DEEP DIVE 11/14/16

POINT GUARD

Russell Westbrook is .8 rebounds away from averaging a triple-double this season, with 31.9 points, 10.1 assists, 9.2 boards and 1.2 steals per game. This can be explained by the fact that he’s eating up 40 percent of Oklahoma City’s points, 37 percent of their field goal attempts and 65 percent of their made free throws when on the court. When you rank top-3 in drives, assist points created, and first in rebounds at the guard position, it’s virtually impossible to be ignored in any matchup — especially when your price tag has inexplicably dropped to $10,800 on DraftKings. We’re talking about a player who is tied for the league in fantasy scoring and touches per game. It’s Westbrook’s 41 percent usage, 58 percent assist rate, 25 FGA/36 and ability to score from anywhere on the court that puts him in play every single night, and none of that will change on Monday when he squares off against the Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Back-to-backs generally aren’t optimal spots to deploy top-priced players, but I don’t see any way you can avoid Westbrook on DraftKings. It’s long been hypothesized that DraftKings factors player ownership into their pricing algorithm, which would, in part, explain the steep decline in Westbrook’s salary after being priced out of play for the past couple weeks. Regardless of the case, we have to exploit these quirks, and that’s why Westbrook should be in your lineups. In what’s projected to be a very competitive affair, Westbrook should play another 35-plus minutes despite playing his second game in as many days.

We run the risk of a blowout whenever rostering a Clippers starter, such as Chris Paul in a home matchup with the Nets. As a 14.5-point favorite, there’s a high probability that Paul plays only 25 minutes or three quarters, and that’s enough to keep him out of cash consideration. He is, however, a strong tournament option in this spot, as we’ve already seen countless situations where guaranteed blowouts go off script. Paul’s 1.5 FPPM and 55 DKPTs per 36 make him a prime candidate to erupt in the event that Brooklyn plays up to their competition. It’s rather improbable in terms of possible outcomes, but if Paul logs his normal workload or even 30-plus minutes against the Nets, he’s going to smoke them in every phase of the game.

Isaiah Thomas is quietly off to the best start of his career, averaging 26 points, 6.7 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 41 fantasy points per game. The pint-sized point guard is sporting a career best 46.4 percent field goal percentage and 31.8 percent usage rate through his first nine games, and he’ll draw an opportunity to improve upon those numbers against the 1-9 Pelicans this evening. Speaking of career-high marks, Thomas’ 33.9 percent assist rate is also a high water mark since he entered the league in 2011. He ranks fifth in touches, second in drives and 10th in assist points created, so there’s nothing one-dimensional about Thomas heading into an elite matchup with New Orleans.

The Pelicans are either dead last or bottom-five in points (27th), field goal percentage (30th), three-point percentage (28th) and offensive efficiency (26th) allowed to point guards this season. They’re playing at the eighth fastest pace with the fifth most points allowed to their opponents, meaning this contest should be both high scoring and lacking in defense, as Boston also owns one of the league’s worst defensive marks. Thomas makes for an elite option across the board, both in cash games and in GPPs.

Coming off what was arguably the best game of his career (23 PTS, 7 REB, 9 AST, 1 BLK, 2 STL, 52.75 DKPT), Elfrid Payton draws another strong matchup on Monday. The third-year point guard is a volatile fantasy option as evidenced by his bipolar game logs, but you’d have to think Frank Vogel gives him a longer leash one night after helping fuel his Magic to victory. Nate McMillan took a once defensively stout Pacers team — formerly led by Frank Vogel — and warped them into a 4-6 mess with an identity crisis. Indiana finished third in DefRtg last year, holding opponents to 44 percent shooting and 100 points per game. Through 10 games this season, the Pacers rank 28th in DefRtg, 29th in raw points allowed (112 PPG), and 26th in opponent shooting (46.7 FG%). It’s no surprise that they are playing at a significantly elevated pace, and their defense has suffered as a result. At a mid-$5K price point, Payton should be in play across the board, and he won’t need to replicate Sunday’s performance in order offer value.

Marcus Smart likely won’t ever average a fantasy point per minute, but he won’t require that type of production if Brad Stevens continues to give him 35 minutes per game. As earlier noted, the Pelicans are allowing bottom-five marks to opposing backcourts in an assortment of categories, including points, FG%, 3PT% and OEff through the first three weeks. They’re playing up in pace and  down in defense, which is exactly what we’re looking for from a fantasy perspective.

Smart, Payton and Ish Smith are the three $5K point guards I’m willing to target on Monday, with all of them offering decent upside at their respective price points. Smith is an awful shooter, but he ranks top-10 in drives with 50 percent of his made field goals coming from within five feet of the rim, while his 35 percent assist rate ranks a respectable 12th in basketball. With 30 minutes per game, Smith should be able to pay off a low-$5K salary on both FanDuel and DraftKings. Sergio Rodriguez is the GPP play in this price range; he can’t shoot, but a 215 over-under against the Rockets’ 27th ranked defense is surely enticing. As 11.5-point road dogs we won’t be able to trust Rodriguez in cash, but the Sixers have done an impressive job of keeping games competitive when Joel Embiid is active.

CORE – Russell Westbrook [DraftKings]; Isaiah Thomas

SECONDARY – Russell Westbrook [FanDuel]

Value – Elfrid Payton; Ish Smith; Marcus Smart

GPP – Chris Paul; ; Sergio Rodriguez

SHOOTING GUARD

There isn’t a shooting guard projected for within 30 points of James Harden on Monday. This has become commonplace at a barren position this season, as Harden continues to tear through anyone in his path, including Kawhi Leonard. He’s now tallied 60-plus DKPTs in six straight starts of which four of those games came against top-eight ranked defenses, and now he’ll draw a stellar matchup with the Sixers on Monday. The 11.5-point spread attached to this game is concerning, but Harden has a hand in everything Houston does offensively, which pads his floor considerably. In case you were wondering, Harden owns a 34 percent usage rate, 62 percent assist rate and 12.5 percent total rebounding rate this season. His ceiling is unmatched even in a home matchup with one of basketball’s worst clubs. That being said, the Sixers have managed to keep games competitive when Joel Embiid is active, and Houston’s putrid defense may allow for them to stay within arm’s reach on Monday. Harden remains an elite play despite the spread, especially considering this game owns one of the highest totals on the night at 215 points.

There’s no denying how well Avery Bradley has played this season, but it’s hard to justify his $7K price tag when upside is evidently limited. This matchup with New Orleans is favorable, and Bradley has tallied 32-plus DKPTs in five straight games and eight of nine on the season, but we’re probably overpaying in cash games when you consider his rebounding totals aren’t sustainable. The Celtics are 4.5-point road favorites in what’s projected to be a high-scoring affair (213 O/U), so there is merit to using him in GPPs, but we can’t rely on him to give us 40 FPs in cash at a current price point that requires more production. That being said, Bradley is a fine secondary option on FanDuel where you’re forced to roster to players at the shooting guard position.

Evan Fournier has been a very interesting case study this season. Through 10 games, Orlando’s starting shooting guard has finished with 31-37 fantasy points six times and 17-19 DKPTs four times, with nothing in between. Essentially, we aren’t going to get a 40-plus-fantasy point outburst from Fournier, but we could get a 17-point stinker on any given night. Fournier’s 23.3 percent usage and 14.4 FGA/36 are career highs, so there’s definitely value at this price point, but we have to be aware of the risk. Indiana has been playing awful defense, though, and it’ll only get worse if Paul George remains sidelined. It isn’t unrealistic to project Fournier for around 30 fantasy points against the Pacers.

Rodney Hood is in the same conversation as Fournier, except he’s playing in a much slower pace game and faces a tougher Memphis defense. Hood is more likely to churn out around 25 fantasy points as his floor, but isn’t a high upside play in this matchup (188 O/U). He’s pretty much the same player as Fournier from a fantasy perspective, yet Hood’s minutes are more secure on a nightly basis. For GPPs, however, Eric Gordon is a more appealing play. Actually, Gordon could gain value coming off the bench against the Sixers, as he’s seen higher usage and more scoring opportunities playing with the second unit. If this game remains close Gordon should still see 30-plus minutes, but he runs little risk of sitting in a blowout now that Corey Brewer is starting at shooting guard. At a low-$5K price point, Gordon is one of my favorite tournament option on Monday night.

With Injury news being limited this morning, the only available value right now is Courtney Lee and Buddy Hield, both who offer super low floors and unattractive ceilings. If looking to roster either of these two guards you’re hoping for 22-24 fantasy points, which will only happen if they shoot well on Monday. The only reason either of these two options should be in your lineups is if you’re looking for a way to fit two $10K-plus players into a lineup. You’re better off using Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in cash or Josh Richardson in GPPs on FanDuel. On DraftKings, I’d rather target Gerald Henderson if fully punting the position, but none of these aforementioned guards are appealing options in any format.

CORE – James Harden [FanDuel]

SECONDARY – James Harden [DraftKings]; Avery Bradley [FanDuel]

VALUE – Evan Fournier; Rodney Hood; Kentavious Caldwell-Pope [FanDuel]

GPP – Avery Bradley [DraftKings]; Eric Gordon; Josh Richardson [FanDuel]; Gerald Henderson [DraftKings]; Bojan Bogdanovic

SMALL FORWARD

Nothing ever feels worse than rostering Carmelo Anthony, but until his salary increases we won’t have a choice. With 39-plus fantasy points in four of his last five — Melo was on pace for 40 before getting ejected — he’ll be worth the coin at a mid-$7K price point. Sure, Anthony is a ball stopper, but he’s attempting 20-plus field goals per game and Dallas has been struggling mightily in all phases of the game. Volume is king in basketball, and if Melo keeps chucking (he will), he’s going to remain in play. It’s really that simple; play the guys who aren’t priced right, and Melo, despite all of his flaws, is priced inaccurately.

Tobias Harris won’t see his usage rise with Andre Drummond (doubtful) out, but he should see additional rebounding opportunities at the four. Harris is also very cheap across the industry, and should be locked into 33-35 minutes against the Thunder. This matchup with Sabonis should work in his favor, as he’s a much easier matchup than Serge Ibaka would’ve been, and Detroit should keep this game competitive throughout. He’ll also have a better matchup than Marcus Morris, who should see a lot of Andre Roberson. Moreover, the over-under continues to rise (204), so 30-35 fantasy points seems very attainable for Harris at a sub-$6K price point. In this same price range, Trevor Ariza makes for a very interesting play. Mike D’Antonio is running him for heavy minutes each night, and this contest has the highest projected total on Monday’s eight-game slate. C.J. Miles would be the easy pivot if Paul George sits, but we still don’t have any updates on his condition.

George Hill, Derrick Favors, Boris Diaw and Rodney Hood are all questionable to play Monday. Even though this game has little fantasy value, Gordon Hayward would be a very strong mid-range play if one or more Utah starters are sidelined. Hayward has looked fantastic since returning from injury, has attempted 17-plus shots with 20-plus points in all five starts, and is averaging 7.6 rebounds per game in the process. I wouldn’t be worried about pace with Hayward if I’m confident his usage will be through the roof, and considering he’s already sporting a 32 percent usage rate this season, he would have immense upside if Favors or Hood can’t go.

As a FanDuel-specific play, Harrison Barnes will continue to offer solid value. At only $6,000, the ex-Warrior won’t have much trouble exceeding 30 fantasy points for the fifth straight start, especially considering he owns a 30 percent usage rate with Deron Williams off the court. If Dirk Nowitzki sits I’d even be tempted to consider him on DraftKings, but the extreme difference in pricing makes him a much more valuable play on FanDuel. Anytime a player is seeing James Harden minutes and Russell Westbrook shot volume at a fraction of the cost, he doesn’t need to be especially good to warrant consideration.

SECONDARY – Carmelo Anthony; Gordon Hayward [If Favors or Hood is out]; Harrison Barnes [FanDuel]

VALUE – C.J. Miles [If George is OUT]; Tobias Harris; Trevor Ariza

GPP – Harrison Barnes [DraftKings]; Marcus Morris

POWER FORWARD

Anthony Davis is in a great spot Monday, but there’s plenty to worry about here: Davis is dealing with a sore back, and despite being expected to play, these type of injuries can flare up at any time. I mentioned on today’s podcast that Davis makes for an elite GPP play but shouldn’t be trusted in cash, and I haven’t changed that stance. I’m a fan of this matchup with Boston, especially if Horford sits, and feel confident that the uptempo pace and defenseless style of basketball on both ends of the court will breed plenty of fantasy scoring. That being said, I cannot advocate spending a premium on someone whose injury history is, to put things mildly, concerning. I’d expect many to hold the same opinion here, so Davis’ tournament appeal is higher than ever. Make sure to have GPP exposure in this plus matchup, but fade him in cash.

Similar to Davis, but for different reasons, Blake Griffin is a risky cash play himself. We’ve seen the stud power forward post 50-plus fantasy points in under 30 minutes of work, but that’s still a reach when facing the Nets. As 14.5-point favorites, Griffin may not play more than 25 minutes, and while he should be much of the reason this game gets out of hand, we’d like to see mid-30’s in minutes from anyone who garners a high-$8K price tag. That being said, Griffin is still underpriced (especially on DraftKings), and the power forward position is weak, so I’d much rather deploy him in cash than Davis. On a slate with a bounty of options, though, Griffin would be reserved strictly for GPPs. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case on Monday.

EDIT: Brook Lopez has been ruled out on Monday, which means Brooklyn now stands no chance of keeping this game within 30 points by halftime. Griffin is nothing more than a GPP play now, and the same can be said for Chris Paul at a comparable price. All starters from this game are out of play for cash.

If you don’t feel comfortable spending on Griffin in what’s a near lock to be a blowout, Kristaps Porzingis has seen his price dip considerably across the board. At a sub-$7K price point, Porzingis now won’t require big production in order to meet value, and with Dallas’ frontcourt being a combined 85 years old, the youthful Latvian should have the upper hand. If Staps was taking more shots closer to the rim he’d be more productive, but the 7’3” big man is intent on taking 38 percent 3-pointers. Fortunately, the Mavericks are allowing the second highest 3-point percentage to opposing fours this season, and neither Dirk Nowitzki or Dwight Powell will be able to contain him from beyond the arc.

Going cheaper at power forward might be the move on Monday. Jon Leuer has been a very effective sixth man for Detroit this season, and that should continue against the Thunder with Drummond doubtful to play. Leuer has logged nearly two thirds of his minutes with Drummond on the court, but his usage rises more than three percent when the Manchild is sidelined. Whether it’s Aron Baynes or Boban Marjanovic seeing the additional run, it won’t cut into Leuer’s playing time or usage, which certainly keeps him in play at a mid-$4k cost. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the ex-Sun to post his second consecutive double-double on Monday night.

With power forward being the shallowest it’s been all season, I’m almost tempted to play Ryan Anderson against the Sixers. Philadelphia’s perimeter defense is weak, and Anderson continues to see his playing time rise every night. The 76ers are also 24th in total rebounding rate, while allowing the seventh highest 3-point percentage to their opposition. With this game owning the highest over-under on the slate, Anderson could definitely be worth the low-$5K price point — especially if Philadelphia can keep things competitive. The cash move at power forward is probably Tobias Harris, though, as he’s power forward eligible across the board, and is cheap enough to open up cap space elsewhere.
SECONDARY – Kristaps Porzingis

VALUE – Tobias Harris; Jon Leuer; Ryan Anderson

GPP – Anthony Davis; Blake Griffin; Domantas Sabonis

CENTER

DeAndre Jordan should always be considered a top option when his salary is as low as it’s been, but he could legitimately play only 23 minutes against the Nets. This is looking like a wasted game, which is unfortunate when you consider the number of underpriced Clippers. Jordan is still cheap enough to carry tournament value, but we simply can’t trust Brooklyn to keep this game close enough for him to play within 10 minutes of his normal allotment of minutes.

Joel Embiid is still inexplicably priced at only $5,400 on FanDuel, once again cementing him as a strong cash game option against the Rockets. Houston is allowing the fifth most post-up points this season, which should work in Embiid’s favor, as the rookie big man is running 36 percent of his plays in the post. He’s been too dominant in 23-25 minutes of work to ignore in this fast-paced, high-scoring affair, and it’s hard to imagine any way Clint Capela or Nene can slow him down. At $6,300 on DraftKings, however, Embiid is more of a secondary play until his salary comes back down or his minutes limit is magically lifted.

Earlier this morning I was a fan of targeting Clint Capela and Myles Turner, but the injury news we’ve received throughout the day has opened up a lot of value at the center position. Capela and Turner have already been volatile in both minutes and subsequent fantasy production, so rostering them in cash would’ve been a risk to begin with, but now that low-end value opens up they become even less safe on Monday. Targeting them in tournaments makes a lot of sense, though, as they will be severely under-owned as a result of Drummond and Lopez expected to sit.

Justin Hamilton is the one Nets starter I’d be willing to use in cash. He’s already averaging 21 FP and 23 MPG, and now he’ll draw an opportunity to log huge minutes with Brook Lopez resting. Hamilton played 30 minutes last time Lopez was sidelined, and even if this game develops into an early blowout I’d expect him to earn similar run. Hamilton isn’t particularly skilled in any specific area, but cheap centers offer the most value when afforded additional run. The more time spent around the basket, the more opportunity to rack up easy fantasy points through blocks, rebounds and putbacks. Hamilton is a cash play on DraftKings, but at only $1K less than Embiid on FanDuel I’m not willing to take that risk. Aron Baynes should get the spot start for Andre Drummond, and his career .92 FPPM production should immediately put him in play at minimum salary across the board. I’d list him above Hamilton across the industry due to price point alone, as we won’t need more than 18-20 fantasy points for him to pay off his salary in cash.

Before we go onto to making lineup for tonight, I do want to point out that Hassan Whiteside is a stellar GPP play against the Spurs. No one will own him, he’s not ridiculously overpriced, and Pau Gasol is one of the worst defensive bigs in basketball. Those three factors alone make him enticing for tournaments, as we’ve seen several talented centers beat up on this San Antonio frontcourt to start the season. For Monday’s late slate, Marreese Speights should be a great value center, too. Expect the Clippers to blow the doors off Brooklyn by half time, opening the window for ample playing time for the veteran scorer. He isn’t necessary on the main slate, though, as we already have a lot of value opening up at the position.

CORE – Joel Embiid [FanDuel]; Aron Baynes

SECONDARY – Joel Embiid [DraftKings]

VALUE – Justin Hamilton [DraftKings]

GPP – Hassan Whiteside; DeAndre Jordan; Clint Capela; Myles Turner; Marreese Speights [Late]