NBA Deep Dive – 12/05/16


My comments that Russell Westbrook was going to blow last year’s triple-double mark out of the water this season were met with criticism, but 10 triple-doubles and only 21 games later, not many people are still singing the same song. This isn’t about me being right (although being right never feels wrong), but more so about the otherworldly numbers Westbrook is posting with Kevin Durant out of town. Maybe he’ll slow down as the season wears on, or maybe he’ll suffer an injury that keeps him sidelined for weeks, but right now, five days into December, Westbrook is averaging a 31-point, 10.8-rebound, 11.3-assist, 65.4-fantasy point triple-double through a quarter of the season!

Atlanta’s defense looks good on paper, but they’ve been abolutely putrid of late, losing nine of their last 10 games while allowing 107 points per game with the league’s 8th worst DRtg in that span. Actually, only three teams are sporting a worst DRtg than the Hawks over the last 10 days. During this stretch where Atlanta has won only one of 10 games, they’ve allowed the most points, rebounds, steals and highest OEff to opposing point guards. If you can fit Westbrook, you should fit Westbrook. It’s always easier to do on FanDuel, but he’s in such an optimal spot that another 80-plus-fantasy point game could be on the horizon. Moreover, with this game being in Atlanta (Hawks -1), we should see a competitive game throughout, and Westbrook should see no limit on his minutes despite the back-to-back.

If you aren’t playing Westbrook, James Harden should be next in line. Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets have been humming of late, winning four of their last five with a whopping 121.6 PPG in that span. Only the Warriors are scoring more points than Houston this season, but only six teams are allowing more points as well. This game is poised to be a 48-minute shootout with boatloads of points on both sides of the court, and Harden should lead the charge for Houston. The All-Star shooting guard has proven that tough matchups cannot slow him down, so there’s no reason to believe Avery Bradley will be the exception on Monday. Not only is Harden sporting an elite 34 percent usage rate on the season, but he leads the league in assist points created, passes received, and is second in touches behind only Westbrook. With two days to rest following a brutal back-to-back set in Golden State and Denver, Harden should be firing on all cylinders for this home tilt with Boston. He’s an elite play across the board with easy triple-double upside against the C’s.

Anthony Davis draws a sub-optimal matchup with Marc Gasol’s Grizzlies, but how relevant is matchup when you’re playing 40-plus minutes with 25 field goal attempts per game? In case you were wondering, the answer is “not very much.” Over his last 10 games (not including an injury-shortened outing against Atlanta), Davis is averaging 35 points, 12.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.6 blocks, 1.9 steals and 64 DraftKings Points across 40 minutes per game. He’s shooting 24 times with 11 free throws per game in that span, so while I generally don’t like to pick on Memphis with big men, Davis is an exception. He’s a sheer volume play on Monday, as Alvin Gentry has shown no desire to limit his workload on back-to-backs. I still prefer Westbrook and Harden over Davis, but he’s more appealing on DraftKings ($11,000) than he is on FanDuel ($11,900).

One of Monday’s most intriguing GPP plays is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who most will fade against the Spurs. Gregg Popovich will almost certainly have Kawhi Leonard guard Antetokounmpo, which in the case of most players would be a death sentence, but Giannis is one of the few people on earth capable of beating this matchup. Consider this: 55 percent of Antetokounmpo’s field goal attempts have come from within three feet of the rim, where he’s shooting a ridiculous 73 percent. He’s also shooting nearly 60 percent with the closest defender being 0-4 feet away. Leonard will stifle any jump shooter who crosses his path, but as we’ve already seen twice with James Harden this season, players who are skilled at getting to the rim will have much more success. Pau Gasol is a putrid rim protector, and Giannis does the bulk of his damage around the basket. His antelope-like strides make him a matchup nightmare for any defender, while his ability to launch himself from anywhere inside the arc only creates more problems for the opposition. A true physiological freak, Antetokounmpo should be able to exploit this matchup, no matter how difficult it appears to be on paper. I’d definitely recommend having some exposure to Giannis at very low ownership in GPPs.

John Wall draws a golden matchup with the Nets in what’s projected to be a very high-scoring affair. Brooklyn ranks 29th in DRtg this season with the fourth highest OEff allowed to opposing backcourts, while Wall is enjoying the best statistical season of his career. The best part about this matchup, however, is Washington isn’t good enough to blow teams out, and Brooklyn has played surprisingly well at home. The Wizards are only 5.5-point road favorites in a game owning a 218.5 total, so look for Wall to see his full allotment of minutes in a defenseless, back-and-forth affair. Sporting a career-high 31 percent usage rate with 18.5 field goal attempts per 36, I’d be shocked to see Wall finish with anything fewer than 50 fantasy points on a night where he’s priced favorably across the board. It’s worth noting, though, that Stephen Curry is priced $200 cheaper than Wall on FanDuel, and even though his Warriors are 13.5-point home favorites against the tired Pacers, I’d have a tough time paying a steeper price for Wall in cash.

Jimmy Butler is really good — I mean he’s really really good. Butler has been a stud when the Bulls were at full strength this season, but with Rajon Rondo suspended on Monday, he should be even more impressive. Rondo’s absence may not seem like much on the surface, but it’s actually rather impactful, as Butler’s usage jumps from 29 percent to 35.5 percent with his starting point guard off the court. Moreover, Butler’s assist rate jumps a full 10 percent when Rondo is sidelined (18% to 28%), which should serve him well in Monday’s plus matchup with the Blazers, who rank dead last in defensive efficiency. With a 213 over-under and a 4.5-point spread, this game should offer plenty of fantasy goodness on both sides of the court, and Butler should lead the charge for Chicago. He’s scored fewer than 20 points in only two of 19 games this season, and could easily eclipse 30 on Monday. Consider Butler a top option across the board with easy 50-plus-fantasy point upside against the league’s lousiest defense.

CORE – Russell Westbrook; James Harden; John Wall [DraftKings]; Jimmy Butler

SECONDARY – Anthony Davis [DraftKings]; John Wall [FanDuel]; Stephen Curry [FanDuel]

GPP – Giannis Antetokounmpo; Anthony Davis [FanDuel]; Stephen Curry [DraftKings]


Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Joel Embiid is an animal — an animal whose thirst for greatness will never be satiated. The 22-year-old Cameroonian with little basketball experience to speak of is averaging 29 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 3.5 blocks and a ridiculous 56 DKPTs per 36 in his rookie campaign, and his minutes limit has just been raised to 28. It’s unrealistic to project Embiid for monster fantasy totals every night, but in a matchup with Denver it’s hard to expect anything but monster fantasy totals.

The Nuggets will be without Nikola Jokic on Monday, leaving Jusuf Nurkic to guard Embiid for long stretches throughout this contest. Not only is Nurkic allowing the highest field goal percentage at the rim of all big men playing north of 20 MPG this season, but he’s not mobile enough to close out 3-point shooting center beyond the arc. If you watched any of Embiid’s performance against the Magic, he was absolutely lethal on pick-and-pop threes above the break, and no defender was within 10 feet of him no matter how many times this play was ran. Denver won’t be able to contain him around the rim or at the perimeter, and Embiid should torch them in 28 minutes of work. Any time a player is sporting a 38 percent usage rate with 58 percent shooting at the rim and 52 percent shooting from three on 20 FGA/36, he needs to be considered a core play at $6,900 on DraftKings and $6,400 on FanDuel.

Kyle Lowry has been one of the most consistent fantasy player this season, and his league-leading 38 MPG has a lot to do with that reliable production. I’m usually not big on using historical matchup data to analyze fantasy value, but Lowry’s splits against Cleveland can’t be ignored; over his last eight meetings with the Cavaliers, Lowry is averaging 25 points (48.2 FG%), 3.8 rebounds, 8.6 assists, two steals and 2.3 three-pointers per game. Not only is Kyrie Irving’s defense highly uninspiring (112 DRtg), but DeMar DeRozan (strong GPP play) will draw countless double teams with the ball in his hands, freeing up plenty of open shots for Lowry throughout the night. Cleveland frequently doubled DeRozan the last time these teams met, and Lowry capitalized with 28 points, four threes and 57 fantasy points on 23 attempted field goals. Look for a similar situation to play out on Monday, as DeRozan has passed surprisingly well out of double teams of late. In a game where the Raptors are 1-point home dogs with a 216.5 over-under, Lowry should earn ample opportunity to produce in a closely contested, high-scoring affair.

Kawhi Leonard has been unspectacular in recent outings, but he should have no trouble picking apart the Bucks on Monday night. I still prefer Jimmy Butler as the top small forward play, but Leonard makes for a better cash game option than Gordon Hayward, who despite his recent surge in production is priced high enough now to fade. Leonard is averaging 44 fantasy points per game on the road, and surprisingly owns a plus-12.3 +/- compared to minus-6.9 at home. The Spurs are still a elite basketball team, but they aren’t the same juggernaut they once were. As a result, Milwaukee should be able to keep this game competitive, subsequently keeping Leonard on the court for 35-plus minutes. At a depressed price point, we can confidently consider him a strong cash game option at only $8,000 on DraftKings and $8,100 on FanDuel.

Here’s your daily reminder that Draymond Green is an elite cash game play at $8,000 on FanDuel and DraftKings. A bad game for Green is 35 fantasy points, while a solid game is well over 50. Indiana’s frontcourt defense is lacking to say the least, and although the Warriors are double-digit favorites at home, Green will do enough to pay off his salary in a guaranteed high-scoring affair (225 O/U).

There are two options at the shooting guard position that make a lot of sense on Monday. Dwyane Wade is sporting a 33.7 percent usage rate in 201 minutes with Rondo off the court this season, and draws a matchup with a Portland squad that’s coughing up a top-10 efficiency mark to opposing two-guards.  Not only do the Blazer rank dead last in defense this season, but they’re surrendering a top-five field goal percentage to opposing guards though one-plus months. Look for Wade and Rondo to run the show with Rondo suspended.

Bradley Beal should also be considered against the Nets, who are allowing the third most three-point attempts per game to opposing backcourts. Beal has been on a torrid run of late, with 30-plus points in four of his last seven starts and 20-plus field goal attempts five times in that span. Beal’s lack of peripheral stats will always limit his upside, but his career-high 42 percent shooting from beyond the arc has mitigated a lot of those concerns. Brooklyn’s makeshift backcourt won’t be able to contain him, and this game should see more than enough scoring for both Beal and Wall to eat ‘til their stomachs are full. Avery Bradley also makes for a sexy GPP play against the Rockets. Patrick Beverley should be glued to Isaiah Thomas all night long, which could funnel more shot volume through Bradley in an ultra-high-scoring affair. I definitely think 40-plus-fantasy point upside is possible here, and Bradley is the cheapest of the three playable mid-range shooting guards.

While we have plenty of high-end point guards to choose from, the lower-mid-range tier isn’t as bountiful. Most will be off of Jrue Holiday after an underwhelming performance against the Thunder, but this matchup with Memphis isn’t nearly as imposing as it may appear on paper. The Grizzlies are down their best defensive point guard in Mike Conley, and a backcourt duo of Andrew Harrison and Troy Williams simply won’t be enough. Holiday is very favorably priced on DraftKings at only $6,300, and is coming off a game on Sunday where he played his most minutes of the season (36). Holiday was inserted into the starting lineup with Tim Frazier moving to the bench, and although we don’t know if this move was permanent or matchup related, 36 minutes in any role is appealing. Holiday is a legitimately excellent play on DraftKings despite the back-to-back and low over-under (197 O/U).

Wilson Chandler can no longer be ignored, and neither can Otto Porter. Both wings have been enjoying excellent seasons with their respective clubs, and both of them draw phenomenal matchups against two of the league’s worst defensive teams. Chandler continues to see 35-plus minutes in close games, and with the Nuggets being only 4-point road favorites against the Sixers, he should see a heavy workload once again. Danilo Gallinari’s (GPP play) return hasn’t affected Chandler’s minutes, as he played 21 straight minutes to close out Saturday’s seven-point loss to Utah while Gallo logged four less minutes in the second half. Chandler’s usage is higher with Gallinari off the court, and Will Barton’s return will also siphon away some usage, but this is still a quality enough matchup to consider him a strong play, as the Sixers are allowing the fourth most points, second most field goal attempts, and third highest OEff to opposing wings. Consider Porter the cash game play in an optimal matchup with Brooklyn, while Chandler should serve as an upside tournament play against the hapless 76ers.

Joel Embiid is the clear top option at center on Monday, but this position is harboring a stable of great mid-range bigs to choose from. On DraftKings and other sites with utility or flex positions, center is one spot where I would recommend doubling up at. Brook Lopez is draining threes like he just converted from shooting guard to center, and his matchup with Washington should facilitate another strong fantasy performance at a discounted cost. His erratic minutes will unfortunately reserve him for GPPs only, but BroLo should be low owned on Embiid night, making a blowup performance that much more valuable. Al Horford and Rudy Gobert both have great matchups themselves, but Marcin Gortat is the most cash-viable center play at an extremely discounted cost. Gortat always makes for a strong cash game option, as he has been an instant double-double under Scott Brooks, whose willingness to run him for 35-plus MPG has significantly boosted his value.

CORE – Joel Embiid; Dwyane Wade; Jrue Holiday [DraftKings]

SECONDARY – Kyle Lowry; Kawhi Leonard; Draymond Green; Bradley Beal; Otto Porter; Marcin Gortat

GPP – DeMar DeRozan; Avery Bradley; Wilson Chandler; Brook Lopez; Rudy Gobert; Al Horford; Isaiah Thomas; Paul George



Sam Dekker has been brilliant off the bench for Houston lately, and he could only get better on Monday if Trevor Ariza sits. K.J. McDaniels has all but surrendered his role over to Dekker over the past week, who is averaging 12.6 points, six rebounds, two Stocks and 25.5 DKPTs across 27 MPG through his last three outings. Dekker was already a strong tournament option against the Celtics, but Ariza’s absence would free up 35 minutes in the rotation. Corey Brewer would likely see around 20 minutes with Dekker playing north of 30 and McDaniels will be left with the scraps. In a high-scoring, fast-paced affair, Dekker won’t need more than ~20 fantasy points to pay off his sub-$4K price tag, but he’s capable of producing much more if provided additional run.

Steven Adams sprained his ankle in the first half of Sunday’s win over New Orleans and didn’t return. Enes Kanter logged 30 minutes in his absence and finished with a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double with 37 fantasy points on the night. He’d be a core value option if Adams sits on Monday, and considering his inability to return last night, I’d be surprised to see Adams suit up against the Hawks. Kanter’s per 36 production is through the roof this season (24/11/42), so 30-plus minutes of work against Atlanta’s floundering defense would lock him up as the top value option on the night.

Jerian Grant will get the nod at point guard Monday with Rondo suspended, and he couldn’t have drawn a better matchup. Don’t expect massive production from the diminutive guard, but at or near minimum salary across the board, we won’t need much in order to receive a solid return. Portland’s backcourt defense has been putrid all season long, and they’re now allowing a ridiculous 115 points per game over their last 15 contests. Grant is cheap enough, and should see enough minutes to return serviceable numbers in an elite matchup with the Blazers.

Pau Gasol has been unbelievably frustrating this season, which is to be expected when playing for Gregg Popovich. Still, he’s been even more disappointing than initially anticipated, but Gasol’s salary is cheap enough now to consider in this plus matchup with Milwaukee. Gasol is only in play on DraftKings where he is $5,300 and playable at the utility spot, and he’s coming off of a phenomenal 42-fantasy point performance against the Wizards. He’s too volatile to use in cash, but as a GPP play there’s plenty of upside to be had here.

Keep a close eye on Toney Douglas’ status tonight, as he could take value away from Memphis’ value guards in the event that Fizdale decides to run him for more than 20 minutes against the Pelicans. In the event that Douglas is expected to play only a minor role in his season debut, Troy Williams and Troy Daniels would be in play. Williams is more of a secondary cash game play, as he offers limited upside but a decent floor with 35 MPG, while Daniels is the GPP play, as he is incapable of racking up peripherals but can rack up points at a rather impressive rate. I’ll personally be letting people chase Daniels points after his recent explosion against the Lakers, but I could understand why you’d want to dip into this well again with his salary still being affordable.

Two appealing value plays from Denver are Will Barton and Kenneth Faried, who should both be heavily utilized in Monday’s road matchup with Philadelphia. Barton has logged 33-plus minutes in consecutive games since returning from injury, while sporting an encouraging 27.3 percent usage rate in the process. Barton has produced north of one fantasy point per minute in both games, and should continue that trend against a far from imposing Sixers defense. Faried is also in play with Nikola Jokic sidelined, and Mike Malone could look to stick him on Embiid if Nurkic’s lack of mobility hinders Denver’s defense. Faried is an energy-driving big man with huge double-double upside when he gets the run. He should see ample rebounding and putback opportunities in this matchup, and remains cheap enough to be considered across the board in what’s projected to be a competitive, relatively high-scoring affair.

Sergio Rodriguez is still underpriced on FanDuel at only $4,600. With Jerryd Bayless out, Rodriguez should see 30-plus minutes against a very weak Denver backcourt. Rodriguez owns a 40 percent assist rate with Joel Embiid on the court this season, but he’s also getting much better looks when Embiid draws the bulk of the defensive attention. $5,000 on DraftKings is a bit expensive for this 11-game slate, but a $4,600 on FanDuel you could easily use Rodriguez and expect him to produce five-plus times his salary in a competitive affair at home.

CORE – Enes Kanter [If Adams is out]; Sam Dekker [If Ariza is out — GPP play if Ariza is in]; Will Barton

SECONDARY – Jerian Grant; Clint Capela; Troy Williams; Kenneth Faried

GPP – Pau Gasol; Troy Daniels; Markieff Morris; Greg Monroe