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Daily Fantasy NBA Picks, 2/22: Four Players I Love for Tonight

One of the busiest trade deadlines in NBA history has come and gone, and what we’ve been left with are several familiar fantasy options in new uniforms, leaving us scrambling to figure out the implications. Understanding how players may perform on new teams seems like it would be a complex process, since a player has to adapt to a completely new set of teammates and a new offense. But it’s actually quite easy to predict, as long as you know what to look for.

For offensive-minded players, like guards and wing players, we want to look at offensive efficiency and pace to determine who will thrive and who will struggle in a new offense. This intuitively makes sense — fast-paced teams will have more assisted baskets and offensively efficient teams will spread the ball around more, allowing even mediocre players to get their share of points and assists. Slow-paced and offensively inefficient teams will leave players in a lot of one-on-one situations, where baskets will be harder to come by and will likely be unassisted. So when a player moves to a new team, we want to look at the differences in efficiency and pace between his former and new team.

Goran Dragic was an intriguing play Saturday in his first game with the Heat; his $6,100 price was reasonable and many daily fantasy players assumed he would play better as the #1 option on Miami. But he ended up struggling offensively, only scoring 12 points and dishing out one assist. Looking at the change in the pace and offensive efficiency to his new team in Miami, this was actually easily predictable.

Dragic’s former team, the Phoenix Suns, ranks high in offensive efficiency and is one of the fastest-paced teams in the NBA. But Dragic’s new team, the Miami Heat, is one of the least efficient offenses and the slowest-paced teams in the NBA. Because of this, Dragic is going to have a hard time adjusting to his new team and is unlikely to outperform his numbers in Phoenix. I’d avoid him until he proves otherwise.

Brandon Knight, on the other hand, had the opposite fate. Knight went from the slow-paced Milwaukee Bucks to Goran Dragic’s former team, the offensively friendly Phoenix Suns. He came off the bench in his first game, scoring 13 points and 5 assists in 25 minutes. When he’s finally inserted into the starting lineup, I expect him to have great fantasy production.

For defensive-minded big men, predicting how they might do in a new situation is a different story. Big men like inefficient offenses and slower paces, because it allows them to accumulate more blocks and steals, and half-court sets put them in the position for offensive rebounds. There weren’t many key big men traded during the deadline, but you should keep this in mind when thinking about injury replacements.

Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson are both out for a few weeks for New Orleans, which means Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca should see a lot more time on the floor. New Orleans plays at a very slow pace and should be less efficient offensively without Anderson and Davis, so expect both of these big men to perform well in their absence.

On my daily fantasy strategy site, DailyFantasyWinners.com, we have a statistic called Strength of Offense, which combines offensive efficiency and pace into one stat. You can find it under the “Tools” tab on the homepage. Make sure to take a look whenever evaluating players on new teams or injury replacements.

DraftKings is running a $3 tournament tonight called the Sharpshooter, which sports a $100,000 prizepool and awards $10,000 for first place. It’s a great place to start for any of you trying DraftKings NBA out for the first time. Tonight’s slate of games should be particularly easy from a fantasy standpoint, there are several juicy matchups and consequently many players that I love. Below are my four favorites.

(Stats via dailyfantasywinners.com and basketball-reference.com)

Hassan Whiteside ($7,800) – With Chris Bosh now out for the year, Whiteside has become an even bigger rebounding and defensive force for the Heat. In two games since the All-Star break, Whiteside has averaged 35+ fantasy points while only playing 25 minutes per game. He draws the best matchup in the world tonight against the 76ers, whose 97.96 Defensive Fantasy Points allowed ranks dead last in the NBA. Whiteside should be in for a big game, as almost two-thirds of his production comes from the defensive end.

Ricky Rubio ($6,600) – Rubio has been injured for the majority of the year, but the All-Star break has given him the rest he needs to be fully healthy, and his main backup Mo Williams was shipped to Charlotte at the trade deadline. He’s averaged 43+ fantasy points in his past two games, and his salary has yet to catch up; he’s still only $6,600. It’s not a great matchup on the road vs. Houston, but his salary is simply too low to pass up and he should benefit from a fast-paced game.

Brandon Bass ($5,200) – Jared Sullinger is out for the year, and Kelly Olynyk is still out for another week, which means there’s not much behind Bass and center Tyler Zeller on the Celtics bench. Bass has played 37 and 40 minutes respectively in his past two games, and should get similar minutes against the Suns tonight. I like him over Zeller for a couple reasons: 1) He plays PF, a position that has a lot less viable options than center tonight on DraftKings, and 2) the Suns like playing small later in the game, which will likely leave Zeller on the bench, not Bass.

James Harden ($10,500) – I absolutely love the matchup here. Harden draws the worst defense in the NBA in Minnesota, who ranks dead last in offensive fantasy points allowed. He’ll also be guarded by Kevin Martin, who’s Defensive Rating of 114 is one of the worst in the NBA. Harden has averaged 30.5 points, 4 rebounds, and 8 assists in two games against the T-Wolves this season, and should benefit from playing at home. His price isn’t bad either, he usually sits at $11,000, but DraftKings salary algorithm has dropped him to $10,500 in the wake of a few mediocre performances. He’ll almost certainly be the top fantasy performer tonight, so fit him in your lineup if you can.