slate. So why take two more Warriors? Wouldn't it be difficult for shooters like Thompson and Moody to also do well if I am expecting a better game from Steph? Well the correlation coefficient between Steph's and Klay's FD points would beg to differ. That metric is at 0.19 so we are seeing a positive association with their production this season. As for Moody, he is cheap and we are getting starters' minutes for him. Moody can also get us some of the peripheral stats we need in case he is not getting enough shot attempts. I firmly believe that Denver will be exhausted tonight so the Warriors should have an easy time moving the ball around and getting several open looks for the Warriors backcourt. That means we should see high scoring efficiency.
SF: Will Barton and Jonathan Kuminga
Here we go again with another Warrior! well this one is different. With Draymond Green still out and Otto Porter missing tonight's game, the Warriors will need some frontcourt scoring and Kuminga has provided some much needed interior offense. If the Warriors are passing the ball fluidly (like they have done so often this year and during their 5 year title run) and getting several open looks from long distance, then there will be plenty of open lanes for Kuminga to score with pretty much no one on him. As for Barton, that is more of a complement play. Someone has to do some scoring for Denver and while we all know that Jokic will still produce, Barton is the 2nd scoring option. Just make sure you check his injur status prior to tipoff. If he is out, we can always replace Barton with any of the other Denver wing players.
PF: Kevin Durant and Aaron Gordon
Durant has been a bit of an enigma. He was awesome on Sunday against Boston but fell flat two nights ago while the rest of Brooklyn performed well. Maybe Durant's poor game against Charlotte could be due to the fact that he didn't need to do much since his teammates were so dominant. Or maybe Durant was saving himself for a more daunting opponent in Philadelphia? Who knows but what I do know is that Durant tends to show up in marquee matchups and clearly tonight's game is a big one as he faces James Harden, his former teammate. This could be a potential 1st or 2nd round series in the Eastern Conference Playoffs and I think Durant rises to the occasion. Gordon is like Barton ... we need complementary pieces to our Warriors stack. I am expecting the Golden State - Denver game to be very close and high scoring. If I am not rostering Jokic, then I better have the other players who get somewhat high usage. Gordon had an off night last night but with Golden State's interior defense being somewhat subpar due to Green's injury, Gordon is a prime double-double candidate.
C: Joel Embiid
Let other people roster Jokic. I much prefer Embiid. I don't like the fact that Denver is playing its 4th game in 5 nights. I also think Embiid is highly motivated to prove that he is this year's MVP. He was already dominant before Harden joined Philly. He is even better with Harden on the floor. There will also be some intrinsic motivation with Ben Simmons making his return to Philly, even if he will be in street clothes on the sidelines. Expect Embiid to put on an offensive onslaught in front of his new adversary.
There you have it! Good luck with your roster builds and I will share a final lineup about 30 minutes before the 4:30 PM PT lock.