NBA Deep Dive – 12/06/16

POINT GUARD

John Wall played 36 minutes against the Nets last night and turned in another strong performance.  He faces the Magic in Washington tonight and should turn in another very nice line.  Scott Brooks has completely removed his minutes restriction so we should see him play into the high 30s again tonight assuming this game remains close (he played 37 minutes on the second half of his last back-to-back after playing 39 in the first game).  The Wizards starters are all currently healthy and Wall has a 27.2 usage rate and 44.7 percent assist rate playing alongside them this season.  Orlando has the third best defensive rating in the NBA this season, but Wall should still be able to perform well based on volume and his ability to contribute in categories other than scoring.  Bismack Biyombo starting is a downgrade to Wall because he is a better rim protector than Vucevic.  There would be more reason to be concerned if Wall’s price were where it should be, but he is underpriced across the industry so we should not have concerns about rostering him tonight.

Goran Dragic has been a great fantasy asset lately as he is being relied upon to carry the depleted Miami offense.  It remains to be seen if Josh Richardson will play tonight, but James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Luke Babbitt and Justise Winslow have already been ruled out.  Dragic is averaging 36 minutes per game over his last four games due to the injuries and he has a 28.5 percent usage rate and 43.7 percent assist rate in those games.  There are some reasons to be concerned about Dragic, however.  Dragic leads the NBA with 15.1 drives per game, but the Knicks rank 8th in the NBA in rim protection so he could have a little more trouble than usual in the paint.  The Knicks do have the 4th worst defensive rating in the league, however, so we shouldn’t necessarily weigh the rim protection numbers too much.  In addition, Derrick Rose has been a solid defender against the pick-and-roll this season, which Dragic utilizes on 39.9 percent of his plays.  Even with the concerns preventing it from being a perfect matchup, Dragic makes for a strong play tonight because of his heavy minutes and expanded role in the offense.

Eric Bledsoe is in a tough spot tonight against the Jazz.  He ranks 8th in the NBA with 10.6 drives per game and will have to face Rudy Gobert in the paint, who has allowed the seventh lowest field goal percentage to players around the rim among centers who have started at least one game this season.  Bledsoe has been performing very well lately, but this is an extreme pace down game for Phoenix and Utah has the fifth best defensive rating in the NBA on top of Gobert’s presence in the paint.  Bledsoe is interesting as a tournament option on DraftKings, however, because his price has dropped to $7,100 to account for the difficult matchup.

Rajon Rondo returns from suspension tonight and it is impossible to know what to expect.  It is not difficult to imagine Rondo playing great in response to his team-imposed one game suspension and it is not difficult to imagine him not caring and playing awful.  It is also not difficult to imagine the Bulls’ coaching staff giving more of his minutes to Jerian Grant. Reggie Jackson is also back in the starting lineup for the Pistons, which is a worse matchup for opposing point guards than Ish Smith was.  There are plenty of other options on the slate today that offer a higher floor and higher ceiling and don’t come with as much unpredictability.

Derrick Rose continues to see heavy minutes and perform well.  He has played at least 34 minutes in four of his last five games and he is very involved in the offense when he is on the floor.  He has a 25.9 percent usage rate and 23.6 percent assist rate this season, which makes his price too low now that he is consistently seeing minutes in the mid-30s.  Rose should perform well in his matchup against Goran Dragic as well.  Rose has been very good as the ball handler on pick-and-rolls this season, averaging 0.97 points per possession and utilizing the play 38.5 percent of the time.  Dragic ranks in the 40th percentile among defenders, allowing 0.87 points per possession to opposing ball handlers.  The issue for Rose is that the Heat rank as the best team in the NBA in rim protection (and Hassan Whiteside ranks 4th among centers who have started at least one game) and Rose averages 10.2 drives per game.  It is also a pace down game for the Knicks so Rose will see slightly less possessions than usual.  Overall, he is in play as a tournament option but not at the top of the board.

Reggie Jackson made his season debut last game and performed well, shooting 58 percent from the field in 23 minutes of play.  Jackson’s minutes will likely remain monitored for the foreseeable future, but they should gradually creep toward 30 minutes per game.  He draws a nice matchup against Rajon Rondo tonight but is too expensive to consider at $6,500 on FanDuel.  He is only $5,600 on DraftKings, however, which is obviously much more appealing.  The issue is that the roster flexibility on DraftKings means that you need to compare Jackson not only to the other point guards on the slate, but to players at his price point at other positions.  This makes it difficult to justify rostering him, even at his appealing price, because his minutes limit caps his upside so much compared to other similarly priced players.

Andrew Harrison continues to see heavy minutes in the depleted Memphis backcourt.  His price on DraftKings has risen to $5,300 but he is still very much in play on FanDuel at $4,300.  Harrison has a 19.6 percent usage rate and 22.6 percent assist rate since taking over as the starting point guard on November 30th.  His matchup against Sergio Rodriguez and the Sixers is very nice tonight, and he is a strong option on FanDuel.  It is also worth noting that the Grizzlies are on their fifth game in seven days so it would not be surprising to see the young players, like Harrison, get even more playing time tonight and older guys like Tony Allen and Marc Gasol be limited.

Sergio Rodriguez played very well against Denver last night and is still available at a low price.  Memphis is a much better defensive team than Denver, but Rodriguez benefits from the absence of Joel Embiid.  Rodriguez has played 372 minutes without Joel Embiid this season and his usage rate increases from 15.1 percent with him to 21.4 percent without.  In 138 minutes with Okafor and Embiid both on the bench, Rodriguez’s usage climbs all the way to 24.4 percent to go along with a 43.8 percent assist rate.  These numbers are more than enough to make up for the difficult matchup with Memphis.

Elfrid Payton is an extremely appealing tournament option on DraftKings.  He is a risky option now that he comes off the bench and his minutes fluctuate more than they did when he was a starter.  That said, he has a very nice ceiling at $4,400 because, if his shot is falling, he can easily outproduce his price.  He is averaging 25.6 minutes per game since moving to the bench and is averaging 0.9 DraftKings points per minute overall this season.  He has struggled in his last three games, but showed in his first two games off the bench that he is at least capable of providing between 25 and 30 DraftKings points.  He is not a play you feel great about by any means but, at his price, he lets you get some extra ceiling into your lineup for cheap.

Tony Parker will not play tonight, which makes Patty Mills playable.  Mills is averaging 28.5 minutes per game without Parker this season, compared to 21 minutes when Parker plays.  He averages 26.4 DraftKings points per game without Parker compared to 17.6 when Parker plays.  The Timberwolves and Spurs are both in the bottom ten in pace this season, but this game has the highest Vegas total on the slate (205.5) so there should be enough points to go around that Mills is a strong option in any format.

Shelvin Mack is a viable tournament pivot off Mills if George Hill is out.  The Jazz get a huge boost in pace against the Suns, who play at the fastest pace in the NBA.  Mack is averaging 29.7 minutes per game in Hill’s three game absence and has attempted 9 shots in each game, in addition to recording at least 4 assists in each.  He is very capable of disappearing in any given game, but he has a nice ceiing for his very low price in a game that should afford him plenty of possessions.

 

Core:  John Wall

Secondary: Goran Dragic, Derrick Rose

GPP: Eric Bledsoe, Elfrid Payton (DraftKings), Shelvin Mack

Value: Sergio Rodriguez, Andrew Harrison (FanDuel), Patty Mills

SHOOTING GUARD

Bradley Beal’s minute restriction has been lifted and he is seeing heavy minutes night in and night out.  Scott Brooks said he would “monitor” his minutes last night and ended up allowing him to play 36.  He should see similar minutes tonight (he played 38 on the second half of his last back-to-back) and makes for a fine play in any format despite his increasing price.  Beal has attempted at least 18 shots in four of his last five games which gives him a nice combination of floor and ceiling despite being scoring dependent.  He is not close to a “must-play” at his price, but he is a viable option.

Dwyane Wade is coming off a very nice game against the Blazers, but he has a much more difficult matchup with Detroit tonight.  Detroit plays at the 26th fastest pace in the NBA, so Wade will not benefit from extra possessions.  In addition, the Pistons have the 6th best defensive rating in the NBA.  Wade will have to deal with the defense of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tonight, which is not a good matchup for him.  Caldwell-Pope is the best player in the Detroit rotation against field goal attempts from 15 feet or more, forcing opposing shooters to shoot 7.2 percent worse than average.  On average, fifty percent of Wade’s field goal attempts per game come from at least 15 feet from the basket as the Bulls rely on him to space the floor.  His price is really low at $6,200 on DraftKings, so rostering him there is better than at $7,000 on FanDuel, but letting people chase his points from last night is the best approach.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope remains priced too low for his minutes and production.  He is good for at least 34 minutes in games that stay close, and the spread in this game is just six.  He has been remarkably consistent lately, with two games under 25 DraftKings points over his last ten.  He is better in fast paced games, so he is slightly less appealing tonight, but he is still a very strong play at his price.  Part of the reason for his consistency is that, over the last 10 games, his usage rate is 22.5 percent and his assist rate is 14.9 percent.  For the season overall, his usage percentage is 20.7 and his assist percentage is 12.6 so it seems the Pistons have been making an effort to get him more involved offensively.  It is worth noting that the 12 shots he attempted in his last game were the fewest he had attempted in his last five, so it is worth paying close attention to how he performs now that Reggie Jackson is back since Jackson is a higher usage player than Smith.  For now, KCP is still a strong play in any format on this relatively short slate.

Evan Fournier’s price has fallen a little bit after a really bad game against Detroit.  As I pointed out when discussing Dwyane Wade, however, the Detroit matchup is really bad for mid-range and perimeter shooters, which is Evan Fournier’s game.  Bradley Beal, on the other hand, has been neutral in his mid-range and perimeter defense, forcing opposing shooters to shoot just 0.2 percent worse than average from at least 15 feet.  The Wizards as a team are allowing opposing shooters to shoot 2.5 percent better than average from at least 15 feet.  This is an excellent bounce-back spot for Fournier.

Rodney Hood has an excellent matchup with the Suns tonight.  60.1 percent of his field goal attempts come at least 15 feet from the basket and the Suns as a team are allowing opposing shooters to shoot 2.4 percent greater than average from at least 15 feet.  In addition, Hood is averaging 6 three-pointers per game and the Suns have been horrific at defending the three-point line this season, allowing opposing shooters to shoot 4.3 percent better than average from three.  Factor in that the Suns also play at the fastest pace in the league, and this is an excellent spot for Hood.

Gerald Henderson is one of many viable punt options at shooting guard today, along with Troy Daniels, Justin Holiday (if Courtney Lee is out), Wayne Ellington, and Tony Allen.  Henderson is interesting in particular, however, because he gets a significant boost when Joel Embiid sits.  Henderson’s usage rate with Embiid on the floor is 15.6 percent but it jumps to 20 percent when Embiid sits.  In addition, Henderson has played 98 minutes this season with both Embiid and Okafor on the bench, and his usage rate is 23 percent.  Henderson is averaging 26.7 minutes per game over his last three and deserves a look in tournaments despite his difficult matchup because of the boost he gets in usage with Embiid (and Okafor) off the floor.

 

Core: Evan Fournier, Rodney Hood

Secondary: Bradley Beal, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Value: Troy Daniels, Justin Holiday, Wayne Ellington, Tony Allen, Gerald Henderson

 

SMALL FORWARD

Jimmy Butler is always a viable option because he plays so many minutes every night and contributes across the board, with a 27.7 percent usage percentage, 18.7 percent assist percentage and 9.6 percent rebound percentage so far this season.  His price has risen to reflect his minutes and productivity, however, so there are usually better options for the price on nights that he does not have great matchups.  Tonight is one of those nights.  The Pistons rank in the top ten in rim protection (Butler averages 8.8 drives per game), are 6th in defensive rating, and defend the perimeter well.  Butler will still produce simply because of his minutes and how involved he is in the offense, but there are better spots to look today than paying up for Jimmy.

One of those spots is Gordon Hayward against the Suns.  He has been on fire lately and will continue to see very heavy usage as long as George Hill (questionable) and Derrick Favors remain sidelined.  As discussed earlier, the Suns are horrible at defense in general (10th worst defensive rating), and defending the mid-range and perimeter in particular.  Hayward averages taking 51.1 percent of his shots from at least 15 feet, where we know the Suns are very suspect.  Hayward also takes 29.1 percent of his shots from inside 5 feet, and the Suns rank in the bottom half of the league at rim protection. Hayward is an elite play in any format if Hill is out, and a strong tournament option even if Hill returns.

Kawhi Leonard is very affordable across the industry due to his recent shooting slump- even dropping below $8,000 on DraftKings.  Leonard has been very effective as the ball handler on pick-and-rolls this season, averaging 1.08 points per possession.  He should get more opportunities to handle the ball today with Parker out, and Andrew Wiggins has not been particularly good at defending the pick-and-roll, allowing 0.82 points per possession to opposing ball handlers.  It is very rare that Kawhi Leonard is playing in the game with the highest total on the slate, and he makes for a great option in any format at his reduced price.  Do not let his recent shooting struggles scare you off.

Andrew Wiggins makes for a strong tournament options based on his price.  He has dropped all the way to $6,000 on DraftKings and $5,900 on FanDuel, despite playing at least 34 minutes in six straight and taking at least 14 shots in 8 straight and 9 of his last 10.  He will likely go very low owned today because of his matchup with San Antonio, but that should not scare us as much as usual.  For one, the game has the highest total on the slate so there is not as much opportunity cost to rostering someone against San Antonio as there usually is, simply because there are not a ton of players in super high scoring spots.  For two, Kawhi Leonard has been surprisingly mediocre at defending the pick-and-roll this season, where Wiggins handles the ball on 29.5 percent of his plays.  Leonard ranks in the 61st percentile, allowing 0.78 points per possession to opposing ball handlers, which is relatively mediocre for someone who is held in Leonard’s regard defensively.  This is a great spot to lock in underpriced upside in tournaments and hope that Wiggins has a good shooting night.

Jeff Green stands out as a cheap small forward punt option in tournaments.  We still cannot trust him in cash games, but he has averaged 26.3 minutes per game since the Magic switched their starting lineup.  In addition, he has become more involved in every category.  Since the lineup change, his usage is 23.7 percent (20 percent for the season), his assist percentage is 14.3 (12 for the season) and his rebound percentage is 8.4 (7.5 for the season).  He has quietly been a huge beneficiary of the lineup change and is a very strong tournament option in a great matchup against Washington while people continue to overlook him.

Core:  Gordon Hayward, Kawhi Leonard

Secondary:  Andrew Wiggins, Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Morris

Value: Jeff Green

 

POWER FORWARD

Kristaps Porzingis gets a matchup against a depleted Miami team.  Miami has been very good at protecting the rim this season, but Porzingis is very capable of playing away from the basket, taking 51 percent of his shots from at least 15 feet away.  Derrick Williams is allowing opposing players to shoot 18.2 percent better than average from at least 15 feet, while Josh McRoberts is allowing players a 17.3 percent increase and Hassan Whiteside is allowing a 4.4 percent increase.  Essentially, the Heat have nobody that can defend Porzingis away from the basket and he should have a huge game tonight.

Stretch fours against the Wizards has been a thing this season, and it should continue tonight with Serge Ibaka, who has already succeeded against them once this season with 19 points and 8 rebounds in 31 minutes.  I discussed the Wizards’ inability overall to defend mid-range and perimeter shooters in the section on Evan Fournier, but Washington bigs have really struggled in particular.  Gortat allows opposing players to shoot 8.9 percent better than average from at least 15 feet, while Porter allows them to shoot 8.4 percent better and Morris allows them to shoot 2.6 percent better.  Combine those numbers with the Wizards’ rebounding issues and Ibaka, who takes 48.3 percent of his field goals from at least 15 feet away, is a very strong play.

Dario Saric gets a massive boost tonight with Okafor and Embiid sidelined, both in terms of playing time and productivity.  The Sixers are very thin in the frontcourt and Richaun Holmes could very easily get in foul trouble against Marc Gasol, which would open up even more minutes at the five for Saric.  Saric sees his usage rate go from 17.9 percent overall to 23.8 percent without Embiid and Okafor and his rebounding percentage goes from 9.8 percent to 15.4 percent.  In addition, his assist percentage goes from 11.1 percent to 13.3 percent.  Holmes and Ilyasova are strong plays as well, but Saric is my favorite of the three.

 

Core:  Kristaps Porzingis, Serge Ibaka, Dario Saric

Secondary: LaMarcus Aldridge, Tobias Harris, Taj Gibson, Gorgui Dieng, Zach Randolph, JaMychal Green (FanDuel)

Value: Markieff Morris, Ersan Ilyasova, Richaun Holmes, Josh McRoberts

 

CENTERS

Hassan Whiteside is the most expensive center on the board on DraftKings and second most expensive on FanDuel.  He has a ton of upside in any matchup, but is primarily a tournament option because of the cheaper center options available on this slate.  Joakim Noah is expected to play today, but he will most likely not be able to do much to stop Whiteside.  There should be plenty of rebounds to go around with the inefficient shooting of Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony and Whiteside will be able to grab most of them.

Karl-Anthony Towns is an elite tournament option on DraftKings at only $8,100.  He is matchup proof and, like I discussed earlier, this should not be viewed as a typical Spurs game because of the Vegas total relative to the other game totals.  He is not worth paying for over Hassan Whiteside but, where there is a significant price difference, he makes for a great tournament play because people are easily scared off by the Spurs matchup.

Rudy Gobert gets a fast-paced matchup at very reasonable prices today against Phoenix.  Eric Bledsoe drives to the basket more than almost any point guard in the league, so Gobert has the chance to rack up extra blocks tonight.  Gobert has faced Chandler three times in the last two seasons and has secured 13 and 16 rebounds in two of those matchups, so we should not expect him to struggle tonight.  He is an excellent option in any format.  Nikola Vucevic is an elite option as well, in the same price range.  Vucevic’s shooting has been much better lately which has led to inflated fantasy point totals.  The Wizards’ second unit is awful, as they rely on Jason Smith to backup Marcin Gortat.  Vucevic should be able to go to town against the Wizards regardless of who he is matched up with.

Robin Lopez has been playing very well for a while now, due to extended minutes and increased usage.  The Bulls have a difficult matchup on the perimeter tonight and the best way to attack Detroit is likely going to be to funnel the ball to Lopez, who can succeed against Andre Drummond who is prone to defensive lapses.  Lopez has attempted at least 10 shots in 6 of his last 7 games and has had tremendous success against Drummond in the past, averaging 40.7 DraftKings points per game in 3 games against him last season (when Lopez was with the Knicks).

 

Core: Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns (DraftKings), Robin Lopez

Secondary: Andre Drummond, Marcin Gortat, Nikola Vucevic, Pau Gasol

Value: Bismack Biyombo