NBA DEEP DIVE – 11/11/16

POINT GUARD

The Clippers look good — really, really good. So good, actually, that they lead the league with a mind-blowing 89.3 DRtg through their first eight games. They’ve held their last seven opponents to under 100 points (85.7 PA/G), with five of them failing to hit 90 points in a game, and have lost only to Oklahoma City on the season. Russell Westbrook, who propelled his Thunder to that victory has seen his price come down, but that still only places him in GPP territory — not cash. His sky-high usage should actually help Chris Paul, who unsurprisingly leads the league in steals. The Clippers forced 10 Westbrook turnovers in last month’s meeting, and I’d expect similar results on Friday, as they’ve forced the second most giveaways on the year (17 per game). Westbrook should do enough to keep this game close, subsequently keeping Paul on the court, and also making him a top fantasy option once again. Looks for the Thunder to push the pace and produce a more conducive fantasy environment than last time these two teams met. If it wasn’t for the next two players we’re about to discuss, Paul would be considered the top point guard play on this eight-game slate.

Damian Lillard was flat out humiliated on Wednesday — by the Clippers, of course — scoring a paltry seven points on 1-10 shooting in a 31-point blowout defeat. The Clippers are improving every single game, so I have no problem throwing this game away and looking forward. Fortunately, we can look forward to a juicy matchup with Sacramento. Despite his forgettable performance, Lillard still ranks fifth in points, field goal attempts, touches, and fourth in time of possession. With a 33 percent usage rate, I’m confident Lillard will bounce back against the Kings, at home, where he’s been markedly better over his career. Sacramento has slowed their pace under David Joerger, but they’re still a bottom-10 defensive team, and neither Ty Lawson (5’11”) or Darren Collison (6’0”) should should be able to contain Dame even slightly.

Rounding out the top three is John Wall, whose 45.1 percent shooting is the high water mark of his career. This matchup with Cleveland isn’t perfect if you’re looking at it from a “they’re the reigning champs” perspective, but it gets much nicer when you look past the surface. The Cavs are allowing the fourth most points, free throws, field goal attempts and third highest field goal percentage to opposing point guards this season, while coughing up the fourth highest efficiency to the position. I generally don’t read far into DvP, but in this case we can be pretty certain Kyrie Irving will be guarding Wall so it’s relevant. Wall is a very strong cash and tournament play almost nightly with his ability to rack up elite fantasy totals without having to score. He’s fourth in assist points created behind only LeBron, Westbrook and Harden, while averaging a career-high 6.3 free throw attempts per game. With the Wizards playing at home I expect this game to stay competitive, and I expect Wall to produce another outstanding performance at a very respectable cost. Tomas Satoransky would start for Wall if he is rested on the first night of a back-to-back, but I’d expect him to rest in Saturday’s road meeting with the Bulls and not a home matchup with the Cavaliers.

NOTE: If I’m ranking these three point guards in order of preference, it would be Paul, Wall, Lillard on DraftKings, and Wall, Paul, Lillard on FanDuel. While I love Lillard’s upside, he doesn’t provide the same safety in peripheral statistics as either of the two alternatives. I’ll happily rank him over both guards in GPPs, though, as we’ve witnessed some monster performances from Dame in spots similar to this.

Isaiah Thomas is sporting a sexy 30 percent usage rate this season, a number that jumps north of 32 percent with Al Horford off the court. The Celtics don’t have any legitimate scoring options outside of their backcourt, which has resulted in Thomas’ 18.1 FGA/36 and league-leading 13.6 drives per game. He’s averaging a stellar 1.23 fantasy points per minute, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down against the Knicks’ 27th ranked defense. Ironically, Boston owns the league’s worst defensive rating with the third most points allowed per game. Couple that with their elevated pace, and they should have trouble blowing any team out until Horford and Jae Crowder return. 34-36 minutes of Thomas against the elderly Derrick Rose should bode well for him on Friday, making the pint-sized point guard a strong mid-range option across the board.

There are two $5K point guards I’m targeting on Friday, starting with Sergio Rodriguez. For all of you tournament players out there, Rodriguez makes for a sneaky low-end play with surprisingly decent upside against the Pacers. He shot 1-14 against them on Wednesday, but still finished with 31 minutes of court time, five assists and three steals in an overtime loss. Now he’ll draw the home matchup in a game Vegas expects to stay close (-4.5), and with Joel Embiid active Rodriguez should find an easier time scoring and dishing out assists. Believe it or not, Rodriguez ranks top-seven in assist points created and top-10 in touches. Brett Brown continues to utilize him heavily, and that should continue on Friday in what’s projected to be one of the highest scoring games on the night. Ish Smith is also in play at $4,700 on DraftKings. The matchup with San Antonio is far from favorable, but Smith’s price tag has dropped far enough to use him as a cap space opener. He’s averaging a pedestrian .85 FPPM on the season, but at that salary we won’t need much more than that assuming he sees between 29-31 minutes against the Spurs.

Marcus Smart hasn’t flashed much upside this season, but Brad Stevens is giving him plenty of opportunity. The second-year guard is seeing 31 MPG off the bench with a 22 percent usage rate and 13.8 FGA/36. Smart is not a good shooter, but he’s been working on his jump shot and three-pointer, which early in the season has actually shown signs of improvement. If Smart can knock down even 40 percent of his field goals and 35 percent of threes he’d been exponentially more valuable, and that’s exactly what he’s been doing to start the year. In non-blowouts he should log around 28-30 minutes, but could easily see more if his shot begins to fall. Smart is $4,900 on both FanDuel and DraftKings, putting him in play as a low-end point guard with consistent 22-26 FP production. Smart is better suited for cash games where you’re playing for safety and not upside.

If you’re looking for a super punt in this same game, Brandon Jennings has been seeing solid work off the bench for New York. Jennings is averaging 7.6 points, 5.2 assists and 20 fantasy points over his last five game, while logging around 22 MPG in the process. His playing time seems to be coming at the expense of Derrick Rose in some games, but the two aren’t necessarily correlated. At a near min-sal price, Jennings could churn out respectable fantasy totals against Boston’s league-worst defense in an uptempo affair. It’s risky, but one $3K punt will definitely open up the board, and there’s a good chance Jennings could finish with similar, if not identical totals to someone like Marcus Smart.

CORE – Chris Paul, John Wall, Damian Lillard

SECONDARY – Isaiah Thomas

Value – Sergio Rodriguez; Ish Smith [DraftKings]; Marcus Smart; Brandon Jennings

GPP 

SHOOTING GUARD

It’s truly difficult to comprehend what DeMar DeRozan is doing this season; despite making only two three-pointers on the season, DeRozan leads the entire league in scoring! Think about how crazy that is — mid-range jump shots are easily the least efficient shots in basketball, yet he’s doing a huge amount of his damage from inside the arc and outside of the paint. That’s not to say DeRozan hasn’t been aggressive, though, as he is averaging 12.3 drives per game with 25 percent of his field goal attempts coming from within five feet of the basket (63.4 FG%). His ability to get to the rack is boosting efficiency, but it’s his ability to score on drives that’s making the biggest difference; DeRozan leads the league in points off of drives, and has also been fouled nearly 20 percent of the time when driving to the hoop. This matchup with Toronto concerns me a bit, but the shooting guard position is greatly lacking options. If DeRozan continues shooting 24 times a game while knocking down shots at a 50-plus percent clip, it’s hard to believe anything or anyone is going to slow him down. I don’t see how you could use him at $9,000 on FanDuel, but he remains in play on DraftKings at $8,200. This game should remain close even if it isn’t the highest scoring affair.

On FanDuel, Avery Bradley remains under $7,000 despite averaging 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game. Bradley will certainly see some regression on his rebounding totals, but I’d expect him to keep shooting at a very high clip. Furthermore, Bradley is sporting a near 24 percent usage rate with Horford and Crowder sidelined, and I’m expecting both to remain sidelined. With 1.03 FPPM on the season, Bradley is still capable of paying off his price tag, as he’s clocking nearly 40 minutes per game in close games or blowouts. I generally wouldn’t recommend paying this much for a peripherally-impaired guard, but we’re seeing enough volume from Bradley to make an exception.

While each of the abovementioned two-guards are site-specific options on Friday, C.J. McCollum can be used across the board. He too should bounce back after being embarrassed by the Clippers, and a get right matchup with the Kings should expedite that process. McCollum’s 47 percent shooting from both the field and beyond the arc has allowed him to average 21 points per game, while his 27 percent usage will keep volume high. He’s the clear second option behind Lillard, but the Blazers lack any reliable scorers outside of their backcourt. McCollum’s 30 percent point share and 28 percent field goal attempt share is high enough to feel comfortable using him against Sacramento, who’s allowing the fifth best shooting percentage to opposing two-guards on the season. This game owns a respectable 210 over-under with Portland being seven-point favorites at the Moda center.

Victor Oladipo and Monta Ellis have gotten off to an awful start, with Oladipo’s struggles coming as a result of poor shooting and Ellis’ being a byproduct of having too many mouths to feed in Indiana. Ellis’ 14.5 percent usage rate is by far the lowest of his career even though he’s shooting at a 47 percent clip. The Pacers are spreading the ball around enough to kill his value, but there comes a time where Ellis falls enough in salary to be considered. At a dirt cheap price point across the industry, Ellis won’t kill you with 28 fantasy points, a number he can definitely attain against the Sixers. This game is sporting the second highest over-under on the night at 213.5 points, with the Pacers being mere 4.5-point favorites on the road. Assuming Ellis continues to see 33-35 minutes a game, he’ll be a good bet to pay off this salary even if it’s ugly.

Oladipo hasn’t performed well, but he’s still hoisting up 14 field goal attempts per game. This matchup with L.A. certainly isn’t appealing, but the Thunder will need him to shoot alongside Westbrook, who draws a very tough matchup with Chris Paul. Much like Ellis, 28-30 fantasy points from Oladipo would be enough to salvage his performance in cash games. The shooting guard position is weak enough to where we have to consider these struggling twos, but at least they’re cheap enough to justify a mention.

Depending on how willing you are to embrace risk, Courtney Lee has played well this season for New York. He’s averaging 13.2 points and 21.3 fantasy points over his last six game, while logging north of 31 minutes per contest on the year. This position is entirely devoid of usable punts, so Lee would be that guy if you’re looking to dumpster dive on Friday. Avery Bradley is a strong on-ball defender, but Boston’s lightning-fast pace and surprising 30th ranked DRtg should afford Lee an opportunity to produce in a very high-scoring affair.

SECONDARY – DeMar DeRozan [DraftKings]; Avery Bradley [FanDuel]; C.J. McCollum

VALUE – Monta Ellis; Victor Oladipo

GPP – Courtney Lee; Nicolas Batum [DraftKings]; Marco Belinelli

SMALL FORWARD

Friday’s road meeting with Washington feels like one where LeBron James decides to play. He’s liable to take nights off during the regular season, but I’m expecting the Wizards to keep this game competitive in front of a home crowd. James generally isn’t a player I like rostering, but I do see merit to using him in favorable situations. Washington has notoriously struggled against wings, and LeBron has showed no signs of slowing down himself. This game should see plenty of scoring (209.5) now that Cleveland is playing at a top-10 pace, so keep him on the radar when constructing cash game lineups. There’s never much to say abou James outside of “he’s LeBron James, and when he decides to show up you’re going to want him in your lineups.”

LeBron isn’t the only player I tend to shy away from in cash games — Carmelo Anthony is right there with him. There really isn’t anything worse than knowing Melo has weaseled his way into your lineups, but it’s so difficult to avoid him at his current price point. On the bright side, Anthony is averaging 25 points, 7.6 rebounds, three assists and 41.5 fantasy points over his last three starts, while attempting 20-plus field goals in each. His mid-$7K price point will require him to produce around 40 fantasy points to justify a roster spot, and this should be doable against a Crowder-less Celtics team. As earlier noted, Boston’s defense has struggled greatly this season, ranking dead last in DRtg and 28th in eFG% allowed. This contest owns the highest over-under on the night at 216 points, and although the Celtics are six-point home favorites I don’t envision this game getting out of hand. Despite all of his flaws, Melo is still sporting a 30 percent usage rate with the seventh most shots attempted on the year. Volume is king in daily fantasy basketball, which is why Anthony will begrudgingly be one of my top overall options on this eight-game slate.

Paul George makes for an excellent pivot away from Anthony in GPPs. Most will avoid him against the Sixers knowing that volume is being pretty equally distributed in Indiana, but there’s enough upside here to love him in GPPs. George’s salary continues to fall, but his per minute production remains steady (1.15 FPPM). He’s still the go-to option on the Pacers, is sporting a respectable, yet lower than last year’s 27 percent usage rate, and could see plenty of shot volume if the Pacers struggle to get anything going in the paint with Joel Embiid active. George has enjoyed plenty of success against the Sixers, and assuming this game stays competitive (IND -4.5), he should continue posting solid numbers on Friday night.

There is no one I like rostering less than C.J. Miles, but for as long as Rodney Stuckey is sidelined, we’ll continue to keep him in play. Miles should see around 25 minutes against the Sixers’ weak perimeter defense, and if he keeps pace with his 1.1 FPPM production on the season, Miles will be able pay off his FanDuel price tag with relative ease. Coming off the bench has helped Miles avoid the log game of hungry mouths in the Pacers’ starting lineup, as he’s sporting a respectable 23 percent usage rate with a whopping 16.5 FGA/36. I don’t feel comfortable paying $5K on DraftKings, but he remains underpriced on FanDuel.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive small forward on DraftKings, Aaron Gordon is your guy. The matchup with Utah is unappealing, but DraftKings continues to price players through the floor when facing the Jazz. At $4,900 Gordon will need 29 fantasy points to produce 6x his salary, and would need only 24.5 fantasy points for 5x that very cheap price tag. Gordon’s wide ranging skill set has me confident that he should be able to grind out a respectable fantasy line despite the unappealing matchup. Moe Harkless should run no risk of seeing his minutes lowered if Al-Farouq Aminu remains out on Friday. He’s in play across the board in a plus matchup with Sacramento, and has tallied 32-plus fantasy points in two of his last three starts. I still prefer Gordon over Harkless on DraftKings, but would have no problem using Harkless over Miles on FanDuel, as he isn’t solely reliant on scoring to reach value.

CORE – Carmelo Anthony

SECONDARY – LeBron James

VALUE – Aaron Gordon [DraftKings]; C.J. Miles [FanDuel]; Moe Harkless

GPP – Paul George

POWER FORWARD

DeMarcus Cousins has suffered from Dave Joerger taking over at the helm and slowing Sacramento’s pace to a crawl, but he’s sporting an identical usage rate to last season (35%) and is actually shooting from a higher clip from the field. The loss of value comes from decreased possessions, though, as he’s attempting two fewer field goals per 36, and has seen his defensive rebounding rate drop nearly six percent. I expect the rebounds to climb upwards, and that could start against the Blazers, who rank second to last in offensive rebounding and total rebounding on the season. Mason Plumlee is an inferior rim protector, and the Blazers simply won’t have anyone big, strong or quick enough to defend Cousins down low. He’s definitely not producing the same eye-popping fantasy totals we’d become accustomed to seeing over the years, but Cousins should torch Portland on Friday. Despite the back-to-back, I’m still in favor of having exposure to Cousins in both cash games and GPPs.

The Washington Wizards are allowing a ridiculous .508 FG% (29th) and .462 3-PT% (30th) to opposing power forwards this season. They’ve really struggled to contain bigs, especially those who can step out to the 3-point line and knock down threes like Kevin Love. The veteran forward has been far more involved in Cleveland’s offense than he was over the past two years, sporting a 27.4 percent usage rate with 17.2 FGA/36. More emphasis has been placed on getting Love involved early, and that has been made evident by his fantasy value. Love is averaging 1.2 FPPM on the season with just shy of 40 FPPG. Markieff Morris is a talented defender, but he lacks effort often and has trouble staying out of foul trouble. I like Love at his mid-$7K price point on both FanDuel and DraftKings. He’s a strong secondary play in what should be a high-scoring affair.

There’s no way we can ignore Blake Griffin until his price tag climbs above $9K. He’s $8,500 on FanDuel and DraftKings, which is truly insane considering his efficiency this season. Griffin and Paul are running a clinic on whoever crosses their paths, and the Clippers really don’t have any reliable scorers in their starting lineup outside of these two. Sure, J.J. Redick can knock down threes, but he’s entirely uninvolved unless he receives a pass on the perimeter. When you have a team like the Clippers who run almost everything through their point guard and power forward, the floor is going to be very high. Griffin has double-doubled in six of eight games while averaging 20/10/4 on the young season. He’s a lock to keep producing big numbers in an offense that revolves around him and only one other player.

If you’re looking for a low-owned tournament pivot, Kristaps Porzingis fits the bill. The second-year Latvian big man has been very hit or miss this season, but his good games have been impressive, and he’s now tallied 36-plus fantasy points in each of his last three starts. Jeff Hornacek has begun to stagger Staps’ minutes so he isn’t playing as much with Anthony, which helps both of their fantasy value from a usage and rebounding standpoint. I’ll have sprinkles of Porzingis in tournaments for sure, as he’ll be facing an undermanned and under-talented Celtics frontcourt that’s been torched for big fantasy totals this season. I also see Markieff Morris being a quality GPP play, as everyone will be off of him after two disappointing performances. Morris was limited by foul trouble and blowout conditions last game, and was simply inefficient a game prior to that. He’s still in line to see big minutes with double-digit field goal attempts and 8-10 rebounds per game, so while I don’t love this matchup with Cleveland, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this be the game where Morris goes off. Keep in mind, however, that he is a GPP only, and shouldn’t be used in cash.

Brett Brown hasn’t consistent enough with his frontcourt rotations for us to project who will be the best value option Friday, but the Sixers do have a very nice matchup against the Pacers’ putrid frontcourt defense. Richaun Holmes should get some run with Jahlil Okafor out and is the cheapest of our available options, but Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova offer more upside with their ability to knock down shots. I’m more interested in the latter two, as Saric could see 30-plus minutes again, and Ilyasova could get hot from beyond the arc. I’ll be reserving them for GPPs, but am also convinced that one of them is going to have himself a very nice game.

Kelly Olynyk logged 26 minutes in his season debut, and while his production was awful, we’ve seen him churn out decent fantasy totals in the past. There are two things that put him on the radar this evening: the pace of this game should be excellent for fantasy purposes with its 216 O/U being the highest on the night, and the Knicks’ frontcourt defense is mediocre at best. Value at the power forward position is ugly, so you’ll either be looking at Olynyk or Channing Frye, both who are volatile but dirt cheap options off the bench.

NOTE: Keep an eye on who Terry Stotts starts with Al-Farouq Aminu out. He’s one of the worst coaches in terms of transparency, but if we get news on a starter before 7 pm lock, it may put him in play at a minimum salary cost.

CORE – DeMarcus Cousins
SECONDARY – Kevin Love; Blake Griffin

VALUE – Kelly Olynyk; Channing Frye

GPP – Kristaps Porzingis; Markieff Morris; Dario Saric; Ersan Ilyasova

CENTER

Andre Drummond’s price tag is down for this matchup with the Spurs, and although they play stout defense in all areas of the game, this is a San Antonio team that’s working out some kinks with their new personnel. The Spurs didn’t lose a home game last season until there was one week remaining in the season — they’ve lost three home games in a row heading into this tilt with Detroit. Pau Gasol’s defense is lacking to say the least, and Drummond has enjoyed plenty of success against him in the pass. A versatile center with immense double-double upside and elite rebounding skills should succeed against the Spurs if his team can keep things competitive, and I’m actually expecting Detroit to make this a somewhat close affair.

We’ve still yet to get that monster performance from DeAndre Jordan this season, but fortunately it has knocked his price tag down considerably across the board. Jordan is still set to see big minutes against the Blazers, and he won’t need more than 35 fantasy points to make for a great cash game option on both DraftKings and FanDuel. Jordan makes his living on the boards and on putbacks. With Portland being one of the worst rebounding teams in basketball, Jordan could finally have that breakout game we’ve been patiently waiting for. I’ll have plenty of him on both sites this evening.

Joel Embiid has been flat out filthy to start the season, averaging a ridiculous 29.6 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.4 blocks and 56 DraftKings points per 36 on the season. Although he’s only going to play a maximum of 25 minutes on Friday, I still love him in this matchup. The Pacers are bottom-3 in points, rebounds, FG% and OEff against opposing frontcourts this season, and after being 12.5-point favorites on Wednesday with Embiid out, are 4.5-point favorites on Friday. Embiid’s 40 percent usage rate means that even with a 25 minute limit he is going to see ample opportunity to produce. He’ll need to cut down on the turnovers eventually, but we’ll take them as a byproduct of his huge volume and fantasy production each and every night. He is my favorite value play on this slate, even at $5,900 on DraftKings.

Outside of the aforementioned options, there are only a few players left to choose from at the center position. Mason Plumlee has been productive from a per minute basis but his playing is too unpredictable to use him over Embiid in cash. He’s still a viable GPP play though, as he draws a plus matchup with Sacramento in what should be a relatively high scoring game. I also see some value in Al Jefferson even though Embiid is back in the mix. Jefferson will play most of his minutes with Embiid on the bench, and can easily post enough 25-plus fantasy points if provided around 20 minutes as a reserve. Jefferson owns a 23.3 percent usage rate on the season.

SECONDARY – DeAndre Jordan; Andre Drummond

VALUE – Joel Embiid

GPP – Mason Plumlee; Al Jefferson