DEEP DIVE 11/16/16

With this being one of the most complicated slates of the season, we’re going to take a different approach with Wednesday’s Deep Dive. Instead of position-by-position analysis, we’ll break down the plays from different tiers in order to find enough value and mid-range options to create a quality lineup

HIGH-PRICED ($8,500+)

Russell Westbrook has no time for losing — he’s too busy shattering records this season. Through 11 games Westbrook is averaging 32 points, 9.9 assists, 9.7 rebounds and 62.3 DraftKings Points per game, the highest mark of any player this season. He’ll draw a home matchup with the Rockets on Friday that owns the third highest over-under on this slate and a mere two-point spread in favor of the Thunder. This is exactly the type of contest where Westbrook explodes for a massive triple-double, as he should have no trouble carving up Houston’s bottom-10 defense. Patrick Beverley remains sidelined, so no matter who Mike D’Antoni tries to match with Westbrook it isn’t going to matter. There isn’t a guard on this team that can slow him down, which is why Houston will look to fight fire with fire by focusing on scoring instead of containment. He’s a top play on Wednesday’s 11-game slate, and there’s no two ways around it.

James Harden has matched Westbrook’s production every step of the way this season, as he leads the league in assists and ranks fourth in scoring through the first three weeks. If you weren’t aware of how involved Harden is in the Rockets’ offense, the eighth-year guard has totaled more assists personally than the Rockets have as a team! With 34 percent usage and 99.3 touches per game (leads league), it’s virtually impossible for Harden to finish with sub-stellar fantasy totals in this type of matchup. He and Westbrook are far and away the two top options on Wednesday’s slate, and if value opens up across the other positions, I wouldn’t be opposed to playing both of them in the same lineup. If we can only fit one, however, Harden makes more sense based on positional scarcity, as the point guard position offers a lot more depth than shooting guard on any given night.

Anthony Davis has lost some shine after combining for 175 DraftKings Points over his first two starts of the season. While the freakishly gifted 6’11” forward is still posting solid numbers, he hasn’t been able to keep pace with either of the aforementioned guards, and that will lessen his appeal until his salary balances out. That being said, I always look to get a sprinkle of Davis into my lineups (6-10% exposure) in the event that he erupts for a monster game and the other high-end options fail to produce. Davis’ upside has been limited of late, but he’s still tallied 50-plus fantasy points in five straight starts, while sporting a 34 percent usage rate with 22 field goal attempts per game on the year. Since this is a slate with the league’s two top fantasy scorers, Davis should be under-owned across the board, making him more appealing in tournaments that he would be on a routine night of games.

DeMar DeRozan is no longer affordable, but he’s no longer a volatile boom-or-bust shooting guard with terrible shot selection, either — at least I don’t think he is. Let me explain: after watching DeRozan through his first 10 games of the 2016-17 campaign, I’ve noticed some huge adjustments in his game; the league’s leading scorer with 33.2 points per game is still taking a ton of mid-range jump shots, but he’s creating better looks. He unsurprisingly leads the league in pull-up shooting (13.7 PPG), and is knocking them down at a 53 percent clip. DeRozan is still taking a lot of contested jump shots, but he’s getting to the rim a lot, too, averaging 11.6 drives per game with nearly 40 percent of his total points coming in the paint. Furthermore, DeRozan is managing to find the open man when teams decide to double team him, which should boost his fantasy totals in the event of an off-shooting night. His 38 percent usage, 25 FGA/G, and career-high 1.6 steals per game should allow for him to post impressive fantasy totals against the Warriors, as this game owns the highest over-under on the night. It’s hard to worry about Klay Thompson’s defense when DeRozan’s volume, vision and execution have all been electric this season.

John Wall will go overlooked on Wednesday, but he’s going to make for an excellent tournament play with Bradley Beal already ruled out. The problem with Wall, however, is Joel Embiid has also been ruled out, so the Sixers stand little chance of keeping this game close, even at home against an underperforming Wizards club. Wall’s 33 percent usage rate is the highest of his career, and despite the limited sample, he is sporting 43 percent usage in 81 minutes with Beal off the court this season. That numbers isn’t sustainable, but it speaks to how involved Wall is in this Wizards offense. He attempted a season-high 24 field goals with Beal out against Cleveland, and could finish with similar volume on Wednesday if Philadelphia manages to keep this even remotely competitive. There’s no chance Sergio Rodriguez or T.J. McConnell will be able to contain him, and even if he isn’t shooting well, Wall boasts a 45 percent assist rate on the year. He’s too productive to disappoint, especially in a plus matchup with the Sixers. EDIT: Wall’s minutes will be monitored on Wednesday, making him a GPP-only option at the point guard position.

Kawhi Leonard is one of my favorite GPP options on Wednesday night, as he could legitimately be under five percent owned in the majority of large field tournaments. Leonard is capable of producing 60-plus fantasy points on any given night, and considering he owns the highest usage rate of his career (33%), we can expect more monster performances in the near future. With this contest owning an unsightly 196.5 over-under, every one will fade it entirely, but Leonard has already turned in multiple 50-fantasy point performances in games owning sub-200 over-unders. Keep him on the radar for GPPs, as he is still somewhat affordable, and the Spurs are only 5.5-point favorites on the road.

LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo are fades on Wednesday, as we can’t risk rostering them over the likes of Westbrook or Harden. James was a stellar play last night against a Carroll-less Toronto team that has been a sieve around the rim, but he’ll likely take more of a backseat role on Wednesday with Cleveland playing their second of a back-to-back on the road. This isn’t a bad matchup for LeBron, but it’s definitely not an optimal spot to deploy him based on the size of the slate. Antetokounmpo faces a stout Atlanta defense that has done an excellent job of containing him in the past. Antetokounmpo makes his living around the rim, where he attempts more than 60 percent of his shots, and life will get harder for him if Dwight Howard is active. Even if Howard sits, Antetokounmpo will have to be very efficient in order to pay off his price tag. It’s best to look elsewhere here on such a large slate of games.

I was tempted to write DeMarcus Cousins off entirely, too, but the more I consider the matchup, the more intrigued I am by Boogie. Opposing bigs with size and strength have bullied Pau Gasol for years now, and we’ve seen this be the case with Andre Drummond and Hassan Whiteside over the past week. While Cousins isn’t as talented a rebounder, but he’s infinitely more skilled as a scorer, and should be able to take advantage of Gasol both down low and outside. Moreover, if Leonard is guarding Rudy Gay, Cousins should see even more volume than he has over the first three weeks. Pace has curbed Cousins’ fantasy value this season, but his price has dropped to $8,900 on DraftKings! This is the cheapest we’ll see Boogie fall all season long, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him tally 50-plus fantasy points with relative ease this evening. He’s cash viable on DraftKings, but should be reserved for GPPs on FanDuel, where you can only roster one center and he’s still priced at $9,600.

CORE – Russell Westbrook; James Harden

SECONDARY – DeMarcus Cousins [DraftKings]; DeMar DeRozan

GPP – Anthony Davis; Kawhi Leonard; DeMarcus Cousins [FanDuel]

FADES – LeBron James; Giannis Antetokounmpo; John Wall

MID-RANGE ($6,000-$8,400)

Kyle Lowry makes for an elite mid-range guard on Wednesday, and is a perfect pivot off of DeRozan if you aren’t looking to pay a premium for Toronto’s two-guard. Lowry has tallied 50-plus fantasy points in three of his last eight games, while failing to eclipse the 40-fantasy point mark only twice in that span. He’s logging nearly 40 minutes per game, and still owns a 25 percent FGA share despite playing alongside DeRozan. In a game where Steve Kerr could look to take DeRozan out of the game, Lowry should see ample opportunity to produce, as we saw glimpses of this on Tuesday against the Cavaliers. The veteran point guard is simply too cheap to overlook in a contest owning a 221 over-under and a 6-point spread. This should be a back and forth affair with huge fantasy totals on both ends of the floor, and Lowry should be the biggest beneficiary for the Raptors.

The Indiana Pacers have struggled mightily to containing opposing frontcourts this season, allowing the third most points, second most rebounds, and third highest efficiency to opposing bigs. Moreover, the Pacers are allowing the most field goal attempts and three-point attempts to frontcourts, which should work heavily in Kevin Love’s favor on Wednesday night. Love, for the first time since coming to Cleveland, has been heavily involved in the Cavaliers’ offense, averaging 16.4 FGA/36 with a 27 percent usage rate and 7.7 free throw attempts per game. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better cash game play this year, as Love has finished with fewer than 35 fantasy points only once, while posting 40-plus fantasy points in five of ten games. At a mid-$7K price point across the board, there’s no reason to overlook Love in such a favorable matchup with a hefty 212.5 over-under.

In the same conversation as Love is Draymond Green, who has been one of the most consistent players in all of basketball this season. Green is a nightly triple-double threat with averages of 10.9 points, 10.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game, but he’s also no stranger to stuffing the box score elsewhere, adding 2.3 steals and 1.6 blocks in the process. Against a Toronto frontcourt led by Pascal Siakam, Jonas Valanciunas and Lucas Nogueira, I don’t see any way Green struggles to produce in this matchup. The Warriors will once again be involved in a high-scoring, uptempo affair, and I’d be surprised to see a blowout with this game coming on the road. Consider Green a strong secondary option once again, who is a near lock to finish with 40-plus fantasy points on the night. We’ll also want to strongly consider Paul Millsap if Dwight Howard is unable to play. He’s averaging 1.21 FPPM with Howard off the court this season, and see his usage jump to nearly 30 percent. Millsap would be bumped above Kevin Love if Howard is sidelined against the Bucks.

It brings me no pleasure to announce this, but Carmelo Anthony is still in play. Despite posting 40-plus fantasy points in four of his last six starts, the veteran ball hog remains affordable across the board, and with the small forward position being shallower than ever, we’ll have to consider him at a sub-$8K price. Anthony is sporting a 30 percent usage rate with a 30.2 percent field goal attempt share in New York, which is the exact volume we’re looking for when targeting mid-range options. Detroit has played respectable defense this year, but they’re allowing 1.00 points per possession on isolation plays, where Melo ranks third in basketball. This contests owns a mere one-point spread in favor of the Knicks, so assuming Anthony isn’t ejected for racking up two technical fouls, he should log around 35 minutes with north of one FPPM produced in the process.

Markieff Morris sees his usage jump more than three percent with Bradley Beal off the court, which should benefit him greatly on Wednesday when his Wizards take on the Embiid-less Sixers. Philadelphia’s DRtg is seven points worse with Embiid off the court, while their Net Rating drops to 17.6. More importantly, however, is the fact that bigs are eating the Sixers alive when Embiid is sidelined, as their points in the paint jumps from 22 to 32 per game, second chance points spike to 9.2 from 5.1, and their eFG rises considerably to 55 percent. Embiid has made Philly’s frontcourt defense respectable when he’s on the floor, but they have been putrid when playing without him. Morris should log 30-plus minutes in this plus matchup, and shouldn’t have much trouble producing now that Beal and Embiid have officially been ruled out. Whether he’s used as a lower mid-range cash game play for balanced lineups, or a low-owned tournament option, Kieff offers plenty of value on Wednesday night.

Harrison Barnes is still priced at only $6,000 on FanDuel, which keeps him in play for yet another night. While he doesn’t possess even close to the same talent as players like LeBron James or James Harden, he is seeing similar volume as a shooter (17.7 FGA/G) and leads the league in minutes (37.8) behind only Kyle Lowry. At his current price point Barnes doesn’t need to play efficient basketball — he simply needs to play. Barnes is averaging 25.4 points, 20 field goal attempts and six free throw attempts per game over his last five starts, and should have no trouble exceeding value against Boston’s struggling defense with Jae Crowder and Al Horford remaining sidelined.

If you’re looking to diversify at point guard, Eric Bledsoe makes for an interesting pivot. He hasn’t been overly assertive this season, which has curtailed his fantasy production, but anyone is capable of producing excellent numbers against Denver’s 30th ranked backcourt. Through three weeks the Nuggets are surrendering the most assists, highest offensive efficiency and third most points to opposing guards, and they will once again be without Will Barton and Gary Harris on Wednesday. I’d expect Bledsoe and Devin Booker to both be relatively low-owned, which makes them sexy GPP plays with inviting price tags. This tilt between Phoenix and Denver owns a whopping 221 over-under, and neither team is good enough to run up the score. T.J. Warren also warrants some attention, as he continues to shoot 17-plus times with ~35 minutes per game.

CORE – Kyle Lowry; Kevin Love; Paul Millsap [Check Dwight Howard Status]

SECONDARY – Draymond Green; Carmelo Anthony; Markieff Morris; Harrison Barnes [FanDuel]; Devin Booker; Marcin Gortat

GPP – Eric Bledsoe; T.J. Warren; Otto Porter

VALUE ($3,000-$5,900)

The Denver Nuggets will be a large source of value on Wednesday night, as they will be without Will Barton and Gary Harris once again. Jameer Nelson is slated to see another 30-plus minutes against the Suns in what’s projected to be the highest scoring contest on the evening. Phoenix is allowing the most points and field goal attempts to opposing backcourts this season, while serving up the most free throw attempts and third highest OEff to the guard positions. This has been a huge area of trouble for the Suns dating back a couple seasons now, and they’ve apparently done nothing to patch the holes in their defense.

Not only is Nelson in play, but Jamal Murray also possesses some value at a near minimum salary cost. Murray is finally beginning to find his stroke from beyond the arc, and has now attempted 19 three-pointers over his last three games. Even Danilo Gallinari warrants some attention at a sub-$6K price on both FanDuel and DraftKings. He is solely reliant on points to fuel his fantasy totals, but Gallo should have no trouble getting up high percentage shots in what’s certain to be a very high scoring affair.

There are a couple mid-$5K point guards with some intrigue tonight, including Elfrid Payton. Elf has been a rollercoaster ride of production to start the year, but he shouldn’t have much trouble in a home matchup with the Pelicans. New Orleans is playing at a top-10 pace and should look to speed this game up on the road, while Payton should embrace the challenge against a Frazier/Moore-led backcourt.

Dwight Howard is questionable to play Wednesday after suffering a quad contusion that knocked him out of last night’s win over Miami. Howard described the injury as “super painful” so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sit this one out. If he isn’t able to play, Mike Muscala would become a core value play across the board, as he is already averaging north of one fantasy point per minute in 20 MPG this season. Milwaukee’s frontcourt is far from imposing, and they also lack size outside of Greg Monroe off the bench. Muscala should also play through a blowout, so there’s really no reason to avoid him in any format if Howard is out.

Sheldon McClellan is a player in the National Basketball Association. I bet half of you reading this had never heard of him before, and I certainly wouldn’t blame you. That being said, the undrafted rookie started and played 35 minutes with Bradley Beal sidelined last time out, and he could do more of the same on Wednesday if Scott Brooks gives him the nod. Marcus Thornton was terrible in his spot start over the weekend, and although McClellan wasn’t great, he didn’t turn the ball over once and shot 5-9 from the field. McClellan should earn plenty of minutes whether this game stays close or develops into a blowout, and at the dead minimum across the board, won’t need any more than 20 fantasy points to pay off his price tag.

Richaun Holmes is a GPP punt for those of you looking to stack studs in tournament lineups. He doesn’t provide much upside, but at near minimum salary Holmes is capable of churning out around 25 fantasy points against the Wizards. He’ll see solid minutes with Embiid sidelined, and won’t need much more than 10 points, six rebounds and a couple assists, blocks or steals to pay off his price tag. Jaahlil Okafor is also worth considering in GPPs. He’s restricted to 25 minutes, but is sporting a 28 percent usage rate and won’t have to contend with Joel Embiid for touches. Okafor is cheap enough to consider across the board, and is a strong enough scorer to rack up a nice double-double in under 30 minutes of work.

If Howard plays and we lose Muscala as a value play, Steven Adams would become a more appealing option. He isn’t a full out punt, but Adams is cheap enough to warrant consideration in a very appealing matchup with Houston. The Oklahoma City center is logging north of 31 MPG and is going to be afforded additional rebounding, shot-blocking and putback opportunities with the pace of this contest. So far this season, Houston is allowing the fifth highest field goal percentage at the rim, which should work in Adams’ favor assuming he’s able to stay out of foul trouble against the driving James Harden.

CORE – Jameer Nelson; Mike Muscala;

SECONDARY – Jamal Murray; Sheldon McClellan; Steven Adams; Elfrid Payton

GPP – Danilo Gallinari; Wilson Chandler; Jahlil Okafor; Richaun Holmes