NBA Daily Fantasy Helper: Thursday 1/24/13

Carmelo and J.R. Smith lead the pack as they take on Boston in an ugly slate of Thursday NBA action.

Ew. With Chris Paul out, today's fantasy options are a Matt Stone-in-an-Oscars-dress level of ugly. Exactly three players are available and worth more than $13,000 according to StarStreet's salary system: Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, and Rajon Rondo. It's going to take a lot of mid-level sleepers in order to win today's pools; whoever picks the breakout candidate will win.

And that's why we're here to help. Through the power of Math!, we've optimized the best possible roster for your Daily Fantasy needs, using the cost figures and scoring system from our friends at StarStreet as a guide.

As always, the full tables for today's action are available at our Daily Fantasy Projections page. But I'm here to break down the best of the best and tell you why they're so valuable.

The numberFire Optimized Roster

PlayerPositionProjected FPCostValue
Carmelo AnthonyF40.60$16,0002.54
Paul PierceSF31.73$12,0002.64
Jameer NelsonPG29.73$11,8002.52
J.R. SmithG/F29.80$11,4002.61
Nikola VucevicF/C28.65$11,4002.51
Luis ScolaF/C28.63$10,7002.68
Goran DragicPG25.13$9,0002.79
Kyle LowryPG24.45$8,8002.78
DeMar DeRozanG/F24.88$8,0003.00

Carmelo Anthony - The only one of the top three options that we recommend tonight, Melo should have plenty of opportunities against the Celtics defense. 51 percent of the Knicks' overall minutes this season have been with Melo at power forward, and the Celtics have a net Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of -4.7 at PF, by far the weakest spot in their lineup.

Paul Pierce - Pierce's 3 for 15 clunker against Cleveland on Tuesday was completely uncharacteristic - his .233 effective field goal percentage (eFG%) was his lowest since the fourth game of the season. Expect a regression to the mean against the Knicks tonight. New York's small forwards are allowing their opponents to shoot .559 eFG% from the field, the highest of any position on the court. If you're going to attack the NYK defense, it's Pierce who will do it.

Jameer Nelson - The minutes aren't an issue - he's played at least 33 minutes in each of Orlando's ten January games. And recently, neither has the shooting - Nelson has posted an eFG% above .500 in three of his past four games. The Raptors' point guards are strong offensively, but a bit weaker defensively - Jose Calderon has a 112 defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) on the season, and overall opposing PGs are shooting .494 eFG% against Toronto.

J.R. Smith - Smith has averaged 36 minutes per game over his last ten contests, and he's certainly taken advantage scoring-wise. Smith has only put up less than double-digits once since Dec. 5, so his floor is limited. And last time he faced off against Boston's shooting guards (where Boston has a -3.7 net PER), Smith went off for 24 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals.

Nikola Vucevic - Need rebounding? Vucevic is your guy. It's been since Dec. 12 since Vucevic put up less than nine rebounds in a game, and over that same span, he's posted double-digit points in all but two contests. The only thing holding him back is his blocks... although he has three of them in the last five games as well. The Raptors aren't adept at making a large number of shots (15th offensive eFG%) or grabbing offensive boards (20th ORB%), so his opportunities will be there.

Luis Scola - The Phoenix duo are back on our radar once again. After we recommended him yesterday, Scola put up 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal against Sacramento. The Clippers do not have anywhere near as weak a defense as Sacramento, but if there's a way to attack them, getting the ball down low's a good start: opposing centers post a .485 eFG% against the Clippers, the second-highest shot percentage of any position behind SG.

Goran Dragic - After we recommended him yesterday, Dragic logged his fourth double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 assists. Not bad for a $9,000 value. This matchup would normally be the worst for Dragic - the Clippers have a net PER of an insane +16.2 versus opposing point guards - but no Chris Paul should help Dragic out... slightly. Still remember that Eric Bledsoe does lead the league in steal percentage and can make Dragic's life tough, although not Chris Paul-tough.

Kyle Lowry - Yesterday's game against Miami proved to be an interesting development - Lowry played some shooting guard alongside Jose Calderon rather than competing with him for minutes. If that trend continues, Lowry and his 117 offensive rating, 34 percent assist rate, and 10 percent rebound rate will be given more of a chance to shine.

DeMar DeRozan - I love this line that begins DeRozan's most recent entry on Rotoworld: "The milk has gone bad for DeRozan." But is it still drinkable? Our analytics think so, given his overall body of work rather than immediate recent play. He's still a major part of the offense, posting a usage rating of at least 20 percent in five of his past six games. And facing an Orlando squad that is dead-last in forcing turnovers and 24th in defensive rating can't hurt either. The shots will begin to drop soon with a return to the mean.

Quick Hits

Your medium-sized sleeper of the day is Eric Bledsoe of the Los Angeles Clippers. The main question is: how many minutes will he get with Chris Paul on the bench? We've seen him get 35, we've seen him get 20. numberFire took a conservative estimate at just around 23 minutes, especially in the second game of a back-to-back. But if you have a personal conviction that he'll be up above 30 minutes again, then his NBA-leading 4.2 steal percentage, .481 eFG%, and surprisingly-high 8.7 percent rebound rate make him a great value at $8,000.

Your deep sleeper of the day is Jason Terry of the Boston Celtics. Considering the lack of games today, our options for a deep sleeper are limited. As such, I'm not too sold on Jason Terry, but considering the Knicks' injury troubles, he's the best of a weak crowd. The Knicks are letting opposing shooting guards shoot .487 eFG% from the field this season, and at the very least, Terry has seen consistent seventh-man type minutes so far in January. You could do worse for $5,000.

Stay away from Ed Davis of the Raptors today. His 18 points against the Lakers and 13 points against Miami might look nice, but for the price (Ed Davis is the fifth-highest cost player?!?!), I want a little bit more than a high of 18 points over his last five games and only one double-digit rebounding effort during that same span. And the Magic aren't half bad against opposing power forwards - they shoot .487 eFG% against them on the season.

The game to watch today is Celtics/Knicks. Boy, what a fun slate to choose from, huh? But it's likely that whoever has the most fantasy points out of Carmelo, Rajon Rondo, and Kevin Garnett will in turn spur his fantasy owners to victory as well.