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Jose Calderon, DAL (at SA), PG, ($5,000):
Defenses to Avoid
Washington Wizards at Chicago Bulls: Eight teams are in action Sunday. Portland, Houston, and Dallas are offense first teams, and few view Charlotte or Washington as serious threats against seemingly far superior opponents. Miami is notorious for their ability to toggle their risky "on-off" switch, but their recent underperformance is enough cause for concern that fantasy players might reasonably expect some solid performances from the Bobcats. All that remains are two usual suspects for the "defenses to avoid" section, San Antonio and Chicago, one of whom (the Spurs) is facing an elite offense (the Mavericks). Boring and predictable as it may be, the defense to avoid Sunday is that of the Chicago Bulls.
Over the course of the 2013-14 season, the Wizards defined mediocre offense, rating 16th in the league in points per 100 possessions and 15th in turnovers. The only categories where the Wizards noticeably departed from average was in passing (eighth in the league in assists), shooting (10th in team field goal percentage, fifth in team three-point percentage), and free throws (25th in percentage, 29th in ftm). Over their last 10 days, however, the Wizards offense has underperformed even by the standard of its own mediocrity, falling to 19th in turnovers, from 16th to 18th in offensive rebound percentage, and from fifth to 25th in three-point shooting percentage. Meanwhile, the Bulls are second in the league in opponent points allowed per 100 possessions and opponent three-point percentage.
Offenses to Use
Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets: This recommendation applies exclusively to the Blazers' starters – not that there are many Blazers' bench players in serious fantasy consideration in the first place. Second-year head coach Terry Stotts already ran one of the leagues' tightest rotations during the regular season – Portland starters averaged over 34.7 minutes per game, with Damian Lillard, Nic Batum, and LaMarcus Aldridge all averaging 36 minutes per game. During the regular season, only one bench player, Mo Williams, averaged more than 15 minutes per game. When the stakes are higher and the benches shorter, the already substitution-averse Stotts seems to be the most likely coach to significantly increase his starters' workloads. Minute loads in the low 40s seem well within reach.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: None.
Second game of a back-to-back: None.
DraftKings.com DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
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With the start of the playoffs now upon us, most high-usage starters have seen their costs rise on by several hundred dollars. Calderon, however, is one of the few exceptions to that rule. This is due, at least in part, to what I call a "sweet spot off night" – the DraftKings pricing algorithm heavily weights a player's second most recent game, which for Calderon was a 17 minute, 3.75 fantasy point performance. During the regular season, that showing would have dropped Calderon's cost by several hundred dollars, but that drop has been cancelled out by the playoff-starter-premium added around the league. As a result Calderon is one of very few playoff starters who can join your lineup for his regular-season price.
Other suggestions: Norris Cole
, MIA (vs CHA), PG ($3,300); Damian Lillard
, POR (at HOU), PG, ($8,000)
Manu Ginobili, SA (vs DAL), SG/SF, ($5,100):
Playoff time means an increased role for Ginobili, and with a matchup that is about as favorable as they come. Defensively speaking, the Mavericks' backcourt is, arguably, the least intimidating of all of the playoff teams. The likely increase in usage for an aging Spurs' veteran is not lost on DraftKings, who hiked his price $500. Despite the increased cost, however, Manu remains one of very few options priced below $6,000 who look like reliable sources of production.
Other suggestions: Monta Ellis
, DAL (at SA), PG/SG, ($8,100)
Jimmy Butler, CHI (vs WAS), SG/SF, ($6,500):
Like Calderon, Butler currently benefits from a "sweet spot off night". Also like Calderon, the off night was impacted by a significant minutes reduction, and as such should not be a cause for concern. On that night when the Bulls handily dispatched the Magic, Butler played 32 minutes – the only time in his last 10 games he played fewer than 41.
Other suggestions: Wesley Matthews
, POR (at HOU), SG/SF, ($5,600)
Josh McRoberts, CHA (at MIA), PF/C, ($4,800):
Matchup-wise, it's hard to get enthusiastic about inserting McRoberts into your lineup. Miami is an athletic defense that is among the best in the league at defending against the "stretch four" position. But this pick isn't about McRoberts' matchup – it's about his salary cap impact. Now that teams are shortening their benches, there are even fewer opportunities for cheaper players to impact your lineup's fantasy score. But McRoberts is still a starter; he is likely to garner significant usage; and he is one of the best bets for reasonable production cheaper than $5,000. And it's worth noting that, given the heightened stakes, it's likely that Miami defenders may try to cheat off of McRoberts in favor of Charlotte's more significant offensive threats.
Other suggestions: Joakim Noah
CHI (vs WAS), PF/C, ($9,300); Taj Gibson
, CHI (vs WAS), PF/C, ($5,900)
Tim Duncan, SA (vs DAL), PF/C, ($8,300):
During the 2013-14 regular season, the Gregg-Popovich-coached Spurs carefully controlled Duncan's workload. For the season, he averaged 29.2 minutes per game, which mirrors his 29 minutes per game average over the last seven games. The one game when Duncan exceeded that minute allotment? The April 10 preview of this matchup, in which he scored 20 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and added a small handful of assorted assists/steals/blocks. This is now the postseason, and if we allow recent playoff history to be our guide, Popovich's Spurs understand the value of showing the Mavericks a quick exit. They are likely to prioritize earning maximum rest time between playoff series, at the expense of the cautious minutes-management that they lived by during the regular season. That should mean extra minutes for Duncan, which should also correspond to extra fantasy value.
Other suggestions: Robin Lopez
, POR (at HOU) C, ($6,100); Dirk Nowitzki
, DAL (at SA) PF/C, C, ($8,600)
(foot) will not play Sunday.
(knee) is a game-time decision Sunday.
(ankle) is a game-time decision Sunday. He left Wednesday's game with a sprained ankle and is considered questionable.