NBA DEEP DIVE – 11/28/16
Let’s get this out of the way first: Russell Westbrook can’t be stopped, and you shouldn’t stop playing Russell Westbrook. With seven triple-doubles through his first 17 games, fading Westbrook is much scarier than paying a premium to roster him. Consider this: he owns a 41 percent usage rate, a 38 percent point share and a 65 percent assist share, which means Westbrook is involved in literally almost every offensive possession for the Thunder. He’s tallied 30-plus points in seven of his last eight starts despite shooting below 40 percent four times in that span, while failing to eclipse the 60-fantasy point mark only once over his last 10. I have no problem paying top dollar for Westbrook at Madison Square Garden in game that owns a 1-point spread and a 213 over/under. This is Oklahoma City’s fifth game in seven days, but Westbrook has proven time and time again that normal, human-like concerns simply don’t apply to him. Derrick Rose doesn’t stand a chance.
NOTE: At the time of writing this (10:00 AM EST) there isn’t much low-end value to choose from, but as we’ve seen countless times already this season, cheap plays will generally open up throughout the day. Westbrook is a very tough fit at it currently stands, sitting at $12,500 on DraftKings and $12,200 on FanDuel, but if value becomes available before lock, he’ll be the first person you’ll want to accommodate with a roster spot. That being said, you shouldn’t feel obligated to force him in if it requires sacrificing talent at multiple positions.
DeMarcus Cousins has woken up, and there is no putting him back to bed. Through his first 10 games, the Kings’ star big man averaged only 44.8 fantasy points per game, partly the result of Sacramento playing at a very sluggish pace. Over his last seven starts Cousins has erupted for an average of 58 fantasy points on 31.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.8 Stocks per game. Not only is Cousins attempting 20-plus field goals each night, but he’s posting 30/10 double-doubles like they’re nothing.
The Kings went from being 29th in pace over the first two weeks of the season to playing at a top-10 pace over the last 10 days. This elevated pace has positively affected Cousins’ fantasy totals, but also game totals, as this contest owns a hefty 212 over-under at the Verizon Center. Both Sacramento and Washington own bottom-eight defensive ratings, and neither should offer much resistance on Monday. Playing his second of a back-to-back on the road is slightly concerning, but Cousins has been too productive of late to struggle in such an appealing matchup. He’s sporting a 36 percent usage rate, knocking down threes at a 41 percent clip, and is fourth in basketball with 10 free throw attempts per game. It’s hard to fail when the volume is this plentiful.
Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant remain elite GPP options on Monday night, as they continue to go under-owned despite their immense upside and depressed price points. Saturday night was a perfect example of how these Golden State studs can win tournaments; both Durant and Curry were in nearly every high-placing tournament lineup on a night where Minnesota kept it close enough for them to play 38 and 37 minutes respectively. With a full allotment of minutes, these two will rarely let you down, but they run the risk of seeing abbreviated playing time almost every single night. Tonight’s matchup with Atlanta is no different, as the Warriors are 13-point home favorites over a Hawks team that has lost five of their last six with a minus-65 point differential in that span. Atlanta has looked miserable of late, and now they’ll have to enter the Oracle after a 15-point defeat at the hands of the Lakers just last night. With Golden State looking like the best team basketball has ever seen, it’s hard to fathom a way in which the Hawks can keep things competitive. As a result, Curry and Durant should be viewed as top tournament options, but are acceptable fades in cash. Fading Westbrook for Curry or Cousins for Durant in GPPs makes plenty of sense, though, and is a strategy that I will employ in several spots this evening. It’s also worth noting that Curry is much more cash-viable on FanDuel, where he’s $9,200, and only $200 more expensive than John Wall.
Hassan Whiteside may quite possibly be my favorite overall play on Monday’s seven-game slate. Not only will he face a Celtics team that ranks dead last in defensive rebounding and 25th in total rebounding, but he’ll enjoy an even more appealing matchup now that Al Horford has been ruled out. Horford isn’t a skilled rebounder, but he is certainly a talented defender whose instincts and athleticism place opposing centers in frustrating spots. Whiteside will now draw a frontcourt matchup with Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk, who’s allowing 55 percent shooting at the rim since 2013. The Celtics are allowing the most putback points to their opponents with the highest frequency in the process. This is a byproduct of their inability to collect defensive rebounds, and life won’t get any easier on Monday when they face a center who leads the league in contested offensive boards. Boston is allowing the most offensive rebounds and most second chance points this season, which places Whiteside in maybe the most favorable matchup he’s seen all year. Oh, and if that isn’t enough, the Celtics have been blocked at the fifth highest rate in basketball. His price has dropped to $8,500 on both FanDuel and DraftKings, making him a top option in all formats across the board.
UPDATE: Whiteside is now questionable to play Monday. Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson have already been ruled out. Goran Dragic being active helps Whiteside a lot in the pick-and-roll, but we’ll need to make sure both of them are going to play before pulling the trigger.
John Wall disappointed in Saturday’s home loss to the Spurs, but there was something positive to take away from that game: he played 37 minutes in a contest that was over midway through the fourth, and wasn’t subbed out until only 1:07 was remaining. Scott Brooks noted that he was going to monitor, but not limit Wall’s minutes that night, and limit his minutes he didn’t. Expect Wall to log full playing time in this home tilt with the Kings, who rank 27th in DRtg on the season. Wall has been one of the most reliable point guards in basketball, and he is priced too low on DraftKings to overlook. With a career-high 33 percent usage rate and his highest free throw rate since 2012, Wall has managed to post consistently stellar fantasy totals almost nightly. He draws a gorgeous matchup with a Collison/Lawson-led backcourt, and it doesn’t hurt to know Sacramento is playing their second of a back-to-back. I’d be worried about a blowout, but the 5-10 Wizards have won only one game by double-digits this season, and that came against a Celtics team that was missing key starters on the road. Consider Wall a core play on DraftKings and a secondary play on FanDuel, where he is only $200 less expensive than Stephen Curry.
CORE – Russell Westbrook; Hassan Whiteside; John Wall [DraftKings]
SECONDARY – DeMarcus Cousins; Stephen Curry [FanDuel]; John Wall [FanDuel]
GPP – Stephen Curry [DraftKings]; Kevin Durant
Draymond Green should be a permanent fixture in the Deep Dive whenever Golden State is on the schedule. He posted another 35-plus fantasy points in only 26 minutes before leaving with an ankle injury on Saturday, and should once again be considered a safe cash game play if he’s healthy enough to suit up this evening. Green is one of the best passing forwards in basketball, ranks second overall in steals, and ranks fourth at his position in total rebounding. He produces in an array of categories each and every night, but remains very affordable across the board. Power forward is one of the weaker positions on Monday, so Green should be placed firmly on your radar if he’s active.
While I could see Carmelo Anthony producing solid numbers at home in a closely projected matchup with the Thunder, there are some cheaper, more appealing small forwards to consider: Rudy Gay has been on another level this season, sporting a career-high .515 eFG% and .572 TS% through his first 16 games. He’s still priced favorably across the board, and despite Monday’s back-to-back, Gay should see ample opportunity to produce in a plus matchup with Washington. The Wizards have struggled to defend opposing wings for some time now, and they currently rank 25th in defensive efficiency as a team. They’re allowing the fourth highest 3PT% and seventh most free throws to opposing wings. The Wizards also haven’t been capable of blowing teams out, so it’s reasonable to assume Gay sees a full allotment of minutes.
Otto Porter should also be on the radar, as he’s finally enjoying that breakout season we’d all been waiting for since 2014. As a small forward, Porter is taking the type of shots we like to see for fantasy, with 26 percent of them coming within three feet of the rim, and 32 percent of them coming from beyond the arc. He’s been an efficient scorer despite operating with sub-20 percent usage, scoring 28 percent of his points as a spot-up shooter, where Sacramento has struggled to defend. Actually, Rudy Gay has been responsible for the 10th most spot-up points allowed, allowing north of one point per possession. This is a strong matchup for Porter, and his $6,100 price tag on both FanDuel and DraftKings makes him that much more appealing in what’s arguably the most fantasy-friendly game on Monday night.
Mike Conley and Marc Gasol have been forgotten by DFS sites and especially DraftKings, where both own mid-$6K price points at home. Monday’s matchup with Charlotte won’t see a ton of scoring (197.5 O/U), but it’s projected to stay competitive, which should allow Conley and Gasol to see around 35 minutes of work. Conley is enjoying the best three-point shooting of his career, knocking them down at a 47 percent clip on 5.3 attempts per game. Believe it or not, the same can be said for Gasol, whose 56 threes attempted are just 10 shy of his total over the past eight years combined. Not only is Gasol attempting more threes, but he’s knocking them down at an impressive 41 percent clip. David Fizdale has emphasized more long range shooting in order to elevated the pace, and it has translated into increased fantasy value for both of Memphis’ franchise starters. Charlotte is playing up in pace, and the Grizzlies are jacking up a ton of threes, so this game could be friendlier than it looks on the surface. Consider both Conley and Gasol quality cash game options across the board.
Goran Dragic would make for a very strong lower mid-range option if he plays, and would be the preferred option over Conley on FanDuel. With Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson already ruled out, Dragic would figure to see heavy usage, and should frequently utilize the pick-and-roll with Whiteside, who is also questionable to play. Dragic’s usage increases to a sexy 32.5 percent when Waiters is off the court, and considering Justise Winslow also remains sidelined, Dragic figures to run the offense for every minute he’s on the court. If he’s healthy enough to play, Dragic should be considered a top option with a very friendly price tag, and he’ll likely still log 30-plus minutes if this game develops into a blowout.
At shooting guard, Bradley Beal will be a chalky play for good reason. The fifth-year Florida product has tallied 45-plus fantasy points in three of his last four starts, while jacking up 22-plus field goal attempts in each. Not only is Beal scoring at an impressive clip, but he’s sporting a 20 percent assist rate over his last five games. Beal is driving to the rack at a higher rate than last season, while his 26 percent usage is a career-high mark. Moreover, Sacramento has been torched by opposing two-guards, allowing the highest OEff, third most points and third most assists on the year. Beal is always a volatile fantasy option, but he’s been playing too well, and is seeing such high shooting volume that avoiding him on Monday could be a mistake.
Avery Bradley makes for a nice pivot away from Beal if you’re looking to diversify. Al Horford is out, and Miami will be rolling out a scrub-filled backcourt in this tilt. Bradley’s rebounding has expectedly dipped since Jae Crowder returned, but he’s still looked solid outside of two disappointing games. Bradley’s salary has also come back down to earth, which should mitigate the damage in the event that his shot isn’t falling from the start. Klay Thompson is a viable GPP play at the shooting guard position, but can’t be trusted in cash.
GPP: There are a couple teams that offer plenty of tournament-viable options but make for risky cash game plays based on blowout potential. We’ll start with the Raptors, who are currently 15-point home favorites against the Embiid-less Sixers. Philadelphia has lost by margins of 16, 21, 7 and 16 in games where Embiid has rested this season, while losing by 32 in a game where he logged only 15 minutes. They’re also winless away from home, losing by a league-worst margin of 19 points. As a result, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan should trash the Sixers, but will likely only see three quarters worth of minutes in what’s virtually guaranteed to be a blowout. I’ll be reserving them for GPPs only, and likely won’t even have a ton of exposure there, where we have plenty of solid alternatives in closer projected games.
Atlanta is the other team to consider in GPPs, as they’ll be playing in a pace-up game at the Oracle, but are 13-point road dogs on the second of a back-to-back. The Hawks’ offense has looked miserable of late, losing each of their last three games by 15-plus points while dropping five of their last overall. They’re in the midst of a grueling road trip, and things aren’t likely to improve on Monday. Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard look appealing on the surface, but it’s hard to get on board with a team that’s been playing such uninspired basketball. In the off chance that Atlanta does keep this close, however, we’ll want to have exposure to their starting bigs.
CORE – Rudy Gay; Otto Porter; Goran Dragic [check status]; Bradley Beal
SECONDARY – Draymond Green; Mike Conley; Marc Gasol; Marcin Gortat; Avery Bradley
GPP – Carmelo Anthony; Kyle Lowry; DeMar DeRozan; Paul Millsap; Dwight Howard; Klay Thompson
NOTE: Value is still very cloudy at this point in the day, as the Heat could be punting this entire game against Boston, and many players on other teams remain questionable to play. My suggestion would be to pay close attention to news as we draw closer to lock, and prioritize your top value options in the event that most of the now questionable players end up being active. Tonight’s roster construction hinges almost entirely upon what happens in Miami, so we’ll do our best to sort through the mess while waiting on more informative developments.
MIAMI HEAT: Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson have already been ruled out on Monday, while Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside are questionable to play. Josh Richardson is already a strong value option, but would be even more appealing if Dragic sits. James Johnson is set to see big minutes with Justise Winslow still on the shelf, but he will now see increased shot volume and possibly even usage with two of Miami’s leading scorers sidelined. Whiteside being out would place Derrick Williams firmly in play, especially in this plus matchup with Boston’s porous rebounding frontcourt. I can’t see Josh McRoberts playing more than 20-23 minutes even if he starts, so I’d rather look elsewhere for value. We’ll have to wait for more news here in order to understand where the best value is coming from, especially since Willie Reed is expected to play and Luke Babbitt is still on the active roster. Feel free to tweet me at @Loughy_D or hit me up in the FanVice Premium Slack chat for more information as news starts to roll in.
Kelly Olynyk has seen his salary drop back down to a more palatable level, and we can now deploy him in all formats with Horford away from the team. Olynyk isn’t always going to produce solid fantasy totals when provided the minutes, as he plays away from the basket more than we’d like, but he’s a very capable scorer and three-point shooter, who should be able to knock down shots whether Whiteside is active or not. Olynyk obviously becomes more appealing if Whiteside is out, though.
Sergio Rodriguez will draw another start if Jerryd Bayless is sidelined, but he’s better suited for GPPs in this matchup. The likely blowout, and the loss of Joel Embiid, who opens up easy assist opportunities and better perimeter shots for the Sixers’ guards, won’t help Rodriguez on Monday. He’s definitely cheap enough to consider in tournaments, though, as we won’t need much more than 20 fantasy points for value. 28-30 minutes of work would be ideal, but there’s a good chance Rodriguez only sees around 24 minutes in a blowout, with T.J. McConnell getting all the mop up duty in the fourth quarter.
On of my favorite GPP options on Monday is Markieff Morris, whose ownership will continue to fall with his salary. At $5,100 on DraftKings and $4,700 on FanDuel, there’s no reason we shouldn’t considering him against the Kings, who should struggle to contain him with their 25th ranked defensive efficiency. Morris is his own worst enemy, earning ejections in some spots, and early foul trouble in others, but we can’t overlook the upside he offers at his current price point. Scott Brooks wants to give Morris 30-plus minutes of work, but self-sabotage has crushed him on numerous occasions this season. If, and this is a big if, Kieff can stay on the court, he should have no trouble racking up solid fantasy totals in an optimal home matchup with Sacramento.
Some big disappointments this past week have been Tony Allen and Matt Barnes. Allen bounced back in his last start once everyone had given up on him, and Barnes was smashing on Sunday before being ejected for a flagrant 2. Both can be considered on Monday, but with the amount of value seemingly shaping up across the league, neither will be necessary options in cash or GPPs.
Some other GPP options to consider are Jonas Valanciunas, who could easily surpass the 35-fantasy point mark against the Embiid-less Sixers, Dennis Schroder, who has been a rollercoaster ride of production this season, but draws a fast-paced affair with Golden State, and Brandon Jennings, who’s looked better off the bench this season than he’s looked as a started over the past four years. Richaun Holmes should earn run with Embiid out, and will see some added minutes in a blowout, and Jae Crowder is a strong cash game value with Horford sidelined. Crowder has looked productive over his last two games, and he could see some minutes at the four with Amir Johnson at the five, but only if Whiteside is active.
CORE – Josh Richardson; James Johnson; Kelly Olynyk
SECONDARY – Derrick Williams; Jae Crowder; Tony Allen
GPP – Markieff Morris; Sergio Rodriguez; Jonas Valanciunas; Dennis Schroder; Richaun Holmes; Matt Barnes; Brandon Jennings