NBA DEEP DIVE 11/8/16
There are not as many expensive point guard options tonight as we are used to, but there are still some very strong options and difficult decisions that we will have to make. Damian Lillard is the most expensive option in a very good matchup against the Phoenix Suns in Portland. Lillard is a good bet to be the highest scoring point guard in terms of raw points tonight as he is averaging slightly over 36 minutes per game, has a 33.2 percent usage rate and will be facing a Phoenix team that is playing at the second fastest pace in the NBA so far this season. Lillard loves to steal the show at home and should be in line for a great game tonight at a price tag below $10,000 across the industry.
Kyrie Irving headlines what is a very strong middle tier at the position today. He has the highest usage rate on Cleveland at 29.6 percent, and I have had a lot of success attacking Atlanta with high-usage point guards so far this season. His price remains relatively depressed on most sites, likely as a result of the Cavaliers’ ability to blow other teams out. Atlanta is a good team, however, and this game should stay competitive into the fourth quarter. Irving is one of the best point guard options today when price is considered. Mike Conley is in a very nice spot if he plays tonight (he is currently questionable). Memphis will be forced to play at a faster pace than they normally due since Denver is in the top 5 in pace so far this season, which means extra opportunities for Conley to pile up fantasy points. In addition, he will be defending Emmanuel Mudiay, who is turnover prone. Adding on a couple of steals to an already favorable matchup gives Conley legitimate upside in a matchup where he may go somewhat overlooked because of his “Q” tag and the options around him. Darren Collison returns from suspension tonight to take on the New Orleans Pelicans, who are on the second leg of a back-to-back. People may overlook the Sacramento point guard since he is not necessarily a household name and placeholder Ty Lawson only posted a 13.8 percent usage rate while filling in. In 1,158 minutes without Rajon Rondo on the floor last season, however, Collison recorded a 22.1 percent usage rate so he should be able to considerably outperform Lawson’s numbers. The New Orleans backcourt does not have defenders that concern me and Collison should be able to jump right into 30-plus minutes per game since he is not returning from injury. D’Angelo Russell is in the player pool, therefore I am interested. He is way too cheap for his upside across the industry and should have a very nice game in this matchup with Deron Williams doubtful. Assuming Williams does not play, Russell will likely be defended by J.J. Barea, which is an absolute mismatch. In addition to his perimeter game, Russell has shown the ability to post up against smaller defenders and he should have a field day tonight with a 5-inch height advantage over Barea. The Mavericks also play a lot of small ball with Nowitzki out which could lead to some extra minutes for Russell since the Mavs will almost always have three guards on the floor. Emmanuel Mudiay is an interesting option if Mike Conley sits. If Conley is active, I have no interest in Mudiay but the Memphis defense is considerably weaker without Conley and there is also a greater opportunity for steals- as evidenced by Kris Dunn’s game against the Memphis back-ups a few nights ago. Mudiay will not be in cash game consideration for me either way but, if Conley is out, he is worth considering as a low-owned guard option in a sneakily positive matchup. J.J. Barea will probably be very popular tonight, and for good reason. He has a 27 percent usage rate when Nowitzki and Williams are not on the floor and he will be facing the Lakers, who are playing at the fastest pace in the league so far this season under former Golden State assistant Luke Walton. His price is creeping up, but it is still very reasonable for the amount of playing time he gets and his role in the offense. He will be a cash game staple for me and will find his way into some tournament lineups as well. Keep in mind, however, that there are plenty of pivots and leverage plays that you can use if you choose not to roster him in tournaments. Tim Frazier is only $5,400 on FanDuel, which puts him in play on the second game of a back-to-back after he seemingly took back control of the point guard job last night against New Orleans, playing 32 minutes compared to Langston Galloway’s 20. The slow pace of the Sacramento defense takes him out of play on DraftKings, where he is $1,200 more than he is on FanDuel, but at $5,400 he is worth considering as an inexpensive tournament option.
Kris Dunn is the best value option on the board as he faces a turnover prone point guard once again. It will be really nice when he finally faces a point guard who can protect the ball and people chase the points he has been getting as a result of steals, but tonight is not that night. Isaiah Whitehead has played at least 20 minutes for Brooklyn in three straight games and has managed 13 turnovers in those 64 minutes. There is a ton of steal potential for Dunn, which should help him hit value at his inexpensive price. He is still a weak tournament option because he is not involved in the offense so his upside is limited (and people do not realize this so his ownership is inflated).
Core: Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, D’Angelo Russell, J.J. Barea
GPP: Mike Conley, Darren Collison, Emmanuel Mudiay (if Conley out), Tim Frazier (FanDuel)
Value: Kris Dunn
Shooting guard is pretty weak night but there are some very interesting tournament plays. C.J. McCollum and Devin Booker are the clear top options at the position. McCollum has been overshadowed by Damian Lillard this season, but has been very good in his own right. He has a 27 percent usage rate in 34.3 minutes per game and sees minutes as the point guard for the second unit when Lillard is on the bench, which helps his floor because it makes him a little bit less dependent on Lillard giving him the ball. It should be a very fast-paced game against the Suns tonight and McCollum should have plenty of opportunities for fantasy goodness. He is a strong option in cash games and can be used as leverage to get exposure to the Portland backcourt if you fade Lillard in GPPs. Devin Booker is in a very interesting spot from a pricing and ownership standpoint. Basically what has happened with Booker this season is that he was injured and shot poorly and his price plummeted. People also wrote him off as the third option on offense behind Bledsoe and Warren, even though this was not remotely based in fact, and did not roster him at his lower price. Now, his price has shot back up to where it should be and his ownership will be very high because he has scored a career-high in points two games in a row. It makes for a very interesting spot in tournaments because he is clearly one of the best options on the board in a very good matchup, but he is a scoring dependent player who is priced correctly and will be massively owned. It is not quite the same as the DeMar DeRozan spot that I have said to fade all season, because Booker’s price is still low enough that he is capable of significantly outperforming it, but it is similar in that he does not pick up enough peripheral stats to post a big fantasy line if he is not scoring a ton of actual points. There are likely to be more profitable spots to take a stand than by fading Booker at a weak position, but there is definite merit to the idea. I, personally, will likely go overweight compared to the field because of the lack of other reliable options at the position. Zach LaVine has been disappointing lately and that should get us an ownership discount in a pace-up game against a Brooklyn team that is basically playing a team full of backups. The issue with LaVine is that his decline in production is due to usage and not to poor shooting. Karl-Anthony Towns has been much more involved in the offense over the last two games, seeing his usage rate go from 20 percent with Dunn on the floor to 27 percent. LaVine has gone the opposite direction, dropping from about 26 percent to 21 percent. If we roster him, we are gambling on him getting significantly more shots than the 6 he took last game, and that is asking for a lot since nothing about the Brooklyn frontcourt suggests that Towns should have any trouble against them. He is in play in tournaments simply because he has upside if he gets the usage and there is a lack of other options at the position, but the probability of him having a big game is relatively low compared to how it looked a couple of games ago.
There are several shooting guards that are long-shot tournament plays but could pay off very nicely since they are going to be low-owned. The first two are Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams. These two are basically interchangeable as they both run with the Lakers second unit and are both capable of getting hot and scoring a ton of points in a hurry. Williams has been the one to do it lately, but that just means his price has increased while Clarkson’s has not. They are both likely to see a little bit of extra playing time tonight as well because they will be needed to match up with Dallas’s three guard lineups. Wesley Matthews has been absolutely horrible this season, even by his standards. He is playing 37 minutes per game, however, and has a 24.2 percent usage rate when Nowitzki and Williams are off the floor and Barea is on. This means that there is the opportunity for him to blow his salary out of the water if he can hit a few shots. Last season, he shot 38.8 percent from the field and 36 percent from three, neither of which are particularly good, but this season he is shooting an abysmal 27.6 percent from the field and 24.1 percent from three. It is unlikely that he has gotten that much worse as a shooter from one season to the next, so there should be some positive regression coming soon. We have no idea if it will be tonight or not, but getting a high usage player who plays heavy minutes, going against the fastest paced team in the league, at low ownership, is definitely something to be interested in if you are playing tournaments. Nick Young continues to have a consistent role in the Los Angeles rotation because he is their best defender. It is unlikely that he sees huge minutes tonight since there are no major individual scoring threats on Dallas, but he should still see about 25. If he were priced between $4,500 and $5,000 I would not have interest, but at $4,000 on both DraftKings and FanDuel he feels slightly underpriced.
Sean Kilpatrick gets his own paragraph. He is a fine play tonight because he is relatively inexpensive and has shown that he can produce. I, personally, will be avoiding him, however. Randy Foye is going to play tonight which muddies the water in the backcourt and we do not really know how Atkinson is going to handle it. In addition, Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic are very capable of having big nights in their matchups, which would take some of the scoring emphasis off of Kilpatrick. His price has increased enough that even if he has a good game, it is unlikely that it will be enough to ruin those of us that fade him, so I will be avoiding the spot.
Core: C.J. McCollum, Devin Booker
GPP: Wesley Matthews, Jordan Clarkson, Zach LaVine, Lou Williams
Value: Nick Young
T.J. Warren continues to look great for the Suns to start the season. He is playing 36.5 minutes per game with a 24.4 percent usage rate. His field goal percentage is 4 percentage points below his career average and his three-point percentage is 4 percentage points above his career average, so we should not be particularly concerned about regression. It really just looks like a talented young player is finally getting extended playing time and coming into his own. Even with the emergence of Devin Booker of the last two games, Warren has attempted 17 and 20 field goals himself, so it does not seem that he is likely to disappear. He has a plus matchup against the Blazers today and should continue his hot start to the season. Rudy Gay has been very good to start the season, as well, and gets a nice matchup with the Pelicans tonight, who are in the top 10 in pace. Gay’s usage may take a slight hit now that Collison is going to be the point guard instead of Lawson, but we should not be too concerned because he had a 24.4 percent usage rate in 598 minutes alongside Collison last season. He should continue his impressive start to the season tonight. Harrison Barnes gets a large boost from Williams and Nowitzki not playing tonight. He has a 24 percent usage rate this season, and that climbs to 29.3 percent when Dirk and Williams are off the floor and Barea is on. He is averaging a whopping 38.3 minutes per game and should thrive against the Lakers tonight. His $6,700 price tag on DraftKings may keep his ownership down a little bit (it is still a reasonable price), but he will be very popular on FanDuel at $5,700. Do not let the ownership concern you, it will not be as high as it should be at that price.
Bojan Bogdanovic is likely to go overlooked tonight and is in a great spot. Andrew Wiggins’ defense is not something we should be concerned about, and Bogdanovic got up 17 shots in the last game while Sean Kilpatrick got everyone’s attention. There is a very good chance that Bogdanovic goes overlooked tonight and he is a great leverage play if you fade Sean Kilpatrick. Evan Turner is a reasonable GPP punts as the Blazers and Suns should play a lot of small lineups against each other tonight. Turner will be an important part of the second unit by the end of the season, but he is not quite there yet. That said, his price has dropped too far across the industry, so there is a lot of upside because the minutes will be there. It is just a matter of inconsistency as he learns the Portland offense.
Core: T.J. Warren, Harrison Barnes
GPP: Rudy Gay, Wilson Chandler (if active)
Value: Bojan Bogdanovic, Evan Turner
Anthony Davis faces the Kings on the second half of a back-to-back. He is obviously a very high upside player and he has had success against DeMarcus Cousins in the past, posting 24 points and 10 rebounds, 31 points and 10 rebounds, and 27 points and 14 rebounds in three game against him last season. On the negative side, this is the third time this season that Davis has had a back-to-back set, followed by a day off, followed by a third game. In the first two games, he played 32 minutes with 29.75 DraftKings points and 36 minutes with 28.25 DraftKings points, so there is some risk. He only played 35 minutes last night, so at least he is not coming off of a huge workload. It is possible he has a letdown game, however, since playing the Kings is probably not as adrenaline boosting as playing the Warriors. Davis is averaging 37 minutes per game with a 33.2 percent usage rate, so the upside is certainly there, just be aware there are negative factors as well.
Kevin Love is in another nice spot tonight against Atlanta and hopefully will continue to go overlooked. People must really be having trouble getting the playoffs and memories of Kevin Love out of their heads because he is a completely different player this season for DFS purposes. He is playing 32.3 minutes per game and has a 27.8 percent usage rate as the Cavs have made it clear he is a significant part of their offensive gameplan. The Hawks are a solid defensive team, but Love should be able to perform well at his reasonable price tag in the low-mid $7,000 range. Julius Randle gets a matchup with the small ball Dallas Mavericks and he should thrive. He is able to pick up assists when he handles the ball in transition, and he has about 25 pounds on Harrison Barnes who will probably end up playing the four for Dallas. Randle’s price is very reasonable across the industry and he is one of the top options at the position tonight. Gorgui Dieng has let people down over his last couple of games but has a nice chance to bounce back tonight against Brooklyn. His minutes have been down the last two games, but one game was a blowout and the other was against Denver where Denver went small for most of the game. Dieng should see his minutes return tonight and has a nice rebounding matchup against Brook Lopez and the Brooklyn frontcourt. On top of Lopez not being the best rebounder, Brooklyn is full of inefficient shooters so there should be plenty of missed shots. Do not be afraid to get Dieng back in your lineups tonight at his slightly reduced price.
Meyers Leonard is a very high-risk, high-reward option at the minimum price tonight. He has not seen many minutes this season but, in Portland’s last matchup with Phoenix, he played 27 minutes (including 11 minutes of the fourth quarter and 4 minutes of overtime) and Noah Vonleh did not see the floor. After the game, Coach Stotts remarked that he liked the way that Leonard matched up with the Suns’ frontcourt. The Suns’ frontcourt is the same today as it was in that game, so we could see some extra playing time for Leonard. There is a risk that he does absolutely nothing, but if he gets 25 minutes he could absolutely win someone a tournament as an unowned min-price option at a shallow position.
Core: Julius Randle, Gorgui Dieng
GPP: Kevin Love, Anthony Davis, Meyers Leonard
Center does not have a ton of options today, but it does have some very strong ones. DeMarcus Cousins faces Anthony Davis in a matchup that he thrived in last season, posting games of 32 points and 12 rebounds, 40 points and 16 rebounds and 20 points and 12 rebounds. Cousins has not really had a monster game yet this season, outside of the home opener against San Antonio, but they are due to come sooner or later despite the decrease in pace of the Kings’ offense from last season to this one. His price is significantly lower than other players that have usage rates in his range (35.4 percent this season and 38 percent last season when Collison ran the offense). Karl-Anthony Towns gets a great matchup against the Brooklyn frontcourt. As mentioned earlier, he has seen his usage rate increase drastically as he has gotten more playing time alongside Kris Dunn. The rebounds will be there in this matchup and he should be able to do whatever he wants offensively as well because Trevor Booker and Brook Lopez will not be able to stop him.
Marc Gasol remains criminally underpriced. He is averaging 32.4 minutes per game and has a usage rate of 28.7 percent, yet is $7,000 on DraftKings and $7,100 on FanDuel. He has not attempted less than 14 shots in a game yet this season and will have more opportunites to pick up stats against the fast-paced Denver team tonight. In addition, Conley may miss the game which would require Gasol to be even more involved in the offense. Denver’s bigs rebound very well, but Gasol scores enough points and picks up enough assists that he can have very good games even if he falls a little bit short of his rebounding average. Brook Lopez has played 29 minutes in each of his last two games, as it appears Kenny Atkinson is lengthening his leash a little bit. He continues to go overlooked because of his inconsistency, but has a huge ceiling. He has a 35.6 percent usage rate in 59 minutes without Lin this season, and is another way to get low-owned exposure to a Brooklyn offense that is missing one of their highest-usage players.
Tyson Chandler is a nice value option today with some upside against Portland. He played 28 minutes in their last matchup with the Blazers, despite Mason Plumlee not being on the court for the entire fourth quarter or overtime. In those 28 minutes, he was able to amass 18 rebounds. His price has still not gone above the $5,000 mark and he is the best value option at center, although there is a high opportunity cost at the position.
Core: DeMarcus Cousins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Marc Gasol
GPP: Brook Lopez
Value: Tyson Chandler
CORE= Guys that should score the most raw points and lineups should be built around
VALUE= Guys that are underpriced (usually $5,500 or less)
CASH= guys who are underpriced but don’t offer high ceilings
GPP= Guys with high ceilings that probably aren’t the best options in cash either because they have a low probability of hitting their ceiling, or there are better point-per-dollar plays priced near them. Players listed as “core” or “value” can also be strong GPP options.