NBA Bargains 1/12/17

Once again, value is difficult to find tonight but at least one superstar will sit for sure (Jimmy Butler) and another is listed as questionable (Anthony Davis). If both were to be deemed out, then a world of possibilities would open up. If only Butler sits, there still would be enough to construct a roster to feel good about but not to the same degree. Having said that, let’s get to work…

Note: all fantasy point references are in regards to the scoring system on both DraftKings (DK) and FantasyDraft (FDr) which are the exact same other than triple-double bonus

Point Guards (PGs)

Rajon Rondo/Michael Carter-Williams, Bulls – Jimmy Butler has already been ruled out of Thursday’s contest so there will be plenty of usage to go around that is not normally available. Once again, the team announced Rajon Rondo will serve as the team’s sixth man meaning he should see a healthy amount of playing time despite his recent benching. Looking back to last game’s performance is a bit misleading as Butler, Dwyane Wade and Nikola Mirotic were all whereas only Butler has been deemed out for Thursday night. According to nbawowy, Rondo enjoys a usage rate (USG%) boost from 16.9 to 20.2-percent without Butler and Carter-Williams jumps from 21.0 to 22.7-percent. Rondo’s assist rate improves from 32.0 to 37.5-percent without Butler while Carter-Williams holds steady with or without the team’s star SG. Both are in play and both played 27-plus minutes on Tuesday so there is no real indication of how the minutes will shape out this go-around. They will likely go with the hot hand and Rondo literally ranks better than Carter-Williams in almost every advanced metric so he would be my choice if only using one.

Tony Parker, Spurs – Rostering Tony Parker is always a crap shoot but he quietly has played 31-plus minutes in two of his last five games and has topped 28 fantasy points four times during that span. To be fair, some of the Spurs best players have sat out recently but still it is encouraging to see Parker consistently taking 10-plus field goal attempts. So far this season, the Lakers rank 27th in defensive efficiency against opposing PGs and they are one of only three teams to have allowed a field goal percentage of 46.0-plus percent to the position. In each of his last three meetings against the Lakers, Parker has managed at least 23 fantasy points and he has eclipsed 29 fantasy points twice. At this price tag on DK, 29 fantasy points would equate to 6.17x value so there is upside here even though Coach Gregg Popovich is always a threat to short change any of his players’ minutes.

Shooting Guards (SGs)

Tyreke Evans, Pelicans – Having a minutes limit obviously caps a player’s potential ceiling but Tyreke Evans still is viable in any and all formats. Last game, he finally cracked 20 minutes (played 21) and he has now topped 20 fantasy points in four of his last six games while mostly hovering around the mid-teens in minutes. In his limited playing time this season, Evans is averaging 1.10 fantasy points per minute (FPPM) which is almost identical to his output last year. With a $4,200 price tag, an average 20 minute performance would equate to 5.24x value…and this is no average matchup. The Nets allow above and beyond the most fantasy points per game to opponents, play at the fastest pace and rank 27th in defensive efficiency. Assuming Evans enjoys even a minor uptick in efficiency against one of the league’s worst defenses, he should eclipse 6.0x value with ease. Oh by the way, Evans is averaging 1.30 FPPM without Anthony Davis on the court so his absence would also be a huge boost.

Caris LeVert, Nets – On the other side of the spectrum, Caris LeVert is a reasonably unproductive contributor (0.75 FPPM) who has been seeing a healthy amount of minutes as of late. In four of his last six games, LeVert has topped 23 minutes although he has only topped 17.25 fantasy points twice during that span. The Pelicans rate as a middle of the road defense against opposing SGs so LeVert is nothing more than a punt play in a game Vegas projects to be high scoring (217.5 over/under) and close (4.5 point spread). LeVert is nearly priced at the bare minimum so even the 17.25 fantasy points he produced last game would result in 5.40x value. LeVert is not a core play by any means but rather a player who can be used to fill a final, cheap roster spot.

Small Forwards (SFs)

P.J. Tucker, Suns – Although P.J. Tucker may not possess the necessary upside to win tournaments, he appears to be eclipsing 30 minutes per game on the regular once again. In fact, the only time in his last six contests in which he failed to reach the 30 minutes plateau was last game against the Cavaliers (and he still played 28 minutes). Minutes equal production in daily fantasy basketball and that would explain why Tucker has scored 20 or more fantasy points in three of his last four games and 19.75 in the outlier. Even the 19.75 is nearly 5.0x value so he is simply a safe play for his price tag if trying to avoid a dud.

Denzel Valentine, Bulls – Let me be the first to say it: Doug McDermott is not very good at basketball. Fantasy owners continue to go back to the well with him even though he averages 1.6 assists (AST), 0.4 steals (STL) and 0.1 blocks (BLK) per-36 minutes. Eddy Curry is widely considered one of the least productive players in NBA history (so much so that ESPN used to refer to unproductive performances as “Eddy Curry lines”) and those numbers are quite similar to his. Therefore, the Valentine explosion last game may not be an anomaly because he could fall into playing time by default. While he likely will not see 30-plus minutes once again, his price still only remains at $3,300. Valentine will likely see minutes in either a close game or a blowout so in that sense he is game flow proof. Considering the Knicks rank in both the bottom 11 of SG and SF efficiency defense, it will not matter where he plays either. If Valentine can carry that hot shooting over to another game, he could make some noise one again in GPPs.

Power Forwards (PFs)

Terrence Jones, Pelicans – The viability of Terrence Jones is reliant upon the status of Anthony Davis tonight who is listed as questionable. If he were to sit, there would be plenty of usage to be spread around the team beginning with his direct replacement: Terrence Jones. In terms of FPPM, Jones has only seen a slight boost without Davis on the court but the minutes would certainly be solidified if Davis were to sit. In the two games Davis has sat this season, Jones has averaged 33.3 fantasy points on the heels of 22.0 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game. The matchup could not possibly be any juicier so Jones would be a core play tonight if Davis were to sit especially on sites where he is still priced pretty cheaply.

Taj Gibson, Bulls – In a limited sample size, Taj Gibson’s efficiency has actually dipped without Jimmy Butler on the court this season but that is partially because he is virtually incapable of creating his own shot. With both Michael Carter-Williams and Rajon Rondo active, and now Dwyane Wade in the rotation as well, his efficiency should improve in the long run. Quietly, the Knicks actually rate as one of the worst frontcourt efficiency defenses in the league (27th) so it is unsurprising to see he has topped 20 fantasy points against them in three of his last four meetings. $5,200 is on the high side of what I would be willing to pay for him but he has topped 30 fantasy points in two of his last four games and those both came in games in which he attempted double-digit shot attempts. With Butler out, he should be able to get that many shots up once again so he should prove to be a safe investment in the mid-tier of pricing.

Centers (Cs)

Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks – Okay so $5,800 is more of a mid-tier price and Dirk Nowitzki only qualifies at C on DK but it is hard to discount the matchup against the Suns. On Jan. 5, Nowitzki squared off against this very Suns team and dropped 29.25 fantasy points in 28 minutes against them and now he is coming off a 40.75 fantasy point explosion versus the Timberwolves. With Nowitzki hitting his stride, he can once again be started with confidence, especially against a Suns defense that ranks 23rd in overall efficiency. Good luck to Marquese Chriss or any of the other players the Suns attempt to put on Nowitzki because his fadeaway jumper has withstood the test of time.

Donatas Motiejunas, Pelicans – Like Jones, this play is based off of the status of Anthony Davis because $4,300 is pricey for Donatas Motiejunas even against a piss poor opposing defense. If Davis does not suit up, Motiejunas would assuredly see minutes in the mid-20s against a team that ranks dead last in frontcourt defensive efficiency. For his career, Motiejunas is a 0.83 FPPM producer although his efficiency has improved so far in his current role with the Pelicans (1.13 FPPM). Either way, only the absence of Davis would deem him usable, although he would morph into one of the best plays on the slate if the All-Star were to sit.

Good luck everyone and grind on….

If you have any questions you can reach me on Twitter @RSandersDFS or in the premium Slack channel.