This article is part of our FantasyDraft NBA series.
Saturday offers us a compact five-game slate that really has one marquee battle – Pelicans-Rockets – and four other games featuring teams with postseason hopes that have either expired or are on life support. Nevertheless, there's always individual matchups to be exploited, leaving us with plenty to pore over. Without further ado, let's jump into the business of trying to identify some winning lineup choices.
James Harden, HOU vs. NO ($21,900): Harden is probable with a mild ankle sprain, while Chris Paul is doubtful with his hamstring injury. That's just one of a plethora of factors in The Beard's favor Saturday, with the most prominent being the fact the Pelicans come in allowing the most fantasy points per game (45.1) to shooting guards on the season, including the highest shooting percentage (45.0). Harden is also averaging 27.0 points and 12.0 assists across 35.7 minutes in three games versus New Orleans this season, and the Pelicans have allowed the fourth-highest offensive efficiency rating (22.9) to twos as well. Finally, it's certainly worth noting that Harden is sporting a 38.5 percent usage rate and averaging 1.64 fantasy points per minute without Paul on the floor this season, and the Pels' second-fastest pace of play (104.8 possessions per game) should give Harden a few extra valuable opportunities to rack up production.
Kemba Walker, CHA at DAL ($15,400): Walker has been phenomenal over the last three games, scoring 43.75 to 61.75 fantasy points, with the high end of that range coming Thursday with Dwight Howard suspended. Howard will be back Saturday, but Walker remains a viable play at his cost against a Mavericks squad that's allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game (42.3) to point guards on the season, including the fourth most (59.0) over the last five. Walker also lit up Dallas for 41 points (on 57.1 percent shooting), four assists, three rebounds, three steals and one block across 37 minutes in one prior meeting this season, furthering his case in a game the Hornets need to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Luke Kennard, DET vs. CHI ($8,300): Kennard has been playing a much larger role since early March, logging between 24 and 36 minutes in seven of the last eight games. That's led to fantasy-point tallies of 21.50 to 33.50 in those games, figures that represent a solid-to-excellent return on his current price. That body of work also puts him squarely in play against the Bulls, which allow the fifth-most fantasy points per game (60.5) to shooting guards over the last five, along with the second-highest offensive efficiency rating (23.3) to the position on the season. They're also allowing the third-highest percentage of scoring from three-pointers (32.1) – including the second highest (33.7) on the road – while Kennard draining an impressive 40.1 percent of his attempts from distance this season.
Blake Griffin, DET vs. CHI ($18,000): Griffin just compiled 47.00 fantasy points against the Bulls on March 9, and he's scored 50.75 to 57.25 fantasy points in his last three games as well. Meanwhile, Chicago's troubles against power forwards include allowing 50.8 fantasy points per game to the position over the last five, along with the second-highest offensive efficiency rating (27.7) to fours on the campaign. Moreover, the Bulls come in shooting a league-worst 43.7 percent as a team, which should afford Griffin plenty of rebounding opportunities to round out his fantasy production.
Aaron Gordon, ORL vs. PHO ($13,300): Gordon has been productive since returning from a concussion, scoring 33.00 and 33.75 fantasy points in his first two games back. The Suns have allowed the third-most fantasy points per game (41.4) to power forwards on the season – including the third most (63.5) over the last five – and are ranked dead last in offensive efficiency rating allowed to fours (28.9). They're also yielding the fifth-most points in the paint (47.4) on the campaign, and Gordon already racked up 22 points (on 77.8 percent shooting), seven rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal over 31 minutes against Phoenix in one prior meeting this season.
Jarell Martin, MEM vs. LAL ($9,100): There are a number of appealing tournament-only options at this price level, including Noah Vonleh ($8,500), Dillon Brooks ($8,500) and Ryan Anderson ($6,800). However, Martin shouldn't be overlooked in what will be a significantly uptempo game for the Grizzlies, which normally operate as the most deliberate team in the league. The Lakers come in generating the most possessions per game (105.0), and they also come in as the most susceptible team to small forwards, allowing the most fantasy points per game (40.2) to threes, including 53.0 over the last five. Martin has seen 24 to 36 minutes in 12 of the last 13 contests as well, a stretch in which he's scored over 20 or more fantasy points on eight occasions, including four games in which he exceeded the 30-mark.
Nikola Vucevic, ORL vs. PHO ($13,300): Vucevic saw a downturn in his most recent contest against the Sixers, but he's scored over 30 fantasy points on seven occasions and eclipsed 50 in another two instances since returning from an extended absence Feb. 22. The Suns have struggled against centers throughout the season, and they've allowed 45.5 fantasy points per game to fives over the last 10 games, a sharp increase over their 35.8 season figure. The Suns also come in allowing the fifth-most points in the paint (47.4) on the season, while Vucevic logs just over half his scoring (50.2 percent) in that area of the floor. A handful of recent quiet games have brought his price down some, making him a particularly appealing tournament option in what should be a fast-paced game against a Phoenix squad generating the third-most possessions per contest (103.9).
Clint Capela, HOU vs. NO ($13,000): Capela has averaged a near double-double of 16.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks across 28 minutes in three games against the Pelicans this season, and he's averaging 1.30 fantasy points per minute with Chris Paul (hamstring) off the floor this season. He racked up 32.00 fantasy points across 29 minutes against the Pistons on Thursday with Paul sidelined, and he'd tallied 33.75 to 49.50 fantasy points in three of the four games prior as well. The Pelicans have allowed 41.3 fantasy points per game to centers over the last five, along with the fourth-most points in the paint (47.6) on the campaign. Capela is scoring 85.0 percent of his points in that area of the floor this season, and he should certainly benefit from playing against the team generating the second-most possessions per game (104.8) in New Orleans.