After an eventful two-game Opening Night, the NBA returns with an ample 11-game ledger on Wednesday. With exponentially more choices than Tuesday, itís critical to hone in on the optimal values across the pricing scale, so letís dive in to where the dollars might best be invested Wednesday:
Damian Lillard, POR at PHO ($18,600): Lillard tormented the Suns last season to the tune of 33.8 points (on 47.1 percent shooting), 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists over four games, with the scoring average serving as his second-highest against any team. The success isnít surprising, considering the Suns gave up the most points (26.6) and made three-pointers (2.9) per game to point guards last season, along with 7.9 assists and 6.1 rebounds. Furthermore, Lillard boasted a 32.8 percent usage rate last season with C.J. McCollum off the floor, and the latter will notably miss Wednesdayís opener while serving a one-game suspension due to his involvement in a preseason altercation.
Ricky Rubio, UTA vs. DEN ($13,300): The Nuggets werenít too far behind the Suns as far as vulnerability to point guards last season, as they allowed an average of 24.7 points, 9.4 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 steals to the position. That spells trouble against the all-around skills of Rubio, who showed a willingness to be more involved as a scorer in the latter portion of preseason by tallying back-to-back 20-point efforts. The Nuggets also allowed the second-highest field-goal percentage overall in the NBA last season (47.7 percent) and ranked next-to-last in defensive efficiency (110.5), factors that should also work in Rubioís favor Wednesday.
Jaylen Brown, BOS vs. MIL ($7,700): Brownís eye-opening performance in the opener isnít factored into his price, making him one of the slateís best value plays. The 2016 first-round pick accumulated 36.00 fantasy points on the strength of a 25-point, six-rebound, two-steal performance and draws a favorable matchup on the second night of the season-opening back-to-back. The Bucks allowed the sixth-most points per game (22.1) to two-guards last season, along with 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.9 made three-pointers per contest. Given Gordon Haywardís catastrophic ankle injury Tuesday, Brown looks like he could serve as one of Bostonís primary sources of scoring alongside Kyrie Irving moving forward.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL at BOS ($18,300): The Greek Freak averaged 21.5 points (on 48.5 percent shooting), 8.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals against the Celtics in two games last season, and 24.1 points on 53.9 percent shooting in his 40 home games overall. Boston once again struggled against big men at the four last season, allowing the fifth-most points per game (20.9), along with 11.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks to power forwards. Rookie Jayson Tatum acquitted himself fairly well in his first game, but heíll give up three inches in height to Antetokounmpo on Wednesday, furthering the latterís fantasy prospects.
Hassan Whiteside, MIA at ORL ($15,600): Whitesideís impressive numbers in four games versus the Magic last season included 19.3 points, 16.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest. The Magic allowed 21.4 points per game to centers, along with the fifth-most rebounds (15.3) and a bottom-10 figure in blocks (2.2) as well. The personnel hasnít really changed either, as Whiteside will be frequently matched up against Nikola Vucevic, who is much more renowned for his ability to score than his defensive proficiency.
Rudy Gay, SA vs. MIN ($10,900): With Kawhi Leonard already declared out for the opener with a quadriceps injury, Gay is set to take the floor as the starting small forward Wednesday. The Timberwolves ranked in the bottom half of the NBA last season in terms of points allowed per game to threes (20.0), and Gay brings multi-category upside that could enable him to easily return value on a price that doesnít account for the minutes he should see. Itís also worth noting that Gay enjoyed plenty of success in his one game versus the T-Wolves last season, posting 28 points (on 55.0 percent shooting), six rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal.
Nikola Vucevic, ORL vs. MIA ($14,000): Vucevic and Hassan Whiteside have both proven capable of producing plenty against one another in the past, with the formerís 20.3 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks over four games against the Heat last season serving as incontrovertible evidence in his favor. Miami allowed 20.9 points, 14.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.4 steals per game to centers last season, while Vucevic averaged nearly two more points per game at home than on the road.
Jusuf Nurkic, POR at PHO ($13,800): C.J. McCollumís aforementioned absence should also give Nurkicís involvement a boost Wednesday, and itís worth noting that he sported a 26.5 percent usage rate with McCollum off the floor last season. The Suns allowed 22.0 points, 14.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.1 blocks to centers last season, while Nurkic thrived after arriving in Portland, averaging 15.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.3 assist, 1.9 blocks and 1.2 steals across 19 post-All-Star-break games.