Defenses to Avoid
Boston Celtics at Indiana Pacers
The faces may be different in Boston this season, but the team's identity is still very much rooted in defense. Although it's probably due to a lack of quality backcourt personnel more than anything else, the Celtics prefer to play a slow, grind-it-out brand of basketball, ranking in the bottom-third of the league in pace but fifth in points allowed (96.2 per game) and 10th in defensive efficiency (101.4). Elite teams are capable of speeding the Celtics up and exposing their flaws, but that's not Indiana's M.O. Instead, the Pacers subscribe to a similar ethic as the Celtics, only they do it much better, ranking first in the NBA in both points allowed and defensive efficiency by a large margin. With the Pacers content to slow the tempo and the Celtics unwilling (or not skilled enough) to quicken the pace, we could see something similar to the 97-82 slopfest that developed between the two teams back on Nov. 22.
Offenses to Use
Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Clippers
Like the Pacers and Celtics, the Clippers and the Timberwolves represent a rich man's/poor man's version of a particular style, only on the offensive end rather than the defensive end. Powered by the best point guard in the league in Chris Paul, the Clippers rank in the top five in assists per game, offensive efficiency, and points per game, while the Ricky Rubio-led T-Wolves check in at 13th, 13th and fourth in those categories, respectively. Though the result was a rather ordinary 102-98 Clippers victory the last time the teams met, the T-Wolves' offensive production was skewed downward by an uncharacteristically bad night for Kevin Love, who shot 2-for-14 from the field en route to finishing with a season-low 10 points. Write it off as an aberration and expect the Wolves to get more offense from their big man in the rematch, especially with the Clippers likely to be losing a little defensive intensity playing its second game in as many nights.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors
Second game of a back-back: Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers
DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
Greivis Vasquez (at OKC) – With the Thunder riding a nine-game winning streak, the thoroughly mediocre Raptors seem like sacrificial lambs on the road in OKC. If that's indeed the case, it could result in more floor time for Vasquez, who was limited to just 15 minutes even as the Raptors took the game to overtime Friday against the Mavericks. Even though it would seem Kyle Lowry is still locked into a featured backcourt role for the Raptors, it's very possible that Sunday's game could be decided after three quarters, leaving Vasquez to play out the string and show coach Dwane Casey what he can bring to the table. It could equate to some meaningless garbage numbers, but it doesn't make a difference under what circumstances the statistics are accrued in fantasy.
Other options: Chris Paul (vs. MIN), Jamal Crawford (vs. MIN), Reggie Jackson (vs. TOR)
Kevin Martin (at LAC) – A knee ailment caused Martin to miss Monday's tilt against the Celtics, and though he's done nothing astounding in his two games since returning to action, the recent injury might have been enough to depress his price in some daily formats. The Clippers are adept at defending the three-pointer, but less so at avoiding fouls, ranking in the bottom five of the league in free throws allowed per game. That should be highly beneficial to Martin, who is no longer simply the designated sharpshooter from the outside, as was often the case with the Thunder. In putting the ball on the floor more often with the Wolves, Martin is going to the line 5.8 times per game. And when he gets there, he's still absolute money, shooting 93 percent on the season.
Other options: DeMar DeRozan (at OKC), Jordan Crawford (at IND), Jeremy Lamb (vs. TOR), Terrence Ross (at OKC), Lance Stephenson (vs. BOS) [collected a triple-double in the teams' last meeting]
Matt Barnes (vs. MIN) – After missing the previous 16 games following a trio of retinal surgeries, Barnes finally got back in the lineup Saturday, scoring 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting while supplying three treys, three blocks, three boards, and two steals. All in all, it was a great return for Barnes, who should now be a fixture in the Clippers' rotation now that he's recovered from the eye surgeries. Sunday would seem to mark a good time to go ahead and use him in daily lineups while his value is still a little under the radar following the long layoff.
Other options: Kevin Durant (vs. TOR), Paul George (vs. BOS), Jeff Green (at IND), Danny Granger (vs. BOS)
Amir Johnson (at OKC) – Johnson is playing his best basketball of the season at the moment, reaching double-figure scoring in eight straight games and gathering 10 or more rebounds in four of those contests. He still has a tendency to pick up fouls easily, but his stellar marks from both the field (60.7 percent on the season) and the line (75 percent) separate him from most of the other forward-eligible players out there. He doesn't quite bring the same 20-point per game scoring potential of other Sunday options like Blake Griffin and Kevin Love, but his superiority in other categories compared to those players might make a better value buy.
Other options: Blake Griffin (vs. MIN), David West (vs. BOS)
Steven Adams (vs. TOR) – With such small slate of games Sunday, there's not too many attractive mid-priced options out there, but Adams might be one of them. As mentioned in the Vasquez blurb, the garbage time potential for Sunday's tilt would seem to be favorable for Adams as well, as he's the sort of young, developing player that coach Scott Brooks doesn't have a problem using in such situations. On the other hand, he's also started to receive some more run in more competitive contests, too, particularly when Kendrick Perkins gets in early foul trouble. Such was the case in recent contests against the Spurs and Magic, with both teams boasting interior threats who made life difficult for Perkins. Toronto can say something similar with Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas manning the blocks, which could again force Perkins to the bench early on if the Raptors make feeding the post a priority. No matter the scenario, it seems Adams will find himself playing 15 to 20 minutes Sunday, limiting his downside for daily players looking to mitigate risk at center in a cost-efficient manner.
Other options: Roy Hibbert (vs. BOS), Jonas Valanciunas (at OKC)
Chase Budinger (knee) received clearance to begin participating in full-contact practices Thursday.
Reggie Bullock (ankle) has been unavailable for the past six games due to a sprain.
J.J. Redick (wrist) is at about the three-week mark of the six-to-eight week timetable he is expected to miss following surgery to repair a fractured bone in his hand and torn UCL in his elbow.
Ronny Turiaf (elbow) is making slow progress in his recovery from elbow soreness and it is uncertain when he might return.