NBA DEEP DIVE 11/25/16
Disclaimer: Hopefully everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and is ready to get back on the grind. Before we begin discussing Friday’s top plays, though, it’s important to note both the uniqueness and complexity of Friday’s massive 14-game slate. Not only do we have a plethora of players to choose from at every position, but nearly every single high-priced player finds himself in a premier fantasy-producing matchup. As a result, my suggestion would be to approach this as a tournament-focused slate. This isn’t to say that you should abstain from playing cash games altogether, but GPP roster construction is specifically enticing on Friday night.
Russell Westbrook isn’t affected by back-to-backs. He isn’t affected by double teams and he isn’t affected by fatigue. So why the hell should anyone believe he’ll be affected by a little tryptophan after Thanksgiving dinner? If anything, Westbrook should be reenergized on a full stomach as he heads out to the Pepsi Center to take on the 6-9 Nuggets. Oh, and in case you were wondering, you shouldn’t be concerned about Westbrook struggling in altitude, as he’s never had any trouble producing monster numbers in Denver before.
Just how good has Westbrook been, though? Through his first 16 games this season, the world’s best basketball player is averaging 31.8/9.6/10.5/1.4/63.3 across 35 MPG. Sure, he’s also turning the ball over at a ridiculously high clip, but that will always be an acceptable byproduct of 41 percent usage and a 40 percent point share. Westbrook owns daily fantasy basketball, and nothing will change on Friday; the Nuggets are coughing up bottom-five marks to opposing backcourts in points, rebounds, assists, steals, field goal attempts and offensive efficiency! Mike Malone doesn’t have a single player on his active roster capable of guarding Westbrook, and even if he looks to throw the kitchen sink at him, the NBA’s best facilitator will simply find easy buckets for the closest open man. This 14-game slate will make Westbrook a tough fit in most lineup if value doesn’t open up, but he remains the top overall play on the night. With 61-plus DKPT in six of his last seven, there’s no reason to believe Westy can’t piece together another brilliant performance against one of the league’s worst backcourt defenses.
At a comparable price to Westbrook, James Harden will likely be the lower owned option of the two. He’s shown to have a slightly lower floor than his counterpart, but still offers immense upside every night, especially on Friday in a stellar matchup with the Kings. Since Dave Joerger scrapped the “two bigs” experiment, Sacramento has increased their pace by more than three possessions per 100, and I’d expect that number to continue increasing with Matt Barnes in the starting lineup. This contest owns a whopping 215 over-under, which supports the notion that Joerger has made significant fantasy-friendly adjustments over the past week. Harden will face the unimposing defense of Ty Lawson, Darren Collison and Arron Afflalo in a game that should remain competitive throughout. Even if Rudy Gay is assigned to guard Harden it shouldn’t make a difference, as the Beard’s 34 percent usage, 58 percent assist rate and 1.64 FPPM production make him matchup proof under all and any conditions. If Westbrook wasn’t facing Denver we’d be labeling Harden the top overall play on Friday’s slate, but that isn’t the case. You will, however, want some exposure to him in a game that should change the entire leaderboard landscape as the late-night hammer. Sacramento ranks 29th in DRtg, and life won’t get any easier for them this evening.
I really wish we could focus solely on the two abovementioned players as our key top-priced targets on Friday, but that simply isn’t the case. Anthony Davis faces a Portland team that ranks 30th in DRtg and 29th in rebound rate, while serving up the second most points in the paint and third most points in the pick-and-roll. In case you were wondering, Davis leads the entire league in PnR points this season with 1.12 PPP and a 27.2 percent frequency. He’s also fifth in post scoring, where the Blazers rank a putrid 29th in points allowed. If you still aren’t convinced, Portland has also allowed the most points in isolation this season, where Davis operates mores than 10 percent of the time. This matchup is as close to perfect as it gets, and Davis has looked outstanding over the past week, save for an injury-shortened performance against the Hawks. He has to be considered in a game that boasts a 219 over-under and a mere 4.5-point spread. The only way Davis doesn’t produce in this matchup is if he gets injured or inexplicably decides to take a backseat role, as we’ve seen him do several times in the past. Mason Plumlee, Ed Davis and Meyers Leonard simply stand no chance of containing him at the Moda Center.
DeMarcus Cousins faces a Houston frontcourt that doesn’t have the size to contain him. Clint Capela has played quality defense this season, and is a much better player than most give him credit for, but he isn’t experienced enough to handle Cousins’ versatility. Sacramento’s star big man has an envied combination of size, strength, athleticism, and now range. To get a clearer idea of how well-rounded Cousins has been this season, he’s attempting 33 percent of his field goals within three feet of the rim, 28 percent between 3-10 feet and 14 percent from 3-point range. He leads the league in post points with a 24.1 percent frequency, but is also stellar in the PnR (4th/15.4%), as a spot-up shooter (8th/18.1%), in isolation (18th/13.2%) and even in transition. Furthermore, no team has been posted up more than Houston this season, so expect much of Cousins’ massive 36 percent usage to come with his back to the basket.
There’s no boundaries to Boogie’s game, and this matchup with the Rockets suits him perfectly. He’s capable of running the floor like a guard, but can out-physical any defender around the rim. I hate to do this to the reader, but Cousins also makes for an elite play on Friday night. I’d be lying if I told you he wasn’t in an optimal spot to produce, especially at only $9,900 on DraftKings. We obviously won’t be able to fit all of these top-priced options into a single lineup so I could understand Cousins being the odd man out, but it’s important to understand how valuable Boogie is in this matchup.
Stephen Curry exploded for 31 points (11-18 FG/7-12 3P), five rebounds, nine assists, one steal and 55.75 DraftKings Points against the Lakers on Wednesday, and he did so in only 29 minutes of work! Curry was a top tournament option of mine in that matchup due to his depressed price point and low ownership on a massive slate, and nothing changes on Friday outside of this matchup taking place at the Staples Center. The Lakers should keep this game closer than they did on Wednesday where they allowed a historically bad 47 assists and 149 points in a 43-point loss, but D’Angelo Russell’s absence won’t do them any favors, either. If L.A. manages to keep things semi-competitive at home — something they’ve done on a surprisingly frequent basis against Golden State of late — Curry will be positioned to post huge fantasy totals at a very inviting cost. He and the Warriors have been so efficient, and run at the league’s third fastest pace, so four quarters of play would open the doors to massive production from both Curry and Kevin Durant.
Damian Lillard’s 40-point, 11-assist, 7-rebound, 68-fantasy point eruption couldn’t save the Blazers on Wednesday, but it certainly reminded us of just how filthy he can be from a fantasy perspective. Dame’s home/road splits have been quite alarming over the years, which is why Friday’s tilt with New Orleans makes him that much more appealing. Lillard is sporting a career-high 32 percent usage rate with nearly 20 field goal attempts per 36, but his proneness to falling asleep as a facilitator has kept his floor relatively low. Still, Dame is $8,500 on DraftKings and $9,000 on FanDuel in a plus home matchup with New Orleans, and this contest sports a sexy 219 total, good for second highest on the slate. He’s a strong secondary play with 7x-plus upside if the shot is falling early. Lillard and John Wall are both strong plays at their price points. My recommendation would be to use Wall in cash on DraftKings ($8,800), but Lillard in both formats on FanDuel, where he’s $600 cheaper than the former. Wall still has plenty of value on FanDuel, but the elevated price point slightly lessens his appeal.
NOTE: Because there are so many elite high-priced options to choose from on Friday, the recommended approach would be to play who fits best in your lineups. Whether it’s price point or positional depth, use these factors to influence your decision, because so many of the $9K-plus options offer similar value on such a large slate.
CORE – Russell Westbrook; Anthony Davis; DeMarcus Cousins [DraftKings]
SECONDARY – James Harden; DeMarcus Cousins [FanDuel]; Damian Lillard; John Wall [DraftKings]; Giannis Antetokounmpo [DraftKings]; Jimmy Butler [FanDuel]
GPP – Stephen Curry; Kevin Durant; John Wall [FanDuel]
Draymond Green is too much of a cash game lock to ignore in any matchup, especially one where we have a 230 over-under in Los Angeles. Even in Wednesday’s 43-point blowout win over the Lakers where Green left early after being poked in the eye, he still posted 37 fantasy points in only 28 minutes of work. This is essentially his floor on Friday, where the Lakers are 12.5-point dogs and not 18-point dogs like they were in Golden State. With averages of 10.4, 9.1, 7.1, 2.1, 1.7 on the season, Green offers production in an assortment of ways, so when he’s involved in an ultra-fast-paced affair — The Warriors and Lakers rank 3rd and 5th in pace respectively — it’s hard to fathom a way for him to fail. Green’s 27 percent assist rate leads all big men this season, while only LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo own better marks at the forward position. Furthermore, Green boasts a top-10 rebounding mark at the forward position with a top-five mark among all players with 2.1 steals per game. There’s too much going on here to consider Green anything less than a top play in cash. In GPPs, however, I wouldn’t blame you for looking elsewhere.
I have a sneaky suspicion that Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons haven’t forgotten about the 32-point ass whooping they took at the hands of the Clippers earlier this month. Drawing the same matchup, yet this time at home a few weeks later, Detroit should be able to keep things competitive. The Clippers own a league-leading plus-12.1 +/- on the road, but teams have managed to stay in games longer away from the Staples center. As a result, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both make for very strong plays on DraftKings where they are inexplicably priced at $8,300 and $8,200 respectively. For reference, Paul is $9,400 on FanDuel to Griffin’s $9,600. Paul is averaging well over 50 DraftKings Points per 36, with Griffin not far behind, but neither have seen enough run with L.A. winning by average double-digit margins each night. I’m expecting Detroit to stay in this game, subsequently making both Paul and Griffin great plays at their respective price points.
There are a number of lower mid-range centers to love on Friday, starting with Brook Lopez. BroLo was effectively shut down by the underrated defense of Al Horford last time out, but he’ll now face a Pacers team that ranks dead last in rebounding on the season, with the most boards surrendered to opposing frontcourts. Indiana is also allowing the fifth most points and third highest OEff to bigs, with the second most field goal attempts allowed to the positions.
Indiana’s accelerated pace has done nothing to improve their defense. Actually, it’s resulted in them allowing the most second chance points and third most points off turnovers. This Pacers defense is sorely lacking in the frontcourt, and Lopez should have his way with them in a game owning a massive 216 over-under at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. While Brooklyn is a nine-point road dog, I’m still not against deploying BroLo at a very respectable cost across the board. Myles Turner also makes for a solid option at a depressed price point. He hasn’t been overly productive of late, but the second-year big man is still logging 35-plus MPG. In a high-scoring, fast-paced affair, Turner should see ample opportunity to produce against one of the league’s worst defensive units.
Lastly, Clint Capela appears to have earned Mike D’Antoni’s respect, logging 31-plus minutes in each of his last three games. The third-year big man is finally allowing the tools that got him drafted in the first round to translate into his NBA game, as he leads the league in points on cuts to the basket, and continues to excel at cleaning up garbage around the rim. 68 percent of his assisted baskets (46-68) have been facilitated by James Harden, and a whopping 93 percent of his made field goals (76-80) have come within five feet of the rim. Simply put, Capela’s fantasy production comes easier than those who rely on outside shooting to make an impact. He owns a 62.5 percent eFG on the year, and is averaging a sexy 16.2-point, 12.1-rebound, 2.8-block double-double per 36, so Capela should continue to serve as a strong lower mid-range fantasy option for as long as he stays out of D’Antoni’s doghouse. I actually slightly prefer him over Turner at a comparable cost, especially at only $5,800 on FanDuel.
Rajon Rondo has quietly picked up his production a lot lately, due in part to increased minutes and a growing familiarity with Fred Hoiberg’s offense. Rondo has logged 33-plus minutes in five of his last six starts, and failed to eclipse that mark against the Wizards because of early foul trouble. Since seeing the uptick in playing time, Rondo is fourth in basketball with 88 touches per game, first in passes made and fifth in potential assists. This is exactly what we’re looking for from one of the league’s premier facilitators, whose assist rate has spiked to 47.4 percent over that span. At a still depressed cost, there’s no reason not to love Rondo against the Sixers, who will rest Joel Embiid and open up plenty of opportunities for Rondo to rack up assists and may even score on drives inside the paint.
If you aren’t spending on James Harden at shooting guard, it would be wise to consider some of the value plays in the next segment, but for those of you searching for mid-range talent, C.J. McCollum makes the most sense. Drawing a matchup against E’Twaun Moore and the Pelicans should suit McCollum well. Combine Moore’s paltry 109 DRtg with the fact that New Orleans will have their hands full trying to slow down Lillard, and McCollum should earn ample opportunity to produce. Portland’s starting backcourt duo is eating up a ridiculous 60 percent of their FGA share and nearly 64 percent of their point share when on the court, so McCollum should see no shortage of volume in what’s projected to be one of the highest scoring games on the night. I’ll likely look to go a bit cheaper at the position, but he’s a strong mid-range play at a low-$7K cost. Klay Thompson is a preferred GPP play at a discounted cost, and he should see some blowout run in the event that Golden State gets out to another early lead.
Jeff Teague has been smashing lately, and Paul George’s return didn’t keep him from posting huge totals again on Wednesday. His steal totals aren’t sustainable (13 steals over his last 3 games), but Teague’s elevated shot volume and impressive peripherals (career-high rebound rate) are enough to put him in play against the lowly Nets. Brooklyn’s allowing the fourth highest OEff to opposing backcourts on the season, and stand no chance of defending Teague with Isaiah Whitehead in the starting lineup. At a sub-$7K price on both FanDuel and DraftKings, there’s still value to be had here. With 40-plus fantasy points in eight of his last ten starts, Kemba Walker makes for a strong GPP play against the Knicks at MSG. He’s a better fantasy producer at home, but Walker’s career-high 30 percent usage should mitigate some of that disparity in efficiency away from Charlotte.
The mid-range small forward vary in value depending on site, where Paul George makes more sense on DraftKings but is $800 more than Carmelo Anthony on FanDuel. Both are similar players in that they offer streaky production and tend to become uninterested in the game if things aren’t going their way. As a result, they cheaper play is the preferred option depending on the site. George returned to action on Wednesday and took no time re-emerging as the Pacers’ top option, hoisting up 22 shots in 38 minutes of work. He draws a strong matchup with Brooklyn in what’s projected to be a very high-scoring affair (216 O/U), so I could understand using George at a respectable cost on DraftKings.
Anthony is going to take 20-plus shots himself, but Charlotte poses a tougher matchup than the Nets do. It’s reasonable to consider George a secondary cash play on DK, and Anthony a GPP play on FanDuel. You could actually consider Rudy Gay over both of them across the board, as Trevor Ariza’s defense isn’t what it once was, and both teams are running at a fast enough pace to open up a bounty of scoring opportunities throughout the night.
People are going to chase points after Kevin Love’s monster first quarter explosion against the Blazers, but this probably isn’t the spot to pull the trigger. The matchup with Dallas isn’t bad, but Cleveland could legitimately go up for 40 points in the first half, and Love’s expected upside isn’t much higher than 48-50 fantasy points. With his price just south of $8K on FanDuel and DraftKings, Love makes for a strong fade in GPPs, where he almost certainly isn’t going to drop another 60-plus fantasy points in 30 minutes of work.
CORE – Draymond Green [Cash]; Brook Lopez; Rajon Rondo
SECONDARY – Chris Paul [DraftKings]; Blake Griffin [DraftKings]; Clint Capela; Myles Turner; C.J. McCollum; Jeff Teague; Paul George [DraftKings]; Rudy Gay
GPP – Kemba Walker; Klay Thompson; Eric Bledsoe; Carmelo Anthony [FanDuel];
FADE – Kevin Love
If you’ve still yet to notice, the Phoenix Suns are a team I like to pick on with shooting guards, especially with Brandon Knight is starting. Earlier this week it was Bradley Beal who dropped a career-high 42 points, then Evan Fournier followed up with his first 40-fantasy point performance on the year, and now Zach LaVine will draw an opportunity to shine on Friday. LaVine’s production will always be streaky since he plays alongside Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, but he’s still attempting north of 15 field goal per 36 with 22 percent usage on the season. LaVine is averaging a solid 1.18 PPP on transition points this year and ranks top-13 in basketball, while the Suns have allowed more transition points than any other team. Phoenix is coughing up the most points, highest 3PT percentage, and third highest OEff to opposing backcourts this season, but the bulk of their struggles have come against two-guards who can shoot from range. You’ll want to consider LaVine in all formats this evening, especially considering he’s priced below $6K on both FanDuel and DraftKings.
Tony Allen was disappointing in Wednesday’s double overtime win against the Sixers, but he was plagued by early foul trouble and didn’t such much playing time after that. Don’t discount the veteran swingman on Friday, though, as Chandler Parsons, James Ennis and now Zach Randolph are sidelined. He should log 30-plus minutes against the Heat, and although this game owns an unsightly 187.5 over-under, Allen doesn’t rely on scoring to produce. At a near min-sal price across the board, you could do a whole lot worse than Allen, who will need to play more minutes with Memphis being shorthanded. For those of you who like to roll the dice, Andrew Harrison logged a massive 42 minutes last time out, and finished with a respectable 30.5 DKPTs off the bench. It’s unclear how much run he’ll get in a non-OT game if Allen stays out of foul trouble, but there’s definite GPP appeal here with Harrison $100 above the minimum on both main sites.
NOTE: I wouldn’t expect JaMychal Green to see a boost in minutes or production with Randolph sidelined. He’s played only 74 of his 429 total minutes alongside Z-Bo this season, but Jarell Martin has played 109 of his 171 minutes with Randolph. Martin isn’t fantasy viable, but this is more so just pointing out Green’s unchanging value at the four. Jahlil Okafor would be a better tournament play, as he’s at least sporting a 26 percent usage rate when on the court, and is no longer facing a minutes restriction going forward.
Robert Covington is one of the streakiest players in all of basketball, as his is virtually useless if the three-ball isn’t falling or he isn’t racking up steals. RoCo tallied a smooth 47 fantasy points in Wednesday’s 2-OT loss to Memphis, and played a season-high 46 minutes despite Embiid being active. Embiid has already been ruled out on Friday, which means Covington should not only see a full allotment of minutes, but also elevated usage with the Sixers’ top scorer inactive. Covington’s usage is a miserable 14 percent with Embiid on the court, but it jumps to 20 percent with the young phenom sidelined. At a dirt cheap price across the board, Covington should be a strong tournament play with upside against the Bulls.
Jerryd Bayless will start over Sergio Rodriguez on Wednesday, and if playing down the stretch to close out Wednesday’s game vs. Memphis is any indication of his standing in Philadelphia, the veteran point guard should see heavy run this evening. Bayless is no longer on a minute restriction, and is sporting a 31.4 percent usage rate in two games with the Sixers. Since Embiid is out we can expect similar usage for Bayless on Friday, and Brett Brown’s point guards have always been able to rack up impressive assist totals whether they win or lose. Bayless is minimum salary on FanDuel and $3,800 on DraftKings, making him a top value options in all formats against the Bulls.
If you aren’t comfortable playing Bayless in cash, Tim Frazier still possesses plenty of value in New Orleans. The Blazers have been miserable at defending guards, and also won’t be able to stop Davis in the PnR, which should create plenty of easy assist opportunities for Frazier. Gentry continues to limit Jrue Holiday (solid GPP play) off the bench, and Frazier has played 33-plus minutes in every game Holiday has played, so we shouldn’t worry about him being benched for the better guard. With Portland allowing the most points to ball handlers in the pick-and-roll and the fifth most points in transition, Frazier should have no trouble producing in this picture perfect matchup.
Larry Nance was ruined by Luke Walton on Wednesday, playing only 18 minutes but racking up nearly one FPPM in the process. With Julius Randle doubtful again on Friday, people will likely still be afraid to roster Nance after his last outing. I’ll be bucking that mentality and running Nance back out there in a number of GPP lineups. The same logic that applied on Wednesday rings true tonight: Nance’s athleticism, ability to run the court, energy and vertical leap make him an ideal matchup for Golden State. Now Walton will just have to provide him with the minutes he deserves.
Since Nick Young is also doubtful to play, we could see a trickle down effect with minutes, and Nance could see some minutes at the three. Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson are also elite GPP plays if Swaggy-P sits, but because we can’t project their minutes in a blowout, it’s more of a guessing game regarding who gains the most value when things get out of hand. I actually love Bojan Bogdanovic as a contrarian pivot in tournaments, as he’s a lock to see heavy shot volume in a high-scoring game, and no one will be looking in his direction. Brandon Ingram likely gains the most value of all the Lakers, as he played 34 minutes in Wednesday’s blowout, and should earn similar run again this evening.
Some value centers to consider are Marcin Gortat, who’s been a walking double-double under Scott Brooks, Cody Zeller, who’s seeing 30-plus minutes per game and shooting 62 percent on the season, and Ed Davis, who is cheap but will only see extended run in the starting lineup if he gets off to an early start. He does, however, matchup better with Anthony Davis than Meyers Leonard, so we could see Stotts provide him with some additional minutes for defensive purposes alone.
EDIT: Some important late added news to the Deep Dive is out of Denver, where Danilo Gallinari and Will Barton will both be sidelined. Juancho Hernangomez started for Gallo last game, but he will also be sidelined with a sprained ankle. This leave Emmanuel Mudiay to eat up a ton of usage in a “prove yourself game” vs. Russell Westbrook, and Wilson Chandler will also earn heavy minutes/usage off the bench if he doesn’t start. Since Gary Harris and Mike Miller remain out, Jamal Murray is set to log another 35-plus minutes, and will probably draw the start. He’s shooting well right now, and he’s shooting a ton, so Murray is definitely a viable option at a dirt cheap price. The Nuggets have only 10 healthy bodies for Friday’s home tilt with Oklahoma City, and technically have only six players who can fill the 1-3 positions. Expect Mudiay, Chandler and Murray to handle as many minutes as possible, while also playing solid minutes in the event of a blowout.
CORE – Zach LaVine; Jerryd Bayless; Tim Frazier; Jamal Murray
SECONDARY – Tony Allen; Larry Nance; Marcin Gortat [DraftKings]; Cody Zeller; Brandon Ingram; Wilson Chandler; Emmanuel Mudiay
GPP – Lou Williams; Jordan Clarkson; Andrew Harrison; Jahlil Okafor; Bojan Bogdanovic; Ed Davis; Vince Carter
FADE – JaMychal Green