This article is part of our Daily Games Cheat Sheet series.
Defenses to Avoid
Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies: Sunday night's defensive matchup to avoid features the beasts of the wild in a battle that could get ugly from a fantasy perspective. The Grizzlies have been struggling recently, going just 1-4 over their last five games and averaging just 91.0 points per game during that span. They are dead last in the league in offensive pace, averaging just 92.25 possessions per game. Contrasting that with the Timberwolves' fast-paced offense, it will be too unpredictable to determine the outcome of the speedy-versus-steady matchup. Certain players from each team could easily go off for strong performances, but on a Sunday night with six games on the schedule, there are safer plays to run with from a fantasy standpoint. Avoid the forests at all cost.
Offenses to Use
Houston Rockets at Sacramento Kings: In a dynamic matchup that will be full of surprises in the fantasy realm, the fast-paced Rockets will face the Kings in Sacramento. The Rockets are fifth in the league in offensive pace, averaging a high-fueled 99.11 possessions per game. Furthermore, their offensive capacity is evident, as they average of 108.0 points per 100 possessions. This firepower could boost fantasy performances to a towering level against the Kings, who have allowed their opponents to score an average of 108.6 points over their last five games. With options stacked around their deep roster, the Rockets should be considered for strong play Sunday.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: Detroit Pistons, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic
Second game of a back-to-back: Portland Trail Blazers
DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
Isaiah Thomas (vs. HOU): Thomas serves as a choice option at the point guard position in Sunday's matchups. The Rockets allow opposing eligible point guards to score 27.0 points per game, and Thomas unquestionably fits the bill in the scoring department as a newly-dubbed starter for the Kings. Thomas is now averaging 24.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.0 steal, and 2.7 three-pointers made as a starter ever since the Rudy Gay trade. His production has been worth top-round value in season-long leagues as he has been destroying teams with his quickness and athleticism. Perhaps Thomas has been too fast on his feet, that his price tag in daily leagues has yet to catch up to his actual worth.
Goran Dragic (vs. GSW): Dragic serves as another mid-to-high budget option. He has been averaging 21.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.6 steals, and 2.0 three-pointers made over his last five games. In a matchup against the Warriors that could go at a favorable pace for Dragic, he will have the opportunity to continue his streak of solid games.
Nate Robinson (vs. NOP): Robinson could be considered a cheap flier option, as he may continue to see opportunity even with Ty Lawson back in the lineup. Lawson struggled in Friday's game, and the Nuggets could use some firepower off the bench. Robinson could pull off a poor shooting night Sunday, but he's worth the risk for his price.
Andre Miller (vs.NOP): If you're looking for an even cheaper option, Miller could produce decent value for his price.
James Harden (at SAC): Fast pace is a common theme for Sunday's matchups, and daily players shouldn't shy away from investing in high-end options at the shooting guard position. Harden has been on a tear over his last four games, averaging 28.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 7.5 assists, and 2.3 steals per game during that span. With fewer high-end options in Sunday's games, Harden looks to be a solid pick as he faces the Kings' weak defense against opposing eligible shooting guards: 41.6 points (fifth-worst), 10.0 assists (fifth-worst), 5.4 three-pointers made (second-worst), and 46.9 percent FG (worst).
Eric Bledsoe (vs. GSW): Bledsoe is slowly returning to his early-season form after missing several games due to injury and is still cheaper than what he's worth. Over his last four games, Bledsoe is averaging 20.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 2.7 steals, 1.0 block, and 2.0 three-pointers made. Similarly to Dragic, Bledsoe will benefit from the fast-paced gameplay of the Warriors, making him a valuable asset for Sunday's roster.
Ben McLemore (vs. HOU): McLemore has been struggling mightily over his last three games, scoring a total of just 11 points during that span. It appears his price tag has fallen to his production, and rightfully so. Be warned that McLemore is absolutely not a lock to have a solid game Sunday, but those who take a risk on his cheap price tag could have the last laugh in a matter of hours. Deploy with caution.
P.J. Tucker (vs. GSW): Sunday's matchups feature high-end small forwards in unpredictable situations, making it wise to stick with cheap options that could have solid games. Tucker has been quietly averaging 12.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.0 steals, and 1.3 three-pointers made over his last for games. While he hasn't been shooting particularly well from the field, his contributions in other categories couple with significant minutes makes him worth a spot for his price on Sunday.
Wilson Chandler (vs. NOP): Chandler has been averaging 12.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.2 blocks, and 1.8 three-pointers made over his last five games. The Pelicans allow opposing eligible small forwards to average 33.5 points (eighth-worst), 13.4 rebounds (third-worst), 6.7 assists (fourth-worst), 1.5 blocks (fourth-worst), and 4.1 three-pointers made (fourth-worst), making Chandler a safe play Sunday.
Chandler Parsons (at SAC): If you decide to go with a pricier option at the small forward position, consider Parsons an option, as he will have a favorable matchup against the Kings.
Greg Monroe (vs. POR): Monroe has been on a tear over his last two games, averaging 25.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists during that span. While this is a small sample size, Monroe has the potential to contribute in multiple categories every night. The Trail Blazers have above-average defense against power forwards, but Monroe could be had at a bargain price because of his inconsistent season. Consider him a viable option Sunday.
Andrew Nicholson (at OKC): Nicholson should be considered a budget option Sunday, as he is averaging 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game over his last four contests. Even with Tobias Harris returning to the lineup in Friday's game, Nicholson logged 25 minutes and put up a double-double. Harris is likely going to be eased back into the lineup, and Nicholson provides solid value for his price.
J.J. Hickson (vs. NOP): Hickson is more expensive than Nicholson, but if you decide to go with another value option, Hickson could fit the bill.
DeMarcus Cousins (vs. HOU): With several favorable matchups for big men in Sunday's games, the center position (even more so than the shooting guard position) should be reserved for high-end products. Cousins leads the pack, as he will have ample opportunity to put up big numbers in multiple categories playing against the high-paced Rockets. The Rockets give up 17.5 points (fifth-worst), 10.8 rebounds (fourth-worst), 1.2 steals (fourth-worst), and 0.7 three-pointers made (worst) to opposing eligible centers. Meanwhile, Cousins is averaging 23.2 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks over the last five games. Cousins has been featured in my recommendations countless times this season and he has yet to log a poor performance when I've penned him in so far. Could Sunday be the day he struggles? Only Dwight Howard can do something about that.
Dwight Howard (at SAC): Howard figures to be the other high-end option who could produce well on Sunday. The Kings boast an unspectacular defense against opposing eligible centers, giving up 17.3 points (sixth-worst), 10.8 rebounds (fifth-worst), 2.5 assists (fifth-worst), and 1.7 blocks (second-worst) per game. Like Cousins, Howard has also been performing well of late, averaging 21.4 points, 17.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 16 steals, and 1.6 blocks over his last five games. Daily league players can pick their poison in the matchup of the big men in the Rockets-Kings matchup, both of whom are likely to have strong performances. Cousins gets my final vote, but if Howard blasts off for another monster night, I may have to roast crow.
Robin Lopez (at DET): If for some reason you decide to go with a lower budget at the center spot, Lopez could prove to be a valid option as he faces off against the Pistons.
Anthony Davis (hand) isn't expected to return until mid-January.
Marc Gasol (knee) hopes to return as soon as possible but is still without a timetable to return.
Andre Iguodala (hamstring) says he's feeling "pretty good" but didn't provide a return date.
Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) underwent arthroscopic surgery on his wrist and is out indefinitely.
Danilo Gallinari (knee) hasn't been able to run, and is still without a timetable to return.
JaVale McGee (leg) has been doing upper body work but is still without a timetable to return.
Omer Asik (thigh) has been ruled out indefinitely by the Rockets.
Carl Landry (hip) is out without a timetable to return.
Chase Budinger (knee) isn't expected to return until mid-January.
Will Bynum (hamstring) could return to action on Sunday.
Thabo Sefolosha (knee) is considered questionable for Sunday's game.
Greg Smith (knee) expects to return to action on Sunday.
Alex Len (ankle) has been pain-free over the last couple days, and a return Sunday is possible.