Players to Target (02/17/16)

By Tom W. Brewer @Tom_W_Brewer
NBA DFS - Players to Target in the First Week after the All-Star Break.

We're at the tail end of the NBA's All-Star Break, and it's been a while since the last meaningful game. How have you been filling the basketball-sized hole in your life? If you're like me, you've spent the last few days re-watching the epic Slam Dunk contest between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine and firing up ESPN's NBA Trade Machine trying to get a mega-star on your favorite team for second round draft picks, cash considerations, and a hot dog. The struggle is real.

Fortunately, the NBA season resumes tomorrow night, which means it's time to start thinking about your daily fantasy lineups. Don't worry; as usual, we've got your back with a few players who are bound to get off to hot starts in the second half of the season.

1. LaMarcus Aldridge – PF, Spurs

The Spurs resume play with a Thursday night tilt against the Clippers, who, in the absence of Blake Griffin will attempt to defend Aldridge with the pair of Paul Pierce and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. That combination is as likely to stop the five-time All-Star as Kanye West and Taylor Swift are to record a duets album. The last time these two teams met—with Griffin on the floor, mind you—Aldridge went off for maybe the best game of his season, scorching the Clips for 26 points and 13 rebounds. Without Blake to challenge Aldridge, there's no telling what kind of game he'll have.

The Spurs stick around the Staples Center to play the Lakers Friday night. The only thing that could stop Aldridge in that game is a DNP-CD from San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. San Antonio finishes the weekend in Phoenix with a Sunday game against the Suns. The freefalling Suns can't stop anybody, and are tied with Houston for second-most opponent points scored per game, giving up 106.8 PPG. The matchups have aligned for LaMarcus Aldridge this weekend. Play him no matter what the cost.

2. Carmelo Anthony – SF, Knicks

Melo is a fantasy monster at any time, but he has the potential to be huge in the next few games. He and the Knicks get the spiraling Nets on Friday. In his last game against Brooklyn, Anthony put up 28 points, snagged seven boards, and dished three dimes. Somehow, Brooklyn is in worse shape this time around, so expect even bigger numbers from Melo.

The Knicks travel to Minnesota Saturday, and although it's the second half of a back-to-back, I think Anthony has another huge game. The Timberwolves don't have anyone who can defend a prolific wing player like Carmelo. Seriously, who's planning on guarding him? Shabazz Muhammad? Tayshaun Prince? Kevin Garnett? No one this side of Karl-Anthony Towns has a prayer of keeping up with him.

Monday will bring Carmelo's biggest test as the Toronto Raptors visit MSG to take on the Knicks. Toronto is a good defensive team, but they're a little thin at the 3 right now. DeMarre Carroll is still out with a knee injury and his replacement, James Johnson, is nursing a sprained ankle, so there's a good chance Anthony has a good scoring night. All in all, Melo should have a killer fantasy weekend.

3. Dwight Howard – C, Rockets

Just a reminder that today is Wednesday and if any of the Dwight Howard trade rumors come to fruition, you can ignore this section completely. You're on your own if Howard ends up in Atlanta or Charlotte or Miami.

But assuming Dwight stays in Houston, he has to be licking his chops when he looks at the upcoming Rockets' schedule. First he get the Suns who will try to guard him with Alex Len and the ghost of Tyson Chandler. Even if Phoenix employs the Hack-a-Dwight strategy, he'll pull down enough rebounds to have an enormous fantasy impact.

Houston's showdown with the Suns is on Friday, and they don't play again until Tuesday, when they take on the Utah Jazz. Utah is a good defensive team, and Rudy Gobert can challenge Dwight, but I still think he's a strong play. Unlike the Rockets, the Jazz have a packed schedule this week. Their game against Houston will be their fourth in six days and they have to ping-pong from D.C. to Utah to Portland and back Utah. Plus, Dwight averages over 35 points on FanDuel with two or more days' rest. Expect that trend to continue against the Jazz.

4. DeMarcus Cousins – C, Kings

So things didn't go so hot for Cousins in the All-Star Skills competition, but I expect them to turn around when the Kings' season resumes. Sacramento starts the second half with two matchups against the Denver Nuggets. Denver has a pair of good young centers in Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic, but neither of them are ready to stop Boogie. Expect Cousins to dominate the paint and eat the Denver defenders alive in their back-to-back battles, putting up over 40 fantasy points per game in the process.

Matchups are going to be even more critical to daily fantasy in the second half of the season as playoff teams jockey for position (especially in the West where NO ONE wants the seven or eight seed) and bad teams lose their way to better lottery odds. Keep an eye on our optimal lineups and defensive rankings to put together a killer lineup. Until next time, play smart and get money.