NBA Deep Dive 1/31/17

High Priced ($9,000+)


Russell Westbrook has a difficult matchup with Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs.  San Antonio is playing at the 24th fastest pace and has the 6th best defensive rating over the last month.  Tony Parker can be vulnerable defensively but, since Oklahoma City does not have any sort of offensive threats on the wing, we can expect to see Westbrook frequently defended by Kawhi Leonard while Parker rests on Andre Roberson.  Westbrook somewhat surprisingly did not get much of a price discount for the difficult matchup.  He is a viable GPP option solely based on ownership since he will likely be much less owned than the other top options, but he will not hit his ceiling very often in this matchup.  He has averaged 1.39 DraftKings points per minute in his last six matchups against the Spurs and 1.22 DraftKings points per minute in the two games that Kawhi Leonard played over that span.


DeMarcus Cousins has a phenomenal matchup against the Rockets.  Houston is playing at the 2nd fastest pace in the league over the last month with the 5th worst rebounding percentage over that span.  Cousins has been playing incredibly well of late and is averaging 1.54 DraftKings points per minute without Rudy Gay on the floor this season.  He makes for an excellent tournament option, although there is reason to be a little concerned in cash games because he is on the second leg of a back-to-back, fourth game in five nights and fifth game in seven nights.  All of those games have been on the road as well.  He still has a very high ceiling, but we have seen a much lower floor from Cousins in the past when he gets worn out during tough stretches of schedule.


James Harden also has an excellent matchup with the Kings.  Sacramento has passed Denver for the worst defensive rating in the league over the last month.  They play at the 4th slowest pace, but Houston plays so fast that Harden should still get plenty of possessions.  The Kings are tied for the 3rd worst rim protection in the league over the last month, allowing opposing players to shoot 4 percent better than average within 6 feet of the basket.  They also rank 5th worst at defending the 3-point line, allowing opposing shooters to shoot 2.5 percent better than average from beyond the arc, and are allowing the 6th most assists per game to opposing guards during that span.


John Wall has a home matchup against the Knicks, who have been playing at a faster pace of late than they were earlier in the season, ranking 13th over the last month.  Wall has been better at home this season, likely because his 3-point shooting percentage is much better.  His price is elevated from where we have seen him earlier in the season, but it is still not too high to consider him.  He has a very high floor because he plays massive minutes for Scott Brooks, averaging 36.2 minutes per game this season.  His ceiling is a little more questionable for his price, as he has eclipsed 60 DraftKings points just 5 times this season and the Wizards starting unit is currently completely healthy.


Anthony Davis has a very friendly matchup with Jonas Valanciunas and the Toronto Raptors.  Davis should be able to get rebounds from Valanciunas and should not struggle against Valanciunas’s defense.  The only real concern with Davis is that the game is on the road.  Davis is averaging nearly 10 DraftKings more per game at home than on the road this season, which is a trend that has been true throughout his career.  Only two of his top ten games this season have been on the road, with 73.5 DraftKings points at the Knicks (4th best) and 70.8 DraftKings points at the Thunder (6th best).  He still has upside at his price, just keep in mind that he is less likely to reach it on the road.


Core: James Harden, John Wall (better in cash), DeMarcus Cousins (better in GPP)

Secondary: Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard


Mid-Range ($5,500-$8,400)


DeMar DeRozan faces a New Orleans team that is playing at the 6th fastest pace in the league and has the 5th best defensive rating over the last month.  He is in a much better spot than Kyle Lowry, however, as Jrue Holiday is an elite defender and Buddy Hield is atrocious.  42 percent of DeRozan’s field goal attempts come at least 15 feet from the basket.  Hield ranks 4th worst in the NBA among guards who have started at least 10 games in shooting differential from beyond 15 feet, allowing opponents to shoot 10.3 percent better than average.  E’Twaun Moore is one of the three guards who ranks worse than Hield at defending players more than 15 feet from the basket.  DeRozan could be leaned on to carry an even larger portion of the offense than usual.


Carmelo Anthony is an elite small forward option on a slate that is relatively barren at the position.  Derrick Rose has been ruled out and Anthony gets a massive boost when Rose sits.  His usage percentage increases from 26.5 to 33, his assist percentage increases from 13 to 21.3, his true shooting percentage increases from 49.9 to 56.1 and he increases from 0.97 DraftKings and 0.92 FanDuel points per minute to 1.21 DraftKings and 1.13 FanDuel points per minute when Rose is off the floor (using Porzingis on the floor as a constant).  The Wizards have been very good defensively of late and Otto Porter is a capable defender, but Anthony’s increased role in the offense and increased efficiency without Rose make him an elite option anyway.  It is also worth noting that he has had success against Porter and the Wizards in the past, averaging 1.26 DraftKings points per minute over his last 5 games against Porter and producing at least 54 DraftKings points in 3 of those games.


Kemba Walker has a pace up game against Portland.  Portland has actually been better defensively of late, ranking 11th in defensive rating over the last month.  Still, it is unlikely that that is a result of Damian Lillard and we should see Kemba have a nice game.  He is historically better at home, but there is not enough of a disparity that we should be overly concerned.  Walker utilizes the pick-and-roll on 56.3 percent of his plays and averages 0.97 points per possession.  Lillard is allowing opponents to average 0.90 points per possession, ranking him in the 34th percentile league-wide.  As a team, Portland has allowed the 5th most points per possession to opposing ball-handlers this season.


Jrue Holiday has been very good lately and we have not seen much of a price increase.  He played 38.5 minutes against the Wizards, marking the 3rd time in his last 4 games that he has played at least 37 minutes.  Toronto has really struggled against opposing point guards this season and it is a spot that continues to go overlooked since they do not play at a fast pace and Kyle Lowry is not considered a particularly weak defender.  Holiday utilizes the pick-and-roll on just over 50 percent of his plays and Kyle Lowry ranks in the 26th percentile defending the pick-and-roll, allowing 0.93 points per possession.  He is currently my favorite GPP play on the slate, especially if it looks like Kemba Walker is going to be significantly higher owned.


Mason Plumlee is much more expensive on FanDuel than DraftKings.  It is tough to recommend him in cash games at his FanDuel price, although he is still a strong GPP option, but he is a strong play in any format on DraftKings- especially if Cody Zeller is out.  Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes will not provide much resistance to Plumlee offensively.  The main concern with Plumlee is his minutes, but he has played at least 27 minutes in 6 consecutive games and he has produced at least 33 DraftKings points in five straight.


Nicolas Batum faces his former team in what should be a fast-paced, relatively high-scoring game.  He is reasonably priced across the industry and even more valuable on sites where he is small forward eligible.  He has faced Portland 3 times in the last 2 seasons and has 2 good games and a dud where he scored just 21 DraftKings points in 40 minutes last January.  He posted a line of 17 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds against Portland earlier this month and we can expect to see a similar line in this one.  He has a high floor because of the increase in pace and the multitude of ways he can pick up fantasy points and he has a nice ceiling for his price because he is always capable of posting a triple-double if everything comes together at once.


Secondary: C.J. McCollum, LaMarcus Aldridge (DraftKings), Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Damian Lillard, Markieff Morris, Danilo Gallinari


Value ($3,000-$5,400)


Jameer Nelson’s price is increasing but his minutes have been very steady and he should be in line for a good game as long as Mudiay does not return from his injury.  Los Angeles ranks 25th in defensive rating over the last month and this should be a fast-paced, sloppy game where Nelson can pick up plenty of peripherals to go along with his scoring.


Trevor Ariza is an excellent value option at small forward with a lack of other options.  Sacramento has been terrible defensively of late and opposing small forwards have had a lot of success since Rudy Gay’s injury.  Opposing small forwards have averaged 1.14 DraftKings points per minute since Gay went down.  That group does include Jimmy Butler, LeBron James and Paul George, who are obviously more talented than Ariza, but it also includes James Ennis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Robert Covington- who destroyed Sacramento yesterday for 49 DraftKings points.  Ariza has not done much lately, but he still is locked in for heavy minutes almost every night and has a great matchup tonight.


Kenneth Faried played 36.4 minutes against the Suns with Nikola Jokic out and should be in line for plenty of minutes in this one as well.  Faried is averaging over 1 fantasy point per minute this season and, on DraftKings, his price has not been adjusted for his current role.  He is $1,200 more expensive on FanDuel but is still a strong play, particularly in tournaments.


Brandon Jennings is averaging about 33 minutes per game this season without Derrick Rose, if we exclude the 52 minutes he played in quadruple overtime against the Hawks.  He has a 17.3 usage percentage and 29 assist percentage alongside Anthony and Porzingis without Rose this season, and has averaged 0.79 DraftKings points and 0.71 FanDuel points per minute.  Washington has been very good defensively of late, but does play at a fast pace that should allow Jennings extra opportunities to pick up fantasy points.


Al-Farouq Aminu continues to play heavy minutes off the bench for Portland, picking up 34.3 minutes in his last game against Golden State.  He contributes in multiple categories and makes for a very nice value play if you are looking for someone who is unlikely to hurt you at his price and has the potential to occasionally significantly outperform it.


Ivica Zubac is getting run of late for the Lakers and it should continue with Julius Randle sidelined for this game.  He has played 28 and 26 minutes in his last two games and taken 15 and 11 field goal attempts, respectively.  It is still difficult to trust him in cash games since we have seen Luke Walton’s rotations vary from game to game all season long, but he has a ton of upside at his price if he sees 25-30 minutes again tonight in a fast-paced game against Denver.



Secondary: D’Angelo Russell, Steven Adams, Eric Gordon, Jusuf Nurkic, Patrick Beverley, Louis Williams, Gary Harris, Joakim Noah, Tony Parker, Courtney Lee, Clint Capela, Victor Oladipo