NBA Deep Dive 1/30/17

HIGH-PRICED   [$8300+]


LeBron James would hardly be a top option on any other slate, but the small forward position is so barren on Monday that he becomes in play by default. Tyronn Lue has alluded to resting James at some point or at least limiting his minutes, but an awful month of January and a ton of closely contested games has kept that idea from becoming a reality. James is logging 40 MPG over his last eight starts, and with Kevin Love already ruled out for this road tilt with Dallas, it’s unlikely that he’ll get much of a respite on Monday.

The Cavaliers are only 4-point road favorites against a shorthanded, yet improving Mavericks team, and while both clubs are playing their second of a back-to-back, Cleveland won’t have the luxury of pulling off the gas. James is producing an elite 1.43 fantasy points per minute with Love sidelined this season, and his services will be required again this evening as the Cavs look to finish a disappointing month on a high note. As long as this game stays close there’s no reason LeBron shouldn’t see his full allotment of minutes, and with the amount of talking he’s been doing of late, we can absolutely expect him to back it up against Dallas’ 18th ranked defense.


Isaiah Thomas has been producing otherworldly fantasy totals of late, with 50-plus fantasy points in five of his last ten starts and 46-plus fantasy points seven times over that span. His 35 percent usage rate, 34 percent assist rate and 1.36 FPPM in January have made him an elite fantasy option, while the loss of Avery Bradley has forced Brad Stevens to lean heavily on Thomas for both scoring and minutes.

Boston’s mighty midget leads the league in drive points per game (9.6), while only five players are averaging more touches than Thomas on the season. What’s most impressive, though, is Thomas ability to score around the rim despite lacking the size, as Russell Westbrook and John Wall are the only guards scoring more points than Thomas within five feet of the basket. He’s shooting a stellar 48.1 percent when defenders are smothering him (closest defender 0-2 feet), and is drawing fouls at a career-high clip (8.3 FTA/G).

Bradley has already been ruled out on Monday while Al Horford continues to deal with a groin strain that appears worse than initially suspected. Thomas will once again be relied upon to carry the load, and he should have no trouble trashing the Pistons, whose backcourt defense has been absolutely dreadful since Reggie Jackson returned in early December. Detroit is allowing the second most points, second highest FG% and fourth most free throws to opposing point guards since Jackson was activated.


Karl-Anthony Towns has seen his salary spike over the few weeks, thanks to a home matchup with Brooklyn and five performances of 60-plus fantasy points across his last 10 starts. Towns is averaging a whopping 56 FPPG over that span, finishing with fewer than 56 fantasy points only three times — none of which came at home. I can’t explain why he’s been so much better at the Target Center, but it certainly seems to be the case; Towns is averaging 51.6 FPPG at home compared to 41.9 FPPG on the road. He’s getting to the line more, shooting at a much higher clip, and inexplicably rebounding at a much better rate at home, and while we don’t have all the answers, it’s certainly something worth noting.

Towns isn’t cheap, but a home matchup with the Magic should place him firmly in play. Nikola Vucevic isn’t athletic enough to contend with Towns, and Bismack Biyombo lacks the size to contain him around the rim. They’ll also struggle to limit him from outside, as Towns has knocked down six of nine three-point attempts over his last two games. He’s the highest priced player on both FanDuel and DraftKings this evening, and while paying a near $11K price point doesn’t feel right, Towns should still be considered a top play on this abbreviated slate.

NOTE: I’d recommend rotating between James, Thomas and Towns in GPPs, but make your final decisions based on positional scarcity. Center is deeper than small forward, but point guard offers more depth than both.


CORE – LeBron James; Isaiah Thomas; Karl-Anthony Towns

GPP – Eric Bledsoe


MID-RANGE   [$5900-$8300]


Marc Gasol continues to churn out some elite performances for the Grizzlies, and has failed to eclipse the 42-fantasy point mark only once over his last seven starts. Monday’s matchup with the Suns should serve him well, as Tyson Chandler, despite his stellar rebounding, is allowing 54 percent shooting at the rim while sporting the worst defensive rating (109), block rate (1.3%) and DBPM (0.2) of his career. Gasol, on the other hand, is boasting career highs in usage (27%) and assists (23.4%), while discovering a lethal three-point shot in the process (1.5 3PTM/G, 3.7 3PTA/G). This uptempo matchup for Memphis will only bolster his value, as Gasol has proven he’s capable of playing up in pace. Consider him a core play on DraftKings where he’s inexplicably priced at $7,800, and a strong secondary on FanDuel where they’ve appropriately listed him at $9,000.


Kyrie Irving generally makes for a better play when LeBron James, and not Kevin Love is sidelined, but Love’s absence will still enhance his appeal. Irving sees a four percent usage bump (33.5% USG) and a .14 increase in per minute fantasy production (1.27 FPPM) when Love is off the court, and although this matchup with Dallas is rather slow in pace, he and LeBron should shoulder the bulk of the load on Monday.

Irving would be a core option if his salary was more inviting, but a low-to-mid-$8K price point should place him in secondary play range against the Mavs. The good news here, however, is the Cavaliers are only 4-point favorites on the road, which should keep Irving’s minutes in the mid-to-high 30’s on Monday.


Goran Dragic is another point guard who will be discussed at length on this five-game slate, but the return of Tyler Johnson dings his value a bit. With Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie Irving and Mike Conley all being very appealing options on this slate, Dragic should be viewed as a strong play but not a must play just because he’s facing the Nets. Salary comes into play here, though, and that’s how I would be approaching Dragic on Monday. He’s considerable cheaper than both Thomas and Irving, but priced similarly to Conley, and with point guard being the deepest position of the five, I wouldn’t hesitate to fit two or more of these mid-range/high-end options into lineups on Monday. This is an uptempo matched for the Heat, and Dragic has managed to maintain his value despite Dion Waiters soaking up plenty of usage.


Mike Conley should also be squarely on the radar this evening against a Suns team that surrenders the fourth most points and free throws to opposing point guards. Eric Bledsoe has been an offensive juggernaut of late, but he’s been a liability on the defensive end, sporting a 112 DRtg for the Suns’ 26th ranked backcourt defense. Conley and Gasol fuel this Memphis offense, which should make both of them strong options against a Phoenix club that plays at the league’s third fastest pace.

Conley is making and attempting threes at a career-high clip at 2.3 and 5.7 per game, respectively, while Phoenix is allowing a higher three-point percentage to opposing backcourts than any other team. His mid-range price point and stellar matchup with the Suns should make him a very strong point guard play across the industry.


Brook Lopez is $6,500 on DraftKings. What? Why? How? I get it — he’s not the most peripherally inclined big man in basketball, averaging a paltry 5.1 rebounds per game, but Lopez is sporting a near 30 percent usage rate on the season with 15.4 field goal attempts and 5.3 three-point attempts per game. He poured 33 points and 45 fantasy points on the Heat when they met last week, and although Hassan Whiteside only logged 21 minutes that night, Miami has actually been worse defensively when their starting big man is on the court. I’m not convinced Whiteside is fully healthy right now, as he’s gone 14 games with two or fewer blocks and is allowing five percent higher shooting at the rim than his season average over that span. Lopez is a viable cash game option on DraftKings, but is best suited for GPPs where he will likely go overlooked. There’s plenty of upside to be had at a mid-$6K price point.

As far as Hassan Whiteside goes, I’ll be limiting my exposure until he proves capable of handling the same workload he was seeing earlier in the season. At $7,800 on DraftKings, though, we’ll have to sprinkle him into some lineups just to be safe. This is still the Nets, who rank bottom-five in nearly every relevant statistical category against opposing centers this season. That being said, the center position is deep enough to fade Whiteside in cash, and he isn’t a necessary piece if you only plan on entering a few lineups on Monday.


Andre Drummond will already be in play this evening, but he becomes far more appealing if Al Horford is out. Horford’s ability to stretch the court and shoot threes could pull Drummond away from the rim, subsequently limiting his rebounds and shot-blocking potential against the Celtics. If Horford is out, however, Amir Johnson would start at the five, and Johnson’s desire to roam out of the paint is far weaker than his frontcourt mate.


Dion Waiters would’ve been the top shooting guard option on Monday had Tyler Johnson not been activated, but due to an extreme lack of talent at the position, we’ll be forced to keep him in play. Zach LaVine and Devin Booker are the only alternative mid-range 2-guards on the slate, with LaVine being a nice secondary option in a plus matchup with Orlando and Booker being a dart-throw of a tournament play against Memphis.

Waiters at least draws a stellar matchup with Brooklyn, should continue to see north of 30 minutes in the starting lineup, and likely won’t attempt fewer than 15 shots in what’s projected to be the highest scoring game on the night. Punting the shooting guard position won’t be easy unless injury news breaks before lock, and cheap options here are generally boom-or-bust plays who rely solely on scoring to post serviceable fantasy totals. Waiters is far more appealing on FanDuel, though, where he remains affordably priced at $6,300.


CORE – Marc Gasol [DraftKings]; Goran Dragic; Dion Waiters [FanDuel]

SECONDARY – Marc Gasol [FanDuel]; Kyrie Irving; Mike Conley; Dion Waiters [DraftKings]; Zach LaVine; Andre Drummond [If Al Horford is OUT]

GPP – Brook Lopez [DraftKings]; Hassan Whiteside [DraftKings]; Devin Booker


VALUE   [$3000-$5800]


Channing Frye will always make for a solid value play when Kevin Love is out, as he relies upon LeBron James’ facilitating skills to produce. On the season, half of Frye’s made field goals have been assisted from James. Actually, Frye is sporting a respectable 20 percent usage rate and exactly one fantasy point per minute with both James and Irving on the court and Love is off. He likely won’t draw the start, but should see quality run off the bench in what’s projected to be a closely contested affair in Dallas. The Mavericks are surrendering the fourth highest FG% and third highest 3PT% to opposing power forwards this season, making Frye a strong value option at a near min-sal price across the industry.


Tyler Johnson returns to action on Monday and he should be thrown right into the fire against the Nets. Johnson was sidelined with a shoulder injury and not a lower body injury, so he shouldn’t be limited in his return. Josh Richardson remains out and Wayne Ellington should see his minutes cut in half with Johnson being back in the rotation. Unfortunately, Johnson is only point guard eligible across the board, making him a secondary option instead of a core play had he still had shooting guard eligibility. Johnson’s $6,200 salary on FanDuel is prohibitive, and Waiters should be used over him at a weaker position and only $100 more expensive.


James Johnson shouldn’t see his minutes clipped much with Tyler Johnson returning to the lineup, and it appears as though he’s gotten back on track after a string of ugly games. His loss of small forward eligibility is highly discouraging, though, as the position is much weaker than power forward on Monday. That being said, the Nets are the Nets, and Johnson has seen his salary come back down to earth on most sites. Assuming he continues to log 30-plus minutes off the bench, Johnson should post much more appealing fantasy totals than the dud he left us with against Brooklyn last week after fouling out in only 19 minutes of action.


Zach Randolph should be considered a core play on DraftKings if JaMychal Green is out, as he logged 38 minutes as a starter with Green out last week, and has since played 31 and 34 minutes over his last two games since Green returned. Randolph is playing phenomenal basketball right now, posting back-to-back 40-plus fantasy point games while sporting a 29 percent usage rate on the year.

Randolph somehow remains priced at only $5,800 despite the expansive workload he’s seen in recent contests, and is already eclipsing the 30-minute mark when Green is healthy. If Green plays we can still deploy Randolph in GPPs, as his ownership will likely be depressed, but Green’s absence would vault Z-Bo to the top of his position across the industry — even on FanDuel where he’s priced at $6,400. This matchup with Phoenix is simply too strong to ignore.


Seth Curry is one of the few shooting guard values worth considering on Monday, as Deron Williams and J.J. Barea remain sidelined for this home tilt with Cleveland. Curry is sporting a 24 percent usage rate with Williams sidelined this month and continues to log heavy minutes at the Mavericks’ starting 2-guard. He erupted for a monster 24-point, 10-rebound, five-assist, 48-fantasy point double-double against the Spurs last night, and while this matchup with the Cavs is equally unappealing, we’ll have to consider him at a very weak position.


Yogi Ferrell is the newest guard addition for the Mavericks after Pierre Jackson was released. He logged a very surprising 35 minutes as the starting point guard last night, and managed to post a serviceable 26 fantasy points in the process. It’s unclear how willing Rick Carlisle will be to roll him back out there for similar minutes on Monday, but considering the Mavericks beat the Spurs in San Antonio I’d be surprised to see his minutes lowered much, if at all.

Devin Harris is the only true backup point guard on the roster right now (assuming Seth Curry continues to see all his minutes at the two), and he isn’t going to see more than 20 minutes on any given night. This leaves Ferrell with the lion’s share of the run against Cleveland, and he won’t need to produce much in order to pay off his price tag at $3,500 on DraftKings and FanDuel. As crazy as it sounds, Ferrell is a legitimate tournament play on Monday night.


P.J. Tucker can be considered if you desperate for value at the small forward position. Harrison Barnes and Andrew Wiggins are both modestly appealing plays in the mid-range, but neither are players we’re excited to pay for on a slate where we’ll want to have two top-tier options in our lineups. Tucker is at least guaranteed to see 30-plus minutes in what’s projected to be a closely contested affair, and his recent performance should be encouraging on Monday. Tucker has tallied 24-plus fantasy points in six of his last eight starts, while logging 32-plus minutes in each of his last five.


CORE – Channing Frye; Zach Randolph [If JaMychal Green is OUT]

SECONDARY – Tyler Johnson [DraftKings]; James Johnson; Seth Curry; P.J. Tucker

GPP – Yogi Ferrell; Shabazz Muhammad; Kentavious Caldwell-Pope