NBA Deep Dive – 12/20/16



Chris Paul gets a great matchup with the Nuggets without Blake Griffin.  Griffin’s absence should increase Paul’s usage, as last season he played 1400 minutes alongside DeAndre Jordan without Griffin and his usage increased by 1.6 percent, his assist rate increased 4.2 percent and his rebound rate increased 0.6 percent.  The Nuggets play at the 8th fastest pace in the league and have the 4th worst defensive rating so Paul and the Clippers should not struggle to accumulate fantasy points.


Kemba Walker has a great matchup at home against the Lakers.  Walker finally had a relatively big game in his last outing against the Hawks and he should have another one tonight against the Lakers in Charlotte.  Walker’s price jumped back to $8,000 on DraftKings and FanDuel as a result of his good game, so he is not quite as appealing as he was for the last week or so.  He is still an excellent play in any format, however.


Kyrie Irving will be playing without Kevin Love tonight which should give him a boost in the scoring department.  Irving has played 167 minutes alongside James without Love so far this season, and is usage has increased by 7.1 percent.  He has also seen his rebound percentage increase 2.4 percent in those minutes.  His price is very reasonable across the industry and he is a very nice option tonight.


Goran Dragic faces the Orlando Magic in what will be a very slow game, but is still a nice matchup.  It is likely that Dragic goes overlooked tonight because of all the other point guard options in very good spots, which makes him an especially strong tournament play.  He remains too cheap for his ceiling, as he has shown he can flirt with 50 fantasy points fairly regularly in his current role.


Kyle Lowry is still priced accurately for his floor as opposed to his median projection or ceiling.  He is a very consistent producer and should do very well in this matchup against a Brooklyn team that plays at the fastest pace in the NBA and has the third worst defensive rating.  It will be difficult for the Nets to keep this game close enough for Lowry to play meaningful fourth quarter minutes, but the possibility is still there and, if it happens, Lowry has a very high ceiling.


Damian Lillard is too expensive on FanDuel, but at just $8,500 on DraftKings he is in play against the Kings.  Lillard has been inconsistent lately and this game is on the road, but he is certainly capable of lighting up the Kings.  He should go relatively low owned on this slate because there are a ton of quality point guard options, but he makes for a nice pivot because his ceiling is as high as just about anyone’s.

Core: Chris Paul, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Giannis Antetokounmpo (DraftKings)

Secondary: Goran Dragic, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry, Jeff Teague, Jrue Holiday, Mike Conley

Value: Emmanuel Mudiay, Tyler Johnson




James Harden is where the shooting guard conversation starts tonight.  He has a difficult matchup on paper against the Spurs, but he has had success against them so far this year, recording a triple-double in each of his previous matchups.  Harden is likely to go somewhat underowned tonight because of the perceived bad matchup and the very good mid-range options on the slate.  If you can find a way to roster him without giving up too much mid-range upside, it could be a very good tournament strategy.


Giannis Antetokounmpo is in a great spot against the Cavaliers.  He has been very consistent lately, posting at least 50 FanDuel points in 6 of his last 10 games and less than 47 just twice in that span.  He will likely be a contrarian option on DraftKings since he is listed a point guard and it is likely that Chris Paul dominates ownership in that price range.  Similarly, on FanDuel, Antetokounmpo may go underowned because he is $800 less than James Harden.  He is a great option in any format.


DeMar DeRozan has a very friendly matchup against the Nets.  His problem, as always, is that he is very scoring dependent.  He has scored at least 30 actual points in four consecutive games, but that still has not led to him outperforming his salary.  There is some risk because the Raptors could blowout the Nets, and DeRozan’s upside is not high enough to be worth that risk in tournaments.  He has a nice floor for cash games, however, and is an option if you want to lock in points at a fairly weak shooting guard position but cannot quite afford Harden or Antetokounmpo.


C.J. McCollum is in play as a tournament option.  He is too inconsistent and has too low of a floor to be a strong cash games option, but he is in a nice matchup tonight against the Kings.  He is a boom or bust player, but should go underowned and is capable of significantly outproducing his price in this matchup.


Gary Harris has been playing very well since returning from injury.  The Nuggets do not appear concerned with limiting his minutes, so he remains a very strong play while his price is still low.  He has been more aggressive this season than he was early on last season, a trend that began towards the end of last season.  He has been low owned in good spots several days in a row.  I am not sure how much longer that trend will continue, but he is a strong play regardless of what his ownership ends up looking like.


Garrett Temple is a great value play, especially on FanDuel where he is just $4,300.  His minutes are secure because the Kings need his defense, and even more so because Rudy Gay and Omri Casspi are doubtful to play in this game.  He has played at lesat 30 minutes in four straight games, and has double-digit field goal attempts in his last 3.  In addition, he has shown that he can produce even if his shot is not falling, producing 35 DraftKings points against Memphis on 4 of 11 shooting, and 26.75 DraftKings points against Dallas on 1 of 10 shooting.  If his shot falls, which it certainly could in this matchup against Portland, he is capable of putting up a huge line.




Core:  James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo (FanDuel)

Secondary: DeMar DeRozan, C.J. McCollum, Nicolas Batum

Value: Gary Harris, Garrett Temple




LeBron James struggled in his last meeting with the Bucks but we should not let that deter us from rostering him tonight.  He still has a very high floor on any given night and his ceiling increases with the absence of Kevin Love.  LeBron has played 119 minutes alongside Kyrie Irving without Kevin Love this season and has seen his usage rate increase 1.8 percent and his rebounding rate increase 4.7 percent.  The Bucks are a surprisingly strong defensive unit, but LeBron is still in line for a productive evening.


Kevin Durant does not have an ideal matchup with the Jazz, but he does make for an interesting tournament option, particularly on DraftKings where he is only $9,000.  He is priced near LeBron which will likely cap his ownership and he has been playing better lately.  His string of bad games were largely the result of poor shooting and blowouts.  He finally shot better in his last game and recorded 60 DraftKings points.  In addition, the Jazz usually play the Warriors close so there is not as much blowout risk tonight as there is in most Golden State games.  LeBron is the more consistent option in this spot, but there is definitely merit to pivoting to Durant in tournaments.


Kawhi Leonard has been a steady option this season and that should continue tonight against Houston.  He does not have quite the upside of LeBron or Durant, who are slightly more expensive, but he still has a very nice floor in a pace-up game with the Rockets.  He is a viable option if you cannot quite afford one of the aforementioned stars.


Mo Harkless remains underpriced across the industry as a result of his injury and inconsistent play since his return.  He plays about 30 minutes per game most nights and, before his brief absence, was consistently producing 28-33 fantasy points per night.  This is a good matchup for him because the Kings will go small for some of the game which will allow Harkless to play the 4 and get more rebounds along with easier scoring opportunities.  His price is going to be higher in the near future and we should jump on board while we still can.


Core:  LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Mo Harkless

Secondary: Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Wilson Chandler

Value: Robert Covington, Justise Winslow, Bojan Bogdanovic, Luol Deng, Mirza Teletovic (FanDuel)




Anthony Davis gets a rematch with a Philadelphia team that he underperformed against the last time he faced them.  There is no reason to expect a similar performance this time out, however.  The Sixers have been going with a bigger frontcourt to start games, but then they stagger the minutes of Okafor and Embiid.  Embiid is capable of playing defense, but Davis is matchup proof and should absolutely dominate the time that he is matched up with someone not named Embiid.  Do not hesitate to pay up for him tonight.


Kristaps Porzingis faces a soft Indiana interior in a pace up game.  There should be plenty of rebounds to go around and Porzingis will benefit from the extra possessions.  His price is still a little higher than is ideal, but power forward is relatively weak on this slate so Porzingis is firmly in play.


Nikola Jokic is playing out of his mind and his price is insanely low.  His only issue is whether or not he can stay out of foul trouble, but his price is low enough that, even if he gets in foul trouble, he most likely will not kill your team.  He played 38 minutes against Dallas last night as he appears to have absorbed Nurkic’s minutes, so his ceiling is even higher than we previously though since it had appeared that Mike Malone was only looking to play him around 30 minutes per game.


Trevor Booker has had a couple of disappointing games in a row but he is in a nice bounceback spot against a Toronto team that has struggled to defend bigs this season.  Brook Lopez is out and, in 274 minutes without Lopez on the floor this season, Booker has seen a 4.1 percent increase in his assist rate to go along with a marginal increase in usage and rebounding.  Even if he does not see a massive boost from Lopez being out, his price is still very reasonable for this matchup.


Core:  Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porzingis, Nikola Jokic (FanDuel)

Secondary: Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Trevor Booker

Value: Montrezl Harrell, Channing Frye, Mirza Teletovic (DraftKings)




DeMarcus Cousins headlines a very deep center position today.  He is a very good play in a matchup against Portland that he should do well in.  His rebounding numbers in past matchups with Portland have been lower than expected, but it is a small enough sample size that we can still expect a big game out of him tonight.  The issue with Cousins is the depth of the position, as there are some very high upside options available for less salary.  This makes Cousins more valuable on sites where he is power forward eligible.


Hassan Whiteside is in a great matchup with the Magic.  We have seen centers destroy them recently and Whiteside should be no exception.  He will also get a boost because the Magic are not a team that shoots well from the perimeter so there should be plenty of shot blocking opportunities for him.  Again, center is a very deep position today so there are a lot of ways to go, but Whiteside is in the top tier.


Marc Gasol is currently my favorite tournament center, especially on DraftKings where he is just $7,300.  His price was too high when Conley returned, but it has fallen and we have seen Gasol remain aggressive on offense.  He is coming off a poor performance, but the reason for that performance was that he shot 4-22 from the field.  The 22 field goal attempts in a game where Mike Conley played almost 30 minutes is a great sign and he should destroy this Boston frontcourt.  I expect DeAndre Jordan to command a ton of ownership in this price range, which is why Gasol is one of my favorite pivots on the slate.


Speaking of DeAndre Jordan, he is in a great spot tonight.  The absence of Blake Griffin means that we should see “Lob City” re-emerge.  Jordan will become the recipient of more Chris Paul passes and should see his scoring numbers increase.  He will also see more rebounding opportunities without Griffin alongside him.  Denver is a very good rebounding frontcourt, but this is still a great matchup for Jordan and we should be very comfortable rostering him.


Joel Embiid was very productive last game because Brett Brown staggered his minutes with Okafor.  Embiid is much less effective when he is on the floor alongside Okafor, so it was good to see the change in the rotation resulting in him spending more time playing without Okafor.  If this continues, we can expect Embiid to return to the extremely productive levels we saw earlier this season.  He is a strong play today but, with all of the other options on the board, it is still a bit risky to roster someone on a minutes limit even though he is clearly of being very productive in his 28-30 minutes.


Core:  DeAndre Jordan, Hassan Whiteside, Marc Gasol

Secondary: DeMarcus Cousins, Joel Embiid, Rudy Gobert, Pau Gasol, Mason Plumlee, Myles Turner

Value: Jonas Valanciunas, Tristan Thompson, Guillermo Hernangomez