DraftKings Fantasy Outlook: March 2016
by Adam Wexler – Houston TV and Radio Personality
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Rockets at Sixers, March 9
It’s hard to zone in on Philadelphia’s individual stat fillers since their rotations have changed so much throughout the season. Robert Covington has found some consistency over his final three games of February and first two games of March. During that stretch, he is averaging better than 30 minutes a game while scoring nearly 16 points and pulling in better than seven rebounds per contest. In 30 games with Philadelphia, Ish Smith has averaged 15 points and seven assists per game. The Rockets and Sixers rank 28th and 29th in points allowed, respectively. Harden scored 50 points earlier this season against the Sixers, his season high.
Rockets at Celtics, March 11
In the first meeting of the season between these teams, the Celtics got 23 points from Isaiah Thomas and easily zipped past Houston. Harden attempted only 10 shots in the game and scored just 16 points. That was also the final game for the Rockets under head coach Kevin McHale. The Celtics were considered an up-and-comer in the East at that time, but have now solidified their position as a playoff team and are fighting for home court advantage in the Eastern conference playoffs.
Rockets at Hornets, March 12
The Hornets lost to Houston in December in a game that saw Charlotte attempt 41 3-pointers, their second highest total of the season. They also shot 34.9 percent from the floor in that contest, their fourth-worst mark this season. Kemba walker scored just 14 points, the third consecutive time he’s scored 14 or fewer points versus Houston. Harden scored 36 against the Hornets in the Rockets seven point win. Houston also got 17 points from Terrence Jones, who has played only sparingly recently.
Grizzlies at Rockets, March 14
Even an injury to all-star center Marc Gasol has not slowed the resilient Grizzlies down this season, as the team won seven times in the first nine games following Gasol’s season ending surgery. Forward Zach Randolph averaged about 14 points per game before Gasol’s departure but has improved to close to 19 points since. However, he’s scored 15 points or fewer in six straight against Houston and only tallied more than nine rebounds once in those six games. Dwight Howard will likely see a noticeable jump in his numbers with Gasol unavailable.
Clippers at Rockets, March 16
The Rockets got a monster night from Dwight Howard against the Clippers in their meeting in January when he posted 36 points and 26 rebounds. It was the second time in his last three games against the Clippers in which Howard has posted a 20-point, 20-rebound game. Meanwhile, Clippers center DeAndre Jordan has posted a double-double in all but two of his last ten games versus Houston and has a pair of 20 or more rebound efforts in that stretch. J.J. Redick hit 9 threes on his way to a career high 40 points in January’s match up, easily surpassing his previous NBA career high of just 33 points. Harden scored 46 points in the first meeting of the season against the Clippers, but had just 38 points combined on 9-25 shooting in the two games since. He did however have 19 combined assists in those two recent meetings.
Timberwolves at Rockets, March 18
The Timberwolves may be young but they have several players who consistently produce and it starts with rookie Karl Anthony-Towns. He is a double-double machine and has consistently increased his scoring throughout the first few months of his career. Andrew Wiggins has not had a lot of explosive scoring games, but he gets his points and usually puts up decent number across the board. Since the turn of the calendar year, guard Zach Lavine has also increased his scoring and is giving them consistent output. Defensively the Wolves, like the Rockets, are not among the league’s best and have had more than their fair share of shootouts. The chances that this game showcases player’s offensive talents are pretty high.
Rockets at Hawks, March 19
Among the Eastern conference playoff teams, the Hawks are among the least consistent. At times they have played like the team of last year that looked like a real threat to win the conference. However, this season they’ve struggled to find consistent scoring from any number of sources. With Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague, the Hawks have excellent offensive options that rarely post big numbers. The most likely scenario is a steady, but not spectacular performance from each.
Rockets at Thunder, March 22
Hello offense. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook usually have field days against any team in the league. Westbrook is a good bet for a triple double any given night and Durant isn’t far behind. Harden has found plenty of offensive success against the Thunder recently as well. Dwight Howard’s effectiveness is usually based on how much time Steven Adams spends on the floor pestering and annoying him, as he does to most bigs around the league. When Howard was ejected from their most recent matchup, it allowed the Thunder to shift the scoring-averse Adams to the bench and get excellent offensive production from Enes Kanter. Serge Ibaka has also had a handful of strong performances against the Rockets over the years, but has not been very consistent this season.
Jazz vs. Rockets, March 23
It’s unlikely that Jazz forward Gordon Hayward will be able to duplicate his uber-efficient performance from a 117-114 overtime win against Houston just after the all-star break. He scored 27 points on just 6-7 shooting from the field. The Jazz, like the Hawks, rarely have individual breakout performances due to a strong combined effort at the offensive end. Recently though, Derrick Favors and Hayward have actually carried the offensive load for Utah. With the Rockets struggles at the power forward spot, Favors maybe have a chance to post a strong line. Similarly, the Jazz have had no answer for Harden, who has gone off on the Jazz consistently in their recent matchups. He finished up February and began March with a string of explosive offensive games that he appears determined to have stretch over the final 20 games of the season.
Raptors vs. Rockets, March 25
Here are three things to know: DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and James Harden are fantasy studs. Harden has been on a tear lately, having scored 26 points or more in 11 straight games including seven of 30 points or more. DeRozan has scored 30 points or more in three of his last six games and Lowry has scored 28, 32 and 43 and 17 in his last four games. Expect these three stars to continue to do their thing.
Rockets at Pacers, March 27
Houston grabbed the win in the first meeting between these teams this season, coming back from five points down in the final three minutes. Dwight Howard had a monster game with 21 points and 17 rebounds and there’s a good chance he’ll deliver a similar performance this time around. Paul George has been on a tear for the better part of 2016, though has been defended well by Trevor Ariza in the past. No player in the league is on more of tear through the early portion of March than James Harden, who continues to fill up the stat sheet like no other player in the league. Corey Brewer has also seen and uptick in his offensive game. Not only did he hit five 3-pointers earlier in March against the Raptors, but he also connected on the game-winning 3-pointer in the first meeting with the Pacers.
Rockets at Cavaliers, March 29
You never know what to expect from the individuals in this matchup because of the health of the Cavaliers. Harden and LeBron James are sure to fill it up, though James has struggled with his efficiency against the Rockets recently. The Rockets could face a bit of a challenge getting the game to their pace, though the switch from David Blatt to new coach Tyronn Lue has pushed the Cavaliers closer to the top of the league in pace.
Bulls at Rockets, March 31
Like the Raptors, both of the Bulls games against the Rockets come in March. Houston caught the Bulls earlier in the month on the night the Bulls welcomed Jimmy Butler back to the lineup. He was sensational, scoring 24 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out six assists before fouling out. Pau Gasol was equally effective with 28 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. Howard struggled in the game against the Bulls, managing just three buckets on nine shots and finished with just eight points and 12 rebounds before fouling out.