NBA Bargains – 3/9/17

With five games on the slate tonight, owners are going to have an interesting Russell Westbrook conundrum. On one hand, Westbrook is on an insane tear right now but he is by far the most expensive player on the slate and his upside has been 57 fantasy points against the Spurs over the last two seasons. Therefore, I expect a lot of people to resort to the fade and roll with more balanced rosters than a typical small(er) slate. Getting the values correct is going to be of the utmost importance because the masses may gravitate towards the same expensive options. Without further ado, 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

Since there are only so many values tonight, there is no reason to split them up by position. Instead, they will be listed in ascending order of my confidence in them (meaning my favorite plays are at the bottom):

Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers – On paper, the matchup against Andre Drummond is not great as the Pistons rank fifth in defensive efficiency versus opposing centers (Cs) and allow the fourth fewest rebounds per game (RPG) to the position as well. However, Thompson has been called upon for 30 and 26 minutes in the two previous meetings against the Pistons respectively this season and registered double-digit rebounds each time out. The Cavaliers simply need his size on the court as much as possible especially with the recent injuries to both Kevin Love and Andrew Bogut. Sans Love in the rotation, Thompson has averaged 0.3 more minutes per game (MPG), which may not seem like much but signifies the team relies on his ability to battle on the boards. Assuming this game remains close, and Vegas only projects the Pistons as 5.0 point underdogs, Thompson should approach double-digit rebounds (REB) once again at an affordable cost across the industry.

Larry Nance Jr., Lakers – Straight up: the issue with Larry Nance Jr. is his minutes are basically capped at 20 so his ceiling can only reach so high. Having said that, this matchup is absolutely perfect in multiple ways, beginning with the fact the Suns are going to go small for extended stretches. Consequently, guys like Ivica Zubac will be rendered unusable against certain opposing lineups that would run straight past him. In his last two meetings against the Suns, Nance Jr. has played 21 and 22 minutes which are actually quite high considering the norm for him. Even with Director of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson’s push for a youth movement, Nance Jr. will simply be needed to match the speed and athleticism of the Suns’ second unit. The Suns essentially rate as a league average team at defending the rim (61.3-percent defending FG percentage) and teams get in transition on them at the fourth highest frequency. Since Nance Jr. is a quite athletic power forward (PF), he can get up and down the court and has the potential to end multiple transition opportunities with a dunk. By comparison, Nance Jr. gets out in transition at the identical percentage to the team’s starting point guard (PG): D’Angelo Russell. Although his upside is capped, Nance Jr. should at least possess a semi-safe floor in this fast-paced affair tonight and he is still incredibly cheap especially on DK.

Jon Leuer, Pistons – The individual defense of Channing Frye and/or Richard Jefferson is not scaring anybody and the best case scenario for the Pistons is both Tobias Harris and Aron Baynes will be playing hobbled. If one or both end up missing tonight’s game, Leuer would be in for additional minutes in what was already an enticing matchup. Over their last five games, the Cavaliers have allowed a 47.4-percent FG percentage to opposing PFs, which is obviously a limited sample size, but also makes sense because this theoretically is one of the holes in the defense. Leuer will head into this game having played 27-plus minutes in three of his last four and he has taken at least 13 shots in each game which he has managed that sort of allotment of minutes. Furthermore, Leuer has topped 25 fantasy points in two of his last four games, which at this price tag would equate to 5.4x value on DK. If the Baynes injury leads to a few additional minutes for Leuer, his upside should certainly stretch beyond the 6.0x value threshold. Side note: Leuer runs a strange rotation where he plays most of his minutes in the second half so do not tilt him too hard if he is underperforming at half time.

Brandon Ingram, Lakers – Admittedly this is a better play on FanDuel (FD) where his price tag is still just $4,000 for whatever reason but virtually everyone in this game has a potential to crush. Brandon Ingram has played less than 35 minutes just once in his last six games and his usage rate (USG%) has actually risen by about a percentage point (15.7 season average compared to 16.5 his last six games). Most importantly, his shooting has drastically improved as of late as he is shooting 47.5-percent from the field over his last six games. Value is commonly referred to as 5.0x salary on FD and Ingram is averaging exactly 5.0x value over his last six games which coincides with when the aforementioned Magic Johnson took over the team. Now, the pace of this game is expected to be easily the fastest of the night and Ingram’s size will be useless to defend both some of the Suns’ assets in the starting lineup (T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss) and the second unit (Jared Dudley, Derrick Jones Jr.). Expect 35-plus minutes once again, and in this matchup, that should lead to him eclipsing value on accident.

Justin Anderson, 76ers – Speaking of players who should accidentally provide fantasy owners with a productive outing, Justin Anderson dominates the usage on the second unit for the 76ers. For the season, the Trail Blazers’ bench allows the fifth most points per game (PPG) and Anderson leads the entire bench unit in USG% over the last three games (22-percent). Since he is taking a majority of the shots, it is not surprising to see 16 and 12 field goal attempts in two of his last three games despite playing just 23 and 24 minutes in those games. The good news is the one game he has struggled during that span was just a poor shooting night and he actually ended up playing 30 minutes in that game. Assuming he avoids the individual defense of Al-Farouq Aminu (which I think he will), there is no reason to fear the matchup whatsoever. This game opened with the second highest total of the slate despite the team being listed as double-digit underdogs. His $4,000 price tag on DK is the biggest selling point as he should take enough shots to potentially exceed value at that miniscule cost…but he also has a low floor as a ton of his shots are of the spot up variety so he could totally flop if he starts out cold.

Jordan Clarkson, Lakers – There is not a more ideal atmosphere for Jordan Clarkson than in this contest because the Suns are absolutely loaded with guards and like to run two guard lineups that feature the likes of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis and Leandro Barbosa at virtually all times. In order to match up, the Lakers will have no choice but to give Clarkson some additional run in a game against the third fastest paced team in the league. Only Nick Young, Julius Randle and Luol Deng have led transition plays at a higher frequency than Clarkson this season (amongst Lakers) and the Suns’ propensity to allow fast breaks has already been mentioned in this article. Only four teams rank worse than the Suns in terms of backcourt efficiency defense and no team allows more PPG to opposing guards. Not only should Clarkson enjoy an uptick in minutes but an uptick in efficiency would not be surprising against a fast-paced team that defends his position poorly. Although Clarkson’s skill set is volatile in nature, this is a prime spot to target him.

Tyler Ulis, Suns – Reportedly Eric Bledsoe is dealing with an undisclosed injury and Coach Earl Watson kept him on the bench late in the team’s last game to “keep his muscles warm” (whatever that means). The good news is Tyler Ulis is viable whether or not Bledsoe suits up because the dude has been balling lately: 22-plus fantasy points in four of his last five games and 32-plus fantasy points in two of his last three. His only bad game during his recent stretch was last game which could cause his ownership to dip tonight…and that would be a good thing. In the projected highest scoring game of the evening (229 over/under), both teams are implied at over 111 points and the benches will be needed to contribute in order to reach those absurd totals. Luckily for Ulis, the Lakers second unit ranks 26th in defensive efficiency and allows the second highest FG percentage of any bench (46.6-percent). In other words, this is the ideal matchup for Ulis to bounce back especially when taking into consideration the pace and the fact the Lakers rank 29th in defensive efficiency against opposing PGs. Ulis is a player to build around in GPPs.

Alan Williams, Suns – Ulis’ buddy on the second unit, Alan Williams, is a player to build around in all formats. Why? The guy is an absolute beast and his per-minute numbers are absolutely insane. On a per-36 minute basis this year, Williams is averaging 18.0 PPG, 15.3 RPG, 1.5 steals per game (SPG) and 2.2 blocks per game (BPG) en route to 46.23 fantasy points. By comparison, Blake Griffin is averaging 44.43 fantasy points per-36 minutes, Stephen Curry is averaging 47.60 and DeMar DeRozan is averaging 41.75 so Williams’ per-minute numbers are amongst the best in the league. Now, facing a defense that ranks dead last in defensive efficiency versus opposing Cs, it should not take long for Williams to rack up a monster double-double. Sure Andre Drummond is approximately the same price on DK you do not have to choose one or the other. Go ahead and pair both in cash games and enjoy the big night.

Good luck everyone and grind on….

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