NBA Deep Dive – 1/7/18


Point Guard

Russell Westbrook is far and away the top player on the slate and he gets a dream matchup against the Phoenix Suns.  Phoenix plays at one of the fastest paces in the league and they are one of the worst defensive teams.  Westbrook has been much more assertive on the offensive end lately than he was early in the season and we are seeing Oklahoma City play better as a result.  It is not that difficult to get Westbrook into your lineups tonight and there are no pivots that have the same floor or upside, so it is best to just jam him in and accept that he will be insanely popular.  If he is less than 80-85 percent owned, it is too low.

Dennis Schroder has been a bit disappointing this season as far as ceilings go, but he remains a high floor option with a little bit of upside in a great matchup against the Lakers.  Schroder is among the league leaders in pick-and-roll usage and in drives per game.  Los Angeles is allowing the 8th-most points per possession in the pick-and-roll (and no Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is not a good pick-and-roll defender) and the Lakers have the 10th-worst differential defending within 6 feet of the rim.

Frank Ntilikina and Jarrett Jack are probably going to go overlooked tonight because of other value at the positions.  Ntilikina and Jack have been playing more minutes alongside each other lately, which increases both of their floors and ceilings as it allows more playing time for each.  Ntilikina is averaging 0.75 DraftKings points per minute this season and Jack is averaging 0.80.  Projecting Jack for 30-32 minutes and Ntilikina for 26-30 minutes is reasonable, especially against a Dallas team that frequently runs small lineups with three guards that will make it easy for the Knicks to deploy Ntilikina and Jack together.

Dejounte Murray will likely draw the start again with Tony Parker resting.  He was absolutely awful against the Sixers in his last start, playing just 14 minutes.  This is another tough spot for Murray, as the Blazers have been the best defense within 6 feet of the rim this season (Philadelphia is the 3rd-best).  Murray averages 12.6 drives per 36 minutes and 47 percent of his field goal attempts this season have come within 5 feet of the rim.  There is obviously merit to rostering Murray at his cheap price tag as he has averaged nearly a fantasy point per minute this season and he should be in your cash lineups.  In tournaments, however, pivoting from Murray to Patty Mills (a direct beneficiary if Murray plays his way to the bench) or one of the Knicks’ point guards is one of the easiest ways to differentiate on this short slate without costing yourself much upside.

Honorable Mention: Damian Lillard, Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith, Jr.


Shooting Guard

Devin Booker faces an Oklahoma City defense that will still be without Andre Roberson.  Booker has usage rates of 42.8, 42.7, 34.4, 33.8, 26.4 and 29.6 since returning from injury and the sky is the limit for him on any given night.  He carries some risk since he is so scoring dependent, but he is the obvious play from Phoenix in a game with the highest total on the slate.  If the Thunder do not run away with this game, it will most likely be because of Booker.

Kent Bazemore returns to Staples Center to face a Lakers team that he does not like much.  Aside from the revenge narrative, it is a nice spot for Bazemore.  He is averaging the 2nd-most transition field goal attempts per game on the Hawks and 1.24 points per transition possession.  The Lakers are a pace-up game for the Hawks and Los Angeles is allowing the 6th-most transition points per game.  Bazemore has a very nice ceiling for his price tag.

Marco Belinelli does not play big minutes for the Hawks but he is a cheap way to get exposure to them in tournaments.  He is a scoring dependent player who typically plays around 20 minutes, so he has a low floor.  He has usage rates of at least 24 percent in 8 of his last 10 games, however, so the possibility of him pouring in a lot of points in a short period of time does exist.  The extra possessions as a result of the pace of this game should help.

Honorable Mention: Wesley Matthews, Manu Ginobili, Bryn Forbes, Terrance Ferguson


Small Forward

Paul George should feast against this Suns team and his minutes are typically safe even in blowouts as he usually starts the fourth quarter with the second unit.  George is second to Westbrook in transition field goal attempts per game on the Thunder and there should be plenty of transition opportunities tonight against the Suns.  I would rather roster Westbrook than George, but pairing them with Devin Booker and TJ Warren (if Warren plays) gives you a high-upside mini game stack.

Brandon Ingram had a big game in Lonzo Ball’s return to the lineup against Charlotte and now he faces a weak Atlanta team in a game that has the potential to be a shootout between two bad teams.  We have talked about it on podcasts and shows and I have drunkenly tweeted about it.  Ingram is much better with Lonzo Ball on the floor.  He has played 872 minutes with Lonzo this season, posting a 22.7 usage percentage, 46 percent field goal percentage, 48.3 effective shooting percentage, and 0.89 DraftKings points per minute.  In 390 minutes without Ball, Ingram has a 20.2 usage percentage, 40.6 field goal percentage, 41.4 effective field goal percentage and 0.72 DraftKings points per minute.  Fire him up again tonight against the Hawks.

Taurean Prince has been disappointing in his last few games, but he has a good matchup tonight against the Lakers.  He leads the Hawks in transition field goal attempts and should benefit from the pace and lack of transition defense in this game.  He continues to see between 30 and 34 minutes most nights and has at least 10 field goal attempts in 8 of his last 10.  The cheap wings are my favorite way to attack this game and Prince is one of them.

Honorable Mention: TJ Warren (questionable), Harrison Barnes, Kyle Anderson, Courtney Lee, Josh Jackson (if Warren out), Doug McDermott/Lance Thomas (if Beasley out)


Power Forward

LaMarcus Aldridge will face his former team tonight without Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker or Rudy Gay.  Aldridge has played 597 minutes without that trio on the floor this season, averaging 1.15 DraftKings points per minute with a 31.3 usage percentage.  The matchup is difficult, as the Blazers have been the best team defending within 6 feet of the rim and Al Farouq Aminu has been an effective post defender this season, ranking in the 65th percentile in post points allowed per possession (Aldridge leads the NBA in post-up field goal attempts per game).

Michael Beasley left Friday’s game early and missed practice yesterday, leaving him questionable for tonight’s game.  If he is able to play, however, this is a prime spot for him.  He has been closing games over Enes Kanter and there is no reason this game would not go small against Dallas- as mentioned earlier when discussing Jack and Ntilikina.  Dallas is one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA and struggles to defend near the basket, ranking 2nd-worst in differential within 6 feet of the rim.  If Beasley is able to play, he should have another monster game tonight.

Kyle Kuzma moved to the bench with Julius Randle starting alongside Brook Lopez against the Hornets.  This is a concern, as he played just 25 minutes in the game.  He still has huge upside in tournaments, however, has he posted a 28.3 usage percentage with 14 field goal attempts in those 25 minutes (unfortunately he made two of them).  His price tag has decreased accordingly, especially on FanDuel where he is just $5,700.  We know that Luke Walton’s rotations are anything but consistent and he likes to ride the hot hand, which could be good for Kuzma if he is playing better than he did on Friday.  It is also worth noting that the Hornets have a traditional center in Dwight Howard while the Hawks have a small center more often.  It would not be surprising to see more lineups with Kuzma at the four and Randle at the five tonight.

Ersan Ilyasova has been playing surprisingly consistent basketball for the Hawks and his salary has not moved much.  He is playing at least 27-28 minutes every night with the upside for a few more if he is playing well and the game stays close.  He is another player who should perform well in this matchup against the Lakers and he makes for a strong option in any format.  John Collins is a high-upside tournament play, though the minutes are not as secure.

Honorable Mention: Kristaps Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, Al Farouq Aminu, Davis Bertans



Steven Adams is a great play alongside Westbrook as they have a high positive correlation with many of Adams’ baskets coming from Westbrook assists.  On a slate where Westbrook is going to be massively popular and there is nothing we can do to get away from him, pairing him with a player who usually does well when Westbrook does lets us maximize our upside in a way that a percentage of the Westbrook owners will miss out on.  The matchup would be better for Adams if Tyson Chandler were not playing, but it is still good enough to feel confident in rostering him tonight.

Enes Kanter is a risky option but he has tournament winning upside on FanDuel where he is just $4,900.  Kanter has not been closing games for the Knicks and this matchup with Dallas is not a game that we would expect to close big either.  Michael Beasley, who has been closing over Kanter, is questionable with an ankle injury, however.  While I expect that some combination of Lance Thomas or Doug McDermott closes with Porzingis at center in the event that Beasley misses the game, we cannot rule out the possibility that it leads to more minutes for Kanter.  On top of that, Kanter is more than capable of doing enough in 20 minutes to pay off his cheap price tag.  I prefer Steven Adams, but dropping from Adams to Kanter where the price difference is significant can open up some more upside elsewhere in your lineup.

Honorable Mention: Jusuf Nurkic, Julius Randle, Pau Gasol, Brook Lopez






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