NBA DEEP DIVE 11/3/16
Russell Westbrook is the name that stands out at point guard today as he faces his former teammate, Kevin Durant. Westbrook has a ridiculous 43.5 percent usage rate so far this season and there is no reason to expect that not to continue. He displayed how high his floor is last night when he turned the ball over 10 times and still managed to rack up over 50 FanDuel points (where turnovers are penalized the most). The problem with Westbrook is that, on DraftKings, his price is too high compared to other high upside point guards like Antetokounmpo, Irving and Thomas. On FanDuel, his price is more reasonable compared to the other options, but there are no bonuses for double-doubles or triple-doubles and a turnover is penalized a full point. This lowers his raw point ceiling because anyone who has a usage rate as high as his is going to turn the ball over often. In addition, it would not be surprising to see Kevin Durant spend some time guarding Westbrook like he did against Steph Curry last season, which would hurt Westbrook’s value. Westbrook has the highest floor and highest ceiling at the position, but there are definitely negatives that need to be considered before making the decision to roster him at the highest price on the slate.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is a point guard on DraftKings and a shooting guard on FanDuel. He is in the point guard section today because he looks to be a better play at $9,000 as a point guard than at $9,700 as a shooting guard. There is a $3,900 price difference between Giannis and Westbrook on DraftKings today and there is also a good chance that Giannis is lower owned because of all the hype surrounding the matchup between Westbrook and Durant. Antetokounmpo plays much better in fast-paced games than slow ones and today he faces an Indiana team that is in the top 10 in pace so far this season. He will probably be dealing with Paul George’s defense though, which makes him a riskier option. There is certainly plenty of upside, however, as he has a 27.2 percent usage rate in 35.5 minutes per game so far this season and his assist numbers have increased since Tony Snell was added to help space the floor. In addition, Indiana is in the bottom 10 of total rebound percentage so far this season, so Giannis should be able to grab some boards. There is a legitimate chance at a triple-double today for Giannis- not as high as there is for Westbrook, but he is significantly cheaper.
Steph Curry has been making daily fantasy players very unhappy so far this season because of his lack of peripheral stats, likely due to the addition of Kevin Durant who picks up more rebounds and assists than predecessor Harrison Barnes did. The lack of peripheral stats lowers Curry’s floor more than it lowers his ceiling though. The floor is lower since the peripherals cannot be relied on, but there will still be games this season where Curry picks up an above average number of assists and rebounds. Therefore, his ceiling is still high- he just will not hit it as consistently. Curry has a 29.7 percent usage rate so far this season, which is the highest on the Warriors. His price is depressed because of the expected change in role, so he really is not overpriced for his ceiling even though he has not lived up to our expectations so far. He is tough to pay for in cash games since the peripheral stats are not consistently there, but he is a very interesting GPP option today because most DFS players are down on him and will be focusing on Westbrook and Durant from this game, which will likely leave the Warriors’ player with the most usage and a reasonable price underowned.
Isaiah Thomas is an interesting option today in a matchup against Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers. The Celtics will be without Al Horford and Jae Crowder, which logically should lead to more of the offensive burden falling on Thomas. In 37 minutes without Horford and Crowder this season, however, Thomas’s usage rate is 24.2 percent- down from 29.5 percent when he is on the floor with them. His usage rate falls to 23.3 percent when he is on the floor with Avery Bradley while Horford and Crowder are on the bench. Thomas also played 36 minutes against the Bulls last night, so there is additional risk. That being said, he is a high-upside option at his price point because it is very reasonable to think that his decreased usage without Horford and Crowder is the result of a small sample size and that he will be relied upon heavily tonight against a high-scoring Cavs team. In addition, a 24 percent usage rate at $7,500 (DraftKings) is not bad- it just is not as good as 29 percent. On the other side of the court is Kyrie Irving. Irving’s spot is somewhere between pretty good and great today depending on how the Celtics plan to defend him. Irving is a strong play because he is reasonably priced across the industry and has a 30.4 percent usage rate in 34.6 minutes per game so far this season. If Irving is primarily guarded by Isaiah Thomas, he should be in line for a huge game. The issue is that there is a good chance that the Celtics start a three-guard lineup of Thomas, Bradley and Marcus Smart. This would allow the Celtics to have Smart defend LeBron James and Avery Bradley defend Irving, leaving J.R. Smith to try and beat them. If this is the case, Irving is still a decent play because of his price and usage rate, but his outlook does take a hit as Bradley is a better on-ball defender than Isaiah Thomas. In two games against the Celtics last season, Irving scored only 0.96 DraftKings points per minute, down from his season average of 1.04 DraftKings points per minute. Although Crowder was active in both of those games, it is reasonable to expect Irving’s matchup to be similar as the Celtics will probably try to find a way to have Bradley or Smart defend him most of the time.
Jeff Teague is an elite play today despite his struggles so far this season. He is averaging 31.3 minutes per game with a usage rate of 23.1 percent, yet his price is hovering around the $6,000 mark because he has been in a shooting slump. Teague’s career field goal percentage is 44.6 percent (and 35.1 percent from three), yet he is shooting only 22 percent from the field (and 6.7 percent from three) so far this season. Most people will look at his game logs and conclude that he is not a strong play, but really we should do the opposite. He has scored 18.75, 20 and 28.5 DraftKings points in his last three games. In those games, he has scored 4, 0, and 9 actual points, respectively. This goes to show that he has a massive ceiling (and a high floor) because he is capable of scoring 20 fantasy points per game from rebounds and assists without even scoring the basketball. In the opener against Dallas (where he still shot only 33 percent), he contributed 20 actual points and his DraftKings total was 39. Teague is a big part of the Indiana offense and continues to shoot the ball, attempting at least 13 field goals in 3 of his 4 games so far. His shot will start falling sooner rather than later because it is unlikely that he has completely forgotten how to shoot a basketball, and you will want him in your lineups when that happens. Teague is a $7,000- $7,500 player in this Indiana offense and he is currently $5,800 on DraftKings and $6,200 on FanDuel.
Elfrid Payton is in a matchup that looks appealing at first but really is not that great. He will be popular today because he is reasonably priced ($6,000 on DraftKings and $6,200 on FanDuel) against the Kings, who everyone has been trained to target players against, and he is coming off of a monster game against the Sixers where he was 20 percent owned so people will be more than happy to go back to the well. The issue is that the Kings play a completely different style of basketball this season than we are used to after hiring Dave Joerger, formerly of the Grizzlies. So far this season, the Kings have played at the 27th-fastest pace in the NBA (and the Magic are 21st). Joerger also has implemented more of a defensive mindset, even pulling all of the starters early in a game because of their poor defense. It is still not a bad spot for Payton, but it is not as good as it will appear to the masses. It feels like the perfect spot to fade in GPPs, expecting a 25-30 fantasy point game instead of a 40-point game, and then roster him in cash games if he fits your lineup. Emmanuel Mudiay is a higher-upside option than Payton in the same price range. Mudiay has a 27.7 percent usage rate in 33.1 minutes per game this season, and in the 8 minutes this season that he has been on the court with Gallinari and without Barton (who is out today) his usage rate is 37 percent. Minnesota has played at the second slowest pace in the NBA so far, but Denver plays at the fifth fastest so there should still be plenty of possessions for Mudiay. He will not be low-owned, but will probably be less-owned than Payton.
Finding cheap value is going to be on everyone’s mind today as they try and get as much exposure to Westbrook and Durant as they can. There are a few reasonable options at point guard, although I am not convinced that they will be worth their ownership. Marcus Smart is, unfortunately, listed as a point guard on FanDuel and is over $5,000 which pretty much takes him out of play. He is $4,400 on DraftKings and eligible at both guard positions, however, so he is worth looking at there. He played his first game of the season yesterday, and recorded an 11 percent usage rate when he was on the floor alongside Thomas and Bradley and without Crowder. He will likely play heavy minutes today as the Celtics need to find someone who can attempt to slow down LeBron with Crowder out. The issue, of course, is that if he spends those minutes chasing LeBron around the court he is going to be using a lot of energy on defense and also accumulating fouls. Guarding a ball-dominant player increases Smart’s upside since the opportunity for steals is there, but taking a backseat to Thomas and Bradley on offense hurts. If you want a value player who will likely be on the court for extended minutes, Smart is a solid option. Just know that a lot of things will have to break right for him to produce fantasy points at an acceptable point per minute rate. Kris Dunn is in a better spot today than he was supposed to be in his first start (before we knew that Conley was going to sit). He will be facing a fast-paced Denver team with a turnover-prone point guard- which is important seeing as how about 50 percent of Dunn’s fantasy points last game came from defensive stats. Dunn is a low-usage player, so his upside on the offensive end just is not there. This is an issue today because his price jumped about 25 percent across the industry. On top of that, people are dying to find value today and will gravitate to the guy that paid off for them in his last game. Rostering a low-usage player at an increasing price tag and high ownership is never my gameplan, but he will start and see minutes in a pace-up game so there are at least some things working for him. Jamal Murray is point guard and shooting guard eligible on DraftKings and is listed as a point guard on FanDuel. He is much more appealing at shooting guard since the opportunity cost is much lower. Murray played 7 minutes alongside Mudiay in the preseason and had a 35 percent usage rate. His usage rate in the regular season, when he has been coming off the bench, is only about 13 percent, however. His regular season usage with the second unit should be weighted much higher than his usage in a small sample size with the starting unit in preseason. He is $3,500 on DraftKings and $3,700 on FanDuel so he is at least the most cost-effective punt option despite his own flaws.
Core: Russell Westbrook, Jeff Teague
GPP: Giannis Antetokounmpo (DraftKings), Steph Curry, Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie Irving, Emmanuel Mudiay
Value: Kris Dunn, Marcus Smart (DraftKings), Jamal Murray
There is actually a lot to like at shooting guard today. The mid-range options (and his price) are the reason that I said earlier that Giannis is much more playable on DraftKings as a point guard than he is on FanDuel as a shooting guard. Evan Fournier is facing the Kings, who everyone knows were absolutely horrible against wing shooters last season. This will probably lead to Fournier being popular. Fournier has a 22.9 percent usage rate in 35.2 minutes per game this season, so that is very attractive for his price. Fournier is a pretty consistent player, usually scoring 15-20 points to go along with 3-5 rebounds and assists. The problem is that it is really difficult for him to outscore his price because he is so dependent on scoring. He is a strong cash option most days because he can usually be counted on for around 30 fantasy points. He very rarely touches 40 points, however, so it is difficult to roster him in GPPs. On top of the already limited upside, he faces the same problems as Elfrid Payton in that this is going to be a very slow game and the Kings are more focused defensively so far this season. This is not the same Kings team that let teams run up and down the floor and take wide-open three-pointers whenever they wanted, but people will probably treat them like they are when choosing their shooting guard today. Zach LaVine, on the other hand, has a ton of upside. He showed throughout last season that he is capable of exploding in the right matchup. Now, he gets to play with the ball in his hands more due to the injury to Ricky Rubio. In 28 minutes alongside Dunn, Wiggins, Dieng and Towns this season, LaVine has the highest usage rate by far at 30.4 percent. Now add to the equation that he is facing the Nuggets, who play at the fifth-fastest pace in the league. He will be able to show off his extreme athleticism in transition more than he normally can. Finally, Gary Harris and Will Barton are both expected to miss this game, which will most likely leave LaVine matched up with the rookie, Jamal Murray. Look for LaVine to have a very big game. Victor Oladipo is $1,000 cheaper today than he was yesterday on FanDuel. Whenever this happens, it is important to look and see if the price drop is because the player was truly overpriced for his role or if it is an overreaction to a poor stretch of games. In Oladipo’s case, it looks like the latter. Oladipo’s career field goal percentage is 42.9 percent and he improved it to 43.8 percent last season. So far this year, Oladipo is shooting only 32.8 percent from the field. Despite playing alongside Russell Westbrook, Oladipo still has a 21.7 percent usage rate. He has attempted 16, 17, 20, and 11 shots so far this season. While his role is smaller than it was with the Magic, he is too cheap now at $6,000. On the Golden State side of that game, Klay Thompson is in this price range as well. A lot of people expected him to disappear this season, but he continues to get his looks. He has a 23.3 percent usage rate and has attempted at least 13 shots and at least 6 three-pointers in every game this season. He is also a candidate for positive regression as he is shooting just 16.7 percent from three this season, despite shooting 41.7 percent for his career. His price is low enough and his floor high enough that he is viable in cash tonight, and there is merit in considering him in GPPs as leverage off of Kevin Durant because he is going to have a game soon where he gets hot from deep and becomes the primary offensive weapon for that game.
There is less value at shooting guard than point guard, but there is more upside. I briefly mentioned earlier that there is a good chance that J.R. Smith is the Cavalier guard with the best matchup tonight. He is tough to roster in cash because he is very streaky, but he will get his shots up- he has attempted at least 10 three-pointers in each of his last two games. There is a ton of upside at a cheap price if Smith gets off to a hot start tonight.
Core: Zach LaVine, Klay Thompson (FanDuel), Victor Oladipo (FanDuel)
GPP: Victor Oladipo (DraftKings), Klay Thompson (DraftKings)
Value: J.R. Smith, Marcus Smart (DraftKings)
Kevin Durant is the most expensive small forward option tonight, as he should be. He is a steady source of fantasy points because he does everything on the floor and gets time with the second unit, so it is really difficult for him to disappear on any given night unless the game is a blowout. He faces Russell Westbrook for the first time tonight so there is a reason to think he may be a little more assertive than usual on the offensive end of the floor. In addition, if he spends time defending Westbrook, his chance for defensive stats increases as well as Westbrook will turn the ball over and also loves to drive to the basket which will allow Durant to possibly block a couple of shots. Durant’s price is very reasonable tonight given his floor and ceiling. LeBron James is slightly cheaper than Durant and gets a boost because Jae Crowder will not be playing tonight. The issue with LeBron is that he is not quite as good from a daily fantasy perspective as his name implies. He has a very high floor every night and is a strong option in cash games. It is very rare for him to score 60-70 fantasy points, however, which is what we hope happens when we roster someone in his price range for GPPs. The matchup with the Crowder-less Celtics still does not quite give him the ceiling for GPPs, as he has the third-highest usage rate on the Cavaliers and his name almost guarantees that he will be higher-owned than he should.
Rudy Gay is $1,000 more expensive on FanDuel than he is on DraftKings, but all that means is he is way too cheap on DraftKings. The pace of this game is concerning, but Gay’s usage rate this season is over 28 percent, which is about 6 percentage points higher than it was last season. Playing alongside Ty Lawson instead of Rajon Rondo seems to have translated into Gay being much more active on offense. His price on DraftKings is reflective of his role last season, where his price on FanDuel is more accurate for this season. When considering the pace of the game, it is worth noting that three of the four games Gay has played this season have been against teams that rank in the bottom 10 in pace, with Atlanta being the only one that does not. Taking that into account, Gay appears to be a solid play across the industry, as he has even managed to find a way to take at least 20 shots against the Timberwolves, who rank 29th, and the Heat, who rank 22nd. On the opposite end of the spectrum from Rudy Gay is Danilo Gallinari. Gallinari has seen his usage rate decline from 23.2 percent last season to 18 percent this season. He should see a few more shots now that Will Barton is out of the lineup, but it seems likely that the biggest impact on his usage is the presense of Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic on the court together with him. Jokic and Nurkic have tough matchups with Dieng and Towns tonight, so it is possible that some extra shots funnel their way to Gallinari. His price on FanDuel is too high unless you are simply paying up to be contrarian in GPPs, but $5,800 on DraftKings is a very fair price despite the decreased usage as Gallinari is still capable of scoring the basketball and will get the benefit of Andrew Wiggins defense tonight. Speaking of Andrew Wiggins, he has the highest usage rate other than LaVine in the 28 minutes that the T-Wolves’ current starters have been on the floor together at 24.6 percent. He should benefit from the fast pace that the Nuggets play as he can look to attack the rim in transition. As always, the drawback to Wiggins is that he is extremely scoring dependent, which makes him inconsistent and also limits his ceiling if he is unable to score 40 real-life points.
We really have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find value at small forward today. One possible option for tournaments is Jeff Green of the Magic. There are a couple scenarios where we could see him get extended minutes today. First, he may see extended minutes because he matches up well with Rudy Gay defensively and, as we already discussed, Gay is now a big part of the Kings’ offense. Second, there is a chance that DeMarcus Cousins gets a couple of Magic bigs in foul trouble and Green works his way into some extra playing time. Green is definitely not a high-probability play today, but if you are making multiple GPP lineups and need a cheap forward he is worth considering because he does have upside if he is on the floor for more time than usual. Matt Barnes has been seeing steady minutes for the Kings. If he goes back to the bench tonight, he would be a more appealing option than if he is starting. In 78 minutes alongside DeMarcus Cousins, his usage rate is 15.8 percent. In 53 minutes with Cousins not on the floor, his usage rate is 22 percent. Joerger has shown that he trusts Barnes, as he lets Barnes play down the stretch and even has him handle the ball some. The problem is that trusting Barnes to run with the starting unit is not good for his fantasy value. He is worth considering just because of his price and the minutes he will play, but if he is coming off of the bench he gets a boost.
Core: Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Rudy Gay
GPP: Danilo Gallinari, Andrew Wiggins
Value: Matt Barnes, Jeff Green (low-probability GPP option)
Power forward is pretty thin today, but there are a few really strong options among them. Kevin Love has a 29.3 percent usage rate this season, just behind Kyrie Irving and about four percentage points higher than LeBron. The Celtics will have a very difficult time matching up with Love tonight and he should be able to get plenty of rebounds against the Boston frontcourt as well. He has been very consistent so far this season, taking 15-17 shots in each game that he has played. He could also see a little bit of positive regression coming his way, as his field goal percentage is close to his career average, but his three-point percentage of 27.8 percent is about nine percentage points below his career average. Love is a very strong play tonight in any format. Thaddeus Young only has a 14.7 percent usage rate, but he is in a very nice spot tonight against a Milwaukee frontcourt that really struggles to rebound the basketball. Interior players from Anthony Davis to Roy Hibbert have had big games against the Bucks so far this season, and Young should not be an exception. The low usage rate makes it difficult for him to have GPP-winning upside (he has not attempted more than 12 shots in a game this season and has attempted less than 10 in two of four) but he should be able to make up for some of that with additional rebounds and possible put-backs off of those rebounds. His price is more than fair across the industry for this matchup. Jabari Parker should thrive in the same game as Young. Parker is a young player who should have a very good year as he is expected to be more involved offensively. He is generally low-owned because of his inconsistency last season and because he has not had a breakout game yet this season. He does have a 22.8 percent usage rate this season, and is going to benefit today from playing an Indiana team that looks to push the ball. Parker is cheap across the industry and is small-forward eligible on DraftKings, which makes him very appealing in cash games and he has considerably more upside than his game logs demonstrate which makes him appealing in GPPs as well.
Amir Johnson is going to be everyone’s favorite value play after his explosion yesterday. It is likely that Johnson has a solid outing tonight, but there are some major red flags to note with yesterday’s performance. First, he shot 4 of 4 from three. He is a 32.8 percent three-point shooter and has averaged 0.3 three-pointers per game. He is very unlikely to keep knocking down threes at a reliable rate. He also shot 81.8 percent overall from the field which, of course, also is not sustainable. Finally, he accumulated 2 blocks and 3 steals to account for another 10 fantasy points. Essentially, 24 of his DraftKings points could be considered a fluke. That being said, he still would have had 23 DraftKings points even without a single three-pointer or defensive stat, and he played about 30 minutes. There is merit to rostering him today because he should see minutes again with the injuries to the Boston frontcourt, just know that he will be very popular and is very capable of disappearing.
Core: Kevin Love, Jabari Parker, Thaddeus Young
GPP: Same as Core
Value: Amir Johnson
DeMarcus Cousins is going to be low-owned tonight as everyone looks to afford Westbrook and Durant, which makes him an elite GPP option if you can work him into your lineup. He has not had a massive game since his 37 point, 16 rebound outburst against the Spurs. That does not mean there are not some in his future, however. He has a 37 percent usage rate so far this season as the Kings look to run their offense through him. He will likely matchup with Nikola Vucevic, who likes to pretend that defense does not exist. Cousins should be able to do whatever he wants against the Orlando frontcourt. There is a chance that Bismack Biyombo sees extended minutes off of the bench, once Vucevic gets into foul trouble or makes it clear that he cannot defend Boogie. That makes Biyombo an interesting GPP punt where you can roster two centers. Karl-Anthony Towns is the other big name center on the slate, but it is a tough spot for both frontcourts in this game. Denver is the second-best rebounding team so far this season and Minnesota is third. In addition, Towns has seen a decline in usage with Ricky Rubio off the court. In 37 minutes with Kris Dunn on the court and Rubio off the court, KAT has a 20.8 percent usage rate, compared to the 25.5 percent usage he sees when Rubio is running the show. His usage is still high enough that it is scary to roster the foul prone bigs on Denver (I have given up trying to predict which one will get in foul trouble), but it is low enough that it is tough to pay up for KAT, especially since his rebounding numbers should take a hit as well. It is still Towns and we are talking about a small sample size, so rostering him in GPPs is defensible, but I personally will not be doing it until I see Dunn get him more involved in the offense or his price drops.
Myles Turner gets the sweet spot of rebounding against the Milwaukee Bucks, so he is firmly in play. He is a matchup nightmare as he is tall, super athletic, and can shoot the ball. The Bucks are going to have a lot of trouble stopping him. He has a 22.6 percent usage rate this season and should easily be able to post a double-double in this matchup. People have probably finally started to forget about his 64.5 DraftKings points on opening night since his price has increased and his production has decreased, so we can probably get him at fairly low ownership tonight.
Steven Adams is in play as a way to get cheap exposure to the Golden State and Oklahoma City game. Against Golden State last season, Adams averaged 1.2 minutes per game above his season average, compared to Enes Kanter who averaged 4.2 minutes less than his season average. Adams plays significantly more minutes this season as it is, so we can expect him to be on the floor a lot tonight. He only has a 17.5 percent usage rate, but he is a very good rebounder and he should have a lot of opportunities tonight in a fast-paced game. Tristan Thompson has been very productive lately and nobody has talked about it. He does not have huge upside because just about all of his scoring comes from offensive rebounds and putbacks (he has a 6 percent usage rate), but he is a very good rebounder and he gets to face a soft Boston frontcourt tonight. He has recorded at least 10 rebounds and played at least 27 minutes in each of his last 3 games, and he should be able to extend that streak tonight. Just keep in mind that center is a position with a lot of opportunity cost and he has not taken more than 5 shots in a game yet this season. Tyler Zeller played 25 minutes last night and went under the radar because Amir Johnson stole the show. He should see similar minutes tonight as the likely starter at center. It is a difficult matchup with Tristan Thompson, but it is worth noting that in 12 minutes of court time alongside Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley and without Horford and Crowder, he has a 23.3 percent usage rate. Obviously this is a small sample size, but there is at least a reason to consider punting with him (where you can roster multiple centers) and hoping he is the one in the depleted Boston frontcourt that emerges tonight.
Core: DeMarcus Cousins, Steven Adams
GPP: Myles Turner
Value: Tristan Thompson, Bismack Biyombo, Tyler Zeller
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.