NBA DEEP DIVE 11/20/16

Since there are only four games on tonight’s slate, I am writing this article a little bit differently.  Instead of going position by position I am going to go game by game because we will need to dig deep for value today (especially if Paul George is active) and it is easiest to find that potential value by digging into how each game is likely to play out.

Indiana Pacers at Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell Westbrook is the premier point guard option on the slate in what should be a high-scoring game with the Pacers.  Westbrook is averaging 34.2 minutes per game with an insane 40.4 percent usage rate this season and his matchup with Jeff Teague is very appealing.  The Pacers are not a strong defensive team as a whole, but Teague is exceptionally bad.  Westbrook should be able to do whatever he wants in this matchup and on a short four game slate it is going to be difficult to fade him because it is just too difficult to make up the raw points he will score even if he has a “bad” game.  Any lineup I build today will start with Westbrook.

Victor Oladipo has put together two very nice games in a row after a slow start to the season.  He may not continue to be this good (he has been shooting better than he is capable of sustaining, especially from three), but he should consistently be better than he was for the first couple weeks of the season.  We can continue to roster him while his price is depressed as a result of his early struggles, especially in an uptempo matchup against a Pacers team that struggles defensively and does not protect the rim especially well.  He is averaging 33.5 minutes per game and some of those minutes come as the point guard for the second unit as Billy Donovan staggers his minutes so he is on the floor when Westbrook is off.  The only reason to fade Oladipo today would be for ownership reasons in tournaments because the shooting guard position is fairly deep.

Andre Roberson has become a little bit more assertive offensively lately, attempting at least 9 field goal attempts in 4 of his last 5 games.  His price has crept up rather quickly, however, so there still is not much excess value- especially because his usage rate over that time is still only 13.8 percent despite the extra shot attempts.  If Paul George plays, Roberson gets a little bit of a boost because he should see extra minutes to defend George but it does not look like George is expected to play.  On a full slate, Roberson would be easy to ignore but he is worth considering if he helps you get everyone else you want at other positions.

Enes Kanter is tough to roster right now because his minutes have decreased recently- and they were already limited.  He averages 18 minutes per game for the season, but has not seen that many in any of his last three games.  He has a 26.6 percent usage rate when he is on the floor and averages well over a fantasy point per minutes, so there is upside if he happens to get playing time, but his minutes are just too inconsistent to count on him as more than a GPP flier- especially on sites where he is a center.

Steven Adams has had some nice games this season and remains inexpensive in a fast-paced game that should present plenty of rebounding opportunities.  For a short slate, however, there are several high upside options at center so it makes it difficult to roster Adams because his ceiling is capped by his 14.6 percent usage rate.  He makes a little bit of sense as a utility option on DraftKings if you need someone in his price range to fill out your roster, but the opportunity cost at center takes him off the board for me as an option if I can only roster one center.

Jeff Teague’s price is steadily climbing but he remains a very strong play as long as Paul George is out.  Teague’s usage rate in 107 minutes without Paul George on the floor this season is 28.3 percent and it climbs to 30.8 percent in the 37 minutes he has played without both George and C.J. Miles.  Although Teague is not a strong defender, defending Russell Westbrook leads to an increased opportunity for steals since he is such a high usage player.  Teague runs pick-and-rolls on about 35 percent of his plays and Westbrook is a solid pick-and-roll defender, allowing only 0.75 points per possession.  18.8 percent of Teague’s plays are isolation plays, however, and Westbrook has literally been the worst isolation defender in the NBA, allowing 1.64 points per possession so far this season.  The pace of the game and a matchup with Westbrook, who spends most of his energy on the offensive end of the floor, should lead to a nice game for Teague.

Monta Ellis will also see a boost without Paul George on the floor.  His usage rate in 42 minutes without George and Miles is 20.2 percent to go along with a 21.4 percent assist rate.  Ellis will likely be defended by Victor Oladipo, who is by far the worst on-ball pick-and-roll defender out of himself, Westbrook and Roberson.  Ellis has run the pick-and-roll on 35.8 percent of his plays this season and Oladipo has allowed 1.00 point per possession this season, ranking in the 17th percentile across the league.  Ellis seems to have lost his role as the point guard for the second unit with the return of Rodney Stuckey, but it is possible he continues to see a little bit of time there as the Pacers attempt to limit Stuckey’s minutes.

Glenn Robinson III will be the chalk value option assuming that he gets the start for Paul George.  He is a perfectly fine option and there is nothing wrong with playing him as he has shown the ability to perform well when given minutes.  He is not a must play in tournaments if you can make rosters you like without him, however, as he will not be a high usage player playing alongside the Pacers starters and Andre Roberson is a strong defender.

Thaddeus Young continues to be a decent player limited by low usage.  Even without Paul George on the floor, Young only has a 14.8 percent usage rate this season.  He will likely be very popular because power forward is thin tonight and George is out.  His last game was the epitome of the kind of production to expect from him as he had a huge first half, but followed it up by attempting one field goal in 14 minutes and 44 seconds in the second half.  He is a perfectly fine cash play but I would look elsewhere in tournaments because of ownership and low usage.

Myles Turner is in line for another very nice game today.  He has seen over 30 minutes in each of his last two games as he has managed to mostly avoid foul trouble and the Pacers have kept the games close into the fourth quarter.  Turner’s usage rate without Paul George is 23.2 percent this season and he should be able to do well in his matchup with Steven Adams.  Adams is a solid defender but Turner’s game will pull him away from the rim and he is not as imposing outside of the paint where he cannot assert himself physically.  In addition, Turner is averaging 2.4 blocks per game this season and facing Russell Westbrook increases his block upside because Westbrook averages 13.3 drives per game.  Turner has a ton of upside for a mid-range price

Toronto Raptors at Sacramento Kings

Kyle Lowry started the season slowly but has rebounded nicely as expected.  He is averaging 38.4 minutes per game with a 24.9 usage rate this season despite DeMar DeRozan taking 140 shots per game alongside him.  He faces the Sacramento Kings today and will likely be guarded by Ty Lawson.  Lowry has been the ball handler on pick-and-rolls on 35.9 percent of his plays this season and Lawson is in the bottom quarter of the league in pick-and-roll defense, allowing 0.96 points per possession.  There is also a chance that the Kings play at a faster pace today because Coach Joerger indicated after their last game that he is giving up on their big lineups and will be playing Ty Lawson and Darren Collison alongside each other more often.  This would be a boost to Lowry, as well as everyone else in this game, if it happens.

DeMar DeRozan is averaging 36.5 minutes per game and 24 shot attempts per game so far this season which gives him a very high floor.  His issue, as always, is that he does not contribute a lot in the way of peripherals so he is very scoring dependent and it limits his ceiling.  He is a strong play if you can afford him because there is merit to locking in 45+ fantasy points at the shooting guard position and moving on, especially on a short slate where raw points are difficult to make up.  It is tough for him to be the best point-per-dollar play, but he is consistent and you know what you are going to get most nights.  He has a nice matchup tonight against what will likely be an undersized backcourt with Lawson and Collison playing together.

Terrence Ross is an excellent pivot off Glenn Robinson in tournaments.  He has averaged 25.7 minutes per game in his last three games and should see extra minutes tonight if the Kings do, in fact, go small.  A lineup consisting of Lawson, Collison, Afflalo, Gay and Cousins would likely force Demarre Carroll to the four and open up some more court time for Terrence Ross at the three.  Like Robinson, he is not a high usage player, but he is a capable three-point shooter who can get hot from deep and he will almost certainly outscore Robinson often enough to be worth the difference in ownership.

Jonas Valanciunas is worth considering as a tournament option because his price is depressed and he is capable of occasionally posting very big games.  Lucas Noguiera is expected back for this game, however, which will cut into Valanciunas’s minutes and makes it unlikely he will end up being in my lineups.

Ty Lawson is not particularly good, but his price is very low and he looked good alongside Collison against the Clippers.  The 36 minutes were the most he has played since November 6th and he responded with 18 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds.  It remains to be seen whether his minutes bump is permanent or not, but on a small slate it is worth taking a chance on him in tournaments to see if Joerger continues to use him like he did against Los Angeles.

Darren Collison has seen at least 30 minutes in three consecutive games and is priced very reasonably on DraftKings where he is $5,100.  Collison has a 21.2 usage rate overall this season and in the 22 minutes he played alongside Lawson it was 17.9 percent.  The decrease in usage may just be a result of sample size so we should not look too much into that.  What we should notice, however, is that it was significantly higher than Lawson’s 11.5 percent usage.  If he does see significant playing time alongside Lawson, it appears that he will be used more than Lawson- which makes sense since he is the better scorer.

Rudy Gay has been very good this season as he has seen increased usage under Dave Joerger.  This is a good spot to fade him, however, as he will likely be defended primarily by Demarre Carroll.  On short slates, almost everyone is higher owned than you would like, so it is a good strategy to completely fade big name players who are in suboptimal spots since their name value alone will attract significant ownership.

DeMarcus Cousins’ price is finally back to where it should be.  He is an elite option tonight because he should be able to dominate the Toronto frontcourt and his usage rate in his minutes alongside Collison and Lawson last game was 41 percent.  That will likely drop a little bit as the sample size gets bigger (his usage rate overall this season is 36.3 percent), but the Kings are doing everything they can to run the offense through Cousins and if they play a little bit faster that should benefit him as well.  If you fade Westbrook you should do what you can to get Cousins in your lineup since he is the player most likely to score more points than Westbrook if Westbrook is not the highest scoring player on the slate.

Matt Barnes is a strong play today as well.  He has played at least 28 minutes in three of his last four games and has generally produced well off the bench this season.  If the Kings do go small more often, he will see more time at the four along with his time at the three which should increase his rebounding totals a bit.  He is a little bit more expensive than Ross, but makes for another nice pivot off Robinson in tournaments.


Utah Jazz at Denver Nuggets

This game has the lowest total on the slate at 199.  Emmanuel Mudiay has played much better in his last two games after Coach Malone essentially told the media that he sucks and needs to start passing the ball.  This is a tough matchup for him today, however, because he is reliant on driving to the basket and the Jazz have a strong frontcourt, plus it is a huge pace down game for him.  On a slate this small it is doubtful that his ownership is low enough to even be worth the risk in tournaments.  I was completely wrong the other night when I thought that Wilson Chandler would be chalk after his 50 fantasy point outing the game before.  He was 10 percent or lower in every tournament I played and proceeded to have another massive fantasy output.  His price continues to climb and it is hard to imagine his ownership being low again today with limited options at small forward.  If I were to roster anyone from Denver, Chandler would be near or at the top of the list, but I prefer fading him today and hoping he has a bad game so I can jump on the train next time he plays a faster team with a weaker frontcourt.

Danilo Gallinari has not been as involved in the offense this season as usual, which has kept his price down since he has not had many big games.  He is a guy that I like to target occasionally in tournaments in spots where he may be able to produce a big game since his price is so low.  Today is not one of those days as he will be defended by Gordon Hayward who has done a very nice job against him throughout his career.  Gallinari’s best game against Hayward in the last 3 seasons was 29.8 DraftKings points in 36.9 minutes.  There is not much reason to expect him to do better today since he gets even less usage than he did in the previous games against Hayward.

Kenneth Faried has been producing at a very high level lately but, while his minutes have ticked up slightly, he is still not seeing as many minutes as we would like at his increasing price.  The Jazz frontcourt is less imposing with Trey Lyles than with Derrick Favors, so rostering Faried in tournaments today is fine, but I would not roster him in cash games because his minutes are so fluid.

Nikola Jokic finally had a good performance in his last game, but chasing those points is not recommended.  His minutes have been as inconsistent as always and Malone basically said after their last game that we should not expect Jokic to return to what he was at the end of last season.  Leave Jokic alone and enjoy the small percentage of people that decide to roster him today because “he has upside”.

Dante Exum is a decent cash game punt because he is still minimum priced and starting in an uptempo game against the turnover prone Mudiay.  Rostering him in tournaments today is not recommended because he has no ceiling and he will be high enough owned because of the slate that it will not give you and edge if he reaches his 23 fantasy points.

Shelvin Mack is the preferred tournament punt option because he has a 21 percent usage rate without Hill and Favors and is actually capable of having good offensive games occasionally.

Rodney Hood is an elite play today.  He is very frustrating to roster, especially when he is popular, but his usage rate without Hill and Favors is over 28.1 percent and he will benefit from the pace of this game as well.  Gary Harris is also out for Denver so Hood will likely be defended by Jameer Nelson and/or Jamal Murray, which is a better matchup for him.

Gordon Hayward will be a very popular play today.  On one hand, he is in a nice matchup against the faster-paced Nuggets and he has a 26.5 percent usage rate with Hill and Favors out.  On the other hand, he is 11 for his last 42 shooting (spanning 3 games) and it is possible he is a little banged up and that is affecting his shooting.  If Hayward fits into my lineup I do not mind rostering him today since the slate is so small and there are a lot of factors in his favor, but I will not be forcing him into my tournament lineups since I don’t mind punting small forward today and he will be very highly owned.

Trey Lyles should be another popular punt option with Favors sidelined.  Lyles is a guy that I usually try to fade when he is popular because he is inconsistent, but on this slate I don’t like a lot of power forwards so Lyles will find his way into my lineups.  He is athletic and can space the floor so he should benefit from the pace and game flow against Denver and he has a 24.3 percent usage rate without Hill and Favors on the floor this season so he has a nice floor and a nice ceiling at his price point, especially on FanDuel at $4,000.

Rudy Gobert is a very strong option today.  He has played at least 33 minutes in three of his last four games and has recorded at least 12 rebounds in each of those three games.  He should benefit from the increased pace because it means more rebound opportunities.  He will also benefit because Emannuel Mudiay averages over 10 drives per game, which means Gobert should be able to pick up some blocks.  Gobert and Turner are the reasons I prefer Westbrook over Cousins from a roster construction standpoint.

Joe Johnson is another viable pivot from Glenn Robinson in tournaments.  Johnson is averaging 24.5 minutes per game this season and has a 15.9 percent usage rate.  The appeal today is more about the pace of the game and the difference in ownership.  Johnson does not have big games very often, but is certainly capable of beating the much higher owned Robinson frequently.

Chicago Bulls at Los Angeles Lakers

It will be important to pay attention to injury news throughout the day because Rajon Rondo played last night after missing a couple of games so it is possible he sits on the second half of a back-to-back and D’Angelo Russell was a late scratch in his last game.  If Rondo plays, he is a very strong play at his price point.  He is not a good basketball player, but he knows how to produce stats which is all we really care about in DFS.  Rondo is only averaging 29.5 minutes per game this season, but he played 35 last night and played at least 35 in two of his last three games before his injury.  His usage rate is only 17.5 percent, but his assist rate is 31.2 percent and his rebound rate is 11.2 percent so he has been very productive across the board.  His price is too low across the industry and he is a strong play in cash games and tournaments as long as he is going to play.

Dwyane Wade had a monster game last night and is a reasonable play against tonight in a major pace-up game against the Lakers.  From a tournament perspective, there are reasons to fade him, however.  The reason that I really liked him last night had a lot to do with Jimmy Butler having a really bad matchup which would funnel opportunities to Wade.  That is not the case tonight so, while he is still a strong play, he will likely be over-owned for his expected production as a result of last night’s game.  He will most likely be defended by Nick Young tonight, who is actually the Lakers’ best perimeter defender.  He will make it difficult for Wade to keep up his improved three-point shooting.

Jimmy Butler is in a nice bounce-back spot tonight against the Lakers.  His usage takes a little bit of a hit with Rondo back, but his usage rate with Rondo on the floor this season is still 24.4 percent (the highest on the team).  Butler is similar to DeRozan in that he will give you solid production every night, but it is going to be difficult for him to have a massive game at his salary since his salary increased as a result of Rondo being out and Butler being much more involved in the offense.

Taj Gibson has been steady this season and is actually a strong option tonight at a weak power forward position.  He does not possess a ton of upside, but his price is very reasonable and he should benefit a little bit from Rondo being back and Rondo is so good at distributing the basketball and Gibson does not create his own shots.  Gibson’s usage rate with Rondo on the floor is 19.8 percent and it is only 16 percent without Rondo. The pace of this game will also lead to increased rebound opportunities for Gibson.  I really like his spot tonight especially if Rondo plays.

Robin Lopez only played 26 minutes last night so he should be rested for tonight’s game.  I like the pace of the game and the increased rebound opportunities, but it is possible that the Lakers go small and Lopez does not get see 30+ minutes again tonight.  His price is also creeping up a little bit and it is close enough to Turner and Gobert that it is difficult to see Lopez being the best center play very often.

D’Angelo Russell is a strong GPP play if he plays tonight.  His matchup with Rajon Rondo is better than the matchup for the rest of the Lakers so he could see a few extra shot attempts as a result.  Russell has been inconsistent this season as a result of minutes, but he has shown massive upside and he is one of my favorite tournament options if he and Rondo both suit up tonight.  Lou Williams is a tournament option tonight.  He has been surprisingly consistent this season and has shown that he has the ability to score a lot of fantasy points in a hurry.  He will likely be the preferred scoring option on the second unit tonight because Jordan Clarkson will run the point and be defended by Jerian Grant, who is a much better defender than Isaiah Canaan.

Julius Randle has a tough matchup tonight against the Bulls frontcourt in a pace down game for the Lakers.  Randle is a better play in fast paced games where he can handle the ball more in transition, but he is still a nice option on a slate this small.  He is consistently getting at least 28 minutes per game and has a 21.9 percent usage rate.  On bigger slates he would be a fade in this matchup but the minutes, usage and his overall ability make him playable tonight.  He will see a boost if Russell sits as well.