The first day of March Madness tends to enthrall the nation. Let's be realistic: You filled out a bracket, so did I, so did your maternal grandmother.
I can't totally blame you for taking a day off from NBA daily fantasy to focus on the amateurs.
But for those diehards that just can't stand the pack-line defenses, missed jumpers and two-minute possessions that the tournament forces on its viewers, here's the lineup that I'm rolling out on Draft Kings Thursday night.
|Jameer Nelson||PG||@ Hou||$4,500|
|James Harden||SG||vs. Den||$10,800|
|Marcus Morris||PF||vs. NO||$5,100|
|Rudy Gobert||C||@ LAL||$8,100|
|Alexey Shved||G||vs. Min||$6,600|
|Brandan Wright||F||vs. NO||$4,200|
|Andrea Bargnani||Util||vs. Min||$6,100|
Jameer Nelson ($4,500) @ Rockets
If Ty Lawson (listed as questionable) doesn't suit up for the reborn Nuggets Thursday night, Jameer Nelson is a must-play. In his last three games, Nelson averaged over 36 minutes and 34 fantasy points—both well above his season averages.
That said, Nelson remains a viable play even if Lawson starts. The Nuggets are willing to go extremely small and spread out opposing defenses. Lawson and Nelson, both point guards, played well together in a double overtime win versus the Pelicans earlier this week.
James Harden ($10,800) vs. Nuggets
Per Rotogrinders, the Denver Nuggets allow the third most fantasy points in the league to opposing shooting guards. I'll take my chances with the best shooting guard in the league at home regardless of his cost.
Harden loves it when the Nuggets come to town. In three games against Denver this season, the Beard is averaging a ridiculous 57.7 fantasy points. If the Nuggets can keep this one tight, he'll be ripe for a fourth straight monster night against the team from the mountains.
An ode to Utah's youth movement. Check out the numbers on these two over the past four games.
Rodney Hood is spreading the floor for Salt Lake City. During this short stretch, he's shooting better than 50 percent on threes and providing improved wing defense. Utah is only allowing 94.4 points per 100 possessions with Hood on the floor over the last four, compared to 106.5 points per 100 possessions over the course of the season.
Maybe Hood became an excellent chase-down defender over night, maybe he's benefiting from court time with french sensation Rudy Gobert anchoring the defense behind him.
To boot, Utah is a league-best 11-2 since they dealt Enes Kanter to Oklahoma City at the trade deadline and Gobert took over as the starter.
Thursday night, Utah plays the Lakers, who allow the third most points per game and play at the league's 12th fastest pace. According to rotogrinders.com, over the past three weeks, Los Angeles allowed the sixth most fantasy points per game to opposing centers and the 12th most fantasy points per game to opposing small forwards.
Morris has provided a high floor since his minutes increased on March 11. In three games since Brandon Knight went down, Marcus Morris has never scored fewer than 28 fantasy points.
Wright is only averaging 15.9 fantasy points in 28 games since landing in Phoenix. But he's only averaging 19 minutes per game in his short tenure in the desert. With Len out, Wright's minutes and fantasy points tend to skyrocket. Last game he logged 37 minutes and dropped 36.8 fantasy points.
I expect Wright and his freakishly long arms to be called upon to help defend the best post player in the world: Anthony Davis.
Um. You're kidding. Alexey Shved? The perennial backup who's already played for four teams in his two-and-a-half-year career?
Maybe the Knicks found their point guard of the future?
Or maybe Shved is just confirming that virtually every NBA player is good enough to put up good stats if they're getting minutes on a bad team.
Speaking of bad teams, Minnesota comes to the big city on the second night of a back-to-back. The 'Wolves currently allow the most points per game and play at the league's ninth fastest pace. They also surrender the third most fantasy points per game to opposing small forwards.
Bargnani is a hybrid small forward/power forward/center. But he usually hangs out on the perimeter and jacks threes. Thursday night, he should get a fair amount of open jumpers. Hopefully he bottoms one or two or 12 of them.