NBA Deep Dive – 1/1/17



Kyle Lowry is the most expensive guard on this five game slate, and for good reason.  He is averaging 37.1 minutes per game this season and has played at least 38 in his last three.  The Lakers play at the fifth fastest pace in the league and have the worst defensive rating in the league since the beginning of December- second worst for the entire season.  Lowry averaged 1.02 points per possession on the pick-and-roll, which puts him in the 89th percentile among ball handlers.  The Lakers rank 8th worst as a team at defending pick-and-roll ball handlers.  Lowry’s Raptors are 9 point favorites in the highest Vegas total of the night.


Jeff Teague is now $8,000 on FanDuel, but he is just $7,100 on DraftKings.  Teague has been playing out of his mind lately, producing at least 40 DraftKings points in 8 of his last 10 games.  He is not reliant on scoring, as evidenced by his last game where he produced 42.5 DraftKings points on just 2 of 13 shooting.  Orlando represents a pace down game for Indiana, but they have been susceptible against opposing point guards all season long and present a nice matchup for Teague.  Orlando has the 18th best defensive rating for the season, but is just 24th since the beginning of December as they have been trending in the wrong direction.


Goran Dragic is questionable for tonight’s game against the Pistons.  If he plays, he makes for a very intriguing tournament option.  He has shown in the past (last game excluded) that he can be very productive when he plays through injury.  After his last game, Spoelstra stated that Dragic was only about 50 percent and should not have played.  That leads me to believe that when he does suit up again he will likely be much closer to 100 percent since they will most likely be more cautious the next time.  He was 3 percent owned on a small slate in his last game and we are likely to see similar ownership tonight if he is cleared to play.  His price is also down across the industry, so he is an excellent differentiation play in tournaments if he is active and starting.


Dennis Schroder has a difficult matchup with the Spurs, who play at the fifth slowest pace in the league and have the fourth best defensive rating.  His price is down, however, and he still has upside in this matchup.  He is not a safe play because it is very possible that the Spurs key in on him and make sure he does not be them, but he does have a high ceiling regardless of matchup because of his 2.1 percent usage percentage and 33.5 percent assist percentage.


Ricky Rubio has played much better of late.  He has averaged 33.5 minutes per game over his last ten, up from his season average of 31.3, and the increased minutes have resulted in an average of 31.8 DraftKings points per game, up from his season average of 26.4.  Over that ten game span, Rubio’s usage percentage has increased from his season average of 13.2 to 14.3 and, most importantly, his assist percentage has increased from his season average of 31.9 to 34.1.  As we know, Rubio is not a reliable scorer so he depends on assists and rebounds to provide fantasy points.  It is a great sign to see his assists finally picking up.  Tonight he faces a Portland team that ranks 11th in the league in pace and has the worst defensive rating in the league this season.  Rubio’s price has not caught up to his production and he is a strong option in this game with a 209 Vegas total and 5.5 point spread.


Elfrid Payton continues to flash a very high ceiling and a pretty low floor- which is perfectly fine in tournaments.  Coach Vogel continues to utilize Payton off the bench, with Payton typically seeing between 25 and 30 minutes per game.  Payton’s average production is not worth his current price, which makes him unappealing in cash games, but his ceiling far exceeds his price tag on nights that his shot is falling.  We have seen him excel in up-tempo games recently, recording 47.75 DraftKings points on 11 of 16 shooting in 30 minutes against the Lakers and 56.75 DraftKings points on 9 of 12 shooting in 35 minutes against the Hawks.  It is also worth noting that Vogel has seemed willing to let Payton play more minutes on nights that his shot is falling, which allows him to reach his ceiling more frequently.  Since he comes off the bench, Payton will be defended often by Aaron Brooks, who has a career defensive rating of 110.1, and will be faced with Al Jefferson in the paint, who is allowing opposing shooters to shoot 0.9 percent better than average within 6 feet of the basket.


D’Angelo Russell has not put everything together in a game lately, but he is still too cheap for his ceiling across the industry.  He showed flashes of his upside in the first quarter against Dallas, but then faded and ended up with only a decent fantasy performance.  Still, he is averaging 14 field goal attempts per game in 30 minutes per game over his last five and he is facing a Toronto team that has been susceptible against point guards this season- including giving up a huge game to Eric Bledsoe on Thursday night.  Russell has a 28.5 percent usage percentage and 27.8 percent assist percentage for the season and is always capable of a huge night.  Just keep in mind that he is young and incredibly inconsistent so he is frustrating to roster on a night to night basis.


Reggie Jackson is finally showing signs of breaking out, after a slow start to his season once he returned from injury.  Tonight’s matchup against a Heat team that ranks in the bottom 10 in pace and top 10 in defensive rating is not ideal, however.  Jackson has a nice ceiling in any matchup as long as he is priced around $6,000 because of his 28.5 percent usage percentage and 32.9 percent assist percentage.  He is worth a tournament flier if you are making a lot of lineups, but there are more appealing options on this slate than turning to someone who is playing in a game with a 196 Vegas total and whose price has increased about 10 percent over his last couple of games.


Jordan Clarkson’s minutes have been all over the place this season and he is averaging 25.7 over is last five.  He is an inconsistent option, but he does have upside because he is not afraid to shoot when he is on the floor.  Tonight’s game is expected to be high scoring, so it is not the worst spot to take a chance on Clarkson in tournament’s at about as low a price point as you will ever find him.  Just know that his minutes and production are far from secure.


Core: Kyle Lowry, Jeff Teague, Ricky Rubio

Secondary: D’Angelo Russell, Elfrid Payton, Dennis Schroder, Goran Dragic (if starting), Reggie Jackson

Value: Jordan Clarkson, Cory Joseph, Tony Parker




C.J. McCollum has not had a breakout game without Damian Lillard yet, but tonight could be the night (assuming Lillard does sit this one out).  McCollum has seen a boost in usage percentage and assist percentage in his three games without Lillard, but it has not yet translated into a big game.  Still, increasing from a 27.9 percent usage percentage to 35.7 and increasing from an 18.6 percent assist percentage to 31.3 are signs of good things to come.  Tonight’s game has a Vegas total of 209 with a 5.5 point spread, so there should be points to go around.  Minnesota represents a pace down game for McCollum, but they rank in the bottom five in defensive rating for the season and over the last month.  In addition, Minnesota is the sixth worst team in the league in opponent’s three-point shooting percentage differential and the ninth worst team defending within 6 feet of the rim.  McCollum averages 5.7 three point attempts per game this season and 6.9 drives per game.  Look for a breakout game from McCollum tonight.


Zach LaVine gets a pace up game against a weak Portland defense that allows the 11th most fast break points per game to opponents.  LaVine relies on transition baskets, and they should be available tonight against Portland.  In addition to getting out and running in transition, LaVine has average 7.1 three point attempts per game this season.  Portland ranks 3rd worst in the NBA at defending the three point line, allowing opponents to shoot 2.5 percent better than average from beyond the arc.


Josh Richardson’s price has increased significantly, but he is still in play if Goran Dragic is out because he takes over a lot of the point guard duties.  Richardson has played 134 minutes alongside Hassan Whiteside without Dragic this season and has a 21.8 percent usage percentage and 24.3 percent assist percentage.  It is worth noting that he has played 172 minutes without either of Dragic or Whiteside, and his assist percentage dips from 24.3 percent to 15.5 percent while his usage only increases from 21.8 percent to 22.1 percent.  Whiteside is questionable for this game along with Dragic, so Richardson is only a strong option at his new price if Whiteside is in and Dragic is out- especially because his big performances lately have been on the back of a 53 percent field goal percentage and 44 percent three-point percentage despite averaging just 40.2 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from three over the course of the season.


Norman Powell is an interesting option if Patrick Patterson is out, especially on FanDuel where he is the absolute minimum.  If Patterson is out, most people will probably look to Terrence Ross as the biggest beneficiary since he has performed well lately, which means Powell could go overlooked.  Demarre Carroll will likely see more minutes at the four which will open up more minutes for Powell on the wing.  Powell has performed very well when given adequate playing time this season and the matchup with the Lakers suits him very well.


Core:  C.J. McCollum, Zach LaVine

Secondary: Josh Richardson, Lou Williams, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Value: Norman Powell, Nick Young




Kawhi Leonard is questionable tonight against Atlanta.  If he is cleared to play, he is a viable option on a slate that does not offer much in the way of small forwards.  It is not a great spot for Leonard as Atlanta is a strong team defensively, but Leonard is a huge part of the San Antonio offense and it is a significant pace up game for the Spurs.  He is especially strong as a cash game play because he has a very high floor for his price.


Paul George is somewhat viable because of the lack of high upside options at the position, but it is probably still better to just pay down and save some money than to roster Paul George in a pace down game.  George rarely hits a ceiling high enough for his salary, so it is really tough to recommend rostering him against the 10th slowest team in the league.  He is a better cash game play than tournament play.


Andrew Wiggins is in a very nice spot against the Blazers and is the preferred option among mid-high price small forwards tonight.  He has been playing very well lately, recording at least 32 DraftKings points in nine of his last ten games.  He will benefit from the uptempo pace that the Blazers play at, along with their lack of defense, and has a very nice floor and ceiling combination for his price.


Aaron Gordon has averaged 27.6 minutes per game in Evan Fournier’s three game absence and could have a nice game today if Fournier sits.  Gordon is an inconsistent player, but he does have upside in an uptempo game where he can use his athleticism.  He is a viable tournament option if you pay down at the position.


Luol Deng has been very good lately and continues to be underpriced across the industry.  He has played at least 30 minutes in 9 consecutive games and has produced at least 25 DraftKings points in 8 of his last 10.  The biggest reason for his increased production is more ball-handling responsibilities in the half court offense, which has increased his assist percentage over that 10 game span to 11.2 percent from his season average of 8.4 percent.  The increased assists allow him to contribute in more ways than just scoring and defense, which increases his floor and his ceiling.  He struggled in his last game against Dallas but is in a good spot to bounceback against Toronto.


I absolutely hate rostering Kent Bazemore ever, but he is essentially free across the industry which makes him a viable option.  He is very capable of disappearing in any game, but he is averaging 32.4 minutes per game over his last seven and has attempted at least 9 field goals in five of those seven games.  It is not a good matchup against Detroit, but he is worth considering simply because of his minutes and price.


Demarre Carroll will benefit if Patrick Patterson is out because he will get more time at power forward, which puts him closer to the basket and in line for more rebounds and easier scoring opportunities.  Carroll appears to be getting healthier, as Toronto allowed him to play the second half of a back to back in his last game, although he was on a minutes restriction.  Toronto did not play yesterday, so Carroll should be allowed to play his full alotment of minutes and is likely to see between 26 and 30 in this game.  It is a very good matchup against Los Angeles that should have plenty of fantasy points to go around.  Carroll is a very strong option at his price.


Core:  Andrew Wiggins, Luol Deng

Secondary: Paul George, Justise Winslow, Evan Turner, Mo Harkless

Value: Demarre Carroll, Kent Bazemore, Terrence Ross, C.J. Miles (if Ellis out), Aaron Gordon




LaMarcus Aldridge is in a great bounceback spot tonight against the Hawks after disappointing about 35 percent of the field in his last matchup against Portland.  Aldridge has seen a decrease in usage over the last two seasons without Leonard, possibly as a result of defenses having an easier time scheming against him without having to worry about Leonard, so it should not hurt him having Leonard back in the lineup (hopefully).  It is a pace up game for Aldridge, and Paul Millsap and the Hawks have given up huge fantasy performances this season to power forwards who are capable of scoring from mid-range.  In addition, Coach Popovich has said he wants Aldridge to shoot more (and we saw him attempt 20 field goals in his most recent game alongside Leonard).   Aldridge is my favorite tournament power forward play on the board.

Paul Millsap has a tough matchup against LaMarcus Aldridge and the Spurs in a significant pace down game.  That being said, his price is way too cheap for his production at just $7,000 on DraftKings and $7,500 on FanDuel.  Millsap contributes across the board, with a 24.4 percent usage percentage, 17.4 percent assist percentage and 13.3 percent rebound percentage this season.  He is more valuable on DraftKings where the double-double bonus is in play and his price is cheaper relative to the other options, but he is a fine option on FanDuel as well.


Serge Ibaka has played 192 minutes without Evan Fournier this season and 3 point increase in his usage percentage, 6.1 point increase in his assist percentage and 2.1 point increase in his rebound percentage.  His price has not climbed enough for him to not be a strong option tonight against Indiana if Fournier is out of the lineup.  If Fournier does play, however, then Ibaka becomes a fade because people will likely chase his game logs at an increased price and rostering him would mean overpaying for his likely production and increased ownership.


Julius Randle has looked good lately, aside from dealing with early foul trouble against Dallas.  Tonight he faces a Toronto team that has struggled to contain opposing bigs, in a game with a high Vegas total.  Randle’s minutes have ticked up lately, consistently seeing 30-32 minutes in games that he does not deal with foul trouble.  He offers a very nice combination of floor and ceiling at his current prices.


Core:  Serge Ibaka (if Fournier out), LaMarcus Aldridge, Julius Randle

Secondary: Paul Millsap, Tobias Harris, Gorgui Dieng, Jon Leuer, Thaddeus Young

Value: Al-Farouq Aminu




Karl-Anthony Towns is in a great spot tonight against the Blazers and has been playing well lately.  He is a double-double machine and Portland has the sixth worst rebounding percentage in the NBA.  Towns will benefit from the increased pace of the game as well as the increased block upside that facing C.J. McCollum offers because of how often McCollum operates in the paint.  Towns is getting toward the top of the price range where we should be comfortable paying for him, but the great matchup against Portland makes him worth the price.


Dwight Howard has been very productive lately, playing at least 30 minutes in four of his last five games and recording at least 40 DraftKings points in five of his last seven.  His price remains too low for his current production, especially since the production seems sustainable since it has come on the back of increased minutes.  San Antonio is obviously a strong team, but Howard should be able to have his way with Pau Gasol.  He is a great tournament option if you cannot afford Towns at the top of the center price range.


Andre Drummond has had a lot of success in the past against Hassan Whiteside, recording a double-double in six of their seven previous meetings over the last 3 seasons (he had 9 points and 18 rebounds in the game that he did not have a double-double).  Drummond’s price is down a little bit, likely as a result of fluctuating minutes.  The fluctuation in minutes can mostly be described by blowouts and foul trouble, however, so we should plan for Drummond to see his full workload this evening.  He is the top center play on the board when price is considered.


Core:  Andre Drummond, Karl-Anthony Towns

Secondary: Dwight Howard, Nikola Vucevic, Myles Turner, Hassan Whiteside

Value: Jonas Valanciunas, Bismack Biyombo, Willie Reed (if Whiteside out)