NBA Deep Dive – 12/07/16



James Harden is Wednesday night’s DFS darling in a pristine matchup with the Lakers. He torched them for 34/7/17/1/69 last time out, and although this L.A. team was healthier back in October, Harden should see see 33 minutes in a blowout. Even if Houston takes an early lead and never looks back, it will be accomplished on the shoulders of their All-Star guard. Mike D’Antoni’s offense is humming right now, so it’s no surprise Houston is a 12.5-point home favorite against the banged up Lakers. With a 220 over-under between two teams playing at a top-10 pace, I’m confident Harden can pay off his price tag across the board. The shooting guard position doesn’t offer much, especially on FanDuel where you’ll have to play two of them. Lock Harden up as the top overall play on Wednesday’s 10-game slate.


Giannis Antetokounmpo was asked by Dirk Nowitzki’s shooting coach to join him in Germany next summer for a master class in long-range shooting. Just think about this for a moment… if Antetokounmpo actually learned how to shoot he’d be virtually unstoppable. For now, though, we’ll have to take him as he is: a lethal scorer around the basket with an elite wingspan for shot blocking, an effortless stride up and down the court, and an innate ability to collect rebounds and dish out assists. With nightly triple-double upside you have to love Giannis in Wednesday’s matchup with the Blazers, who own a league-worst 109.6 DRtg on the year. Portland is allowing the fourth most PITP, can’t rebound the basketball, and plays at a top-10 pace. This matchup figures to fit Antetokounmpo well, and the 217.5 over-under is simply icing on the cake. The only trouble here is Giannis’ price tag, which has seen a sharp increase across the board.


It’s hard not to love Chris Paul in a home matchup with Golden State, as the Clippers will have something to prove against a team that routinely rips their hearts out. Paul’s production has declined of late, but he’s still capable of posting monster fantasy totals on any given night, and I’d expect him to play close to 40 minutes in what should be a very hard-fought affair. Blake Griffin will have his hands full against the defense of Draymond Green and Kevin Durant, but Paul won’t be nearly as inhibited by Stephen Curry. This contest owns the highest projected total of the night (224.5) with the Clippers being 4-point home dogs in what they’re likely considering a must win game. Paul won’t necessarily be ultra-efficient against Golden State’s imposing defense but he should see massive volume and big minutes, which is far more important. The Warriors own a top-10 defensive rating, but they’re also top-three in pace and are allowing the 10th most points per game as a result. Volume and opportunity will always trump efficiency, and that’s exactly why we’re targeting paul on Wednesday night.


Stephen Curry makes plenty of sense on DraftKings where he’s an unprecedented $8,500, but Paul is the preferred cash option at an additional $300. Curry is capable of beating any defense and any matchup, but against Paul he may defer to Durant and Thompson more than he normally would. There are too many scorers on this Warriors team to trust him in cash, whereas Paul can’t rely on a stable of teammates to carry him in a difficult matchup. Consider Curry a tournament option with upside, while Paul is the cash game point guard with GPP appeal as well.


DeMarcus Cousins draws a matchup with the depleted Mavericks, whose most recent casualty was defensive stalwart Andrew Bogut. The loss of Bogut will cripple Dallas in the paint, but they play at such a slow pace that targeting their opponents often ends poorly. The Mavs look to stick teams’ feet in the mud in an attempt to grind the game to a halt and prevent them from running away with the score. They’re forced to do this because they lack any legitimate scorers outside of maybe Harrison Barnes. Cousins has been on a torrid pace recently, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to torch Dwight Powell and Salah Mejri both in the paint and beyond the arc, but he’s more of a secondary play on a night where James Harden faces the Lakers. That being said, Cousins is such a versatile scorer, capable of scoring from all areas of the court, that even a brutally slow pace of play shouldn’t keep him from producing elite fantasy totals.


CORE – James Harden; Chris Paul

SECONDARY – Giannis Antetokounmpo; DeMarcus Cousins

GPP – Stephen Curry; Kevin Durant




Lou Williams has been fantastic of late, totaling 78 points and 107.5 DraftKings Points over his last two games despite facing Memphis and Utah in that span. What’s more impressive, though, is Sweet Lou has notched these totals while playing an average of only 33 minutes per game. With 47 field goal attempts, 17 three-point attempts and a Goliath 43 percent usage rate over this two-game explosion, Williams will look to keep it rolling in a splendid matchup with Houston. He should avoid Patrick Beverley for long stretches of play, and will be relied upon to keep this game semi-competitive off the bench. With a 222 over-under between two top-10 paced teams, Williams will draw every opportunity available to make good on his $6,100 price point.


The Lakers will be without D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young and now Jose Calderon on Wednesday, leaving them with only Williams, Jordan Clarkson, Marcelo Huertas and Brandon Ingram to man the backcourt. If Larry Nance is unable to go, Ingram could be forced to play more minutes at the three, but regardless of his status, Williams should be locked into 32-plus minutes of work. He’s really hard to fade in this spot, even if the Lakers are 12.5-point dogs on the road.


Kemba Walker spoke with Mark Stein the other day and admitted that making his first All-Star game would mean a lot to him. While this isn’t a narrative we can read much into, it’s always encouraging to know when players have some added motivation. Nevertheless, Walker draws a neutral matchup with the Pistons, but the fact that he’s playing at home and is only $7,200 on DraftKings makes him a clear optimal play. Walker has been outstanding at home over his career, and is averaging 42.4 DKPTs per game at the Spectrum Center this season. Furthermore, Reggie Jackson is questionable to play on the second game of a back-to-back, which would make this matchup much easier against Ish Smith if he happens to sit. Charlotte is playing at an elevated pace this season and Walker is taking advantage of every opportunity, averaging a career-high 19.2 FGA per 36 with a 30 percent usage rate that also marks a career best. Consider him a top mid-range option on DraftKings, and a secondary play on FanDuel.


While Walker is a top option on DraftKings, Goran Dragic is undoubtedly an elite play on FanDuel at only $7,000. He’s a stellar play on DraftKings, too, but his FanDuel price point sticks out like a sore thumb. Dragic is the Miami Heat right now, as Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and James Johnson will all be sidelined for at least four more games. In five games since returning to action, Dragic is averaging 23.4 points, nine assists, 4.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 44.4 fantasy points across 37 minutes per game. He’s sporting a 29 percent usage rate, 41 percent assist rate and 1.20 fantasy points per minute over that stretch, while attempting 18 field goal attempts per game in the process.


Miami is playing their second of a back-to-back on Wednesday, but they’re facing a Hawks team that has been absolutely dreadful on defense over the past few weeks. With Kent Bazemore sidelined Atlanta’s backcourt defense takes another big hit, and there’s virtually no chance Dennis Schroder or Tim Hardaway will be able to contain the Dragon across 48 minutes of play. Lock Dragic up on FanDuel, but don’t forget about him on DraftKings where he remains a respectable $7,300. It’s also encouraging to know he wasn’t listed on this morning’s injury report, and should be a full-go for Wednesday’s road tilt with Atlanta.


Kevin Love draws a strong matchup with the Knicks, who have been surprisingly bad at limiting opposing bigs. New York is allowing the most second chance points to their opponents, while Love ranks top-10 in this category. They’re also serving up the most putback points and a ton of 3-point attempts to power forwards, so Love should naturally fare well in this matchup. If that wasn’t enough, the Knicks are allowing the fifth most points per possessions on post ups, where Love ranks towards the top of the league. Porzingis is tall and lanky with a long wingspan, but he has plenty of work to do as a defender and is awkward moving against players in the post and in the pick-and-roll, so the savvy veteran should have no trouble taking advantage of these weaknesses. Love is a strong mid-range power forward option in what’s likely to be a high-scoring affair at Madison Square Garden.


It’s hard not to like Paul George in a plus matchup with the Suns, as his salary has come down considerably across the board. He isn’t posting elite numbers this season, and his usage is down to an underwhelming 26 percent, Phoenix has been so putrid on defense that matchup and minutes should mitigate the loss possessions. The Suns are coughing up 113 points per game on the season, which serves as the second worst mark in all of basketball. They’re also allowing the highest 3-point percentage to their opponents, which should serve George well on Wednesday. This contest owns one of the highest totals on the night (218.5), so it wouldn’t be the worst idea to get some exposure here at a discounted cost.


On the other side of this game, Eric Bledsoe makes for a stellar tournament play who should be under-owned across the board. He isn’t exactly discounted at $7,400 on DraftKings and $8,100 on FanDuel, but he’s tallied 50-plus fantasy points in four of his last seven games, and should offer similar upside on Wednesday with this game projected to stay close. Bledsoe is truly one of the most volatile fantasy options in basketball, but as he’s displayed over the past couple weeks, he’s also capable of producing 7-plus times his salary in favorable matchups. Bledsoe’s usage is climbing considerably of late, sitting at 30 percent over his last eight games. He’s also churning out 1.34 FPPM in the process, so there’s a lot to like here on a night where everyone will understandably flock to Walker and Dragic at a similar cost. Kyrie Irving would be the GPP point guard to target on FanDuel where he’s $800 cheaper than Bledsoe.


The Nuggets did a phenomenal job at containing Joel Embiid the other night by swarming him in the post and sticking to him like glue in the pick-and-roll. While they could theoretically execute a similar gameplan against Brook Lopez on Wednesday, I don’t see that being the case. Lopez is also underpriced compared to his upside, and despite Denver’s success against Embiid, they’ve really struggled to defend opposing bigs around the rim. Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic (assuming he plays) both own bottom-five marks in rim protection this season, and the Nuggets are serving up a league-high 58 percent shooting to opposing centers. Not only does this game own a mere 4.5-point spread in favor of Denver, but it’s amazingly sporting the second highest over-under on Wednesday’s slate. It’s hard not to like BroLo on a night where his minutes shouldn’t be limited.


Sean Kilpatrick also makes sense in this game, as he’s operating with a 27 percent usage rate over his last seven games with 1.09-FPPM production. Kilpatrick will likely post mixed results going forward, but his peripheral stats have been surprisingly solid for a shooting guard. Denver has struggled mightily to defend opposing guards, and while Will Barton (strong GPP play himself) is an upgrade from Jamal Murray, they’ll still offer up plenty of easy scoring opportunities to Kilpatrick on Wednesday. His FanDuel price is more palatable than DraftKings, where he should be reserved for GPPs.


DeAndre Jordan should eat well against the Warriors, both on the the defensive boards and cleaning up the garbage around the offensive rim. This should be a back-and-forth affair with plenty of possessions, so while Jordan isn’t the most athletic big in basketball, his services will be needed if L.A. stands any chance of slowing down the Warriors in the paint. The real reason Jordan is in play, though, is his depressed price point across the industry. We’re going to get 35-plus minutes of run at a low-$6K price point, and Jordan is averaging a healthy 14-point, 16-rebound double-double across 37 MPG over his last four meetings with Golden State.


I’m not overly confident in Draymond Green’s matchup with the Clippers, but he’s simply too cheap to overlook in another uptempo affair. At $7,700 on DraftKings and $7,900 on FanDuel, you’re looking at a worst case scenario of ~35 fantasy points with upside for 50-plus. I wouldn’t blame anyone for deploying him in cash games as a safe mid-range power forward option in the late-night hammer game.


CORE – Lou Williams; Kemba Walker [DraftKings]; Goran Dragic

SECONDARY – Kemba Walker [FanDuel]; Kevin Love; Paul George; Brook Lopez; Sean Kilpatrick [FanDuel]; DeAndre Jordan; Draymond Green

GPP – Eric Bledsoe; Sean Kilpatrick [DraftKings]; Nikola Vucevic [DraftKings]; Kyrie Irving




Josh McRoberts has been a fine value play since Erik Spoelstra decided to give him additional run in the starting lineup. With a plethora of injuries to Heat forwards (Winslow, J. Johnson, Babbitt), McBob is likely to see close to 30 minutes for the third straight game. He isn’t a scorer, and actually passes up open shots way more than he should, but he’s more than capable of posting well-rounded lines, and is one of the better passing bigs in the game. It’s realistic to project him for another 25 fantasy points against the Hawks, who have been amazingly bad in all facets of the game in recent weeks. Consider McRoberts a top value play until his salary rises above the near minimum or until Miami begins to get healthy.


Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier will both receive additional run with Isaiah Thomas sidelined, but neither are locks to produce serviceable fantasy totals. The hope here is that Rozier gets the spot start at point guard while Brad Stevens continues to deploy Smart off the bench. You won’t see high usage from Rozier, but with 25-27 minutes he should have little trouble paying off a minimum salary price tag across the board. If he does in fact start, Rozier would be one of the most appealing value options based on salary and matchup alone. This Magic backcourt isn’t slowing anyone down right now, and while Rozier isn’t likely to match John Wall’s 52-point explosion from Tuesday night, he won’t need more than 18-20 fantasy points to meet value.


John Henson draws a phenomenal matchup with the Blazers, who not only struggle to rebound, but have zero presence around the rim. Henson’s salary has risen of late, but he’s been very productive since Jason Kidd finally began to trust his most talented big man. Over his last five starts, Henson is averaging 13.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, three blocks and 31.1 DraftKings Point across 26 minutes per game. He’s churning out 1.21 FPPM in that span, and is racking up fantasy points in an assortment of ways, so it’s hard not to like him against Portland.


Greg Monroe makes for a strong tournament option in this same matchup, as he too is posting nearly 1.3 FPPM over his last five outings. Monroe should have his way in the post with whomever Terry Stotts decides to roll out at the position. Bismack Biyombo’s minutes are safer than both Henson’s and Monroe’s, but he doesn’t possess the same upside for GPPs. Consider Biyombo a strong cash game value play in a plus matchup with Boston’s undersized frontcourt.


Rostering Tim Hardaway Jr. is always a risky proposition, but it may be a necessary evil on Wednesday. Kent Bazemore is out with a sore right knee and Hardaway is scheduled to start in his place. Being that he’s already logging 25 MPG over his last four contests, I wouldn’t expect to see more than 30-32 minutes of court time for Hardaway, but it should be enough to return value at a near minimum salary cost. Keep in mind, however, that Mike Budenholzer won’t run him for 40 minutes just because Bazemore is out, and Hardaway’s usage is likely to drop significantly in the starting lineup. Fortunately, he’s cheap enough to not kill anyone if he finishes with only 20 fantasy points or somewhere in that range.


Tyler Johnson will continue to earn big minutes off the bench for Miami with the entire team being depleted, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play another 36 minutes as he did on Tuesday night. Johnson’s 24-DKPT performance last night should be considered his floor if he sees mid-30 minutes against the Hawks, but I’m expecting a much more impressive outing than that. Atlanta has surrendered monster fantasy totals to opposing guards, ranking bottom-five in both points and efficiency allowed. With Thabo Sefolosha playing the three, Johnson will be tasked with beating the unimposing defense of Dennis Schroder and Tim Hardaway, neither of whom we should be worried about. Playing off the bench will help increase his usage, and Johnson is one of the better value guards when it comes to racking up peripheral stats such as rebounds and steals. He’s a very strong option in both cash games and GPPs at a low-$5K price point.


Dwight Powell could be in GPP winning lineups on Wednesday, but his minutes have been difficult to predict. Salah Mejri has started the few games Andrew Bogut has missed this season, but it was Powell who inherited the minutes when the Aussie big man went down early in Monday’s loss to Charlotte. Powell saw 32 minutes of work in that game, and has now logged 24-plus minutes in four of his last five outings, so it’s reasonable to assume he cracks 30 minutes in a great matchup with the Kings. I’m expecting Powell to be low-owned based on the amount of available value on this 10-game slate, which should make him a strong tournament option at a dirt cheap price.


While Mike Malone screwed us over by playing Kenneth Faried only 12 minutes against the Sixers, it’s very difficult for me to ignore him on Wednesday. He’s obviously a GPP only play right now, but Faried should see solid run against Trevor Booker and the Nets. Now, he should see ~28 minutes in this matchup, but that doesn’t mean he will. This game owns a whopping 223 over-under and Denver isn’t likely to run away with the score, so if Faried happens to have himself a game, you’ll likely have him at sub-five percent ownership. There’s enough upside here to return to the well in GPPs, but only if you aren’t scared.


NOTE: Derrick Rose is questionable to play with back spasms that limited him to only 24 minutes of work in Tuesday’s win in Miami. If he is unable to play, Brandon Jennings would become a stellar value option in the starting lineup, and should see 30-plus minutes against Kyrie Irving’s lackluster defense. Keep this situation on your radar, as Jennings could easily rack up a points-assists double-double in the event that he starts.


CORE – Josh McRoberts; Terry Rozier [If he starts]; Tim Hardaway Jr.; Tyler Johnson; Brandon Jennings [If Rose is out]

SECONDARY – John Henson; Marcus Smart; Bismack Biyombo; Jae Crowder

GPP – Greg Monroe; Clint Capela; Dwight Powell [Top GPP play]; Kenneth Faried