NBA Deep Dive – 12/25/16



Russell Westbrook is the premier option on this slate.  His price is in the mid-$12,000 range on DraftKings and FanDuel, which is expensive but still too low for Westbrook.  He has taken at least 25 shots in four of his last five games and has been incredibly productive over that span.  There is not much more to say at this point in the season, do what you can to get Westbrook in your lineups.


Steph Curry is a tournament option against the Cavaliers.  He always has a nice ceiling because, if he gets hot early, he will keep shooting and post a ton of points.  This game should remain competitive throughout, which could lead to a couple more minutes than usual for Curry.  It is still difficult to completely trust him because of the other options on Golden State, but he is very capable of outperforming his salary if he gets going early.


Isaiah Thomas is accurately priced on DraftKings now, after being too cheap for a few games, but he is still a viable tournament option.  The Knicks have struggled to defend the pick-and-roll at times this season, and Thomas runs it frequently and runs it well.  There are better options for cash games, but Thomas has the upside to be the second highest scoring point guard on the slate so he is firmly in play in tournaments.


Kyrie Irving will benefit from a pace up game against the Warriors.  The Cavaliers have been very productive in up-tempo games this season, Irving included.  Irving showed in the playoffs last season that he is capable of huge success in this matchup with the Warriors and he is a strong option in any format at $8,000 or less on FanDuel and DraftKings.


Ricky Rubio gets a boost in pace against the Thunder.  Rubio has been performing much better lately as a result of picking up more assists.  He has at least 7 assists in five consecutive games.  His price has quickly risen as a result, however, so he is not a must play by any means.  He is still cheap enough that he is a viable option, but Rajon Rondo offers more upside (and less consistency) for similar money.


Rajon Rondo will likely be one of my favorite tournament options.  The Spurs defense has not lived up to its reputation so far this season, but players still tend to be low-owned against them because of their reputation and the pace that they play at.  Rondo’s price is down because he has been inconsistent for most of the season, but he has shown that he has 40+ fantasy points upside when he is on.  On a five game slate, it is a good idea to take the risk on his inconsistency to try and get a lot of points at low ownership in a matchup he has already done well in once this month.

D’Angelo Russell no longer has a minutes restriction and his price is down as a result of his injury.  We need to take advantage because it will be much higher soon.  Russell has played at least 30 minutes in each of his last two games, and should continue to see minutes into the low-30s.  He is not afraid to shoot, and is capable of posting huge fantasy totals if his inconsistent shot is falling.  He is not a great cash option against a Clippers team that does not play particularly fast and plays good team defense, but he is a great tournament option.


Core: Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving

Secondary: Steph Curry, Isaiah Thomas, Ricky Rubio, Rajon Rondo, D’Angelo Russell, Derrick Rose

Value: Raymond Felton, Austin Rivers (both assuming Paul is out)




Shooting guard is pretty thin on this slate, and Klay Thompson is capable of getting hot at any time which makes him a viable option.  Similar to Steph Curry, he is difficult to trust but can help you win a tournament on any given night.  He is not my favorite shooting guard on the slate, but he is worth considering in a game that should remain close and where he will be needed offensively to keep pace with the Cavaliers.


Zach LaVine is in a great spot against the Thunder and is my favorite shooting guard on the slate.  He is a great player to target in pace-up games because he is excellent in transition, and the Thunder play at one of the fastest paces in the league.  LaVine had a terrible game against Oklahoma City earlier this season, but that should not be expected to continue.  He is averaging 37.5 minutes per game this season, and frequently plays more under Tom Thibodeau.  He is an elite option on this slate.


Avery Bradley has not been as productive since the return of Isaiah Thomas, but his price is down to compensate.  His rebounding and assist numbers have trended down since Thomas returned, but he has still attempted double-digit field goals in four of five games since Thomas’s return.  The decrease in peripherals make him tough to trust in cash but, at his reduced price, he is a strong option in tournaments, especially on FanDuel where two shooting guards are required.


Jamal Crawford is an excellent play if Chris Paul is out.  Crawford has played 391 minutes without Paul or Blake Griffin on the floor this season and has a 24.7 percent usage rate in those minutes.  Crawford is likely to see a few additional minutes without Paul because he is capable of handling the ball and running point.  The Lakers are a great matchup because they push the pace and do not play much defense.  Crawford is in a great spot if Paul is out (and is still a strong play even if Paul does suit up).

Core:  Zach LaVine

Secondary: Klay Thompson, Avery Bradley, Dwyane Wade, Lou Williams

Value: Jamal Crawford




LeBron James is in a great spot in the marquee Christmas Day game.  He destroyed Golden State in the playoffs and should have plenty of success in this game as well.  Kevin Durant is obviously a new addition to Golden State that James will have to deal with, but he is unlikely to make a big enough difference for LeBron to not be one of the top plays on the slate at just $10,300 on DraftKings and $10,100 on FanDuel.


Kevin Durant will get his first taste of the Golden State- Cleveland rivalry and should have a nice game since the game will probably remain competitive throughout.  He is only in play in tournaments, however, because of how closely he is priced to LeBron (unless, of course, you can afford both in cash games).  Durant is capable of outproducing LeBron on any given night, but the salary relief he offers from LeBron is not likely to be enough to be worth rostering him over LeBron.  His ownership will probably be low, which is appealing in tournaments, but it is unlikely it is as low as we would want if we are going to roster him over James since his name always garners attention and he is playing in the game that everyone will want to watch.  Basically, there is nothing wrong with rostering Durant except for the proximity of his salary to LeBron.


Kawhi Leonard has been one of my favorite cash game plays this season because his price has never reached the level of other elite small forward options.  The Spurs play at a slow pace, which is a negative, but Leonard and his 31 percent usage rate are a huge part of the offense.  He does not have the ceiling of LeBron or Durant in most matchups, but his floor is very nice for his price.  He makes for a great second small forward option if you cannot quite afford LeBron and Durant.


Jimmy Butler is a somewhat attractive tournament option because of his reduced price.  The presence of Dwyane Wade makes it difficult for Kawhi Leonard to shadow Butler all game and take him out of the game.  The fact that Leonard will be on him at all makes him risky and not ideal, but he is capable of producing in enough categories and plays enough minutes that if a couple things break his way he could really outproduce his price.  He likely will not make my lineups if I only play a few, but if I were mass entering I would have some exposure.


Core:  LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard

Secondary: Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler

Value: Jae Crowder, Luol Deng




Kevin Love should benefit from the competitiveness and pace of the game along with Irving and James.  He has been incredibly productive this season after facing adversity last season, including in the playoff matchup against Cleveland.  There should be plenty of rebounds for Love because of the pace of the game which increases his floor and his ceiling.  He is worth considering in cash games and is one of my favorite tournament targets.


Kristaps Porzingis is questionable for the game with Boston but, if he plays, he is in a great spot at a reduced price.  His price had reached a point in recent games that it was difficult for him to really outproduce it without hitting multiple threes and blocking a bunch of shots.  It has dropped to $7,200 on DraftKings and $7,5000 on FanDuel, however, so he is back in play as a great option in any format.  Boston has struggled against opposing bigs all season long and Porzingis is obviously a very good one.  If he suits up, he is a top cash game play the position and perfectly fine in tournaments as well.


Julius Randle is expected to rejoin the Lakers in time for the game with the Clippers and he is an appealing tournament option.  He still tends to be inconsistent, but the Clippers are without Blake Griffin which greatly reduces the chances of foul trouble for Randle.  Randle has been seeing healthy minutes lately, averaging 30.3 minutes over his last 5 games and he should be able to have success against the Griffin-less Clippers frontcourt.


Taj Gibson is inexplicably less than $5,000 on DraftKings and on FanDuel.  He has been a model of consistency this season and offers a ton of value at his current price, despite a matchup with the Spurs.  As long as Chicago can keep this game close, he should be in line for 26-30 minutes.  He is not the highest ceiling player, but his price is low enough that he is capable of outproducing it and he will almost certainly go low-owned.  Therefore, he is even in play in tournaments even though he usually is more of a cash game play.  Pairing him with Rajon Rondo in GPPs could be a winning strategy because they have a very strong positive correlation.


Core: Kevin Love, Kristaps Porzingis

Secondary: Draymond Green, Julius Randle, Gorgui Dieng

Value: Enes Kanter, Channing Frye




Karl-Anthony Towns is relatively inexpensive, especially on DraftKings where he is just $8,300.  He is athletic enough that he should not struggle with the increase in pace and he will have an opportunity for increased rebounds and more possessions.  He scored 33 actual points in this matchup earlier this season and should have plenty of success again this time.


DeAndre Jordan is an interesting option.  On first look, it is an appealing matchup with a Lakers team that plays fast and is capable of giving up huge games to opposing bigs.  The issue, however, is that Chris Paul may not play which likely hurts Jordan’s productivity on the offensive end since he does not do anything to create his own shots and the likes of Raymond Felton, Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford are not likely to help in that regard.  If Paul plays, I like this spot considerably more for Jordan than I do if Paul sits.


Al Horford is very appealing on DraftKings at only $6,500.  The Knicks have been torched by centers who are capable of scoring this season, and Horford certainly fits the description.  He is tough to recommend as more than a contrarian tournament play on FanDuel but, on DraftKings, he is in play in any format as he has played at least his season average of 33 minutes in six of his last seven games and has been very productive since Thomas returned to the starting lineup.


Core:  Karl-Anthony Towns, Al Horford (DraftKings)

Secondary: DeAndre Jordan, Al Horford (FanDuel)

Value: Tristan Thompson, Steven Adams, Joakim Noah, Guillermo Hernangomez