By: Eric Romoff
There are no two ways about it, the NBA is an absolute mess right now with regard to player availability. In addition to the ebbs and flows of routine injury, COVID has run wild through the Association and has forced several teams to postpone games, call up guys from the streets to see considerable minutes and play games with extra short benches. Nevertheless, Adam Silver persisted and commented as recently as yesterday that the NBA will carry forward without the suspension of games. This leaves us with a five-game slate queued up on Wednesday and one of the more interesting terrains to navigate on Jock MKT. We can typically look at the betting markets as an indicator as to which games are the most likely to provide scoring opportunity, but given that the two highest projected scores are games that have already ruled out over a dozen players and have several others deemed questionable, it is hard to have a ton of confidence in what the Vegas line is telling us. On a night like tonight, I’ll have most of my exposure on guys who are known quantities; building a base of steady returns and allowing me to prospect with some of the no-name guys who have been thrust into significant roles due to COVID.
Paul George | SF | Los Angeles Clippers
Jock MKT Projection – 41.03 (6th)
Max IPO – $11.70
Break-Even Rank – 8.9
There was a time, not that long ago, where Paul George was routinely in the top three in projected points and fair market value on every slate he played. We then saw his performance start to slide as he played through an elbow injury that eventually lead to him missing five games for the Clippers. In his return to the court on Monday, he was eased in with 30 minutes of playing time, which he readily turned into a 25/6/6 line on 47% shooting from the field. The 45-point effort on a minutes restriction showed exactly what a healthy Paul George can contribute to your portfolio and with a day of rest in-between games, I’m projecting him to get closer to his 35.4 minute/game average tonight against the Kings. A Kings team that is allowing the most fantasy points to opposing swing-men at 43.85 and is slated to be without many of their best perimeter defenders tonight. If George is to hit his projection, he’d finish at #6 on the board and bring a nice 22% ROI but I am currently projecting Playoff P a full three points ahead of his Jock MKT projection of 41.03. He is right at the end of one of those projection cliffs so we should expect to see his price tag inflated a bit, but I’m willing to spend up to make sure Paul George is the foundation of my portfolio tonight.
Franz Wagner | SF/PF | Orlando Magic
Jock MKT Projection – 31.57 (19th)
Max IPO – $7.45
Break-Even Rank – 20.8
Lost in all the fanfare of Cole Anthony’s recent play is just how much all of the rotational guys in Orlando have answered the bell in light of the Magic’s challenges around player availability. None more so than forward Franz Wagner, who has seen his minutes and usage explode over his last 10 games, but largely remains off the fantasy radar. He has surpassed his current projection of 31 points in seven of those 10 games and has brought an astounding 310% ROI to his investors. While his rebounds and assists have seen decent upticks, it’s really his scoring that has taken off with his teammates off the court. Over that stretch of games he’s taken nearly 170 FG attempts and has converted those to better than 18 points per game. Tonight his opponent in the Hawks is one of the tougher outs for opposing forwards on paper, but is going to be without several of their starters and top-line defenders due to COVID. This means that Wagner will see some combination of Cam Reddish and Jalen Johnson, two of the Hawks’ worst defensive players. I’ve got Wagner a full three points better than the Jock MKT projection and I love finding a way to get him into my portfolio tonight.
Jae’Sean Tate | PF | Houston Rockets
Jock MKT Projection – 26.19 (35th)
Max IPO – $5.80
Break-Even Rank – 29.2
The Rockets are one of the many teams that have been decimated by injury and by COVID of late and Jae’Sean Tate has been one of the primary beneficiaries of the additional playing time. He’s gone north of his season average for minutes in seven of his last 11 games and has seen his usage rate increase by nearly 4% over that stretch of games. Tate has always been one of the better points-per-minute players for this Rockets team and the additional run is giving him ample opportunity to stuff the stat sheet. He is averaging better than 30 fantasy points per game over his last four and dodges a bullet tonight as former MVP and DPOY Giannis Antetokounmpo has been ruled out as part of the league’s health and safety protocols. His running mate Christian Wood is currently carrying a questionable tag so we’ll have to watch the news closely on this one. I actually like Tate more if Wood is available to go as I’d expect Tate’s IPO price to become untenable without Wood available to calibrate the market. While Tate likely doesn’t have much upside to offer, simply playing to his average performance of late would yield around a 30% ROI and I love that sort of stability from the pink sheets.