NBA Deep Dive 1/27/17

HIGH-PRICED   [$8300+]


DeMarcus Cousins notched his first triple-double of the season last week, and it just so happened to come against the Pacers. With 25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 63.5 DraftKings Points across 38 minutes of work, Boogie systematically picked apart Indiana despite shooting only 7-19 on the night. Six of his 10 assists came on pinpoint passes through closing windows around the rim, and this is what makes him so threatening; Cousins can find his man down low for an easy layup when the defense cheats in to keep him from driving to the rack, or he can hit a cutting guard with an easy dime when they try to close him out on a three-point attempt.

Cousins is simply too versatile to contain, no matter how solid the defense. Myles Turner is a strong shot-blocking center who has the talent to become an elite defender, but he isn’t equipped to guard Cousins just yet. Cousins ranks among the league leaders in post points (5th), pick-and-roll points (5th), spot up points (5th) and isolation points (10th) this season, illustrating just how unguardable he’s become over the years. The Kings are getting the ball in Cousins’ hands early and often, forcing defenses to make split decisions that often result in Sacramento points.

The Pacers are only 4-point home favorites in what should be a relatively high-scoring affair (210.5), and they’ll also be playing their second of a back-to-back after last night’s road win in Minnesota. Cousins is already sporting the second highest usage rate in basketball (37.3%), and the absence of Rudy Gay will only add to his workload (40% USG/1.50 FPPM). He also leads the Kings in assist points created, making him a safe, high-upside option with low bust potential on Friday night. Cousins is especially enticing on FanDuel where he’s priced at $10,700.


James Harden doesn’t require a verbose write up anymore — he’s one of only two tier-one fantasy options in basketball (Russell Westbrook being the other one), who’s capable of dropping an 80-fantasy point triple-double any day of the week. Friday’s matchup with the Sixers may feel more appealing than it actually is on paper, though, as we fondly remember Philadelphia as a team to pick on nightly, and not a team that ranks 10th in defensive efficiency. That being said, Harden is not capable of being contained, and there’s nothing Robert Covington or Gerald Henderson will be able to do about it.

Harden is attempting only 12.5 field goals per game over his last four starts, which makes little sense considering how aggressive he’s been all season. League-leading assists, touches and passes made provide him with a ridiculously high floor, though, as Harden is involved in nearly every one of Houston’s offensive possessions. The Sixers are only 7.5-point home dogs against the NBA’s fourth best basketball team, and that line was likely released with the assumption that Joel Embiid would be sidelined. Embiid is now questionable to play, and his potential presence would only keep this game more competitive. Sure, it would make scoring around the rim more difficult, but Harden always finds ways to produce. If you’re willing to pay a premium for him, no one is going to blame you. That’s pretty much where we’re at with Harden.


Giannis Antetokounmpo can exploit this matchup on Friday, as DeMarre Carroll’s defense has declined (109 DRtg, -.3 DBPM) and the Raptors’ bigs have struggled to protect the rim. Antetokounmpo is already averaging 30 points, 7.5 rebounds, eight assists and 55 fantasy points per game through two meetings with Toronto this season, shooting 62.5 percent from the field (25-40 FG) and 69 percent from within three feet of the rim (18-26 FG). He has victimized Jonas Valanciunas and Co. down low, continually attacking the Raptors in the paint and around the basket, and nothing should change when these two clubs meet this evening.

Antetokounmpo has seen his salary dip to $10,000 on DraftKings and $10,300 on FanDuel, placing him firmly in play on a night where the Bucks should stay competitive with the DeRozan-less Raptors. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks back out with a 60-plus-fantasy point performance, and with this game expected to be competitive (MIL +4.5) and relatively high-scoring (212.5 O/U), Antetokounmpo will see no shortage of opportunity to explode.


LeBron James is angry. Angry LeBron James is scary. The Nets are scared of angry LeBron James. Angry LeBron james should dismantle the Nets, who are scared because he’s angry. I mentioned on this morning’s podcast that Kenny Atkinson and his entire Brooklyn squad should call out sick on Friday, because there is simply no way LeBron lets his Cavaliers come out flat.

Cleveland has dropped seven of 12 games in January, many of which were embarrassing losses to inferior opponents, such as the Davis-less Pelicans, the struggling Blazers, and the Kings, who they lost to at home. They are 15-point home favorites on Friday, though, in a game that owns the highest projected total on the night at 226.5 points. James won’t sit back and let Brooklyn stay competitive. Actually, I’m expecting him to take over from the beginning and put this hapless Nets team away before they can lace up their shoes.

While the prospect of facing the Nets is enticing, the problem with targeting LeBron is twofold: first, he could easily lose significant playing time in a blowout; and second, Tyronn Lue has already alluded to limiting James’ minutes after he logged 44-plus minutes in three straight games. I’ll have exposure in GPPs as LeBron remains affordable across the industry, but there should definitely be some skepticism here, as a matchup with the Nets presents a perfect opportunity for him to get some much needed rest.


Anthony Davis is $9,700 on DraftKings, placing him in play as a tournament option by default. The matchup with San Antonio is far from appealing, and Davis’ body was seemingly constructed in a third grade art class, using paper mache and Elmer’s glue, so there are definitely some concerns. That being said, he possesses massive upside when healthy, and is more than capable of trashing the marshmallow-like defense of David Lee. I wouldn’t recommend loading up on Davis with this slate being chock full of high-end plays, but on a night where he’s cheaper than John Wall and only $100 more expensive than Isaiah Thomas, we have to keep him on the radar.

Jimmy Butler is also a site-specific play on Friday, weighing in at a sub-$9K price point on DraftKings. He’ll square off against a Miami team that lost Justise Winslow for the season, could be without an ailing Hassan Whiteside, and can’t run James Johnson for 30-plus MPG with him apparently wearing down. Butler has been stupendous this season, averaging almost as many points as Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard, while posting impressive peripherals along the way. With Rajon Rondo sealing his own fate in Chicago, Butler has become the Bulls’ de facto point guard, and with nearly 40 minutes of court time each night, he’ll have a tough time failing on Friday.


Kyle Lowry is quietly enjoying an amazing campaign with the Raptors, averaging career highs in points (22.4 PTS/G), field goal percentage (46.9 FG%), three-point percentage (42.2 3PT%) and rebounds (4.8 REB/G) at the midway point of the season. He’ll face a rather stiff opponent in the Bucks on Friday, but should see ample opportunity to produce with DeMar DeRozan sidelined. Lowry is sporting a near 29 percent usage rate with 1.29 FPPM when DeRozan is off the court this season, and his services will be frequently required in what’s projected to be a very closely contested affair (TOR -4.5).


CORE – DeMarcus Cousins;

SECONDARY – James Harden; Giannis Antetokounmpo; Jimmy Butler [DraftKings]; Kyle Lowry

GPP – LeBron James; Anthony Davis [DraftKings]


MID-RANGE   [$5900-$8300]


Kyrie Irving has torched the Nets in two meetings this season, which makes sense considering Brooklyn hemorrhages fantasy points to every single position. Not only is Irving averaging 48 fantasy points per game through these two starts, but he’s logging only 31 MPG in the process. At a low-$8K price point on both FanDuel and DraftKings it’s hard to consider him a core play, but there’s no ignoring the upside on a night where Cleveland owns a higher implied total (121.5) than any other team. Irving and Kevin Love should both be considered viable cash game plays with plenty of tournament appeal against the Nets. Even if they see limited minutes in a blowout, all of Cleveland’s production comes from their Big Three. They should eat well on Friday night, and Irving makes for a fringe core option on this 10-game slate.


Carmelo Anthony has seen his salary plummet to $7,200 on DraftKings, which is completely unwarranted when you consider he’s averaging 46 FPPG over his last four starts. Not only is Melo currently playing some of his best basketball of the season, but he could be playing with added motivation now that New York’s desperation to trade him has become clear.

Michael Kidd-GIlchrist is a strong wing defender, but he’s been unable to contain Anthony through two games this season. There’s also the fact that Melo is sporting a 30 percent usage rate with 20 field goal attempts per 36. This is less about matchup and more about exploiting a quirky salary, which Anthony certainly owns on DraftKings. The Knicks are mere 1-point home dogs in a 211.5 O/U game, so Melo could log upwards of 40 minutes in a down-to-the-wire affair.

Kristaps Porzingis has been dismal of late, posting fantasy totals of 18.5, 18.5, 25.75, 21.25, 16.5 and 26 over his last six games. He’s also racked up 11 fouls over his past two games, which has significantly limited his playing time. The abovementioned facts are exactly why Porzingis should be considered a phenomenal tournament option on Friday, sitting at $6,200 on DraftKings and $6,200 on FanDuel as a result of his porous play. He can’t play this poorly forever, and should work back up to around 32 minutes of play against the Hornets assuming he stays out of trouble. Porzingis is simply too talented to be ignored at his lowest price point of the season.


Marc Gasol has been magician this season, buoying the Grizzlies on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Coming into his 2016-17 campaign Gasol had tallied 30-plus points nine times over his 8-season career (561 games). Through 45 games this season he has already scored 30 or more points four times, with games of 42, 32, 36 and 38 points thus far.

Gasol will draw a matchup with the Blazers on Friday that should be easily exploited, as Mason Plumlee possesses a subpar defensive skill set and won’t be able to handle him in the post, where he leads the league in scoring. Portland has allowed the third most post points and struggles mightily to defend the pick-and-roll, where Gasol and Conley thrive. In a closely contested, uptempo matchup for the Grizzlies, Gasol should be considered a stellar upper mid-range play at the center position, while Mike Conley will serve as an excellent GPP play after his disappointing effort on Wednesday.


Paul Millsap is inexplicably cheap on DraftKings, and while I try not to focus too heavily on one site when writing the Deep Dive, it’s impossible to ignore this erroneous pricing. At $7,400, how can we overlook a player who’s tallied 33-plus DraftKings points in 23 of his last 25 games, with 40-plus fantasy points 14 times in that span.

Consider Millsap a fantastic option against the the Wizards, whose frontcourt defense has taken a step back in 2016-17. On the season, Washington is coughing up the second most points, fourth most rebounds and highest field goal percentage to opposing power forwards, opening the door for a huge game from Millsap at a criminally low price point.


Dwyane Wade enters Friday with a chip on his shoulder — a Rondo-induced, Instagram-fueled chip that could manifest itself against the Heat. Wade has enjoyed some positive variance of late, racking up 13 steals over his last three games despite averaging 1.6 steals per game on the season, but he’s also averaging 28 points, six rebounds and two blocks per game in that span. I generally elect to ignore narratives, but it’s hard to believe Wade won’t be playing with added motivation on Friday. Even if he doesn’t, the defense of Dion Waiters (109 DRtg) and Wayne Ellington (111 DRtg) won’t be slowing him down.


Jeff Teague has been outstanding in January, averaging 16.2 points, 9.5 assists, 4.9 rebounds, one steal and 38 fantasy points per game, while shooting 56.2 percent from the field and 52 percent from three-point range in 11 starts this month. He trounced the Kings for 52 DraftKings points just eight days back and will draw another opportunity to beat up on a weak Sacramento backcourt this evening.

At $7,200 on FanDuel and DraftKings, Teague is one of the more affordably price point guards on the board, making for a solid mid-range option in both cash games and GPPs. His usage may not be high, but his efficiency has made up for it in spades. He should log another 35-plus minutes in a close fought affair, and hopefully the back-to-back won’t affect him too much.


Zach Randolph faces his former team on Friday, and he could do so as a starter if JaMychal Green misses his second straight game. Not that it matters, but Randolph is averaging 21.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.42 steals and 40 fantasy points per game through 13 career games against the Blazers in Portland. His usage decreases when starting alongside Gasol, but I’m willing to accept lower volume with significantly increased playing time — Randolph logged 38 minutes in Wednesday’s 101-99 win over the Raptors, and while he isn’t likely to sniff 40 minutes again, 33-35 minutes would place him firmly in play at $6K on DraftKings and $5,900 on FanDuel.

Portland simply doesn’t have enough size to contend with Z-Bo down low. He’s a similar player to Al Jefferson and Greg Monroe, who just beat up on a Sixers team with the same lack of physicality in their frontcourt. Whether it’s Mason Plumlee, Al-Farouq Aminu, Meyers Leonard, Noah Vonleh or whoever else Terry Stotts decides to throw at the 6’9”, 260-pound power forward, they won’t be able to contain him. 10-13 shots should be enough for him to rack up a nice double-double in this uptempo affair for the Grizzlies.


Dwight Howard, in case you haven’t noticed, is ridiculously underpriced on DraftKings ($6,700) and even on FanDuel ($7,100). His teammate Dennis Schroder is also mispriced after averaging 35 FPPG over his last six starts. Marcin Gortat has worn down after logging nearly 40 MPG through the first half of the season, and his performance has suffered as a result; Gortat is allowing the third highest shooting at the rim (56.5 DFG%) of all qualified centers, while his steal and block rates both mark career lows. Howard should find an easy time scoring around the rim, and although he doesn’t attempt many shots anymore, his depressed price point should make it hard to fail on Friday. He should also see some extended run if Mike Muscala remains sidelined.


CORE – Kyrie Irving; Carmelo Anthony [DraftKings]; Marc Gasol; Paul Millsap [DraftKings]

SECONDARY – Kevin Love; Carmelo Anthony [FanDuel]; Dwight Howard; Dwyane Wade; Jeff Teague; Zach Randolph [If JaMychal Green is OUT]

GPP – Mike Conley; Kristaps Porzingis; Dennis Schroder


VALUE   [$3000-$5700]


We have an unbelievable amount of questionable designations on Friday, which makes targeting value plays very difficult to do at this point in the day. Because there is so much uncertainty surrounding this slate, we’ll rearrange the value section of the Deep Dive to analyze the possible scenarios around the league. But before we do that, let’s take a look at a few players who we already know to have value…


Norman Powell has looked stellar in DeMar DeRozan’s absence, which makes sense considering he’s been asked to fill a massive void. DeRozan ranks fourth among all players in usage and third in field goal attempt share, which means Toronto loses a ton of offensive production when he’s off the court. Powell has stepped into the starting shooting guard role over his last two games and hasn’t disappointed, averaging 18.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, two assists, 1.5 steals and 31.4 fantasy points per game over that span.

Powell is shooting at a high clip (37 FGA over his last two starts), and is logging huge minutes (33 & 39) alongside Kyle Lowry. Outside of Jonas Valanciunas, who is one of the streakiest players in basketball, Toronto lacks go-to scorers in their starting lineup. Powell should earn every opportunity to produce again this evening in what should be a competitive affair with the Bucks.


Willie Reed is averaging exactly one fantasy point per minute this season, which should serve him well on Friday when he draws a spot start for the injured Hassan Whiteside. He’s already excelled in place of Whiteside this season, and Erik Spoelstra will certainly need his size against this Chicago frontcourt. Reed will be Miami’s only healthy player taller than 6’9” on Friday, so it’s hard to believe he doesn’t earn plenty of run against Robin Lopez and Taj Gibson. At $3,900 on FanDuel he makes for a stellar play, but shouldn’t be ruled out at $4,700 on DraftKings, either. With around one FPPM he should easily eclipse value on both sites.


Okaro White could also be a very sneaky tournament option at $3,500 on DraftKings. He logged 27 against the Nets, a combination of James Johnson foul trouble and Hassan Whiteside’s injury, finishing with 10 points (3-4 FG), seven rebounds, four blocks, one steal and 30.75 fantasy points against the Nets. White is clearly a risky proposition, but with so many stellar high-end plays available on this slate it’s hard not to at least consider him as a punt.

Johnson is wearing down by the day and Whiteside has already been ruled out. White is undersized for a power forward and is still stuck in between positions despite putting some weight on since college. He’s an efficient scorer, though, capable of cleaning up well around the rim and knocking down spot-up three-pointers when given the opportunity. With Miami lacking depth at both forward positions White could be in line to see another 23-26 minutes against the Bulls. You could do worse than White at a near min-sal price point, as it’s not like Spoelstra is chomping at the bit to give Luke Babbitt or Derrick Williams more run at the four.


C.J. Miles has been moved into the starting lineup by Nate McMillan, and has now logged 28-plus minutes in three straight games. His shot volume will be low playing alongside Jeff Teague and Paul George, but the minutes are important. Miles doesn’t need a ton of attempts to rack up some points, as he’s shooting a career-high 42 percent from beyond the arc this season and is earning enough run to tally at the minimum a few rebounds and a couple steals along the way. Friday’s matchup with Sacramento should treat him well, as the Kings are ceding top-five marks in points (26th), rebounds (29th), blocks (28th), FG% (29th) and 3PT% (28th) to opposing shooting guards this season.


Guillermo Hernandez has seemingly earned the respect of Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek, who pledged to play his rookie big man more going forward. He’s logged 24 minutes in back-to-back games, producing a stellar 1.48 FPPM in the process. At $3,900 on DraftKings Hernangomez could be a strong pivot away from Reed, but at $4,700 on FanDuel Reed remains the clear preferred play. There’s nothing about this matchup with Charlotte that feels imposing, especially if Spencer Hawes is soaking up minutes for the injured Cody Zeller.


Spencer Hawes is in play if Cody Zeller is unable to take the court. His price has risen after an explosive performance against the Warriors, but Hawes is actually a solid FPPM producer when provided the run. If Zeller is out, make sure Hawes is on the map.


Kyle Anderson is close to the minimum on both FanDuel and DraftKings. He isn’t an especially efficient fantasy producer, but his minutes have been strong with Kawhi Leonard out. If Leonard’s hand isn’t healed enough to take the court on Friday, Anderson should see another 30-plus minutes at a near min-sal cost across the industry.


Sam Dekker has been Mike D’Antoni’s go-to option off the bench of late, registering 25-plus minutes of work in five of the last six game where Ryan Anderson or Eric Gordon were out or limited. He’s been producing at a near one-FPPM clip recently, and should continue to earn plenty of run if Gordon (doubtful) remains sidelined against the Sixers.

Dekker shoots almost exclusively from beyond the arc or around the rim, which is exactly what we’re looking for from a fantasy perspective. A $800 above the minimum on DraftKings and $600 from the bottom on FanDuel, Dekker won’t need to produce much against the Sixers in order to pay off his very inviting salary.


Nerlens Noel will be entirely overlooked on Friday with Jahlil Okafor active, but if Joel Embiid remains sidelined Noel could offer some seriously sneaky value at $4,600 on FanDuel. He’s been playing too well on both sides of the court for Brett Brown to kill his playing time, while Okafor has been one of the worst players in basketball from a plus/minus standpoint.

Okafor should still see some run, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Noel play another 28 minutes against the Rockets, who pose a fantastic matchup for the wiry big man. He’s going to be virtually unowned with the news of Okafor being healthy, so keep him on the radar if you’re in search of some contrarian prospects on FanDuel.


CORE – Willie Reed [FanDuel]

SECONDARY – Norman Powell; Willie Reed [DraftKings]; C.J. Miles; Guillermo Hernangomez [DraftKings]; Derrick Rose [DraftKings]

GPP – Okaro White [DraftKings]; Spencer Hawes [If Cody Zeller is OUT]; Guillermo Hernangomez [FanDuel]; Kyle Anderson [If Kawhi Leonard OUT]; Sam Dekker [If Eric Gordon is OUT]; Nerlens Noel [FanDuel – If Joel Embiid is OUT]