NBA DEEP DIVE 11/18/16

We’ll take a tiered approach for Friday’s article, breaking down top plays and roster construction by price point. Larger slates are easier to navigate by tier, but sometimes pricing won’t align across all sites, so we may have some players who are slate-specific depending on salary discrepancies.


HIGH-PRICED ($8,500+)


Russell Westbrook is the best fantasy option in all of basketball, but that doesn’t mean we must lock him in every time he’s on the schedule. Friday’s home tilt with Brooklyn is a prime spot to fade in cash, as Westbrook owns a exorbitant price tag across the board. He’s still in a spot to post monster fantasy totals against a porous Nets backcourt, but there’s also a chance he won’t play more than 28 minutes. We’ve seen Westbrook triple-double in 20 minutes against the 76ers so this isn’t to say he isn’t capable of crushing, but the point guard position is loaded with premier talent, making for easy pivots at considerable discounts.


Speaking of viable pivots, Stephen Curry is $2,900 cheaper than Westbrook on DraftKings and $2,300 less expensive on FanDuel. In a contest owning a Goliath 226 over-under it’ll be difficult for Curry to finish with less than 50 fantasy points. He’s appears to have acclimated to life with Kevin Durant, and is now averaging 33.6 points, 6.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 6.4 threes and 52.5 DraftKings Points per game over his last five starts. Curry has tallied 30-plus points and 50-plus fantasy points all but once in that span, while his usage rate has increased around five percent from his first six games. Boston’s backcourt defense was elite last season, but they’ve struggled in all facets of the game to start the year. Isaiah Thomas stands no shot of guarding Curry if Avery Bradley guards Klay Thompson, but even if roles are reversed it shouldn’t make a difference. Curry is an elite option with a depressed price point, and playing on the road should keep this game close enough for him to play his full allotment of minutes.


Kevin Durant is also in play as the fifth highest priced player on FanDuel and fourth highest priced player on DraftKings. The former league MVP has seen his usage rate dip only 1.2 percent from his career average despite playing alongside a stable of all-stars, while he’s attempting more field goals (18.6 per 36) and collecting more rebounds (8.2 per 36) in the process. The Warriors are averaging seven more points per game than the next best team this season, and their third fastest pace allows for fantasy points to be distributed nicely throughout the starting lineup. With Jae Crowder doubtful to play, Boston will have no one even semi-capable of containing Durant on Friday night. The good news here is that Golden State owns a bottom-10 defense to start the season, which should result in a closely contested affair and a full helping of minutes for the Dubs’ starting five. Durant is a strong option across the board, especially considering the small forward position is the weakest of the bunch.


DeMarcus Cousins saw his $8,900 price tag on DraftKings Wednesday and thought to himself, “No one disrespects me like that.” He finished with a beautiful 26-point, 17-rebound, six-assist double-double in 37 minutes against the Spurs, and also saw quality minutes once the game got out of hand. He’s still very affordable on DraftKings, and while this matchup with the Clippers isn’t ideal, Cousins could easily eclipse the 50-fantasy point mark in 35 minutes of work. He’s so gifted physically that any matchup works in his favor; size, strength, athleticism, range, Cousins has it all. The Kings are 7.5-point home dogs against an L.A. team that has looked virtually unbeatable early on, but we’d be remiss to not point out his exceedingly low price point on DraftKings. Boogie is by no means a must play on this loaded 10-game slate, but he’s certainly viable at $9,300, as anyone with this much talent and a 35 percent usage rate should be considered every night.


Anthony Davis draws a very strong matchup Friday, but I cannot in good conscience recommend a player whose injury history is as checkered as they come. Portland is dead last in rebounding, bottom-five in points allowed in the paint, and towards the bottom in rim protection, too, but paying a premium for Davis presents unnecessary risk on a night where there’s a bounty of alternative options. I could understand wanting to deploy Davis in tournaments assuming he’s healthy enough to play, but you’d be rolling the dice on him both staying healthy and producing elite fantasy totals with Jrue Holiday back on the court.


DeMar DeRozan appears to be the only person on earth who isn’t aware of how unusual his early season performance has been. Through 11 games, the veteran two-guard is shooting north of 50 percent on mid-range field goals, which is insane when you consider nearly 60 percent of his shots are coming inside the arc and outside of the paint. We’ve seen flashes of Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson in DeRozan, who is hoisting up a ridiculous 24 field goals per game. Here’s the truth: DeRozan is going to keep producing big fantasy numbers so long as he’s taking 36 percent of his team’s shots while on the court (second to only Russell Westbrook) and operating with a 37.3 percent usage rate (third behind Westbrook and Joel Embiid). Volume is king, and DeRozan is wearing the crown. Friday’s matchup with Denver is as juicy as it gets, especially now that Will Barton and Gary Harris are sidelined. He’s a strong secondary option on DraftKings and a GPP play on FanDuel, but we’ll have to keep DeRozan on the radar until he slows down or is priced out of contention.


Finally, Kawhi Leonard always makes for one of my favorite tournament options on large slates, as he’ll go criminally under-owned despite owning a mid-$8K price point across the board. Not only is Leonard capable of dropping 45 fantasy points in three quarters of play, but the Lakers are playing well enough to keep things close, subsequently resulting in a potential 35-plus minutes of work. Leonard’s 32 percent usage rate is the highest of his career, and he can create his own shot as good as anyone in basketball (60% of made field goals have been unassisted). Leonard can knock down shots from anywhere on the court, is one of the best pick-pocketers in the game (ranks 3rd with 2.4 STL/G), and is also getting to the line 7.3 time per contest (career high). At his price, Leonard should always be considered, especially on the road against the Lakers. If this slate wasn’t jam packed full of elite high-priced options, Leonard would be a strong cash game play on all sites.


CORE – Stephen Curry

SECONDARY – Kevin Durant; DeMarcus Cousins [DraftKings]; DeMar DeRozan [DraftKings]; Kawhi Leonard [FanDuel]

GPP – Russell Westbrook; DeMarcus Cousins [FanDuel]; DeMar DeRozan [FanDuel]; Kawhi Leonard [DraftKings]

FADES – Anthony Davis


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


Draymond Green has arguably been the most consistent player in basketball through almost a month, tallying 35-plus fantasy points in 11 straight starts, while averaging 42 FPPG over that span. He’s an absolute stud, especially in these massive over-under games like we have on Friday. With a 226 total against the Celtics Green offers legitimate triple-double upside, as he is already averaging three assists shy of one on the season. He’s $8,000 on DraftKings and $8,200 on FanDuel, far too cheap to ignore in this matchup. Boston is allowing the second most points, fifth most rebounds, and fourth highest offensive efficiency to opposing frontcourts this season, and even if Al Horford returns their problems won’t be solved. Green is an elite mid-range option in all formats, and I personally will have plenty of him on Friday. I prefer him over Blake Griffin, who is a better play on DraftKings than FanDuel.


Kyle Lowry has been studly of late, having tallied 40-plus fantasy points in seven of his last nine starts. He’s racking up excellent numbers in an assortment of categories, and hasn’t been hindered by DeRozan’s massive usage. It’s amazing that Lowry remains under $8,000 on DraftKings, but even at $8,300 on FanDuel he’s a solid play. Denver’s backcourt defense has been putrid this season, ranking bottom-three in points, field goal attempts, field goal percentage and efficiency allowed to opposing guards. They pose an elite matchup for both Lowry and DeRozan, but Lowry is a safer bet to reach 40 fantasy points on Friday. Lowry is one of the safest cash game plays available considering he leads the entire league in minutes (38.4 MPG), and also ranks third in touches behind only Westbrook and James Harden. Keep playing him until he’s priced out of play.


The point guard position is so ridiculously deep that you could make a legitimate argument for Chris Paul, Kemba Walker and Isaiah Thomas in cash. I wouldn’t blame anyone for pivoting away from Lowry to one of those three guards, but I still have him ranked atop the bunch based on price point and matchup. That being said, we’d be crazy to overlook Paul at only $8,500 on DraftKings.


Paul George has been negatively impacted by Nate McMillan’s offense, where despite increasing the pace, he has elected to move the ball around at an exceedingly high rate. The Pacers are fourth in assists and second in field goal attempts, though, so although George may not be seeing the same usage, there should be enough work to go around. Friday’s home tilt with Phoenix owns a whopping 216.5 over-under with Indiana owning the fourth highest implied total on the night (111.5). George’s $8,100 price tag on DraftKings creates plenty of appeal, and with 45-plus fantasy points in three of his last four starts, there’s reason to believe he’ll succeed again this evening. I don’t see the need to roster him over Kawhi Leonard on FanDuel, though, where George is actually $100 more expensive.


Pau Gasol has been an interesting, yet somewhat predictable case study this season, mostly because we’re seeing a repeat of LaMarcus Aldridge’s first few weeks with the Spurs in 2015. Aldridge got off to a very slow start with the Spurs — one can only imagine the level of difficulty in learning Popovich’s system no matter how intelligent or how experienced the player — but turned it around entirely once he began to acclimate. It appears as though we’re seeing a similar evolution with Gasol, who after averaging 23 fantasy points and 22 minutes through his first eight games has erupted for 36 and 33 per game respectively over his last four starts.


Gasol’s fantasy value may not be as dead as we thought; if Popovich continues to run him for 30-plus minutes per game, there’s no doubt he’ll be able to average north of one fantasy point per minute. Gasol, despite a disappointing campaign thus far, is still posting 1.1 FPPM, and his usage has spiked to 25 percent over that stretch. Still a supremely talented big man, Gasol should be able to pay off his low-$6K price tag against the Lakers, who legitimately have no bigs capable of handling him for 48 minutes. Oh, and a little sweet revenge never hurt anybody. I’m very tempted to label him a core play, but we’ll call him secondary for now — only because he plays for the Spurs. He should, however, see a bit more safety in minutes with Dewayne Dedmon sidelined.


Harrison Barnes is still underpriced on FanDuel. It’s like they’re begging you to play him every night, which in the event that you’ve obliged has worked out quite well for you. Barnes is averaging 36.4 FanDuel Points per game over his last five starts, which is exactly six times his salary. He’s been remarkably consistent with the Mavericks, which is a direct result of the massive volume he’s seeing every night; Barnes is averaging 17.3 FGA per 36, and leads the Mavs in points per touch (.389). Deron Williams, Dirk Nowitzki and J.J. Barea are sidelined Friday, and Barnes owns a ridiculous 37 percent usage rate in 71 minutes with them off the court. He’s second in minutes with 38.1 per game, and that shouldn’t change against the Grizzlies. Barnes could definitely have drawn a better matchup, but volume trumps all in a scenario like this. His FanDuel price is simply too cheap to overlook on a night where he will do everything for Dallas.


On DraftKings, Nicolas Batum would be the lower mid-range small forward to target if you’re looking to take that direction. He’s churned out 40-plus DKPT in three straight starts, and draws a home matchup with a Sefolosha-less Hawks team. Atlanta plays very quality defense, but Batum has been outstanding at home over his career, and he continues to log big minutes for the Hornets. Not an elite scorer or high usage wing, Batum earns his living by dishing out assists, hauling in rebounds, swiping steals and knocking down the shots when provided the opportunity. He truly is one of the more reliable fantasy options when playing well, and right now he’s playing fantastic basketball.


DeAndre Jordan has turned in some pedestrian results thus far, but much of this has been a byproduct of blowouts, as the Clippers own a league-leading 14.9 plus/minus this season. He should see solid run against the Kings, though, as Doc Rivers will need him to guard Cousins for long stretches of this contest. Sacramento is an eight-point home dog and might get their doors blown off early, but Jordan will go under-owned based on recent results, and is cheap enough to consider a strong tournament play on Friday. I prefer Pau Gasol over Jordan in cash at a similar price, though.


Jrue Holiday averaged right around 34 fantasy points in 28.8 minutes per game off the bench last season, and was remarkably consistent despite not starting nearly two thirds of his contests. It’s hard to gauge how Holiday will produce on Friday in his season debut, and Jeff Teague would make for a more appealing cash game play in this price range, but Holiday offers GPP appeal at his current DraftKings salary. We’ve seen him post 40-plus DKPT in less than 30 MPG before, and it’s not like his minutes will be limited due to injury. He’s stayed in shape, is conditioned, and doesn’t have any nagging ailments, so if this game stays close and Gentry decides to let him play, Holiday will offer huge returns on that $6,000 price point. Outside of Anthony Davis, the Pelicans are entirely devoid of both scoring and playmaking — Holiday will be a more than welcomed addition to this struggling basketball team.


Myles Turner is an attractive GPP play, too, as his production has been so volatile that most will avoid him in an optimal matchup. With Tyson Chandler ruled out, Phoenix will rely on Alex Len and Marquese Chriss to man the frontcourt. Simply put, that’s not a pairing any coach would feel good about containing the opposition. Turner has big game upside in his scoring, and if he starts knocking down shots early it’s likely that he’ll continue to get big opportunities in one of the highest projected scoring games of the night (216.5 O/U).


CORE – Draymond Green; Kyle Lowry; Chris Paul [DraftKings]

SECONDARY – Blake Griffin; Chris Paul [FanDuel]; Isaiah Thomas; Paul George [DraftKings]; Pau Gasol; Harrison Barnes [FanDuel]; Nicolas Batum [DraftKings]

GPP – Kemba Walker; Paul George [FanDuel]; Jrue Holiday [DraftKings]; DeAndre Jordan; Myles Turner; Avery Bradley; Nicolas Batum [FanDuel]


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


Breaking down the $5K range value plays starts with Kenneth Faried, who remains a solid option on DraftKings. Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic are effectively playing their ways out of the Nuggets’ rotation, while Faried continues to surge in the starting lineup. He owns massive double-double upside, is a capable shot-blocker and is active enough on defense to gather steals as well. I’ll continue to utilize him as a GPP play, and this matchup with Toronto shouldn’t change much. The Raptors don’t scare anyone around the rim, and have allowed plenty second chance points this season, which are one of Faried’s specialties. With the big game potential he possesses, the Manimal should always be on the radar in closely contested affairs. It doesn’t seem like Darrell Arthur is going to eat into his playing time quite yet, but the risk takes Faried out of cash game consideration.


Marcus Smart will continue to get heavy minutes with Crowder sidelined, and what better time to capitalize on expanded run than a matchup with Golden State? Smart isn’t the best FPPM producer, but he won’t need to be with the minutes and pace he’ll be falling into on Friday. While Smart can be used in cash games, both Monta Ellis and Victor Oladipo are GPP pivots at the guard position. I’m slightly worried about people chasing Oladipo’s last game, which makes him less appealing in tournaments, but Ellis has been playing better of late and is entering a game with a hefty 216.5 total. I’ll like Ellis even more if McMillan banishes him back to the bench, as he’ll see the same minutes but usage will increase exponentially.


Mason Plumlee’s limited minutes are keeping him from being an excellent fantasy option this season. He’s averaging a fantasy point per minute and six assists per 36, proving to be one of the more versatile bigs in the game. We can’t trust him to play 30 minutes, but at his current price point Plumlee is cash viable on Friday. GPP appeal is lessened considerably, though, as Terry Stotts isn’t giving him enough breathing room to produce. I’d rather gamble on Alex Len, though, as he offers ample upside and the cheaper option of the two. If Len manages to log 30 minutes against this week Pacers frontcourt, he should easily churn out around one fantasy point per minute with a much higher ceiling. Thaddeus Young is also a cash game consideration at a low-$5K price point. His upside is limited, but Young is a near lock to finish with around 30 fantasy points in a fast-paced affair against the Suns.


Allen Crabbe blew an opportunity to produce in the starting lineup last night as the Blazers got trounced by Houston on the road. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Stotts insert Evan Turner into the starting lineup, and if he does he’ll become a core play across the board. With a sub-$4K price tag on FanDuel and DraftKings, Turner won’t need to produce much more than 22 fantasy points to pay off his salary. He’s a secondary value play for now, but would become a lock in the event that Stotts makes a much needed adjustment. Brandon Knight makes for a nice GPP play now that he’s dropped below $5K. The Pacers have been torched by backup point guards this season, and with Knight coming off his best game of this young season he may have some momentum going into a very favorable matchup.


In closing, Chandler Parsons is one of the most intriguing plays on Friday’s slate. He returns to Dallas for the first time since leaving over the summer, and is now priced at $3,700 on DraftKings. This is definitely a risky play since his minutes will be limited, but Parsons is much better than his 2016 numbers would suggest. If he plays 25 minutes against his former team I could see him posting as many fantasy points. Moreover, Dallas is so depleted that no one competent will be able to defend him in the event that he’s assertive with the rock. Speaking of this depleted Dallas squad, Dwight Powell should earn big minutes with Nowitzki still out. He averages close to one FPPM over his career, and should be locked into at least 27 minutes against Memphis. Unfortunately, there aren’t any core value plays on this slate, so my recommendation would be to play who fits best, or at positions lacking depth.


SECONDARY – Alex Len; Marcus Smart; Mason Plumlee; Thaddeus Young; Evan Turner; Chandler Parsons; Dwight Powell; Jameer Nelson

GPP – Kenneth Faried; Monta Ellis; Victor Oladipo; Kelly Olynyk; Brandon Knight