NBA Deep Dive 1/23/17

HIGH-PRICED   [$8300+]


DeMarcus Cousins weighs in at a sub-$11K price point Monday, which means we’ll want to target him against Detroit. Now, Andre Drummond’s defense has been surprisingly strong this season, as he owns a 98 DRtg while ranking top-15 in deflections and leads all centers with 1.6 steals per game, but he’s struggled in other areas that Cousins should exploit. One problem area has been Drummond’s rim protection, where he’s allowing 54.3 percent shooting around the basket. Another weakness has been Detroit’s pick-and-roll defense, where they are allowing the third most points to roll men this season.

Cousins owns a top-5 mark in PnR points, is top-10 in isolation points (Detroit allows third most PPP in ISO), third in post points and even 13th in spot-up points this season. Boogie’s far-reaching skill set should serve him well in a matchup with the Pistons, who have fallen outside of the top-10 in defensive efficiency over the last one-plus months (13th DRtg). Not only did he record his first triple-double of the season last week, but Cousins is averaging a near triple-double with 25.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 2.6 Stocks and 52.5 fantasy points per game through ten January starts. At $10,500 on DraftKings and $10,900 on FanDuel, Cousins should be considered a fantastic play in what should be a closely contested affair inside the Palace of Auburn Hills.


Giannis Antetokounmpo was highlighted as a top play in last week’s road tilt with Houston, and nothing should change on Monday when he faces them at home. We discussed in an earlier edition of the Deep Dive why the Greek Freak was such a strong option against Rockets, but let’s take a closer look: Antetokounmpo makes his living by using his alien-like combination of size, speed and athleticism to get to the rim, where he’s attempting 52 percent of his shots from within three feet of the basket and 56 percent from five feet or closer, shooting 71 percent and 68.1 percent, respectively. Giannis attempted 11 field goals from within five feet in his last meeting with Houston, where he didn’t miss a single shot.

The Rockets simply don’t have the size to contend with Antetokounmpo, who stands 10 inches taller than Patrick Beverley and nine years younger than Trevor Ariza. Houston’s frontcourt may have some athleticism, but they’re severely undersized for this matchup. Montrezl Harrell and Nene have both been below average rim protectors, while Clint Capela isn’t seeing enough minutes to make a noticeable difference. Antetokounmpo is a fantastic play in what should be the highest scoring game on Monday night (223 O/U; MIL +5.5).


Russell Westbrook draws a tough matchup against the Jazz, who anchored by Rudy Gobert do a stellar job of  slowing the pace and limiting efficiency around the rim. This isn’t a strong cash game spot for Westbrook, but on dynamic pricing sites like DraftKings he should remain in play for GPPs. Westbrook’s salary has plummeted to $11,500 on DraftKings, which sure seems appealing when you consider he’s tallied 70-plus fantasy points in five of his last nine starts, and 60-plus fantasy points in 23 of his last 30.

This contest owns a rather surprising 204 point total with Utah being 5.5-point favorites at home, so it’s hard to believe Westbrook wouldn’t be able to produce his routinely elite fantasy totals if provided 35-plus minutes of work. Westbrook doesn’t possess the same upside as he would in a matchup with a faster paced team with an inferior defense, but he isn’t priced to play one of those teams, either. A 42 percent usage rate, 57.2 percent assist rate and 17.2 percent rebound rate that leads all guards by a ridiculous margin is enough to make him matchup proof at a mid-$11K salary.

Westbrook is an easier fade on FanDuel, where despite being eligible at a different position, he remains $100 more expensive than James Harden. Harden has been an unstoppable force who leads the league in passes made, passes received, touches and assist points created this season. He’s involved in nearly every offensive possession while on the court, and cannot be contained in Mike D’Antoni’s system. Harden’s unrivaled ability to draw fouls on drives to the rim frees up perimeter shooters and also allows for easy alley-oops to Houston bigs. Even when he isn’t scoring, Harden will find ways to produce. This is why he remains in play against the Bucks in what should be the highest scoring affair on Monday night.


Kawhi Leonard will likely go overlooked on a night where the Spurs are 11-point road favorites against the Nets, but I’d caution you not to ignore him completely. The two-time reigning defensive player of the year has scored 30-plus points in six straight starts with an average of 51.5 fantasy points per game in that span. Leonard’s career-high usage rate (30% USG) has certainly contributed to his elevated production, but his 63 percent true shooting and career-best 7.2 free throw attempts per game can’t overshadowed. Moreover, Leonard’s usage spikes to 37 percent with Tony Parker and Pau Gasol off the court, both of whom will be sidelined on Monday.

Leonard isn’t a necessary cash game play at $9,400 on DraftKings and $9,800 on FanDuel, but his inflated salary should keep ownership down in GPPs. San Antonio should have no trouble dispatching the Nets, but with Brooklyn playing at the fastest pace in basketball with the league’s third worst defensive rating, Leonard should see ample opportunity to produce. If this game remains even remotely close Leonard could erupt for a monster performance. I’ll have plenty exposure in tournaments where we’re paying for his ceiling.


CORE – DeMarcus Cousins; Giannis Antetokounmpo

SECONDARY – James Harden; John Wall

GPP – Russell Westbrook [DraftKings]; Kawhi Leonard


MID-RANGE   [$5900-$8300]


Andre Drummond has seen his salary fall through the floor of late, which is somewhat shocking when you consider he’s averaging 15 points, 14 rebounds, 3.8 Stocks and 41.2 fantasy points per game through ten January starts. Drummond ranks third in rebounds and fifth in double-doubles, while incredibly leading all centers in steals at the midway point of the season. His erratic playing time has been a concern, but barring any foul trouble, Sacramento’s sizable frontcourt should secure Drummond’s minutes on Monday night. At $7,100 on DraftKings and $7,700 on FanDuel, Drummond needs to be strongly considered in a closely contested affair at home.


Rudy Gobert would make for a elite midrange center option if Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams is unable to play. Adams took part in non-contact drills during Sunday’s practice but we haven’t received any word on his participation in Monday’s shootaround just yet. Being limited to non-contact portions of practice only one day before a game suggests that Adams is probably closer to doubtful, as he has already missed the Thunder’s last two contests with a concussion.

Assuming Adams is out, Gobert would draw a phenomenal matchup against an undersized and under-talented Oklahoma City frontcourt. The 6’9” Jerami Grant has been starting at center in Adams’ absence, but that simply isn’t going to work against this jumbo Utah frontcourt. Enes Kanter will log plenty of minutes at the five, but he is a defensive liability who isn’t physical enough to stop Gobert on his rare but efficient scoring opportunities. Joffrey Lauvergne and Domantas Sabonis stand no chance of containing Gobert on the glass, either.

One final selling point is Gobert’s shot blocking ability, which should be on full display against a driving westbrook and a diminutive Thunder frontcourt. If Adams is sidelined we’ll have no reason to avoid Gobert, as he has already been stellar of late with averages of 20.8 points, 18 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 50.8 fantasy points per game over his last four starts.


Kristaps Porzingis has stumbled through some poor performances of late, posting four straight games of 25 or fewer fantasy points while nursing a sore Achilles. The second-year phenom has been disturbingly uninvolved as a rebounder, too, and has attempted only seven free throws over that four-game stretch. There’s plenty to worry about here, but there’s also a lot to like, such as this road tilt with the Pacers.

Porzingis has already displayed incredible versatility through his first one and a half seasons with the Knicks, proving capable of driving to the rim, knocking down threes with a lightning-quick release, and excelling in the post when the matchup is right. Thaddeus Young gives up seven inches to Porzingis, and unless Nate McMillan intentionally tries to throw this game, he won’t be tasked with guarding the Latvian big man on Monday.

Myles Turner (strong GPP play against a weak Knicks interior frontcourt) possesses all of the tools required to evolve into a stout defensive center, but he struggles with versatile bigs, as evidenced by DeMarcus Cousins’ triple-double late last week. Porzingis should be able to exploit this matchup in what’s currently projected to be the second highest scoring game on Monday night. He logged 33 minutes last time out, and should be considered a stellar tournament option on a slate where he’ll go largely overlooked.


Goran Dragic faces a Warriors squad that currently leads the league in defensive rating. He’s also facing a Warriors team that ranks second in pace and field goal attempts allowed. This is a give and take scenario where we sacrifice efficiency for volume, and Dragic should see no shortage of the latter with Tyler Johnson already ruled out. He’s sporting a 27 percent usage with 1.03 FPPM since Dion Waiters returned to the lineup, and could make for an excellent tournament option on Monday if Miami keeps this game even relatively close. This slate is ideal for GPPs as I’m expecting blowout concerns to depress ownership on a lot of strong play. At a low-$7K price point, Dragic is one of those options, offering easy 45-plus-fantasy point upside in this matchup.


Jeff Teague is also firmly in play against a floundering Knicks team that’s lost 13 of their last 16 games. Derrick Rose has played well on paper, but his 115 DRtg, 1.1 percent steal rate and miserable deflection rate has overshadowed his offensive resurgence and contributed heavily to New York’s losing ways. The Knicks have sunk to 25th in defensive efficiency but are playing at an elevated pace, which creates an optimal matchup for opponents.

Teague is averaging a career-high 40.2 FP/36 per minute this season despite sporting a depressed usage rating in Indiana. His 38 percent assist rate and 4.1 rebounds per game have elevated his fantasy totals, though, especially considering he’s logging upwards of 38 minutes in competitive games. With this contest owning a 218 total and 5.5-point spread in favor of the Pacers, Teague should be viewed as one of the safest mid-range point guard options on Monday’s 9-game slate.


Kemba Walker is someone we’ll want to target this evening, as recency bias should depress his ownership after an embarrassing display of ineptitude against the Nets. I’m expecting Walker to get back on track against the Wizards, though, as he should see his full allotments of minutes in a competitive, high-scoring affair (214 O/U; CHA -4.5).

Walker has posted some lopsided totals of late; over his last 12 games the sixth-year point guard has posted four games of 50-plus fantasy points, eight games of 40-plus fantasy points and four games with 30 or fewer fantasy points in that span. Walker has been difficult to predict this season, but he’s been much better at home, where he is getting to the line at a far more frequent rate than on the road. He’s priced affordably enough to deploy across the board.


James Johnson simply isn’t the one-plus fantasy point producer this season, but he’s still more than capable of producing solid fantasy totals when provided the run. He should see ample court time on Monday against the Warriors, and will actually get a slight boost in value with Andre Iguodala resting. Johnson’s fantasy production has taken a hit lately, but he has now logged 30-plus minutes off the bench in each of his last five games. Against the second fastest paced team in basketball with a juggernaut of an offense, Erik Spoelstra will need Johnson’s defense on the court to at least attempt to defend Kevin Durant. The small forward position is weak enough for us to keep Johnson on the radar this evening.


Kevin Love struggled mightily in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Spurs, but I like for him to bounce back in a plus matchup with New Orleans. Anthony Davis is playing closer to the basket lately, which should alleviate some defensive attention away from Love, who is knocking down threes at a near 38 percent clip. At a mid-$7K salary on FanDuel and DraftKings, Love offers an abundance of upside in this matchup, and is a nice way to get exposure to a game that owns a 217 total.


Bradley Beal is only being listed in the Deep Dive because the shooting guard position is brutally thin outside of the ultra-high-priced options. Beal benefits from logging huge minutes under Scott Brooks, but that hasn’t bolstered his fantasy totals of late, as he’s shooting a dismal 28.5 percent of his last three starts (12-42 FG) with exactly four field goals made in each of those outings. Still, the minutes and volume aren’t going anywhere, which keeps Beal in play on a night where the Wizards should be locked into a competitive affair. Having said that, there are a few mid-$5K shooting guard options that we’ll want to consider before locking Beal into our lineups.


Gordon Hayward is sporting a usage rate north of 31 percent with 1.22 FPPM when Rodney Hood is sidelined this season. He’s been a very consistent fantasy force in Utah and offers solid upside at a low-$7K price point across the board. Hayward’s 53 percent eFG marks a career high, while he’s also averaging career bests in rebounds (5.7 REB/G), free throws (6.9 FTA/G) and points (22.2 PTS/G) at the season’s midway point. The Thunder have done a solid job of limiting opposing wings, but Hayward is cheap enough to weight volume over matchup. If you aren’t comfortable spending up at the small forward position and don’t want to roll the dice on an increasingly expensive James Johnson, Hayward makes for a strong pivot at an affordable price point.


CORE – Andre Drummond; Rudy Gobert [If Steven Adams is OUT]

SECONDARY – Jeff Teague; Kemba Walker; James Johnson; Kevin Love; Bradley Beal; Gordon Hayward

GPP – Kristaps Porzingis; Goran Dragic; LaMarcus Aldridge; Myles Turner


VALUE   [$3000-$5700]


David Lee has now played 33 and 36 minutes in the two games Pau Gasol has missed with a broken finger, and he could be in line for another healthy workload in Monday’s road tilt with the Nets. Dewayne Dedmon (GPP pivot) had drawn the starts for Gasol when he was out earlier this season, while Lee started at the four when Aldridge was sidelined, but Lee appears to have wrestled away the job for now. It’s hard to gauge how much run Lee will see on Monday with the Spurs facing a stiffer opponent in the Raptors tomorrow night, but we can’t ignore this stellar matchup with the Nets.

On the year, no team has allowed a higher offensive efficiency to opposing centers than Brooklyn, who ranks bottom-five in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and free throws allowed to the position. Lee’s salary has risen across the industry, but against the Nets he still warrants consideration. Assuming Popovich continues to give him the bulk of the minutes in Gasol’s absence, Lee will have a tough time disappointing with the Spurs owning a higher implied total than any team on this 9-game slate.


Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray are also in play for San Antonio, as one of them is likely going to have a strong game. One thing worth considering with Mills is he won’t see extended run in a blowout. Actually, because he plays off the bench, Mills could see less than his normal run if San Antonio pulls out to a big early lead. He’s a solid FPPM producer, though, and could easily pay off his near min-sal price point if this game remains even remotely competitive.

Murray has been starting for the injured Tony Parker and is expected to start again on Monday. He and Mills have split the point guard minutes down the middle over their last two games, and Murray would figure to see the blowout run with Popovich looking to keep Mills fresh for Tuesday. Neither of these two guards offer particularly reliable playing time, but Murray is the slightly safer option against the Nets. Moreover, Murray’s shooting guard eligibility on FanDuel makes him that much more appealing. I prefer him over Mills in all formats, especially now that the field could flock toward Mills after his last performance.


Dion Waiters finally started knocking down shots on Saturday, shooting 12-19 from the field and 5-8 from beyond the arc for 33 points and 44 fantasy points against the Bucks. He’s one of the more volatile players in basketball, but is capable of erupting in these fast-paced affairs. The Warriors are an elite defensive team but they’re going to cough up buckets of field goal attempts to this Miami backcourt. You won’t find many better tournament plays than Waiters, who with Tyler Johnson sidelined will log 30-plus minutes in even the most lopsided of blowouts. Wayne Ellington is also worth a dart throw in GPPs, as he’ll see big minutes with Johnson sidelined and should play right through a blowout.


Matthew Dellavedova saw his minutes surge upwards against Miami, finishing with 36 minutes of court time in the 12-point road loss. Delly isn’t a high-upside fantasy option, but there’s merit to considering him in a contest that owns the highest projected point total on the night and climbing (224 O/U). At a near minimum salary price point, Dellavedova wouldn’t present a whole lot of risk if we could rely on his minutes, but we’d be foolish to think Jason Kidd isn’t capable of benching him for no apparent reason.


Jason Smith is an intriguing, high-volatility minimum salary option against the Hornets due solely to the fact that Scott Brooks may have finally realized 38 MPG for Marcin Gortat is not a sustainable model for winning. If Smith sees ~23 minutes in an exploitable matchup with Charlotte he’ll be more than capable of racking up around one fantasy point per minute. That being said, this is as risky as it gets, and is a strategy only worth deploying if you’re looking to use a full out studs and scrubs approach.


CORE – David Lee; Dejounte Murray

SECONDARY – Thaddeus Young; Jon Leuer

GPP – Dion Waiters; Patty Mills; Wayne Ellington; Trevor Ariza; Matthew Dellavedova; Eric Gordon; Jason Smith