Defenses to Avoid
Utah Jazz vs. Charlotte Bobcats: The Utah Jazz own the 27th best offensive rating, while the Bobcats own the third best defensive rating. Over their past eight games, the Jazz are also averaging under 91 points per game and have stagnated on offense. The worst offense in the league this season, the Milwaukee Bucks, are averaging 92.7 points, a full two points more than Utah’s averages over the past eight games. Even if Charlotte’s defense isn’t at full strength, Utah’s offense is bad enough that they shouldn’t score more than 95 points.
Offenses to Use
Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans: The Trail Blazers own the best offense in the league, with the No. 1 offensive rating as well as leading the league in points per game at 108.6 points per game. The Trail Blazers have scored 100-plus points in 17 straight games and are averaging nearly 114 points per game for the month of December. The Pelicans, on the other hand, hold the 24th ranked defensive rating and are 25th in points allowed per game at 102.3 points per game. Look for the Trail Blazers to continue their hot streak, but also expect the Pelicans to score quite a bit as well considering Portland’s defense is in the bottom third of the league as well.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First night of a back-to-back: Portland Trail Blazers, Chicago Bulls
Second night of a back-to-back: None
DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
Damian Lillard (at NOR): Lillard is averaging 26.2 points over his last five games, including two consecutive games scoring 36 points, and is shooting 49.4 percent over those games along with a whopping 52.1 percent from three. In Portland’s last matchup with the Pelicans on December 21st, Lillard scored 29 points on 11-21 shooting including four threes made and five assists. Look for Lillard to continue his high scoring, especially after Portland’s brutal loss to the Heat on Saturday where Lillard only scored 16 points on nine shots.
Other options: John Wall (at DET), Kemba Walker (at UTA)
Gordon Hayward (vs. CHA): Hayward’s scoring numbers may not be the most appealing thing about his game, but he can contribute to several categories which can make him valuable even for an offensively challenged team. Over his last five games, Hayward is averaging 14.4 points, albeit on 36.4 percent shooting, 1.6 threes, 6.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.4 blocks. His field goal percentage may deter some people, but he can contribute in just about every single category in every game, which makes up for his poor shooting.
Other options: Monta Ellis (at MIN), Wesley Matthews (at NOR), Dwyane Wade (at DEN), Tyreke Evans (vs. POR)
Nicolas Batum (at NOR): With LeBron James possibly out against the Nuggets, there aren’t many top-tier small forwards available for fantasy games Monday night. Batum, however, is averaging 15.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.8 assists along with 1.4 blocks over his last five games and is making 1.8 threes per game despite shooting just 40 percent from the field. Like Hayward, Batum makes up for his subpar shooting percentages with his ability to contribute in nearly every category.
Other options: Michael Beasley (at DEN) [if LeBron sits], Trevor Ariza (at DET), Jordan Hamilton (vs. MIA)
Kevin Love (vs. DAL): While Love has been a top-tier fantasy value for the past couple seasons, he has elevated his game recently. Over his last five games, Love is averaging 31.4 points, 14.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 0.8 steals along with 56.4 percent shooting from the field and 42.4 percent from three with 2.8 threes made per game. Love faces off against a Mavericks team that ranks 20th in defensive rating and will match up against Dirk Nowitzki, which promises to be a high scoring matchup more focused on offense than defense.
Other options: LaMarcus Aldridge (at NOR), Zach Randolph (vs. CHI), Blake Griffin (vs. PHO)
Al Jefferson (at UTA): Jefferson has picked up his game recently, emerging as the 20-10 threat the Bobcats had hoped he would be when they acquired him. Over his last five games, Jefferson is averaging 21.8 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks to go with 49.0 percent shooting from the field. The Jazz hold the worst defensive rating in the league and shouldn’t be able to limit Jefferson too much, as they have given up the second most shots within five feet of the hoop of any team in the league and are also near the bottom in defending shots between five-to-nine feet from the hoop. Look for Jefferson to go to work on the Jazz’s big men and post another big game.
Other options: Anthony Davis (vs. POR), Nikola Pekovic (vs. DAL), Miles Plumlee (at LAC)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (hand) had his cast removed but is not cleared to practice yet.
Devin Harris (toe) expects to return to practice within two weeks.
J.J. Redick (wrist) has removed his hard cast but has not started shooting yet.
Alex Len (ankle) is still sore and has not played in the past 18 games.
Wayne Ellington (illness) didn’t practice Sunday but may suit up for Monday’s game.
Rodney Stuckey (shoulder) had an MRI that revealed no structural damage.
Luol Deng (Achilles) has missed the past four games but was a game-time decision for Saturday, so he may return soon.
LeBron James (groin) did not play Saturday against Portland and will continue to rest his groin until he feels ready to play.
Chris Andersen (back) did not play Saturday against Portland.
Darrell Arthur (quad) did not play Saturday against Memphis.
Eric Gordon (hip) did not play Saturday.