NBA DEEP DIVE – 12/01/16


Giannis Antetokounmpo faces a Brooklyn team that is playing at the second fastest pace in the NBA and has the second worst defensive rating.  Antetokounmpo is always a strong play in pace-up games because his freakish athleticism benefits him in transition.  He has also seen an increase in usage over the last two weeks that has coincided with him being more consistent from a fantasy standpoint.  His usage rate since November 15 is up to 31.8 percent from his season average of 29.4 percent as he has been even more involved in the offense.  There is nothing not to like about this spot as it has the second highest total on the slate, a close spread, and is one of only two games on the slate where neither team is dealing with a scheduling issue like a back-to-back, third in four, etc.

Steph Curry has a 31.5 percent usage rate since November 15 which has increased his usage for the season to 29.1 percent, making him the most highly used player on Golden State (Durant is second at 28 percent).  His price has not increased to match his increased role, however, leaving him very underpriced at $9,200 on DraftKings and FanDuel.  Tonight’s game has the highest total on the slate, although there is a double-digit spread and the threat of a blowout.  There is a very good chance, however, that James Harden is able to keep this game close into the fourth quarter which would be great for Curry.  He is an elite option in any format tonight.

Chris Paul gets a matchup against Cleveland that should remain close throughout.  Blake Griffin should be back for this one, but Paul still has a nice floor and plenty of upside since this game should stay competitive for four quarters- assuming the Clippers’ recent slump does not continue.  Paul’s price is artificially low because of the amount of blowouts the Clippers have been in, which has limited his minutes, so he should easily be able to outperform it in this matchup against Kyrie Irving.

Kemba Walker is at home against the Mavericks tonight and is still too cheap across the industry.  He has a 30.1 percent usage rate so far this season and costs only $7,800 on DraftKings and $8,000 on FanDuel.  Tonight’s game has a low total and double-digit spread so it is not the best place to look in cash games but Walker is a fine tournament option as he should be able to have success against a thin Dallas backcourt that features Deron Williams and Devin Harris returning from injuries and on the second half of a back-to-back.  If someone on Dallas is able to keep this game close and force Walker to play a full allotment of minutes then he will very likely be on tournament winning teams.

Goran Dragic will be playing without Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters and Justise Winslow tonight against the Jazz.  His usage rate without those three players this season is 27.7 percent and the absence of Richardson should lead to a couple extra minutes for Dragic as well since the Heat will need Tyler Johnson to spend more time at the two instead of running the point.  George Hill has been ruled out for the Jazz, which also benefits Dragic because Hill is a solid defender.  Dragic is a very strong play in any format, but especially in tournaments as the matchup with Utah is likely to scare people away even though this is a different team without Hill and Favors than it is when they are active (and DraftKings gives a price discount to offset the matchup).

Elfrid Payton is a strong option on DraftKings if he is active.  He sprained his ankle against the Spurs and had to leave the game, where he was on his way to a very nice fantasy outing with 27.3 DraftKings points in 23 minutes.  If he plays, his $5,000 price tag is too cheap despite his new role off the bench.  He is still seeing his normal allotment of minutes, so the move to the bench is essentially just a title change.  He makes for a nice value option in tournaments as players like Andrew Harrison are likely to draw most of the attention in that price range and Payton has more upside.

Speaking of Andrew Harrison, last night was a fluke.  He should see extended minutes again tonight with the Grizzlies depleted but we should not chase his points, especially on DraftKings where his price has jumped another 10 percent to $4,400.  Harrison has produced only 0.68 DraftKings points per minute this season, so 35 minutes is not particularly valuable at his new price point.  It is somewhat more valuable on FanDuel, but it means giving up a point guard so he is not an appealing option there either.  For the season, he is shooting 30.6 percent from the field and 27.5 percent from three.  Last night, he shot 58.3 percent from the field and 80 percent from three and he also had three steals.  Fading Harrison and getting on Twitter to watch everyone lose their minds when he regresses to the mean is one of the best moves you can make on this slate.

Core:  Giannis Antetokounmpo (DraftKings), Stephen Curry, Goran Dragic

Secondary: Kemba Walker, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving

Value: Deron Williams (keep an eye on Mavs’ news), Matthew Dellavedova, Tyler Johnson, Isaiah Whitehead, D.J. Augustin (FanDuel)


James Harden is the most expensive player on the slate, and for good reason.  Houston is only playing the 14th-fastest pace in the NBA this season, but we expect them to eventually start playing faster under Mike D’Antoni.  The Warriors play at the 3rd-fastest pace and will force the Rockets to get out and run tonight.  The increased possessions will benefit Harden, as will the necessity that he be at the top of his game in order to keep the game close.  This is a game where I expect Harden to try and take it over from the beginning because a huge game from him is Houston’s only chance at winning.  Do not make the mistake with Harden that people have been making with Westbrook.  Just because he is the most expensive player on the slate does not mean he is expensive relative to where his price should be.  He has a 34.4 percent usage rate and 53.3 percent assist rate this season and will be playing in the game with the highest total on the slate so his prices across the industry are actually much lower than they should be.

The Sean Kilpatrick situation is an interesting one.  On one hand, he went absolutely crazy against the Clippers, ending the night with 38 points and 14 rebounds on 14-of-34(!) shooting.  He clearly has upside and is relied on as a scorer on a Brooklyn team that is pretty anemic offensively, as evidenced by his 28.3 percent usage rate.  On the other hand, he was having a miserable game until he scored 20 real points in the fourth quarter and the game went to double overtime.  His price has increased closer to $6,000 across the industry, which takes away a lot of the excess value that was there since we do not expect him to take 34 shots again tonight and he is not an efficient scorer with a 53.2 true shooting percentage.  My exposure to Kilpatrick will likely not be very high tonight because I hate rostering players coming off career games at increasing prices, especially when they do not have great pedigrees, but shooting guard is not very exciting in the mid-range so I would not try too hard to talk someone off rostering him and taking another shot at his ceiling.  It just isn’t for me. Be sure to keep an eye out for news on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, however, because he only played 14 minutes in his first game back from injury and once he is full strength it will be another body in a Brooklyn rotation that is already very flat.

Wesley Matthews has been playing much better as of late and could see some extended run tonight between Deron Williams likely being limited on the second half of a back-to-back and Seth Curry being questionable to play.  Rostering anyone not named Kemba Walker from this game is not particularly exciting, but Matthews’ price remains low across the industry and he is a volume shooter who can easily meet expectation based on the amount of minutes he will play tonight.

Wayne Ellington is back and he is still the absolute minimum on DraftKings.  He is locked into minutes right now, as the Heat wanted to only play him 15 minutes in his first game back but he was forced into 27 as a result of the injuries on Miami.  They got Tyler Johnson back last game, but lost Josh Richarson so Ellington played 32 minutes.  Erik Spoelstra really has no options other than to give Ellington a ton of playing time, and Ellington will be aggressive offensively when he is on the floor.  Hopefully he goes overlooked tonight since he has not been active most of the season and is playing Utah, but he will be a staple punt play in my lineups.

Core: James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo (FanDuel)

Secondary: Klay Thompson, Eric Gordon, Nicolas Batum, Sean Kilpatrick

Value: Wayne Ellington, Jamal Crawford, Troy Daniels, Jonathan Gibson (if Curry out)



LeBron James has a tough matchup with Luc Richard Mbah-a-Moute and the Clippers, but he still makes for a very strong play as this game should remain close throughout.  He is especially appealing on DraftKings, where he inexplicably costs $900 less than Kevin Durant.  James will be cash game staple tonight (with the caveat that I have not actually made a lineup yet- but that is my plan), and he merits consideration in tournaments as well- although going a different route from a lineup construction standpoint in tournaments makes a lot of sense since James is very likely to have a good but not great game tonight for his price point.  James is perfectly happy distributing the ball when he does not have a great matchup so I expect tonight to be a game where he looks to feed Kevin Love and funnel some shots to Irving instead of insisting on battling Mbah-a-Moute, who is one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA.  That is not to say that James won’t also get his points, it is just unlikely we see a 30-point triple-double or anything close to it.

Kevin Durant is the other top end option alongside LeBron.  It will be interesting to see if the price disparity between him and LeBron affects his ownership on DraftKings.  Either way, he is in a great matchup and has a very nice floor and ceiling combination.  LeBron is the better cash game option simply based on price, but Durant has the higher ceiling for tournaments as the game should be very fast paced and the Rockets have the 4th-worst defensive rating in the league, whereas the Clippers have the 2nd-best.

Gordon Hayward is in a prime spot tonight to repeat what he did against Houston.  The Heat are a much better defensive team than Houston, ranking 4th in defensive rating, but they are currently depleted and missing one of their better defenders in Justise Winslow.  More importantly, the Jazz will be without Derrick Favors, George Hill and, possibly, Rodney Hood.  Hayward’s usage rate this season without Favors and Hill is 29.4 percent and without Favors, Hill and Hood it climbs to 32.6 percent.  Anytime you can get that kind of usage at a mid-range price point, the matchup becomes less relevant since the fantasy points will be there even if it is an inefficient game.

Trevor Ariza is an elite low-mid range option.  He has average 40.25 minutes against Kevin Durant in his last four games and should see heavy minutes again tonight.  He is averaging 0.82 DraftKings points per minute this season so, if he does see close to 40 minutes, it is easy to project him to outperform his salary even without factoring in the pace of the game.  He is an elite tournament option tonight.

Core:  LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Gordon Hayward

Secondary:  Trevor Ariza, Harrison Barnes

Value: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (DraftKings), Michael Beasley, Jeff Green (GPP dart), James Johnson



Kevin Love is in a good spot once again tonight.  Most of his time against Blake Griffin was with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he had massive fantasy outings in many of those matchups.  People continue to overlook Love this season, likely as a result of a rising price and bias stemming from last season.  His price is still too low for his role this season, however, as he has a 26.9 percent usage rate, 18.2 percent rebound rate, and 60.5 true shooting percentage.  He is in a nice funnel spot tonight as I expect James to look to facilitate the offense more than score when he is being defended by Mbah-a-Moute and Love will be the likely beneficiary of a lot of James’ passes once he drives into the lane.  He is my top power forward option tonight.

Frank Kaminsky’s price has dropped as the result of his abysmal last game, but we should not jump off the train.  He was horrible in that game, recording only 9.75 DraftKings points, but he still played 27 minutes and attempted 11 field goals.  The issue was that he only made one of those shot attempts.  He is clearly capable of disappearing since he is scoring dependent, but at his price point and with his minutes locked in that is a risk we should be willing to take.

Jabari Parker is in a great bounce-back spot tonight after letting down a lot of people against Cleveland.  The Nets play at a very fast pace which benefits Parker and they are a bad team defensively overall.  Parker’s price is too low as a result of his inconsistency and low floor in bad matchups.  He has a very high ceiling, however, and he has a very good chance of hitting it tonight.

Core:  Kevin Love, Jabari Parker

Secondary: Trevor Booker, Serge Ibaka, Draymond Green

Value: Frank Kaminsky, JaMychal Green, Ryan Anderson, Channing Frye (GPP dart)



Clint Capela is my favorite center on this slate.  His price has not increased as much as it should have, given that he is consistently playing about 30 minutes per game.  He is in a great spot in this pace-up matchup as he is very good at running the floor and being in position for a Harden lob off the PnR.  It is basically impossible for opposing teams to stop the play because, if they defend Capela, Harden will score 100 real points.  The small Golden State lineup will not be able to stop Capela from grabbing the high lobs from Harden and Capela is athletic enough to stay on the floor and run.

DeAndre Jordan is a strong play, especially in cash games.  His price is simply too low for his production in what should be a competitive game.  Tristan Thompson is a capable defender and Jordan has not shown a high ceiling this season when Paul and Griffin are both on the floor, but he has been very consistent as a result of his rebounding abilities.  It is very unlikely that Jordan has a performance that does not satisfy his mid-$6,000 price point.

Nikola Vucevic continues to play well after a prolonged shooting slump.  He is an excellent tournament play tonight as people may shy off of him because of the matchup with Memphis.  He has been coming off the bench, however, so Marc Gasol is not as much of a threat to his production.  In addition, Memphis is on the second game of a back-to-back and fifth game in seven days so it is very likely that Gasol is limited anyway tonight.  Vucevic has shown recently that he is very capable of 45-50 fantasy points when his shot is falling and he is a strong tournament option in a matchup that is not as bad as it looks.

John Henson has been seeing steady minutes for the Bucks- at least by Jason Kidd standards.  He only played 22 minutes last game, but lost about 6 minutes because the Bucks were blowing out the Cavaliers.  He makes for a strong tournament option, especially on sites where you can roster more than one center, as he is still inexpensive and is averaging 0.96 DraftKings points per minute this season.  He also has a plus matchup against Brook Lopez and the Brooklyn frontcourt.  Greg Monroe is also an interesting tournament option as he has replaced Miles Plumlee in the rotation and is playing about 18 minutes per game with the potential for more if the game blows out.  He produces over 1 fantasy point per minute and has the same good matchup with the Brooklyn frontcourt, so he is worth a GPP flier if you are making a lot of lineups on DraftKings where he is only $3,900.

Core: Clint Capela, DeAndre Jordan

Secondary: Nikola Vucevic, Brook Lopez, Tristan Thompson

Value: Salah Mejri, Greg Monroe, John Henson, Cody Zeller