NBA Deep Dive 1/20/17
Friday’s 9-game slate is different than most, offering up what could very possibly be the highest projected scoring game in history. Houston hosts the Warriors in a contest owning a 236.5 total with a 5.5-point spread, meaning this game alone houses an abundance of fantasy value on both sides of the court. In order to simplify the process we’re going to discuss this game as it’s own entity and tackle the rest of the slate separately. Let’s get started.
Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors
James Harden continues to produce jaw-dropping numbers nearly every single night, as he leads the league in touches (100.4 TCH/G), passes made (67.6 PM/G), passes received (83 PR/G) and assists (11.6 AST/G) through 45 games. Not only is Harden sporting a career-high 34.2 percent usage rate, but his 52 percent assist rate proves that he is involved in almost every single scoring possession the Rockets manufacture while he’s on the court. On a night where two of the league’s top five fastest paced teams clash in Houston, Harden should earn every possible opportunity to produce. He’s averaging 66 fantasy points per game in 10 contests owning totals of 225 or higher, yet Friday’s 236.5 O/U is unprecedented. Lock him up as the top overall option on Friday night.
Golden State ranks first in defensive rating this season, allowing only 101.1 points per 100 possessions through their first 42 games. That stout defensive rating can be misleading for fantasy purposes, though, as their lightning-fast pace of play is highly accommodating in the DFS world. The Warriors hold opponents to a meager 43.2 percent shooting, but are allowing the second most field goal attempts per game. They score points at an incredible clip, but cough up the second most steals in the process. They rank second in rim protection (49.7% DFG), but surrender the most offensive rebounds. You get the point; opposing teams won’t operate with supreme efficiency, but they will see no shortage of opportunities to produce.
Patrick Beverley should log upwards of 35 minutes of court time on Friday, as he is easily the best on-ball defender Houston has to offer. The fifth-year guard isn’t an especially high-upside play, but he’s averaging a very respectable 30 fantasy points per game over his last 15 starts, and currently boasts career-high marks as both a rebounder (6.2 REB/G) and a distributor (4.4 AST/G). At a mid-$5K price point across the board, Beverley will be hard to ignore in these mouthwatering conditions. Guarding Stephen Curry will be no small task, but it should keep him on the court for potentially his most minutes of the season.
Ryan Anderson is questionable to play after missing two straight starts with an illness, but his return to action could provide us with some value in a game that’s largely devoid of quality low-end options. Anderson’s three-point shooting will be crucial against the Warriors’ high-powered offense, and although they hold opponents to the lowest 3PT% in basketball, they’re coughing up nearly 30 three-point attempts per game.
If Anderson remains sidelined, Sam Dekker would figure to log another 25 minutes off the bench, which in this exceedingly fast-paced affair is enough warrant consideration. 45 percent of Dekker’s field goal attempts come within three feet of the rim, while 42 percent come beyond the arc. He literally hasn’t made a shot between 10 and 16 feet this season, but his shot selection is absolutely ideal for fantasy purposes. High percentage shots around the basket and ample three-point attempts sets him up perfectly for this matchup with the Warriors, who allow the fifth most field goal attempts in transition.
Eric Gordon also makes for a elite GPP play, as he’s second behind only Stephen Curry in made threes per game (3.7) and is shooting a stellar 40.3 percent from beyond the arc this season. He could easily go overlooked in a game that’s already oozing supreme fantasy talent, but is easily capable of heating up in 30-plus minutes off the bench.
Kevin Durant shot 13-16 from the field, 5-7 from beyond the arc and 9-10 from the free throw line on his way to posting 40 points and 70 fantasy points against the Thunder. Durant and Russell Westbrook have grown to despise each other, which likely fueled his performance on Wednesday, but he won’t need any additional motivation to produce this evening. Much of this game will be played in transition, where Houston is allowing the fourth most points this season. Trevor Ariza is no longer an above average defender, and the Rockets simply don’t have the size to contain Durant across 48 minutes of play. Similar to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who poured in 32 points on 13-20 shooting against the Rockets earlier this week, Durant’s size and athleticism should allow him to victimize an undersized Houston squad both around the rim and beyond the arc. He’s a phenomenal option across the board despite a slightly elevated price point.
Draymond Green is easily one of the most consistent fantasy options in the game, but he isn’t without upside, either. Actually, Green’s three triple-doubles this season ranks third behind only Westbrook (21) and Harden (13), while his 7.7 assists per game leads all forwards not named LeBron James. The Rockets lack size in their frontcourt, play at the league’s fourth fastest pace, and allow the fourth highest FG% to opposing power forwards this season. Green possesses legitimate triple-double potential against the same Houston team he racked up 20 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists and 58 fantasy points against in a double overtime loss earlier this season. At $7,900 on DraftKings and $8,200 on FanDuel, Green is arguably one of the best overall values on the board.
Stephen Curry has looked much better of late after struggling through a large part of December, averaging 27.3 points, seven assists, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 48 fantasy points through eight January starts. Curry has apparently played so well that he earned a starting role on the Western Conference All-Star team, over Russell Westbrook who has more triple-doubles than the entire starting lineup combined [sarcasm font disengaged]. Curry should still produce, but being guarded by Beverley is never an enviable position. I’ll have less exposure to Curry than I will to Harden, Durant and Green, but the potential upside in this matchup can’t go overlooked.
Klay Thompson should actually serve as one of the best targets in this game, not because he offers the highest upside, but because the shooting guard position is extraordinarily weak outside of Harden. At $6,500 on DraftKings and $6,400 on FanDuel, Thompson won’t require an elite performance in order to pay off his salary, but should see no shortage of opportunity to produce in a game sporting the highest total we’ve ever seen. You can pair Harden with Mario Hezonja, who should see solid run with Evan Fournier and Jodie Meeks sidelined, but Thompson is the only mid-range option with serious appeal.
I worry that Zaza Pachulia will see very limited run in this matchup. If Houston starts the 6’8” Montrezl Harrell, Steve Kerr would be more inclined to roll with Green at the five, and in a game that’s going to be nonstop running the court, Pachulia doesn’t exactly fit the mold. He’s definitely cheap, but that’s about all he has going for him in this particular matchup.
CORE – James Harden; Kevin Durant; Draymond Green; Klay Thompson
SECONDARY – Patrick Beverley; Stephen Curry
GPP – Sam Dekker Ryan Anderson; [If Ryan Anderson is OUT]; Eric Gordon; Andre Iguodala
Anthony Davis is easily the most appealing non-Warriors/Rockets option on Friday night, facing a pathetic Nets team that serves up the second most points, third most rebounds, second most steals and most blocks to opposing centers. Brooklyn not only plays at the fastest pace in basketball, but ranks 28th in defensive efficiency on the season. A supremely athletic and versatile Davis should mutilate this Nets frontcourt from the second he steps onto the hardwood, and he is the lone player on Friday’s slate that would force me to consider fading some top-tier options in Houston and Golden State. Expect Davis to annihilate them in the pick-and-roll, where he leads the league in roll men points, and also in the post where Brooklyn has no one capable of guarding him. He’s an elite option across the board, and is someone you should absolutely have exposure to on Friday.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has been astoundingly good this season, but I simply don’t see the need to deploy him outside of having a few shares in GPPs. He’s capable of exploiting any matchup with his freakish size and athleticism, but Serge Ibaka’s rim protection and Aaron Gordon’s elite lateral movement on defense could actually cause some problems. I’m not suggesting that they will be able to contain Giannis, but I’m also not about to recommend him over Harden, Davis or Durant. He’s a harder fit now that sites have jacked his salary up considerably over the past couple weeks.
Joel Embiid, as crazy as this may sound, remains a viable option at $8,400 across the board. I wouldn’t deploy him outside of GPPs, but for someone who has tallied 20-plus points in 10 straight games and two-plus blocks in all but one of those starts, it’s hard to believe Embiid can fail on Friday. Portland is ceding the third most points and free throw attempts to opposing centers, while Embiid’s 11.2 FTA/36 leads the entire league this season. Actually, he’s averaging 11.3 FTA per game in January despite the strict 28-minute restriction.
In case you were wondering, Embiid has failed to tally 40 fantasy points only once in his last ten starts, and in a matchup with Portland possesses legitimate 55-fantasy point upside. Embiid is cash viable due to a ridiculously high floor, but has more tournament appeal on a night where he should go heavily overlooked. We’ll label him a secondary play based on his multi-purpose viability, but he’s more than usable in all formats this evening.
NOTE: Embiid is apparently still dealing with an illness but intends on playing through it. He wasn’t limited on Wednesday, though, and likely won’t show any adverse effects against the lowly Blazers.
CORE – Anthony Davis
SECONDARY – Joel Embiid
GPP – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Mike Conley continues to enjoy the best statistical season of his career, sporting highs in points, three-pointers, free throws and rebounds at the season’s midway point. His salary has climbed quite a bit, but there’s still plenty to like in this home matchup with Sacramento. Darren Collison is sporting a putrid 114 DRtg this season, while the Kings have fallen to 25th in DRtg as a team. Meanwhile, Conley has tallied 40-plus fantasy points in five of his last seven starts. His career-high 26.2 percent usage rate should also serve him well on Friday night. The low total in this game is unappealing for the most part, but Conley is too involved in the Grizzlies’ offense to disappoint, as Memphis already plays at the third slowest pace in basketball.
Rudy Gobert is another player who won’t benefit from a fast-paced affair but should excel in a stellar matchup against an under-talented Dallas frontcourt. The total in this game is unsightly to say the least (186.5 O/U), but Gobert doesn’t rely on uptempo conditions to produce. He should gobble up rebounds against the Bogut-less Mavericks, who have been trounced by opposing bigs with the Aussie out of the lineup, and should find easy putback opportunities in the process. Gobert, who leads the league in blocks (2.6 BLK/G) and ranks top five in rebounds, offensive rebounds and double-doubles (29), should dismantle the likes of Salah Mejri, Dwight Powell and Dirk Nowitzki if he’s healthy enough to play.
Myles Turner is a strong alternative to Rudy Gobert if you’re looking to maximize exposure to the Pacers-Lakers tilt, which serves as the only late game on the night. Turner ranks second in basketball with 2.4 blocks per game and is rapidly developing into a versatile player on both ends of the floor. He’ll still struggle to contain dominant bigs like DeMarcus Cousins, but Friday’s draw against Timofey Mozgov and Co. should be a metaphorical walk in the park. Turner hasn’t been as consistent as Gobert, but he’s proven that there are enough weapons in his arsenal to churn out 40-plus-fantasy point performances in optimal matchups. Paul George is a GPP play at a weak small forward position, but isn’t a trustworthy cash play with his decreased usage and apparent lack of effort at times.
Jeff Teague faces the Lakers on Friday. Need I say more? Not only do they rank dead last in defensive rating this season, but they’re also allowing the highest FG% and most assists to their opposition this season. Point guards also lead the league in FG% against the Lakers, while operating with the second highest offensive efficiency in the process. This is a stellar spot for Teague in a game that owns a 220.5 total and a 3.5-point spread in favor of the Pacers. Both teams play at a top ten pace, and neither is playing well enough on defense to run the score up early.
Jrue Holiday is overpriced on DraftKings even though he draws the best possible matchup in basketball. At $6,500 on FanDuel, though, Holiday makes sense as a secondary option with some upside at this price point. Alvin Gentry has limited Holiday to under 30 minutes in three straight games and five of his last six, so there’s definitely some concern here regarding playing time. He’s also losing usage to Tyreke Evans when both are on the court, and hasn’t eclipsed 38 fantasy points in seven consecutive starts. Having said that, the Nets still pose an excellent opportunity for Holiday to get back on track, and I’m willing to roll the dice on FanDuel where he’s priced according to his recent production.
Paul Millsap has recorded 36-plus fantasy points in 11 straight games and 18 of his last 20. If that’s not a pillar of consistency I don’t know what is. He’s actually been more reliable than Draymond Green at a similar price point, but doesn’t have the luxury of playing in a game with a 236.5 total on Friday. Still, Millsap is a strong cash game option against the Bulls in what’s projected to be a closely contested affair. He rarely disappoints and is still priced affordably across the industry, so there’s no reason to avoid him in a neutral matchup with the Bulls.
SECONDARY – Mike Conley; Rudy Gobert; Jeff Teague; Jrue Holiday [FanDuel]; Paul Millsap; Myles Turner; Julius Randle
GPP – Jrue Holiday [DraftKings]; Paul George; Kyle Lowry; Paul George
Mario Hezonja is never the first value play you want to consider on a 9-game slate, but our options are currently very limited. With Evan Fournier and Jodie Meeks already ruled out, Hezonja could draw the start at shooting guard and potentially log around 30 minutes against the Bucks. That’s really all we can ask for when dealing with a min-sal punt.
Aaron Gordon should also see a boost in value on Friday, not because he’ll be logging minutes at the two, but because he’ll see additional shot volume and a few extra minutes with Frank Vogel having to shift some of his swingmen to the 2-guard position. With 32-plus fantasy points in six of his last nine starts, Gordon has flashed enough upside to be deployed at $5,400 on DraftKings and $5,000 on FanDuel. The lack of depth at the small forward position also accentuates his appeal on the night.
JaMychal Green is one of my preferred GPP options at a sub-$5K cost, as his ownership should be very low on Friday. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sacramento start two bigs again, which would solidify Green’s minutes at the four. In two prior meetings this season, Cousins and Koufos started in the frontcourt and Rudy Gay was absent from both. Green logged 38 minutes the last time these teams met, and being that both teams will have the same active personnel available on Friday Green figures to see another 30-plus minutes of work. It’s a relatively strong matchup, and one that Green should be able to exploit at a mid-$4K price point.
Matt Barnes is also in play despite the slow-paced conditions between Memphis and Sacramento. He’s seen ample work with Gay sidelined, and was used often in two meetings with the Grizzlies, who have actually struggled to contain opposing forwards of late. Value is barren this evening, making Barnes a viable option in all formats at a weak position. Darren Collison also warrants some consideration if Ty Lawson is unable to play. The matchup isn’t ideal, but Collison’s potential combination of minutes with Lawson out and usage with Gay done for the season would place him firmly in play.
Lou Williams is in the midst of another heater, and his quality play off the bench could force Luke Walton to provide him with more minutes until he cools off. Williams has been a spark off the bench for a Lakers team that has been largely underwhelming in almost every phase of the game, and his salary remains low enough to deploy him in tournaments in a palatable matchup with the Pacers. L.A. ranks bottom-five in assists this season, and Williams has contributed to the lack of facilitating, so we’ll likely need him to score 20-plus points in order to produce serviceable totals.
If you fancy yourself a risk taker, Ivica Zubac is the punt of all punts on Friday night. The Croatian rookie exploded for an 11-point, 13-rebound, three-block double-double in 26 minutes off the bench Wednesday when Walton benched his starters after a dismal start to the second half. With Timofey Mozgov struggling, Thomas Robinson being phased out of the rotation for a second time, and Tarik Black being — well being Tarik Black, Zubac stands a legitimate chance of seeing extended run in the frontcourt. He’s a huge longshot, but worth a flier in GPPs if you’re maxing out tournaments and want to sprinkle some exposure.
Brandon Ingram has looked much improved lately, posting 30-plus fantasy points in two of his last three games while shooting 49 percent from the field over his last nine outings. Ingram’s playing time has been trending upwards again, and he will easily surpass 30 minutes on Friday if Luol Deng remains out. Ingram didn’t lose minutes when Walton benched his starters on Wednesday, and he has also become far more involved in the offense when on the court. If Deng sits this one out Ingram will once again be in play.
SECONDARY – Mario Hezonja; Aaron Gordon; Darren Collison [If Ty Lawson is OUT]; Cody Zeller; Brandon Ingram [If Luol Deng is OUT]
GPP – JaMychal Green; Lou Williams; Mason Plumlee; Ivica Zubac; Solomon Hill