If you are going to play cash today, it’s only a four game main slate to look at. We do have games starting earlier, but you should not be locking up cash games on an all day slate as you are playing it without the benefit of all the information. This is especially true at this time of year. On a 4 game slate, we have upwards of 25 players listed on the injury report. That’s about 3+ per team on average. Some teams are worse than others with as many as 5-6 guys listed as out, doubtful, or questionable.
We have about three weeks remaining in the NBA season. Half of the Spots in the east are already locked up, although the East races are closer than the west are for playoff berths. The Celtics and Pistons are both in action today. The Celtics currently sit 5th, one game behind Indiana. They are 8 clear of the 9th place team with 9 to play for them so they are a victory or two away from being the 5th team to clinch a playoff spot. Detroit is behind them in sixth, but a few games behind them. Detroit is on top of a group that includes the Nets, Hornets, Heat and Magic, all within three games of each other with 8-10 games remaining for each of them. All of these teams really need to keep winning to secure their spot in the postseason. On the West Coast side, they are more jockeying for position than for who gets into the playoffs. We have exactly 8 teams with 42-49 wins, 6 wins clear of the ninth place team (Sacramento) and 9 games clear of the Timberwolves. Sacramento has an outside shot of making the playoffs if one of these teams totally collapses here in the last three weeks. They need to make up 6 games with about 10 or less to play, so it’s highly unlikely. What does matter to all of the teams in the top 8 though is playoff seeding. From Denver in first to the Spurs currently in eighth, the eight teams are separated by just 7 wins. Houston in third and Utah in seventh are separated by just three games and the difference between 3rd/4th and 5th-8th is a big deal because you get the extra home game in round one depending on where you land.
I talk about the standings today, because it goes to motivation. We mention the injury list above, because that goes to roster construction with all the value. In tandem, the two together help us know how we should be building lineups from here on out. The last few days the winning lineups tended to have studs from teams still jockeying for position and cheap value options opened up by teams that were out of the hunt or that were so deeply ingrained that they were willing to rest starters (Warriors on the front end of that B2B yesterday). This is the ideal roster construction going forward to end the year and it normally is every year. We want to use pricey players that have something to play for and cheap guys that are getting minutes. Stars and scrubs is the approach I will be taking every night for the next couple weeks until we get to the playoffs.
Top Projected Totals
- Rockets 118.25
- Kings 115.75
- Warriors 114.25
- Lakers 112.75
Biggest Pace Bump
- Pelicans +5.3
- Pistons +3.3
- Spurs +1.4
Highest Projection over Average
- Rockets +5
- Kings +1.5
- Lakers +1
Rockets v. Pelicans
Rockets: Rockets are one game up on the Blazers for the #3 seed in the west. They are three games behind the Nuggets and Warriors for the #1 and #2 seeds, so they are still playing and trying to rack up wins.
Top Plays: James Harden (80+ DK points in 3 of the last 5, even with CP3 healthy) #1 spend up
Secondary Plays: Eric Gordon, Chris Paul (DK)
Pelicans: Out of playoff picture and basically playing out the season before the inevitable rebuild and Anthony Davis trade to come. Jrue Holiday is out, Anthony Davis is back from a Personal Issue and will play today. They got straight smashed the last time out vs. Orlando and most of the normal players who see minutes were the first ones to get pulled. I think that turns around today.
Top Plays: Elf Payton, Julius Randle
Secondary Plays: Cheick Diallo, Kenrich Williams, Frank Jackson
Spurs v. Celtics
Spurs: 5.5 games clear of Sacramento for the #8 seed in the west with about 10 games to go. Not in any real danger of slipping out unless they completely fall apart, but every win makes the likelihood of a collapse that much less likely. This is a brutal matchup for both teams. Spurs get a slight pace bump, but take on one of the stingier defenses and both teams are projected below seasonal averages.
Top Plays: Derrick White
Secondary Plays: Rudy Gay
Celtics: They really are only a win or two away from locking up a playoff spot with around 10 games to go. They are jockeying for position too, so they have some motivation. The bigger news here is the way the injuries could play out. Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Aron Baynes, and Gordon Hayward are listed as questionable. Depending on who sits, value is opened up, especially at the forward positions. Each of these guys is a major rotation piece and all of them do produce when on the floor. That would likely mean more production and more minutes to go around and the extent of my love for the remaining players is inversely related to how many of these guys end up sitting out. Marcus Morris would be the top beneficiary as a forward who could cover the minutes vacated by guys like Baynes, Horford, and Tatum if needed. Jaylen Brown tends to be the guy who benefits when Hayward can’t go. We could even have some value with bigs like Daniel Thies and/or Greg Monroe if all of the big guys end up sitting.
Top Plays: Kyrie Irving, Marcus Morris
Secondary Plays: Jaylen Brown, Daniel Theis
Pistons v. Warriors
Pistons: Pistons sit in 6th currently. They are tied with the Nets about 6 games behind the celtics and 1.5 clear of the 9th place Magic. The Hornets are also hanging around about 4 games back, so the Pistons can not let up right down the stretch. It’s a tough spot going to Golden State and basically taking on a healthy Warriors team expected to have all the key pieces in action tonight after Steph sat out the last game. The Pistons are fully healthy right now too.
Top Plays: Andre Drummond (On DK), Blake Griffin (on FD)
Note: Drummond is only $600 more than Blake on DK and he is my preferred play. Blake is not a bad option either, but I prefer Drummond’s price and matchup. On FD, Blake is $2600 cheaper and I can’t pay for Drummond over there outside of a GPP game stack situation. On FD, I prefer to play Blake.
Secondary Plays: Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard
Warriors: Warriors clinched a spot in the playoffs, but with everyone being tightly grouped, they could end up anywhere from the #1 to the #8 seed. They are currently half a game behind the Nuggets for the #1 seed. They sat Steph yesterday and I would not be shocked to see someone else sit today as they are resting guys and gearing up for a playoff run. It’s always tough with teams like this. I will say that the major problem we have with the Warriors is that the rules only allow them to play with one ball. The guys who may fill in for players like KD or Klay if they sit out today and not nearly as high when in comes to usage. That means the usage and production likely get distributed to the other stars that do play with the cheap options being low usage guys that see minutes and risky cheap options to use.
Top Plays: None unless one of the big usage guys sits in which case I would like whichever other big usage guys remain playing
Secondary Plays: Always tough to figure which one goes off, but Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, or Kevin Durant would be the guys I look at. I wouldn’t play more than one of them on a cash team though unless one of them sits as discussed above.
Kings v Lakers
Kings: The Kings currently sit in 9th in the West. They are 5.5 games back of the Spurs and 6.5 behind the Thunder, Clippers, and Jazz. They basically need to win out and hope one of those teams craps the bed. They have a slew of opponents and only need one to crap out, but that also requires them to win as many of these as possible, preferably all if they want to have a shot. That’s motivation. This is a great spot too between two of the top 5 paced teams in the league, so definitely am interested in getting some Kings exposure. They are one of just three teams today that project for above average production and one of the other two happens to be their opponent here, so the spot is as good as it gets.
Top Plays: Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley
Secondary Plays: De’Aaron Fox, Nemanja Bjelica, Harrison Barnes
Lakers: Shit show season coming to an end. They are eliminated from the playoffs. LeBron has been playing and sitting in alternating games, so I would expect him in today. When he plays, he’s still producing 50+ point games and playing at least 31+ minutes, so he’s definitely worth a cash game look. My bigger problem is that when he plays, you really only get one or two other guys who make value. Last game it was a monster from JaVale McGee. We have seen guys like Kuzma and/or Rondo go off with him too. Those guys are all more likely to hit upside when Lebron sits, so I prefer to be careful with using too many Lakers when he does play.
Top Plays: LeBron James
Secondary Plays: JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo