NBA Deeper Dive 10/28/16

POINT GUARD

Russell Westbrook finished one assist shy of a triple-double in Wednesday’s season opener, posting 32 points on 11-21 shooting and 9-11 at the line, with 12 rebounds and nine assists across 36 minutes of work. His monster performance was greatly overshadowed by Anthony Davis going nuclear, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone as consistent as Westbrook now that Kevin Durant has moved to greener pastures. Friday’s home matchup with Phoenix is of perfect proportions for a numbers of reasons: Westbrook will undoubtedly be motivated to help the Thunder faithful forget K.D. ever played there (not like that’s possible, but you know he’s gonna try), Phoenix played at a top-5 pace in 2015-16, and Oklahoma City owns one of the highest implied team totals on the night (109.5). To phrase things in simpler terms, I’d be shocked to see Westbrook not record a triple-double against a Suns team that just had their doors blown off by the Kings. He’s a top play across the board with unlimited upside even at his price.

Stephen Curry should still post impressive numbers this season, but we can’t rely on him to post Westbrook-like consistency now that Durant is in town. The Warriors were embarrassed by Popovich’s Spurs in their home opener, though, which means they should route the Pelicans in a guaranteed high-scoring affair. Curry makes for a sexy tournament play at a massive discount from Westbrook, as he is likely to bounce back against a Frazier/Moore-led backcourt. Still, it’s hard to recommend Curry in cash when Golden State should be able to exploit New Orleans at every position, in every facet of the game.

A year or two ago we would’ve looked at a tilt between the Pacers and Nets and thought “they’ll be lucky to total 190 points.” Well, much is changing, my friends; both teams played at a top-10 pace in the preseason and are expected to play at an elevated rate all season long. With new coaches, new personnel, and a rapidly evolving league featuring positionless basketball and seven-foot point guards, what were once some of the NBA’s most boring teams are now receiving makeovers. This game sports a healthy 214.5 over-under, good for third highest on the night, and Jeremy Lin will be Brooklyn’s only hope of keeping things relatively competitive at home. Wednesday’s matchup with Boston was much tougher than this one with the Pacers, who although they should boast an above average defensive backcourt, will play at a fast enough pace to create big volume for Brooklyn’s only capable scorer.  Lin is cash game-viable across the board, as I’d expect him to play into the mid-30’s with a usage rate north of 28 percent.

With every team having at least a game under their belts, it’s encouraging to see Tim Frazier ranking sixth in touches (98). The third-year backup logged a whopping 37 minutes in his debut, while recording the second most passes made (80),  third most assist points (24) created and third most potential assists (25). Those numbers may seem meaningless to you, but they aren’t; Frazier is going to see massive volume as a ball handler until Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans return, and was the only player on this Pelicans roster to see more than seven assist opportunities on Wednesday. Golden State should win this game with ease, but we’re still staring down the barrel of a 220 over-under, and Frazier should look to feed Anthony Davis all night long. He’s a cash game option until further notice, and is the preferred option over Ish Smith at a similar cost. Frazier’s price point on FanDuel makes him a very appealing play to pair with Westbrook.

George Hill impressed in his Jazz debut, even if he wasn’t particularly efficient. With 18 field goal attempts and 39 minutes of work, George will clearly be expected to play a prominent role in this Gordon Hayward-less offense. Friday’s matchup with the Lakers is a beauty, but Hill loses value if Derrick Favors is active. I’m perfectly fine deploying him in cash is Favors is out, though, as the Lakers’ youthful roster will be full of turnovers and costly defensive miscues. Even if Favors plays, Hill will make for a solid value guard on DraftKings at only $5,500. He saw minutes at both guard spots on Tuesday, and is one of Quin Snyder’s clear top guards after Dante Exum and Shelvin Mack combined for only 23 minutes of court time.

Deron Williams and J.J. Barea both logged huge minutes in the Mavericks’ backcourt on Wednesday, as Rick Carlisle ran a lot of three-guard sets against the Pacers. We could see more of these small ball lineups against the Rockets, who easily own one of the smaller frontcourts in basketball. Barea’s minutes were inflated due to Seth Curry fouling out in only 16 minutes, but with Devin Harris sidelined for at least three weeks, Barea will continue to see extended run off the bench. This contest owns the highest over-under on the night at 220.5 points, and Dallas is a mere 1.5-point favorite at home. You’ll want exposure to this game, and going cheap wouldn’t be the worst way to make that happen on the Mavericks’ side of the ball.

CORE – Russell Westbrook

SECONDARY – Jeremy Lin

VALUE – Tim Frazier; George Hill [DraftKings]; Deron Williams; J.J. Barea [DraftKings]

GPP – Stephen Curry; Ish Smith [DraftKings]; George Hill [FanDuel]; Tyler Johnson

SHOOTING GUARD

James Harden told the media Mike D’Antoni was “trippin’” when suggesting his starting point guard could average double-digit assists this season. Well, who’s trippin’ now, James? Harden accounted for all of Houston’s nine assists in the first quarter of their opener, and finished with 17 assists with a ridiculous 67 percent assist rate on the night. He’s literally going to do it all for the Rockets, and that was evidenced by his 38 percent usage rate and 9.1-minute time of possession on Wednesday. I have Westbrook ranked slightly ahead of Harden, but shooting guard is predictably shallower than point guard, so you wouldn’t be wrong to use him in order to guarantee production at the position.

Eric Gordon also makes for an interesting prospect. The veteran two-guard logged 34 minutes in his Rockets debut, hoisting up 15 shots and eight three-point attempts in the process. He was routinely left wide open with the Lakers scrambling to cover Harden, and that’s exactly why he’s so valuable in this offense. What I found even more encouraging, though, was Gordon handled point guard duties in the 11 minutes he played with Harden off the floor, attempting six field goals with a 25 percent usage rate over that stretch. His upside is somewhat limited due to a lack of peripherals, but Gordon definitely possesses value in what should be the highest scoring contest on the night. I prefer him over Monta Ellis, who despite his big minutes and impressive performance in the Pacers’ season opener, is one of the most volatile fantasy options in the game.

Victor Oladipo was very disappointing in his first game with the Thunder, but the fourth-year guard did provide some reason for optimism. He saw only 27 minutes of work — a number we can expect to rise above 30 on Friday — but attempted 16 field goals and sported an identical usage rate to Westbrook at 31.8 percent. Look, there’s no way Billy Donovan wants to use Kyle Singler and Semaj Christon any more than absolutely necessary, so it’s reasonable to assume Oladipo’s lack of minutes were a result of his inefficient play. I’m viewing him as more of a tournament play on Friday, but love his upside against the Suns, especially considering he will be Oklahoma City’s clear number-two scorer, as well as their main ball handler with Westbrook off the court. As ugly as this sounds, Rodney Hood is the preferred cash game option at the position. He’ll play huge minutes against the Lakers and owns a 26 percent usage rate with Hayward off the court dating back to the beginning of 2015. Hood becomes even more appealing if Favors is unable to play.

Value is always hard to come by at the shooting guard position, but Wesley Matthews and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are worth considering if you don’t want to spend. Matthews still isn’t the same since he Achilles injury, but he won’t need to be special if Carlisle is going to run him for 37-40 minutes a game. A matchup with a Harden-Gordon backcourt in Houston should afford him ample opportunity to produce. 25-30 fantasy points is definitely a possibility. Caldwell-Pope will see similar minutes, and is a similar player as Matthews. Both will relying on scoring, particularly three-pointers, and need to rack up a few steals in order to pad their ugly peripherals. I’d rather look for value at other less volatile positions, but these two wings are there if you need them.

CORE: James Harden

SECONDARY: Rodney Hood

VALUE: Eric Gordon; Wesley Matthews; Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

GPP: Victor Oladipo; Monta Ellis

SMALL FORWARD

With all of the top-tier studs on Friday’s slate, it doesn’t make sense to use LeBron James or Kevin Durant in cash. Even Paul George is a tough fit, especially on FanDuel. I do, however, see George being a secondary option on DraftKings at $8,400, as the small forward position is painfully thin despite the eight-game slate. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has elite defensive potential, but he isn’t completely there yet, and this Brooklyn team is just putrid. Nate McMillan is not Frank Vogel, so we shouldn’t have to worry about George’s rotation where he didn’t re-enter the game until the end of the half. George logged 43 minutes on Wednesday, playing the entirety of the first and third quarter, while checking back in midway through the second and fourth. That makes him far more appealing in cash games, especially if the Nets can stay within single digits.

Tobias Harris warrants serious attention on DraftKings, weighing it at only $5,600 while having small forward eligibility against his former team. Reggie Jackson’s 18 field goal attempts per 36 will need to be soaked up somewhere, and Ish Smith won’t be the answer. Smith won’t have the freedom he enjoyed in Philadelphia where no one was a threat from outside of the paint. He is, however, very skilled in two areas: passing and driving to the rim. Expect Orlando to to leave Harris open often on the perimeter, where Smith should have no trouble facilitating some buckets. Serge Ibaka’s defensive reputation comes from his prowess around the rim as a shot blocker, not as a perimeter defender. Harris won’t need to do much in order to pay off his price tag.

We saw on Wednesday just how volatile the small forward position is, so if you’re looking to go cheap it’s important to acknowledge the risk. T.J. Warren will start at small forward while P.J. Tucker continues to get healthy — Tucker saw only six minutes in Phoenix’s opener — and is a low-floor, high-upside option. If you aren’t familiar with Warren’s game, he’s a skilled scorer who can go cold as quick as he can get red hot. Warren’s 30 minutes in Wednesday’s blowout are encouraging enough to consider him a value option against the Thunder, and he won’t need to erupt in order to pay off a mid-$4K price tag.

I won’t have any cash exposure to Aaron Gordon or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but it’s hard to ignore the upside at their respective salaries. Frank Vogel will utilize Gordon’s athletic freakishness better than Scott Skiles ever did, and that should result in around 35 minutes a night. Kidd-Gilchrist is a skilled rebounding wing (career 8.4 REB/36), and a career 48 percent shooter, so there’s reason to like his upside on any given night. Nevertheless, both should be reserved as GPP plays on Friday, where the aforementioned options make for better plays in cash.

CORE – Tobias Harris [DraftKings]

SECONDARY – Paul George [DraftKings]; Tobias Harris [FanDuel]

VALUE – T.J. Warren

GPP – Paul George [FanDuel]; Kevin Durant; Aaron Gordon; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

POWER FORWARD

I mentioned in Wednesday’s Deep Dive that Anthony Davis was going to have a Herculean season if he stayed healthy, but what we got was more than anyone could’ve imagined. Davis poured in 50 points on 17-34 shooting (50 percent!), while racking up 16 rebounds, five assists, seven steals, four blocks and 99.5 DraftKings Points across 41 minutes of work. Davis hit the century mark with two minutes left in regulation, but turned the ball over seconds later to knock his fantasy totals back down to measly double digits. No team will be able to stop Davis, but this matchup with Golden State could at least slow him down. Blowout is a real concern with the Pelicans facing a motivated Warriors club that was embarrassed by the Popovich-led Spurs in their home opener, so Brow’s minutes could be limited. Still, anything less than 50 fantasy points would be a disappointment. I have him ranked behind Westbrook and Harden, but only because his minutes are less predictable in this matchup. He is, however, the only capable scorer in New Orleans, so the volume will be bountiful regardless of outcome.

If you aren’t familiar with how much Myles Turner is able to do, I’d recommend watching some highlights from his rookie campaign. The 6’11”, 243-pound big man is so incredibly impressive that I generally don’t know where to start when describing his long list of attributes. He’s a long athletic center who is big and long enough to protect the rim, but fast enough to chase down blocks. Turner can score with his back to the basket or hit some of the smoothest baseline jumpers on command.

For a guy with such little NBA experience, you’d never think he was capable of scoring the way he does; Turner has looked dominant as a roll man, can slide out of picks to hit long-range jumpers with his quick release, and won’t hesitate to follow up missed with emphatic dunks. He can do it all, which makes him a mismatch for almost any opponent. Brook Lopez is a serviceable interior defender, but he won’t be able to contend with Turner out of the paint, and isn’t agile enough to stick with him in the halfcourt. Turner won’t routinely post numbers like he did on Wednesday, but he remains a very solid option against the Nets, and McMillan appears much more willing to keep him around the basket on defense, which will only increase his fantasy ceiling. Turner is center eligible on FanDuel.

Dirk Nowitzki’s age is always a concern, but it’s hard to avoid his $6,000 price tag on DraftKings. He logged 38 minutes against the Pacers, so Carlisle clearly isn’t too worried about limiting his playing time early in the season. Ryan Anderson is a miserable defender, and if he’s tasked with guarding Dirk all night, things are gonna get messy.

It’s worth noting that although Derrick Favors practiced on Thursday, he is still questionable to play against the Lakers. If he is unable to give it a go, Trey Lyles will become an incredible value play at his price. Boris Diaw started at power forward on Tuesday and was absolutely deplorable, posting two points and three rebounds across 32 minutes of work! Lyles should see more playing time than he did against Portland is Favors sits, making this is situation to pay close attention to as we draw closer to lock.

Trevor Booker is your prototypical value power forward, capable of giving us low-total double-doubles with a few additional peripheral stats along the way. The new starting four for the Nets, Booker should continue to get solid run on Friday against a Pacers team that starts an equally undersized Thaddeus Young at the position. Booker is deceptively athletic, and capable enough to run the court in an uptempo game. He’s also Atkinson’s best matchup against Young so I’m not worried about his minutes being limited. At a respectable price point across the industry, Booker won’t need to do much in order to produce, but a 12/10/2/1 stat line is a realistic possibility in what’s projected to be the third highest scoring contest on the night.

Enes Kanter is power forward eligible on FanDuel, and his upside is too high to ignore at $5,300. In this fast-paced matchup with Phoenix, Kanter could easily double-double in around 25 minutes of work, and while he’s generally only considered as a GPP play, I think there’s merit to considering him in cash.

SECONDARY – Anthony Davis; Myles Turner; Dirk Nowitzki [DraftKings]

VALUE – Trevor Booker; Trey Lyles [Check Favors’ status]; Thaddeus Young

GPP – Enes Kanter [FanDuel]

CENTER

Friday’s slate presents us with a dilemma: Hassan Whiteside or Andre Drummond. With Whiteside you can feel confident about his floor, having found a way to avoid foul trouble yet still remaining the same dominant shot-blocker we’ve all come to love him for. Let’s keep in mind, though, that Roy Hibbert was once a premiere defensive big, and despite a couple ugly seasons, isn’t far removed from his prime. Hell, the guy isn’t even 30 years old yet, so it’s reasonable to assume he could still thrive on the defensive end if utilized appropriately. That being said, Whiteside is still one of the most dominant big men in the game. He’s a destructive force in the pick-and-roll (70% FG as roll man in 2015-16), will once again rank top-five in putback dunks, and led the league in blocks last year by a ridiculous margin (3.7 BLK/G). Whiteside’s floor is definitely higher than Drummond’s, so if you’re in the business of playing things safe, he should certainly be your guy.

Now onto Drummond — the fifth-year rebounding machine is poised for another big year despite an underwhelming 2016 debut. Foul trouble remains an issue, and free-throwing shooting is a lost cause — Drummond used virtual reality technology in the offseason to improve his free-throw shooting, but we’ve yet to see the results, if any — but Drummond’s upside is massive in this matchup with Orlando. Nikola Vucevic, who is an elite GPP play himself on DraftKings, lacks any form of defensive presence to curb Drummond’s production. Bismack Biyombo is back after a one-game suspension, and we saw his excellent defense on display last postseason, but he’s also giving up more than two inches and 25 pounds to Drummond, which could hurt him both in the paint and on the glass. Drummond is simply too affordable to overlook on both DraftKings and FanDuel. He’s riskier than Whiteside, but has more upside in this matchup. Risk-reward play at its finest.

Rudy Gobert will serve as a very nice secondary option if Favors is ruled out. We’re still waiting on any news regarding his status, so until then we’ll assume he’s going to sit. Gobert was more involved offensively this preseason, and is primed to log big minutes against a weak Lakers frontcourt. I don’t see how you could use him in cash now that he’s up above $7,000, but the matchup is still worth noting.

Clint Capela should’ve played more minutes on Wednesday, but D’Antoni never looked his way late in the fourth quarter. He’ll draw a nice matchup on Friday against a Mavericks team that likely won’t use Andrew Bogut for more than 18-20 minutes, and Capela’s athleticism should go a long way in this fast-paced affair. Harden will continue to feed him easy buckets down low, and Capela is one of the league’s more talented bigs when it comes to cleaning up around the rim. The center position is stacked on this eight-game slate, but Capela is well worth a look on FanDuel at only $4,700.

It would be foolish to expect a repeat performance from Roy Hibbert tonight or any other time this season, but he could see another heavy workload against Whiteside and the Heat. Cody Zeller is still on a minutes limit, and Frank Kaminsky remains questionable to play, so 30 minutes isn’t out of the question for the one-time DPOY hopeful. On FanDuel, however, Steven Adams is the much better value play if you’re looking to punt the position. He logged 35 minutes on Wednesday and is set to play similar minutes against the Suns. Capela is a better play than both.

CORE – Hassan Whiteside; Andre Drummond

SECONDARY – Myles Turner; Rudy Gobert

VALUE – Clint Capela [FanDuel]; Roy Hibbert [DraftKings]

GPP – Nikola Vucevic [DraftKings]; Clint Capela [DraftKings]