NBA Deep Dive – 12/30/16

HIGH-PRICED   [$8500+]


Anthony Davis shot 50 percent from the field on Wednesday (8-16), but struggled to produce strong fantasy totals with the “Vacuum Cleaner”, DeAndre Jordan, pulling down 25 boards for the Clippers. Davis’ five rebounds was his second lowest mark on the season, but we shouldn’t expect that to continue on Friday with the Knicks entering the heinously named Smoothie King Center. Davis has enjoy true home court advantage this season, posting 32.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.8 blocks, 1.7 steals and 61.7 DraftKings Points per game through 19 starts. A matchup with New York should only bolster these averages, as the Knicks are coughing up the second most points, third most rebounds, third most blocks and third most free throw attempts to opposing centers.


Alvin Gentry noted that Davis would be playing more minutes at the five going forward, which is exactly what we’ve seen over the past couple days with Alexis Ajinca and Omer Asik receiving DNP-CD’s. It will be interesting to see what Gentry does against a Porzingis/Noah frontcourt, but considering he’ll need someone to chase Staps around the perimeter, Davis could see the bulk of his minutes at center for the third straight game. He’s an elite play on DraftKings where his salary has dropped to $10,500, but there’s no reason to ignore him on any site with this matchup being so appealing. No team is allowing more shot volume to opposing big men than the Knicks, so we can expect Davis to eat well in a game that owns a healthy 215 total and a 2.5-point spread (NOP: -2.5).


John Wall is developing into an elite fantasy talent by the day, as evidenced by Wednesday’s 36-point, 11-rebound, 9-assist outburst against the Pacers. He came one dime shy of a triple-double and logged 35-plus minutes for the twentieth straight game. This is exactly what we want to see when debating whether Wall’s elevated price point is worth paying for. We aren’t receiving a discount anymore, but we could be seeing inflated usage if Bradley Beal (ankle) is unable to play. He is already averaging north of 51 fantasy points per game over his last 20 starts, and is sporting a 34 percent usage rate with Beal off the court.


Wall’s usage spiked to 37 percent with Beal sidelined on Wednesday, as he took countless trips to the charity stripe en route to a 36-point beauty of a performance. When asked in his post game interview why he decided to take over in the second half, Wall responded with “I saw Bradley wasn’t coming back.” If Beal remains out, Wall makes for an elite option in all formats across the board. If Beal is active, however, Wall would still makes for a strong play against the Nets, who lead the league in pace while ranking 28th in defensive efficiency this season.


Giannis Antetokounmpo drew a tough matchup with the Pistons on Wednesday and still managed to post reasonable fantasy totals against 35 minutes of work. Friday’s tilt with Minnesota is much more appealing, though, as the Timberwolves’ defensive inadequacies should easily be exploited. Minnesota is allowing the most points per possession in transition this season, while Antetokounmpo ranks third in transition scoring behind only LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. The T-Wolves have also surrendered the third most points in the paint and fourth highest field goal percentage at the rim, where Giannis leads the league among all non-centers by a rather wide margin. A whopping 57 percent of his field goal attempts have come within five feet of the rim, where he’s shooting 68 percent on the year.


Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng have regressed defensively in 2016, contributing to Minnesota’s bottom-five defensive mark through two months of the season. Neither of these two teams play at a fantasy-friendly pace, but this contest owns a mere 1-point spread and should remain competitive throughout. Antetokounmpo’s salary has dipped in a number of spots, and while he’s still $10,300 on FanDuel he offers excellent value at a weak shooting guard position. Davis, Wall and Antetokounmpo are the top three high-priced options on Friday night.


James Harden has managed to overcome difficult matchups on numerous occasions this season, including three stellar performances and back-to-back triple-doubles against the Spurs. His mid-30 percent usage, unparalleled vision and ability to draw shooting fouls with ease shields him from laying eggs in tough positional matchups, as we’ve seen him power through tough spots time and time again. Having said that, Harden shouldn’t be considered a must play just because he’s on the schedule. Chris Paul has done a brilliant job of containing him in the past, and Friday’s slate offers a bevy of solid high-end options at a far lesser cost.


Harden makes for a more appealing play on FanDuel where the shooting guard position lacks depth. Bradley Beal’s potential absence could further hollow out the position, and Harden is identically priced to Anthony Davis at $11,100. This contest does own a 221 over-under with Houston being 5.5-point home favorites against the shorthanded Clippers, so there’s definitely some intrigue based on pace alone. Still, DraftKings offers comparable talent at a lesser cost, and multi-position eligibility takes some shine away from Harden. Consider him a secondary option on FanDuel and a tournament play on DraftKings.


UPDATE: Chris Paul has been ruled out of Friday’s contest, which makes Harden’s matchup infinitely more appealing, but also makes a blowout virtually inevitable. This doesn’t change too much in terms of Harden’s value; his upside is much greater if the Clippers manage to keep things competitive, but Houston is playing so well that a competitive game feels farfetched.


Karl-Anthony Towns’ stellar numbers at home have been worth discussing this season, but until we can either explain them or debunk them, they won’t serve any true purpose in our research process. He’ll draw a home matchup with the Bucks on Friday, though, and that alone is all we need to put him on the map. Towns has been logging heavy minutes at power forward lately, which could force Jabari Parker to guard him for long stretches throughout the night. Parker’s defense has been his biggest weakness since entering the league, and life won’t get much easier against Minnesota’s second-year phenom.


The Bucks have managed to contain big men quite well of late, but Towns’ unmatched versatility should allow him to produce in what’s likely to be a very competitive affair. Tom Thibodeau should run him for 35-plus minutes on Friday, and he remains affordable enough to target across the industry. Keep in mind, however, that the center position offers some phenomenal talent in the mid-range, subsequently making Towns more of a secondary option than a core play on this nine-game slate.


Hassan Whiteside draws a stellar matchup with an undersized Celtics frontcourt, but I’m seriously concerned about him playing injured. He’s struggled to produce in some exploitable spots of late, and recently admitted that he’s been playing at less than one hundred percent. Couple these concerns with the fact that Goran Dragic also looked horrid last night — Erik Spoelstra noted that Dragic probably shouldn’t have even been active — and we have a blowout waiting to happen. With Boston being 9.5-point home favorites against this banged up Heat club, Whiteside may see some additional time to heal up on the bench throughout the duration of the fourth quarter. I’d rather use Towns at a comparable cost, knowing that he is fully healthy and isn’t playing in possible blowout conditions.


CORE – Anthony Davis [DraftKings]; John Wall; Giannis Antetokounmpo

SECONDARY – Anthony Davis [FanDuel]; James Harden [FanDuel]; Karl-Anthony Towns

GPP – James Harden [DraftKings]; Hassan Whiteside


MID-RANGE   [$6000-$8400]


Let’s talk about the Wizards…


Bradley Beal, if he plays, makes for a phenomenal option at a weak shooting guard position. He suffered a minor ankle sprain in the first half of Wednesday’s win over Indiana, returned for five minutes in the second quarter after a quick trip to the locker room, and was replaced by Sheldon McClellan in the starting lineup to start the second half. This series of events would suggest that Beal’s injury wasn’t serious, and he likely wouldn’t be limited if active on Friday. That being said, Beal missed shootaround this morning, which doesn’t exactly bode well for his status against the Nets. If he’s active, and Brooks is going to “monitor” but not “limit” his minutes (lol), Beal would make for a fantastic mid-range shooting guard option in this stellar home matchup.


Marcin Gortat has been one of the more consistent big men in basketball since Brooks took over, as he is averaging a career-high 36 MPG on the year (Gortat has never averaged more than 32 MPG). Not only is the Polish Hammer logging monster playing time each night, but he’s facing a Brooklyn frontcourt that ranks efficiency allowed to opposing centers. The Nets rank bottom-five in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, and free throw attempts surrendered to bigs, and Gortat should have no trouble exploiting the likes of Brook Lopez and Trevor Booker on Friday. Consider him a core play across the industry whether Beal plays or not.


Brook Lopez is a strong game stack candidate here, offering fantastic upside in a close game while being priced affordably across the board. I’m definitely not against swapping out some Gortat shares for Lopez in GPPs, as he is more than capable of dropping 50-plus fantasy points in such matchups. Marcin Gortat owns the league’s worst rim protection rating this season, too, which only boosts BroLo’s value on Friday. The 220.5 total attached to this game should have us targeting it from all angles.


Otto Porter’s usage jumps more than five percent with Beal off the court. A paltry 20 percent usage rating still isn’t pretty, but his career-high rebounding rate should cushion his numbers against the Nets, who are allowing the second most defensive rebounds and offensive rebounds to their opponents. Porter is as hit-or-miss as they come, but he’s produced well in favorable matchups and shouldn’t disappoint on Friday night. Brooklyn plays at a league-leading pace and ranks 28th defensively. They’ve also coughed up the most points, rebounds, field goal attempts and highest efficiency to opposing wings this season. The Wizards make for the best team stack in basketball due to their massive minutes each night, and Brooks actually ran the starting lineup for an unprecedented 36 minutes on Monday! Porter won’t ever make you feel safe, but he’s undoubtedly one of the better mid-range plays available this evening — especially if Beal is sidelined.


Nikola Jokic will forever be at the mercy of head coach Michael Malone, but when the minutes are there, Jokic offers elite fantasy production. Just look at his last two starts, where the Serbian big man totaled 40 points, 18 rebounds and 15 assists across a combined 66 minutes of work. He’s churning out 1.42 fantasy points per minute in seven games since being reintroduced to the starting lineup, and shouldn’t face much adversity in a sparkling matchup with Jahlil Okafor and the Sixers.


Amazingly, Jokic is sporting a team-leading 33 percent assist rate in that span, while Jameer Nelson is second at 26 percent. Jokic possesses legitimate triple-double upside right now, and should continue to be deployed until Malone inexplicably relegates him back to the bench or his price tag soars through the roof. Assuming Wilson Chandler continues to start at the four, Joel Embiid would likely be matched up with him. That leaves Jokic to eat Jahlil Okafor and his uninspired defense alive.


Paul Millsap is the cheapest he’s been all season on DraftKings, weighing in at $7,100 in a home matchup with the Pistons. This isn’t the best draw for the veteran forward, but it also isn’t one to avoid, either. He’s still one of the more versatile fantasy options in basketball, and should continue to log upwards of 40 minutes in a competitive affair (ATL -2.5). Dwight Howard’s arrival in Atlanta has certainly lessened Millsap’s appeal, but if you’re left with $7,100 remaining at your final roster spot on Friday, don’t hesitate to look his way. Millsap will eventually break back out for a big performance, and there’s no better time to roll the dice than tonight, where he’s priced to produce at his floor.


Draymond Green makes for a safe option every single night. With 40-plus fantasy points in four of his last five, it’s hard to believe he’s still priced below $8K across the industry. Friday’s home tilt with Dallas is definitely a pace-down spot for Green’s Warriors, but he should have no trouble churning out another well-rounded stat line against a beat up Mavericks frontcourt. Green remains a cash game cornerstone for those of you looking to play it safe on a tricky nine-game slate.


Joel Embiid offers serious appeal on Friday in a game where the Sixers will need everything he has in order to stay competitive. I’m really only considering him on FanDuel, though, where his salary has dropped below $7,000. While I hate the idea of him starting at the four alongside Okafor, Embiid appears to be acclimating to life at the power forward position. He’s posting 24 points, 7.8 rebounds, two blocks and 41 fantasy points per game over his last four starts, while averaging a stellar 1.5 FPPM in the process.


Embiid will have a distinct size advantage over Wilson Chandler assuming Jokic guards Okafor, but the only thing I’m worried about is Denver triple teaming him down low, which they successfully executed earlier this season. Embiid also had trouble creating separation on pick-and-rolls, which led to a rather disappointing performance. Still, he is priced low enough to garner plenty of appeal in a uptempo matchup for the Sixers. No one would blame you for pulling the trigger at $6,800.


Carmelo Anthony makes for a solid mid-range play at a troublesome small forward position. I much prefer Kawhi Leonard for GPPs, as the Spurs have been letting inferior teams hang around of late, but Anthony is the stronger cash game play at a depressed price point across the board. Melo was ejected on a rather weak flagrant-two call the other night and should look to bounce back against the Pelicans. Both the New York and New Orleans play at a league average pace, creating fantasy-friendly conditions in a contest owning a 215 total and a 2.5-point spread.


Despite Kristaps Porzingis’ rise to stardom, Anthony is still operating with a 29 percent usage rate while hoisting up 20 field goal attempts per 36. Otto Porter is the clear small forward play if Beal is sidelined, and probably even if Beal is active, but Anthony should return solid value on a mid-$7K price point, and has a significantly higher floor than the former. Danilo Gallinari also offers some lower mid-range appeal against the Sixers, and makes for a strong GPP pivot away from Porter if you’re looking to divert from the field.


Dennis Schroder should finish with solid fantasy totals at a respectable price point, but his position is so chock full of min-sal value that it’ll be hard to work him into lineups. Schroder would be a strong secondary option on any other night, but due to the wealth of value at point guard, he’s nothing more than a GPP pivot. I’m still confident in his ability to produce against the Pistons, though, as they’ve sprung leaks in their defense of late, including in the backcourt. This game should be closely contested throughout, and Schroder should see his full allotment of minutes at a mid-$6K price point. If you’re looking to mix things up at Friday’s deepest position, Schroder makes for a nice place to start.


Reggie Jackson is also an interesting tournament option in this same game, facing a Hawks squad that has hemorrhaged fantasy points to the point guard position all season long. He played a season-high 34 minutes last time out, and becomes far more valuable if Stan Van Gundy continues to play him in the low 30’s each night. That being said, Van Gundy noted that he would be making another change to the starting lineup on Friday, and it would seem counterintuitive to move Tobias Harris back into the starting five with him producing so well off the bench. We’ll have to wait and see what develops here as we draw closer to lock.


CORE – Marcin Gortat; Otto Porter [If Beal is out]; Nikola Jokic

SECONDARY – Bradley Beal; Paul Millsap [DraftKings]; Draymond Green; Joel Embiid [FanDuel]; Carmelo Anthony

GPP – Kawhi Leonard; Danilo Gallinari; Dennis Schroder; Reggie Jackson; Brook Lopez


VALUE   [$3000-$5900]


T.J. McConnell. Lock. Him. In. Don’t think twice about it, fellas. This is something we must do, whether we feel good about it or not. When you are offered a near minimum salary point guard who’s set to play 35-plus minutes in a Brett Brown-run offense, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. It’s really that simple; factor in a pace-up matchup with the Nuggets, Emmanuel Mudiay’s porous defense and turnover-prone ball-handling tendencies, and McConnell’s serviceable .84 FPPMs on the season, and you have yourself a virtual must play.


The Sixers will be without Sergio Rodriguez, Gerald Henderson, and obviously Jerryd Bayless and the yet-to-play Ben Simmons. This leaves them with a backcourt consisting of McConnell, Nik Stauskas (top value play), Hollis Thompson and Timothe Luwawu Cabarrot, who is currently riding a five-game DNP-CD streak heading into Friday’s affair. Brown doesn’t have any true point guards on his roster outside of McConnell, who should see a minimum of 33 minutes on the night. You know what to do.


Malcolm Brogdon will get the spot start for Matthew Dellavedova, who was surprisingly ruled out this afternoon. Brogdon is already averaging 22 MPG this season and Jason Kidd appears to be appreciating his services off the bench, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him log between 30 and 33 minutes on Friday. We shouldn’t be expecting him to produce a fantasy point per minute — Brogdon is averaging .80 FPPM off the bench this season and will likely see slightly lower usage as a starter — but the projected minutes, quality matchup with Minnesota and $3,900 price point across the board should put him in play.


There is nothing about the Timberwolves’ Rubio-Lavine-led backcourt that should concern anyone in this matchup. They own a bottom-10 backcourt defense this season, and should once again facilitate solid fantasy totals to their opposition in what’s shaping up to be a relatively high-scoring affair. Brogdon is well worth a look as someone who is shooting 43 percent from deep while sporting a respectable 22 percent assist rate on the year. Outside of Antetokounmpo, Brogdon will be the only capable facilitator in the Bucks’ starting lineup.


Markieff Morris is a nightmarish play regardless of the circumstances, but we must not ignore him on Friday if Bradley Beal is sidelined. Morris’ usage jumps a whopping six percent with Beal off the court, which by itself is enough to consider him. However, this matchup with Brooklyn makes him a far more enticing play, as the Nets have been a sieve in the frontcourt all season long. No team has allowed a higher efficiency to opposing power forwards than the Nets, who don’t have the personnel to contain Morris if he can stay out of foul trouble.


Only Kieff can stop Kieff, but unfortunately he’s been a more than competent participant in that department. If you’re willing to roll the dice, Morris possesses the upside to win tournaments in such an appetizing matchup. He’s also capable of single-handedly dismantling your teams one foul at a time.


I would bet on Goran Dragic sitting out Friday in the second game of a back-to-back. Erik Spoelstra commented on Dragic’s performance last night, stating that he was still only at 50 percent and probably shouldn’t have been on the court to begin with. That doesn’t sound like someone who is in line to play the following night. If Dragic sits and Dion Waiters remains sidelined, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson would be thrust back into play.


Boston should beat Miami handily at home, but both Richardson and Johnson should earn plenty of minutes in garbage time, anyway. I’d be more inclined to target Johnson, knowing he offers more upside and should continue to operate with heavy usage off the bench, but both guards warrant consideration. The appealing aspect of Richardson has nothing to do with his skill set, yet more so has to do with the fact that he is SG/SF eligible depending on the site. It helps to have some value at the two weakest positions of the night. Johnson will be a harder fit on a night where McConnell and Brogdon have priority status.


Dwight Powell is clearly not one of Rick Carlisle’s favorite players, likely because he’s younger than 30 years old. That being said, Andrew Bogut has already been ruled out of Friday’s tilt with Golden State, while Dirk Nowitzki remains questionable to play. If Nowitzki is sidelined, Powell should see extended run off the bench, but should also see minutes in a blowout with the Warriors being ridiculous 18-point favorites at the Oracle. He’s certainly a risky play, but Powell is a quality fantasy point per minute producer with solid upside at a near min-sal cost if all the stars align.


Justin Holiday feels like a trap play if Courtney Lee is sidelined, as the bulk of his minutes last game came after Carmelo Anthony was ejected. This is still a nice matchup, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Holiday churn out a 20-22-fantasy point performance, but if Sasha Vujacic draws another start I’d also be very skeptical of Holiday’s workload. We’ll consider him a GPP play for now, but there is enough value at the guard position where Holiday feels a bit unnecessary.


CORE – T.J. McConnell; Malcolm Brogdon

SECONDARY – Nik Stauskas; Josh Richardson; Tyler Johnson; Gorgui Dieng

GPP – Markieff Morris; Emmanuel Mudiay; Dwight Powell; Justin Holiday