Preseason NBA 10/10/17
Usual disclaimer: Not a lot of news is out yet for tonight’s five-game slate other than Mike Malone stating that he wants his starters to play into the 4th quarter but that he A) does not know who his starters are and B) enjoys messing with the media. It should be a fun day on Twitter as we get closer to lock.
Russell Westbrook played 28 minutes in his last game against an international team. He was not as aggressive or effective offensively as we would expect, so hopefully the Thunder will give him extended minutes again to try and get him in rhythm with his new teammates. Be sure to keep an eye on news from Billy Donovan but my best guess right now is that we see a healthy amount of minutes for Westbrook which would make him a great play in a fast-paced game at a price tag substantially cheaper than his regular season price.
Elfrid Payton sat out last night’s game along with Aaron Gordon after Frank Vogel stated that he wanted to rest a couple of starters in each game of the back-to-back and play the ones that did play a few more minutes. That implies that tonight is Payton’s turn to play a few extra minutes while Vucevic presumably rests. Payton had a 23.3 percent usage rate with 1.18 DraftKings points per minute in 365.6 minutes alongside Aaron Gordon without Vucevic last year so, if that is in fact Vogel’s plan, Payton will make for a very strong play for the first time this preseason.
Jamal Murray has been named the starting point guard for tonight’s game, the only confirmed starter that I have seen from Mike Malone. Murray is a high upside player when given the minutes and Malone’s comments about playing the starters into the fourth would seemingly apply to Murray since he is starting. If that is the case, this is a great spot for Murray as he is reasonably priced and is capable of scoring points in bunches when he is on the floor.
Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are both strong plays if we get word that Billy Donovan is going to work to get his Big Three in sync. Both players played more than 30 minutes in Oklahoma City’s last preseason game which was not even against NBA competition. Along with the increased pace that Denver brings, Denver has also been using a new defensive scheme this preseason that is relatively aggressive in double-teaming the ball-handler and leaves wing players open on the perimeter. This could me open looks for one or both of George and Anthony if the Nuggets commit to getting the ball out of Westbrook’s hands in the half-court offense. Whichever player is at the four, most likely Anthony, has the more favorable matchup if the Nuggets use their normal lineup because Paul Millsap struggles to defend players who can shoot from the perimeter while Wilson Chandler is a better perimeter defender.
Tobias Harris has been playing 25-30 minutes most nights for the Pistons and was rested last night on the first night of a back-to-back. Unless we get news otherwise, I am penciling Harris in for close to 30 minutes since he sat last night. He has a friendly matchup against the Raptors who can struggle to rebound and struggle to defend the perimeter at times.
Derrick Favors is a risky play with a lot of upside. We have not seen the Jazz give him extended minutes yet this preseason and it is entirely possible that it never happens. If it does, he has a very nice matchup tonight against the Lakers, however. He was rested in the second half last night so it is possible that he sees a few more minutes tonight than he did last night. Brook Lopez will draw Rudy Gobert away from the basket since he plays around the three-point line so often, which should allow Favors to grab more rebounds as he slides in behind Gobert. The pace of the game also favors Favors since there will be more stats to go around. Again, he is risky, but he is also cheap and capable of producing at a very high clip in terms of points per minute.
Aaron Gordon has looked very good this season when he has gotten playing time and, reading between the lines, it sounds like he should see more minutes tonight than he has for most of the preseason. Alongside Payton and without Vucevic (again, Vucevic sitting is an educated guess at this point- I have not seen it reported or confirmed), Gordon had a 22.5 percent usage rate and 0.89 DraftKings points per minute last season. He has been much more efficient and looks like a drastically improved player so far this season and the Spurs will probably have difficulty containing him without Kawhi Leonard and with Pau Gasol as their primary rim protector.
Andre Drummond missed the last two games with pink eye and it is unclear whether or not he will play tonight. If he does play, we should assume that he sees his full complement of minutes since he was not dealing with an injury and he did not play on the first half of the Pistons’ back-to-back. He has had some success against Valanciunas in the past and it is a matchup where we would expect him to do well. Be sure to check news on Drummond but he is a strong play if he is active.
Rudy Gobert sat out last night and should be ready for a full load of minutes tonight against the Lakers. Rostering Gobert in fast-paced games is usually very profitable as he has more opportunities for rebounds and blocked shots and that is no different tonight. As I mentioned in the section on Derrick Favors, there is some risk that Lopez pulls Gobert away from the basket and that costs him some rebounding opportunities, but the pace of the game should make up for that. He is a very strong play assuming we are going to get 26-30 minutes out of him tonight.