If you’re reading this, it’s February. As someone with a February birthday, I speak from experience when I say that this might be the most “meh” month on the calendar. It’s short. It’s cold. There’s just not a lot going on. Unless, you’re a fan of the NBA. Trade deadline? All-Star Break? Playoff positioning coming into focus? Sign me up.
So, let’s go position-by-position and get February started right, shall we?
Editor’s Note: Nets PG James Harden (hand) is probable for tonight’s game vs. the Suns.
Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets at Phoenix Suns, $9,600 - The biggest variable on this slate is the status of James Harden ($11,000; hand). The former MVP is questionable for Tuesday’s matchup with the Suns, which also happens to be the lone West Coast game on the seven-game slate. Fun! Anyway, if we get early news that Harden will be unavailable, Irving becomes one of the top plays of the evening. In the 167 possessions Irving has logged without Harden and Kevin Durant (knee) so far this season, the guard has registered a 35.0% usage rate. He’s also averaging 1.37 DKFP per minute. His ceiling is massive.
Spencer Dinwiddie, Washington Wizards at Milwaukee Bucks, $5,900 - With the news that Bradley Beal (wrist) will be unavailable for this contest, one would assume that Dinwiddie takes control of the Wizards’ offensive attack. The guard owns a respectable 25.0% usage rate with Beal off the court in 2021-22, a scenario where Dinwiddie is also producing 1.15 DKFP per minute. Heck, in the nine games Washington’s been without Beal this season, Dinwiddie’s averaging 45.5 DKFP. The four times Dinwiddie’s surpassed 50.0 DKFP as a Wizard? You better believe Beal’s been sidelined all four occasions.
Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons vs. New Orleans Pelicans, $8,100 - There might not be a higher-variance asset in the league than Cunningham. For instance, here are the rookie’s past six DKFP totals: 14.25, 49.5, 37.75, 69.0, 15.0 and 59.5. That’s quite the rollercoaster. Still, anyone with 60.0 DKFP upside has to be considered each and every time he takes the floor, especially when his opponent is the Pelicans on the second leg of a back-to-back. The fact Cunningham is averaging 36.9 minutes across his past five starts doesn’t hurt, either.
Gary Trent, Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat, $5,800 - At a certain point, you just sort of have to ride the wave. Like, Fred VanVleet ($8,700) and Pascal Siakam ($9,000), Trent has the advantage of logging insane minutes playing under Nick Nurse. To wit, by virtue of a three-OT marathon on Saturday, the guard is averaging over 42 minutes per contest in his last four starts. That volume isn’t likely to change on Tuesday, even on the second night of a back-to-back. I mean, Trent probably wants the run, as he’s never looked better. Trent’s exceeded 30 points in four straight and he’s taking 23.3 field goal attempts per game within the span. Green light, indeed.
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Editor’s Note: Pelicans SG/SF Josh Hart (knee) has been ruled out for tonight’s game vs. the Pistons.
Josh Hart, New Orleans Pelicans at Detroit Pistons, $6,800 - Hart’s truly become one of the most reliable options in the mid-tier. He’s always on the court — he’s logged at least 31.0 minutes in 22 consecutive appearances — and he’s currently in the midst of seven straight games with at least 30.0 DKFP. Maybe he lacks the elite ceiling of some more expensive assets at this position, but with Detroit surrendering 117.9 points per 100 possessions over its last 10, this is a good spot to utilize Hart’s elevated floor.
Deni Avdija, Washington Wizards at Milwaukee Bucks, $3,800 - It was Corey Kispert ($3,300) who drew the emergency start the last time Beal was out, but I think Avdija is the better player. The sophomore is generally a relatively low-usage asset; however, he has flashed some secondary playmaking tendencies the past few weeks, which Washington will need without Beal’s presence. Avdija will also have the advantage of an uptempo matchup, as the Bucks have the Eastern Conference’s fastest pace over their past 10 games.
Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat at Toronto Raptors, $9,200 - I’d expect that Butler is playing on Tuesday, and he’ll have fresh legs after sitting out the Heat’s loss to the Celtics on Monday due to a toe issue. Obviously the 80.75 DKFP Butler was able to produce the last time he saw Toronto was greatest assisted by 15 extra minutes of basketball; yet it’s worth noting that Butler’s produced a triple-double each of the two contests he’s played against the Raptors in 2021-22. He also registered a 27-point, 10-assist performance versus Toronto the lone time he faced it last season. Just eight rebounds, though. Slacker.
James Johnson, Brooklyn Nets at Phoenix Suns, $3,900 - Johnson’s viability doesn’t completely hinge on the status of Harden, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out you’d rather he not play beside two usage monsters. Either way, with LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) out and Day’Ron Sharpe ($4,200) bouncing in and out of the Nets’ rotation, Brooklyn is going to need Johnson’s size and strength. I should say, need it more than they already previously have, as Johnson’s averaged 29.5 minutes over the team’s past three contests.
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets at Minnesota Timberwolves, $12,500 - For the sake of argument, let’s assume Jokic is playing through his questionable tag. The big man is averaging an insane 1.87 DKFP per minute going back to Jan. 15. He’s a viable play any day against any opponent. Still, you have to really like how he potentially matches up against the Timberwolves. Across its past 10 games, Minnesota ranks 24th in defensive rating (116.0) and second in pace (101.8), meaning, if it’s possible, Jokic could be even more efficient than usual on Tuesday.
Thomas Bryant, Washington Wizards at Milwaukee Bucks, $3,500 - Though I would question the logic of benching Daniel Gafford ($3,000), it appears that the Wizards have simplified their center rotation in the immediate future, with Bryant now the starter. It hasn’t translated into much as of yet, but Bryant’s always posted gaudy per 36 statistics and I like his upside if he’s locked into around 25 minutes of action.
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