Tuesday’s five-game slate represents the proverbial calm before the storm, as we’ll have a mammoth pre-All-Star ledger Wednesday before the break. In the meantime, despite the limited number of games, there’s a pair of marquee matchups in Thunder-Cavs and Timberwolves-Rockets, and plenty to monitor on the injury front with Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony both listed as questionable with ankle injuries. With several high-priced options and a solid number of mid-tier and value plays, let’s get right to the business of breaking down some appealing choices at each spot:
James Harden, HOU at MIN ($20,300): The Rockets-Timberwolves tilt is currently projected as the highest scoring of the night. Given both teams’ offensive firepower, that’s a likely accurate designation. That puts several of the key pieces from both teams in play, beginning with Harden, who’s scored 48.50 to 63.50 fantasy points in the last four games and over 50 in another four instances over the last 10. Moreover, Harden exploded for 102.00 fantasy points against the Magic on Jan. 30., substantiating that his ceiling is virtually limitless. Meanwhile, the T-Wolves have been increasingly vulnerable to two-guards despite the presence of Jimmy Butler, as they’ve allowed 48.1 fantasy points to the position over the last 10 -- including 53.8 over the last five – with both numbers representing significant increases over the 40.2 they’ve yielded the position on the season. They’re also allowing the third-most made threes (3.4) to twos, as well as the sixth-highest percentage of scoring from three-pointers (33.3) over the last three contests -- numbers that particularly spell trouble against Harden.
Eric Bledsoe, MIL vs. ATL ($14,900): Bledsoe’s teammate Khris Middleton ($14,400), Dennis Smith, Jr. ($13,500) and De’Aaron Fox ($12,800) are also all viable for those who need some savings, but despite a recent rise in price, Bledsoe has still outpaced his current cost in each of the past four games. The veteran has scored 35.25 to 44.00 fantasy points in those contests, eclipsing the 40-mark in three of them overall while shooting a blistering 58.9 percent (33-for-56). He’ll draw a matchup conducive for more of the same Tuesday, considering the Hawks have allowed 39.1 fantasy points per contest to point guards on the season, including 43.1 over the last 10. They’re also yielding the third-most threes (3.0) and fourth-highest shooting percentage (46.0) to the position over the latter span -- as well as the fifth-highest percentage of scoring from three-pointers (31.5) as a team on the season -- while Bledsoe has impressively drained 46.2 percent of his attempts from behind the arc in the last three.
Alex Abrines, OKC vs. CLE ($7,400): Abrines was the latest candidate to audition for the starting two-guard role in the wake of Andre Roberson’s season-ending knee injury, and based on the results, he’s likely in line for a multi-game stretch with the first unit at a minimum. Abrines compiled 27.00 fantasy points on Sunday against the Grizzlies, and the schedule makers afford him a juicier matchup Tuesday. The Cavaliers have been vulnerable to shooting guards all season, and the 51.3 fantasy points they’ve allowed to the position over the last five is a notable increase from the already-bloated 42.1 they’ve yielded on the campaign. They’ve also surrendered 3.6 made three-pointers to the position over the latter span and the second-highest percentage of scoring from threes (32.3) as a team on the season. Those two numbers that could spell trouble for the Cavaliers going up against Abrines, who’s drained 40.0 percent of the 6.7 three-point attempts he’s taken in the last three contests.
Jimmy Butler, MIN vs. HOU ($17,400): Butler is another key asset to hone in on in the marquee Rockets-Timberwolves tilt, especially considering he should see plenty of James Harden’s spotty defense. Butler had scored over 40 fantasy points thrice, over 50 twice and over 60 in another instance in the seven games prior to generating a “modest” 31.75 fantasy points versus the Kings on Sunday. However, it should be noted that Jimmy Buckets took an atypically low nine shot attempts in that game (and drained 55.5 percent of them) and that he’d put up over 20 apiece in the three prior contests. Given what should be a high-scoring, competitive affair for all four quarters Tuesday, Butler should be similarly involved, leaving him poised to return strong value despite his elevated price.
Dwight Powell, DAL vs. SAC ($10,900): Powell’s recent surge includes fantasy-point tallies of 27.50 to 35.50 over the last five games -- a stretch during which he’s averaging 1.43 points per possession and 1.10 fantasy points per minute. The emerging big is encouragingly averaging 9.0 shot attempts over that span -- 11.0 over the last three in particular -- and he’ll draw a tantalizing matchup Tuesday against a Kings frontcourt that’s been unable to slow either power forwards or centers throughout the season. Sacramento is allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to fours (39.9) and to fives (34.4) on the campaign -- the two positions that Powell will potentially be deployed in. He also posted 31.25 fantasy points against this same Kings squad in his last meeting against them Feb. 3, furthering his case at what remains a reasonable price.
Davis Bertans, SA at DEN ($9,300): For those who have a few hundred extra, the Cavs’ Cedi Osman ($9,800), who’s scored 37.00 and 21.75 fantasy points in the last two games and will draw a third straight start Tuesday, is also worthy of consideration. Meanwhile, Bertans should be in the first unit as well in place of LaMarcus Aldridge (knee), who’s already ruled out through the All-Star break. Bertans racked up 26.0 fantasy points in his Monday start against the Jazz, and he’d been over 20 fantasy points in the prior pair of contests as well. The Nuggets have been tougher against power forwards in recent contests, but they’re still allowing the 10th-most fantasy points (38.5) to fours on the campaign. Those numbers are partly comprised of having surrendered the fourth-most made three-pointers (1.6) and fourth-highest shooting percentage (47.0), while the floor-spacing Bertans has taken 4.0 three-point attempts per contest over the last three.
Chris Paul, HOU at MIN ($16,800): Paul has scored 45.75 to 55.00 fantasy points in four of his last five contests, a stretch during which he’s sporting a 25.4 percent usage rate while averaging 1.42 points per possession and 1.46 fantasy points per minute. The Timberwolves have also allowed the ninth-most assists (7.2) and the highest shooting percentage (45.0) to point guards on the season, and Paul lit them up for 47.00 fantasy points in his one prior meeting against them on Jan. 18. In what should be fast-paced, competitive matchup, Paul should be able to generate a similar caliber of production, which would represent a solid return on his current price.
Nikola Jokic, DEN vs. SA ($16,000): Jokic has averaged 18.0 points (on 58.3 percent shooting), 8.0 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 1.0 steal across 32.5 minutes in two prior meetings against the Spurs this season, while the 39.4 fantasy points per contest that San Antonio has allowed to centers over the last five represents a significant increase over the 31.6 they’ve yielded to the position on the campaign. Jokic has enjoyed a breakout season overall, but he’s taken it to another level over the last month, a span that encompasses his last 14 games. He’s scored 40.75 to 75.25 fantasy points in 11 of those contests -- and no fewer than 31.75 in the other three – while generating a 26.8 percent usage rate and averaging 1.45 fantasy points per minute.