NBA Deep Dive – 1/13/17

HIGH-PRICED   [$8500+]


Don’t talk to me about matchups — James Harden is way cheaper than he should be on DraftKings, where he currently sits $1,300 below Russell Westbrook despite averaging 32.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 11.5 assists and 67 fantasy points over his last 10 games. Harden has notched double-digit assists in each and has scored fewer than 30 points only three times in that span. With dynamic pricing sites listing Harden disrespectfully low, there’s no reason to avoid him due solely to the matchup with Memphis. The Grizzlies are a stout defensive team, but they haven’t looked the same of late, sporting a 108.8 DRtg in January (20th) with 106.4 points per game allowed.

Harden’s 34 percent usage, 52.5 percent assist rate and league-leading 100.8 touches per game makes him as matchup proof as it gets. He’s also making and receiving more passes than anyone in basketball, which inflates his turnovers rate but places him in a position to accrue fantasy points on every single offensive possession. Friday’s slate offers a wide variety of quality high-priced options but lacks low-end value , so Harden shouldn’t be considered a must play quite yet. He should, however, be considered one of the safest options on the board with a salary that doesn’t come close to reflecting his recent play.


Russell Westbrook, unlike any other night, remains the top projected fantasy option across the industry. His price point has become awfully restrictive, though, which makes Harden the slightly more appealing option based on savings alone. Minnesota won’t be able to contain Westbrook and his 42 percent usage rate, but we’ll realistically need more than 70 DraftKings points from him if we are to be satisfied with his production. There’s really no elaborate explanation required here; if you feel comfortable with the lineups you can build around Westbrook, play him over Harden. If you don’t, there’s no reason not to side with the cheaper, yet equally productive Harden.


Kyle Lowry is averaging just south of 36 MPG in games decided by ten points or more this season, which bodes well for fantasy value on Friday. There’s no denying the massive blowout potential in this home tilt with Brooklyn (TOR -16), but it’s impossible to ignore this game altogether. The Nets are playing at an unprecedented pace, as even the 2013-14 76ers fell way short of matching this tempo. Pair Brooklyn’s league-leading pace of play with their 27th ranked defensive efficiency and you have yourself an unmatched recipe for fantasy success. So yes, the blowout concern is worth noting, but Lowry is legitimately capable of eclipsing 50 fantasy points in under three quarters of work. In order to blow a team out, one squad has to score far more points in a limited amount of time, and I’d like to think Lowry will contribute heavily to the cause.

Lowry is knocking down threes at a ridiculous 44.5 percent clip this season despite attempting 7.4 deep balls per game. His sub-25 percent usage won’t wow you, and 7.2 assists per game isn’t an elite mark for a point guard (9th in NBA), but his uncanny ability to manufacture fantasy points in an assortment of ways will keep him in play almost every night. Lowry does own career-high rebounding and free throw marks, though, at 4.9 and six per game respectively. Ultimately, all that really matters is the matchup with Brooklyn; if Tyreke Evans can erupt for nearly 50 fantasy points in 28 minutes off the bench, Lowry should have no trouble racking up elite fantasy totals in 30-plus minutes as a starter.


DeMar DeRozan’s brilliant season continued on Tuesday when he dropped 41 points and 13 rebounds on the shorthanded Celtics. Despite attempting a career-low 13.8 percent of his field goals at the rim this season, the veteran gunner is knocking down shots at his highest clip (47.4% FG) since his rookie campaign. DeRozan is driving to the rim less and taking more mid-range jumpers than ever before, yet somehow he continues to pace the NBA’s elite for a shot at the scoring title. It’s time to stop asking questions and just accept that what DeRozan is doing cannot be easily explained. A partial explanation could be his career-high 34.5 usage rate and 21 field goal attempts per game, but a player’s efficiency should not go up with elevated usage.

DeRozan is far too heavily involved in Toronto’s offense to gloss over him on Friday. He’s been a magician with the ball in his hands and there is nothing about Brooklyn’s backcourt defense that can stop him. Only the Kings are allowing a higher field goal percentage on mid-range shots than the Nets this year, while DeRozan ranks second in pull-up scoring behind only Russell Westbrook. Again, the blowout factor is real, but if this game remains even remotely close heading into the fourth quarter, DeRozan is going to have himself a monster night.


Giannis Antetokounmpo appears to finally be over the illness that sidelined him for one game and limited him to nine minutes in another. He returned to practice Thursday and should have no limitations going forward, placing him firmly in play this evening when he faces Miami at home. Antetokounmpo has been brilliant this season, leading the Bucks in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks through their first 37 games.

I’ve recently dubbed him “Fifty,” or “Fiddy” for those of us in FanVice Slack chat, due to his effortless ability to rack up 50-plus fantasy points every single night. He should do the same on Friday against a Heat team that despite their above average defensive rating, doesn’t have the size or athleticism to challenge him in open space. Hassan Whiteside could cause some trouble around the rim, but Giannis’ improving jump shot and ability to torture opposing teams in transition should be enough to target him freely in all formats. He’s one of the safest plays on the board each night, as any player who leads his team in every single fantasy-relevant statistical category will have a tough time not meeting expectations.


CORE – James Harden

SECONDARY – Kyle Lowry; DeMar DeRozan; Russell Westbrook; Giannis Antetokounmpo; Karl-Anthony Towns [If Zach LaVine is OUT]

GPP – DeMarcus Cousins; Isaiah Thomas


MID-RANGE   [$5800-$8400]


Damian Lillard acted out a scene from Dumb & Dumber on Wednesday — you know, the one where Lloyd Christmas daydreams of tearing out a man’s still-beating heart and places it in a doggie bag, but not before using another man’s genitals as a human punching bag. We are both of those men, still grasping the open hole in our chests and icing our nether regions this afternoon as we contemplate subjecting ourselves to another night of torture. Unfortunately, the heart-ripping, nut-punching point guard is firmly in play against the Magic, yet this time he’s even cheaper.

Having amnesia is important when it comes to playing daily fantasy sports; the same player who caused nightmares one night could make your dreams come true the next. Hopefully that’ll be the case with Lillard, who should be able to exploit the pedestrian defense of Elfrid Payton and D.J. Augustin. The Magic are allowing a higher FG% to point guards than any other team, while ceding the fifth highest FG% at the rim this season.

Nikola Vucevic, who started on Wednesday, is a subpar defender with zero presence around the rim, so Lillard shouldn’t struggle nearly as much when driving to the rack. Orlando also doesn’t have the personnel to trap him in the pick-and-roll like Cleveland did. On paper, this is a great matchup for Lillard. All we have to do now is hope Lloyd Christmas doesn’t make an appearance on Friday night.


Nicolas Batum has already been ruled active for Friday’s road tilt with the Sixers, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be considering him at an appetizing cost. The veteran Frenchman has always possessed triple-double upside, but playing as the fourth wheel in Portland behind Lillard, Aldridge and Matthews suppressed his fantasy totals most nights. He’s no longer just a role player, though; in his second year with Charlotte Batum leads the team in rebounds and assists while sitting second in scoring behind only Kemba Walker.

Batum is averaging a stellar 39 fantasy points over his last 20 games, finishing with 35-plus fantasy points 15 times in that span. At $6,900 on DraftKings it’s hard to fathom a way for him to fail against the Sixers, but even at $7,500 on FanDuel Batum remains in play. Philadelphia has won four of their last five games, with their lone loss coming against the Celtics in a down-to-the-wire affair. Their recent elevated play bodes well for Batum, who should see his full allotment of minutes in a contest owning a 4.5-point spread in favor of Charlotte. Kemba Walker is also in play, but he isn’t nearly as discounted as Batum on Friday.


Paul Millsap has tallied 36-plus DraftKings points in 11 of his last 12 starts and 16 of his last 18. This is the consistency that we had become accustomed to seeing from Millsap but hadn’t manifested itself early in the season. He’s playing fantastic basketball since the start of December, and he should continue to excel in Friday’s matchup with Boston.

The Celtics are surrendering top-five marks to power forwards in a multitude of categories this season, including points (26th), rebounds (27th), assists (29th), steals (29th) and offensive efficiency (27th). A highly versatile forward like Millsap, who ranks top-10 in nearly every category at his position, should thrive in such a matchup. This game should remain close throughout and Millsap should see another very productive 35 minutes of work.


Kevin Love’s $7,700 salary on FanDuel places him in an equally appealing position as Millsap, as Sacramento has struggled to defend opposing bigs both beyond the arc (37% 3PT) and in the post (1.14 PPP) this season. Love’s 21 points and 10 rebounds per game marks his best numbers since he left Minnesota, and he should have no trouble posting another healthy double-double on Friday night.


Andrew Wiggins has eclipsed the 30-fantasy point mark in all 14 games where he has attempted 20 or more field goals this season, including Wednesday night’s win over Houston. He’ll draw a tougher matchup on Friday when the Timberwolves take on the Thunder at home, but Wiggins should remain in play if Zach LaVine’s hip keeps him sidelined.

This is more of a volume play than anything else, as Andre Roberson and the Thunder have contained small forwards well, but LaVine’s potential absence would result in 30-plus percent usage and upwards of 40 minutes of work for Wiggins. LaVine’s status is well worth monitoring throughout the day, as small forward currently lacks depth throughout. As of now, I’d feel much more comfortable going cheap at the position.


Marc Gasol is one of many centers who draws a juicy matchup on Friday, as the Houston Rockets stand no chance of matching his size down low. Gasol leads the league in post scoring, operating with his back to the basket on 35 percent of his possessions. Meanwhile, Houston has allowed the third most post points this season, a likely result of their lack of size in the frontcourt.

Not only will the Rockets struggle to rebound with Clint Capela sidelined, but their pace of play will work heavily in Gasol’s favor, as he’s discovered a legitimate three-point stroke and is capable of playing in transition. At $6,900 on DraftKings, Gasol remains one of the top overall options on Friday night.


Nikola Vucevic started on Wednesday and finished with 43 fantasy points in 32 minutes against the Clippers. He’ll draw a much easier matchup with the Blazers this evening, as Mason Plumlee cannot defend the rim and isn’t an elite rebounding big. Frank Vogel noted that Vooch will remain in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future, which means we’ll need to pounce on this depressed price tag before it jumps up near $8K. Vucevic is a supremely talented big when it comes to his offense, and I simply don’t see any way this Portland team and their 28th ranked defense can stop him.


Jonas Valanciunas and Dwight Howard both make for strong tournament options on a night where their ownership should be down. JoVal is coming off a monster 18-point, 23-rebound double-double in only 28 minutes against the Celtics and now he’ll face a Brooklyn team that has been victimized by opposing centers all season long. At $5,900 on DraftKings and especially at $5,500 on FanDuel, Valanciunas makes for one of the sexier GPP plays on the night. Howard should feast on the boards against this same Boston team Valanciunas just tortured, but he isn’t seeing enough shot volume to confidently deploy in cash.


CORE – Damian Lillard; Nicolas Batum [DraftKings]; Paul Millsap [DraftKings]; Kevin Love [FanDuel]; Marc Gasol [DraftKings]

SECONDARY – Nicolas Batum [FanDuel]; Andrew Wiggins [If Zach LaVine is OUT]; Paul Millsap [FanDuel]; Kevin Love [DraftKings]; Marc Gasol [FanDuel]; Nikola Vucevic

GPP – Kemba Walker; Rudy Gay [DraftKings]; Joel Embiid; Dwight Howard; Jonas Valanciunas


VALUE   [$3000-$5700]


Dion Waiters finally saw his minutes spike since returning from a lengthy hiatus, logging 38 minutes against the Warriors on Tuesday. It wasn’t an impressive showing for Waiters, who finished with only eight points on the night, but his 17 field goal attempts and eight assists were an encouraging sign going forward. With Justise Winslow done for the season and Josh Richardson already ruled out, Waiters figures to see heavy minutes against the Bucks. Milwaukee boasts solid backcourt defense with Matthew Dellavedova and Malcolm Brogdon, but won’t be able to contain Waiters across 35-plus minutes. Heavy playing time and large shot volume should allow for Waiters to pay off his sub-$5K price tag with relative ease.


DeMarre Carroll has never been a high-ceiling fantasy option, but his modest price point mitigates that concern. He sits at an inexplicable $3,800 on FanDuel and a very reasonable $4,500 on DraftKings, which in a matchup with Brooklyn makes him one of the top value plays on this nine-game slate. It’s really that simple; any dirt cheap starter locked into 35 minutes a night is worth targeting against the Nets, especially considering Carroll offers serviceable upside with his defensive statistics.


Aaron Gordon is also severely underpriced on FanDuel, which would make him an elite value play in the event that Serge Ibaka remains out. Even if Ibaka returns to action for this tilt with Portland, Gordon would be in play. Gordon would see heavy run at the four with Ibaka out, where he is a far more potent fantasy option, capable of racking up more rebounds and getting higher percentage looks playing closer to the rim. He’s produced some excellent scoring lines of late, and figures to see ample opportunity to churn out another strong performance against Portland’s bottom-ranked defense.


Brandon Rush exploded for 32 fantasy points in Wednesday’s spot start for the injured Zach LaVine. He logged 36 minutes as Minnesota’s starting shooting guard, and while he only got eight shots off against the Rockets, Rush found alternative ways to produce. The lack of usage definitely isn’t encouraging, but Tom Thibodeau is notorious for running his starters for big minutes, so Rush figures to see another ~35 minutes of work if LaVine remains sidelined. At a near minimum salary cost, he’ll remain in play against the Thunder, as this game should be closely contested throughout.


Steven Adams and Enes Kanter have been playing solid minutes alongside each other lately, which is a positive sign going forward since Billy Donovan has refused to play them together for quite some time. In a matchup with the Timberwolves’ big frontcourt Adams and Kanter should both see 30-plus minutes on the night, and both are more than affordable across the board. My guess is both Thunder bigs will go overlooked on Friday, making them solid options in both cash and GPPs.


Stanley Johnson logged 38 minutes last night in a blowout loss to Golden State, filling in for the injured Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. There’s a good chance the Stanimal will see extended run again on Friday with KCP doubtful to play, though the matchup with Utah is less than enticing. This game owns the lowest total on the night (191 O/U) and it isn’t even close, but Johnson’s minimum salary price point puts him in play as a dirt cheap punt. Another concern is Stan Van Gundy’s treatment towards Johnson this season, as he has clearly fallen out of favor with the head coach. Low usage and a brutal matchup will be hard to overcome on Friday. Johnson will likely need to see 35-plus minutes if he intends on cracking the 20-fantasy point plateau.


Spencer Dinwiddie is an awful basketball player, but he would be worth a look as a min-sal punt if Isaiah Whitehead is unable to play. Dinwiddie would see upwards of 33 minutes with Whitehead out, and will also receive plenty of blowout run if the Raptors take an early lead. He’s a high-volatility option with limited upside, but for those of you looking to squeeze three studs into your lineup, Dinwiddie might have some appeal. I’m more interested in Cory Joseph, though, as he’s already logging upwards of 25 MPG and would see an additional 5-7 minutes in a blowout. At a near min-sal price point I wouldn’t be surprised to see CoJo finish as one of the better fantasy point per dollar performers on the night.


CORE – Dion Waiters; DeMarre Carroll [FanDuel]; Aaron Gordon [FanDuel – If Serge Ibaka is OUT]

SECONDARY – Brandon Rush [If Zach LaVine is OUT]; DeMarre Carroll [DraftKings]; Aaron Gordon [DraftKings]; Steven Adams; Enes Kanter; T.J. McConnell

GPP – Stanley Johnson; Cory Joseph; Spencer Dinwiddie [If Isaiah Whitehead is OUT]; Derrick Favors; Mason Plumlee