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Mike Conley, MEM (at MIN) PG ($7,400):
Defenses to Avoid
Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs are probably going to lose at some point before the regular season ends, and while the Warriors are as good of a guess as any for the team that could knock them down, it's probably not safe to risk playing any of them in daily leagues. The Spurs have been excellent lately, and they're really getting it done on the defensive end during this winning streak. They're tied with the Bulls (97.6 points allowed per 100 possessions) for the most efficient defense since the All-Star break, and they're even a full point better (96.5) since Feb. 26.
Offenses to Use
Los Angeles Lakers at Sacramento Kings: The Lakers have been particularly poor on defense (113.3 ppg, 28th in the league) since March 1. Part of that is because they're so inept on the glass. Over that same stretch, they're 29th in defensive rebounding rate (70 percent per NBA.com) and dead last overall, grabbing just 43.7 percent. Interesting enough, Sacramento has been the best rebounding team (on both sides of the floor) during that same stretch, in addition to being one of the better teams in the league all year. The Kings grab 55.7 percent of available rebounds and are particularly talented attacking their own misses. The Lakers can't defend in general and get torched on the glass. It should be a good day for DeMarcus Cousins and fellow Kings frontcourt players.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs.
Second game of a back-to-back: Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers.
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There are a few good options at the point on Wednesday, but Conley's matchup is probably the best. The Timberwolves' overall defensive numbers aren't all that bad, but they appear to have mailed it in on that side of the floor lately. Since March 1, they're 26th (108.7) in defensive efficiency and are allowing teams to shoot 48.8 percent (27th in the league). Opposing guards are doing even better (49.4 percent, 28th) over that same stretch. In addition, Conley's scoring is up largely thanks to a higher volume of shots recently. The Grizzlies are one of the fewer teams playing at a slower pace over the last few weeks, but that could change against a poor defensive team while in the thick of a playoff race.
Other suggestions: Kemba Walker
, CHA (at PHI) PG ($8,400); Ty Lawson
, DEN (vs. NOP) PG ($7,700); Michael Carter-Williams
, PHI (vs. CHA) PG ($8,000); Jarrett Jack
, CLE (at ORL) PG/SG ($6,000) if Kyrie Irving
does not play; Ray McCallum
, SAC (vs. LAL) PG/SG ($5,000) if Isaiah Thomas
does not play
Paul George, IND (vs. DET) SG/SF ($8,700):
Any way you cut it, George and the Pacers have been struggling mightily recently. But this play is gambling on the law of averages, coupled with a matchup against a Detroit team that has arguably mailed it in more than any other team this season. They're 5-17 since the All-Star break and almost just lost back-to-back games against Philadelphia and Milwaukee. And no, a fourth quarter comeback over the Bucks can't quite clear the stench of a 25-point loss to the Sixers, a team on a 26-game losing streak. Anyhow, the Pistons are 29th in defensive efficiency since mid-March and have had a tough time with athletic wings all year long. George has torched them for 26.0 points per game in three contests this year.
Other suggestions: Dion Waiters
, CLE (at ORL) SG ($7,000) if Kyrie Irving
doesn't play; Victor Oladipo
, ORL (vs. CLE) PG/SG ($6,800); Jimmy Butler
, CHI (vs. ATL) SG/SF ($6,100); Kent Bazemore
, LAL (at SAC) SG/SF ($4,600)
Rudy Gay, SAC (vs. LAL) SF/PF ($7,300):
As mentioned above, the Lakers have been rather ineffective on the defensive end lately, and Gay is a tougher matchup for their smaller wings in general. He's boosted his scoring a bit since the All-Star break (20.5 ppg after, 19.8 ppg before) and with Isaiah Thomas
possibly out, he should get 15-20 attempts. Even if Thomas plays, Gay is a solid play because of the increased likelihood he'll get involved on the glass against the Lakers. Plus, he's shot the ball well over the last week.
Other suggestions: Matt Barnes
, LAC (at PHO) SF ($5,000); Joe Johnson
, SG/SF ($5,600)
Markieff Morris, PHO (vs. LAC) PF/C ($6,400):
He's been a rock since the All-Star break, averaging 16.7 points and 6.5 rebounds over 23 games. Part of that has been because of his increased workload. He's pretty much a lock for 30 minutes right now, and with the Clippers likely missing Blake Griffin
again, Morris could do more damage than usual on the glass.
Other suggestions: Kenneth Faried
, DEN (vs. NOP), PF ($7,600); Thaddeus Young
, PHI (vs. CHA) SF/PF ($7,600); Tim Duncan
, SA (vs. GSW) PF/C ($8,100)
DeMarcus Cousins, SAC (vs. LAL) PF/C ($10,400):
His salary is probably going to scare quite a few people away. And while that's reasonable, it's simply too hard to forecast a bigger game on paper. On top of being the biggest mismatch possible in terms of rebounding (see offenses to use), the Lakers have also allowed more field goals within five feet than any other team in the league. Per NBA.com, they've allowed 1,510 field goals inside of five feet. The next closest, Philadelphia, isn't even within 100 field goals (1,408).
Other suggestions: Joakim Noah
, CHI (vs. ATL) PF/C ($8,700); Chris Bosh
, MIA (vs. MIL) PF/C ($6,700); Marc Gasol
, MEM (at MIN) PF/C ($7,300); Jonas Valanciunas
, TOR (vs. HOU) C ($5,700)
(back) missed his 17th straight game Tuesday.
(ankle) missed his fifth straight game Tuesday.
(personal) did not travel with the team to Orlando.
(ankle) will not play Wednesday. Could be back by the weekend.
(shoulder) will not play Wednesday.
(pelvis) is not traveling with the team but could be back by the weekend.
(knee) is expected to return this season, just not for at least another week or more.
(ankle) has been ruled out for games this week. That doesn't include the weekend, but his timetable won't be rushed with Houston in the playoffs.
(knee) is still without a timetable.
(hamstring) should return this weekend.
(hamstring) has been ruled out for the rest of this road trip, which ends Wednesday.
(groin) should return sometime next week.
(back) did not play Monday.
(foot) seems unlikely to play this year, although it hasn't been ruled out.
(knee) missed his sixth straight game Monday.
(elbow) has been out since Jan. 24. Not likely back anytime soon.
(soreness) did not play Monday to rest on the second game of a back-to-back. He will play Wednesday.
(ankle) missed the second half of Monday's game.
(back) did not play Tuesday.
(biceps) is listed as a game-time decision but looks like he'll be a go.
(groin) didn't play Wednesday for the fifth straight game. Appears to be getting close, though.
(hamstring) didn't play Tuesday and was listed as doubtful, but he is traveling with the team.
(illness) was a late, but not unexpected, scratch Tuesday.
(calf) is listed as doubtful against the Suns.
(back) is listed as doubtful against the Suns.
(back) said he hopes to be back soon.
(illness) was back in the lineup Tuesday. He should be a go, despite the back-to-back.
(soreness) was back in the lineup Tuesday but hasn't played both games of a back-to-back all year long.
(hamstring) did not play Monday.
(illness) did not play Monday.
(ankle) dressed but did not play Monday.
(ankle) has expressed his desire to play again this year, but he's been unable to stay healthy.
(ankle) is listed as questionable for Wednesday's contest.
(Coach Decision) was held out Monday but should be back Wednesday.
(knee) battled through an injury Monday and hasn't been updated since.
(quadriceps) missed his fourth straight game Monday.