NBA Deep Dive – 1/17/17

High Priced ($8,500+)


James Harden is the only player over $10,000 on the slate and he clearly has the most raw-point upside.  There is basically never anything wrong with rostering Harden, as long as you are comfortable with the rest of your lineup as well.  There are reasons to be concerned about his performance today, however, so forcing him into your lineup may not be the best strategy.  The Heat have played at the 21st-fastest pace in the NBA since the start of December, so Harden will likely have a few less possessions in this game.  Hassan Whiteside will also be manning the paint for Miami, which gives them a strong presence that can prevent Harden from easily scoring at the rim.  That being said, this game still has a Vegas total of 221.5 so there should be plenty of production available for Harden.  He is a strong play, but there are likely to be better plays elsewhere since he is about $3,000 more expensive than anyone else on the slate.


Jimmy Butler will be playing in a slow-paced game against a Dallas team that struggles defensively.  In the last game that he played with Dwayne Wade, he played about 23 minutes alongside Wade without Rondo, 12 minutes alongside Rondo without Wade and 4 to 5 minutes with neither one.  When he plays alongside Wade with no Rondo this season, he averages 1.17 DraftKings points per minute.  He averages 1.24 DraftKings points per minute when he is alongside Rondo without Wade, and 1.53 DraftKings points when he plays with neither one.  If you use those numbers to predict his output, albeit without factoring in the slow pace or weak defense of Dallas, it comes out to about 48.4 DraftKings points, which suggests he is priced close to perfectly.  He is a viable option, but there is not likely to be much excess value in a game with a 197 Vegas total.


Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan both are excellent options in an up-tempo matchup with the Nets.  Brooklyn is playing at the fastest pace in the league since the start of December and has the fifth worst defensive rating.  In addition, they have allowed the most points, steals, rebounds and blocks per game, and the second most assists per game, to opposing guards over that span.  Lowry is averaging 37.1 minutes per game this season, good for the 2nd most in the NBA, and DeRozan is averaging 35.4, which ranks him 13th.  This game will be played in Brooklyn, which increases the chances that it remains relatively close into the fourth quarter.


Core: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan

Secondary: James Harden, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard


Mid-Range ($5,800-$8,400)


Nikola Jokic continues to play extremely well and will get to face a Lakers team that has the second worst defensive rating in the NBA over the last month and a half.  The Lakers do not play quite as fast as they did earlier in the season, ranking 13th since the start of December, but their poor defense more than makes up for any concerns about pace.  Jokic ranks 6th in points per game, 12th in rebounds per game, and 1st in assists per game among centers over the last month, despite ranking 20th with just 27.8 minutes per game.  He has played at least 27 minutes in four consecutive games, including 36 yesterday afternoon, so it appears that Mike Malone is comfortable giving him more playing time.  His price continues to rise, but it is still too low for his production as his minutes increase.  The only real concern with Jokic tonight is that it is the second leg of a back-to-back after he played his second-most minutes of the season, but at least it was a day game yesterday so he has a little bit more time to recover.


D’Angelo Russell has a very friendly matchup with the Nuggets in what should be a very high scoring game.  Russell’s minutes have been down a little bit lately, seeing no more than 30 in any of his last four games.  Russell is still a strong play tonight, however, as the Nuggets do not offer much in the way of defensive resistance.  Since the start of December, Denver has allowed opposing guards the 2nd-highest field goal percentage, highest three-point percentage, 8th most steals and 8th most points per game.  One of Russell’s biggest weaknesses is his efficiency, so it is a good sign that Denver allows such high shooting percentages to opponents.  Add in the additional possessions that Russell will have because of Denver’s pace, and possible extra minutes if Clarkson is out or if he gets hot early, and Russell could be in line for a monster game tonight.


Brook Lopez and Jonas Valanciunas face off against each other again tonight.  In their last meeting, they were both productive but fell just short of producing huge lines.  Lopez is averaging 1.32 DraftKings points per minutes over his last 7 meetings with Valanciunas (he is averaging 1.18 DraftKings points per minute this season for comparison).  If we project Lopez for 31.5 minutes tonight, which is reasonable as long as the game stays close, that would give him 41.6 DraftKings points.  Valanciunas has not had the same past success against Lopez, but he has been playing extremely well lately, since Dwayne Casey told him he will play more minutes as long as he stays aggressive.  Lopez is not someone that we shy away from targeting opposing centers against, especially since the pace Brooklyn plays at offers so many extra opportunities for stats.  They are both very strong mid-tier options on this slate.


Julius Randle has had two horrific games in a row against the Clippers and the Pistons.  It is somewhat concerning because he just was not a factor offensively, attempting just 6 and 7 field goal attempts in the two games.  It is worth noting, however, that the Clippers and Pistons are both teams that play at a slower pace which means more half court sets and less transition offense for the Lakers.  They both also have strong isolation defenders that can match up with Randle.  Luc Richard Mbah a Moute spent a considerable amount of time on Randle in the matchup with Los Angeles, and he was defended by Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris in the meeting with Detroit.  18 percent of Randle’s offense comes through isolation plays.  Mbah a Moute ranks in the 94th percentile in isolation defense, allowing 0.51 points per possession.  Morris ranks in the 91st percentile, allowing 0.54 points per possession and Harris ranks in the 88th percentile, allowing 0.61 points per possession.  Wilson Chandler, who likely will defend Randle tonight, is a strong isolation defender as well, ranking in the 79th percentile with 0.71 points allowed per possession.  The positive for Randle is that the Nuggets play at a faster pace, so he should be able to handle the ball more in transition, and the Nuggets are a very weak overall team defense.



Core: Nikola Jokic, D’Angelo Russell, Brook Lopez, Jonas Valanciunas, Julius Randle (FanDuel), Wilson Chandler- assuming he starts (FanDuel)

Secondary: Julius Randle (DraftKings), LaMarcus Aldridge, Goran Dragic, Wilson Chandler- assuming he starts (DraftKings), Hassan Whiteside, Ricky Rubio, James Johnson, Dwyane Wade


Value ($3,000-$5,700)


Tyler Johnson is a very appealing play on sites where he is cheap, like DraftKings where he is priced at just $5,600.  The Heat are still without Josh Richardson and Johnson is locked into 30+ minutes per game.  He comes off the bench for Miami, so he will spend less time facing Clint Capela, who is a very strong rim protector, and more time facing Montrezl Harrell and/or Nene who are not as strong around the rim.  He will also spend less time against Patrick Beverley, which is a good thing.  Johnson will benefit from the pace that the Rockets play at and offers a very nice ceiling in this matchup for his price- and often goes overlooked since he comes off the bench.


Dion Waiters’ price is up considerably, but it is still too low for his ceiling.  He has attempted 17 field goals in each of his last two games and produced at least 25 DraftKings points in each game, despite shooting less than 30 percent from the field in both games.  Tonight he gets a huge boost in pace against Houston and appears locked in for heavy minutes, as he played 38 two games ago and 31 last game- and would have played more except for a second foul relatively early in the second quarter.  He is a riskier option at his new price point than he was when he was essentially free since he can go ice cold from the field, but he still has a very high ceiling for the price.


DeMarre Carroll also has seen a price increase, but his floor is higher than Waiters’ since he is likely to pick up plenty of defensive stats against a sloppy Brooklyn team.  It was very encouraging that Carroll was the last starter off the floor during the fourth quarter blowout in the last meeting with Brooklyn, as it appears that he is finally completely healthy and Dwayne Casey does not have reservations about playing him full minutes every night.  Carroll has been aggressive offensively, with at least 10 field goal attempts in four consecutive games.


Lou Williams’ minutes are trending up and Jordan Clarkson is questionable for tonight’s matchup.  Williams has a high ceiling for his price regardless of Clarkson’s status since he is capable of getting hot quickly and Luke Walton has shown a willingness to ride the hot hand this season.  If Clarkson sits, Williams’ minutes become more solidified and he becomes a safer option to go along with the high ceiling.


Lucas Noguiera has played at least 30 minutes in his last two games since sliding into the starting lineup for Pascal Siakam with Patrick Patterson still injured.  Assuming he gets the start again, he remains a strong option against a weak Brooklyn frontcourt.  He averages 0.84 DraftKings points per minute this season, which comes out to about 25 fantasy points if projected out to 30 minutes.  Factor in the pace and friendly matchup and there is the potential for even more.  The downside is that Nogueira is only center eligible, and there is a lot of opportunity cost at center today with Brook Lopez and Valanciunas very fairly priced and Jokic listed as a center on some sites.


Jameer Nelson is a very strong option at the minimum price, especially if he gets the start at shooting guard for Gary Harris.  Nelson came in for Harris when he was injured yesterday and then started the second half in his place, as Will Barton continued to come off the bench.  It makes some sense for Barton to continue coming off the bench to provide offense for the second unit.  Whether he starts or not, Nelson should see an uptick in playing time in a very nice matchup against Los Angeles.


Emmanuel Mudiay is coming off a very nice game against Orlando and, at first look, seems like a strong play against the Lakers.  Mudiay is known for his inconsistency, so there is always risk in playing him.  Digging deeper, however, there is even more risk today because he has been awful on the road this season.  Mudiay is averaging 10.1 more DraftKings points per game more at home than on the road.  In addition, he is shooting 42.6 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from three at home compared to 31.2 percent from the field and 23.3 percent on the road.  He also averages 5.8 assists per game at home compared to just 2.5 on the road, which is not solely explained by playing 3 minutes less per game on the road.  There are enough value options on this slate that we can wait for Mudiay to get a good matchup at home before we target him.


Core: Tyler Johnson (DraftKings), Dion Waiters, Demarre Carroll, Lou Williams, Lucas Noguiera, Jameer Nelson

Secondary:  Taj Gibson (FanDuel), Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, Kenneth Faried, Robin Lopez, Nick Young