NBA Deep Dive – 12/13/16


Russell Westbrook headlines this slate in a great matchup against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers.  His price has increased across the industry to a somewhat reasonable level, but this is a great matchup because Portland plays at a fast pace and does not have much in the way of on-ball perimeter defense or rim protection.  Westbrook lost his triple-double streak in his last game against Boston but it is almost a lock that he starts a new one tonight.

Damian Lillard returns home tonight for a premier matchup with Russell Westbrook.  Lillard is consistently better at home and has a history of huge games when he faces elite offensive point guards.  The downside to Lillard is that Andre Roberson, a very strong on-ball defender, will likely defend him.  Lillard is very expensive on FanDuel and is only in play in tournaments, but he is way too cheap on DraftKings and is a strong play in any format.

Steph Curry is an elite tournament pivot off Damian Lillard, particularly on DraftKings.  It is very difficult to predict where the production will come from for the Warriors, but in tournaments it will likely be worth considering Curry because if he has the hot hand early he will keep shooting and can easily outperform the more popular point guards priced around him often enough to be worth the decreased ownership he will have.

Derrick Rose is in a great spot for a very fair price against the Phoenix Suns.  Phoenix is playing at the fastest pace in the NBA and Rose has been very productive lately for the Knicks.  Phoenix has the 7th worst defensive rating in the league and Rose should be able to take advantage.  He is a strong option in any format tonight.

Dennis Schroder continues to impress even after the return of Paul Millsap.  His usage rate for the season is 27 percent and he has a 33.8 percent assist rate to go along with it.  His minutes have been up lately, playing at least 31 in each of his last three games and 40 in his last one.  Earlier in the season it appeared that he did not have a high ceiling despite his high usage rate, but he has proved that idea wrong with his recent play.  His price has jumped to $6,900 on FanDuel, which is still playable, but he is still too cheap on DraftKings at only $6,200.

Core:  Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose

Secondary: Steph Curry, Eric Bledsoe, Kyrie Irving, Rajon Rondo, Dennis Schroder

Value: Elfrid Payton, Jerian Grant (Rondo Q), Semaj Christon (Oladipo Q)



C.J. McCollum is in a very good spot tonight against the Thunder.  Andre Roberson will likely be tasked with defending Damian Lillard, which will leave Russell Westbrook on McCollum.  Westbrook is not a particularly good defender and tends to rest on the defensive end, which makes it a funnel spot for McCollum since his matchup will be so much better than Lillard’s.  McCollum is capable of scoring in bunches and has had success in this spot before.  He is one of my favorite shooting guard plays, as well as one of my favorite tournament plays regardless of position because he is a pivot off Dwyane Wade and a leverage play if you are not playing Damian Lillard.

Dwyane Wade faces the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have struggled to defend the three-point line this season.  Wade has improved his three-point shooting in order to fit better in the Chicago offense and help space the floor.  He should have success in that department tonight and is a viable option in cash games and tournaments, although I personally love pivoting to McCollum in tournaments.

Devin Booker commented recently that defenses are keying in on him and doing everything they can to prevent him from scoring.  The good news, is that the Phoenix coaching staff reiterated that they want him to continue being aggressive offensively despite the increased attention he is receiving.  The Knicks have the 5th worst defensive rating in the league and they do not have strong enough defenders that they can limit Booker even if they want to.  Booker’s price is falling as a result of his relatively poor play lately and it is low enough that he has a very high ceiling for his price in tournaments.  He makes for a great 2nd option alongside McCollum or Wade.

Tony Allen will see heavy minutes tonight, especially if Vince Carter remains out.  Allen’s defensive abilities will be needed against LeBron James and this strong Cleveland offensive unit which helps to solidify his minutes.  In addition, Marc Gasol is out so there will be more shots to go around.  Allen’s price is up across the industry but he remains a strong value play.

Troy Daniels is a high-upside, high-risk GPP option.  The Grizzlies will need someone to take over the scoring workload with Gasol out and Daniels has shown in the past that he is capable of carrying the team offensively if he gets hot.  His price has dropped as a result of a couple of lackluster games, but the ceiling is still there.  In 113 minutes this season without Gasol, Carter, Conley, Parsons or Ennis on the floor, Daniels has a 28.1 percent usage rate, which indicates that he will be one of the main guys that the Grizzlies turn to for scoring.  At $3,900 on DraftKings and $4,300 on FanDuel, that gives him massive upside.

Core: C.J. McCollum, Dwyane Wade

Secondary: Devin Booker, Klay Thompson, Zach LaVine

Value: Troy Daniels, Tony Allen, Andre Roberson, E’Twaun Moore, Leandro Barbosa



LeBron James has been playing really well this season, hitting his ceiling more frequently than in the past.  He is a very strong cash game option on just about any slate, this one included.  It is difficult to envision him reaching his ceiling in this matchup against a Memphis team that is strong defensively and plays at a very slow pace, so the other high-end small forward options are more recommended for tournaments, but there is value in how high his floor is so you could do worse than rostering him in GPPs even though he isn’t the preferred tournament play at the position.

Kevin Durant has really struggled lately, failing to reach 50 DraftKings points in six consecutive games.  Part of the reason for that is his minutes being slightly limited by blowouts, along with a shooting slump.  Durant will break out of the slump sooner rather than later and regain his stroke that has led him to a 53.6 field goal percentage so far this season.  His usage rate is down a little bit during this cold streak, but not enough to be worried given how small the sample size is.  I expect the Warriors to start making an effort to get him going again by getting him involved early and, if that happens today, he will be in line for a huge game given the amount of points likely to be scored in this track meet against New Orleans.

Jimmy Butler continues to play heavy minutes and perform well, averaging 38.4 minutes per game over his last five and averaging 45.5 DraftKings points per game over that span.  Tonight, he faces Andrew Wiggins and the Timberwolves.  Wiggins is a ball-dominant wing, which means that Butler will have the opportunity for more defensive stats on top of what he already contributes in points, rebounds and assists.  This game will not be fast-paced, but Minnesota does struggle at the defensive end and Butler should be able to take advantage.  It is possible that he goes somewhat underowned because his price is relatively close to those of Durant and James.

Carmelo Anthony’s price continues to sit in the mid-high $7,000 range across the industry.  He has been a bit inconsistent lately, but should have success tonight.  He will likely be defended by P.J. Tucker, which is not an ideal matchup, but the pace of the game and lack of quality defenders on the floor to help Tucker should outweigh Tucker’s presence.  It is likely to be better to pay up to Durant, Butler or LeBron in cash games, but saving some money and rostering Anthony is a strong play in tournaments if it allows you to substantially increase your upside elsewhere.

Andrew Wiggins is in play in tournaments simply because his price is too low for his ceiling.  He does not have a good matchup against Jimmy Butler and the Bulls tonight, but he is not afraid to shoot and if he can get some shots to fall early we could see him be very aggressive throughout the game.  He will not produce big lines in this spot very often, but it is unusual to find players in his price range that are even capable of scoring the points that he can if he gets hot from the field.  He is not one of the best plays on the slate, but is a viable tournament option if you are in need of a mid-range small forward.

Core:  LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler

Secondary:  Carmelo Anthony, Andrew Wiggins

Value: Mo Harkless, P.J. Tucker, Andre Roberson, Thabo Sefolosha, Evan Turner



Anthony Davis is significantly cheaper than Russell Westbrook across the industry tonight, particularly on DraftKings where Westbrook is $12,700 and Davis is just $11,300.  Davis is in a fast-paced matchup with the Warriors where he will be defended by Draymond Green.  Green has proven capable of keeping Davis in check in the past, but Davis did erupt for 80 DraftKings points in one game against Green earlier this season.  This is a home game for Davis, which boosts his value because he tends to be credited with an extra block or two from the friendly home scorekeeping and it means there is a better chance the Pelicans keep it close.  Davis is a top option in any format on tonight’s slate.

Paul Millsap has been playing great since returning from injury and that should continue tonight against the Magic.  Orlando plays at a slow pace which is a downgrade for the Hawks’ players, but they have been weak in the frontcourt, as shown by Kenneth Faried, Nikola Jokic and co. the other night.  Millsap should be able to take advantage and post a big line in this one.  His price is creeping up across the industry, but he was underpriced before so it is still at a reasonable point where we can look to roster him.

Serge Ibaka is in another very good spot tonight, and it gets even better if one of the Orlando centers misses the game.  Millsap and the Hawks have struggled with forwards who can play away from the basket and have strong mid-range games and Ibaka fits that category.  Add in that the Hawks have strong perimeter defenders on the wings that can keep Evan Fournier in check and Ibaka will be needed even more to score.  His price is still slightly higher than we would like, but it is low enough that he still has a nice ceiling if his shot is falling and he should come at relatively low ownership in tournaments.

Kristaps Porzingis is a stronger cash play than tournament play tonight.  He proved me wrong against the Lakers when I said that I did not think he had a high enough ceiling for his price, but he also relied on three three-pointers and seven blocks to do so.  It is unlikely that we see a performance like that out of him again this season, but it did cause his price to increase somewhat.  He has a high floor because of the pace of the game and the weak Phoenix defense, but playing alongside Rose and Anthony caps his ceiling.  He is still in play in tournaments since he is in a good spot and the high floor does have some value, but he is preferred in cash games.


Core:  Anthony Davis, Paul Millsap, Kristaps Porzingis

Secondary: Serge Ibaka, Kevin Love, Draymond Green, JaMychal Green, Zach Randolph, Gorgui Dieng

Value: Taj Gibson (boost if Rondo active), Jarell Martin, Jared Dudley



Karl-Anthony Towns has been somewhat inconsistent this season but has shown that he can have big games from time to time.  Tonight is a spot where Minnesota likely needs him to be the focal point of the offense since Wiggins will be defended by Jimmy Butler.  The Bulls frontcourt is strong as well, but Towns can make things happen in the paint as well as away from the rim and is a matchup nightmare for anybody.  His price is in the mid-$8,000s on both DraftKings and FanDuel, and he is an appealing option in any format at that price point.

Dwight Howard is only in play in tournaments because his minutes are so inconsistent and he has shown he is very capable of disappearing even in good matchups.  He has also shown, however, that he is capable of huge fantasy performances, which makes him the prototypical GPP play.  Both centers on Orlando are questionable, so Howard could see a boost if Vucevic plays and Biyombo doesn’t.  Either way, it is a high upside spot for Howard but he cannot be relied on in cash games.

Steven Adams has been productive recently and matches up with a Portland frontcourt that cannot rebound and does not play defense.  Adams never feels like an exciting guy to roster, but it would be surprising if he does not at least flirt with a double-double in this matchup which makes him a nice play at his price.  Enes Kanter is a strong tournament play, particularly on DraftKings, for the same reasons as Adams- although Kanter’s minutes are obviously less stable, he produces at a high enough rate to make up for it.

Tristan Thompson gets a nice boost from Marc Gasol being out as he will be able to grab a ton of rebounds.  Whether or not he is able to score 10 points is likely what will decide if he gets a double-double, but there is a nice floor and relatively high ceiling for his price in this matchup.

Tyson Chandler is in the same price as Thompson and Adams tonight and faces his former team, the New York Knicks.  Alex Len is questionable for the game and, if he is out, Chandler should see extended minutes because the Suns rarely play without a traditional center.  If Len is in, it is still a nice spot for Chandler who generally plays around 30 minutes as long as he can stay out of foul trouble and Len does not get hot off the bench.  Len would be a strong tournament play, as well, if he plays.

Core: Karl-Anthony Towns, Steven Adams

Secondary: Dwight Howard, Mason Plumlee

Value: Tristan Thompson, Tyson Chandler, Enes Kanter, Alex Len