NBA Deep Dive – 12/26/16
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a career high 39 points in his last matchup against Washington, who has the 9th worst defensive rating in the NBA and really struggles to protect the rim. The concern with Giannis is his price, sitting at $10,300 on DraftKings and $10,600 on FanDuel. He has a very high floor in this matchup (and pretty much any matchup as evidenced by at least 50 DraftKings points in seven of is last ten games). The issue is that his price is high enough that we need to question his ceiling in a road game against a team whose pace is in the middle of the pack- albeit faster than Milwaukee’s. I certainly would not talk anyone off Giannis in this spot, but it is likely that you can find better price/ceiling/ownership combinations for tournaments. Basically, if Giannis ends up in my tournament lineups I will not be upset, but I will be very cautious of what I am giving up elsewhere in my lineup if I choose to pay up for him.
John Wall is in a kind of tricky spot tonight. At $9,700 on FanDuel, he can pretty safely be ignored on this slate since there are a lot of games, it is not a great matchup, and the scoring makes expensive point guards less valuable. At $8,800 on DraftKings, however, he is much more appealing. Wall has a high floor because he sees a ton of minutes, as a result of the Washington bench being dreadful, and he has a 31.3 percent usage rate and 43.7 percent assist rate so far this season. He may struggle to reach his ceiling in this matchup, however. First, it is a pace-down game for Washington against a Milwaukee team that, somewhat quietly, ranks in the top 10 in defensive rating. Digging deeper, Wall is 6th in the NBA with 11.4 drives per game and Milwaukee ranks 10th in the NBA at defending within 6 feet of the basket. Looking at these numbers, it is not a big surprise that Wall has been slightly worse than average on a DraftKings point per minute basis in his two games against Milwaukee this season. He is a perfectly fine play in cash games because the minutes and usage will be there, but he will likely be overowned for his matchup and ceiling in tournaments which makes him a fade for me, as much as I hate to say it.
Kyle Lowry faces a Portland team that has struggled to defend guards this season and will likely be without Damian Lillard. Lillard’s absence will not hurt the defense considering how awful it already is, but it means less energy Lowry will have to use on the defensive end. The Raptors are 6 point favorites on the road, so there is a pretty good chance this game stays close enough for Lowry to see a full allotment of minutes. He has a very high floor for his price and is very capable of scoring 50+ fantasy points in this pace-up matchup against the worst defensive team in the league.
Eric Bledsoe has been priced out of consideration on this slate. There should be a lot of points scored in the Phoenix-Houston game, but Bledsoe will have to deal with Pat Beverley who has played very well defensively so far this season. It would not be surprising to see Bledsoe have a decent game just because of the pace and amount of possessions in this game, but it is unlikely that he outperforms his price tag against Beverley when there are other options on Phoenix who can carry the scoring load in better individual matchups.
Kemba Walker faces the Brooklyn Nets in Brooklyn. Walker is generally better at home, but it is worth noting that he generally does not perform poorly on the road. He just is better at home. His price is back to the low $8,000 range after being in the low-mid $7,000s for a while, but we can still target him in this matchup. Brooklyn plays at the fastest pace in the league and has the third worst defensive rating. The game being on the road could actually be a good thing in this instance, since it is less likely the Hornets blow the Nets out early. Charlotte is a 7 point road favorite in a game with a 216 total, meaning Charlotte should score a ton of points and Kemba will likely be a huge beneficiary.
Kyrie Irving is questionable to play tonight against the Pistons. If he does play, he is a strong option in a funnel spot. Detroit plays at a slow pace and is a strong defensive unit overall, boasting the 7th best defensive rating in the league. Reggie Jackson can be a weak spot in the defense, however, with a 109.9 defensive rating so far this season. It is not the safest spot to target Irving even if he does play since it is the second game of a back-to-back and it is a letdown game, but the upside is certainly there. There are a lot of moving parts in analyzing Irving right now since LeBron is also questionable. Be sure to check out the FanVice live shows throughout the day for more thoughts on all things Cleveland (and Detroit) since we will have more news to work with later.
Dennis Schroder has been on a tear lately, averaging 37 DraftKings points over is last five games. With that productivity, however, has come a price increase- up to $7,400 on DraftKings and $7,100 on FanDuel. Schroder is still capable of outproducing his salary but, at his new price point, the margin is a lot thinner. Ricky Rubio has been very poor at defending the pick-and-roll this season, but he has been improving and he was not bad at defending it last year so it is not a spot that I am eagerly attacking at this point. On a slate this big, there are better ideas than targeting an expensive Schroder in a pace-down game.
Jeff Teague has been playing out of his mind lately and his price has increased significantly as a result, climbing $1,000 in four games on DraftKings. There is still some excess ceiling at his price as long as Monta Ellis is out, but there is less than there had been when he was closer to $7,000. Tonight is an appealing matchup against a Chicago team whose weakest defender is Rajon Rondo at the point. We have seen point guards have success against Rondo this season and Teague should be no different. If this were a smaller slate, I would have a lot of interest. On this particular slate, however, it is likely best to go a different direction because of how many high upside guards there are that are too cheap compared to Teague.
Mike Conley faces an Orlando team that has shown the ability to play well defensively at times this season, but has also allowed some big games to opposing point guards. Conley averages 7.3 drives per game and Orlando ranks in the bottom half of the league at defending within 6 feet of the rim. Furthermore, Conley is having a career season from beyond the three-point line. D.J. Augustin has allowed opponents to shoot 5.6 percent better than average from beyond the arc this season and Elfrid Payton has been poor as well, allowing opponents to shoot 1.4 percent better than average. Conley is working his way back from a fractured vertebrae, but his field goal percentage is trending in the right direction, and his three-point percentage has increase in each of the five games since his return.
Ricky Rubio has been playing very well of late, picking up at least 7 assists in 6 consecutive games- including 10 on Christmas. His price has increased as a result, but he is still affordable. He faces an Atlanta team that has been vulnerable against point guards this season. It is also a pace-up game for Rubio, although Atlanta is only playing at the 12th fastest pace over the last month after hanging around the top five for most of the season. The problem with Rubio, as always, is that he does not score many real points which limits his upside on most nights. Ultimately, Rubio falls into the same category as Schroder for me- he is a fine option but, at his increased price on a slate this big, you can do better in any format.
Rajon Rondo is coming off a disappointing Christmas Day game where he was very popular against the Spurs. He gets a much better matchup tonight against Teague and the Pacers, who play at the 8th fastest pace in the league and have the 4th worst rebounding percentage. Indiana is in the top half of the league in defensive rating, but Teague himself is not a particularly strong defender. Rondo is not at the top of the list of mid-range point guards, but he is definitely on it in a game where he has triple-double upside.
Jeremy Lin played 32 minutes two games ago against Golden State and was on his way to similar playing time against Cleveland but the game was out of hand in the fourth quarter. His price remains way too low for his production, at $5,900 on DraftKings and $6,400 on FanDuel. Lin has a 24.7 percent usage rate and 38.2 percent assist rate this season and it is only a matter of time before we start seeing a lot of fantasy goodness from him.
Reggie Jackson has been a strong option for a while now and that does not change tonight. His price is way too low because he has not been consistently good since coming back from injury, but there is no reason not to target his ceiling. He showed against Indiana that he has a high ceiling and he will be needed to score points tonight against Cleveland. Jackson has a 29.9 percent usage rate and 33.3 percent assist rate so far this season, which makes his $5,400 and $5,500 price tag on DraftKings and FanDuel, respectively, absurd- regardless of what his box scores show so far. It is also worth noting that Jackson averaged 35.7 DraftKings points per game at home last season compared to 31 on the road and, so far this season, he is averaging 28 at home and 21.5 on the road (25.55 points at home if the 40.25 game against Indiana is removed).
Emmanuel Mudiay is averaging 28.1 minutes per game over his last 5 and appears to be back in Mike Malone’s good graces. Mudiay offers a very high ceiling at a low price against a Clippers team that he was awful against a couple of games ago. Chris Paul played in that game, however, and Mudiay should benefit from Paul not being on the floor. Mudiay always has a pretty low floor, but he offers a ton of upside for his price.
Raymond Felton is one of the top value options on the slate with Chris Paul sidelined once again. Felton flirted with a triple-double on Christmas and his price has not increased too much. Denver represents an increase in pace for the Clippers and they have the 4th worst defensive rating in the league at 108.7. Felton is more valuable on DraftKings where he is shooting guard eligible, but he is in play on FanDuel as well because the Clippers are short bodies and will need his offense. The only concern surrounding Felton is that he will likely be extremely popular as a result of his game yesterday, which was added by early foul trouble for Austin Rivers. Felton only has a 16 percent usage rate when he is on the floor without Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, so it is conceivable that he fails in this spot despite his heavy minutes and good matchups. His usage rate increases to about 21 percent when Jamal Crawford is off the floor as well. Felton is in a great spot for someone who is $4,000 or less, but I am probably not quite has high on him in tournaments as others in the industry will be because there are so many high upside point guard options in the $5,000-6,000 range.
Malcolm Brogdon may end up being a trendy value play tonight since he has played at least 27 minutes in three of his last four games and recorded 35.25 DraftKings points in his last outing against Washington. It is a good matchup for Brogdon because the Washington bench is atrocious and he is a capable scorer. The cause of concern, however, is that he has not actually seen a sustainable boost in playing time over these last four games so his box scores are misleading. All three games that he played at least 27 minutes were lopsided games going into the fourth quarter, which resulted in him playing all 12 minutes of the period. This is a trend that we have seen going back beyond these four games as well. He is very capable of having another good game against Washington, but be aware that he will likely only play 20-22 minutes if this game stays close (and it likely will as Milwaukee is a 5 point road underdog).
Matthew Dellavedova makes for a possibly sneaky value play if people are turning to Brogdon. Dellavedova, who is averaging 28.1 minutes per game this season, has played more than 25 minutes just once in his last four games. This is for the same reason that Brogdon has seen more minutes, however, as Dellavedova has played exactly zero fourth quarter minutes in three of those four games (and played all 12 minutes of the fourth plus all of overtime in the only game that was close). Dellavedova is certainly not the sexiest name to put in your lineup, but he should see plenty of minutes in this game, is needed to space the floor for Milwaukee, and is facing a Wizards team that is the fourth worst team in the league in opposing three-point differential.
Core: Kemba Walker, Mike Conley, Jeremy Lin, Reggie Jackson
Secondary: Giannis Antetokounmpo (DraftKings), John Wall (DraftKings), Kyrie Irving, Rajon Rondo, Emmanuel Mudiay
Value: Raymond Felton, Matthew Dellavedova, Ty Lawson
James Harden has an elite matchup against the Phoenix Suns in a game that should be played at a very fast pace. He has been an assist machine lately, picking up at least 13 in five of his last six games- including 14 against Phoenix on the 21st. He is the most expensive player on the slate, but it is a great matchup. Phoenix plays at the 2nd fastest pace in the league, has the 7th worst defensive rating, is the worst at defending the three point line and is in the middle of the pack in rim protection. The only knock on Harden today is the abundance of other guard options. There is nothing to dislike about this matchup.
C.J. McCollum will most likely be playing without Damian Lillard tonight which gives him a huge boost, increasing his usage percentage 7.1 percentage points and his assist percentage 8.6 points. McCollum is still prone to inconsistency, but he is significantly underpriced for his new role without Lillard. The Blazers are only six point dogs in this game and, if they do keep it close, McCollum will need to play a large role in that.
Nicolas Batum is a borderline option at a very high price point for him. He has been incredibly productive lately, including a triple-double in his last game, but it is really hard to justify the price point because, triple double aside, most of his best games still would not be essential to have in your lineup at his current price. The matchup is very good against a Brooklyn team that plays fast, does not play defense and turns the ball over, so it is not a bad play if you can afford him. It is also worth noting that Cody Zeller and Brook Lopez do not rebound well, so there may be extra rebounding opportunities for Batum. He is more appealing on DraftKings, despite the higher price, because of his small forward eligibility.
Devin Booker has been very productive lately as a result of an increase in assists, averaging 5.2 over is last 5 games, including 7 in the previous matchup with Houston. Booker took 25 shots in that matchup and we could see something similar tonight because he has a much better matchup than Eric Bledsoe, which should funnel more shots to Booker. His price is way too low on FanDuel and is still in play on DraftKings. There should be plenty of fantasy points available for Booker in a good matchup in a game with a 230 total. The only concern is that the Suns are 13 point underdogs, but tournaments are about maximizing your potential ceiling and Booker certainly helps you do that.
Dwyane Wade gets a pace-up game against the Pacers. Michael Carter-Williams is questionable for this game and that could have a big impact on Wade. Some of Wade’s value comes from his role as the primary ball-handler with the second unit, which he will lose when Carter-Williams returns. If MCW is out tonight, Wade is in play as a very strong pivot off C.J. McCollum. If MCW plays, it makes Wade less appealing and there are better options.
Bradley Beal is a tournament option against the Bucks. He has been a reliable scorer for the Wizards this season, and plays heavy minutes because Scott Brooks realizes that he cannot trust his bench. Milwaukee is a strong defensive team that ranks in the top 10 in rim protection and top 5 in three point defense, howver, so it is tough to trust Beal in cash games. He does still have a nice ceiling for his price, particularly on DraftKings, because the opportunity for a huge game is always there as a result of his shot volume. It is worth noting that Beal has struggled in both of his games against Milwaukee this season, shooting 40 percent from the field in the first meeting and 30 percent in the second while averaging 0.8 DraftKings points per minute. He is also in the midst of a shooting slump, shooting 35.2 percent from the field and 20.5 percent from three over his last three games.
Zach LaVine faces the Hawks in an uptempo game, which is where we like to target LaVine. LaVine plays a massive amount of minutes night in and night out, although he only played 31 yesterday so he should be somewhat rested. Atlanta allows the 12th most fast break points in the league and LaVine excels in transition. In his previous matchup with Atlanta, last Wednesday, LaVine logged 38 minutes and produced 31.5 DraftKings points on 5-12 shooting. It is noteworthy, however, that Dennis Schroder spent a good deal of time defending LaVine and the Schroder matchup is one that we have looked to exploit all season. LaVine is always capable of disappearing because he plays on the same team as Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, but he is in a great spot tonight and certainly deserves consideration, especially in touraments.
Eric Gordon has gotten a little pricey, but he is still in play in tournaments. He comes off the bench for Houston and, as a result, is less affected by blowouts than the starters because he is on the floor to start the fourth quarter. The Suns are the worst team in the NBA at defending the three-point line, which should translate to a very nice line for Gordon (he shot 7-13 from three against Phoenix in the previous game).
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope continues to play heavy minutes and has posted some monster games this season, even after Reggie Jackson’s return. Despite some nice outings alongside Jackson, Caldwell-Pope’s usage rate with Jackson on the floor is still just 15.5 percent compared to 21.5 percent without him. Caldwell-Pope has been amazing in up tempo games this season and not nearly as good in slower paced ones. Cleveland plays at the 15th fastest pace in the league, so it is not a matchup to get overly excited about. In addition, Cleveland has the 9th best turnover percentage in the league, so KCP’s chances for defensive stats may be limited. The Cavaliers also rank toward the middle of the pack at defending the three-point line and replacing J.R. Smith (+2.5 percent differential) with DeAndre Liggins (-2.2 percent differential) will not help matters. All in all, this is a spot that I will be avoiding, especially because box score chasers may cause him to be overowned since he has some big games recently.
Sean Kilpatrick is likely on his way back to fantasy mediocrity, but he is not quite there yet. His price has plummeted since the return of Jeremy Lin (as it should have), but it is a little bit too low for his current role. Kilpatrick has shown that he is a very capable scorer, although he is inefficient. Lin’s return makes the inefficiency an issue since there are not as many shots for Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick has an 18.8 percent usage rate and 10.5 percent assist rate alongside Lin, compared to a 27 percent usage rate and 17.3 percent assist rate without him on the floor. The reason he remains in play in tournaments is that the Nets may be staggering his minutes so that he is not always alongside Lin. He played about 10 minutes against Golden State without Lin, but only played 2 without him in the next game against Cleveland. The Cleveland game was a blowout, however, so neither player played much of the second half. It would make sense for Brooklyn to stagger their minutes since Kilpatrick provides a strong scoring option with the second unit, so it is worth considering taking a shot on Kilpatrick in tournaments since he has a high ceiling if his minutes are staggered and he should come at very low ownership.
Jamal Crawford is a very strong play with Chris Paul out and gets even stronger if Redick misses the game. Crawford has a 26 percent usage rate and 20.3 percent assist rate without Griffin and Paul on the floor and, if Redick is out, he will see even more minutes than usual. Crawford played the final 19 minutes of last night’s game after Redick was injured. He has a very nice matchup against Denver and his price has not increased yet to match his new role.
Tyreke Evans has only played 15 minutes per game since his return from injury. I am only mentioning him as a PSA because, at $4,400 on DraftKings, he is a lock the second the Pelicans announce that they are giving him a sizable bump in minutes.
Core: James Harden, C.J. McCollum, Devin Booker
Secondary: Giannis Antetokounmpo (FanDuel), Nicolas Batum, Zach LaVine, Bradley Beal, Eric Gordon
Value: Jamal Crawford, Sean Kilpatrick
Like Kyrie Irving, there are a lot of moving parts surrounding LeBron James right now. If he plays, he will have a difficult matchup with the Pistons that he has struggled with in the past. Marcus Morris is a capable defender and he will likely be tasked with defending James. In four games against Morris dating back to last season, James has averaged just 1.1 DraftKings points per minute (he has averaged 1.4 DraftKings points per minute overall in that time frame). His price is appealing at just $10,000 on FanDuel and $9,700 on DraftKings, but it is not a spot that I am particularly interested in- especially if all three of the big three take the floor.
Jimmy Butler gets a nice bounceback spot after dealing with Kawhi Leonard on Christmas. Butler always plays heavy minutes and will benefit from the increased pace against Indiana. Paul George can be good defensively at times, but is not always present on that end of the floor. Butler has a chance for some extra defensive stats as a result of defending George as well. Butler has not done well in this spot in the past, however, with just one game over 40 DraftKings points in his last 6. Butler is appealing mainly because of the other options at the position, but is not close to a must play.
Paul George has a difficult matchup in a pace-down game against Jimmy Butler and the Bulls. George is one of my least favorite players to roster because his ceiling is almost never high enough for his price. That being said, he has had a little success in this matchup in the past, producing at least 42 DraftKings points in three of his six games in this matchup dating back to the beginning of last season. I will not have any exposure to him, but small forward is pretty weak so I can at least see the argument for rostering him.
Harrison Barnes has played extremely well this season and get the Pelicans in a pace-up game tonight. The problem is that the Mavericks are finally getting healthy, with Deron Williams back in the lineup and Dirk Nowitzki playing 14 first half minutes last game. It is likely that the Mavericks will bring Dirk along slowly, but Barnes takes a huge hit when he is on the court alongside Williams and Nowitzki, as his usage drops 8.1 percentage points and his assist percentage drops 6.7 points. It is reasonable to take a chance on him at a weak small forward position, just know that it is risky with Dirk back.
T.J. Warren is my favorite small forward option on the slate, price considered. He has shown that he has a very high ceiling this season, when healthy, and he appears to be healthy again. He played 29 minutes two games ago against Houston and 32 minutes in his last game against Philadelphia. There should be plenty of fantasy points to go around in this game and Warren may see increased scoring opportunities as a result of Beverley defending Bledsoe. He has one of the highest, if not the highest, point-per-dollar ceilings at the position tonight.
Evan Turner is an elite value option now that it looks like he will suit up. Damian Lillard’s absence will mean that C.J. McCollum is the primary ball handler with the first unit and Turner will pick up more ball handling responsibilities with the second unit because McCollum’s minutes will not be staggered tonight. Turner’s assist percentage increases 5.1 percent when Lillard is not on the floor. He has only played 10 minutes this season without one of McCollum or Lillard on the floor, but that should not be the case tonight. He is in line for a very good game as long as his ankle holds up.
Nikola Mirotic has produced consistent fantasy totals lately, but they are hard to trust. Outside of yesterday’s game against San Antonio where he played 32 minutes, his minutes had not increased so it is likely that his production will not be sustained. The Pacers are the 7th best team in the NBA at defending the three point line, which hurts Mirotic, and he will lose value if Carter-Williams returns for this game because there will be less second unit shots to go around. Mirotic’s price is appealing, but there are better options on this slate.
Core: T.J. Warren, LeBron James (if Kyrie out)
Secondary: LeBron James (if Kyrie in), Jimmy Butler, Harrison Barnes
Value: Evan Turner
There is not a ton to say about Anthony Davis. He is facing a Mavs team that plays at an incredibly slow pace, but he is locked into a ton of minutes- averaging 37.2 for the season. In addition, the game is in New Orleans where Davis has historically been much better, this season included. Nobody on Dallas will be able to match up with Davis and he should have his way on offense and on the boards. The only downside to the matchup is how slow Dallas plays but that should not deter us much.
Kevin Love let some people down (meaning me) yesterday against the Warriors but we can go right back to the well against Detroit, assuming he is playing. There is a chance that he will be playing without at least one of Irving and LeBron, which would give him a massive usage boost. If all three players play, he is viable in tournaments but the spot is not nearly as nice. If one (or both) of LeBron and Kyrie sit then Love is an extremely strong option in any format.
Paul Millsap is expensive, but that is fine if Dwight Howard remains out. Millsap sees a boost in usage and rebounding percentage when Howard is off the floor and has averaged over 38 minutes per game during his three game absence. Millsap played 39 minutes against Minnesota on Wednesday, recording a double-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. The Minnesota frontcourt has been vulnerable against capable scorers and Millsap certainly fits that description. He is a viable option in any format tonight if Howard is out.
Jabari Parker‘s price is reaching levels we have not seen before, as he sits at $6,900 on both DraftKings and FanDuel for tonight’s slate. Normally, I am very price sensitive and hate jumping on a guy when he is at one of his highest price points. My first reaction when I saw Parker’s price was to avoid him. I still am not super excited about the price but, after digging deeper, I am really interested, especially in tournaments. Parker has been very aggressive lately, taking at least 20 shots in four of his last ten games (and 19 in another one). He has just two games with fewer than 14 field goal attempts in that span. Jason Kidd has encouraged Parker to shoot from beyond the arc since the preseason and, as mentioned when discussing Dellavedova, the Wizards are one of the worst teams in the league at defending the perimeter. It gets much even better for Parker, however. Parker averages 6.2 drives per game and will be facing a Wizards team that has ONE rotation player who has held opposing players to a negative differential within six feet of the basket (and that player is Jason Smith, who averages 10.5 minutes per game and is basically irrelevant to this conversation). Parker has averaged 37.9 DraftKings points per game over his last six, despite being limited by a blowout in three of them. His price may seem high, but he has a 50 fantasy point outburst coming soon and this matchup against Washington could be it.
Markieff Morris is Markieff Morris. He is incredibly inconsistent and unpredictable, but he is capable of significantly outperforming his price since his inconsistency keeps it very low. He is only a tournament option on a slate this big, but he is appealing in a matchup against Milwaukee that he has already had success in once this year, posting a 15-9-3-1-3 line on December 10th. Jabari Parker has struggled defending players with strong mid-range games at times this season, so there is a chance for Morris to produce another big stat line. He is by no means someone to feel comfortable about, but the ceiling is there if you do not mind risk.
Marvin Williams makes for an interesting play today. His price is creeping up, but he is still affordable in the right matchup. He will benefit from the pace of the game and lack of Brooklyn defense, but he should also see increased rebounds in this game. The pace (and neither team being particularly efficient shooters) will lead to extra rebounding opportunities. The composition of each frontcourt could send a lot of these rebounding opportunities to Williams. 71 percent of Trevor Booker’s field goal attempts come within 10 feet of the basket, which should keep Williams around the paint. Cody Zeller’s adjusted rebounding chance percentage is 57.9 percent, Brook Lopez’s is 61.2 percent, Booker’s is 63.4 percent and Williams’ is 75 percent. Williams is always a risky and frustrating player to roster, but he is in a very nice spot tonight and a rare double-double is not out of the question.
Jon Leuer was promoted to the starting lineup last game against Golden State and played 33 minutes. He only attempted 7 shots, however, which is concerning since anytime a bench player moves to the starting lineup there is a chance that their productivity goes down. The minutes are nice but, until we see that he can get shots up alongside Reggie Jackson, it is a good idea to leave Leuer alone and look elsewhere for value.
Tobias Harris is an interesting (and relatively difficult to project) option if he comes off the bench in this game as he did against Golden State. He played 32 minutes against Golden State, but some of those minutes were a result of Marcus Morris being in foul trouble to start the second half. We cannot count on those minutes happening again, especially if LeBron plays because Morris will most likely be used to defend him, which means more minutes for Morris. On the other hand, more minutes with the second unit could mean more scoring attempts for Harris, as the 14 field goal attempts against Golden State were more than he had taken in 6 of his previous 7 games. It is worth noting, however, that he has not seen a usage boost in 293 minutes without Jackson and Drummond on the floor this season. The recommended approach with Harris is to avoid him until we see Van Gundy give him extended minutes off the bench that are not a direct result of foul trouble to a starter and/or we see increased usage with the second unit.
Thaddeus Young has been playing much better lately as a result of increased field goal attempts in his last couple of games combined with very good matchups. His price has increased as a result, especially on DraftKings, and this is not a spot that I want to chase the points. Chicago is a pace-down game and a relatively strong defensive team. There are better spots at power forward today than Young.
Taj Gibson remains underpriced and has a very nice matchup against an Indiana team that plays fast and does not rebound the ball well. Gibson almost always goes overlooked, especially on big slates, but there is value in rostering him. He is not good at creating his own shot, but he benefits when Rondo is active because Rondo is able to create scoring opportunities for him. It would not be surprising at all to see a double-double from Gibson in this matchup, and pairing him with Rondo in tournaments is a sneaky way to increase your upside through correlation.
Ryan Anderson has been playing better of late and draws a great matchup against the Suns tonight. Phoenix allows opposing players to shoot 4 percent better than average from beyond the arc and they play at the second fastest pace in the league. Anderson is extremely scoring dependent, which makes him inconsistent, but he does have a 40+ fantasy point ceiling in this matchup.
JaMychal Green is an appealing value option against an Orlando frontcourt that has struggled with athletic bigs. His usage and rebounding percentage both take a hit when he is on the floor alongside Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, but it does not take a big enough hit to warrant a price decrease of more than $1,000 since Conley’s return. Green still plays steady minutes, seeing at least 27 minutes in four straight games. He is not a super exciting play, but it is worth noting that his minutes have remained relatively stable despite the Grizzlies getting healthier and that he is underpriced in a solid matchup. It is worth keeping an eye on his minutes moving forward as Chandler Parsons begins to see more minutes but, at the moment, he appears in line for 27-30 minutes per game.
Montrezl Harrell is not expensive enough yet to keep him from being a tremendous value option with Clint Capela sidelined. Harrell has played 28 minutes in each of his last two games, and has been extremely productive- even producing 16 points and 8 rebounds against a tough Memphis frontcourt. He is extremely athletic and can benefit from the pace of this game. When factoring in position scarcity, he may be the best value option on the slate- even over Felton.
Core: Anthony Davis, Kevin Love (if Kyrie or LeBron out), Paul Millsap (if Howard out), Nikola Jokic (FanDuel)
Secondary: Kevin Love (if both are in), Paul Millsap (if Howard in), Jabari Parker, Ryan Anderson
Value: Taj Gibson, Montrezl Harrell, JaMychal Green, Marvin Williams
DeMarcus Cousins gets a very nice matchup against a Philadelphia team that has struggled mightily since they began playing Okafor alongside Embiid. Cousins is matchup proof as it is, but spending more time on the floor with Jahlil Okafor makes him an even better play. Cousins has a 41.6 percent usage rate without Gay on the floor this season, and Gay is doubtful to play tonight. Anthony Davis and James Harden are in very good spots as well, at just a little bit higher price point, but Cousins is also worth having plenty of exposure to.
Karl-Anthony Towns snapped his double-double streak against the Thunder yesterday, but it is likely that he starts a new one tonight against an Atlanta team that he recorded 18 rebounds against last week to go along with 17 points (although Dwight Howard did not play). Towns is more of a tournament option than cash game option because his price stays elevated- especially on FanDuel- because of his potential, but he is inconsistent because he is young and because Andrew Wiggins is not going to stop taking 15 mid-range jump shots per game anytime soon. Towns is preferred on DraftKings because his price is more appealing and he is forward eligible so he does not cost a center spot.
Marc Gasol faces an Orlando frontcourt that has given up some huge games to centers, especially centers that are capable of playing away from the basket. Gasol is shooting 43 percent from three this season and is a very competent shooter that will draw Bismack Biyombo away from the rim. Biyombo has allowed opponents to shoot 5.8 percent greater than average from three this season and 1.9 percent greater than average at least 15 feet from the basket. While there is some noise in this data, it goes along with what we expect from Biyombo defensively and makes the matchup very appealing for Gasol. Gasol has played at least 34 minutes in five consecutive games, and his usage rate remains at a very healthy 27.4 percent with Mike Conley back on the floor.
DeAndre Jordan actually has a lower usage rate when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are sidelined than when just Griffin is on the bench. This makes sense because Jordan cannot create his own shot and is dependent upon Paul finding him for lobs around the rim. Denver’s frontcourt rebounds very well, so it is not a great matchup for Jordan in that regard. If Paul plays, Jordan is in play in tournaments but if Paul sits he is much less interesting.
Joel Embiid has struggled alongside Okafor, but Brett Brown has begun staggering his minutes which has helped his productivity. The issue is that Embiid is still on a minutes limit of around 28 minutes per game, so being forced to spend part of that time on the floor alongside Okafor makes it tough for him to be worth his salary now that it is finally as high as it should be. Embiid would be a much stronger play on a smaller slate, but it is tough to roster him on this particular slate.
Andre Drummond is always a guy that I instinctively want to roster since he is capable of 20-20 double-doubles and routinely goes underowned. I cannot bring myself to do it today, however. Drummond’s minutes have been inconsistent lately and he does not have a good matchup with Tristan Thompson tonight. There are better center options for cash games and for tournaments than Drummond. We should let his price continue to fall and wait for a better matchup.
Brook Lopez is a DraftKings-specific play because he is just $6,400. Lopez’s minutes have slightly increased recently, as he now plays between 30 and 33 minutes in most games. Cody Zeller is a strong defender, but he can have trouble defending players who are capable of pulling him away from the basket, as evidenced by allowing opposing shooters to shoot 3.6 percent better than average from at least 15 feet away from the rim. Lopez has a strong mid-range game and has even incorporated three-point shooting into his game this season, so he should be able to perform well in this matchup.
Nikola Jokic is still too cheap across the industry and his game logs do not look as good as they should as a result of Mike Malone being cautious on a back-to-back and Jokic getting in foul trouble. We can expect Jokic to see at least 30 minutes in this game as long as he can keep his hands to himself, and he has massive upside if he sees those minutes. He is one of the top center options on the slate on DraftKings and is a strong power forward option on FanDuel.
Myles Turner has had some success against Chicago already this season, averaging 1.4 DraftKings points per minute in two games against them, compared to 1.1 points per minute for the season. On DraftKings, Brook Lopez is a better play at the same price but Turner is a great tournament option on FanDuel at just $6,200. Turner is talented enough that he can pull Robin Lopez away from the basket and have some success offensively.
Mason Plumlee faces a Toronto frontcourt that has been very vulnerable this season and will likely be playing without Damian Lillard. In 72 minutes without Lillard this season, Plumlee’s usage has dipped 1.9 percent, but his rebounding percentage has increased 4.6 percent and his assist rate has increased 3.8 percent. He is a very strong option at a low price in a game where he will be needed offensively if Portland is going to keep it close.
Jonas Valanciunas appears to be healthy again. He has played more than 26 minutes in just two of his last 10 games, but he has still managed to be very productive in his limited playing time. Portland plays at the 10th fastest pace in the league, has the worst defensive rating, and is in the bottom 10 in rebound percentage. Valanciunas should be able to do a lot of damage, even if his minutes are somewhat limited. The only real concern is that he is one of the first people pulled if the game is a blowout, but he has shown that he can outproduce his price even in limited minutes so the potential ceiling outweighs the risk.
Tristan Thompson matches up well with Detroit because the Pistons have two traditional centers which means the Cavs will likely have to give Thompson a few extra minutes. Thompson had success in this matchup earlier this year, picking up 8 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks in 29.7 minutes of play. His price is at one of its highest points of the season, however, which will make him difficult to roster because there are better value options on this large slate. He can certainly have success in this matchup again, but he will not be someone that I personally roster heavily. Also, Thompson does not see a boost without Irving or James on the floor so, if you are not willing to roster him with them in the lineup, their absence should not sway you onto Thompson later.
John Henson is in an elite bounceback spot tonight against the Wizards and is a great tournament value option. Henson’s minutes have been down lately as a result of not playing the fourth quarter in blowouts, but he has actually played at least 25 minutes in each of the last 7 games that he has played any minutes in the fourth quarter. His minutes appear to actually be trending up, if anything, despite his recent game logs being abysmal. He is averaging just shy of a DraftKings point per minute this season, and will face a Washington team that has really struggled against opposing centers. He will also have an opportunity for a few blocks because of John Wall spending so much time in the paint. This is an elite spot for Henson.
Core: DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez (DraftKings), Nikola Jokic (DraftKings)
Secondary: Karl-Anthony Towns, Myles Turner, Jonas Valanciunas, Mason Plumlee
Value: John Henson, Tristan Thompson