The NBA tankathon is here, and motives change everything this time of the year. No fewer than nine teams are outright tanking, and seven of them play Friday night. That leaves advantages to be played in the margins, both by using players from good teams against squads that want to lose and by utilizing low-cost budget players with an unusual minutes boost thanks to a tanking effort. All that budget lets us grab a few stars at the top.
PG Russell Westbrook OKC $11.8K vs Phoenix
The reigning MVP and triple-double machine against the worst defense in the league? Please and thank you. Westbrook averages 35 points, 12 boards, and 12 dimes in his last five times out against the Suns. That includes two games with 48+ points, one with 22 assists, and three triple-doubles. The Thunder have faded over the past few weeks, and Friday feels like a good time for Westbrook to go out and win one all on his own. Fifty fantasy points would be a disappointment.
C Andre Drummond DET $9.9K vs Orlando
Drummond has at least 14 rebounds in each of his last 13 games, and he’s averaging a silly 17/8/2/2/2 line during that stretch. He’s flourished next to Blake Griffin and should have his way with Orlando’s mess at center. He’s become a consistent fantasy stud and continues to be overpriced because of his lack of scoring, but his rebounds and defensive points will do the job just fine.
SG/SF Will Barton DEN $7.2K vs Memphis
Barton is one of two Nuggets in our lineup tonight in a game they have to have against a team that’s missing half their lineup and gone into the tank. Only one team will be trying here, and Will Barton is all about effort. He’s had at least 38 fantasy points in five of his last six outings, and he’s paired up at least five assists with at least five rebounds in each of those big games. Barton fills up the box score, and he should be all over the place against a Grizzlies squad that wants to be elsewhere.
PG Ricky Rubio UTA $5.2K vs Minnesota
Minnesota is in a tough spot after a tough loss late Thursday night and a quick turnaround on the road in the tough Utah elevation. And you can bet Ricky Rubio would love to take advantage of it. Rubio has slowed down since a fiery start to February, but he’ll be on the attack against his former team. He had 19 points, 5 boards, and 10 assists against the Wolves in their first matchup, and he could match those numbers against Jeff Teague.
PF/C Paul Millsap DEN $5.2K vs Memphis
Is Paul Millsap really back? We only have one game of data, but we’re going to take a shot. Millsap played 23 minutes in his first game in three months and did what Millsap does, posting a tidy 9/7/2/2/1 line that filled up the box score. Memphis has struggled against opposing fours all year, and they’re missing so many guys we’ll have to hope Millsap racks up some points before this one gets out of hand.
PG Dwight Buycks DET $3.6K vs Orlando
Reggie Jackson isn’t quite ready to go yet, and Buycks has suddenly found himself getting quality playing time and making it worthwhile. He’s averaging 21 minutes the last two games and has 12 points and 4 assists in each of those for over 25 fantasy points each time out. Orlando has been one of the worst in the league against opposing point guards, so Buycks looks like a great bargain play at under $4K.
SF/PF Troy Williams NYK $3.2K vs Los Angeles Clippers
The Knicks are in the tank, so it’s probably not coincidental that newly-signed Troy Williams is playing minutes. Williams has played 27 minutes the last two games and has scored 35.75 fantasy points in that time. He’s displayed quick hands and a good rebounding rate, and playing time is everything. Playing a tired Clippers team doesn’t hurt either.
PF Nerlens Noel DAL $3.0K vs Chicago
Noel played for the first time in over three months on Wednesday and actually got 16 minutes of run, posting a 4/3/1/1/1 line. That’s not much. But neither is the Bulls collection of centers, and this is a tank-off game where both teams badly need a loss. This is a shot in the dark play at a minimum-price player who should see 15-20 minutes against a bad defense and a guy playing for a contract and maybe for his career. Could Noel grab you 20 fantasy points for the minimum?