James Harden (vs DEN, $10,100) – James Harden is the highest priced guard of the slate, and for good reason. He has loads of upside, and he’s essentially matchup proof. Last season, he averaged 27.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and 1.9 steals (49.9 fantasy points) per game. He’s a threat to triple double every time he steps on the court, and his versatility makes him one of the safest fantasy players in the league. Harden averaged a ridiculous 61.3 fantasy points per game against the Nuggets last season, and that is who he is matched up against in their first game. This game could potentially be a blowout, which would limit Hardens upside, but he will likely have already hit value by that time. He’s a great play for all leagues.
Isaiah Thomas (vs PHI, $6,500) – Thomas was one of the best acquisitions of last season, and he brought a much needed spark to the Celtics offense. Thomas has an extremely high usage rate, which means he’s essentially touching the ball during every possession. Last season, his minutes fluctuated anywhere from the mid-20s to the high-30s, which could potentially limit his upside. He does, however, get a great matchup against the Sixers, who are one of the worst perimeter defenses in the NBA. Thomas is one of the best shooters on the Celtics, and he will likely be taking more than enough shots to hit value tonight.
Isaiah Canaan (at BOS, $4,200) – Canaan split minutes last season, averaging 19.6 minutes per game, but he’s the unquestioned starter this season, and he will likely be playing upwards of 30 minutes per game this season. Canaan averaged a respectable 16.3 fantasy points per game in those limited minutes, which shows his upside is already much higher this season. He gets a somewhat tough matchup against the Celtics tonight, as he’ll play against Smart and Thomas, who are on opposite ends of the defensive spectrum. Canaan is a great play based on his price and opportunity, and he makes a great GPP option tonight.
Paul George (at TOR, $8,000) – George seems to be somewhat of a forgotten man, as he only played in 6 games last season after injuring himself during a Team USA practice. George encouragingly scored 1.11 fantasy points per minute last season, and George will likely see minutes in the mid-30s this season. He’s priced well below the other elite small forward options, but he has as much upside as anyone on the slate. The Pacers will also be playing at a faster pace this season, which will give George a much higher ceiling. He will also be playing a lot of power forward this season, and the combination of Patterson and Scola will have is going to have an extremely hard time guarding him. George is an elite option, and he can be used in all leagues tonight.
Nikola Mirotic (at BKN, $6,400) – Mirotic started the game off last night on fire, hitting two quick three-point shots, and he also finished the game strong. He flashed tremendous upside last season in limited minutes, and it looks like the Bulls are ready to open up their prize big man. That has a lot to do with their new coach, Fred Hoiberg, who will be running at a much faster pace this season and focusing more on offense. Mirotic is a talented big man, who can shoot from anywhere on the court, but also handle the ball as good as some point guards. He’s extremely talented, and it’s only a matter of time before his price skyrockets. He can be used in all leagues.
Clint Capela (vs DEN, $3,000) – Capela will likely draw the start at center for the Rockets, as Howard is suspended for this game. He flashed last season in very limited minutes, as he only averaged 7.3 minutes per game last year. He played extremely well in preseason, averaging 8.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 0.8 steals, and 1.3 blocks in only 23.9 minutes. Capela also gets a good matchup against a young and fast paced Denver team. His price is ridiculous, and he should be played in every lineup tonight.
DeMarcus Cousins (vs LAC, $10,300) – Cousins is far and away the best center option on slate, as he averaged 10+ more fantasy points than any other center in the NBA last season. There have been reports that’s George Karl is giving Cousins a lot of freedom this season, which can only bode well for his fantasy outcome. Last season, Cousins averaged 24.1 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game. The matchup against the Clippers isn’t ideal, but Cousins averaged over 50 fantasy points in two games against them last season, and he is essentially matchup proof. He’s a great play in all leagues.
Jahlil Okafor (at BOS, $5,800) – Rookies always seem to take a while to get adjusted to the NBA pace, but Jahlil Okafor was one of the most NBA ready prospects of this past draft. He had no problem bullying around players in the NCAA, and he will likely have no problems bullying around Tyler Zeller or Kelly Olynyk tonight. Okafor has great post moves, and he will be the focus of the Sixers offense to start the season. His price tag is low, while his minutes and usage will both be high. That makes him somewhat of a low risk, high upside play, and I trust the rookie in all leagues tonight.