Yahoo Plays and Strategy for Sunday, January 1

This is one of the strangest slates I’ve seen all season. We only have three games, and all start at 8pm EST. It’s clear the NBA doesn’t want to compete with the NFL for viewership because that’s a battle they’ll never win. In any case, we’re basketball addicts over here, and we love this card despite the number of matchups.

Guards

Ja Morant, MEM vs. SAC ($44)

Morant isn’t quite in the MVP discussion, but he’s still one of the league’s best players. The Memphis star is averaging 47 Yahoo points per game with at least 41 Y! in 18 of his last 21 games. One of those three missteps was a second-quarter ejection, while another came in a 25-point blowout. That floor and average make Morant tough to avoid against the Kings as they sit 24th in points allowed and 23rd in defensive efficiency. In their last matchup a month ago, he amassed 51 fantasy points.

Marcus SmartBOS at DEN ($20)

It’s easy to assume Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the key cogs in Boston, but Smart is the leader of this team. He’s not exactly their best fantasy producer, but he’s the best value of the bunch. The Defensive Player of the Year has produced at least 26 Yahoo points in six of his last seven while generating a 30-point average for the year. That’s plenty from a player in this salary range, but the matchup is his biggest asset as the Nuggets rank 27th in defensive efficiency while surrendering the second-most fantasy points to opposing PGs.

Guard to Avoid

Tyus Jones, MEM vs. SAC ($13)

Jones carries an inflated value because he was starting for Morant earlier in the season, but he’s tough to trust in a reserve role. He’s averaging 41 Yahoo points per game in his five starts, but lists a 17-point average in his 29 times coming off the bench. That’s even more concerning with Desmond Bane’s recent return to action, leading to Tyus recording 11 or fewer fantasy points in three of his last four. There’s a chance Ja is rested in this B2B. But as long as that doesn’t happen, Jones is off-limits.

Forwards

Jaren Jackson Jr, MEM vs. SAC ($29)

JJJ is one of the most volatile players in fantasy, but there aren’t many sub-$30 players with his upside. The versatile big man is averaging 35 Yahoo points with at least 38 in a third of his games this season. Jackson’s been doing that damage despite only getting 25 minutes a night, but we expect more 30-minute outings as the season progresses. One of those ceiling games should happen against Sacramento, with JJJ dropping 42 Yahoo points against them in their one meeting this year.

Deni AvdiaWAS at MIL ($18)

Many people forget Avdija was a Top-10 pick by Washington in 2020, but it’s clear he’s starting to find his footing in the league. He’s produced one terrible effort in his return from an injury, but he has managed at least 29 Yahoo points in seven of his other 10 most recent games by him. Avdija is also averaging 27Y! across 31 minutes a night over that stretch, which is absurd from a player in this salary range. There’s also a chance Bradley Beal could sit here, which would add even more usage and court time for Avdija.

Forward to Avoid

Aaron Gordon, DEN vs. BOS ($27)

It was challenging to pick a forward we wanted to fade, but Gordon’s valuation is getting too high. He’s earned it with a resurgent season, but he’s done most of that damage with a limited roster. Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr are all healthy for the first time this year, and there’s not enough usage to go around with so many talented players in this lineup. AG carries a team-low 18 percent usage rate when those four are on the floor together while scoring 25 or fewer fantasy points in two of his last three games. One of those duds seems more likely against the Celtics as they rank sixth in defensive efficiency ratings.

Centers

Nikola Jokic, DEN vs. BOS ($57)

When examining a three-game slate, it’s impossible to avoid Jokic. The two-time reigning MVP has recorded at least 47 Yahoo points in 18 of his last 19 games while totaling a 61-point average. His recent form is even more ridiculous where he’s averaging 30.1 points, 12.8 rebounds, 10.8 assists and 1.9 steals across 10 outings. You can’t fade production like that with only six teams in action, especially since The Joker has gone off for at least 42 Y! points in eight straight meetings with the Celtics.

Al HorfordBOS at DEN ($19)

Big Al is not the All-Star we once saw, but the veteran is too good to be this undervalued. The big man is averaging 25 Yahoo points per game across 31 minutes a night. That’s all you can ask for from a sub-$20 player, and we know Horford has the ability to be a $30 player when looking at past form. Getting to face Denver’s 28th-ranked defense adds to his intrigue, particularly with Jokic being one of the NBA’s worst defensive centers. That was on full display when Horford dropped 37 fantasy points in this matchup earlier in the year.

Center to avoid

Robert WilliamsBOS at DEN ($18)

Williams has been among the best per-minute producers in the NBA throughout his career, but that doesn’t really matter when you’re only playing 19 minutes a night. He actually hasn’t cracked 22 in any of his six games since returning from injury while scoring 25 or fewer Yahoo points in five. We love Rob-Will’s game, but you simply can’t use him until you know he’s logging at least 25 minutes.

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