Defenses to Avoid
New Orleans Pelicans at Indiana Pacers: I didn't think there would ever come a time this season where I'd peg the Pelicans as a team to avoid for fantasy play. The Pelicans have been one of the better offensive teams in the NBA this season, scoring 106.2 points per 100 possessions in rather efficient fashion. However, much of their offense relies on Ryan Anderson (neck), who most recently suffered an injury and is highly doubtful to play on Saturday. The Pelicans are averaging 103.0 points per game this season, but only 96.9 points per game without Anderson. While the Pelicans undoubtedly have talented players outside of the stretch-four, they may have limited opportunities to produce as well as they have been without their three-point assassin. It doesn't help that they will face the Pacers, the league's best defensive team by a large margin, allowing just 93.4 points per 100 possessions. In their first meeting of the season, the Pelicans in fact played without Anderson as well. Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, and Eric Gordon each caught fire for 20-plus-point performances in a 90-95 loss at home. While they were able to put up fine numbers from a fantasy perspective, this won't likely be the case on Saturday, where the change in scenery will put the Pelicans on the road in Indiana. The Pacers give up 83.9 points per game to opponents at home compared to 94.8 points per game on the road, putting the Pelicans at a tough position to put up favorable fantasy numbers.
Offenses to Use
Philadelphia 76ers at Portland Trail Blazers : The Blazers have been on fire this season, boasting the league's best offensive rating, scoring 110.8 points per 100 possessions. They will host the Sixers, who are the fourth-worst defensive team, allowing opponents to score 106.2 points per 100 possessions. In their first meeting of the season, I happened to be the writer of RotoWire's daily cheat sheet for that day. Surely enough, I jumped on both teams as the offenses to use for daily games, as the Blazers are offensive powerhouses and the Sixers boast the league's fastest offense, with a pace of 102.34 possessions per game. Little did I consider the possibility of a blowout, which ended up being the case, as the Blazers won 139-105, limiting the outputs of the starters. Still, thirteen players ended up in double-figures, including eight from the Blazers, and Saturday's matchup could also open up opportunities for cheaper options to potentially put up worthy numbers. Mo Williams went off for 14 points, three rebounds, and seven assists, while less-appreciated Hollis Thompson put up 17 points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block. I'm not recommending specific players to pick from either team (other than those mentioned below), but if you're looking for the final low-budget player to round-out your loaded roster, taking a gamble on some of the reserves on either team could provide positive returns.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder
Second game of a back-to-back: Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans
DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
Darren Collison (at SAS): Collison easily jumps off the page as the value point guard to ride for Saturday's game. As if the city of Los Angeles hadn't already lost enough point guards to injury, Chris Paul (shoulder) succumbed to the fate of his co-arena rivals, sustaining a separated shoulder, sending him to the sidelines for three-to-five weeks. Thankfully, most sites have yet to raise Collison's price tag to a more appropriate figure, making him worth taking up in daily games despite his wild inconsistency in performance, even when given the minutes. Collison put up 20 points, three rebounds, four assists, and one steal in 35 minutes of action Friday against the Mavericks. It isn't too exciting that Collison and the Clippers will play against the defensive-minded Spurs in Saturday's matchup, but it would be hard not to take a gamble on the California native, who will be given a multitude of minutes at the point guard spot.
Other options: Jarrett Jack (at BKN) [will have plenty of opportunity to produce with Kyrie Irving (knee) out of the lineup], Goran Dragic (vs. MIL) [produces significantly better when Eric Bledsoe (knee) isn't playing; check Bledsoe's status before tip-off], Brandon Knight (at PHX)
Dion Waiters (at BKN): It isn't a secret that Waiters is notoriously inconsistent, as he can serve an endless platter of fantasy delights on one night, only to present a donut on the next. He has failed to shoot above 39 percent from the field in each of his last four games, and perhaps could be due for an offensive slaughterhouse on Saturday. Somebody on the Cavaliers will have to fill in for Kyrie Irving's (knee) 19.1 shot attempts per game, and something tells me it won't be Earl Clark. If you're willing to take the risk on Waiters, his price tag may be worth his production against the Nets, who give up 42.5 points (second-worst), 9.6 assists (eighth-worst), 3.3 steals (ninth-worst), 5.3 three-pointers made (third-worst), and 46.1 percent FG (second-worst) to opposing eligible shooting guards. You'll always see what's on the menu, but you'll never find out what the night may bring until you call upon Waiters to take your order. Check on Waiters' status before tip-off, as he has been dealing with tendinitis in his wrist and could unpredictably be a late scratch for Saturday's game.
Other options: Gerald Henderson (at SAC), Gerald Green (vs. MIL) [if Bledsoe doesn't play], Wesley Matthews (vs. PHI)
Kevin Durant (at MIN): Saturday's matchups are great for high-end small forwards, as most of them play against favorable defenses, creating room for high fantasy potential. Although Durant will face off against the Timberwolves, who are in fact one of the better defensive teams against opposing small forwards, it may be hard not to ride on the superstar in Saturday's contest. Playing without Russell Westbrook (knee), the Thunder have lost two consecutive games, including a disappointing 93-95 home loss to the lowly Nets. This certainly hasn't played well for Durant, who was limited to just 24 points in 34 minutes Thursday, as a result of five personal fouls. Superstars defy advanced statistics, and Minnesota's above-average defense isn't going to stop me from investing in Durant for Saturday's tilt.
Other options: LeBron James (at ORL), Paul George (vs. NOP), Evan Turner (at POR)
Glen Davis (vs. MIA): Davis heads into Saturday's contests averaging 15.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 0.8 steals over his last five games. While those numbers are far from mind blowing, Davis put up 16 points, 13 rebounds, one assist, one steal, and two blocks in 43 minutes of action Thursday against the Cavaliers, with Nikola Vucevic (ankle) out of the lineup. Vucevic is officially considered a game-time decision for Saturday, though I have my doubts that he'll suit up, as he was forced to miss four games early in December with an ankle sprain that was similarly minor and not too severe. Davis posted 20 points, five rebounds, one assist, and two steals in his previous meeting against the Heat this season, and should be considered a solid play for Saturday.
Other options: Tobias Harris (vs. MIA) [could also see increased production if Vucevic sits out], Kevin Love (vs. OKC), LaMarcus Aldridge (vs. PHI)
Pero Antic (at CHI): Let's bring out the big guns for Saturday's matchup in the Windy City, deploying Antic, the 31-year-old, 260-pound undrafted rookie. He played the best game of his career in his first start on Friday, putting up 16 points, seven rebounds, and one steal, including a barrage from behind the arc with four three-pointers made. It was reported that Antic will start for the second consecutive game against the Bulls. This could cause problems for the defensive-minded Joakim Noah, who will have to leave his area of comfort in the low post in order to contest Antic and his perimeter prowess. The rookie can be had at a marvelously cheap price on most sites, and he could be worth a gamble if you're looking to save dollars at the center position. Check before tip-off to make sure he is indeed starting before deploying the long-range bomber in Saturday's tilt.
Other options: Spencer Hawes (at POR), DeAndre Jordan (at SAS), Anderson Varejao (at BKN)
Russell Westbrook (knee) is expected to remain out until after the All-Star break.
Al Horford (shoulder) is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
Chris Paul (shoulder) is out for three-to-five weeks with a separated shoulder.
J.J. Redick (wrist) could return in a couple of weeks.
Kyrie Irving (knee) is not with the team for Saturday's contest.
Andrew Bynum (suspension) will not play for the Cavaliers in the foreseeable future.
Ryan Anderson (neck) left Friday's game on a stretcher and will miss at least one game.
Jason Smith (hip) isn't expected to be back soon.
John Henson (ankle) hopes to return soon, but will not play Saturday.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (hand) had his cast removed but is still without a timetable to return.
Jeff Taylor (Achilles) is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles.
Brendan Haywood (foot) is out until after the All-Star break.
Arnett Moultrie (ankle) participated in five-on-five scrimmages and could return soon.
CJ McCollum (foot) is expected to make his NBA debut on Jan. 7.
Chase Budinger (knee) practiced Friday but is still out for at least a week.
Carl Landry (hip) is still without a timetable to return.
Nikola Vucevic (ankle) is a game-time decision Saturday.
Eric Bledsoe (knee) is a game-time decision Saturday.
Alex Len (ankle) practiced Wednesday without discomfort and could return soon.
Andray Blatche (personal) is expected to play Saturday.
Tyshawn Taylor (hamstring) is doubtful to play Saturday.