NBA Deep Dive – 12/22/16

POINT GUARD

 

Chris Paul logged only 26 minutes against the Nuggets in L.A.’s first game without Blake Griffin. Did it matter? Nope. Paul racked up a near triple-double, posting 16 points, 15 assists, eight rebounds and 51.5 DKPTs in a 17-point blowout, averaging a ridiculous 1.98 fantasy points per minute on the night. Thursday’s home tilt with San Antonio will be a much tougher assignment for Paul, but it should actually work in our favor as the Clippers are 1.5-point dogs at the Staples Center.

 

Paul sported a 29 percent usage rate on Tuesday (23.7% USG on the season), and that number should continue to climb against the Spurs. His scoring prowess was hardly needed against a Denver team that wasn’t competitive from the jump, but the Spurs will force him to take over in a close-fought affair. Paul has enjoyed plenty of success against San Antonio, averaging 46 fantasy points per game over their last 10 meetings, and Griffin’s absence will keep the ball in his possession all night long. Don’t let this matchup scare you off of Paul on a night where the Clippers will need his best effort in order to compete. 40 minutes of floor time is a legitimate possibility.

 

Stephen Curry and the Warriors are 14.5-point road dogs against the Nets. Fourteen and a half points! It’s hard to get excited about anyone in a contest with such a large spread, but there’s no denying Curry’s upside at a depressed price point across the industry. He hasn’t eclipsed the 50-fantasy point mark in 13 games (11/26), and his usage is down four percent from 2015, but Curry is still cheap enough to deploy with confidence in GPPs.

 

There isn’t much left to say about the Nets, who lead the league in pace and rank 28th in defensive efficiency through nearly two months. Their last 20 games are averaging a total of 223.5 points scored, and Thursday night’s tilt at the Barclays Center should be no different (229 O/U). Golden State obviously owns the highest implied total on this five-game slate (122.5), so the only way Curry fails to produce is if he simply isn’t involved. The Warriors have played down to opponents on the road before pulling away with a large lead in the final frame, so I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Curry shatter the 50-fantasy point mark on Thursday. He makes for a elite tournament option in what’s guaranteed to be the highest scoring affair on the night.

 

Goran Dragic has played phenomenal basketball since Miami lost several key players late in November, averaging 40.7 fantasy points on 22.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 7.6 assists and one steal per game in 13 starts with Dion Waiters sidelined. Justise Winslow finally returned to action after a 17-game hiatus, but his presence hasn’t done much to negatively affect Dragic, who leads the league in drives (16 DPG) and owns a 26.5 percent usage rate over that four-game stretch. Dragic’s drives per game and usage have risen since Winslow returned, while his assist rate has dipped only a couple percent.

 

Thursday’s matchup with the Lakers is optimal in every sense, as only the Hawks are allowing a higher FG% and OEFF to opposing backcourt this year. L.A. has served up the fifth most points and most steals to guards, while ranking 29th in total defense a quarter way through the season. Dragic’s $7,400 price tag on both FanDuel and DraftKings is still very appealing, especially considering this contest will be up in pace for the Heat, who square off against a Lakers squad that ranks fourth in pace thus far. Tyler Johnson also warrants consideration on a night where he should see another 30-plus minutes of work. We shouldn’t expect another 32-point explosion from the third-year Fresno State product, but one-plus fantasy point per minute production is certainly in the cards.

 

Jeff Teague’s matchup with Boston is less than ideal, but we simply can’t ignore his eye-popping production with Monta Ellis sidelined. In six starts since Ellis went down, Teague is averaging 17.6 points, 9.3 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 43 DKPT per game, with 41-plus fantasy points scored in all but one of those contests. The point guard position is deep for a five-game slate, but Teague has been so consistent of late that no one would blame you for deploying him in cash games or GPPs.

 

This matchup against Avery Bradley and a relatively tough Celtics backcourt defense could curtail Teague’s production, but he’s managed to post these monster fantasy totals with a modest 23 percent usage rate due to increased trips to the charity stripe (6.8 FTA/G) and a whopping 40 percent assist rate. Teague has countered some tough matchups with crafty ball handling, elite peripherals and high enough shot volume, placing him firmly in play on Thursday night at what can still be considered a discounted price point across the board. A 1.5-point spread should solidify Teague’s minutes in what’s projected to be a relatively high-scoring affair (210 O/U).

 

Jeremy Lin was inserted back into the Nets’ starting lineup on Tuesday, but Kenny Atkinson gave him only 25 minutes against the Raptors. Lin is averaging 1.22 fantasy points per minute in four games since his return, but hasn’t seen north of 25 minutes in any contest. It’s hard to ignore him on Thursday, though, as he offers excellent upside at a sub-$6K price point on DraftKings. This game owns a slate-high 229 over-under, so in the off chance that Brooklyn hangs around for three-plus quarters of play, Lin could realistically produce seven times his salary if Atkinson affords him some extended run. Unfortunately, the Nets are 14.5-point home dogs and Lin’s minutes have been limited, which would make rostering him in any format other than GPPs a very risky proposition.

 

D’Angelo Russell finds himself in a similar spot on Thursday, as he has yet to log north of 27 minutes since returning from injury. His matchup with Miami is less appealing from a pace standpoint, but this game should remain close throughout, and Russell could see around 30 minutes in a competitive affair. He is comparatively priced across the industry, and is a safer cash game play than Lin if you’re looking to go cheap at the position. That being said, Lin is far more appealing in GPPs, where his upside is impossible to ignore.

 

CORE – Chris Paul

SECONDARY – Goran Dragic; Jeff Teague
VALUE – Tyler Johnson; D’Angelo Russell

GPP – Stephen Curry; Jeremy Lin [DraftKings]

 

SHOOTING GUARD

 

The shooting guard position is terribly unappealing on Thursday, with Klay Thompson being the highest priced option on DraftKings and Avery Bradley leading the pack on FanDuel. The problem with Thompson is he’ll need to get off to a hot start in order to produce worthwhile fantasy totals against the Nets. Brooklyn is a massive home dog against the 25-4 Warriors, so it’ll be difficult to trust a player like Thompson, who is unable to record serviceable fantasy totals without knocking down the majority of his shots.

 

Bradley at least figures to see his full allotment of minutes in a game where the Celtics are mere 1.5-point favorites in Indiana. He’d be the more appealing option on DraftKings at a $400 discount, but doesn’t make sense on FanDuel where he’s $500 more than Thompson. Glenn Robinson III is sporting a dismal 110 DRtg this season, and hasn’t been an upgrade from Monta Ellis.

 

Nicolas Batum (13/10), Tyler Johnson (15/5), Buddy Hield (20/4) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (20/5) have all enjoyed success against Robinson since he entered the starting lineup, and Bradley is a more capable scorer than all of them. Consider him a viable secondary play at a miserable position, but don’t hesitate to punt shooting guard altogether. Evan Fournier would be a respectable mid-range option on FanDuel where he is $800 less expensive than Bradley. This trio of guards is as volatile as they come, so I’d advise targeting the cheapest of the group depending on the site.

 

Josh Richardson has been woefully bad lately, but his minutes have at least been stable since Justise Winslow returned. He’s shooting 28.5 percent over that four-game stretch, but is at least attempting double-digit field goal attempts across 35 MPG (including a 2OT game vs. ORL). The Lakers boast one of the most potent benches in basketball, but they’ve been predictably miserable on the defensive end. Richardson makes for an ultra-appealing punt on FanDuel at only $4,200 and remains in play on DraftKings at $4,800. The shooting guard position is weak enough to where 25 fantasy points from Richardson will likely be more than serviceable on this five-game slate.

 

Sean Kilpatrick’s value has weaned since Jeremy Lin returned, and Kenny Atkinson’s unwillingness to provide him with decent playing time hasn’t helped the cause, either. Kilpatrick still offers value in tournaments, though, as he’ll be involved in a game that’s guaranteed to be the highest scoring contest on the night. Golden State has climbed to second in defensive rating this season, but they and the Nets rank third and first in pace respectively. As a result, Kilpatrick will likely make for a semi-popular GPP play now that his salary has come back down to earth.

 

Danny Green has been astoundingly bad this season to the point where even considering him on most nights should be punishable by death. That being said, he’s looked better over his last two starts and is at or near minimum salary across the board. This would be a desperation punt at a barren position, and I would blame no one for scoffing at the idea, but Popovich will likely utilize his defensive services against J.J. Redick and the Clippers. Moreover, this game could see its fair share of scoring, as the Spurs have struggled defensively now that teams are taking Kawhi Leonard out of the equation.

 

There’s also a real possibility that Popovich switches Leonard onto Paul tonight, or even starts him on Paul, which could free up a lot of space for J.J. Redick to produce. It’s unclear how Popovich will scheme against the Clippers, though, so Reddick is strictly a GPP play in what could be a very difficult, or relatively easy matchup depending on the circumstances.

 

CORE – Josh Richardson [FanDuel]

SECONDARY – Avery Bradley [DraftKings]; Evan Fournier [FanDuel]

VALUE – Josh Richardson [DraftKings]

GPP – Klay Thompson; Danny Green; J.J. Redick

 

SMALL FORWARD

 

Kevin Durant has been the most reliable fantasy option for the Warriors this season, and is somehow only $9,000 on DraftKings despite averaging nearly 50 fantasy points per game. Even at $9,600 on FanDuel, Durant should be considered a viable play against the Nets. He likely won’t play a full four quarters of work, but Durant’s nightly rotations favor him in blowouts, as he’ll almost always see some fourth quarter run with the Warriors’ bench unit.

 

Brooklyn leads the league in pace and ranks 28th in DRtg. They have no one capable of even slightly containing Durant, especially now that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s minutes have been severely limited due to underwhelming play. The blowout doesn’t concern me here. I’ll be firing Durant up in plenty of lineups this evening, as he is way too cheap for the upside offered in such a fast-paced affair.

 

Kawhi Leonard is going to play heavy minutes against the Clippers in what’s likely to be a very competitive affair. He’s seen his salary fall across the industry despite averaging north of 40 FPPG over his last seven starts, and should have no trouble churning out another quality performance on Thursday. Leonard’s usage rate is still above 30 percent, while his true shooting sits at 60 percent on the season. Kawhi doesn’t run the risk of losing minutes in a blowout, and despite some underwhelming performances against the Clippers in recent past meetings, there’s no reason to overlook him this evening. Leonard has been given the keys to the team and is going to drive himself to another fine performance at the Staples Center.

 

Justise Winslow hasn’t looked like himself since returning from injury, but there’s no better remedy for an ailing game than a matchup with the Lakers. L.A. has been victimized by every position this season, and Luol Deng’s (solid value play; averaging 28.5 FPPG over his last 7 starts) defense (111 DRtg) isn’t close to what it was in his prime. Winslow saw 46 minutes in a double overtime loss to Orlando his last time out, and clearly isn’t limited physically anymore. As a result, we’ll have to consider him in a “get right” matchup with the Lakers, who are not only top-5 in pace, but 29th in defense.

C.J. Miles is eventually going to erupt off the bench if he continues to log close to 30 minutes per game. It hasn’t happened yet, and the journey to his inevitable breakout will be bumpy, but when it does happen you’ll be glad you stayed the course. On a night where Winslow and Deng will be the most popular small forward value plays, Miles could go virtually unowned in tournaments, making a potential outburst from beyond the arc that much more valuable. Rostering Miles is never fun, and there’s a good chance it will remain that way on Thursday, but if it doesn’t, get ready to count your money.

 

CORE – Kevin Durant

SECONDARY – Kawhi Leonard

VALUE – Justise Winslow; Luol Deng

GPP – Carmelo Anthony; C.J. Miles

 

POWER FORWARD

 

Draymond Green’s ability to produce consistent fantasy totals regardless of matchup puts him firmly in play against the Nets, who have been an absolute sieve in the frontcourt this season. Brooklyn ranks dead last in OEFF allowed to opposing bigs, having coughed up the most points, fourth most rebounds, fifth most assists, most blocks and second most steals on the season. Sound like an appealing matchup for a player like Green? Yes, I would think so.

 

Green’s multi-faceted skill set places him in an optimal spot against a team that is literally bottom-five in every fantasy-relevant statistical category defensively. Whether it’s for cash games or GPPs, you can’t do much better than Green on Thursday. The Warriors own a whopping 122.5 implied total, so even 28-30 minutes of work for Green could result in a monster output.

 

If you are concerned about the blowout, however, Kristaps Porzingis makes for a phenomenal pivot away from Green. Despite the defensive reputations of Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo, the Magic haven’t been shutting opposing big men down this season. Porzingis’ range should help him greatly in this matchup, and his 7-foot, 3-inch frame should serve him well around the rim against the undersized Biyombo. The Knicks are five-point favorites but it seems unlikely that this game gets out of hand, so feel free to pull the trigger on Porzingis in all formats this evening. His proven upside should keep him firmly in play until his salary jumps back above $8K.

 

Julius Randle should have no trouble bodying his way past the unimposing defense of Josh McRoberts on Thursday — the question is will he? Randle has appeared uninterested at times this season, taking himself out of games after slow starts, making it difficult to predict performance despite quality matchups. My recommendations would be to find a way to get up to Green or Porzingis, but Randle isn’t a terrible alternative if you’re unwilling to make adjustments to the rest of your lineup.

 

Thaddeus Young has now pieced together back-to-back 33-plus DKPT games, and remains reasonably priced across the industry. He isn’t a core value option like he was the previous two nights, but a matchup with Amir Johnson should allow for Young to post serviceable totals again in what’s likely to be competitive affair. Unfortunately, Young’s usage remains dreadfully low, and his peripherals have struggled throughout the year. He has, however, been more involved offensively of late, and should see elevated rebounding opportunities against this Boston frontcourt. You could do a whole lot worse than Thad at a low-$5K price point.

 

Trevor Booker would be the tournament play in the same tier, facing a stout Warriors defense, but also seeing ample opportunity to produce in an extremely fast-paced affair. Booker has been a revelation this season, and is finally beginning to showcase his hidden athleticism and feistiness as a defender. There’s a lot of volatility here, and also a chance of depressed minutes due to a blowout, but Booker is producing north of one fantasy point per minute this season, and that’s enough to consider him in the highest scoring contest of the night.

 

CORE – Draymond Green

SECONDARY – Kristaps Porzingis; Julius Randle

VALUE – Thaddeus Young

GPP – Trevor Booker; LaMarcus Aldridge

 

CENTER

 

Hassan Whiteside may in fact be the highest owned player on Thursday’s slate, drawing a mouthwatering matchup with the Lakers at home, where he’s been fantastic. Whiteside’s low-$9K price point is still palatable on a night where he could eclipse 60 fantasy points, and you’ll want exposure regardless of how high owned he is in GPPs. He leads the league in rebounding by a wide margin, has improved his defense significantly around the rim, and is sporting a career-high usage rate of 24 percent. There is nothing not to like here, and Justise Winslow’s return does nothing to change that. Consider Whiteside a top overall option against Timofey Mozgov and Co. in a matchup where he could legitimately triple-double with points, rebounds and blocks.

 

DeAndre Jordan should also eat in his respective matchup with the Spurs. Pau Gasol’s defense around the rim is putrid in every sense, while LaMarcus Aldridge has oddly declined as well. Teams are isolating Kawhi Leonard out of plays and attacking San Antonio’s bigs, so we could see a lot of alley-oops and pick-and-roll points to Jordan on Thursday if Paul gets tied up. James Harden and Jimmy Butler did an excellent job of finding the open man when blanketed by Leonard the last time they faced the Spurs, and with Paul being one of the premiere passers in the league, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to pick them apart. Jordan’s usage, rebounding and efficiency all climb nicely with Blake Griffin sidelined, so there’s no reason not to love him while his price point is still depressed.

 

There’s really no reason to look outside of the two aforementioned centers if you’re paying a mid-range price or higher at the position, but Al Horford and Nikola Vucevic make for intriguing GPP plays due to ultra-low ownership on this five-game slate. Vooch has now produced 49-plus fantasy points in two of his last three games off the bench, and is capable of replicating those totals against a pedestrian Knicks frontcourt. Vucevic has benefited from seeing minutes with opposing teams’ reserves, too, which creates better matchup almost every night.

 

As for Horford, he has just been outstanding of late, and is always a threat to drop 45-plus fantasy points in closely contested affairs. Myles Turner is very athletic and has plenty of room to grow as a defender, but he’s still a liability at times, and will struggle to contend with Horford’s veteran savvy. With 40-plus DKPT in three straight and six of his last ten, there’s plenty of reason to deploy Horford on a night where he’ll be largely overlooked.

 

Although Pau Gasol has burned us this season, it’s difficult to ignore his recent success. The veteran big man has tallied 30-plus fantasy points in four straight starts and five of his last six, while logging an average of 28 MPG in the process. We know how talented he is as a scorer, rebounder and facilitator, but those skills we had become accustomed to seeing were non-existent earlier in the season. Gasol is also a sneakily skilled shot-blocker despite his porous defense.

 

Now that Gasol appears to be acclimating to life in San Antonio, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to pounce while the price point is low. Gasol sits at $5,700 on DraftKings and $6,400 on FanDuel, making him well worth a look in all formats, but more appealing on DraftKings. Dewayne Dedmon is seeing some decent run off the bench, but not enough to make Gasol irrelevant in an exploitable matchup with the shorthanded Clippers.

 

CORE – Hassan Whiteside; DeAndre Jordan

VALUE – Pau Gasol; Bismack Biyombo

GPP – Al Horford; Nikola Vucevic