NBA Deeper Dive 11/1/16
I’m going to try and write this a little bit differently today because I like the way Loughy writes his so that you can kind of see how the positions break down by tiers, as I think that makes it more useful for lineup construction. It is kind of uncomfortable for me to write in a more free-flowing way (law school removed most of my creative writing abilities), though, so we’ll see how it goes. Definitely let me know which style is more useful for you, because I am sure this will not flow quite as well as his articles do.
Point guard is an interesting position today because there are strong options in each price range, so it needs to be viewed in connection with the rest of your roster. There are very good expensive options, but there are also very good mid-tier options, so be careful when constructing your rosters to be sure that you are not sacrificing too many points at other positions when you choose your point guards.
Damian Lillard is the top point guard option on the slate (especially on FanDuel where Giannis is not PG eligible) in a home matchup against the Golden State Warriors. Lillard plays very well when he has a chip on his shoulder and he seems to have a huge one this season. He is averaging slightly over 37 minutes per game (inflated slightly by the overtime game against Denver) and has a 36.6 percent usage rate. On top of that, he always gets up for his matchups with Curry. In his last four home games against Curry (going back to the start of the 2014-2015 season), he has scored 25.5, 50.3, 69.8 and 78 DraftKings points in this matchup. In the two playoff games that Curry was on the floor last season, Lillard recorded 63 points in Portland and 49.8 in Oakland. He recorded 44.5, 47 and 65.3 (at home) points in the other three games. He is the most expensive point guard on DraftKings and FanDuel, but there is no reason not to think he will perform in this game.
On the opposite side of the court from Lillard, of course, is Stephen Curry. People are down on Curry because of his lack of peripheral stats so far this season, but that should not be a long-term issue. His assists and rebounds will drop from last season as a result of Kevin Durant being much more involved in the offense than Harrison Barnes was, but they should not completely fall off a cliff. As long as the sites are pricing Curry appropriately to his new situation (which they are), he still has plenty of upside. It is just that instead of paying $10,500 for 65-70 point upside, you are paying $9,000 for 55-60 point upside. His usage rate this season is 27.9 percent (barely behind Kevin Durant) and he is averaging almost 34 minutes per game. There is still plenty of upside (and a high floor) at his reduced price. Pairing him with Lillard is a strong, albeit popular, GPP strategy today in the hopes that they get into a dick-measuring contest and put up a lot of points against each other. That being said, his current prices are still at the top end of the range that I would want to target him at, so it is perfectly fine to fade him and expect his price to drop a little bit over the next couple of games. Giannis Antetokounmpo is an excellent pivot off of Curry on DraftKings, where he is PG eligible and $200 more expensive, but more on him later.
If you want to save some money from the Lillard/Curry combo, there are several strong options today. Kyrie Irving (not in the player pool on DraftKings) gets an excellent matchup with the Houston Rockets and their “defense”. Houston played at the 4th-fastest pace in the preseason, which should lead to more possessions than usual for Irving to produce fantasy points, along with the opportunity for some extra defensive stats. Kyrie actually has the highest usage rate on the Cavaliers so far at 29.6 percent, but his ownership is usually deflated because people insist on rostering LeBron for reasons I do not understand and they do not want them both. Irving averaged 1.65 DraftKings points per minute in his matchups with Houston last season, and that was with Patrick Beverley (one of the few people on Houston capable of playing defense) active. Irving’s ownership will be interesting today because he is in the early game so he could be overowned, but there is also the matchup between Lillard and Curry that will grab everyone’s attention- not to mention Irving is not in the player pool on DraftKings so he may go overlooked on FanDuel by some. If Irving is going to be around 12 percent owned and Curry is going to be around 18 percent (these are just gut feelings right now- pay attention to how much love they are getting on shows and twitter throughout the day), Irving is the better play (especially factoring in the $900 savings).
If Lillard/Curry is the hot girl at the bar that you really want to go home with, then Jeff Teague/ D’Angelo Russell is the girl that you settle for at last call who ends up blowing your mind. This game is going to go overlooked but it shouldn’t. The Lakers played at the 5th-fastest pace in the preseason and the Pacers were 6th. So far in the regular season, they are 8th and 10th respectively. There are going to be a lot of extra possessions, and not a lot of defense, in this game. As you probably know by now, Russell is one of my favorite DFS players this season because of spots exactly like this. He is at least $2,500 cheaper than Curry across the industry today, and will probably lower owned. He is not very consistent, so rostering him in cash games can be risky, but I will be shocked if he does not end up in my GPP core. He is averaging 31 minutes and has a 29.2 percent usage rate through the Lakers’ first three games. He has the green light from Coach Luke Walton this season, something that he did not have last season with Byron Scott and that people are going to be slow to adjust to, and he has a size advantage on Jeff Teague today which should allow him to play with his back to the basket in addition to the jump shots from the perimeter that he will chuck up. There is legitimate 50+ point upside here at a middle-of-the-road price. Teague is off to a terrible start with the Pacers, but it has nothing to do with his role- the perfect situation to exploit in GPPs (and even cash games since he is severely underpriced). Teague is playing around 30 minutes per game (his 37 point game was an overtime game against Dallas) and is a featured part of the offense. When all five starters are on the floor together, Teague’s usage rate is 22.3 percent. Thaddeus Young and Monta Ellis are the two that are phased out of the offense while Teague, George and Turner get most of the usage. Teague’s struggles this season have been because of a shooting slump that is not sustainable (unless you think a cut finger suffered two games ago is going to be a long-term issue). So far this season, Teague is shooting 20 percent from the field. His career field goal percentage is 44.6 percent. That is a lot of room for positive regression. In addition, the Lakers’ wing defenders, Nick Young and Luol Deng, are better defensively than Russell is. So, on top of natural improvement, Teague could have a few extra shots funneled to him as a result of what the Lakers’ defense gives the Pacers. It would surprise me if Jeff Teague is not on a GPP-winning lineup within the next week or two, and tonight could definitely be the night.
Anthony Davis has gotten all the attention on the Pelicans so far this season, and rightfully so, but Tim Frazier has been playing incredibly well. He is averaging 32 minutes a game and contributing across the board, nearly averaging a double-double. He has proven that he is capable of scoring which gives him a nice ceiling, and he has a high floor because all he has to do to get assists is give the ball to Anthony Davis. Despite all of the positives, his usage rate is only 19.5 percent, so there will be a point soon where we start fading him as a result of an increasing price. At the moment, however, he is under $6,000 on DraftKings and FanDuel so he is very much in play.
If Jeff Teague were not priced where he is in his matchup with the Lakers, Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton would have me very excited. In 49 minutes alongside Porzingis and Anthony this season, Rose’s usage rate is 24.6 percent, Anthony’s is 29.6 percent and Porzingis’s is 16.9 percent. It was assumed when the Knicks acquired Rose that one of those three would take a hit on the offensive end and it appears, at least so far, that it is Porzingis. Rose has not had a breakout game yet with the Knicks, which is keeping his price about $1,000 below where it needs to be for him to be accurately priced for his upside. It will be difficult for Rose to consistently produce big games (which will keep his price down most of the season and also make him difficult to roster in cash games) because Anthony dominates the ball so much, which limits Rose’s assists. On any given night though, Rose has a high ceiling because there will be games this season where he has more assists than usual and, combined with his scoring, he ends up with 40+ fantasy points. A slow-paced game against Detroit is not the best spot for him to rack up assists, but he does have a higher scoring ceiling than normal tonight since he will most likely be matched up with Ish Smith (unless they switch KCP onto Rose and take their chances with Courtney Lee) while Anthony draws the strong wing defenders on the Pistons. Payton is also in a good, but not great, spot at an appealing price point against Philadelphia. He has averaged 33.1 minutes per game so far this season and has taken at least 11 shots in each of them. Philadelphia is not a strong defensive team and Payton should be able to be productive tonight. He contributes across the board as well, averaging just over 4 rebounds and 5 assists per game. The only issue with his matchup is that Philadelphia played at the 16th-fastest pace in the preseason and we prefer to roster guards, and players in general, against fast-paced teams. He is a stronger play on DraftKings than FanDuel because he is turnover prone and they are penalized more on FanDuel.
Sergio Rodriguez and Kris Dunn are both in play at very cheap price points. Rodriguez, $4,700 on DraftKings and $5,100 on FanDuel, has averaged 30.2 minutes in his first two NBA games and recorded a 22 percent usage rate, attempting at least 11 shots in each game. He also has contributed 4 rebounds and at least 5 assists in both games, showing that he can contribute across the board and is not entirely scoring dependent- which is good for his ceiling, floor, and overall consistency. He will face Elfrid Payton tonight, which is a boost because Payton tends to turn the ball over often so Rodriguez could see a couple of steals and/or fast-break baskets. It is also worth noting that Jahlil Okafor is out tonight and Rodriguez sees a slight bump in usage when he is on the floor without Okafor. In 39 minutes without Okafor this season, Rodriguez’s usage rate is 23.4 percent compared to 17.6 percent in 12 minutes alongside Okafor.
To stay with the girl at the bar analogy from earlier, Kris Dunn is the girl that you try to take home all night, she finally agrees, and then she passes out in the Uber on the way home leaving you full of disappointment. He is going to be an incredibly popular play tonight and that is fine- in cash games. If rostering Dunn gets you everyone else that you want, go ahead and roster him because he will see heavy minutes and put up some fantasy points. He is also the biggest GPP trap of the night. In the preseason, Dunn played alongside LaVine, Wiggins, Towns and Dieng for 5 minutes. His usage rate was zero. He played alongside LaVine, Wiggins and Towns (without Dieng) for an additional 8 minutes. His usage rate across those 13 total minutes was also zero. He has played 7 minutes so far this season alongside the other four starters, and his usage rate in that time was 5.1 percent. You can draw your own conclusions, but those numbers (in combination with Ricky Rubio’s lack of production as the starting point guard this season) make it pretty clear what the correct play is in tournaments tonight.
Core: Damian Lillard, Jeff Teague, D’Angelo Russell, Tim Frazier, Giannis Antetokounmpo (DraftKings)
GPP: Elfrid Payton, Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving (FanDuel)
Value: Sergio Rodriguez, Kris Dunn
James Harden is always the favorite to be the highest scoring shooting guard whenever he plays, but he is not worth his price today with all of the other options on the board. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a much better play at significant savings in his matchup against the Pelicans (and is also a very strong play at point guard on DraftKings). He is averaging 36.3 minutes per game so far this season and has filled up the stat sheet as expected. His assist numbers are down as a result of not having Khris Middleton, but he recorded a season-high 8 in his last game, which is a good sign because hopefully his assist numbers improve as the starters get used to playing without Middleton and with the addition of Tony Snell to help space the floor. The Pelicans are the second-worst rebounding team in the NBA so far this season, so the door is open for Point Giannis to pick up his first triple-double of the season if he can improve on his assist numbers again. The concern with Giannis, is that there is a good chance he will be guarded by Anthony Davis. Davis is an elite defender and could make it difficult for him to be worth his price tag despite the upside he has against the Pelicans in general. In two games against the Pelicans last season (with Davis playing), Giannis averaged only 0.83 DraftKings points per minute which adds to the concern. There are better point-per-dollar plays at shooting guard (and point guard) but he does have a very high ceiling, especially if Davis ends up on Jabari Parker instead.
C.J. McCollum is interesting as a GPP leverage play off of Lillard, but it is tough to completely trust him in this spot despite his 27 percent usage rate this season since it seems like a spot where Lillard is going to do everything he can to steal the show. Zach LaVine is an excellent play in all formats tonight. People will turn to Kris Dunn since he is filling in for Rubio, but LaVine may go overlooked. He has had a strong season alongside Rubio, recording a 23.2 percent usage rate and averaging slightly over 35 minutes per game. He will see an additional boost with Rubio out of the lineup and should benefit much more than Dunn. His usage ticked up to 25 percent in the 7 minutes with the starters after Rubio was injured. It is also possible that he sees some time at the point behind Dunn.
Tyler Johnson is not particularly appealing to me on FanDuel, where he is a point guard, but he is very interesting on DraftKings where he is shooting guard eligible. He is averaging 29.2 minutes off the bench this season with a 19 percent usage rate. A little over half of his minutes have come with Goran Dragic off of the court, and his usage rate then is 22.1 percent. Johnson is a talented scorer who signed a big contract in the offseason, so it is clear the Heat trust his abilities. He will probably be a starter at some point before the season ends, but for now take advantage of his bench scoring at a dirt cheap price at a weak position on DraftKings. Allen Crabbe is another very appealing, cheap, shooting guard option. His familiarity in the Portland offense has led to him being more productive than Evan Turner so far this season. Crabbe is playing 29.5 minutes per game. He plays alongside Lillard and McCollum about 20 percent of the time, which kills his value as his usage rate is only 4 percent. The other 80 percent of the time that he is on the floor, either Lillard or McCollum is on the bench, however. In his time alongside only Lillard, Crabbe’s usage rate is 16 percent, which is not great but is not horrible for his price. In his time alongside McCollum, though, his usage rate is 25.9 percent as McCollum defers to him as the second scorer. Crabbe should see extended minutes tonight as both teams will probably play small-ball lineups. In addition, it is very possible that Harkless gets in early foul trouble guarding Durant, which could open the door for a few more minutes for Crabbe. Nick Young is another inexpensive option that is worth considering tonight. He is the Lakers’ best defender, which keeps him in the starting lineup and on the floor. He also has never seen a shot he didn’t like, so there is some upside as he will chuck up some shots even though he is playing alongside the starters (he has a 20 percent usage rate). Saving as much salary as possible and rostering Young and his 27 minutes per game for less than $4,000 is a very reasonable option tonight.
Core: Zach LaVine
GPP: C.J. McCollum, Tyler Johnson, Giannis Antetokounmpo (FanDuel)
Value: Nick Young, Allen Crabbe
(Editor’s Note: Grant was traded and Saric now makes a great play, especially at SF on DraftKings)
Kevin Durant is the best small forward option on the slate, if you can afford him. He has the highest usage rate on the Warriors and sees minutes with the second unit, which helps him contribute across the board and guarantees usage even if it turns into a “Steph Curry game”. Portland does not have anyone that should be able to stop Durant, so it should be him and Curry that combine to score a ton of points tonight in the game with the highest total on the slate. His price is high, and I prefer Anthony Davis, but if you are not comfortable with the value options at small forward then Durant is who to pay up for. Paul George is a strong option in cash games on DraftKings, where he is $2,500 less Durant. He will be matched up with Young or Deng, which is not ideal, but it should not stop him from having a solid game. It is enough to limit his GPP upside, especially because deferring to Jeff Teague to score some more baskets makes a lot of sense given the defensive matchups (and he only has a 24.5 percent usage rate anyway), but it is hard to see him not scoring around 38-40 DraftKings points for your cash lineup.
Andrew Wiggins may be the biggest beneficiary of the Rubio injury. His usage rate in the preseason jumped from 26.8 percent with Rubio on the floor to 28.4 percent with him off. His 33.2 percent usage rate so far in the regular season, jumps to 39 percent with Rubio off the floor, and in the 7 minutes alongside LaVine, Dunn, Towns and Dieng it was 30.6 percent (the highest by about 5 percentage points). He probably goes overlooked tonight because he is facing what is perceived as a tough Memphis defense. Memphis is missing Tony Allen, their best perimeter defender, and no longer is coached by Dave Joerger, however, so they are also playing at a faster pace than people are accustomed to. Justice Winslow is still too cheap across the industry now that he is a focal point in the Miami offense. He is averaging 35 minutes per game and has attempted at least 14 field goals in each of them, recording a 22.8 percent usage rate. $5,200 on DraftKings and $5,000 on FanDuel is criminally underpriced, making him a viable option in any format. Aaron Gordon is a strong GPP option against the Sixers. His usage has not been where we would like it this season, which limits his appeal in cash, but the Sixers will likely play small without Okafor available, which should lead to more minutes for the uber-athletic Gordon (along with Jeff Green) and there will likely be plenty of rebounds for Gordon since neither team shoots particularly efficiently. On the other side, Jerami Grant should also see a few extra minutes without Okafor when the Sixers go small. It is hard to know exactly how the game will go but, in 13 minutes on the floor without Okafor and Embiid, Grant has a 29.2 percent usage rate. At only $4,000 on DraftKings and $4,200 on FanDuel, he is very playable although it would be nice to see exactly how the minutes shake out in this situation before rostering him in cash games. Matt Barnes is a strong option in cash or GPPs as he has definitely impressed the Kings’ coaching staff and should continue to see extended minutes. He was on the floor, and handling the ball, down the stretch against Minnesota and then, last night, stepped up and hit two huge three pointers to keep the Kings in the game after Cousins and Gay each picked up their fifth fouls. The matchup with Miami is not ideal because it will be a slow-paced game but, at $3,900 on DraftKings and $4,300 on FanDuel, Barnes is certainly in play.
Core: Kevin Durant, Andrew Wiggins, Justice Winslow
GPP: Aaron Gordon, Jeff Green, Jerami Grant, Mo Harkless
Value: James Ennis, Matt Barnes
Anthony Davis is, arguably, the best play on the slate due to his matchup and position scarcity. The Bucks have proven to be horrendous at rebounding, with the 5th-lowest total rebounding rate so far this season. They have been destroyed recently by the likes of Roy Hibbert and Andre Drummond and there is really no limit to what Davis can do against them today. He has played heavy minutes and see usage rates of over 40 percent in his first few games this season, and should absolutely dominate this Milwaukee front court. Kevin Love is a strong tournament option on FanDuel, as he should be able to thrive in a pace-up game against Houston. There should be plenty of opportunities for him to grab rebounds away from Ryan Anderson and he will likely be open for a lot of three-point looks in transition. His usage rate is higher than LeBron’s this season, and just slightly below Kyrie Irving’s, and some extra shots should be funneled his way as LeBron deals with the defense of Trevor Ariza. Julius Randle is just behind D’Angelo Russell on my list of favorite DFS players this season. Randle has looked excellent so far, especially against up-tempo teams where he can handle the ball in transition. He gets that tonight against the Pacers and should be very productive. His usage rate so far is only 18.3 percent, but he contributes across the board with rebounds and assists- especially in fast-paced games. In the two games he has played that were fast-paced, he has attempted at least 10 shots and grabbed at least 7 rebounds to go along with 3 assists in one game and 6 in the other. He is on the brink of a massive fantasy game, as it is just a matter of time before he contributes heavily in every category in the same game. The Pacers and their 7th-worst total rebounding percentage provide him that opportunity tonight.
JaMychal Green remains too cheap for the minutes that he plays, averaging over 32 minutes per game and remaining under $5,000 on both DraftKings and FanDuel. He does not have a ton of upside as he is not very involved in the offense and the Grizzlies frontcourt is getting healthier. He makes a fine inexpensive cash game option, however, at one of the weaker positions on this slate. Richaun Holmes is a strong tournament option tonight. Since this is the first game Okafor is sitting out this season, it is tough to trust him in cash. He showed in the preseason, however, that he can be very productive when given minutes. He has seen 26 minutes with Okafor and Embiid off the floor this season, and the next highest Sixer is Nik Stauskas at 17 minutes, so he seems likely to see the biggest benefit from Okafor sitting out tonight. Kris Dunn will probably be the punt of choice for most people tonight, but Holmes is a much better play in tournaments.
Core: Anthony Davis, Julius Randle
GPP: Kevin Love (FanDuel), Richaun Holmes
Value: JaMychal Green
Andre Drummond gets another nice matchup tonight. The Knicks are in the bottom ten of total rebound percentage so far this season. Most of those rebounds have been going to forwards so far, but that is probably more of a product of the centers that they have played than anything else. Drummond is an elite rebounder averaging 29.3 minutes per game with a 26.2 percent usage rate and should be able to dominate the Knicks in the paint, regardless of the presence of Joakim Noah. In two games against Noah with the Bulls last season, Drummond recorded 20 points and 20 rebounds in 39.1 minutes and 33 points and 21 rebounds in 54.2 minutes. Noah played about 17 and 25 minutes in those games so, while a lot of Drummond’s time was not on the court with Noah, it is similar to the playing time Noah will see tonight. It will be tough to spend up for Drummond tonight but, if you have the money, definitely do it. This will also make him somewhat contrarian in GPPs, as the popular ways to construct rosters will be to pay up at the guard positions and with Anthony Davis.
After Drummond, there is a big drop at center. Greg Monroe is in a very nice spot, as nobody off the New Orleans bench should be able to stop him in the paint. The issue with Monroe is that Jason Kidd is very difficult to predict. He has played Monroe for less than 20 minutes in each of his last two games. When he is on the floor, however, Monroe is very active- recording a 26.7 percent usage rate so far this season. His price is low enough that he is a top tournament option and he is a viable cash option despite the limited minutes since he should produce points in a hurry when he is on the floor and we have a lot of options at other positions that we want to pay up for. Joel Embiid is also a viable cash game option, especially on FanDuel where he is only $4,500. He has only averaged 18.6 minutes per game through his first two games, but that will be more than enough time for him to produce against the offensively-minded Vucevic. Embiid’s usage rate is 44.9 percent, which is absolutely insane. It also seems likely that he sees closer to the 22 minutes he saw in the first game than the 15 minutes he saw last game, since Okafor is out and it has already been announced that Embiid is sitting tomorrow. If value does not open at other positions before lock that makes it easy to get to Drummond, Embiid is the best cash game play on the slate because of his incredibly high usage and friendly matchup.
Core: Andre Drummond
GPP: Greg Monroe, Bismack Biyombo, Myles Turner
Value: Joel Embiid
CORE= Guys that should score the most raw points and lineups should be built around
VALUE= Guys that are underpriced (usually $5,500 or less)
GPP= Guys with high ceilings that probably aren’t the best options in cash either because they have a low probability of hitting their ceiling, or there are better point-per-dollar plays priced near them. Players listed as “core” or “value” can also be strong GPP options.