James Harden is ready for the spotlight

James Harden is ready for the spotlight

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James Harden is ready for the spotlight

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(Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)
(Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

The FantasyScore pool is stocked to the brim with guards, but the cupboard is pretty bare at center for the four games Saturday that will tip off the NBA playoffs.

Player salaries have been reduced to make things even more interesting as we march through the playoffs. This will come in handy because low-priced players aren't usually productive as teams have smaller rotations.

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Featured stud

G James Harden, Rockets vs. Mavericks
$8,400 salary | 16.8% of cap

"The Beard" is groomed and ready for the spotlight. Harden was the third-best player on FantasyScore over the last 30 days with 49.4 fantasy points a night. He was on par with that at 46.7 per game the last week. The Mavs are about the middle of the pack at defending two-guards the last 10, but they really don't match up well against Harden. Point guard Rajon Rondo may be assigned to him a lot. Shooting guard Monta Ellis isn't a great defender, and Rondo is giving up four inches.

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Start

C Dwight Howard, Rockets vs. Mavericks
$6,300 salary | 12.6% of cap

"Superman" has been on a hefty minutes restriction since he returned from a knee injury. Those minutes have been increased to around 32, and that's close to his normal load. He looked like his former self with 32.4 fantasy points per game in the final two games of the season. With the pool so light, and Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah slumping, Howard is the best option at the position. The matchup is solid as Dallas was in the bottom half of the league in defending the center spot the last 10 games.

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G Louis Williams, Raptors vs. Wizards
$3,500 salary | 7.0% of cap

The outstanding sixth man produced like a $5,000 player the last month of the season (26 fantasy points per game), but at a fraction of the cost. He had success against Washington with 19.7 points, two boards, two dimes and 1.7 steals per game in three games. He has upside at this price.

F Al-Farouq Aminu, Mavericks at Rockets
$2,500 salary | 5.0% of cap

Aminu is one of the better bets to come through at a basement price. Chandler Parsons (knee) hopes to play in Game 1, but he has been out more than two weeks. He could be limited, and Aminu is a cheap source for a few points and several rebounds. He averaged nine points, seven boards and three blocks in four games against Houston this season.

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Bench

G Monta Ellis, Mavericks at Rockets
$5,700 salary | 11.4% of cap

Ellis is a streaky player, but it has been a struggle of late. Since the team acquired Rondo, Ellis has had trouble fitting into the offense. Rondo dominates the basketball in running the point, and Ellis is more of a dribble-and-drive player than a spot-up shooter. He averaged just 25.7 fantasy points per game the last month of the season, and the Rockets are in the top five in defending two-guards the last 10 games.

HoopsHype and USA TODAY Fantasy Sports offer daily fantasy basketball advice throughout the 2014-15 season. Play for free or for prizes at FantasyScore today.

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