NBA Deep Dive – 1/16/17
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a joyous holiday, one where we can sit back and reflect on the progress this beautiful country has made over the years, and one where we can dive deep into a full slate of NBA basketball games. I (Dave Loughran) will be tackling the early five-game slate, while Adam Scherer will cover the four-game night slate in a separate article. Enjoy your day off. Enjoy your freedom. Enjoy basketball.
John Wall draws the juiciest of matchups on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, facing a Blazers team that ranks 28th in DRtg and has been entirely incapable of defending point guards. Damian Lillard has never been a strong defender, but his 115 DRtg this season is substantially worse than any of previous marks. Portland is allowing the second most points and field goal attempts to opposing point guards, while starting center Mason Plumlee lacks the athleticism to stop drives at the rim. Wall operates frequently out of the pick-and-roll, where Portland surrenders the fourth most points and second most PPP to opposing ball handlers.
In terms of consistency, few players offer the same floor as Wall, whose 22.9 points, 10.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game all serve as career-high marks. Wall is the undisputed safest play on Monday’s 5-game early slate, owning a low-to-mid-$9K price point in one of the highest projected scoring games of the day (219.5 O/U). His 36.4 minutes played per game ranks top-10 in basketball, which should serve him well with Washington being mere 3.5-point favorites at home.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has evolved into a matchup-proof freak of nature who leads his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. His box score-stuffing style of play keeps his ceiling high even on nights where the shot isn’t falling, but it’s hard to believe the Sixers will be able to contain him on Monday. Believe it or not, Philadelphia ranks 13th in DRtg on the season and second behind only the Clippers this month! The rim-protecting prowess of Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel has kept opposing teams uncomfortable around the basket, while T.J. McConnell and Robert Covington have forced bad shots and passes with high energy defense and active hands.
There is one area where the Sixers have mightily struggled, though, and it’s also an area where Antetokounmpo has excelled: transition scoring. Giannis scores a quarter of his points in transition, using his long antelope-like strides to float down the court past defenders. Philadelphia is allowing the second most points in transition and 1.14 points per possession. They’re also allowing the most PPP in isolation, an area where Antetokounmpo should thrive in mismatches.
The one area of concern is Philly’s strong defense around the rim, where they are holding opponents to the second lowest field goal percentage (49.7%) this season. I’m willing to take my chances, though, as Antetokounmpo’s jump shooting continues to improve, and he should also see a significant amount of minutes with Embiid off the court. Averaging just shy of 52 DKPT per game at home this season, I’d be surprised to see him disappoint in a game that should remain fairly competitive throughout. Giannis is more than reasonably priced across the industry, and his unprecedented eligibility at both point guard and small forward on DraftKings makes him that much more appealing.
Anthony Davis has been surging of late, posting 34-plus points, 14-plus rebounds, 2-plus blocks and 63-plus fantasy points in each of his last three starts. He’s averaging a ridiculous 1.91 fantasy points per minute over that stretch and is playing a much more aggressive brand of basketball than what we had seen to start the month. Davis’ road matchup with Indiana isn’t a concern, as the Pacers’ frontcourt defense has been pedestrian at best this season (27th DEff). Indiana is allowing 54.2 percent shooting at the rim while serving up the second most rebounds to opposing bigs, so Davis should have no trouble producing elite totals in a competitive, high-scoring affair.
Davis’ price point, however, is a serious concern. Monday’s early slate is currently devoid of low-end value, making Davis a very difficult fit at $11,700 on DraftKings and $11,600 on FanDuel. If we happen to get injury news prior to lock and value opens up across one or more of the five positions, Davis will become a much more viable option across the board. For now, though, we’ll tentatively consider him a secondary option who makes roster construction difficult at a near $12K salary.
EDIT: T.J. McConnell has been ruled out for the Sixers, which opens up value with Sergio Rodriguez owning a near minimum salary price point across the board.
Damian Lillard remains cheap enough to consider a strong tournament option on this abbreviated slate. The positional matchup with John Wall isn’t optimal, but it certainly isn’t a deterrent, either. While mostly everyone will flock to Wall in a better matchup, Lillard should see low ownership despite his depressed price point. His home/road splits haven’t been nearly as pronounced this season, and his usage remains north of 30 percent. On a day where we’ll be looking to diversify in tournaments, Lillard could be a difference maker if he heats up at the Verizon Center.
CORE – Giannis Antetokounmpo; John Wall
SECONDARY – Anthony Davis
GPP – Damian Lillard
Nikola Jokic has seen a steep rise in salary across the industry, but the price hike is far from unwarranted; over his last 10 starts, the Serbian big man is averaging 42.2 fantasy points on 19 points, 9.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.3 Stocks per game. Jokic will record his first career triple-double before the season concludes, and Monday’s matchup with Orlando should afford him ample opportunity to flirt with another one. Frank Vogel has inserted Nikola Vucevic back into the starting lineup, which works heavily in Jokic’s favor. Orlando struggles to protect the rim, and doesn’t have enough athleticism in their frontcourt to contain the Nuggets’ second-year stud.
Jokic has shown some incredible versatility this season, flashing the ability to take the ball coast to coast for impressive dunks and displaying elite vision as a distributor. He has developed into Denver’s best facilitator when on the court, and is finally beginning to see consistent playing time on a nightly basis.
In what should be a competitive, high-scoring affair, Jokic should have no problem eclipsing the 40-fantasy point mark across 30 minutes of work. With a 26 percent usage rate and 29 percent assist rate since re-entering the starting lineup, Jokic offers ample upside so long as Mike Malone keeps him on the court.
Nikola Vucevic has a long way to go before he can be considered a serviceable defender, but fortunately for him on Monday, the same can be said about Nikola Jokic. Jokic owns a 110 DRtg rating on the season, and is allowing a whopping 58.4 percent field goal percentage at the rim. No center averaging 20-plus minutes per game has done a worse job of protecting the basket than Jokic, who despite his far-reaching offensive skillset, remains a huge liability on the defensive end.
Vucevic is similar to Jokic in that his elite offense keeps him on the court, and with Evan Fournier expected to sit, Orlando will need scoring to combat the Nuggets who play at the league’s fifth fastest pace. Denver is serving up the third most points and second most field goal attempts to opposing centers with Jokic in the starting lineup, so Vooch should have no trouble exploiting this matchup at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets have done a fine job of limiting rebounds, but Vucevic is simply too cheap to ignore now that he’s locked into 30-plus MPG as a starter (32+ minutes in each of his three starts).
Marcin Gortat and Dwight Howard also warrant some consideration on Monday, but both have some drawbacks. Gortat remains underpriced and is logging 35-plus minutes every night, but he appears to be wearing down of late, as evidenced by four straight sub-30-fantasy point performances. Still, Gortat draws an excellent matchup with the Blazers, and barring any foul trouble should see another near 40 minutes of work. He’s a strong cash game option at a low-$6K price point, but should probably be avoided in GPPs.
Howard remains underpriced and draws an elite matchup against the Knicks’ porous frontcourt defense, but he simply isn’t shooting enough to post monster fantasy lines. We’d love to see him shred Noah and O’Quinn down low, but he hasn’t seen the usage or shot volume to exploit excellent matchups like this one on Monday. Still, Howard should be strongly considered in tournaments, as a deep center position should keep his ownership low despite nearly falling below $7K on DraftKings.
Elfrid Payton is always at risk of losing minutes if he gets off to a slow start, but Frank Vogel could have a tough time sitting him if he continues to play at such a high level. Payton has combined for 47 points, 16 assists, 13 rebounds, five Stocks and 95.3 fantasy points over his last two starts. He and Vucevic lead the Magic in usage over that span at 28.5 percent and 27.4 percent respectively, so pairing the two in a plus matchup with the Nuggets makes plenty of sense on Monday.
Denver is surrendering the fourth most points, fifth most rebounds, third most steals and highest offensive efficiency to opposing point guards this season, while Emmanuel Mudiay and Jameer Nelson are sporting absolutely dismal defensive ratings of 114 and 115 respectively. Payton should excel in this matchup given that Vogel doesn’t limit his playing time, as this serves as an extremely uptempo draw for the Magic, who play at the NBA’s 10th slowest pace.
Bradley Beal is one of the only viable mid-range shooting guard options on Monday, facing a Blazers team that struggles mightily to defend opposing guards. C.J. McCollum’s 114 DRtg and miserable 1.4 percent steal rate both serve as career-low marks, while he has seemed absolutely lost on defense for long stretches of the season. Meanwhile, Beal is shooting a career-high 41 percent from beyond the arc despite attempting a whopping 7.2 threes per game. With big minutes and near one-fantasy point per minute production on the year, it’s hard to ignore Beal at a sub-$7K price point across the industry.
Carmelo Anthony and Paul George are both quality options on Monday, but not for the same reason. Melo should see massive usage again with Kristaps Porzingis doubtful to play, and while the matchup with Atlanta isn’t ideal, we’ll take the minutes and elevated shot volume to the bank. Anthony is sporting a 34 percent usage rate with Porzingis sidelined this season, while producing 1.28 FPPM in the process. His salary has risen across the board, but Melo remains affordable enough to roster in a game where the Knicks are 3.5-point dogs at home.
George is strictly a price play against the Pelicans, and is best suited for GPPs assuming Melo gets another start without Porzingis playing alongside him. George’s usage is down to 27 percent, a three percent drop from last season, but he’s still hoisting up plenty of shots and sits at a mid-$7K price point on both FanDuel and DraftKings. In a contest owning a 214.5 total and 5.5-point spread, George should see more than enough opportunity to produce at a very palatable price point.
Jabari Parker draws the best positional matchup of any Bucks player on Monday, as he should see plenty of Ersan Ilyasova and his finesse brand of defense. Parker’s salary has risen across the board, but his career-high 26 percent usage rate and 34 MPG should keep his floor high. Parker has tallied 35-plus fantasy points in eight of his last ten starts, while attempting 16 field goals and five free throws per game over that stretch. He offers plenty of mid-range appeal on an abbreviated slate, and should have no trouble eclipsing 35 fantasy points for the ninth time in 11 games.
Ersan Ilyasova also draws the best positional matchup for the Sixers, and is actually a rather intriguing GPP play who should go virtually unowned on Monday afternoon. Jabari Parker’s defense is his biggest liability, and Ilyasova should have no trouble exploiting those weaknesses from beyond the arc. He has clearly earned Brett Brown’s trust and should see another 30-plus minutes of work assuming Philly can keep things relatively competitive.
CORE – Nikola Jokic; Nikola Vucevic
SECONDARY – Elfrid Payton; Bradley Beal; Carmelo Anthony; Jabari Parker; Paul Millsap; Marcin Gortat
GPP – Paul George; Ersan Ilyasova; Markieff Morris; Dwight Howard; Jeff Teague
Sergio Rodriguez lost his starting job to T.J. McConnell, who was playing impressive basketball before injuring his wrist in Saturday’s loss to the Wizards. He’ll see an opportunity to earn back some minutes on Monday, though, as Rodriguez should draw the start against the Bucks. This matchup with Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova is far from enticing, but at a near minimum salary price point we don’t need to think much about the decision. My only concern here is Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot earning more minutes off the bench, as Brett Brown has been impressed with his recent play. Still, Sergio needs no more than 20 fantasy points to pay off his salary, and he should have little trouble doing so in what’s projected to be a relatively competitive affair (PHI +7).
Mason Plumlee would be north of $7K across the board right now if Terry Stotts wasn’t so determined to toy with his minutes. Despite producing well north of one fantasy point per minute, Plumlee is still at risk of losing minutes any given night. I’m still willing to target him heavily in GPPs, though, as this matchup with Washington and Marcin Gortat’s putrid rim protection this season is highly enticing. Moreover, Ed Davis could miss Monday’s game with a sprained ankle, almost certainly cementing Plumlee’s minutes in the 30’s on a day where his scoring and facilitating will be needed.
Jodie Meeks took and missed four straight three-point shots in the remaining seconds of Saturday’s loss to the Jazz, but his free shooting in a clutch situation shows that Frank Vogel is willing to let him play. Evan Fournier is expected to sit against the Nuggets, which should once again free up big minutes for Meeks in the starting lineup. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better matchup than this one with Denver, as the Nuggets have been torched by opposing two-guards all season long, and Gary Harris isn’t the stout defender people make him out to be. If Fournier is out and Meeks draws another start, consider him one of the top value options on Monday’s five-game day slate.
Michael Beasley is one of the most volatile fantasy options in basketball, but he’s also capable of producing excellent totals when provided the run. Beasley could see extended minutes in a blowout, but is also primed to see around 20 minutes even if this game remains close. He’s nothing more than a tournament punt, but could be a difference maker in GPPs if you decide to fade some of the more popular low-end plays.
CORE – Sergio Rodriguez; Jodie Meeks
SECONDARY – Gary Harris; Joakim Noah; Evan Turner [If Moe Harkless is OUT]
GPP – Mason Plumlee; Michael Beasley; Kyle O’Quinn