NBA Deeper Dive 10/31/16

POINT GUARD

Chris Paul is locked into a solid matchup with the Suns in which his Clippers own the highest implied total on the night (108.5). Phoenix is allowing 111 points per game though their first three contests and nothing should change on Monday. Eric Bledsoe, who was lauded for his defensive efforts earlier in his career, has seen a sharp decline in that respect since moving to Phoenix. Moreover, Phoenix allowed the highest offensive efficiency to opposing backcourts last season, and unsurprisingly ranks bottom-10 again to start the year. He’s priced very affordably on DraftKings and is still in play on FanDuel, but there are a number of mid-range point guard options that might be worth the pivot.

 

Jeremy Lin is averaging nearly 38 FPPG through his first three starts with the Nets, and he’s still priced low enough to love in exploitable matchups. Monday’s matchup with Chicago is certainly one to exploit, as Rajon Rondo’s defense continues to diminish with age. Lin plays with an incredible amount of enthusiasm on both sides of the court. He’s ranking top-10 in deflections and loose balls recovered, while averaging 11 drives per game to start the season. Factor in his 25 percent usage rate and expected 35 minutes of work, and there’s no reason Lin shouldn’t be able to churn out another 35-plus fantasy points on the night. He leads the Nets in touches by a huge margin, and with Brooklyn being only six-point home favorites in what’s projected to be the highest scoring affair on Monday (211.5 O/U), I’m comfortable recommending him in cash across the board. If Greivis Vasquez (questionable) is unable to play, Lin is going to see even more minutes against the Bulls.

 

Dennis Schroder has been underwhelming out of the gate, but the Hawks’ newly appointed starting point guard should have no trouble producing on Monday. The Sacramento Kings are surprisingly playing at a snail’s pace to start the season, but some of that could be a byproduct of facing the Timberwolves and Spurs, who both play at one of the slowest paces in the league. Atlanta, however, is sitting top-five in pace, and we can expect them to control the speed of this game at home. They own the highest implied total of any team on Monday (108.5), and there’s no reason Schroder should struggle to produce against a Lawson/Afflalo-led backcourt. That being said, Schroder’s minutes are still uncertain, so there is some risk that he won’t see 30 minutes for the third straight game. As a result, Jeremy Lin remains the better option at this price point, while Schroder should be viewed as a strong secondary option with nice upside in a plus matchup.

 

A crowded Phoenix backcourt has made Eric Bledsoe a tough player to predict, but his depressed price tag is impossible to ignore. Bledsoe has been known to show up big when facing his former team in Los Angeles, and although Paul is one of the premiere defensive guards in basketball, Bledsoe is capable of contributing in an assortment of categories. He’s tallied 15-plus points, five-plus rebounds, five-plus assists and one or more steals in all three games this season, while averaging seven free throws per game in the process. Despite having to share the ball with Brandon Knight and Devin Booker, Bledsoe ranks eighth in league touches and third in passes made. It’s a concerning prospect, but Bledsoe currently ranks as one of my top point guard options on the night. Kyle Lowry makes for an appealing GPP pivot away from each of the aforementioned options, as he’ll be low owned after two underwhelming performances, and faces a Nuggets team that’s currently allowing the second highest offensive efficiency to opposing backcourts.

 

CORE – Jeremy Lin; Eric Bledsoe

SECONDARY – Chris Paul; Dennis Schroder

GPP – Kyle Lowry

 

SHOOTING GUARD

 

DeMar DeRozan has been otherworldly to start his 2016-17 campaign, totaling 72 real points on 53 percent shooting, while attempting a ridiculous 27.5 field goals per game. 53 percent shooting on almost 28 attempts per game! These numbers aren’t sustainable, but it’s definitely worth noting that DeRozan’s shot selection has improved dramatically over the past couple of years. He led the league in poor shot selection in 2014-15, attempting the most contested mid-range jump shots in basketball, and although only Russell Westbrook is averaging more pull-up jumpers than DeRozan to start the year, his quality of attempt has improved significantly. DeRozan’s .595 points per touch has been elite, and even with somewhat serious regression, his high shot volume and 35-plus minutes per game will keep him in play. Gary Harris (if he plays) and Will Barton will have their hands full with this Toronto backcourt, and we’ll likely have to continue rolling out DeRozan until he settles down. Let’s face it, his 40.7 percent usage rate and ridiculous 44 percent team point share mitigate his lack of peripheral stats on a night where he should have no trouble scoring.

 

While recording Friday’s Daily Vice Podcast last night I noted that Jimmy Butler’s ability to rack up auxiliary stats makes him a safer play than DeRozan. Following some extensive research, however, I’m beginning to change my tone. Sure, Butler should have no trouble churning out 30-plus fantasy points against Brooklyn’s woeful defense, and he’s definitely a strong secondary play if you don’t feel comfortable deploying DeRozan, but I’m having a tough time ignoring the difference in volume between these two wings. DeRozan has attempted a whopping 41 percent of Toronto’s field goal attempts while on the court, and his usage should remain sky high. Butler, while still serving as a top contributor for the Bulls, will have to contend with more hungry mouths than DeRozan. Butler is also more expensive than DeRozan on DraftKings, so all signs point towards the latter being the better cash game option on Monday.

 

You may not be very familiar with the name Sean Kilpatrick, but Kenny Atkinson certainly is. Brooklyn’s new head coach is working with a team that’s almost entirely devoid of capable scorers, which has resulted in Kilpatrick being the Nets’ go-to scorer off the bench. He’s sporting a sexy 24 percent usage rate through three games, while averaging nearly 24 minutes of court time in the process. Atkinson truly has no one else to turn to on his second unit, and given that Kilpatrick is actually a talented scorer, he’s been tasked with hoisting up 11 field goal attempts per game. He’s averaging a respectable .364 points per touch and one fantasy point per minute through his first three games. If you’re looking for value on this abbreviated slate, Kilpatrick makes plenty of sense at a near minimum salary cost.

 

Shooting guard offers plenty of tournament appealing on a night where we have only four games to choose from. Gary Harris has already been ruled out, placing Will Barton back in play for GPPs. I don’t feel comfortable using him in cash, though, as his salary has risen, and Barton’s 17 percent usage rate is wholly unappealing. Devin Booker also offers tournament value, as he’s averaging 16.3 field goal attempts and 32 minutes over his first three starts. If Phoenix can keep this game relatively close, Booker should earn heavy playing time as a much needed scoring threat to counter the Clippers’ high-flying offense.

 

CORE – DeMar DeRozan

SECONDARY – Jimmy Butler

VALUE – Sean Kilpatrick

GPP – Devin Booker; Will Barton

 

 

SMALL FORWARD

 

Small forward generally isn’t a great position to save, as low-end wings offer marginal peripheral upside. That being said, we don’t have much choice on Monday, as Rudy Gay and Danilo Gallinari are our only mid-range options. Gay has looked sharp over his first three games, but he’s one of the most volatile wings in basketball, and a matchup with Kent Bazemore is far from enticing. Bazemore is one of the game’s better defensive small forwards in the game, sporting a sub-100 DRtg over the past two years. The Hawks rank first in defensive efficiency to start the season, and finished second behind only San Antonio in 2015-16. I’ll pass.

 

Gallinari is averaging a miserable 25 fantasy points per 36 minutes this season, and while I do expect him to improve going forward, this isn’t the best matchup to start moving in the right direction. DeMarre Carroll, who is a decent value play himself, isn’t the same defensive stalwart he was before the injuries, but he’s still very impressive, sporting a 94 DRtg with an insane 25 percent shooting allowed to opponents to start the year. He could give Gallo fits on Monday night. Both Gay and Gallinari are GPP plays, but only because we have a mere four games to choose from.

 

T.J. Warren has been stellar over his first three starts, averaging 23.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and two steals across 38 minutes per game. Warren leads the Suns in minutes, field goal attempts (17.6 FGA/G), and is second in rebounds behind only Tyson Chandler. His 30 percent point share is encouraging, and his 24 percent usage also places him firmly in play. Much like DeRozan, Warren will remain in play until further notice. Furthermore, P.J. Tucker is logging only 5.5 minutes per game, and I don’t see any way his minutes climb with Warren playing this well. Earl Watson will need all the scoring he can get to combat the Clippers’ potent offensive attack, and Warren should play an integral role in that process this evening. He’s a great value play at a mid-$5K cost across the board against a Clippers team that has long struggled to defend opposing wings.

 

Wilson Chandler has logged 30 minutes in each of his first two games back. He’s averaging 11.5 points, seven rebounds and 13 field goal attempts per game over that span, while sporting a surprisingly decent 21.2 percent usage rate as the first man off the bench in Denver. Chandler is cheap enough to consider punting at the small forward position, and he’ll avoid Carroll for long stretches of this game. Kent Bazemore has been non-existent over his first two games, but the Kings could serve as a remedy to his problems on Monday. I’ll have some Bazemore exposure in GPPs, as we’ve seen him get hot in a hurry before, and there’s no better team to do it against than Sacramento.

 

CORE – T.J. Warren

VALUE – Wilson Chandler

GPP – Rudy Gay; Danilo Gallinari; Kent Bazemore

 

 

POWER FORWARD

 

DeMarcus Cousins is always in play regardless of matchup, but I don’t see this being a night where you should feel compelled to force him into cash game lineups. Mike Budenholzer’s defense is elite on all levels, and I don’t see the move from Al Horford to Dwight Howard making much of a difference on Monday. This feels like one of those games where Cousins gets frustrated early and lands himself into foul trouble, resulting in a blowout where both his minutes and production are curbed.

 

One of the main reasons Cousins isn’t a must in cash is Blake Griffin. I don’t expect Griffin to finish with far fewer fantasy totals than Boogie, as he draws a much better matchup, and plays on a team that’s projected to outscore Sacramento by a full 11 points. Griffin and Paul should carve up Phoenix in the pick-and-roll, and in the post, as he’ll be facing the 34-year-old Tyson Chandler or the greatly overmatched and undersized Jared Dudley for the majority of this contest. The only concern here is that the Clippers route the Suns, but this same scenario rings true in Atlanta where they could blow the doors off the Kings by halftime. Griffin comes in at a $2,000 discount from Cousins on DraftKings, and remains an affordable $9,000 on FanDuel.

 

Paul Millsap is also a fine alternative at the power forward position. Despite the arrival of Dwight Howard, Millsap owns a team-leading 31 percent usage rate through two games. His rebounding totals will likely decline, but Millsap should find an easier time getting open looks in the process. Through three games the Kings are allowing 58 percent shooting at the rim, and are second to last in defensive rebounding. Millsap will always be a strong cash game play in these plus matchups, as he contributes in all facets of the game, including as a facilitator, where he sports a 28 percent assists rate to open the year.

 

Nikola Mirotic makes for an appealing value play against the Nets, who struggle to rebound and will have a tough time closing him out on the perimeter. Niko is a volatile option due to his streaky shooting, but solid minutes off the bench and a dirt cheap price tag put him in play. If Mirotic continues to hoist up five three-pointers per game he’s going to have that big performance we’ve all been waiting for. He’ll be guarding by Luis Scola for long stretches, which is one of the best matchups a power forward could draw, and he won’t need more than 25 fantasy points to pay off a sub-$5K price tag across the board.

 

Trevor Booker is also in play at a comparable cost. He’s logging quality minutes as the Nets’ starting four, and has tallied double-doubles in each of his last two games. Chicago is also allowing the highest field goal percentage at the rim, which is perfect for Booker who is attempting more than 60 percent of his field goals within two feet of the rim. Booker is attempting nearly 50 percent of his field goals within two feet of the rim over his career. Booker is the safer cash game option while Mirotic provides significantly more upside in GPPs.

 

SECONDARY – Blake Griffin; Paul Millsap

VALUE – Trevor Booker; Nikola Mirotic

GPP – DeMarcus Cousins; Kenneth Faried

 

 

CENTER

 

I’m admittedly having a difficult time deciding between Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan on Monday. On one hand, the Kings have been deplorable on the glass to start the year. They won’t be able to stifle this Hawks offense, and Howard should rack up some easy fantasy points on both sides of the court. He played only 19 minutes against the Sixers, but this was the result of early foul trouble and a blowout. Assuming he keeps his hands to himself, Howard could be in for a monster performance. I’d like to see him be more involved offensively, though, as Howard’s usage rate is highly unsatisfying through two games.

 

Jordan will never operate with a high usage rate, but he will always rank among the league leaders in rebounds, blocks and putbacks, which if you’ve been playing DFS NBA for some time, you know how important these statistics can be. Jordan relies solely on defensive stats to produce his fantasy totals, as he isn’t involved on offense (54% of Jordan’s 17 field goal attempts this season have come on putbacks). I’m going to side with Howard for two reasons: Sacramento is a seven-point dog, but I still see them keeping this game closer than Phoenix will against L.A., and despite Howard’s lack of involvement early on, I’m expecting Budenholzer to get him more looks going forward. Both are excellent options, though, and I wouldn’t argue with either being deployed in cash.

 

Jonas Valanciunas is one of the most underrated offensive big men in the game, and if he hadn’t been playing under Dwane Casey for all this time, his talents would’ve been showcased further. Valanciunas will have to battle for rebounds against a big Denver frontcourt, but Jusuf Nurkic’s ability to protect the rim has been deplorable. Last season, Nurkic finished 63rd of 64 in rim protection among all centers averaging at least 17 minutes per game. That is heinous. He’s allowing 67 percent shooting at the rim already this year on 7.5 attempts per game. Valanciunas is a very sneaky option in GPPs, where most of us will be residing on a four-game slate. He’s hoisted up 15 field goal attempts in consecutive games, and Casey finally appears to be loosening the leash on his minutes. Another impressive double-double should be in order on Monday, and JoVal will likely be under-owned based on the amount of center options at the top. To clarify, Valanciunas could be a difference maker in GPPs, and I wouldn’t hate it if you considered him in cash.

 

Mike Muscala should see decent minutes again on Monday with Tiago Splitter and Mike Scott out of commision. Muscala averages a respectable 13.3 points, eight rebounds and 1.7 blocks per 36 over his career, so if he plays between 22-25 minutes against the Kings’ swiss cheese frontcourt defense, he shouldn’t have much trouble paying off a near minimum salary price tag on DraftKings. We won’t have much value to choose from, so Muscala is in play by default. Furthermore, if the Hawks do get out to an early lead, Muscala will see the bulk of the backup minutes in a blowout scenario.

 

SECONDARY – Dwight Howard; DeAndre Jordan

VALUE – Mike Muscala

GPP – Jonas Valanciunas; Brook Lopez