NBA DEEP DIVE 11/22/16

POINT GUARD

Russell Westbrook is the premier point guard option on the slate in what should be a high-scoring game with the Lakers.  Oklahoma City plays at the 6th-fastest pace in the league and the Lakers play at the 4th-fastet pace, so Westbrook and his 40.4 percent usage rate should get even more possessions than normal today.  On a small slate it is very difficult to fade Westbrook since he will put up so many raw points even if he has a “bad” game.  The only reason fading him could be a good idea is that there is a plethora of inexpensive point guard options with high upside today so you could put yourself at an advantage if you roster two inexpensive point guards who do very well and Westbrook only scores around 50 fantasy points.  Even so, it is a very risky strategy.

Damian Lillard has sucked lately but it has seen his price decrease to $9,000 on FanDuel and $8,900 on DraftKings.  He will face Derrick Rose and the Knicks today.  Rose is not a particularly good defender, but he has defended the pick-and-roll pretty well so far this season, allowing only 0.67 points per possession.  Lillard has run the pick-and-roll on 42.7 percent of his plays so far this season and ranks in the top 15 percent of ball-handlers in the league with 1.03 points per possession.  It will be interesting to see who wins out, but my bet would be that Lillard is able to have success against Rose.  He is an interesting tournament option because he has a massive ceiling despite his current slump and he will likely go under-owned for a four game slate since Westbrook is on the board and there are a handful of strong options in the $5,000-$6,000 price range.

Jrue Holiday is a very strong play on DraftKings where he is only $6,400.  He continues to come off the bench for the Pelicans, but he saw 30 minutes in his last game after playing 23 in his first game back.  He will likely continue to see at least 30 minutes per game and is a bargain at his price.  In addition, people tend to shy off of rostering relatively expensive bench players so that could help keep Holiday’s ownership down despite his 34 percent usage rate and impressive production since returning to the team.  If D’Angelo Russell plays tonight he makes for a strong tournament option, although his minutes are too difficult to trust for cash games.  In addition to the fast pace of the game, defending Westbrooks increases Russell’s opportunities for turnovers leading to fast breaks.  He only played 22 minutes in his last game after missing the previous game with an injury, and he has only played 26-28 minutes most games this season anyway, so the minutes are definitely a concern.  He should be a low-owned, high-upside option in tournaments, however.

Dennis Schroder was benched late in the Hawks’ last game, but it is difficult to imagine that will carry over to tonight since it is way too early for them to give up on him considering they trusted him enough that they did not mind losing Jeff Teague in the offseason.  Schroder’s price is falling quickly right now and tonight is a good time to jump on and try to take advantage in a fast-paced game against the Pelicans.  Schroder has not shown the ability to produce monster games yet this season but, now that his price has dropped about $1,000 from where it was earlier in the season, the 35 fantasy points that he is capable of producing in good matchups looks really nice tonight.

Emmanuel Mudiay played 32 minutes and attempted 13 field goals despite the return of Will Barton in his last game and continued to pick up assists after Mike Malone expressed his concerns with his lack of assists in a post-game press conference a few games ago.  Since that press conference, Mudiay has recorded 6, 9 and 8 assists.  His season average is only 4.2 so it seems he may be making a concerted effort to improve.  Tonight he faces a Bulls team who is easiest to attack at point guard, as Rajon Rondo is probable to play and is not a big believer in playing defense.  Despite having a strong defensive frontcourt, the Bulls rank 8th-worst in the NBA in rim protection so far this season, which bodes well for Mudiay and his 10.5 drives per game.  He is a great tournament option tonight.

On the other side of the ball, Rajon Rondo is a strong play as well.  He is priced way too low considering his impressive ability to pile up rebounds and assists, while being pretty bad at the actual game of basketball.  Denver is playing at the 7th-fastest pace in the NBA, so it is a nice pace-up game for the 22nd ranked Bulls.  In addition, Emmanuel Mudiay is turnover prone so Rondo could accidentally pick up a couple of steals as well (although Mudiay has 0 turnovers in two of the three games since the Malone press conference).

Tim Frazier remains very inexpensive across the industry as a lingering result from a couple of bad performances a week or two ago.  Jrue Holiday’s return has not hampered his minutes (yet) and they played alongside each other down the stretch in the fourth quarter and in overtime, which is a good sign that Frazier’s minutes are still stable.  Despite Atlanta having a strong defensive team, point guards have consistently produced solid stat lines against them this season and there is no reason to think Frazier will be any different.  He is a very strong play for his price, just know there is the slight possibility that he loses minutes because Gentry is prone to changing his rotation on a whim and he has plenty of available backcourt options.

Core:  Russell Westbrook, Emmanuel Mudiay, Rajon Rondo

Secondary: Damian Lillard, D’Angelo Russell, Dennis Schroder, Derrick Rose, Tim Frazier

Value: Langston Galloway

SHOOTING GUARD

Shooting guard is the opposite of point guard today because there is not much to like at all.  Victor Oladipo is the best play on the board when price is factored in because he is still available for a discount from C.J. McCollum and has a very high floor and ceiling in his matchup with the Lakers.  He has rebounded very well from a poor start to the season and there is no reason to think that he will struggle in this matchup.  He will likely be defended by Nick Young, the Lakers’ best perimeter defender, but Oladipo also runs the point with the second unit which allows him to accumulate stats regardless of how he does with the first unit.  There should also be plenty of opportunities for him in transition, which means Young’s defense is less of a factor. After Oladipo, shooting guard gets a little rough.

C.J. McCollum has been more of a boom-or-bust option at his price point.  He does not usually have bad games from a raw point standpoint, but he tends to either underperform his salary or blow it out of the water.  This makes him more suited for GPPs.  It is a pace-down game for the Blazers, which makes the spot less appealing, but it is worth noting that McCollum has gone for 45 or more DraftKings points four times this season, including games against the Kings and Grizzlies who rank 26th and 28th in pace, respectively.

Dwyane Wade should be back on the floor tonight against the Nuggets and he should benefit from the fast pace of the game.  Wade’s improved three-point shooting has helped the Bulls space the floor and he will be relied on to continue to shoot from the perimeter in addition to contributing in transition tonight.  He is an especially strong option on DraftKings where there is a bonus for three-pointers and he is priced $6,000 cheaper than Oladipo.

Lou Williams continues to be a consistent source of production off the bench for the Lakers, thanks to his 28.7 percent usage rate, and has seen his minutes increase the last two games with Russell sitting out or limited.  It remains to be seen if Russell is limited again tonight but, even if he is back to his full allotment of minutes, Williams is a very strong option on this slate because he will benefit from the pace of the game and the position is weak.

Core: Victor Oladipo

Secondary: Dwyane Wade, C.J. McCollum, Lou Williams

Value: Will Barton, Nick Young

 

SMALL FORWARD

Small forward is very thin tonight and paying up is not a bad idea at all.  Carmelo Anthony gets a matchup with the Blazers in a pace-up game where he should benefit from his increased touches.  He has a 29.4 percent usage rate for the season, despite the increased focus on getting the ball into the hands of Kristaps Porzingis, and his salary remains very reasonable as it has not really increased much despite consistent production.  An added bonus tonight is that he may see extended time at the four as it is very likely that the game goes small since the Blazers love to use small lineups and the Knicks will likely be without starting center Joakim Noah.  This would increase his rebounding opportunities and give him an even higher floor and ceiling combination.

Jimmy Butler has been playing out of his mind lately and he draws a favorable matchup tonight against Denver.  He is firmly in play, but there are concerns.  He has logged heavy minutes lately, averaging 38.2 per game, and tonight is his third game in four nights and fifth in eight.  In addition, his price has risen as a result of his production with Rondo and Wade sitting out recently, but they are both expected to play tonight.  Butler is still a strong play given the weak small forward position and the plus matchup, but the concerns and price difference have him behind Anthony for me.

Wilson Chandler has been very productive lately but his price has risen and his minutes may become slightly less stable with the return of Will Barton since the Nuggets could theoretically use Nelson or Murray at the two, Barton at the three and Gallinari at the four- although they did not do that in their last game.  He remains worthy of a look in tournaments because of his high upside but his price increase makes it tough to roster him in cash games.

Kent Bazemore has played at least 30 minutes in four consecutive games and attempted at least 10 shots in each game.  His price is still very cheap across the industry and he makes for a strong cash game play at the low price.  He also has some tournament appeal as this should be a fast-paced game and he is capable of scoring a lot of fantasy points if his shot is falling.

Core:  Carmelo Anthony

Secondary:  Jimmy Butler, Wilson Chandler (GPP)

Value: Kent Bazemore

POWER FORWARD

Anthony Davis is the most expensive power forward tonight in a surprisingly good matchup against Paul Millsap and the Hawks.  I expect Davis to see more time at the four than the five tonight because the Pelicans will likely use Omer Asik to counter the size of Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones is questionable with an illness, which would make the Pelicans less likely to want to go small.  Millsap is allowing opponents to make 9.3 percent more shots from more than 15 feet than they normally would so far this season and Davis is very capable of taking advantage.  We have seen players with strong mid-range games take advantage of Millsap frequently this season and Davis should be no exception.

Kristaps Porzingis has been very involved in the offense lately and has averaged 36 minutes per game over his last four.  He should not have difficulty with the Portland front court tonight and should be able to add some rebounds on to his point total.  He is a very strong play in any format in this matchup.

Paul Millsap is a tournament option because he has a high ceiling and is capable of being very productive offensively in a fast-paced game.  He is behind Porzingis for me, however, because I think he will be defended often by Anthony Davis who does a good job of limiting opponent’s success on mid-range shots.

Julius Randle is a strong tournament option in a fast-paced game against the Thunder.  He is a good player to roster in fast-paced games because he is a capable ball-handler and he picks up assists in transition, whereas in the half-court offense he does not handle the ball as much.  His minutes, like everyone on Los Angeles, are not high enough or consistent enough to love him in cash games, but he does have a high ceiling for his price point.

Meyers Leonard is an excellent play tonight.  He should see extended minutes because, at 7’1, he will be needed to match up with the 7’3 Porzingis.  In addition, Porzingis has trouble defending players with Leonard’s offensive skill set.  Leonard is the roll man on the pick-and-roll on 17.7 percent of his plays and Porzingis allows 1.47 points per possession to pick-and-roll roll men, which is the worst in the league, and 41.8 percent of Leonard’s plays are spot-up shots and Porzingis allows 1.22 points per possession on those, which is in the bottom 16 percent of the league.  It is also worth noting that in two matchups against Porzingis last season their minutes matched up almost exactly.  In the first meeting, Porzingis played 19.2 minutes and Leonard played 19.3.  In the second meeting, Porzingis played 24.8 minutes and Leonard played 25.1 minutes.  It makes sense for the Blazers to have Leonard on Porzingis as much as possible and it appears they did that last season.  If Leonard plays anywhere close to Porzingis’s minutes tonight he will be the best point-per-dollar play on the slate by far.

Core:  Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porzingis

Secondary: Julius Randle, Paul Millsap, Taj Gibson, Kenneth Faried

Value: Meyers Leonard

CENTERS

Dwight Howard is the lone “expensive” center option on the board tonight, but his price is still reasonable across the industry.  He will have plenty of rebound attempts in a fast-paced game between the 5th and 8th fastest paced teams and that should help make up for the relatively limited minutes he has been playing this season (28.3 per game).  He has shown the ability to produce massive stat lines in 28-30 minutes of play, so he is a strong tournament option.  It is worth noting, however, that Anthony Davis and Omer Asik are both capable rim protectors- with Davis allowing a 47.8 opponent field goal percentage within 5 feet of the rim and Asik holding opponents to just 40 percent.

Robin Lopez has been playing very well for the Bulls lately and is in another good spot tonight where he will be needed to match up with the big-bodied centers on the Nuggets and will be afforded additional rebounding opportunities as the result of the pace.  He attempted 11 field goals in his last game, which now gives him double-digit field goal attempts in 6 of his last 7 games.  His price is creeping up but it is not to the point yet that we should consider fading Lopez and his new increased role in the offense.

Timofey Mozgov is an interesting punt option that will likely go overlooked in favor of Kyle O’Quinn (who is also a reasonable option).  Mozgov will likely be forced to play extended minutes tonight because the Thunder have three big centers on their roster and it is unlikely the Lakers will be able to match up with them if they go too small.  Mozgov is averaging 0.8 fantasy points per minute (compared to 1.17 for O’Quinn), but it is very possible he plays about 10 minutes more than O’Quinn tonight which makes him a very strong tournament pivot.

Core: Robin Lopez

Secondary: Jusuf Nurkic, Dwight Howard, Steven Adams

Value: Timofey Mozgov, Kyle O’Quinn