NBA Deep Dive – 12/29/16

POINT GUARD

Russell Westbrook faces a Memphis team that plays at the third slowest pace in the league and has the best defensive rating.  Even so, Westbrook is matchup proof and should do perfectly fine in this matchup.  He is the entire Oklahoma City offense, so efficiency does not really matter.  The stats will be there at the end.  His price has reached the point where he is no longer severely underpriced, but there is still some excess value- especially in terms of ceiling.

Isaiah Thomas is slightly more expensive than we would like, but he has a nice matchup against Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers.  He is a huge part of the Boston offense, with a 33.3 percent usage rate and 32.1 percent assist rate and Boston will need all the offense they can get today against Cleveland.  This game has the second highest total on the slate at 216.5 and Thomas should see plenty of fantasy points in this one.

Eric Bledsoe has mixed huge games with poor ones throughout much of the season, which makes him a very nice tournament option in good matchups because his price tag is kept too low for his ceiling as a result of his poor performances.  Toronto ranks in the middle of the pack in defensive rating as a whole, but we have seen point guards have some success against them this season.  This game has the highest total on the slate at 224 (8.5 points higher than the next closest game) and Toronto is on the second leg of a road back-to-back so could come out a little flat.  Look for Bledsoe to put up a nice line in this one.

Kyle Lowry started out incredibly slowly last night before finishing with a huge line.  He is in line for another very nice line tonight against a Phoenix team that plays at the second fastest pace in the league with the sixth worst defensive rating.  Lowry averages over 37 minutes per game this season with a 24.9 percent usage rate and 29.8 percent assist percentage.  He has a very high floor and ceiling combination in this matchup.

Goran Dragic is an elite play if he suits up.  Dragic has shown that he will play his normal 35+ minutes as long as he is active- even when he is playing through an injury.  His price has decreased a little bit and he will have a pace up game against the Hornets tonight.  He is one of the most underpriced players on the slate in terms of ceiling.

Deron Williams game against Houston is the only game in his last 10 that he has played less than 30 minutes, and it was the result of a massive blowout.  Williams faces a Los Angeles team that is in the top five in pace and bottom five in defensive rating- a very nice combination for opposing point guards.  Williams has been productive this season, despite the Mavericks’ incredibly slow pace, and he should really benefit from the extra possessions he sees in this one, as well as the extra steal potential against a team in the bottom five of turnover percentage.

 

Core: Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Russell Westbrook

Secondary: Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas, Deron Williams, Kyrie Irving, George Hill (if starting), Mike Conley

Value: D’Angelo Russell, Shelvin Mack (if Hill out)

 

SHOOTING GUARD

Nicolas Batum has been playing out of his mind lately and is a great option on this slate that is devoid of top shooting guards.  He would have recorded his second triple double in three games last night had the game not been a blowout.  His price is higher than feels comfortable to pay for Batum, but he has been steady enough for long enough that we can trust him.  Since the beginning of December, Batum has a 22.3 percent usage percentage, 28.8 percent assist percentage and 13.2 percent rebounding percentage- up from 20.9, 25.5 and 11.8, respectively, for the season.  It is another pace down game for Charlotte, but we can still feel comfortable rostering Batum.

DeMar DeRozan is one of my least favorite players to roster, but we can make an exception today because the position is thin and the matchup is great.  DeRozan has a 34.4 percent usage percentage this season and should benefit from the extra possessions in this one.  As always, he is very scoring dependent but the volume and efficiency should be there for him to perform very well in this matchup and he is in play in any format.

Wesley Matthews was off to a nice start against Houston but did not play the fourth quarter because of blowout.  He remains a strong option tonight against the Lakers.  Nick Young has improved as an on-ball defender this season, but he still struggles to defend spot up shooters.  31.9 percent of Matthews’ offensive plays have been spot up shots this season and he averages 1.08 points per possession, putting him in the 75th percentile across the NBA.  Young allows 1.21 points per possession against spot up shooters, ranking him in the 13th percentile defensively.  Look for Matthews to have a nice game tonight for a very reasonable price.

 

Core:  DeMar DeRozan, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews

Secondary: Devin Booker, Avery Bradley

Value: Brandon Knight, Rodney Hood, Norman Powell (if Carroll out)

 

SMALL FORWARD

LeBron James remains underpriced for his production this season.  James’ usage percentage has decreased slightly from last season, from 31.6 percent to 30 percent, but his assist percentage has increased significantly, from 33.9 percent to 39.2 percent.  This has led to James having a higher ceiling this season than in previous seasons to go along with his always high floor.  Jae Crowder is a pretty average defender, despite his reputation as being very good, and James should not struggle in this matchup.  Roster him with confidence.

Gordon Hayward is coming off a monster game against the Lakers and gets another nice matchup against an Embiid-less Philadelphia squad that suffers defensively without him on the floor.  Hayward’s price is still a little elevated as a result of playing without Hill and Favors recently.  Favors is back in the starting lineup and Hill is questionable to play.  Quin Snyder staggered Favors and Hayward’s minutes against the Lakers so, if Hill is still out, we should not downgrade Hayward much based on Favors.  If Hill is back, however, Hayward will be overpriced despite the good matchup as he has a 29.3 percent usage percentage, 20.5 percent assist percentage and 10.1 percent rebounding percentage without Hill compared to 28.5, 9.6 and 6.3 alongside him and is priced for the former scenario.

T.J. Warren remains significantly underpriced.  We saw his price in the mid-$6,000 range earlier this season and there is no reason for it to be lower now other than he missed time with injury.  This means that we should be rostering him every chance we get until it corrects itself.  He is averaging 31.5 minutes per game and 15.25 field goal attempts per game over his last four, which is insane value for someone priced around $5,000.

 

Core:  LeBron James, T.J. Warren, Gordon Hayward (if Hill out)

Secondary: Gordon Hayward (if Hill in), Jae Crowder, Harrison Barnes, Luol Deng, Justise Winslow

Value: Robert Covington, James Johnson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

 

POWER FORWARD

Kevin Love should destroy Boston tonight.  Bigs against Boston has been a positive trend all season long and it is boosted in Love’s case because he can also shoot from the perimeter.  Power forward is incredibly thin tonight and Love is the top option by far.

Julius Randle looked very good in absolutely dominating the Jazz and could be in line for another nice game tonight against Dallas.  Andrew Bogut played the first half against Houston, which helps Dallas’s rim protection, and Dallas plays at an incredibly slow pace- which is not good for Randle.  That being said, his price is too low for his upside and he is a very strong mid-range power forward because of his ceiling and the lack of other options at the position.

Derrick Favors returned to the starting lineup against the Lakers and did not perform particularly well.  Hopefully his poor performance keeps him under the radar tonight because he is an elite play at his price, especially on DraftKings at just $3,900.  He destroyed this Philadelphia frontcourt earlier in the season and should have no trouble doing so again tonight with Embiid on the bench.  He played 21.6 minutes against Los Angeles and we can expect similar minutes in this one which will be more than enough time to be worth that bargain basement salary.

Dario Saric is incredibly cheap as well and is likely to go overlooked in a difficult matchup with Utah.  He has played at least 25 minutes in three of his last four games, however, and may see a few extra minutes tonight with Embiid out.  Even if he does not see extra minutes, however, he will see increased usage and more rebounds as a result of not playing alongside Embiid at all.  The price point and absence of Embiid is more than enough to make up for the difficult matchup.

 

Core: Kevin Love, Julius Randle, Derrick Favors (DraftKings)

Secondary: Zach Randolph, Ersan Ilyasova

Value: Derrick Favors (FanDuel), Dario Saric, JaMychal Green, Marvin Williams

 

CENTER

Rudy Gobert is in a prime spot against the Embiid-less Philadelphia frontcourt.  Okafor and Ilyasova (assuming he gets the start as is currently expected) are not good enough rebounders to keep Gobert from getting just about anything he wants.  Gobert is in line for a very big double-double tonight as a result of the second chance point opportunities he will get.  He is the best center option on the slate.

Hassan Whiteside is in a nice bounceback spot against Charlotte.  It is a pace up game for Miami, meaning more rebounding opportunities for Whiteside.  In addition, Zeller is not a great rebounder which means Whiteside has a sizeable advantage on that front.  He is not as good of a point-per-dollar play as Gobert is, but he certainly has a high enough ceiling to be a viable tournament pivot.

Tristan Thompson is a great value option.  He is a virtual lock for 26-30 minutes and that is plenty of time for him to do damage against Horford and the Boston frontcourt- especially if Amir Johnson gets less playing time as a result of Boston needing someone to defend Kevin Love on the perimeter.  It would not be surprising to see something along the lines of 10 points and 14 rebounds for Thompson tonight.

 

Core:  Rudy Gobert

Secondary: Hassan Whiteside, Al Horford, Jonas Valanciunas, Enes Kanter

Value: Tristan Thompson, Tyson Chandler, Alex Len