While nothing is even close to finalized in this crazy truncated season, the middle of the Eastern Conference in a mess heading into Thursday’s five-game slate. Heck, only four teams in the East even have a winning record a third of the way through the schedule, and two of those squads — Brooklyn and Boston — aren’t exactly on fire as of late.
I bring this up because this evening is relatively Eastern Conference heavy, with the likes of the Raptors, the Celtics, the Pacers, the Heat and the 76ers all in action. Could we start seeing some positive momentum out of this group? Let’s break down everything you need to know position-by-position.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors at Boston Celtics, $7,300 - It can be frustrating targeting “expensive” Raptors assets, as the team has a very balanced offensive attack, yet this seems like too low a price for Lowry. Not counting Monday’s game against the Grizzlies — a contest where the All-Star exited early due to back spasms — Lowry’s scored at least 40.0 DKFP in four of his past five starts, including a pair of 50.0 DKFP efforts versus the Nets and the Magic last week. It’s not the best matchup on the slate, but how often can you get someone who ranks inside the top 20 in touches (83.1) and minutes (34.8) per game this close to $7K?
Frank Mason III, Orlando Magic at Golden State Warriors, $4,000 - Orlando had to sign Mason last week out of sheer desperation and things haven’t exactly gotten better since the deal was signed. In fact, coming into Thursday’s tilt with the Warriors, the Magic will definitely be without Aaron Gordon (ankle) and Markelle Fultz (knee), while Michael Carter-Williams ($4,300; foot), Cole Anthony ($5,400; shoulder) and Evan Fournier ($6,100; back) are all questionable to play. If either of the two guards sit, Mason could be looking at upwards of 30 minutes, following him logging 33 minutes Tuesday against Portland. Mason registered 11 points and 24.75 DKFP in that loss.
Gary Trent, Portland Trail Blazers vs. Philadelphia 76ers, $6,000 - Since the loss of C.J. McCollum (foot), Trent has become a vital part of the Blazers’ rotation. In fact, going back across the team’s past eight games, it’s actually Trent that leads Portland in average minutes played (36.4), not Damian Lillard ($9,800). The guard is also producing 19.4 points per contest within this span, all while scoring at least 28.0 DKFP seven times. Considering the top-end of the shooting guard position is a little light on Thursday, I don’t mind attacking the mid-tier with Trent.
Dwayne Bacon, Orlando Magic at Golden State Warriors, $4,400 - Almost everything I just said about Mason can be applied to Bacon. Essentially, there’s a chance that any Magic guard healthy enough to dress on Thursday will have to log nearly 35 minutes. Bacon has been starting for the injured Fournier as of late and, dating back to Jan. 22, the 25-year-old is averaging a respectable 0.91 DKFP per minute with a 22.5% usage rate. Orlando is going to be where you’re able to find serious value on this slate, so don’t be afraid to double-dip.
Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat at Houston Rockets, $8,400 - It’s kind of incredible that’s Butler’s been stuck at this price for the last 10 days. It’s also kind of incredible that Butler hasn’t managed to produce a triple-double since returning from the league’s health protocols. Seriously, talk about a flirt. In the six games he’s played following his activation, Butler’s averaged 21.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 48.4 DKFP. In his last two starts specifically, the All-Star’s missed out on a triple-double by one assist then two rebounds, respectively. Will he finally accomplish the feat on Thursday? Maybe. Yet he’s fantasy viable either way.
DeAndre’ Bembry, Toronto Raptors at Boston Celtics, $3,200 - Obviously Bembry doesn’t possess an incredibly high ceiling, yet the former first-round pick has suddenly found himself a huge part of Nick Nurse’s rotation. To wit, Bembry’s averaged just over 21 minutes per contest in his last seven appearances, a stretch where the wing has produced 17.5 DKFP a night. Again, it’s nothing crazy, but Bembry’s been consistently reaching 5x value, and I doubt his role shrinks on the second night of a back-to-back. That is, unless we see the return of OG Anunoby ($6,600; calf).
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors, $8,900 - I really think this matchup has the potential to be super high scoring. For one thing, each of the past seven Raptors games has hit the over, thanks in part to Toronto surrendering more than 116.0 points per 100 possessions to its opponents within that span. For their part, the Celtics have also been hemorrhaging points lately, so this one should have some fireworks. Anyway, even with Jaylen Brown ($7,700) back in the mix, this all bodes well for Tatum, who is averaging 1.27 DKFP per minute in 2020-21 and who dropped 40 points on the Raptors back on Jan. 4.
Juan Toscano-Anderson, Golden State Warriors vs. Orlando Magic, $5,100 - I’ll be completely honest: I’m incredibly underwhelmed by almost every power forward eligible player on this slate below $6K. I’m really going to be looking to pay up at this position, but if you truly need to save some dough, Toscano-Anderson continues to be solid as a starter for the Warriors. He’s logged at least 25 minutes in five-straight contests and he’s averaged 27.1 DKFP within this span. Daniel Theis ($4,900) is another asset that fills this “high-floor” archetype.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers at Portland Trail Blazers, $10,800 - We saw this exact same matchup last Thursday and the Blazers had no answer for Embiid, who was able to leave with an injury in the first quarter, yet still return and score 37 points. Uncharacteristically, Embiid was only able to grab five rebounds in that surprising loss, yet I’d be willing to wager that that was an outlier performance on the glass. In any event, Embiid’s averaging a robust 1.60 DKFP per minute so far this season and Enes Kanter ($7,000) has no hope of slowing him down.
Mason Plumlee, Detroit Pistons vs. Indiana Pacers, $6,100 - Not only does Plumlee have five double-doubles in his past eight contests, but he’s also dished out an impressive 13 assists in his last two starts specifically. Maybe that element of his game won’t continue into Thursday’s matchup with the Pacers, but considering how big Indiana likes to play, Plumlee should shoulder a large workload if he can stay out of foul trouble. For an asset averaging 1.02 DKFP per minute on the season, that’s an intriguing script.
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