This article is part of our Daily Games Cheat Sheet series.
Defenses to Avoid
Milwaukee Bucks at San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs might not have the same type of smothering defense that was the trademark of their 2005 and 2007 NBA Finals teams, but they still know how to get it done on that side of the ball, as evidenced by their season mark of 99.4 points allowed per 100 possessions, good for fourth in the league. That should be a low bar for the Spurs to cross against a Bucks squad that regularly fails to crack 90 points and that was whipped by the Spurs by a 109-77 count the first time these teams met in Milwaukee. With the Bucks playing their second game on the road in as many nights, and playing for ping pong balls at this point in the season, don't expect them to suddenly turn in a gamely effort against one of the league's best teams.
Sacramento Kings at Oklahoma City Thunder: Though the addition of Rudy Gayhasn't torpedoed the Kings' productivity as most in the advanced stats community had feared, facing the Thunder on the road is still an onerous task for most opposing offenses, Sacramento not excepted. The Thunder check in just ahead of the Spurs in defensive efficiency and are holding opponents to a 42.2 percent shooting percentage on the season (second in NBA). Furthermore, the Thunder have proven capable in defending the three-pointer (34.9 field goal percentage against), a shot the Kings haven't been hitting with much accuracy this season.
Offenses to Use
Milwaukee Bucks at San Antonio Spurs
Sacramento Kings at Oklahoma City Thunder: Consider this a two-for-one special, as much of the same things apply offensively for the Spurs as they do for the Thunder in these particular matchups. Both the Spurs and Thunder rank in the league's top 10 in offensive efficiency and true shooting percentage, while the Bucks and Kings both rank in the bottom 10 in defensive efficiency. As such, both of these games look like blowouts on paper, especially with the inferior teams both playing on the road. Fantasy players should plan for this accordingly, recognizing that some of the star players from each side could see their minutes reduced by their coaches in the second half of these games in order to preserve them for the more competitive matchups on the schedule. That shouldn't prevent the Spurs' and Thunder's complementary players from staying productive, making those types attractive targets in daily formats.
Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets: The Suns' attack hasn't taken much of a hit since Goran Dragic assumed starting point guard duties, averaging 103.2 points per game with the injured Eric Bledsoe unavailable the past nine contests. For the season, the Suns are playing at the ninth-fastest pace in the league, with the Nuggets checking in at fifth by that same measure. The Suns and Nuggets also rank ninth and 11th, respectively, when it comes to points per 100 possessions. The teams have met twice this season, with the Suns winning both games by 114-103 and 103-99 margins. With at least two of Sunday's games looking like major mismatches (you could make the argument for three given the different directions the Raptors and Lakers have been moving in the win/loss column of late), this matchup probably has more potential than any other to produce useful fantasy production from both teams.
Los Angeles Lakers at Toronto Raptors: 137, 110, 113, 123, 120, 121. Those were the point totals allowed by the Lakers in six consecutive regulation losses before they beat the Celtics 107-104 on Friday night. The Raptors aren't an offensive powerhouse, but even as the Celtics proved in defeat, it doesn't take much effort to score on the undermanned Lakers. It would be a major surprise if the Raptors failed to crack 100 points against this indifferent defense.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors
Second game of a back-to-back: Milwaukee Bucks
DraftKings.com DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
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[Note: The Lakers/Raptors game is the only afternoon game on Sunday, and I couldn't find any DraftKings leagues that allowed players from either side to be selected.]
Ty Lawson, DEN (at PHX), PG/SG ($8,300): Lawson is the top-priced point guard for Sunday's games, but with a couple leading options facing questionable playing time situations coming off injury (Tony Parker, Rajon Rondo) and the upside limited for much of the others, I think it's rather easy to justify shelling out big bucks for him. He's taken it up a notch as a distributor since the calendar flipped to 2014, averaging 11.4 assists in nine January games while holding relatively steady in just about every other category. He's the best bet to record a double-double at the guard spot, and is just $100 more than Dragic, who has offered similar scoring production to Lawson of late, but has yet to record a double-digit assist game since taking over for Bledsoe.
Arron Afflalo, ORL (vs. BOS), PG/SG ($5,200): Afflalo looked strong coming off an ankle injury against a physical Charlotte defense on Friday, scoring 24 points on 7-for-14 (4-for-7 3PT) shooting. Coach Jacque Vaughn runs a fairly tight rotation, and it would seem likely that Afflalo will continue to see 35-plus minutes a night now that he's proven himself healthy. Among the shooting guard-eligible players in the DraftKings player pool, only Dragic (35.2) and the injured Bledsoe (34.9) are averaging more fantasy points per game on the season than Afflalo's 33.4. He comes at much cheaper price than Dragic, as well as the several other less productive options listed above him.
Kevin Durant, OKC (vs. SAC), SF/PF ($10,900): Although I have my doubts that Durant will deliver his usual averages Sunday in light of the game's blowout potential, there's such a dramatic dip in the quality of the remaining small forwards available that I would use him anyway, despite the prohibitive price. He still managed to play 40 minutes in a win over the Bucks just a week ago that was pretty much decided after three quarters, and one could argue that with Russell Westbrook out, Durant simply has to log heavy minutes even against weaker teams just to keep the Thunder afloat on the offensive end. With seven straight 30-point games under his belt, including a career-high 54 points Friday vs. the Warriors, Durant is simply too enticing to pass up while he's in the midst of the most productive stretch of his career. I think even something like a modest 27-7-4 line would be enough to justify the extra $3,000-$4,000 you'd have to spend to get him over the likes of Rudy Gay and Tobias Harris.
John Henson, MIL (at SA), PF/C ($4,700): Henson is still coming off the bench for the Bucks after returning from an ankle injury three games ago, but he's improved his production in each subsequent game, highlighted by a 20-point, 15-rebound performance in Saturday's loss to the Rockets. With Larry Sanders offering little production offensively and Ersan Ilyasova struggling to find his shooting touch, it could be a just a matter of time before Henson grabs a starting role. In any case, his minutes are still on the rise coming off the bench, and he should offer double-double potential while also supplying blocks at a relatively marginal price.
J.J. Hickson, DEN (at PHX), PF/C ($6,000): With Kenneth Faried feeling under the weather in recent days and JaVale McGee (leg) and Darrell Arthur (groin) out until further notice, Hickson is one of the few players at full strength in the Nuggets' frontcourt. With few teammates to compete for boards with him, Hickson has racked up 10 or more rebounds in five consecutive games, including a 24-rebound showing against Golden State on Wednesday. He should fare rather well against a Phoenix squad that ranks in the bottom half of the league in rebound rate.
Darrell Arthur (groin) has missed the last three games and appears unlikely to play Sunday.
Steve Blake (elbow) recently began working out but is still wearing a bulky brace on his right arm.
Eric Bledsoe (knee) could return in 4-to-6 weeks after having his meniscus removed.
Kobe Bryant (knee) has expressed that he has no plans to sit out this season and continues to target a Jan. 28 return.
Danny Green (hand) will miss the next four weeks with a non-displaced fracture on his left hand.
Xavier Henry (knee) is set to miss at least a few more days.
Carl Landry (hip) is still a week or more away from a return to action.
JaVale McGee (leg) remains without a timetable for his return to the lineup.
Steve Nash (back) is still planning on returning to the lineup Jan. 28.
Anthony Randolph (ankle) has missed the past three games due to injury.
Nikola Vucevic (concussion) has been ruled out for a Sunday return.
Russell Westbrook (knee) is rumored to be setting his sights on a Jan. 27 return.
Leandro Barbosa (shoulder) is dealing with soreness but could be available for Sunday's game after signing a second 10-day contract with the Suns on Saturday.
Matt Bonner (nose) suffered a fracture in Friday's game and is a game-time decision for Sunday.
Kenneth Faried (illness) saw limited minutes in Friday's game and could be destined for a similar fate Sunday.
Tyler Hansbrough (ankle) practiced Saturday and is questionable to play Sunday vs. the Lakers.
Ronnie Price (foot) missed Friday's game due to injury and is uncertain to suit up Sunday.
John Salmons (back) practiced Saturday and is questionable to play Sunday vs. the Lakers.
Nick Young (suspension) is expected to return to the lineup Sunday after serving his one-game ban Friday vs. Boston.