NBA Deep Dive – 12/12/16

HIGH-PRICED

DeMarcus Cousins had been an unstoppable force until clashing with the Stifle Tower in a blowout loss to the Jazz. Fret not though, friends, as Boogie should be back in top form Monday when he takes on the Lakers at home. L.A. has recently slipped into dead last at DRtg, allowing nearly 110 points per 100 possessions and 111 raw points per game. The return of D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young won’t help their defensive prospects going forward, and obviously won’t affect Cousins’ outlook this evening, where he’ll face the likes of Timofey Mozgov (114 DRtg) and Julius Randle (110 DRtg) at Sleep Train Arena. Los Angeles’ starting frontcourt duo is allowing an average of 56 percent shooting at the rim.

 

Cousins’ career-high 37 percent usage rate coupled with 21.5 field goal attempts and just shy of 10 free throws per game makes him as matchup-proof as they come. This game owns one of the highest totals on the night at 216.5, and although the Kings are 7.5-point favorites at home, Cousins is averaging 34 MPG in contests decided by eight or more points this season. He’s a top play across the board and should be one of the first high-end plays you consider in all formats this evening.

 

James Harden and the Rockets have been firing on all cylinders of late, winning each of their six December games and 12 of their last 15 dating back to November 14th. Harden’s fantasy totals have unfortunately been curtailed by blowouts at times, but he’s still averaging 36 MPG over this span where Houston owns a plus-9.3 point differential. Harden has fallen far behind Russell Westbrook in the Daily Fantasy MVP Race, but he’s also significantly less expensive. He leads the league in assists, is top-five in points and second in free throw attempts per game, while sporting a 34 percent usage rate in the process.

 

The return of Patrick Beverley has actually negatively affected Harden’s fantasy totals, not because he’s siphoning away usage, but because his defense has made the Rockets a much more difficult team to compete with. Still, Brooklyn should hemorrhage fantasy points to Harden for every second he’s on the hardwood, as they are serving up a league-worst 115 points per game with the fourth highest OEff allowed to opposing backcourts.

 

The only concern here is the obviously blowout risk with Houston being 14.5-point favorites at home, but I’m having a very difficult time ignoring Harden in a game that owns a slate-high 229 over-under. Houston’s 121.5 point implied total is easily the highest on the night, and it’s hard to envision a way in which Harden doesn’t at least post 55 fantasy points in a blowout-shortened three quarters of work. If we’re lucky enough to get four quarters from the Beard on Monday, he will undoubtedly blow past his value threshold against the Nets.

 

NOTE: Harden is a better play on FanDuel where he’s only eligible at shooting guard, and the salary constraints are less strict.

 

Chris Paul will be Monday’s top overall option if Blake Griffin is sidelined for the second straight game — especially on DraftKings where he somehow remains below $9,000. Paul’s usage with Griffin off the court is only 27 percent, but his assist rate spikes to a ridiculous 59 percent. He posted an eye-popping 20-point, 20-assist, 65-DKPT double-double with Griffin sidelined on Saturday despite only playing 29 minutes in a blowout-shortened affair, and is capable of exploding again in an elite matchup with Portland.

 

The Blazers have been victimized all season long by opposing guards, and their complete lack of rim protection should allow for Paul to feed DeAndre Jordan in the pick-and-roll all night long. It should also come as no surprise that Portland is allowing the most points per possession to opposing ball handlers in the PnR. This game owns the second highest projected total on the night (218.5), and although the Clippers are 9-point favorites at home, Portland will stand a much better chance of keeping things close if Griffin is unable to play. Consider Paul a core play in all formats if L.A.’s starting power forward is unable to take the court. However, John Wall would be the preferred point guard in this price tier if Griffin is active, as he also draws a strong matchup against a depleted Miami backcourt.

 

NOTE: Blake Griffin has now been upgraded to probable, which takes significant value away from Paul. Griffin makes for a strong secondary play himself, and should have no trouble trashing a Portland frontcourt that he’s averaging 54.5 DKPT per game against through two meetings this season.

 

CORE – DeMarcus Cousins; Chris Paul [If Blake Griffin is out]

SECONDARY – James Harden; John Wall; Blake Griffin

GPP – Giannis Antetokounmpo

 

MID-RANGE

 

Goran Dragic has been a stud since returning from injury, while his minutes and subsequent fantasy production have been bolstered by the array of injuries in Miami. The Wizards own a bottom-10 mark defensively and are once again failing to live up to expectations. This game should remain competitive throughout (WAS -1), and assuming that’s the case, Dragic will log another 35-plus minutes in the starting lineup. He’s sporting a sexy 30 percent usage rate with both Dion Waiters and Justise Winslow sidelined this season, and currently leads the league in drives with 14.4 per game.

 

In eight games since Dragic returned to action, he ranks fifth in total touches behind only Westbrook, Harden, Paul and Wall, which is highly encouraging when you consider his $7,200 price tag on FanDuel and DraftKings. This is a great spot on all fronts for Dragic, who should have little trouble paying off such an appetizing salary when half of his teammates remain on the shelf.

 

Kyle Lowry also makes for a strong mid-range point guard play against the Bucks. The matchup with Matthew Dellavedova is less than optimal, but Lowry is such a consistent force that we should hardly be concerned. Lowry is second in MPG behind only Anthony Davis, and has tallied 40-plus DKPT in a ridiculous 16 of his last 19 starts. He’s literally one of the most reliable fantasy options available every time the Raptors are on the schedule, and nothing about that should change on Monday. Lowry’s minutes are safe in a blowout, and his heavy involvement in Toronto’s offense should propel him to 5-plus times his salary night in and night out.

 

DeAndre Jordan tallied 19 points, nine rebounds and 31 DKPT across only 23 minutes of work in a blowout win over New Orleans this weekend. He was highly effective for the short time he was on the court, and nothing should change on Monday if Griffin remains out. This is an elite matchup for Jordan, who although he’s failed to exploit it twice already this season, should turn the corner at home against the Blazers putrid defense.

 

Portland’s lack of size in their frontcourt has not only limited their ability to defend physical big men, but it has suffocated their ability to contend on the glass. Jordan should eat them alive on the boards, and will be able to manufacture easy scoring on putback attempts throughout the night. Look for Paul to feed him in the pick-and-roll against the league’s worst defensive unit, who won’t be able to contain this duo in any capacity. The Clippers are truly devoid of scoring in their starting lineup when Griffin is out, as J.J. Reddick fades after the first quarter, and Luc Mbah a Moute is used solely as a defender. If Griffin is out, pair Paul with Jordan and enjoy the show.

 

In the event that Griffin plays, Hassan Whiteside would become a much more palatable option at $8,400 on DraftKings and $8,700 on FanDuel. The one-time NBA castoff has faced some difficult matchups recently, so I wouldn’t recommend reading too far into his box score results. Instead, I would urge you to focus on this matchup with the Wizards, who’ve allowed the fourth most rebounds and ninth most points to opposing bigs.

 

Whiteside should see his usually 35-plus minutes in a competitive affair (MIA +1), and although Marcin Gortat has generally been considered a quality defender, the Polish Hammer is incredibly allowing the highest FG% at the rim among all centers averaging 25-plus MPG. Look for Whiteside to get back on track in what should be a fantasy-friendly atmosphere for Miami’s hulking big man.

 

Rudy Gay is priced rather affordably across the board for this plus matchup with the Lakers. He’s in some sense reinvented himself as a legitimate fantasy option this season, with a usage rate three percent higher than 2014-15 and a .502 eFG% that marks the highest of his career. Small forward is also one of the weaker positions on Monday’s seven-game slate, so Gay will likely have higher ownership than normal.

 

Los Angeles is coughing up the fifth most points, third highest FG% and second highest OEff to opposing small forwards this season, so there’s no reason to believe the once defensively stout Luol Deng should be a concern. Deng’s 111 DRtg is the worst mark of his career, as he has contributed to the Lakers’ defensive woes throughout the season. I’m perfectly okay with deploying Gay in both cash games and GPPs, and wouldn’t have a problem pairing him with Cousins in a game that should see more than enough fantasy production from the Kings (112.5 TT).

 

DeMar DeRozan has seen his ownership decline on DraftKings lately, as evidenced by a precipitous drop in salary despite continuing solid play. DeRozan went through a four-game stretch where he averaged only 14 FGA/G, but he has since rebounded with 22.6 FGA/G over his last three starts, averaging 41 DKPT per game in the process. It’s worth noting, however, that over the span where DeRozan’s shot volume fell, Toronto went 4-0 with an average win margin of 30 points! His services simply weren’t needed in those contests, and it was reflected in his fantasy totals.

 

Lou Williams is the better mid-range shooting guard on FanDuel where he remains at $6,300. D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young returned to action on Sunday but were limited to 16 and 20 minutes respectively, so we’re still waiting on a status for Monday night. If I had to guess, Young will definitely play without limitations, but Russell could sit on the second of a back-to-back. Williams has been too potent of late to be dismissed entirely on FanDuel, but he’s a complete fade at $7,400 on DraftKings now that the Lakers are getting healthy. It’s best to wait for developments here, but assuming Russell remains limited or sits on Monday, Sweet Lou will figure to remain in play as a strong play in a plus matchup with Sacramento.

 

The Raptors are 8-point favorites on Monday, but I’m expecting Milwaukee to keep things relatively competitive. At $7,700 on DraftKings, DeRozan makes for a very strong mid-range play due to price point alone. This is less about matchup and more about opportunity, as DeRozan should have little trouble paying off his salary if he sees another 37-plus minutes on Monday.

 

Harrison Barnes has produced well in plus matchups this season, and he’ll have another favorable draw on Monday against the Nuggets. Denver is surrendering the second most points, second highest FG% and third highest 3PT% to opposing wings. Barnes is among the league leaders in minutes played and field goal attempts per game, so there’s no reason not to like him at an affordable $6,100 on DraftKings and $6,400 on FanDuel. His matchup also figures to improve is Wilson Chandler is unable to play.

 

Nicolas Batum has recently shed the notion that he can’t produce away from home, and with Kemba Walker dealing with a banged up knee, the French swingman should continue to impress on Monday. Batum certainly isn’t a priority play on this slate, but he’s well worth considering in cash where he offers rather consistent fantasy production. The Pacers have been a sieve on defense lately, and things won’t get any easier with Glenn Robinson (111 DRtg) making the spot start this evening. Batum is more of a stopgap play at a weak shooting guard position, but there’s some decent value in the mid-$5K range that allow us to forego using him in cash.

 

Brook Lopez would be a stellar play if we could rely on the Nets to keep this game even remotely competitive, but that simply isn’t the case. Brooklyn is a 14.5-point road dog in a matchup with a streaking Rockets team, so it’s unlikely that he’ll see his full allotment of minutes on Monday. He should be low-owned as a result, though, and offers plenty of upside against a pedestrian Houston frontcourt. That being said, Lopez should be reserved for GPPs on a night where he may see only 25 minutes of work.

 

Jabari Parker and Julius Randle are two mid-range power forwards worth considering, but neither are all that enticing in their respective matchups. If Randle has to contend with Cousins he could struggle to body his way to the basket, and could also find himself in foul trouble on the defensive end. Parker’s matchup is a bit friendlier, as the Raptors have struggled to defend opposing four this season. Parker is Milwaukee’s 1-A scoring option next to Antetokounmpo, and should be considered a rather safe cash game option at only $6,200 on FanDuel and DraftKings. Randle is best suited for GPPs in a tougher positional matchup, but a game that could see its fair share of fantasy goodness.

 

CORE – Goran Dragic; DeAndre Jordan [If Blake Griffin is out]

SECONDARY – Kyle Lowry; Hassan Whiteside; Rudy Gay; DeMar DeRozan [DraftKings]; Lou Williams [FanDuel]; Harrison Barnes; Nicolas Batum; Jabari Parker

GPP – Brook Lopez; Julius Randle

 

VALUE

 

Marreese Speights was going to be my top value option on Monday, but at the time of writing this Blake Griffin has been upgraded to probable. Unfortunately, we won’t be getting any Mo Buckets in our lives this evening.

 

Eric Gordon makes for a stellar tournament play and a respectable low-end cash game play for those of you looking to get exposure in the Brooklyn-Houston game. With a blowout imminent, Gordon figures to earn his normal share of minutes off the bench, and he has proven during his time in Houston that the upside is still in play. Gordon has tallied 25-plus DKPTs in eight straight games with 30-plus DKPT five times in that span. In a matchup with one of the league’s worst defenses, we’d be hard-pressed to project him for a disappointing night, especially considering he’s attempting the most field goals per 36 since his 2012 campaign. Gordon offers both a discounted price tag and solid upside in an optimal matchup with the Nets, who have been gashed by opposing two-guards on the season.

 

Patrick Beverley and Trevor Ariza are also cheap enough to warrant consideration on Monday. This game owns a 14.5-point spread in favor of Houston, so getting exposure through cheaper players may not be the worst of decisions. Beverley has been phenomenal since returning from injury, and his lockdown defense should keep him on the court for 30-plus minutes even if the Rockets take an early lead. He’s racking up rebounds and assists at a career-high clip, and while this pace may not be sustainable through April, we should at least be giving him consideration against the punchless Nets. Ariza’s lack of peripherals make him slightly less appealing, but the small forward position is weak enough to target him in GPPs.

 

Tyler Johnson and Darren Collison are nice mid-$5K value guards in their respective matchups. Johnson should continue to earn 30-plus minutes against one of the worst bench units in basketball, while Collison draws a stellar matchup with the Lakers and their 30th ranked defense. Collison is a bit safer for cash but his ceiling is lower than Johnson’s, who has proven he is more than capable of erupting for 40-plus fantasy points in appropriate matchups.

 

C.J. Miles isn’t expected to start Monday with Monta Ellis sidelined — Glenn Robinson III is slated to draw the spot start — but he’s clearly the highest upside punt on the Pacers. Both Miles and Rodney Stuckey should benefit from Ellis’ absence, and both are cheap enough to deploy in GPPs. Value is scarce right now, so targeting two players who are capable of scoring in bunches wouldn’t be the worst idea. Miles is the higher upside option with his ability to knock down threes at a ridiculous clip when he’s running hot, but Stuckey offers safer minutes off the bench. Both are tournament options, but one is slightly safer than the other while the other is more volatile with a higher ceiling.

 

Nikola Jokic continues to smash off the bench for Denver, and now he’ll draw an exploitable matchup against a Dallas team that is without their two starting bigs in Nowitzki and Bogut. I generally don’t like picking on the Mavericks with their dreadfully slow pace of play, but their depleted frontcourt makes Jokic a whole lot more appealing at a still affordable cost. Jokic is averaging a 15-point, 10.6-rebound double-doubles across 26 MPG over his last five outings. Assuming the bipolar Michael Malone continues to feed Jokic with respectable minutes on Monday, he’ll once again be a great high-upside GPP play against the Mavs.

 

Wesley Matthews has been forced to shoulder a heavier load since Dirk Nowitzki went down. He’s sporting a respectable 24 percent usage rate over his last eight starts, while averaging 21.3 points, 33 fantasy points and 16 field goal attempts across 36 MPG in that span. He’ll draw a prime matchup with the Nuggets on Monday, who have allowed the highest offensive efficiency and second most points to opposing shooting guards this season. I generally don’t like to target Matthews, as his lack of peripherals give him a uncomfortably low floor, but he’s been too involved of late to ignore in such a strong matchup.

 

Sam Dekker’s best fantasy performances have come in blowouts, so it isn’t crazy to think he could once again produce on Monday against the Nets. The Rockets are massive double-digit favorites, and Dekker has been the primary beneficiary off the bench in blowout situations. He’s a risky, volatile option at any cost, but Dekker remains cheap enough to deploy in GPPs if you’re looking to take the studs and scrubs approach this evening. I’ll have some exposure to him just in case he posts a double-double against Brooklyn’s hapless defensive efforts.

 

Omri Casspi appears to be receiving additional run ever since Matt Barnes was involved in a bar fight. Casspi typically wouldn’t even be considered on a seven-game slate, but low-end value is scarce on Monday so we’re forced to give him a look. He’s nothing more than a desperation punt, but Casspi logged 27 minutes last time out with Barnes receiving only 15 minutes off the bench. This matchup with the Lakers is as good as it gets, and if Sacramento goes ahead early, Casspi would figure to see even more minutes in mop up duty through the fourth quarter.

 

SECONDARY – Tyler Johnson; Darren Collison; Eric Gordon; Patrick Beverley; Wesley Matthews

GPP – Nikola Jokic; Trevor Ariza; C.J. Miles; Rodney Stuckey; Markieff Morris; Sam Dekker; Omri Casspi