NBA Daily Fantasy Helper: Thursday 12/17/15

Dwight Howard looks to make a splash tonight against his former squad. Who else look like good plays?

If you've never played daily fantasy basketball before, it's time to start. Unlike traditional leagues, you're able to select the players you want on that specific day only, giving you a different squad to root for each and every NBA night.

Today's lineups can be found here. The information below is to help you understand why particular players are being picked, because we don't want you going into the night completely blind. We want to help you. Keep in mind, however, that things often change up until tip-off, so make sure you're refreshing the optimal lineups as close to the start of games as possible.

Let's get to it.

The Best of the Best

LeBron James - It's unusual that King James flies under the radar, but with all the attention Stephen Curry and the Warriors are getting, that's exactly what has happened early in this season. The Cavaliers' star has once again been one of the most consistent players in the league this season, averaging 26.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game with a massive 33.1% Usage Rate, carrying Cleveland while they have fought through a number of key injuries. Although the four-time MVP gets a difficult matchup against Kevin Durant, James is as matchup proof as they come, and always seems to find that extra gear in big games. Look for a monster outing from LeBron tonight as the Cavaliers look to make a statement against the Thunder.

Russell Westbrook - I recommended playing Westbrook last night, and it didn't go exactly as planned due to his lack of playing time in a blowout of Portland. With that said, I'm going right back to the well tonight. After playing just 27 minutes last night, the Thunder point guard should be fresh and should see a massive workload in what is expected to be a very close game. His running mate, Durant, gets an incredibly difficult matchup against the aforementioned James, which means Westbrook should see a slight boost in his already team-leading 34.2% Usage Rate. And with the Cavaliers' best perimeter defender, Iman Shumpert, back on the shelf, Westbrook should have his way against whoever Cleveland throws at him. Westbrook is our top overall projected player on the board tonight. 

Top Mid-Range Values

Dwight Howard - Howard has been very inconsistent this season. He hasn't been playing both sides of back-to-back sets -- or at least hasn't played his full compliment of minutes in those situations -- and has made it clear that he is unhappy with his role in Houston, which seems to have negatively effected his play on a nightly basis. While I don't normally like to target a player with so many red flags, I'm willing to make an exception tonight. Howard gets a dream matchup against a terrible Lakers' defense that has given up the third most fantasy points per game to opposing centers on the year, and he'll be extra motivated to stick it to Kobe Bryant and his old team. The Rockets' big man still has the ability to perform at a high level on any given night -- he posted 18 points and 12 rebounds last time Houston played Los Angeles -- and should have little trouble taking advantage of a dream matchup tonight.

DeMar DeRozan - With only three games on tonight's slate, there simply aren't very many viable options at shooting guard. While James Harden does make a tremendous play at the position, there are very few other strong plays to choose from if you don't want to pay up for the most expensive player on the board. With that in mind, DeRozan will be a very popular play tonight. The Raptors' versatile guard is having another spectacular season so far this year, scoring 21.7 points to go along with 4.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and a steal in 36.2 minutes per game. He actually leads the team with a 28.1% Usage Rate and ranks second in Assist Percentage (20.8%) behind only Kyle Lowry. DeRozan draws a plus matchup against P.J. Hairston and his 105 Defensive Rating and should be in store for another big game. He is my second favorite shooting guard on the board tonight and can be had for a significantly cheaper price than Harden. 

Basement Ballers

Patrick Beverley - The Lakers have been horrific on defense this season, ranking 29th in Defensive Rating while giving up the fourth most points per game to opposing teams. They have also allowed the most fantasy points per game to opposing point guards on the year. Beverley has been very good since taking over the starting point guard role for Ty Lawson. He's averaging 10.8 points, 3.3 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals in 30.6 minutes per game in 11 starts this season, and should be able to reach value easily tonight against one of the worst perimeter defenses in the entire NBA. 

Lou Williams - Tonight's matchup between the Rockets and Lakers should easily be the highest scoring on the board. Both teams rank in the bottom five of the league in Defensive Rating and opposing points per game, and both play at a pace that ranks inside the top half of the league, with the Rockets ranking sixth in the NBA in pace. Pretty much all starters from this game are in play tonight, with Williams being one of my favorites. The Lakers' veteran guard has seen a huge boost in workload since being inserted into the starting lineup five games ago. Over that stretch, Sweet Lou is averaging 16.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 31.7 minutes per game. He gets the pleasure of being defended by the defensively-challenged Harden tonight, while Bryant and Jordan Clarkson get much tougher tasks against Beverley and Trevor Ariza -- Williams should see a slight boost in usage tonight as well. He provides excellent value at just $5,200 on both FanDuel and DraftKings.