NBA DEEP DIVE 11/23/16

HIGH-PRICED

We could discuss the premium priced guards first, but why not start with Stephen Curry? Playing alongside Durant hasn’t exactly boosted his fantasy totals, but it has certainly brought his salary down on both FanDuel and DraftKings to a very reasonable $8,800 and $8,900 respectively. The Lakers have played well against Golden State over the past couple seasons, and while they’ll have to suit up for their second of a back-to-back at the Oracle, we’d be foolish to assume they can’t stay competitive for at least two or three quarters. The bottom line here, however, is Curry remains too cheap across the industry; with 60-plus fantasy point upside in a game that should see north of 230 combined points, I’m not overly concerned about Durant eating into his usage. Unless a bounty of value opens up throughout the day it would be prudent to target players like Curry, as we’ll need every FP/$ we can squeeze from this slate. He’s an elite GPP play in a game where the Warriors are favored by 17 points at home. Even if this game gets out of hand early, Curry could easily drop 50 or more fantasy points in three quarters of work.

 

Now onto the heavy hitters: Russell Westbrook churned out another routine performance on Wednesday, finishing with 34 points, 13 assists, eight rebounds, two steals and eight turnovers across 36 minutes of work. He’ll be playing his second of a back-to-back on the road, but it’s hard to envision Westbrook struggling when he isn’t human to begin with. Sacramento ranks dead last in defensive efficiency this season, both as a team and against the guard positions. With the second highest FG% allowed to opposing backcourts and an expected pace increase now that Dave Joerger has scrapped the two bigs experiment, Westbrook should thrive. He leads the league in points (31.8 PPG), triple-doubles (5), and ranks second behind only James Harden in assists (10.6 APG), but more impressively ranks top-15 in basketball with 9.5 rebounds per game. We know exactly what we’re paying for with Westbrook: legitimate 30/15/15 triple-double upside and a floor of 50 fantasy points in this matchup. Furthermore, the 210.5 over-under attached to this game confirms my thinking that Sacramento will be playing at a faster pace than they did to start the season.

 

James Harden’s Rockets are four-point favorites in what’s projected to be a high-scoring affair in Houston (216.5). Much like Westbrook, we know what we’re getting here: massive usage and a hand in literally every offensive possession while on the court. Harden smashed in two competitive meetings with Toronto last season, averaging 36/13.5/7.5/1 across 42 MPG. While two games isn’t an accurate indicator of future results, the important part here is that this game should remain close throughout. Harden hasn’t finished with fewer than 46 DraftKings Points this season, and has tallied 60-plus fantasy points in more than half of his games. Harden is eligible at a shallower position than Westbrook, isn’t playing on a back-to-back, and is matchup proof, as evidenced by two explosive performances against the Spurs. Do what you need to do, my friends. I will say, though, that Wednesday’s 13-game slate allows us to go balanced with the plethora of mid-range options being available. Neither Harden or Westbrook are must plays as a result.

 

In 13 games played this season, Hassan Whiteside has posted seven 50-plus-FP performances and 10 with 40-plus-FP thus far. He’s been absolutely dominant, and no team has had an answer for his dominant presence around the basket. Whiteside should eat Andre Drummond alive in the pick-and-roll, where last season he was responsible for more points allowed than any other big. Drummond and the Pistons have looked better on the defensive end this season, but they’re still allowing the sixth most points in the PnR to date. Whiteside not only leads the league in rebounding, but he leads all players in contested rebounds (8.1/G) and rebound chances (28.8/G) by a ridiculous margin. We’re talking about a player who’s knocking down shots at a 55 percent clip despite averaging north of 14 FGA/G. He owns a career 9.1 percent block rate, 24 percent rebounding rate and nearly 50 DKPT/36. You’re paying a premium for Whiteside on a night where the center position offers plenty of quality options, but no one would be surprised to see him drop yet another 50-plus fantasy points on the Pistons.

 

DeMar DeRozan has come back down to earth a bit, but he’s still seeing massive usage every night. In a road matchup with Houston I’d expect him to shoot with reckless abandon and play upwards of 40 minutes in a very close game. Patrick Beverley is a stout defender, but the Rockets’ elevated pace  and poor team defense under Mike D’Antoni will compromise his abilities to a certain extent. Furthermore, teams have looked to double team DeRozan with no avail, so he’s likely to get his no matter how coaches scheme to contain him. This game owns the second highest total on the night (216.5) with Houston being a mere four-point favorite at the Toyota Center. DeRozan is undoubtedly in play, but it’s his backcourt mate who we’ll talk about momentarily that could be the top Raptor to target.

 

DeMarcus Cousins should benefit from the Kings going small, as he’ll play the bulk of his minutes at the five where rebounds, blocked shots and close buckets become plentiful. He’s already an elite fantasy producer, but Boogie has always been more effective as a center. I’m expecting his ownership to be down on a night where other similarly priced players will draw more appeal. Steven Adams is a quality defender, but Cousins has had his way with him in the past, and with him averaging 22 field goal attempts per game over his last seven starts there’s no reason heavy volume shouldn’t prevail here. We’ve also seen Cousins play huge minutes regardless of score, so unless he drops an elbow to Adams’ head, close to 40 minutes of work should be a lock in a competitive, high-scoring affair.

 

CORE – Hassan Whiteside

SECONDARY – Russell Westbrook; James Harden; DeMar DeRozan

GPP – Stephen Curry; DeMarcus Cousins

 

MID-RANGE

 

Karl-Anthony Towns broke out for a monster 27/18/3/2 performance last time out, and he’ll draw an opportunity to replicate those numbers against New Orleans. The second-year phenom is considerably cheaper than Cousins and Whiteside on both FanDuel and DraftKings, yet he owns comparable upside in these plus matchups. The Pelicans have surprisingly limited opposing frontcourts this season, but a closer look at their schedule shows that they’ve faced hardly any dominant big man. Towns is a different breed, and there’s absolutely no chance Omer Asik and a hobbled Anthony Davis can contain him. 26 percent usage for a center is impressive, but what’s more extraordinary is the fact that only three centers are averaging more total touches per game than Towns. When you get a price point like this it’s tough to ignore. Towns and Whiteside are elite plays at the top of the center position.

 

Aside from Towns at the position, Marc Gasol has to be considered to as long as he remains affordable. He’s $7K on DraftKings and $6,800 on FanDuel despite sporting career highs in shot volume (16.9 FGA/36), usage (27.1%) and assist rate (22.9%). He’ll see a decent amount of the amazingly brilliant Joel Embiid on Wednesday, but as we’ve seen, Philadelphia’s young phenom still has a lot to learn on the defensive end, having been torched by Whiteside and Towns over the past week. Gasol’s discounted price tag puts him in play as a great cash game option, but Dwight Howard catches my eye as an under-owned tournament option in a stellar matchup with the Pacers. Look for D12 and the Hawks to get back on track after a miserable performance at home vs. the lowly Pelicans. Howard is producing 50 fantasy points per 36 this season, and could see some additional run if this game stays close. With a mere one-point spread and a 209 over-under at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Howard could explode in ~32 minutes of work.

 

We won’t spend much time discussing Draymond Green  — just remember how consistent he’s been this season. Green owns a usage rate south of 16 percent, yet he’s still posted 35-plus fantasy points in all but one game this season and hasn’t been terribly affected by blowouts. In cash games you’ll want to keep Green firmly on the radar, as he remains cheap enough to consider across the board. That being said, I wouldn’t blame you for targeting less blowout-prone options on a massive 13-game slate, and will likely be avoiding Green in GPPs.

 

Kevin Love is the preferred GPP option over Green, and is also a studly play in cash games. He’s looked like his old self back when he donned a Timberwolves jersey, and is averaging a splendid 20/11 double-double with 40 fantasy points per game on the year. Wednesday’s matchup with Portland is as strong as it gets, as the Blazers rank dead last in total rebounding rate, 29th in DRtg and 28th in OEff allowed to opposing frontcourts. Portland is also allowing the third most points, second most rebounds and fifth highest 3PT% to opposing bigs, which caters perfectly to Love’s game. The loss of Al-Farouq Aminu will continue to plague them in matchups like this, and although Cleveland is a heavy favorite at home, Love’s mid-$7K price point is fair enough to use him in all formats.

 

Kemba Walker could go overlooked in what’s seemingly a tough matchup with the Spurs, but I’d urge you to reconsider him on Wednesday. Walker has been brilliant at home over the years and this season is no different, as he’s averaging 25/4.3/5.7/1.7/43.9 and 50 percent shooting at the Spectrum Center! San Antonio is surrendering a league-worst 46.2 percent shooting to opposing backcourts, and has struggled to defend ball handlers in the PnR, where Walker has scored the fifth most points this season. Walker’s 1.05 points per possession in the pick-and-roll is also atop the league, and he’s been ultra-efficient in spot-up situations, where the Spurs have surprisingly struggled, too. Unless Gregg Popovich pulls some voodoo magic and sticks Kawhi Leonard on Walker, Charlotte’s blossoming point guard should continue to excel. Walker’s 30 percent usage is four points higher than his career average, while his shot volume and ability to get to the charity stripe have also increased considerably. He’s simply way too cheap to overlook in what’s a much more difficult matchup on paper than it is on the court.

 

What sucks about this massive slate is there are so many viable point guard options in the mid-range, including Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday and even Mike Conley. Let’s start with the most expensive option in Lowry, who could potentially see a lot of Patrick Beverley. I wouldn’t be surprised to see D’Antoni hide Harden on a wing and have Beverley guard Lowry with Trevor Ariza on DeRozan. This makes both matchups more difficult, but not impossible to produce in any sense. With high-scoring conditions in a competitive game, I’d expect Lowry to rack up another 40-plus fantasy points in almost as many minutes. Lowry leads the league in minutes, and despite DeRozan’s spectacular rise, is actually attempting a career high 16.7 field goals per game. I’m a fan of Lowry as a mid-range option, but could see the trouble of trying to fit him into lineups on Wednesday.

 

Holiday is a player who routinely exceeds value at his price point, but can’t be trusted in cash games on such a huge slate. Alvin Gentry will continue to use him off the bench, and could realistically play him for fewer than 30 minutes despite his ridiculous efficiency. It’s worth noting, however, that Holiday isn’t dealing with any ailments, so if he does in fact get additional run in a plus matchup with New Orleans, we’ll be lucky to have him in GPPs on DraftKings where he sits at $6,700. Holiday is averaging 1.37 FPPM with 32 percent usage over his first three games. He could easily drop 45-plus fantasy points against the Pelicans, which would be nearly seven times his salary. The problem here is that Mike Conley is a virtual lock to play at least 35 minutes against the Sixers, who are a respectable 4-5 at home this season. He’s shooting nearly 50 percent from three on 5.3 attempts per game, and Philadelphia has been predictably trashed by opposing point guards this season. Jerryd Bayless’s return won’t help the Sixers either, as he’s sporting a 112 DRtg over the last two years. Conley is a safer cash game option than Holiday, but I’ll take the latter in GPPs.

 

Andrew Wiggins is coming off two disappointing outings where he combined to produce a mere 32.5 fantasy points. Wiggins is virtually useless unless he’s scoring, and scoring is tough to do against Memphis and Boston wings. He should find plenty of space on Wednesday, though, as the Pelicans don’t have anyone capable of sticking with him for 40-plus minutes. My guess is people stay away from Wiggins with “regression” in mind, but that makes for a perfect spot to target him in GPPs. Let’s be honest: this slate is far more appropriate for GPPs anyway. I’m not incredibly fond of Rudy Gay’s matchup with Andre Roberson, but he also remains underpriced despite playing fantastic basketball this season. With Sacramento beginning to play up in pace I’d expect Gay to excel even more, and this game should almost certainly remain close and high in scoring throughout.

 

CORE – Karl-Anthony Towns; Kemba Walker; Kevin Love

SECONDARY – Draymond Green; Marc Gasol; Kyle Lowry; Mike Conley; Rudy Gay

GPP – Jrue Holiday [DraftKings]; Dwight Howard; Andrew Wiggins; Brook Lopez; Clint Capela; Klay Thompson

 

VALUE

 

If you played daily fantasy basketball on Monday night you were aware of both my love for Bradley Beal and how awful the Suns are at defending opposing guards. Amazingly, Phoenix becomes even worse when Brandon Knight is in the starting lineup, and with T.J. Warren remaining sidelined, Knight should draw another start this evening. Evan Fournier is not a player I typically recommend, but he’s impossible to ignore in this delicious matchup. Phoenix is surrendering the most points, highest 3PT% and second highest OEff to opposing backcourts this season, and Knight’s putrid 113 DRtg should do nothing to help them against Orlando.

 

Fournier is similar to Beal in that the bulk of his fantasy production comes from scoring real points — something he should have no trouble doing on Wednesday. While his upside has been limited this season, Fournier is still playing mid-30 minutes each night and is priced very affordably across the industry. He’s scored a lot of his points off cuts and screens, where the Suns have obviously struggled, and no team has allowed more total points to their opponent this season (114.3 PPGA). I also don’t have a problem with Elfrid Payton as a low-owned point guard play. We saw Beal and Wall feed off of each other earlier this week, and a similar situation could play out for the Magic, just on a lower scale.

 

Rodney Hood finds himself in a favorable spot, too, and like Fournier he relies on scoring in order to produce. I’d prefer Fournier in cash games and Hood in GPPs, as he offers more upside at a comparable price point. If D’Angelo Russell misses another game, Lou Williams would make for a stellar tournament option across the industry. He was disappointing last night, but we can expect Sweet Lou to get minutes in a close game or a blowout. Believe it or not, Williams is sporting a career-high 28 percent usage rate, and owns his highest assist rate (24.8%) since the 2006-07 season. Williams should be locked into plenty of your GPP lineups if Russell is unable to go, and should still be a low-exposure guy even if Russell is active.

 

While we’re on the topic of GSW-LAL, let’s take a moment to discuss Larry Nance, who was born, bred and built to face the Warriors. Nance’s athleticism, wingspan, vertical leap, energy and ability to run the floor in transition will be needed against Golden State, and Luke Walton wasn’t afraid to run him in their first matchup of the season. This may be a ballsy take, but Nance is one of my favorite value plays on Wednesday’s slate. I wouldn’t blame you for taking a slightly more cautious approach with Nance, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he goes 7-8x his salary on the night.

 

Memphis could provide us with some solid value against the Sixers, as James Ennis and Chandler Parsons will both be sidelined. As a result, Tony Allen should be primed to play big minutes in a plus matchup, and he’s basically minimum salary across the board. Allen is averaging only .78 FPPM this season, but at 30 MPG that would work out to right around 23 fantasy points, which at his price point is more than enough to give him a look. Andrew Harrison is worth a dart throw in GPPs and could see more minutes with Memphis being down some swingmen, but Vince Carter will likely see big minutes in Ennis’ absence. He played 24 minutes after Ennis went down in the second quarter and should shoulder a lot of that load on Wednesday. In terms of priority I’d place Allen at the top, followed by Carter with Harrison a distant third.

 

I was dead wrong about Tim Frazier last night as he exploded for 56.75 DKPT in a blowout win over Atlanta. I won’t make that mistake again, but will say I’m surprised to see him playing better with Holiday back in the lineup. It’s also a bit alarming that Frazier’s minutes have actually gone up with Holiday back, but who the hell knows what Alvin Gentry is doing these days. Ricky Rubio’s defense has been porous at best this season, and Frazier continues to play with decent usage and is seeing enough minutes staggered off of Holiday. He owns a low-$5K cost across the board, so naturally we’ll have to consider him against Minnesota. This just feels gross.

 

At Center, both Alex Len and Tristan Thompson make for appealing plays. Len is set to log solid, quality usage minutes with Tyson Chandler sidelined, and draws a plus matchup with Vucevic and the Magic. Thompson, on the other hand, should trash this Portland frontcourt that ranks dead last in rebounding and in putback points allowed. Thompson should thrive in this spot, but I could see him going well under-owned based on the amount of centers we have to choose from on Wednesday.

 

Matt Barnes is in line to log huge minutes in the Kings’ new-look frontcourt, and he remains a very inviting $4K on both FanDuel and DraftKings. Barnes has never been a great FPPM producer, but if he plays another 35-plus minutes against the Thunder we’d be hard-pressed to not get at least 6x his salary. Barnes should be a popular value play on this 13-game slate, but I wouldn’t consider him a must play in any format based on his super low floor. Thabo Sefolosha also warrants consideration at the small forward position, but I wouldn’t consider him outside of GPPs. Thabo, much like Barnes has been a 30 FP or bust type of fantasy option, and not one I’m willing to deploy in cash. I’d rather play Tony Allen, who is cheaper and a very similar defense-first player.

 

Wilson Chandler has been an absolute monster off the bench of late, and with Danilo Gallinari ruled out he could see even more run against the Jazz. This is a tough matchup, though, and with the minutes he’s already been seeing I’m not sure how much Gallo’s absence helps. I’d stay away from Chandler outside of tournaments, as it’s hard to envision a way in which Gallo being sidelined will help him more than an approximate 3-5-fantasy point boost.

 

CORE – Evan Fournier; Larry Nance; Tony Allen

SECONDARY – Elfrid Payton; Rodney Hood; Tim Frazier; Vince Carter; Alex Len; Tristan Thompson; Matt Barnes

GPP – Lou Williams; Jordan Clarkson [If Russell is out]; Andrew Harrison; Thabo Sefolosha; Wilson Chandler; Joffrey Lauvergne