Mike Gallagher

NBA Matchups

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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacers (both front end)

Team Totals: Cavs 97.3, Pacers 109.3

So the Cavs have some major issues with their starters. The lineup of Collin Sexton, Alec Burks, Rodney Hood, Cedi Osman and Channing Frye has a -52.8 net rating in 20 minutes this season, so coach Larry Drew finally ditched that for a lineup with Ante Zizic against the 76ers on Sunday. They were blown out 128-105 at home, but hey at least the starters had a +18.2 net rating in the six minutes on Sunday -- it was so low because Hood had two fouls in the first two minutes and Larry Nance came in for Zizic in the middle of the third. After the game, Drew said he needs his starters to be “more sound” defensively and that he has to get “more aggression” out of the first unit. Drew had also talked about how he liked Jordan Clarkson and Burks together, and that the Cavs “definitely want to get back to that eventually.” Channing Frye has a team-worst -25.3 net rating, so you would think he’s donezo and that should put Zizic in the lineup to start this one. Zizic has been a solid per-minute guy this season at 14 and 11 per 36 this season, so he could be a viable DFS punt play, especially if he gets garbage minutes or if Nance gets in foul trouble.

Speaking of Nance, he’s been coasting in the three games since Tristan Thompson went down with averages of 8.0 points, 8.3 boards, 6.3 dimes, 2.3 steals, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 treys in 31.9 minutes per game. He’s also led the team in passes made over the last three with his team-high 6.3 dimes, and that could continue with most of the Cavs ball-handlers having subpar passing skills.

Jordan Clarkson has played 31.5 minutes per game since Thompson went down and he ranks in the top 25 for drives per game, averaging 23.0 points, 5.3 boards, 3.3 dimes, 0.7 steals and 2.0 treys. Clarkson has been playing with a bad back lately and said he shouldn’t have played on Dec. 10, but Clarkson likely wouldn’t hit around 33 minutes in each of the last three. He only played five minutes in the fourth on Sunday after playing 12 in the two previous fourths.

Collin Sexton’s numbers were also better with Thompson, scoring more per minute with a 1.6 usage rate boost. The worse news for Sexton has been the arrival of Matthew Dellavedova has been part of the reason Sexton’s minutes have dropped to 27.7 per game over the last three Thompson-less games. He also didn’t fare well in 23 minutes against the Pacers on Oct. 27 with 12 points and four dimes in a 12-point loss.

The Cavs are also banged up and have to play guys out of position, and coach Drew talked about it after the Sunday loss. “I really want to get back to the way it was,” Drew said. “We can’t do that until physically we are ready to move forward with a couple of guys getting back.” David Nwaba still had a minutes limit coming into tonight’s game, and Drew would probably want to start him to shift Osman to his more natural three spot and slide Burks back to the bench.

Coach Drew also hasn’t gone with a full garbage lineup lately and he didn’t totally pull guys in the fourth on Sunday despite the 128-105 loss. That could make it dicey to go after Jaron Blossomgame or Matthew Dellavedova -- Sexton played in garbage time on Sunday. Rodney Hood has been much better at home, and his FG% has dropped in each month this season. He’s also been great in wins and not good in losses, so it may not be a Hoodie night despite the colder weather


The Pacers continue to hold up in tempo lately as the 14th-fastest offense in the last 16 games while the Cavs have been dead last in time per possession. On the other hand, the Cavs have allowed the fourth-fastest possessions while the Pacers are 15th in this stretch. The Cavs are also dead last by far in defensive rating at 119.1 (Clippers are 29th at 115.9) while the Pacers are first in the NBA in that span. Beware of the blowout here.

Victor Oladipo looks to be back. After a 29-minute return on Wednesday, he said he still didn’t have his wind and legs back yet, and he’s seen his minutes increase to 31 on Friday and 36 on Sunday. Although, his usage rate never topped 25.0 in any of these December games three games after averaging a 30+ usage rate in October and November. Oladipo has still been running the offense as he gets back into shape and his passes received over these three games are up from before his injury. After his Sunday win, Dipo said he was just picking my spots and being smart out there" on the offensive side. Oladipo had his third-most efficient game of the season against the Cavs earlier this year with the Cavs using Cedi Osman, George Hill and Rodney Hood as the main defenders on him, but this time they’ll likely have to use Hood or Burks to put Dipo in a favorable spot (assuming no lineup changes). Now that he’s back, he could be ready for an even bigger night than his Sunday line of 26 points, eight boards, seven dimes, five steals and five 3-pointers.

Myles Turner has caught fire in three of his last four games with a free pass on the bad game because he went up against Joel Embiid. In the last three non-Process games, Turner averaged 24.3 points, 8.3 boards, 2.0 dimes, 3.3 blocks 0.3 steals and 2.3 treys on a 59.9 TS% and a 26.8 usage rate. In the last five games since Domantas Sabonis returned, Turner has played 6.3 minutes per game next to Sabonis, and surprisingly he’s scored more per minute next to Sabonis over those five with a speedy 108.3 pace. Before that, Turner scored 5.1 fewer points per 36 with Sabonis next to him compared to without him. Turner has also been much better by himself over those five with a +12.1 net rating, and he has a positive net rating in every game this month excluding the Embiid game. Obviously the main reason why Turner has picked it up is his 4.4 usage rate and 3.5 TS% boosts in December compared to November. He also has a  higher usage rate next to Oladipo this season than without him (21.0 with, 20.2 without), so that's not it either. There’s not much data on Ante Zizic, but Turner should crush as the Pacers continue to pick up the pace.

Thaddeus Young is your reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, and it’s not based off his stat sheet with averages of 18.8 points, 9.8 boards, 3.8 dimes, 1.8 steals 0.8 blocks and 0.8 treys on a 62.6 TS% and an 18.7 usage rate. However, Thad was awesome on defense this week. Based on the matchup data, he limited Giannis Antetokounmpo to just 10 points on 53 possessions, Noah Vonleh to five points on 50 possessions, Jeff Green to five points on 46 possessions and Ben Simmons to six points on 36 possessions. As great as he's been, it's more reality over fantasy for Thad.

Darren Collison has seen a major drop in dimes with Oladipo back, and on the year his dimes drop 3.4 per 36 with Oladipo compared to without him. He also shoots the ball worse, doesn’t rebound much, and he even has worse steals numbers with Oladipo. He was in foul trouble on Sunday and couldn’t even get it going with Tyreke Evans out, but he’s not a guy most fantasy players should have confidence in these days. Bojan Bogdanovic also is worse with Dipo with a 4.1 usage rate decrease and basically a dip in the rest of the offensive categories.

If Tyreke Evans can’t go, that should set up Sabonis to feast in the second unit. In his 223 minutes without Dipo and Evans, Sabonis has per-36 stats of 19.9 points, 14.7 boards, 5.8 dimes, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks. Plus, his efficiency is considerably down, so that should be offset against the Cavs defense. Plus, no player has allowed more points per game to Sabonis this season than the 11 Nance gave up to him in 35 possessions. Just because Myles is going off, Sabonis could still be a fantasy stud even in 22-24 minutes. Cory Joseph also played 30 minutes without Evans in the lineup and Aaron Holiday got in the mix, but it’ll be tough to count on those guys unless you’re banking on garbage time.

Prediction: Pacers 115, Cavs 99

Washington Wizards (front end) at Atlanta Hawks

Team Totals: Wizards 119.8, Hawks 116.8

The Wizards made some changes this season with the departures of Austin Rivers and Kelly Oubre, the return of Trevor Ariza, and Otto Porter expected to miss at least one week with a Grade 2 strain of his right vastus medialis. Trying to figure out what the Wizards are doing is a column for another day, but Ariza will get the start tonight. Ariza had his best year from deep in 2013-14 with a career-high 40.7% from deep for his career-high 59.0 TS%. Part of that was because John Wall kicked out to him so much to get him open, so presumably that’s what the Wizards had in mind when they added him. Although, he’s now 33 years old and is having his worst efficiency in a season since 2012-13 with his worst FG% of his career. Coach Scott Brooks (not Dillon or MarShon) also said the Wizards “need more guys who play hard” after a win on Sunday. Ariza in the first unit should bump Jeff Green back to the bench. The Wizards have been using Green and/or Oubre in their 11 most-used lineups with that duo playing 37 minutes together (-5.7 net rating) in that span.

The Austin Rivers loss is an interesting one. In the last three games, Bradley Beal has only played four minutes without Rivers or John Wall with Tomas Satoransky getting four minutes, as well. Sato was also on the floor during all of the Wall-less lineups on Sunday with Rivers out of the mix, so Satoransky should continue to lock down all of the backup PG minutes now, and Satoransky also played next to Wall for a team-high 39.7 minutes on Sunday. Satoransky also played a team-high 46 minutes, and played at three positions. He won’t play 46 minutes today, but he should be close to 30 in a very favorable matchup.

Speaking of the matchup, the Hawks allow the second-fastest possessions this season and are running their O in the top three. The Wizards also rank eighth on offense and 13th on defensive time per possession. In the last game the Wizards didn’t have Wall, Trae Young guarded Austin Rivers for a season-high 46 possessions, and Young has been on the top PGs in most matchups with an exception being Kyrie Irving. Last year under coach Mike Budenholzer, it was Dennis Schroder guarding Wall, and coach Lloyd Pierce’s 2017-18 76ers put small guys on Wall for the most part last season. Obviously Wall is in a great spot to build off his 40-point, 14-dime Sunday. Bradley Beal also roasted the Hawks in the last Wall-less game with 36 points and nine dimes, so both guys could smash on the road. For what it’s worth, Porter, Oubre and Rivers used over 50 possessions in that game, so Beal should still have plenty of shots up for grabs. Thomas Bryant should see decent minutes with Markieff Morris dealing with a neck injury -- Morris should play. With Ariza back, that should take guys like Sam Dekker and Troy Brown Jr. off the board, and of course Jeff Green should take a hit.

The Hawks are bad and just gave up 144 points to the Nets for BK’s new franchise record for points in a regulation game, and have allowed a whopping 124.0 points per game over their last seven. One bright spot has been John Collins has been on a tear this month, averaging 23.3 points, 12.7 boards, 1.8 dimes, 0.8 blocks and 0.8 treys on a a 60/33/56 shooting line. Excluding the Boston game on Friday, he’s scored at least 20 points with 10 boards in each December game, including a 26-14 gem against these Wizards. The Wizards put Thomas Bryant on him last game and Collins shredded him. Plus, he still hasn’t even hit his jumpers or free throws to the expectation, so he could be even better.

Trae Young has really struggled as a shooter. In the last five weeks (16 games), he’s somehow managed to make just 14.3% of his catch-and-shoot attempts for a woeful 14.3 eFG%. He’s also made just 26/1% of his pull-up attempts for a 33.0 eFG%. He’s also made just 21.2% of his wide-open treys in this span and has been one of the worst scorers in the NBA.

On the flip side, Kevin Huerter has shot the ball well since he had a breakout game on Nov. 28 with what was at the time a career-high 34 minutes (he has surpassed that number). In those eight games, Huerter has made 14-of-24 on his wide-open treys (58.3%). Although, there has to be a chance that Huerter gets bumped from the first unit because the Hawks starters have a 153.2 defensive rating and a -76.1 net rating in the last two games (21 minutes). Yikes. Still, if Huerter starts, he’s a viable DFS play and can be viewed as a specialist in competitive fantasy leagues. The struggles of that first unit could get DeAndre Bembry more minutes, and his 27 minutes against the Wizards on Dec. 5 are the most he’s played since Nov. 26. Dewayne Dedmon has also been in a groove with 30-plus minutes in three of the last four, so he should be set for solid minutes today.

Prediction: Wizards 113, Hawks 109

Los Angeles Lakers at Brooklyn Nets (front end)

Team Totals: Lakers 115, Nets 113

The Nets are suddenly the second-hottest team in the NBA with a five-game winning streak (Pacers have won seven straight), posting an NBA-high 119.2 offensive rating in that span. The last two games they’ve inserted rookie Rodions Kurucs and that lineup has been on fire with a +56.0 net rating in those two wins. Although, that’s obviously a small sample and it was against the Hawks and Wizards. Coach Kenny Atkinson made it seem like Allen Crabbe was almost a lock to stay in the first unit, but maybe Kurucs can stay as a starter based on Atkinson’s comments (Crabbe is questionable tonight). “Because when you think about it, we start Joe [Harris] and Allen [Crabbe], but we don’t really have a long wing,” Atkinson said about his lineups. “DeMarre [Carroll] gives us some length there, but Rodi is really long with a long wingspan, so he provides some length and versatility on the wing, which is so important for us.” Kurucs would likely be guarding Kyle Kuzma with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson likely on LeBron James. If Crabbe is out, Kurucs should be in a good spot against Kuzma.

Spencer Dinwiddie has been the star of the show in this five-game winning streak, averaging 24.6 points, 2.8 boards, 6.0 dimes, 0.6 steals and 1.8 treys on a tidy 65.5 TS%. He is fifth in the NBA in drives per game despite being the only one in the top 17 who is under 30 minutes per contest. He has a league-high 5.2 attempts from the line off drives to get him to No. 2 in the NBA for points off drives at 14.4 (James Harden 16.8, of course). The Lakers allow the most shots at the rim in the NBA, so Spencer could get additional opportunity in one of the biggest games of the season.

D’Angelo Russell is coming off one of his best games of the year with a 32-point, seven-dime game against the Hawks on Sunday, and now he gets a revenge game. That narrative didn’t work for D-Lo las year with just 16.0 points per game on 35.7% from the field. Russell is going to get a lot of Lonzo Ball in this game, and last year Ball’s 37 possessions against Russell are the most he faced per game last season (eight points, two dimes, three turnovers in those 37). With the exception of John Wall destroying Lonzo on Sunday, he’s held most of his guys in check on the defensive end with nobody else averaging more than 10.5 points per game against him (Damian Lillard 10.3 per game). Joe Harris, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and DeMarre Carroll should be looking at minutes in the 25-32 range with RHJ offering the most upside because he figures to play the most minutes against LeBron James. It’ll be risky to start Jarrett Allen today with Ed Davis eating into his minutes, but Allen could be a low-owned value because the Lakers have given up some bigger lines to centers.

LeBron James liked to play against the Nets last year, averaging 32.5 points, 9.5 boards, 9.3 dimes, 1.0 blocks, 1.0 steals and 2.0 in 38.0 minutes per game over four outings. LeBron did flop on Sunday in Washington with a season-low 13 points, but that was in a back-to-back set and he’s been subpar in those instances. LeBron has also played 35.6 minutes per game with one day of rest compared to 33.0 in B2B set. He’ll have some high ownership on a light slate, but LeBron should be worth it.

The Lakers still won’t have Rajon Rondo (hand) and Brandon Ingram. Lonzo Ball and LeBron James both put up a triple-double on Saturday to become the first Lakers duo to do so since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson in 1982. Besides that, Lonzo has been quiet in the scoring department since the Ingram injury with averages of 10.6 points, 4.7 boards, 6.9 dimes, 2.4 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.4 treys on a 38/27/57 shooting line. He also didn’t score at all when D’Angelo was on him last year, so Ball will have to count on steals and dimes to perform on the stat sheet.

Josh Hart and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope aren’t playing together nearly as much at just 5.1 minutes together over the last two, which is way down from the 11.6 minutes per game they played together in the fourth games following the Ingram injury. KCP has been hot lately, which has caused Hart’s minutes to fall off. It’ll likely be a hot-hand approach here. Kyle Kuzma should also be fine in a good spot against a rookie or Joe Harris.

JaVale McGee is questionable with an illness after missing Sunday. Presumably, he’ll be back to take Moe Wagner out of the rotation and move Tyson Chandler out of the starting lineup. Lance Stephenson gets a hometown game! The Brooklyn native has hit 23 minutes in each of the last three games, but the narrative angle doesn’t look to be there with Lance not having a good game in BK since 2013.

Prediction: Nets 113, Lakers 111

Dallas Mavericks at Denver Nuggets

Team Totals: Mavericks 102, Nuggets 106.5


I went a little lengthy on the first three games (especially first), so going to have to be short and sweet on this last one.

Dennis Smith Jr. cannot shake his sprained wrist injury and is doubtful to play today, and J.J. Barea is banged up again witha questionable tag. Not surprisingly, Luka Doncic has feasted in his 222 minutes without JJB and DSJ, posting per-36 stats of 21.2 points, 7.9 boards, 6.6 dimes, 1.5 steals and 2.4 treys. Luka has also been aggressive in getting to the line with 7.4 attempts per game since missing a game back on Dec. 2, which almost doubles his 3.8 per game from November. He should be very busy tonight. Coach Rick Carlisle has also talked up Jalen Brunson, who also has good stats next to Luka. In 157 minutes with Luka while without DSJ and JJB, Brunson has per-36 stats of 14.0 points, 2.5 boards, 3.9 dimes and 1.8 steals. If both guards are out, Brunson should have a lot of minutes going his way in what should involve a litany of smaller lineups.

The Nuggets have a mile-high injury report tonight: Gary Harris (hip) is out, Will Barton (groin) is still out, Paul Millsap (toe) will miss at least a month, Isaiah Thomas (hip) hasn’t made his season debut yet, Michael Porter (back) hasn’t played yet, Jarred Vanderbilt (foot) had surgery, and now Juancho Hernangomez (abdomen) is questionable for tonight. Juancho did not play in the fourth quarter against the Raptors, and interestingly Mason Plumlee, Monte Morris and Jamal Murray were the only three to play the entire fourth. Trey Lyles did play just 5.6 minutes, but the Nuggets would have to play him more just because of the lack of depth. Monte Morris was the guy who essentially took Juancho’s minutes in the last six minutes as that lineup closed out the game with no other substitutions from 6:23 until the game ended (Murray, Morris, Torrey Craig, Plumlee and Nikola Jokic). Morris has been a low-key Most Improved Player with his league-leading 6.2 assist:turnover ratio, and he’s likely to benefit the most in this matchup. He also has a +10.1 net rating in 111 minutes with Jokic and Murray. Plumlee is also an option and has a +11.5 net rating in his 81 minutes next to Jokic this year. Jokic has also been a monster offensively with Millsap off the floor, posting per-36 stats of 24.6 points, 11.7 boards, 7.6 dimes, 1.8 steals, 0.5 blocks and 0.6 treys. Jamal Murray’s stats haven’t really gone up without Sapper and Harris at just 17.3 points per 36.

Prediction: Nuggets 110, Mavericks 103

Mike Gallagher has covered fantasy hoops for eight years and this season is his second with Rotoworld. You can find him on Twitter talking about a player's shots at the rim.
Email :Mike Gallagher

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