Defense to Avoid:
San Antonio Spurs vs. Philadelphia 76ers
This came down to either the Spurs or the Cavaliers, who are playing at Milwaukee. The Spurs are No. 1 in the NBA with only 96.1 points allowed per 100 possessions, but their pace of 96.6 possessions per game is 15th. The Cavs’ defense isn’t as stingy per possession (99.6 points/100 poss) but they play a slower pace of 94.6 poss/game (fifth slowest in NBA). If you do the math, on average the Spurs’ defense affords their opponents fewer opportunities than the Cavs’ defense. Plus, the Spurs are at home against the worst offense in the NBA (76ers score 95.4 points/100 poss) while the Cavs are on the road against an average Bucks offense (104.7 points/100 poss).
(Note: this all changes if, as I mention in the next section, the Spurs are “Popoviched” on Saturday and sit all of their players, in which case the Cavs become the defense to avoid).
Offenses to Use:
Cleveland Cavaliers at Milwaukee Bucks
The Warriors (114.2 points/100 possessions), Cavs (108.4 points/100 poss) and Spurs (107.2 points/100 poss) are three of the top-4 offenses in the NBA. All three are also playing against defenses ranked in the bottom six. The reason that the Cavs get the nod is that they are on the road against a solid Bucks team that has a higher probability of being a competitive game. The Warriors at home against the Nets and the Spurs at home against the 76ers both have massive blowout potential, which could limit their starters’ minutes. In the case of the Spurs, where Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili are both listed with minor injuries, keep a strong eye on the updates near game time as this seems like a good candidate for a “Popoviched game” in which all of the Spurs starters sit.
Teams on Back-to-Backs:
First game: Pistons
Second game: Nets, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Nuggets, Rockets, Magic, 76ers
Brandon Knight vs. DEN ($7,100): The Nuggets are 29th in the NBA in fantasy points allowed to opposing point guards, and they are also on the second game of a back-to-back. Knight is already third among point guards with 35.4 FPts/G, with a price tag almost $2,000 less than second place John Wall, who only averages six more FPts/G at 41.5.
Other suggestions: Emmanuel Mudiay at PHO ($6,000), Mo Williams at MIL ($6,300)
Gary Neal vs. ORL ($3,200): Neal is in this space on the assumption that Bradley Beal will miss his third straight game with a shoulder injury. Neal has scored exactly 18.25 FPts in both of the two games that Beal has been out. That isn’t bad production for $3,200, and he has upside to score more points if he can get his shot going against an average Magic defense missing Victor Oladipo.
Other suggestions: Eric Bledsoe vs. DEN ($8,100), Marcus Thornton vs. DAL ($5,900)
Danilo Gallinari at PHO ($6,200): Even factoring in that Gallinari is on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, he still looks like good value Saturday. He’s facing a Suns defense that is 27th in the NBA in fantasy points allowed to opposing small forwards. Plus, he’s playing well himself, coming off back-to-back games of 37.75 FPts and 35.25 FPts, respectively, both above his season average of 30.2 FPts/G.
Other suggestions: Otto Porter vs. ORL ($5,200), Evan Fournier at WAS ($6,300)
Clint Capela vs. DAL ($4,800): Howard is expected to sit on the second night of a back-to-back, which means Capela should get the start against a Mavericks defense that isn’t very impressive against opposing bigs. Capela took advantage of his start last Friday against the Kings to the tune of 39.5 fantasy points.
Other suggestions: Draymond Green vs. BRO ($7,000), Kevin Love at MIL ($7,900)
Brook Lopez at GSW ($6,900): With Dwight Howard expected to sit, Lopez’s 36.3 FPts/G is the highest fantasy scoring average for centers. The Warriors are an elite defense overall, but they’re only average against opposing centers. Lopez has scored at least 39 FPts in three of his last four games, so only the (realistic) threat of a blowout mars what should otherwise be a good opportunity for Lopez.
Other suggestions: Jahlil Okafor at SAS ($7,100), Zaza Pachulia at HOU ($5,600)
Kyrie Irving, CLE (knee)
Iman Shumpert, CLE (wrist)
JaVale McGee, DAL (leg)
Wilson Chandler, DEN (hip, season-ending surgery)
Jusuf Nurkic, DEN (knee)
Leandro Barbosa, GS (personal)
Dwight Howard, HOU (back, reportedly won’t play 2nd night of back-to-back)
Donatas Motiejunas, HOU (back)
O.J. Mayo, MIL (hamstring)
Kendall Marshall, PHI (knee)
Tony Wroten, PHI (knee)
Robert Covington, PHI (knee; will be back Monday)
Richaun Holmes, PHI (hamstring)
Alan Anderson, WAS (ankle)
Martell Webster, WAS (hip)
Richard Jefferson , CLE (ankle)
Chandler Parsons, DAL (knee)
Joffrey Lauvergne, DEN (back)
Jameer Nelson, DEN (back)
Patrick Beverley, HOU (ankle)
Bradley Beal, WAS (shoulder)
Nene Hilario, WAS (back)
Michael Carter-Williams, MIL (ankle)
Jabari Parker, MIL (knee)
C.J. Watson, ORL (calf)
Victor Oladipo, ORL (head)
Jason Smith, ORL (knee)
Markieff Morris, PHO (knee)
Ronnie Price, PHO (head)
Kawhi Leonard, SAS (respiratory infection)
Manu Ginobili, SAS (abdominal)