NBA Deep Dive – 12/15/16


Giannis Antetokounmpo is probably to play tonight after spraining his ankle in his last game.  He has a high ceiling any time he takes the floor, but this is not an ideal matchup for him.  The Bulls play at the 21st fastest pace in the league and Giannis is better in up-tempo games since he gets more possessions and can use his athleticism in transition to rack up points and assists.  In addition, Chicago boasts the 7th best rim protection in the league.  He will likely be defended by Jimmy Butler, which does not bode well for his night either.  It is only a 5 game slate so there is merit to rostering him since he will probably one of the highest raw score points on the day, but he is only a secondary option at his price.

Damian Lillard should perform very well tonight against Denver, although the game is on the road where he is not as consistent.  He has shown that he is capable of performing in the high altitude, however, scoring 37 actual points in his game there earlier this season.  Denver is the 8th worst team in the league in terms of rim protection and Lillard is reliant on getting to the basket to score so this is a good matchup for him.  Add in that Denver plays at the 7th fastest pace and has the 4th worst turnover ratio and there should be plenty of fantasy goodness in this game for Lillard.

Eric Bledsoe has been on fire lately but he has a very difficult matchup with the Spurs tonight.  His price has been adjusted accordingly, but he is still not a great option tonight.  He relies on getting to the rim, averaging over 10 drives per game, and the combination of Pau Gasol, Dewayne Dedmon and LaMarcus Aldridge has been very good at protecting the rim this season.  One thing that could work in Bledsoe’s favor is if Pau Gasol plays a full allotment of minutes because he is not as good at defending the pick-and-roll as Dedmon is and Bledsoe showed at the end of the Knicks’ game how much success he can have against lineups that do not defend the pick-and-roll.  The Spurs are on the second half of a back-to-back and Pop is a smart enough coach to realize that Dedmon offers a better defensive matchup, however, so it seems like a game where Gasol does not play his full minutes.  Bledsoe has upside in any matchup but there are better spots to look tonight.

Jrue Holiday gets to play against the Indiana Pacers tonight, who rank 11th in pace and 18th in defensive rating.  Jeff Teague is not a strong defender and Holiday should be able to pile up plenty of fantasy points in this matchup.  His price has increased a little bit, but not enough that we should be scared off him in this spot.  His backup, Tim Frazier, is out tonight but it is unlikely he sees many more minutes as a result because Tyreke Evans is expected to play 15-20 minutes for the first time this season.  Even so, this is a good spot for Holiday and he will be a core piece for me at the point guard position.

Jeff Teague also makes for a strong option across from Holiday.  The Pelicans play at the 10th fastest pace in the league so there should be plenty of possessions and fantasy points to go around.  Teague gets a small boost in usage and assist percentage with Monta Ellis sidelined and is price is reasonable across the industry, particularly on DraftKings at $6,400.  He has been inconsistent lately, but has shown that he has a nice ceiling for the price, recording over 40 DraftKings points in two of his last five games.  He contributes enough in other categories that he will normally have decent games even if he does not score a lot of points, so he is a strong option on a slate with only 5 games to choose from.

Stephen Curry is a strong tournament play, as always.  The Knicks are in the middle of the pack in terms of defending the three point line, but rank 26th in overall defensive rating so the Warriors should have success against them on offense.  It is always hard to predict where that scoring is coming from, but Curry has shown that, if he gets hot early, he will take over on offense and continue to shoot.  He gets a boost if Derrick Rose sits, because Brandon Jennings has allowed opposing shooters to shoot 2.2 percent higher than average from behind the line.  His price is low enough that if he gets hot early he could be someone that you need in your lineups in order to have a good night.

Core:  Damian Lillard, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague

Secondary: Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo (DraftKings), Rajon Rondo

Value: Brandon Jennings (if Rose out), Emmanuel Mudiay



Dwyane Wade has been playing very well lately and should be able to continue that tonight against Milwaukee.  Jimmy Butler will likely have to deal with Giannis, which could leave more of the scoring burden on Wade.  Wade is averaging 34.1 minutes and 17.2 field goal attempts per game over his last five and has been incredibly consistent during that span, averaging 39.4 DraftKings points and never recording less than 35.  His price is slowly creeping up, but not fast enough for him to not be one of the best shooting guard options on the slate.

Klay Thompson’s price skyrocketed after his 60-point game, but it has returned to Earth and he is a very strong option tonight against the Knicks.  Like Curry, it is important that he get hot early so that he continues to get a lot of shots up, but his price is low enough and the other shooting guard options are weak enough that there is not a ton of risk in rostering him.  There should be plenty of points to go around for the Warriors tonight and it is unlikely that Thompson disappoints at his price tag- and he certainly offers a high ceiling if he gets hot early.

C.J. McCollum will benefit from a fast-paced game against the Nuggets that offers a lot of fantasy points for a lot of players.  McCollum is always a boom-or-bust option who usually either significantly underperforms or significantly overperforms his salary, making him a better GPP than cash option on most nights.  One concern for him tonight is that Gary Harris may make his return for Denver tonight and he is their strongest perimeter defender.  McCollum remains a GPP option with or without Harris, but he gets a boost if Harris sits this one out.

Will Barton faces his former team tonight, if you believe in that sort of thing.  Even if you don’t, he is a strong option at a relatively inexpensive price- sitting at $5,900 on DraftKings and just $5,200 on FanDuel.  It is tough to entirely trust anyone on Denver since their rotations are so inconsistent and Gary Harris possibly returning muddies the water even more.  Barton has been pretty consistent, however, playing at least 33 minutes in 6 of 7 games since returning from injury, and he was in foul trouble in the game that he didn’t.  People may feel uncomfortable rostering him if they look at his box scores since he has 24, 23.5 and 11.75 DraftKings points over his last three.  Don’t be too concerned with those scores, however, as they are the result of poor shooting and/or foul trouble and are more indicative that he has a floor in the low-mid 20s (which is really good for his price) than anything else.

Devin Booker’s price continues to drop but this is not the time to jump on board.  On top of the slow pace and strong overall defense of the Spurs, it is likely that Kawhi Leonard will defend Booker which will most likely result in Booker barely even touching the ball- and having a horrible time trying to score if he does get it.  Stay away from Booker in this one and let his price continue to drop.

Danny Green is a strong value play tonight- or at least as strong as Danny Green ever is.  Phoenix has been the worst team in the league at defending the three-point line and Green is averaging just north of 4 three-point attempts per game this season.  Phoenix allowed Courtney Lee to produce 24 fantasy points the other night as a result of 14 points, 2 steals and a couple of rebounds and assists each and we could see a similar line from Green tonight which is very appealing on a short slate at a near minimum price tag.

Core: Dwyane Wade, Klay Thompson

Secondary: Giannis Antetokounmpo (FanDuel), Will Barton, C.J. McCollum

Value: Danny Green, Leandro Barbosa (if Knight out)



Kevin Durant remains in the midst of a cold streak, averaging just 40 DraftKings points per game over his last 6 games.  Tonight he squares off with Team USA teammate Carmelo Anthony, and it could turn into a little bit of a 1-on-1 match between the two stars.  These two have not faced each other since February 2014, but Durant has had some big games against Anthony including 75 DraftKings points in that game- albeit under completely different circumstances.  His price has dropped slightly across the industry and he makes for an excellent tournament option tonight and is cash game viable if you have the money because he still has a high floor despite not coming close to his ceiling recently.

Kawhi Leonard faces a Phoenix team that is 2nd in pace and in the bottom 10 of defensive rating and turnover ratio.  His price remains very fair, in the low $8,000 range, and he should benefit from the Suns fast pace and sloppy play because he will be able to pick up extra defensive stats and points in transitions, along with the team as a whole having more offensive possessions than usual.  He is a very steady contributor in a good matchup and is the top point-per-dollar small forward option on the slate.

Jimmy Butler is always a strong option because he plays so many minutes and he gets a boost if Rajon Rondo misses this game.  The issue with Butler tonight is that he will have to spend energy defending Giannis Antetokounmpo on defense and deal with Antetokounmpo’s length on the offensive end.  He is certainly in play as a tournament option, but he is not as strong an option as Leonard or Durant at similar price points.

Paul George gets a matchup with the fast-paced Pelicans where he should be able to have some success.  The concern is that he played 38 minutes last night on the first half of a back-to-back and he is someone that really needs to be on fresh legs to have big games.  In general, he is a high-floor, low-ceiling player and it is better to roster him on slates where small forward is weak.  That is not the case tonight, as Durant, Leonard and Butler are all better options.

Carmelo Anthony is in play as a tournament option tonight against the Warriors as he will benefit from the increase in pace and is definitely the type of player to really try and take it to Durant tonight.  His price is a little bit less expensive than the top tier small forward options and he has 50+ point upside so he could be valuable in tournaments.  That said, the top three options- Durant and Leonard in particular- are stronger overall plays so the first option should be to find a way to get one of them.

Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari are both strong low-mid range options against Portland.  This game will likely go small which benefits Chandler and Gallinari.  Chandler is more inconsistent but has a higher ceiling because he has been a much higher usage player than Gallinari this season.  Gallinari’s price has dropped to $5,700 on FanDuel and $5,300 on DraftKings, so we can safely roster him for the heavy minutes that he plays and hope it a night where he is able to draw a lot of fouls and get to the line to produce a nice scoring total.

Mo Harkless is available at a discounted price in a very good matchup for him that will be fast-paced and will probably go small- allowing him more playing time at the four which means more rebounding opportunities.  His price will not be this low much longer, as he has actually been a consistent producer this season and has been locked into about 30 minutes per game most nights.  Evan Turner is in a good spot as well, as he will also benefit from the pace and size of the game, but he is priced too close to Harkless which essentially only puts him in play if there is nothing you can do to get the extra 200 or 300 dollars.

Jonathan Simmons will be a great tournament play if the Spurs rest Manu Ginobili.  Simmons is averaging just over 22 minutes per game without Ginobili this season and will be needed against a Phoenix team that is full of guards who Kyle Anderson is too slow to defend.  Simmons is in play as a deep GPP option even if Ginobili is in, but he becomes one of the best tournament punts on the slate if Ginobili rests.


Core:  Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard

Secondary:  Jimmy Butler, Carmelo Anthony, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari

Value: Mo Harkless, Evan Turner, Jonathan Simmons



Anthony Davis will once again get the opportunity to burn me tonight, as this matchup is too good to pass up.  Indiana is very vulnerable inside and does not have anyone to defend Davis.  We saw Hassan Whiteside absolutely destroy the Pacers frontcourt last night and we should see more of the same from Davis tonight.  He is going through a bit of a funk lately, but he still plays extremely heavy minutes and did not play last night so he should be relatively fresh.  His price is very reasonable, at $11,500 on DraftKings and $12,000 on FanDuel and it is highly recommended he be one of the foundation pieces for your lineups.

Draymond Green is in a very good spot against Kristaps Porzingis and the Knicks.  Green has been very consistent this season because he is not scoring dependent so the presence of the three star scorers on Golden State does not affect him all that much.  On nights that he does score points, he has shown that he has a very high ceiling to go along with his floor.  He should have a lot of success in this matchup as Porzingis is a high usage player and that will translate to defensive opportunities for Green.  In addition, Porzingis has struggled to defend players outside of the paint this season and Green loves to play away from the basket- although he is not particularly good at it and Steve Kerr hates it.

Kristaps Porzingis has been on fire lately and his price is up as a result.  Rostering him tonight is not the worst play in the world as he has a high floor and has shown over his last two games that he can put up massive lines.  Personally, however, I will almost certainly not be doing it.  His price is up as a result of a game where he registered 7 blocks and hit 3 three-pointers followed by a game where picked up 3 blocks and 3 steals and hit 4 three-pointers.  This is a long way of saying, “He is good, but he is not this good.”  Combine his price being elevated as a result of unsustainable play with the pesky defense of Draymond Green and it is a pass for me, although I do not feel strongly enough about it to talk anyone off of it if this paragraph was not enough.

LaMarcus Aldridge is rested and could be in line for a big night tonight against the Suns.  He should benefit from the pace of the game and increased rebounding opportunities.  He has been incredibly frustrating this season, but his price is down as a result.  In addition, there is a chance that Gasol is limited because he it is the second half of a back-to-back and he is a defensive liability against the pick-and-roll, which would lead to increased usage for Aldridge.  He is too inconsistent for cash games but he is going to break out sooner or later and help win someone a tournament and tonight could be the night.

Jabari Parker has been surprisingly consistent lately, outside of the game against Washington where he played only 24 minutes as a result of foul trouble and Mirza Teletovic shooting the lights out off the bench.  He does not have an ideal matchup tonight for the same reasons that Giannis doesn’t, but his price tag is still low enough that he warrants GPP consideration, especially because there are not many great mid-tier power forward options.

Taj Gibson is too cheap across the industry and is a strong cash game play against a suspect Milwaukee frontcourt.  Gibson consistently sees minutes in the mid-high 20s and has produced .94 DraftKings points per minute so far this season.  He usually does not have a really high ceiling, so he is a better cash play than tournament play, but his price is low enough that there is nothing wrong with him being one of the last guys in to your otherwise high-upside tournament lineup.  He is an even better play if Rondo is active because Rondo helps him offensively since Gibson does not create his own shots.

Kenneth Faried is a great tournament option tonight if you are not risk averse.  This game is likely to go small which would mean time at center for Faried.  Against Orlando, where Serge Ibaka was the backup center for the Magic, Mike Malone showed a willingness to play Faried alongside Nikola Jokic off the bench.  We could see a similar situation here tonight and, if we do, Faried has massive upside at very low ownership and a low price point.  Keep in mind that he is now only center eligible on DraftKings, which sucks, and he, apparently, is prone to pissing off Mike Malone so there is always the chance that he does not play even though it is a great spot for him.

Core:  Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, Nikola Jokic (FanDuel)

Secondary: Kristaps Porzingis, Jabari Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge

Value: Taj Gibson (boost if Rondo active), Kenneth Faried (FanDuel), Terrence Jones



There really is not a ton to love at center tonight, outside of Nikola Jokic on DraftKings.  Jokic has been consistently playing 25-28 minutes per game and that is more than enough time for him to accumulate stats against this Portland frontcourt that does not like to rebound or play defense.  His price is increasing rather quickly, but it is not too high yet so we should stay onboard for at least one more game- especially with the lack of other options at the position.

Myles Turner is a GPP-only play in a game against the Pelicans where he could have some success if he can stay out of foul trouble.  That is a big if, however, as Anthony Davis is a member of the opposing frontcourt and Turner has shown he has a lot of trouble keeping his hands to himself.  If you are making a lot of lineups it is worth having exposure to Turner, but the potential reward is not so high that he is someone I am concerned about not having if he does not crack one of the handful of lineups that I make.

DeWayne Dedmon gets his own paragraph even though he is a punt option because he is one of my favorite tournament plays on the entire slate.  First, Phoenix almost never goes small at center, which should mean less time at the five for Aldridge and more time for Dedmon in relief of Pau Gasol.  Second, it is the second game of a back-to-back, so there is a chance that Gasol sees less minutes than usual even if he plays.  Third, Dedmon is a better rim protector and better pick-and-roll defender than Gasol is.  The Spurs should not struggle to score in this game, so the only way for them to lose the game is through defensive lapses.  Eric Bledsoe showed against the Knicks how effective he can be against a frontcourt that does not defend the pick-and-roll well, so it would make sense not only from the standpoint of keeping Gasol fresh, but from the standpoint of good defensive strategy, for Dedmon to get extra minutes in this game at the expense of Gasol.  He has produced just over 1 DraftKings point per minute so far this season, and makes for an incredibly appealing tournament punt at a weak center position in a spot that is prime for him to do well.

Core: Nikola Jokic (DraftKings), DeWayne Dedmon, *I really do not love another center but, if you do not want Dedmon on FanDuel (or are playing cash), then Robin Lopez or Mason Plumlee*

Secondary: Mason Plumlee, Tyson Chandler, Myles Turner, Pau Gasol (GPP only- high upside/high risk)

Value: Greg Monroe, John Henson, Robin Lopez, Jusuf Nurkic, Dewayne Dedmon