The NFL fantasy season is wrapping up and you’ve been moderately paying attention to the NBA. Well, it is Christmas. The NBA owns Christmas just as the NFL owns thanksgiving. If you are a casual fan just wanting to watch sports this Christmas, allow us to catch you up on today’s Holiday matchups. I hope this helps you enjoy these Nationally televised games a bit more with some tidbits to take into consideration while watching.
Boston Celtics at New York Knicks – 12:00pm Eastern
This game features a Celtics team that when fully healthy has been getting the ball up and down the court. They are slowly climbing the ranks of the NBA’s elite for offensive rating. The Knicks have been surprisingly competitive this year. With both teams averaging around 104 points per game, there should be plenty of offense to offer in this game. Jeff Hornacek also has the Knicks playing at a faster pace than in years past which helps owners of the players from these two teams.
The game will feature two of the top scorers in the game with Boston’s Isaiah Thomas and New York’s Carmelo Anthony (both averaging well over 20 points per game). The Celtics’ new offseason addition, Al Horford, had been an unsuspecting source of blocks and assists while teammate Avery Bradley is leading the team in rebounds per game (over 7 per game as a shooting guard). For New York, the key will be rebounding and second chance points. Boston is a below average rebounding team so the Knicks would be wise to hit the offensive boards hard. Kristaps Porzingis and Wily Hernangomez should receive plenty of chances for rebounds and second chance points. Newcomer Derrick Rose will likely have a slower day than usual as Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart are likely to lock him up on the offensive end.
Player you will fall in love with watching: Jae Crowder.
Prediction: Boston 106 – New York 99
Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers – 2:30pm Eastern
A rematch of last year’s NBA finals will be the highlight of the Christmas slate of games rolled out. Two-time MVP Stephen Curry still garners lots of respect with his long-range shooting ability for the Warriors. However, the real storyline for the team is how well Kevin Durant has stepped into his role and place in the team. He has quickly shown that he is the best talent on the team regardless of the number of MVP trophies floating around. With less depth on the team this season, Golden State has relied on its core to produce much of the offense. Look for the usual suspects of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to see their usual gaudy numbers.
Cleveland, since brining in Tyronn Lue, has played a quicker tempo. This will result in huge fantasy upside for owners of players on these two team. Lebron James loves the national spotlight and will undoubtedly put on a great show. Keep an eye on Cleveland’s spacing if JR Smith cannot return from a finger injury. This could result in less three point opportunities which could open up the driving from Lebron James and Kyrie Irving. It could allow perimeter defenders to focus on Kevin Love behind the arc which would subsequently lower his value.
Player that will make you say, “he really is that good”: Kyrie Irving.
Prediction: Golden State 109, Cleveland 106
Chicago Bulls at San Antonio Spurs – 5:00pm Eastern
The Chicago Bulls have gone cold from three-point land over the last month (as expected). They have the toughest matchup of the day in having to travel to San Antonio. This could be a rough day on the Bulls. What we should all hope for is that the world can have the opportunity to see just how special a player Jimmy Butler is. While he is always motivated, he seems to have an ungodly gear that can’t be matched when it is turned on. I’m hoping a Christmas Day game can bring that out. Rajon Rondo will put on his typical, National televised game, impressive, showing so we can all think about what could be.
The Spurs have been the most consistently dominant team of the last two decades. Kawhi Leonard is now the leader of this team and his all around game is exciting to watch. He is one of the top defenders in the league while being able to play inside and outside on the offensive end depending on the matchup while being able to get to the rim at will. LeMarcus Aldridge is a very solid number two piece in San Antonio that offers a complete post game on both ends of the floor. As a team, they are well rounded and share the ball extremely well. Playing for the one of the game’s best coaches only helps the team’s cause each and every night.
Overall, there are too many question marks with this matchup for anyone to invest too much fantasy value in it. The potential of a lopsided game could have key players from both teams sitting late in the game. It is still worth tuning into for a Greg Popovich halftime interview alone.
Player that will make you say, “huh, he’s pretty good”: Taj Gibson.
Prediction: San Antonio 112, Chicago 94
Minnesota Timberwolves at Oklahoma City Thunder – 8:00pm Eastern
This is an example of great scheduling by the NBA. While neither team will be competing for the title this season, the NBA can showcase one of its best up and coming players along with one of its most exciting. The Timberwolves are playing better than their record indicates. They are very well coached and have a solid young core. This exact team will be competitive in two or three years. Ironically, they are just like the Thunder were seven years ago- young, hungry, and entertaining.
Karl Anthony-Towns is miles ahead of his peers from the 2015 draft class. He defends, rebounds, shoots, blocks shots, and has a post game. He is a franchise cornerstone for an NBA team and your fantasy team. Add Andrew Wiggins and a quick developing Zach Lavine and you have one of the best young cores in the game. They also drafted Kris Dunn this year who will start seeing now playing time as the loses pile up. They are fun to watch, provide plenty of fantasy value but, are incredibly inexperienced. As they gain experience, they will win the close games more often.
With Kevin Durant leaving Oklahoma City in the offseason, everyone expected the Thunder to take a giant step back. Instead, Russell Westbrook decided to put the team on his back and keep them relevant in the Western Conference. They quietly brought aboard Victor Oladipo (who is currently injured which will be too bad for the Christmas audience) to give OKC an amazingly athletic backcourt. While the rest of the names on the Thunder aren’t superstars, they are well-balanced and can beat you inside or outside or if you play big or small or even fast or slow. The real treat is getting to see Russell Westbrook. Somebody averaging a triple-double was unthinkable a few years ago and now it is happening. Watch him this Christmas and you will be blown away by his athleticism. Every time I get the pleasure to watch him I think, “he is everywhere, on every, single play”.
And of course, I can’t talk about the Thunder without mentioning Steven Adams. He is the guy you hate playing against but, he would be your favorite player if he was on the team you cheer for. He is just a tough, old-style player who does the dirty work to win games. He also puts up a respectable fantasy line on a consistent basis too, so enjoy this game. There is lots to offer.
Watch the game because: Russell Westbrook and Karl Anthony-Towns.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 102, Minnesota 100
Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers – 10:30pm Eastern
The final matchup will unfortunately be missing some of the highlight makers for these two teams as Blake Griffin and Larry Nance Jr. are sidelined with injuries. The Clippers will role out the always steady Chris Paul at Point Guard to provide a steady diet of points, steals, and assists. The Clippers are making what is likely their last run at a deep playoff run. Health has been what has held them back from showing the league what they might be able to do in the post-season for the past few years. The Clippers also feature productive role players in Jamal Crawford, Deandre Jordan (yes, he is a role player, queue the controversy), and JJ Redick. They aren’t incredibly deep but, have experience and a strong leader in Paul.
The Lakers are a team on the opposite end of the spectrum- which is interesting since these two teams share a venue. They have a young core that has promise and potential; the question is who will be the young player to step up and take the reigns of this team. It could be any one of the trio of Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, or D’Angelo Russell. All have talent. All are young. None have been consistent enough to be able to entrust a franchise to. The fantasy value in Lakerland has come mostly from veteran Lou Williams as he has become a scoring machine in the early stages of the season.
Generally, the Clippers play slow and the Lakers are inefficient; this isn’t a matchup to target huge fantasy numbers from.
Players that could take over the game: Chris Paul and D’Angelo Russell.
Prediction: Clippers 98, Lakers 95
Enjoy the Christmas Day games. Merry Christmas from Dynasty Sports Empire! Build your dynasty at Dynastysportsempire.com.