Daily Fantasy Basketball 2014: Best NBA FanDuel, Draft Kings Lineup for Nov. 21

Daily fantasy basketball is a crapshoot that I’ve found infuriating, cumbersome and at the same time all-consuming.

As someone who writes about sports for a living—and specifically the NBA—I should be good at this. Those happy suckers you see in commercials who became multimillionaires playing on FanDuel or Draft Kings? That should, in theory, be me. Or someone like me. 

Spoiler alert: It is not me. Like most of you fine folks, most nights pressing the “save lineup” button comes with a sense of satisfaction. I know tonight’s the night! Buy papa a brand new Range Rover! And by halftime of the 7 p.m. tips I’m already at the bargaining stage, hoping to finish near the edge of the money.

It’s a stressful couple hours that will likely wipe years off our lives. But..it’s fun in the moment! And with a full slate of NBA games on the docket, why not share my FanDuel and Draft Kings selections for you to see, assess and eventually mock when they all fall through?  

Point Guard

After getting off to a slowish start, Damian Lillard is being undervalued in daily leagues. The Blazers guard has had at least 24 points, seven assists and four rebounds in his last four games, adding two steals in three of those contests.

From a daily perspective, his recent resume is on par with Stephen Curry‘s with $1,300 less in costs. Point guards are so productive that they’re the one area above all you need top-tier performers. Curry is the ideal every-day start, but not when someone of near-equal value becomes available at a lesser salary.

Lillard is joined by Isaiah Thomas, about whom more anon. Let’s just say playing the Philadelphia 76ers isn’t such a terrible thing.

 

Shooting Guard

There isn’t much value to be had here. Kevin Martin ($6,600) has two straight 30-point games but does next to nothing in other categories and can’t be relied upon for ridiculous scoring bursts every time out. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Evan Fournier ($5,500) come with injury issues.

That leaves a relatively straightforward lineup here. Tyreke Evans has been abysmal shooting the ball, but he’s filling up the stat sheet everywhere else. The New Orleans Pelicans have him playing the pseudo point guard role he prefers, and he could put up a LeBron Lite 20-7-7 stat line if his scoring improves. New Orleans will be well-rested and head into the Pepsi Center to play a Denver team that’s just not very good.

Nick Young is another player you’ll hear more blathering about later—get used to this—but the same message applies. He’s scored 33 points in two games since returning from an injured hand and has shown no ill-effects shooting so far. Also, swag.

 

Small Forward

Before you ask: Nope, not drunk. Hear me out.

In four home games, Jeremy Lamb is averaging 15.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game while making half his shots. In four road games, Lamb is averaging 9.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while making barely more than a quarter of his shots. This is very likely small sample size theatre—Lamb’s home/road splits were negligible last season—but why not ride the hot trend until it burns you?

Shabazz Muhammad earned his first NBA start Wednesday against the New York Knicks and has scored 35 points in his last two games. Plus, he’s cheaper than dirt. Even if Muhammad ends up with around 20 FanDuel points, you can more than make up for that by adding superstar-level pieces elsewhere

 

Power Forward

Elsewhere as in power forward. Where Anthony Davis resides. Davis is a world-beating menace whose statistical prowess lacks proper context. Dude is just awesome at everything. His PER right now is 36.16. We can debate the merits of PER all we want, but that’s nearly eight points higher than anyone in basketball and would smash Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time record (31.82)

A regression is bound to be coming, simply because Davis isn’t about to have the greatest statistical season in modern NBA history at age 21. But he’s a monster. Find a way to finagle him on your roster and let everything else sort its way out.

Taj Gibson is a no-brainer of equal proportions assuming Pau Gasol continues to sit out. Tom Thibodeau has little time to worry about trivial matters like “minute counts” and “back-to-backs.” Gibson will play heavy minutes and be a double-double waiting to happen.

 

Center

Gorgui Dieng may be auditioning for the starting job over the next week. Nikola Pekovic’s wrist injury is scheduled to keep him out for at least the next week, putting the former Louisville star back in the forefront. As a rookie, Dieng averaged 12.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in 18 games (15 starts) where he received extended playing time with Pekovic out.

His first start against the Knicks Wednesday produced an across-the-board goldmine of eight points, seven rebounds, five steals, four assists and a block. The Spurs might be a little bit more of a challenge, but their front line is hurting with Tiago Splitter still on the shelf. Dieng is a good value play until the daily salary systems start catching up.

 

PG: Isaiah Thomas (Phoenix Suns)

Thomas is a high-variance player when it comes to daily leagues. Coming off the bench is a significant red flag for any starter, especially one with two talented point guards ahead of him in the hierarchy. Neither Eric Bledsoe nor Goran Dragic have been at the top of their games this season, but you’re hoping for a bang-for-the-minute performance every time Thomas steps on the floor.

The past two games have bit everyone in the behind parts. He has 10 total points on 2-of-17 shooting in Suns wins over the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics, offering little in the rebounding or assists categories while he was at it. What we’re banking on is a regression to the mean. Given that the Sixers are regression in the 15-man human form, Thomas should be in line for a turnaround.

 

SG: Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)

Thompson has been so good this season that there is a narrative running amok saying the Warriors were smart to pass on dealing the 2-guard for Kevin Love. That is ludicrous, but for our purposes it doesn’t matter. It’s merely instructive of how productive he’s been. Thompson is averaging 23.6 points, 3.3 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game, giving him a solid 37.1-point average in Draft Kings scoring.

The Warriors play a Utah team that ranks near the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency. Quin Snyder’s preferred slowish pace will make for an interesting contrast with Golden State, which averages the most possessions per game thus far. Odds are, the team with the better players and higher efficiency numbers will win out.

Thompson should be a solid non-Kobe choice.

 

SF: Jeff Green (Boston Celtics)

Another stylistic contrast—the Celtics rank third in pace and the Memphis Grizzlies in the bottom 10—shouldn’t matter to Green, who has been given free reign. His 19.0 points per game eclipse the career-high he set last season, with Green being one of the many beneficiaries of Rajon Rondo’s return to full health.

Memphis is good enough defensively that he probably won’t be a breakout player, but you never know with Green. His entire career has been defined by stepping up right at the moment people begin giving up. At the very least, his numbers indicate he’ll be a solid mid-tier option at $6,600.

 

PF: Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

You know why. Don’t even question it. Pick A.D. and stunt on them haters.

 

C: Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota Timberwolves)

(See: That stuff I wrote about Gorgui Dieng a few paragraphs up.)

 

G: Nick Young (Los Angeles Lakers)

Quote 1It’s all about my swag. That’s a part of my repertoire. I’m talking about how I just walk off. I leave a presence when I walk off. I’m like Michael Jackson, Prince, all them other guys.”

Quote 2“It’s like my swag just rubbed off on everybody. It was unbelievable.” 

Those are things Nick Young has told reporters since his return to the lineup. The Lakers, the abominable, listless Lakers, have also won both of those games. Coincidence? Of course not (probably). Keep calm and swag on by adding the (super-duper cheap) Swaggy P to your talent collection.

 

F: Shabazz Muhammad (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Like Dieng, Muhammad is the beneficiary of a depleted Timberwolves roster opening up playing time. Flip Saunders essentially started three wing players Wednesday night, with Muhammad acting as the nominal power forward. The arrangement didn’t go as poorly as it sounds on paper.

Muhammad had 17 points and eight rebounds, and the second-year forward has been a solid scorer all season in limited minutes. Assuming he’ll receive extended playing time again Friday, Muhammad should have the green light to keep chucking.

 

Util: Gerald Green (Phoenix Suns)

SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIXERS!

 

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Bucher Buzz: The Soaring Draft Stock of Emmanuel Mudiay

Emmanuel Mudiay may not be a household name yet, but this young prospect is making a name for himself overseas in the Chinese Basketball Association with the Guangdong Southern Tigers, instead of showcasing his skills on the NCAA court. Mudiay‘s play and stat lines are proof that he will be ready to make the NBA leap in time for the 2015 NBA draft. 

Is Mudiay‘s decision to go overseas a better option for his draft stock?

Watch Ric Bucher break down everything you need to know about Mudiay and what to expect from the recruit in the video above. 

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Los Angeles Lakers: 4 prospects to consider for next year’s draft

Now, I know some people might see the headline of this article and say, “Isn’t it a little early to be looking forward to next year’s draft?” While that might be so for some other teams, the Los Angeles Lakers don’t have a lot to look forward to this season and, knowing management, are more than likely already looking at possible moves to make next offseason. Once the likes of Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak will probably be more focused on courting 2015’s top free agents including LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol and, potentially, Kevin Love. However, the Lakers find themselves in an intriguing and precarious situation involving the 2015 NBA Draft.
Unless the Lakers’ draft  pick falls in the top five picks, the pick is owed to the Phoenix Suns as a result of the Steve Nash trade. However, if the Lakers’ pick lands in the top five, they have access to one of the more talented groups of top picks to come along in a while. The Lakers can go a lot of different ways as they have needs at al

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2015 NBA Mock Draft: Very Early Look at All 30 Projected 1st-Round Picks

With the college basketball season finally here and the NBA season a few weeks in, it’s officially that time. 

We went with the current NBA standings to determine the mock draft order, and we accounted for any previous trades that involved 2015 picks. 

At this stage, we’re looking at three guys right now as potential No. 1 picks. And based on these projections, we’ll be seeing a lot of one-and-done freshmen trying to capitalize in what appears to be a fairly average draft pool. 

We’ve also been keeping our eyes on some of the international talent. A few guys overseas will be getting serious lottery consideration. 

Begin Slideshow

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Who won the 2013 NBA Draft?

Even as somebody who doesn’t invest a lot of time in watching college and international basketball, I’ve heard a certain narrative percolating as far back as two years ago:
The 2013 NBA Draft was shaping up to be one of the worst drafts in recent memory, while the 2014 draft was looking like one of the best.
Although it’s perilously early to begin grading the 2014 draft class, the fact that so many of this year’s rookies are in the center of their team’s rotations says a lot in itself about their collective abundance of talent. For that matter, it’s pretty early to begin evaluating the 2013 draft class as well. Lottery picks like Otto Porter of the Washington Wizards, or Alex Len of the Phoenix Suns saw their rookie years basically flushed away due to injuries. Now that they are healthy, their positive production for contending teams this season is a reminder of how long it takes even the best prospects to acclimate to the professional game.
With that caveat, it seems that there …

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Ainge: Draft lottery reform would be ‘better for the game’

Danny Ainge says he support for NBA draft lottery reform was simple: He wants a league in which every team is trying to win. Making his regular appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich” on Thursday, the Boston Celtics’ president of basketball operations acknowledged he was definitely in the pro-reform camp. A proposal that would have lowered the worst team’s chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick in the draft to about 12 percent from the current 25 percent failed Wednesday. “I thought it just evened out the lottery,” Ainge said. “I thought it de-incentivized teams to just go to the bottom of the barrel to get the No. 1 pick. … We feel like it would be better for the league and better for everybody to just have the incentive to win. We thought it was just better for the game.” Ainge didn’t seem too broken up about the vote, which was 17-13 in favor of reform but fell short of the 23-vote threshold needed to pass. In the end, small-market teams that didn’t want to lose th

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NBA Board of Governors votes against NBA draft lottery reform

TweetPer a report from Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, a plan to reform the NBA’s current draft lottery system has been rejected:
The NBA Draft lottery reform has been voted down at Board of Governors meeting, league sources tell Yahoo Sports. System stays. — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) October 22, 2014
Thirteen teams voted against the reform, league sources tell Yahoo Sports. — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) October 22, 2014
Reforming the system would have given the league’s four-worst teams an equal 12% chance at winning the lottery, 5th worst would have an 11.5% chance, 6th a 10% chance, and down. The proposed change would have potentially created a scenario where tanking grants a team no greater chance at winning the lottery than three other teams, thus in theory creating a more competitive league. 23 out of 30 votes were needed to pass the reform proposal. The current system awards the team with the league’s worst record a 25% chance of winning the top overall pick, which can pr

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NBA Draft Lottery Reform Proposal Reportedly Voted Down, Format to Stay the Same

Changing the NBA draft lottery may ultimately be inevitable, but the league has reportedly decided against reform for the 2014-15 season.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Board of Governors voted down the proposal to change the lottery at its meeting Wednesday:

Grantland’s Zach Lowe initially reported in July that the NBA would look into lottery reform to prevent teams from tanking to get better draft picks.

Lowe also tweeted about some of the tweaks included in the proposal that came before the Board of Governors:

Per Wojnarowski, one owner revealed that the league would continue to explore potential lottery changes even though this particular proposal was rejected:

While many seemed open to changing the lottery, ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst reported in July that the Philadelphia 76ers were vehemently against any alterations.

Even so, the vote was still expected to pass with Lowe even suggesting the the Sixers would be the only opponent:

As it turns out, many of the league’s owners weren’t yet ready to make such a sweeping change. With that said, others were very much looking forward to a new system, as evidenced by this tweet courtesy of Wojnarowski (language NSFW):

There is no question that the current lottery system is better for lowly, struggling teams since the organizations with the worst records have a significantly better shot at top picks.

Despite that, Wojnarowski reports that the voting didn’t necessarily jibe with public perception about which franchises would support a new system:

Lottery reform will continue to be a hot-button issue moving forward. Although those who voted against the new proposal likely have different reasons, the fact that the league tried to push changes through so quickly may have been a major sticking point.

Perhaps organizations will be more supportive of a subsequent proposal with more time to consider its implications, but there is no question that lottery reform talk is far from over.

 

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Karl Towns vs. Jahlil Okafor: Who’s Favorite for No. 1 Pick in 2015 Draft?

Two of the No. 1 overall candidates for the 2015 NBA draft happen to be big fellas this year. Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Kentucky’s Karl Towns, each of whom fit the profile of your traditional one-and-done freshman, should quickly find themselves in the top-prospect debate once the season gets underway. 

And with Okafor and Towns, we’re not quite talking about a couple of raw, unpolished centers whose appeal is tied strictly to potential. These guys are skilled offensive players expected to make immediate impacts.

Only their skill sets and strengths differ greatly despite both players sharing the same position. 

NBA general managers and scouts must ultimately weigh the pros and cons of one-dimensional dominance, which is offered by Okafor, versus unique versatility, something Towns brings to the table. 

Chances are it’s Okafor who fills up the box scores with bigger numbers in 2014-15. As Duke’s clear-cut first offensive option, he should be looking at a much bigger usage rate than Towns, who’ll be playing in what could be the deepest, most competitive rotation—particularly in the frontcourt—college basketball has ever seen.

For what it’s worth, in Kentucky’s summer trip to the Bahamas where it faced off against a number of quality international opponents, Towns played just 19.7 minutes per game.

We’re more likely to see his upside flashed in doses, whereas Okafor will remain a featured scorer from opening night, much like Jabari Parker was for Duke in 2013-14. 

Physically, both big men have some exceptionally appealing tools that help fuel their short- and long-term outlooks. 

Between his 272-pound body, quick feet and soft hands, Okafor is going to get himself a whole lot of easy buckets this season. I’d like to think he’ll end up rolling out of bed with a double-double every game-day morning. 

But what ultimately separates Okafor is his ability to pose as a high-percentage option in the half court, where he can score one-on-one against a set defense. That’s his most glowing attribute—the one that defines him as a prospect and drives his NBA upside. 

He blends strength, length and mobility with footwork and touch—an awfully effective combination for working in the post.

From spins and drop steps, to jab steps and jump hooks, Okafor has moves to go to and others to counter with, whether his back is to the basket or he’s facing up from the elbow.

 Via Bleacher Report

His feel for the game is also top-shelf. A bright kid on and off the floor, Okafor has the ability to sense weakness and subsequently pounce. 

Okafor’s competitive edge and confidence were noteworthy during his conversation with CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish, when he talked about his mentality heading into the season: 

When I step on the court, it really doesn’t matter if I’m a freshman or a senior. It’s basketball, and I’ve been playing basketball my entire life. So I feel extremely confident about going out there and playing against anybody and feeling unstoppable and being just as dominant as I have been in my previous years of playing basketball. So somebody saying I can’t [be National Player of the Year] because I’m a freshman is kinda ludicrous to me.

Although he’s shown flashes of major improvement over the past year, Towns isn’t where Okafor is in terms of post offense.

At this point, Towns is still looking to improve his fluidity and delivery. He’s getting better—Towns can’t quite dominate in the paint the way Okafor can, but his jump hook has become a weapon, as have his feet. In the Bahamas, Towns was able to shake free for a couple of pretty buckets.

Still, Okafor’s presence is ultimately felt much more on the interior. 

And that’s primarily based off two factors, with the first being that he’s overwhelmingly strong. Thanks to over 20 extra pounds of mass, take a look at how easily Okafor moves Towns under the boards:

It’s not necessarily a knock on Towns, who happens to be a solid rebounder. It’s just that Okafor possesses such rare size and strength. 

The other reason why Towns hasn’t been as dominant inside is that his skill set takes him out to the perimeter. Unlike Okafor, Towns spends a portion of his possessions facing the hoop from 15-20-plus feet out.

For a near 7-footer, he operates with unusual comfort away from the basket. It can work for or against him, as it obviously expands his on-floor services, but it’s also led to Towns drifting or standing around outside.

His comfort level on the perimeter is somewhat related to a confident shooting stroke. While he only made one three-pointer in six games during Kentucky’s Bahamas trip, he attempted nine of them, appearing to have the green light from coach John Calipari.

And though it might be a while before he emerges as a “legit three-point shooter,” which is how Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal recently labeled him, his jumper plays to his attractive versatility. 

So do his ball-handling skills and passing instincts. Don’t be surprised to see Kentucky run some plays through Towns at the high post, where he can either facilitate and dish or put the ball on the floor and attack. 

If we’re talking textbook upside here, you could argue that Towns’ ceiling is actually a bit higher than Okafor’s, given the mismatch potential that’s tied to a center who can score inside and out, as well as rebound, pass and defend his position.

And though Towns doesn’t project as you’re prototypical rim protector (he finished the Bahamas trip with five blocks in six games), his size and length still hold defensive value, even if his awareness isn’t quite up to par.

Okafor projects similarly at the defensive end. He’s not the same natural shot-blocker that Joel Embiid or Nerlens Noel was the last two years, but his mobility and crazy wingspan still result in interior disruption. 

At this early stage in their development, the main thing separating both prospects is their identities. Okafor’s identity is built around his post play, physical presence and phenomenal basketball IQ. 

As of October 2014, we’re not quite sure what Towns’ identity is. And that’s fine, considering he hasn’t played a college game yet.

But that’s why we can’t consider him a favorite for the No. 1 pick. Prior to his first college game, there isn’t enough clarity with regard to Towns’ future role and bread-and-butter. 

With Okafor, NBA evaluators know exactly what they’re looking at—a guy who can take over games from 12-15 feet from the rim. And given his standout physical tools, sharp skills and valuable intangibles, he offers very little risk as a prospect. 

I thought ESPN recruiting analyst Adam Finkelstein said it best (subscription required) following this year’s showcase period featuring the McDonald’s All-American game, the Nike Hoop Summit and the Jordan Brand Classic:

“From an NBA perspective, he’s starting to look more and more like a ‘safe pick’ in that you pretty much know what you’re going to get, even if his ultimate upside may not be quite as high as top-ranked prospects in other classes.”

Of course, safe doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with a No. 1 pick. Jabari Parker, who went No. 2 last June, was regarded as the safer pick over Andrew Wiggins, who went first.

But there isn’t a Wiggins in this year’s field. In the 2015 draft, which is expected to be a whole lot weaker from top to bottom, safe might actually go a long way. 

Then again, if Towns comes out nailing threes, lighting up the post and dishing out dimes on a regular basis, NBA evaluators might be inclined to chase the upside he presents—especially if Okafor isn’t overly compelling or he struggles with inconsistency. 

But until we see Towns’ versatility really come to life—unless he convinces us his post game is go-to material, his jumper is for real and his passing skills have meaning—it’s just too tough to proclaim him the superior prospect when Okafor offers as much certainty as he does. 

That could all change in the near future—last year, it only took around two months for Embiid to seemingly overtake Wiggins and Parker as the consensus top prospect before injuries put a cloud over his outlook. 

And if anyone in Division I is going to make the same move up the boards as Embiid did last year, it’s Towns, who’s got the potential to cover more two-way ground than any prospect in the country. 

Don’t forget—both Towns and Okafor might also be competing with point guard Emmanuel Mudiay for draft position.

Mudiay, another highly touted prospect expected to declare, is spending the year in China, and despite the country’s poor reputation for developing players and the difficulty that comes with evaluating teenagers at the international level, his monster ceiling remains a threat to everyone in June’s projected field. 

Regardless, Okafor’s sure-thing image should hold strong heading into the season with Towns and Mudiay having more to prove. He’s not cemented in as the 2015 No. 1 overall pick, but Okafor will no doubt start the year atop our NBA prospect pyramid. 

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NBA scout weighs in on every UK draft prospect

The big men turned heads as Kentucky had its mini NBA combine, a three-day event.

      
 

 

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