NBA Deep Dive – 12/17/16



Damian Lillard faces Steph Curry and the Warriors in what should be a high scoring affair this evening.  Lillard has been playing better lately, dropping 40 points on Denver in his last outing.  He always gets up for this matchup with Curry and, even though the game is on the road, he is one of the top options on the board because he will have to have a big game for Portland to keep it close.  This is a pace up game for Portland, despite ranking in the top 10 in pace themselves, and Lillard should benefit from the extra possessions.


Stephen Curry should thrive in his matchup against a Portland backcourt that is much more proficient on the offensive end than the defensive end.  Along with playing at a top 10 pace, Portland currently has the worst defensive rating in the league and is the third worst team at defending the three point line, allowing opponents to shoot 2.9 percent better than average from three.  Curry should have no trouble in this matchup and his price is relatively depressed, especially on DraftKings where he is just $8,500.


Kemba Walker is back and makes for one of my favorite tournament plays on the slate.  His price continues to fall as a result of his recent “slump”, although he still is averaging 32.1 DraftKings points over his last five games- which include a blowout where he played just 25 minutes.  Point guards have had a lot of success against Atlanta this season and Kemba should be no exception.  He recorded 40.8 DraftKings points in this matchup earlier this season and should do well again tonight.  He missed Charlotte’s last game for personal reasons, so he should be fresh and ready to go tonight.  He is on the road, which usually leads to lower ownership since he is better when he is at home.  It is worth noting, however, that his home/road splits are more a result of overperforming at home than they are of underperforming on the road.   He is a very strong mid-price play tonight.


Dennis Schroder is on the second half of a back-to-back set but only played 29 minutes last night so he should have relatively fresh legs.  He has been playing out of his mind lately, even with Paul Millsap back in the lineup, scoring at least 36 DraftKings points in his last 5 and 8 of his last 10- and he continues to go under the radar for some reason.  His price has crept up a bit but is still very reasonable for the production he offers.  He has a 27 percent usage rate and 34.7 percent assist rate this season, giving him a high floor and a high ceiling.  Pairing him with Kemba in tournaments is a good move tonight.


Kyrie Irving is in play in tournaments, as he should be very productive when he is on the floor.  The issue, of course, is that the Cavaliers should be able to beat the Lakers handedly and there is a very real chance that Irving does not see minutes in the fourth quarter.  This makes him a risky play, but he does still have a high ceiling if this game stays competitive.  Pairing him with one or two Lakers makes a lot of sense in tournaments.


Reggie Jackson only played 24 minutes against the Wizards last night and should be in line to return to the 28-30 minute range that he had been seeing.  He has not had a big game since returning from injury, but it is just a matter of time and we should be rostering him as often as we can at his price because it will not be this low for long.  He is a huge part of the Detroit offense, registering a 30.1 percent usage rate and 28 percent assist rate since his return.  Tonight’s matchup with the Pacers is a huge pace up game against a weak defensive team.  Jackson was less than 10 percent owned last night and did not produce, so hopefully he goes overlooked again tonight.


Patrick Beverley is one of my least favorite players to roster, but he has consistently proven me wrong this season and his price is still relatively low at just $5,400 on FanDuel and $5,200 on DraftKings.  The Timberwolves play at a much slower pace than the Rockets and Ricky Rubio is not a high usage player, both factors working against Beverley, but he has been a very steady contributor in multiple categories and there is no reason that should not continue tonight.  He is a safe cash option and viable in tournaments, although I prefer pivoting to Reggie Jackson if possible.


Core: Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, Kemba Walker

Secondary: Dennis Schroder, Kyrie Irving

Value: Patrick Beverley, Reggie Jackson




James Harden is doing his best Russell Westbrook impersonation, recording triple-doubles in two straight games and missing by one or two rebounds in the three before that.  His price remains reasonable, as he is less than $12,000 on FanDuel and Draftkings.  Minnesota does not play at a fast pace, which dampens the outlook for Harden, but they also have the fourth worst defensive rating in the league, which more than makes up for the pace.  Minnesota does not have anyone that is capable of slowing Harden down and this game boasts a 219.5 total with a 3.5 point spread, making Harden one of the top options on the slate.


C.J. McCollum is a viable tournament option tonight if you are stacking the Portland game.  He has struggled in this matchup with Thompson before, but Golden State is vulnerable at the rim

and he certainly has upside.  If this game stays close, he will likely be a large part of the reason why.  He is not a great stand-alone tournament option, but makes a ton of sense if paired with Golden State players.


Zach LaVine is in a great spot tonight against Houston.  He gets a boost when he can get out in transition and run, so he should benefit from the matchup with the Rockets, who rank 9th in pace.  LaVine routinely plays 38-40 minutes, so he has a high floor to go along with his high ceiling.  His price has increased somewhat after being stuck at $6,000 for a while, but he still has plenty of upside at $6,500 and $6,700 on FanDuel and Draftkings, respectively.


Klay Thompson is a strong tournament option against Portland.  There is risk since Klay is scoring dependent and this game is a blowout risk, but it is a nice matchup for Thompson.  Portland struggles to defend the three-point line and, if Thompson can get hot early, he is capable of torching this defense.  He is one of my favorite Warriors to include in game stacks tonight and is a strong stand-alone option as well.


Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is in another good spot tonight- especially on DraftKings.  His production has taken a hit as a result of Reggie Jackson returning, but his price on DraftKings has plummeted to $4,600.  He has thrived in fast paced games this season and Indiana plays at the 11th fastest pace in the league.  He will be more inconsistent with Jackson back than he was earlier in the season, but he still offers plenty of upside at his reduced price in this matchup.


Gary Harris was supposed to play 24-28 minutes in his first game back from injury, and ended up playing 32.  Denver does not appear concerned about him re-injuring himself (even though this is exactly what they did earlier in the season when he returned from injury before he promptly got hurt again).  He will remain a very good option as long as his price hovers around $5,000 or less.


Core:  James Harden, Zach LaVine

Secondary: Klay Thompson, C.J. McCollum, Eric Gordon

Value: Gary Harris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (DraftKings), Tim Hardaway Jr.




LeBron James is in a tricky spot tonight, with a great matchup against the Lakers that could easily turn into a blowout.  He has a high floor despite the blowout risk because he contributes across the board and is almost certain to play a big role in any blowout.  Add in that there is a chance the Lakers are able to keep the game close, and he has a high ceiling as well.  It may prove difficult to pay up for many players tonight, but James is a strong option if you can afford him.


Kevin Durant makes for a great tournament option tonight.  He is similarly priced to James, although a little bit cheaper, and does not have as high a floor as LeBron does.  He still has a very high ceiling, however, and will likely be less owned than LeBron since LeBron is safer and they both face blowout risk.  Durant finally showed some signs of life in his last game against New York, recording 14 points and 8 assists- although his shooting slump continued.  Durant also plays minutes with the second unit, which means that he is somewhat blowout proof because he will be on the floor to start the fourth quarter.


Carmelo Anthony is expected to play against Denver tonight.  He is a viable tournament option in a pace up game against his former team.  The concern with Anthony is that his price is somewhat awkward on this slate because there are stars a litle more expensive and strong options a little cheaper.  Denver is also a very good rebounding team, and most of Anthony’s huge games have come as a result of increased rebounds.  These factors make it unlikely that I end up with much Anthony exposure tonight, but it is not a bad spot in a vacuum.  He will see a boost if Derrick Rose misses this game as well.


Andrew Wiggins will be needed if Minnesota is to keep the game close with Houston.  He is a prototypical tournament option, as he is very capable of shooting poorly and underperforming his salary but he is equally as capable of shooting well and outperforming it.  Trevor Ariza has been successful defending the pick-and-roll this season, ranking in the 81st percentile amongst defenders by allowing only 0.66 points per possession to opposing ball handlers.  Even so, there will be enough possessions in this game that Wiggins can have success even if he lacks efficiency.


C.J. Miles has a tough matchup with Detroit, but today is a great day to go back to the well.  Miles was popular in his last game with Rodney Stuckey out and he disappointed, shooting just 1 of 9 from the field.  The important takeaway, however, is that he played 30 minutes off the bench.  Stuckey is out again today and we should see a similar workload for Miles.  It is likely that his ownership is a fraction of what it was the other night since people have his 15 fantasy point outing fresh on their minds and he is a difficult name to click as it is.  He is my favorite tournament value play of the day right now.


Core:  LeBron James, Kevin Durant, C.J. Miles

Secondary: Andrew Wiggins, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza

Value: Mo Harkless, Luol Deng




Kevin Love is in a high upside spot tonight but it carries the same blowout risk as Irving and James.  Love should have his way offensively and on the boards, it is just a matter of how many minutes he plays.  There are safer options for cash games, but Love is a great tournament play.  Not only will he pay off nicely if the Lakers keep it close, but LeBron has shown that he likes to get him involved early- leading to several games where Love explodes in the first quarter and then fades as the game goes on.  That pattern lends itself well to tonight’s game, however, because he has shown how productive he can be early, which means he has a nice ceiling even if he does not get fourth quarter minutes.


Paul Millsap was somewhat disappointing last night, but played just 28 minutes on the front end of the back-to-back.  He has been very productive on the back end of back-to-backs this year, usually playing significantly more minutes.  He matches up well with the Charlotte frontcourt and has already had success in this matchup earlier this year, when he posted 22 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block.  This is going to be a sneaky fast-paced game and Millsap is in a great spot.


Kristaps Porzingis is in a bounceback spot against Denver.  Denver has shown that they struggle to defend offensive-minded bigs, especially away from the basket.  Porzingis’s game translates great to this matchup and he should rebound nicely from his poor outing against Golden State.  He is a very strong option with or without Rose, but gets a boost if Rose is out.


Draymond Green is one of the safer Golden State options again tonight.  He should be able to grab plenty of rebounds against the Portland frontcourt and will have the opportunity to pick up defensive stats as Lillard and McCollum consistently attack the basket.  He has a nice floor even with the blowout risk, and he has a high ceiling if the game stays close and/or he is able to put everything together and pick up a triple-double.


Nikola Jokic remains power forward eligible on FanDuel and center eligible on DraftKings.  This is a great bounceback spot for him against the Knicks.  He played only 19 minutes against Portland in his return to the starting lineup.  We should not be concerned, however.  He was in line to play about 30 minutes if he had not gotten in foul trouble.  Joakim Noah is not a high usage option and Jokic should hopefully be able to stay out of foul trouble.  We have seen bigs who are capable of scoring absolutely destroy the Knicks lately and there is no reason that Jokic cannot do so tonight.  It remains to be seen how much the move to the starting lineup afects his usage, but he makes a great tournament option regardless.


Core:  Paul Millsap, Draymond Green, Nikola Jokic (FanDuel)

Secondary: Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Love, Gorgui Dieng

Value: Jon Leuer, Kenneth Faried




Andre Drummond is in an elite spot against the Pacers today.  We have seen their frontcourt be absolutely destroyed by bigs lately, including Hassan Whiteside a couple of games ago.  Indiana plays at the 11th fastest pace in the league, meaning more possessions and rebounding opportunities, and is the 2nd worst rebounding team in the league.  Drummond is likely to post a monster double-double today and his price is very reasonable.


Karl-Anthony Towns has been somewhat inconsistent this season and has not showed his ceiling as often as we would like.  That said, this is a nice matchup for him against a Houston team that can be attacked through the frontcourt in a pace-up game.  There are better point-per-dollar plays, but Towns offers a very high ceiling in this spot.


Dwight Howard has a monster night against Toronto last night and could be in line for another big night against Charlotte tonight.  Cody Zeller has been a solid defender this season, but is not a particularly good rebounder.  This should lead to Howard dominating the boards and being able to pick up points off of putbacks.  Howard had 10 points and 18 rebounds in their previous meeting and could be in line for a similar outing, although there is extra risk since he is on the second game of a back-to-back.


Mason Plumlee has played very well lately, averaging 32.2 DraftKings points over his last five games.  If the Blazers keep this game close, it is likely that Plumlee is a key part of it since the weakest part of the Golden State defense is its’ interior.  It is difficult to trust Plumlee in cash games because of the blowout potential, but he makes for a strong mid-range tournament option, especially if paired with Warriors.


Al Jefferson makes for a very interesting GPP punt, especially on sites where you can roster more than 1 center.  He is averaging over 1 DraftKings point per minute this season, so it is just a matter of rostering him when he is going to get extra minutes.  Tonight, he faces a Detroit team that plays at a slow pace, which suits him, and has two true centers on the roster in Andre Drummond and Aron Baynes.  The presence of the two bigs will keep Indiana from going too small and could lead to Jefferson seeing more minutes since he has the weight to matchup with them.  We have seen that he will take a lot of shots in a hurry when he gets playing time and he could win someone a tournament tonight if better value does not open up throughout the day.  Wow, that is more words than I ever thought I would write on Al Jefferson.


Core:  Andre Drummond, Nikola Jokic (DraftKings)

Secondary: Dwight Howard, Masn Plumlee, Karl-Anthony Towns

Value: Tristan Thompson, Joakim Noah, JaVale McGee, Al Jefferson