Yahoo's main slate Saturday includes seven games, so we'll exclude OKC-CLE and CHI-ATL. Despite missing one of the marquee contests of the weekend, we still have a lot of fun games to explore. Vegas has pointed us in the right direction immediately, rewarding the GS-HOU contest with a whopping 234.5 over/under. With only Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green (suspensions) out for Houston, and Draymond Green (GTD) potentially absent, both teams will be firing on all cylinders, though James Harden's minutes may still be restricted somewhat.
Toronto, Miami, Memphis and Utah are on the end of back-to-backs, and the Heat will probably feel it most. After a demoralizing loss to Brooklyn on the road, they face the Hornets in a consecutive road matchup Saturday. Utah gets to stay at home for both of their games, so the fatigue factor will be negligible.
First, we'll look at our elite players in the $50-plus range, and right away we have early news that Giannis Antetokounmpo ($56) will be absent. While Tony Snell ($10) is expected to start in his stead, Khris Middleton ($29) and Eric Bledsoe ($28) likely will be called on to contribute more without the Greek Freak. Snell should only be in play as a tournament flier. Anthony Davis ($56) and DeMarcus Cousins ($55) are both definitely strong plays against Memphis, as Marc Gasol ($34) only looked so-so in 36 minutes against the Kings while returning from an illness. Davis could have a tougher time with JaMychal Green ($17) at the four, so I will give the nod to Cousins as the better bet to match value.
We have a quartet of players at or near $50 in the GS/HOU and, as stated, James Harden's ($57) minutes will be increased to 30, which will give Chris Paul ($49) a little extra consideration for $8 cheaper. Harden missed the last matchup with the Warriors entirely, while Paul put up a respectable 44.5 YFP. On the other side, it's hard to find a case against either Kevin Durant ($52) or Stephen Curry ($49), but Durant is coming off a so-so shooting night and Curry put up 47.3 YFP against the Rockets two weeks ago. I have a hard time fading either, but I'll give the edge to Curry as the safer play.
We'll now go down the docket and identify two players to target at each position, with an additional list of non-highlighted players who hold equal weight in my predictions. We'll also pick one player to fade at each spot.
Damian Lillard, POR vs. DAL ($39): I'm finally ready to get back on the Lillard bus, as he's gone for 40-plus YFP in four of his last five games since returning from injury. The drop between Lillard and guys like Curry or Paul is definitely narrower than $10, so while he's pricey, he actually comes in as a value pick.
Dillon Brooks, MEM at NO ($10): If I didn't give you a huge value pick at each position, I'd feel like I wasn't doing my job. Brooks put up a season-high 22 points in his last game, and Memphis likely will start looking to the rookie more and more as the season progresses. Tyreke Evans ($38) is the clear star of the backcourt, but Brooks should easily crush value at this basement price and you'll need one or two of these to spend up on this slate.
Other guards to consider: Jimmy Butler, MIN vs. TOR ($44), Lou Williams, LAC at UTA ($38), Klay Thompson, GS at HOU ($30), Eric Bledsoe, MIL at PHI ($28)
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Guard to Avoid:
Jeff Teague, MIN vs. TOR ($23): Teague has struggled with his shot the last two games and has failed to reach value frequently enough that I'm inclined to fade him against a Raptors defense that fares well against backcourts. His assist total is key to reaching value, and the Raptors have only allowed 5.3 assists per game to point guards this season.
Blake Griffin LAC at UTA ($41): Some will shy away from Utah's defense, but if ever there was a time to believe in the Clippers, it's been during this four-game winning streak. The Jazz are starting to trot out Rudy Gobert slowly, and while Derrick Favors is still there to spell him, Griffin and the surging Montrezl Harrell ($13) will be called upon to fill the gap left by DeAndre Jordan (ankle), who might be gone for good if recent trade rumors bear fruit.
Luc Mbah a Moute ($10): Mbah a Moute comes in at a great value for at least one more game with Gerald Green and Trevor Ariza serving the final game of their suspensions. While I'm more of a fan of him in tournament settings, he should draw the start and is easily the cheapest way to get a piece of this high-scoring matchup.
Other forwards to consider: Khris Middleton, MIL at PHI ($29), Dario Saric, PHI vs. MIN ($28), Harrison Barnes, DAL at POR ($28)
Forward to Avoid:
Serge Ibaka, TOR at MIN ($21): I'm not quite sure what's up with Ibaka, but he's certainly cooled off. He's only averaged 8.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in his last five games, and his minutes have taken a hit as well. Jonas Valanciunas ($17) has seen a slight uptick in minutes the last couple games, but that doesn't seem to be the culprit. Either way, I'd steer clear of Ibaka until his situation becomes more favorable again.
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Joel Embiid, PHI vs. MIL ($49): This is a night where I'd take Embiid over Cousins in a heartbeat. The Bucks will be scrambling for output without Giannis, and Minnesota has no one to match up with Embiid. While he can be a bit volatile, I'm going to do all I can to fit him into most of my lineups.
Clint Capela, HOU vs. GS ($32): To get a piece of the action in this game at this position, Capela is really your only option as you can't depend on any Warrior to come through at the five. You'd have to go back to early December to see a truly terrible game from him, so his floor is extremely dependable. He represents a safe cash and tournament option if you've gone expensive in your backcourt.
Other centers to consider: Dwight Howard, CHA vs. MIA ($38), Jusuf Nurkic, POR vs. DAL ($28)
Center to Avoid:
John Henson, MIL at PHI ($16): There's simply no good way to say it – Henson comes out at the short end of the stick in this matchup against Embiid. He's also logged five consecutive games with less than 30 minutes on the floor, though he may be called upon a bit more on Saturday due to Giannis' absence. There are better ways to spend down on this slate. Don't pick this spot.