NBA DEEP DIVE – 11/9/16

POINT GUARD

Russell Westbrook’s name will appear in the Deep Dive every time he’s scheduled to play, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be recommended in cash. Toronto owns the seventh best DRtg and is holding opposing point guards to the fourth lowest OEff to start the year, so while no one is capable of containing the beast known as Westbrook, his fantasy totals could be curtailed as a result. At his current price point Westbrook needs all the production he can possibly muster to pay it off, and this could be a tough spot for him to execute. I’m still projecting Westbrook for between 55-60 fantasy points, but that’s still just barely five times his salary on DraftKings. As always, no one would blame you for rostering Westbrook in any format, but the balanced approach feels more appropriate on Wednesday night.

Stephen Curry finally broke out for the first time this season, breaking the three-point record with 13 in a single game after failing to knock down a three for the first time in 157 starts the game prior. While Curry could continue rolling on Wednesday in a home tilt with the shorthanded Mavericks, this game should be over by halftime with the Warriors being massive 16-point favorites at the Oracle. Dallas is playing their second of a back-to-back on the road, and they will once again be without Deron Williams and Dirk Nowitzki, so I’m having a tough time finding a path in which they could keep this game competitive. As a result, Curry should be viewed as more of a secondary play while Chris Paul gets the nod in cash. This isn’t to say that Curry can’t tally 50-plus fantasy points in three quarters of work, but Paul faces the Blazers in what’s projected to be a more competitive game.

The Clippers’ veteran floor general is off to an incredible start, and he should continue to roll against a Portland team that’s coughing up the highest OEff and second most points to the points to the point guard position. Paul remains underpriced on DraftKings and is still in play on FanDuel at $9,400. He’s finished with 52-plus DraftKings Points in three of his last four starts, and will look to make it four of five on Wednesday.

The mid-range point guards are interesting on this 11-game slate, as many of the most appetizing options come in the low-$6K range. Dennis Schroder appears to be adjusting to his starting role, having posting 31-plus fantasy points with 32-plus minutes played in three straight games. All of his numbers suggest that Schroder should continue to play well; he’s attempting north of 15 field goals per 36, owns a respectable 34 percent assist rate, and 57 percent true shooting on the year. At an even $6K on FanDuel and DraftKings, Schroder is likely the cheapest he’ll be all season. This matchup with the Bulls is a favorable one, as it should remain competitive and relatively high scoring in Atlanta.

Believe it or not, Derrick Rose is not on the disabled list yet. Actually, he’s looked sharp through his first two weeks with the Knicks, averaging 16 points, 4.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds and one steal across 33 minutes per game. His 26 percent usage rate is solid for someone having to share the rock with Carmelo Anthony, but what’s most encouraging is Rose’s aggressiveness; the veteran point guard is averaging 10.8 drives per game, which is resulting in more high percentage shots around the basket, and his best field goal percentage since 2011. Nearly 50 percent of Rose’s attempts are coming from within two feet of the rim, which increases his value greatly across the board. He and Schroder are both very solid low-$6K options on Wednesday.

Kemba Walker is inexplicably cheap on DraftKings, possibly due to a matchup with Utah. This game is highly unappealing from a fantasy standpoint, but Walker has been elite at home, and is cheap enough to pay off his price tag with relative ease. If he can make his outside shots without relying on frequent layup attempts against Rudy Gobert, Walker could make for one of the best fantasy point per dollar plays on DraftKings.

As far as mid-range tournament plays go, Jeff Teague is an intriguing play against the Sixers. Indiana is a 12-point home favorite against an Embiid-less Philly team, but the Pacers have looked awful this season, losing four of their first six games. Philadelphia has done a solid job of keeping games close through three quarters, which could place Teague in a great position to produce if he remains on the court. He isn’t worth the risk in cash games, but Teague is at least seeing enough volume to be worth a flier in GPPs. That being said, I’d actually prefer J.J. Barea in this price range. Barea has been a stud this season, and even more impressive with Deron Williams sidelined. Dallas is a huge road dog at Golden State, but Barea should see huge usage while he’s on the court.

Ish Smith figures to be a nice value option against the Suns in what’s projected to be a competitive, high-scoring affair. Smith, save for a blowout loss to the Clippers, has been solid in relief of the injured Reggie Jackson, and he’s averaging right around 30 MPG on the season. 22 percent usage, 36 percent assist rate, and an unsurprising 10.3 drive per game will make Smith a viable low-end play in plus matchup, especially with Phoenix playing their second of a back-to-back.

In Boston, Marcus Smart is logging nearly 30 MPG since returning from injury. Smart is averaging well under one fantasy point per minute, but he hasn’t busted yet, tallying 22-plus DraftKings points in three straight games. Washington’s defense has been lousy this season, ranking 24th in DRtg, while allowing the fifth most fastbreak points to date. I’ll likely forego using Smart, but that doesn’t make him a bad option. He’s simply priced in a weird range that doesn’t fit well on Wednesday’s slate. If you’re a gambler, Isaiah Whitehead faces a Knicks team that ranks dead last in defensive efficiency this season. Whitehead tallied 26 fantasy points in 26 minutes of work last time out, and he’ll draw an even better matchup on Wednesday. He’d be much more appealing at minimum salary, but there is a semblance of upside here with Jeremy Lin remaining sidelined.

CORE – Chris Paul

SECONDARY – Dennis Schroder; Derrick Rose;  Stephen Curry; Kemba Walker [DraftKings]

Value – Ish Smith; Marcus Smart; Isaiah Whitehead

GPP – Russell Westbrook; J.J. Barea; Jeff Teague

 

SHOOTING GUARD

Anyone player who is tasked with having to face Kawhi Leonard is likely going to struggle. That’ll be the case with James Harden on Wednesday when his Rockets square off against the Spurs in San Antonio. Harden has struggled mightily against the Spurs in past meetings and I don’t envision much changing in this meeting even though Harden is now far more involved as a facilitator. At his current price point Harden can’t risk a poor shooting game, especially considering he probably won’t be intentionally fouled down the stretch with Houston sure to be trailing. We’ll have plenty of great mid-range options to choose from on this 11-game slate, making Harden and his sky-high price tag a very tough fit.

DeMar DeRozan has jacked up 20-plus shots in every game this season, resulting in an average of 34 points and 45 fantasy points per game. He’ll be required to shoot a lot again on Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Westbrooks, and is still affordable on DraftKings. The shooting guard position is even weaker with Harden in an unfavorable matchup, so DeRozan gains some appeal. He’s sporting a 38 percent usage rate with 12 drives per game and is second in basketball with pick-and-roll points as a ball handler. DeRozan is creating high percentage shots for himself, but he’ll need to continue scoring at a high clip if he intends on paying off his rising price point. I’m still confident we can gather another 40 fantasy points from Toronto’s two-guard this evening.

There are a few mid-range shooting guards I’m interested in on this slate, starting with Avery Bradley. I’d have laughed you off stage if you told me Bradley would lead all guards in rebounding through the first two weeks of the season, but he does, and he’s pulled down double-digit boards in three of his last four games. It’s obviously not sustainable, but Bradley has taken a massive step forward in more than just one area this season, as he’s averaging a career-high 19 points per 36 and 44 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Sure, Bradley’s price point is tough to stomach, but he’s been so productive that I don’t see a way we can argue it. With Washington playing such porous defense at almost every position, I’m expecting another fine performance from Bradley in what’s projected to be the highest scoring affair of the night (215 O/U), especially considering the Celtics are down two starters who were eating up decent shot volume while on the court.

Many people remain low on Klay Thompson right now, but I’m gonna continue buying. He’s attempting north of 17 shots per game, gets fourth quarter run in blowouts, and is bound to see some positive regression soon. With Golden State heavily favored, Thompson could have a lot to do with them blowing out the Mavericks. He’s going to get hot from beyond the arc very soon, yet his salary would indicate he’s never going to score again. Thompson is a strong secondary play but I could understand why you would only want to deploy him in GPPs. He’s below Bradley in terms of priority, but still has plenty of value on Wednesday’s slate.

Seth Curry erupted for a monster line last night, tallying 23/4/4/3 in 31 minutes off the bench. It’s hard to believe Rick Carlisle won’t run the hot hand again on Wednesday with Williams and Nowitzki sidelined, and even if this game gets out of hand early, Curry should see plenty of minutes in garbage time. Curry is a quality shooter and he’s going to see the volume tonight. He’s a top value option across the board as scary as it may appear on paper. Sean Kilpatrick is still under $5K on FanDuel, which keeps him in play against the Knicks league-worst defensive rating. I wouldn’t touch him on DraftKings, but on FanDuel where you need two shooting guards, he’s definitely still in play.

SECONDARY – Avery Bradley; DeMar DeRozan [DraftKings]

VALUE – Seth Curry; Sean Kilpatrick [FanDuel]

GPP – Klay Thompson; Evan Fournier

 

SMALL FORWARD

Kawhi Leonard draws one of the juiciest matchups you could imagine on Wednesday as he and his Spurs host the Rockets. Leonard has officially been handed the keys by Gregg Popovich, sporting a 34 percent usage rate, good for sixth highest in basketball! For reference, Leonard finished 35th in usage rate late season at 25.8 percent. Despite the presence of LaMarcus Aldridge and the arrival of Pau Gasol, Leonard has blasted off into another dimension. He should continue to cruise on Wednesday against the Rockets’ 27th ranked defensive rating. Houston is allowing the third most points and second most field goal attempts to opposing wings this season, and with this game expected to be up in pace a bit (210 O/U), Leonard only gains value as a result. Sure, he’s expensive, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option at the small forward position.

Sitting at a mid-$7K price tag on FanDuel and DraftKings is Carmelo Anthony, who draws a home matchup with the Nets in a crosstown “rivalry”. While Melo is the ultimate ball stopper, rock chucker and pace killer, he’s still a solid option due to salary alone. Leonard is obviously a much better option with both a higher floor and ceiling, but Anthony shouldn’t be ignored. He’s posted 25-plus points, seven-plus rebounds and 42-plus DKPTs over his last two games, while hoisting up a ton of shots in 35 minutes of work. With usage above 30 percent and an over-under at 215, Melo will have ample opportunity to produce. Now we’ll just need to hope his shot is falling against a under-talented, yet fast-paced Nets club.

I can’t get behind rostering Kevin Durant or Paul George in cash. Both are double-digit home favorites against bad, shorthanded teams, and both are playing on teams where usage can be distributed a number of different ways. There’s definite GPP appeal with both, however, as the small forward position is deeper than usual on this 11-game slate. We should see low ownership with high upside in the event that one of these opponents is actually able to keep things competitive.

Small forward generally isn’t a position where you want to go cheap, so we won’t discuss any true punts here. We will discuss a few lower mid-range/value options worth considering: Tobias Harris has been awful over his last two starts — one game being the result of a huge blowout loss in L.A. — but he’s in a very favorable spot on Wednesday against the Suns. Not only is Harris logging big minutes each night, but he’s capable of producing in more than just one category. P.J. Tucker playing off the bench will also help Tobias in terms of drawing an easier matchup with T.J. Warren, and he’s seen his price tag stay relatively cheap across the industry. With a 208 over-under attached to this game, it’s hard to believe Harris won’t see ample opportunity to pay off a slightly depressed price tag. Otto Porter Jr. is also interesting as well. He erupted in the second half of Monday’s game against Houston, and now he’ll draw a matchup with a Celtics team that surprisingly ranks 29th in DRtg to start the year. The loss of Jae Crowder will be an immense help for Porter, who is seeing upwards of 39-40 minutes per game. Porter is always a risky proposition, but he’s cheap enough to consider in a quality, high-scoring affair.

The lowest I’m willing to go at the position is C.J. Miles, who faces the winless Sixers at home. Miles is the perfect tournament value play, but still isn’t reliable enough to be cash-viable in a projected blowout. Sure, he’s been consistent over the past week, but Miles lacks the ability to mitigate a poor shooting performance, and that’s exactly what will kill a lineup in cash games. Fortunately for those of us playing GPPs, we’re looking for upside, not a high floor, and Miles offers that on Wednesday. Also, P.J. Tucker is minimum salary on both FanDuel and DraftKings. He is not a quality fantasy producer, and averages a career 24 fantasy points per 36, but if he sees another 30 minutes in any matchup he’s worth a look at the bare minimum.

CORE – Kawhi Leonard

SECONDARY – Carmelo Anthony

VALUE – Tobias Harris; Otto Porter Jr.; C.J. Miles [GPP]

GPP – Kevin Durant; Paul George; P.J. Tucker

 

POWER FORWARD

Blowouts really don’t concern me when referring to Draymond Green. The multi-faceted forward/center is capable of posting 50-plus fantasy point point performances without scoring double-digit points, and that speaks to his incredibly high floor. Even if Golden State does blow Dallas out of the water, Green should still get his, and at $7,800 on DraftKings it’s very difficult not to love him. He’s .6 points and 2.7 assists shy per game of averaging a triple-double on the season, and doesn’t rely on shot volume to collect fantasy points. This is a huge advantage when playing on a team that houses many mouths that require feeding. Consider Green an excellent mid-range play once again.

Blake Griffin is also in the same conversation as Green on Wednesday, as DraftKings continues to severely underprice him regardless of matchup. If Griffin remains at a low-$8K price point, we’re going to consider him every single night. Portland won’t be able to contain him, especially not with Al-Farouq Aminu seeming doubtful to play. A Paul-Griffin pairing works well on this slate, as Paul has assisted Griffin on a whopping 90 percent of his field goals this season. Power forward has a lot to offer, and it doesn’t stop here. Paul Millsap has become one of the most reliable fantasy options in the game. He’s routinely churning out well-rounded stat lines and should do the same against Chicago, but he has to be listed under Green and Griffin. It’s worth noting, though, that Millsap’s 27 percent usage rate is the highest of his career.

Now for the fun part — Markieff Morris let a lot of people down on Monday, but that only provides us with more reason to play him against the Celtics. Despite his down performance, Morris still attempted 14 field goals and collected nine rebounds across 33 minutes of work. He wasn’t efficient, but it wasn’t like Scott Brooks limited his minutes or the opportunity just wasn’t there. If everything remains the same on Wednesday, Morris should bounce back nicely against a depleted Boston frontcourt. Brooks is staggering his minutes to play around 12-14 minutes per game without Wall, Beal and Gortat on the court, where his usage climbs considerable as a result. With such a high projected total, Morris should be on everyone’s radar, and we might be able to get him at pretty low ownership.

If we’re looking for deep value at the position there are a couple places we could turn: Jon Leuer gets a revenge matchup with the Suns — although it isn’t much of a revenge matchup when he’s playing for a better team now — and has been seeing around 27 MPG off the bench. This Phoenix frontcourt is not stout, and they’re currently allowing the third highest FG% to opposing bigs. Leuer possesses double-double upside and could easily drop another 25-28 fantasy points in an appealing road matchup. Marquese Chriss was a huge disappointment on Tuesday, although much of this was a result of Earl Watson messing with his rotations. Still, Chriss remains minimum salary and is expected to start for the foreseeable future. In GPPs he’s a fine punt, and is averaging a respectable .86 FPPM on the young season.

If you’re searching for the sneakiest punt of them all, Ersan Ilyasova is your guy. The newly acquired 76er is seeing the most consistent minutes of any Philly frontcourt member recently, and he could easily eclipse the 30 minute mark with Joel Embiid resting on Wednesday. The Pacers rank 28th in DRtg, and have been even worse against opposing bigs, allowing the highest OEff, second most rebounds and third most points on the year. No one will own Ilyasova, but if he gets hot from beyond the arc and finishes with ~30 fantasy points at a dirt cheap cost, you won’t regret sprinkling him into GPPs.

CORE: Draymond Green [DraftKings]; Blake Griffin [DraftKings] SECONDARY – Draymond Green [FanDuel]; Blake Griffin [FanDuel]

VALUE – Markieff Morris; Jon Leuer

GPP – LaMarcus Aldridge; Kristaps Porzingis; Ersan Ilyasova; Marquese Chriss

CENTER

Andre Drummond somehow managed a 15/12, 36 DKPT double-double through only 25 minutes in a blowout loss to the Clippers on Monday. Yes, he’s very good, but it’s very important to roster him in the right matchup. I’ll say this: Drummond is in a great spot tonight against the Suns, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him post 50-plus fantasy points for the third time in six games, but I’m not sure how much exposure I’ll have to him for reasons we’ll discuss in a moment. Drummond offers 20/20 upside whenever he’s on the court, and the fact that he’s sporting the highest usage rate, rebounding rate, steal rate and assist rate of his career only makes him more valuable. There’s this misconception with Drummond that he only provides points and rebounds, but that simply isn’t the case; he’s a quality shot blocker and even has active hands for a defender who is lacking in the paint. If there weren’t so many quality centers at discounted prices, Drummond would top my list at the position. Feel free to add Karl-Anthony Towns to this list as well; great matchup, decent price, but the lower mid-range centers just offer too much value to overlook.

DeAndre Jordan has seen his salary plummet of late, weighing in at $6,400 on DraftKings and $6,700 on FanDuel for a great matchup with Portland. Jordan’s season has been disappointing thus far, but he’s so cheap that it’ll be hard for him to bust entirely on Wednesday. Mason Plumlee doesn’t protect the rim, and Portland ranks 2nd to last in total rebounding rate and offensive rebounding rate on the year. A monster double-double is right around the corner for Jordan, and this feels like a matchup where he can finally get the job finished. Between Jordan and Marcin Gortat, the mid-range is filled with great center options. Gortat is logging huge minutes under Scott Brooks, allowing him to average an 11-point, 12-rebound, 32-fantasy point double-double on the season. With Al Horford out in Boston, Gortat should shred a makeshift Celtics frontcourt, and his price point is simply too cheap to ignore.

NOTE: All four of the aforementioned big men are elite secondary plays, and all could be considered core plays in their own right. A lineup construction tip for Wednesday would be to configure the rest of your lineup before locking in a center. Play who fits best, because all of these big men have immense upside on this 11-game slate.

Dwight Howard would be a core play almost every night if Mike Budenholzer was more willing to extend his minutes, but with the risk of seeing 28 minutes on Wednesday I simply can’t recommend him in cash. There are too many great center options to gamble on Howard’s minutes, but feel free to load up on him in GPPs, as he’s proven 40-plus fantasy points is no tough task regardless of how much playing time he receives.

Another very enticing center is Mason Plumlee. Portland’s starting big man ranks top-five in assist rate among centers, and is sporting a respectable 21 percent usage rate on the season. I’d rather get up to one of the mid-range bigs on this slate, but Plumlee is definitely still in play, and can even be paired with another center on DraftKings or FantasyDraft. Al Jefferson is my pure punt center of the night. If the Pacers go up early he could easily see 20-plus minutes of work, which against an Embiid-less frontcourt should yield very favorable results. Jefferson’s 1.1 FPPM average on the season is enough to give him a look at a near minimum salary cost.

SECONDARY – DeAndre Jordan; Marcin Gortat; Andre Drummond; Karl-Anthony Towns

VALUE – Mason Plumlee; Joakim Noah

GPP – Dwight Howard; Al Jefferson