NBA Deep Dive – 1/3/17




John Wall is the most expensive point guard option on the slate.  His price has skyrocketed to $10,600 on DraftKings and sits at $9,600 on FanDuel.  Bradley Beal is back in the lineup for the Wizards and Wall’s production takes a hit alongside Beal.  He is still productive with Beal on the floor, but his usage percentage falls from 38.3 to 29 and his assist percentage falls from 49.3 to 43.5.  Factor in that he is facing a Dallas team that plays at the slowest pace in the league and it is near impossible to justify rostering him at his current price.


Kyle Lowry is one of the best point guard options on the slate despite a matchup with the Spurs.  His price has been adjusted down for the matchup and it is too low for his minutes and production.  His 37.2 minutes per game average is third in the NBA and he has a 25.2 usage percentage and 29.8 assist percentage.  In addition, his phenomenal 64.6 true shooting percentage shows he is a tremendously efficient scorer.  He is an elite play at $8,000 on FanDuel and a viable option at $8,400 on DraftKings, although not as nice as on FanDuel.


Isaiah Thomas has been incredibly hot lately.  He has a tough matchup with the Utah Jazz tonight, who own the second best defensive rating in the NBA and play at the second slowest pace in the league.  Avery Bradley is expected back for the Celtics tonight, so we can expect a little bit of a drop in production from Thomas’s last game.  Thomas is still a viable option tonight, especially at $7,400 on DraftKings, because he is such a large part of the Boston offense.  He has a 33.6 usage percentage and 31.7 assist percentage for the season, which gives him a very nice floor and ceiling for his $7,400 price tag regardless of matchup.  He is a more difficult play at $8,100 on FanDuel, but does have some tournament appeal as a differentiation play off the more popular Lowry.


Jeff Teague faces a Detroit team that plays at the fourth slowest pace and has the sixth best defensive rating in the NBA this season.  It is worth noting, however, that the Pistons rank just 14th in defensive rating since Reggie Jackson returned to the lineup on December 4th.  Teague has a 23.5 usage percentage and 36.5 assist percentage this season, and his assist percentage has climbed to 43.6 over his last ten games.  He has a very high floor and ceiling for his price, particularly at $7,100 on DraftKings, because he is not dependent on scoring since he piles up so many assists and peripheral stats.


Mike Conley faces the Lakers tonight with Marc Gasol questionable.  It is a good spot for Conley against the fast-paced Lakers who struggle defensively.  Conley’s minutes have been down lately, but some of that can be attributed to blowouts.  Even if he only plays about 30 minutes against the Lakers, his price is still too low for what he can do in this matchup.  One note on the Gasol situation is that Conley has not seen an increase in production this season without Gasol on the floor and only saw a negligible boost last season.  This means that Conley is a strong play regardless of what happens with Gasol but, if Gasol sits, his ownership may be unnecessarily high (similar to the LaMarcus Aldridge game against Portland when Kawhi sat).


Goran Dragic is expected to play against the Suns tonight and is an elite tournament option.  He was terrible the last time he tried to return from injury, but he has taken a few games off now and is likely to be feeling better this time around.  We have seen before that he will play full minutes in his first game back and, outside of the last game, he has been very productive in that situation.  Phoenix plays at the second fastest pace in the league and does not play much defense.  Miami is going to be without Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside tonight and Dion Waiters is questionable.  In 72 minutes without those three on the floor this season, Dragic has a 29.3 usage percentage and 28.2 assist percentage in addition to a 64.5 true shooting percentage.  It is very possible that Dragic goes somewhat overlooked tonight with all of the other point guard options since he is returning from injury, but he is one of the best tournament plays on the slate assuming he actually does give it a go.  He also absolutely hates the Suns if you are into that sort of thing.


Reggie Jackson has finally turned the corner and started playing well lately.  He has a pace up game against Indiana and should perform nicely.  Jackson runs the pick-and-roll on 64 percent of his plays and Jeff Teague is in the bottom half of the league at defending it.  Jackson’s 28.7 usage percentage and 32 percent indicate that his recent strong play should continue and he is a strong, albeit probably popular, option tonight.


Core: Kyle Lowry (FanDuel), Jeff Teague, Reggie Jackson, Mike Conley, Goran Dragic (GPP), Isaiah Thomas (DraftKings)

Secondary: Kyle Lowry (DraftKings), Ricky Rubio, D’Angelo Russell, Eric Bledsoe, Tyler Johnson

Value: T.J. McConnell, Tony Parker, Shelvin Mack, Darren Collison (if Lawson out), Emmanuel Mudiay (GPP only)




Fortunately for me, every position is not as deep as point guard today or I would never finish this article.


DeMar DeRozan is the most expensive shooting guard on the slate in a difficult matchup with the Spurs.  His price, like Lowry’s, has been reduced for the matchup.  The difference between the two is that DeRozan is much more dependent on scoring than Lowry is.  Danny Green and/or Kawhi Leonard should be able to force DeRozan to be more inefficient in his mid-range game than usual, which will make it really hard for him to outperform even his reduced salary.  He has some merit in cash games because his minutes are so stable, he is so involved in the offense, and the position is relatively weak, but I want none in tournaments.


Bradley Beal returned to the Wizards lineup last night, attempting 18 field goals in 35 minutes and scoring 27 points against the Rockets.  He is in play again tonight against the Mavericks because his extended minutes and high shot volume gives him a nice floor for his price and he is very capable of getting hot and carrying the offense for stretches.  The downside is the pace that the Mavericks play at and that he will likely be defended by Wesley Matthews, but there are flaws with just about everyone at the position tonight and the Mavericks are not a good defensive team overall despite their incredibly slow pace.


Avery Bradley is expected to return tonight against the Grizzlies.  Like so many others at the position, he is somewhat appealing.  The matchup is not pretty against a slow Memphis team that is strong defensively, but Bradley is averaging 34.5 minutes per game this season and is priced reasonably across the industry.  Marcus Smart also may miss tonight’s game, which should mean a couple of extra minutes for Bradley.


Zach LaVine faces the Sixers tonight and is a tournament option, like always.  He is an incredibly frustrating player to roster because he underperforms so often, but he has a 40+ point ceiling whenever he takes the floor.  Philadelphia allows the second most fast break points per game to opponents, which is good news for LaVine.  Still, his price is high enough that he is capable of underperforming regardless of matchup.


Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is in a great spot against the Pacers.  He has performed very well in games against fast paced teams all season long, and Indiana plays at the 8th fastest pace in the league (6th fastest pace since the start of December).  Caldwell-Pope has been more prone to awful games since Reggie Jackson’s return, but has remained relatively consistent overall- especially in matchups where we expect him to do well.  In addition, he has played at least 39 minutes in four of his last five games. He produced 35.3 DraftKings points in his last game against Indiana and another strong performance can be expected this evening.


Wesley Matthews matches up well with the Wizards.  The Wizards have actually been playing at the 7th fastest pace in the league since the beginning of Decemberand they tend to be susceptible to spot up three point shooters.  Matthews spots up on 31.9 percent of his plays and will likely be defended by Bradley Beal who has allowed 1.03 points per possession to spot up shooters this season, ranking in the 43rd percentile amongst defenders.


Core:  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wesley Matthews

Secondary: Will Barton, Zach LaVine, Avery Bradley, Bradley Beal, Devin Booker

Value: Seth Curry, Gary Harris, Nick Young, Tony Allen, Garrett Temple (if Collison out)




Kawhi Leonard is the most expensive option at a pretty weak small forward position.  He was not good in his first game back from illness, but there is no reason to expect that to continue.  He has a high floor because of the minutes he plays and his role in the offense and makes for a strong cash game option.  He is a decent tournament option because of position scarcity, but there are still better point-per-dollar upside plays on the board.


Gordon Hayward is one of the better point-per-dollar upside plays.  George Hill is out tonight for Utah and Hayward sees a huge boost when he is not playing alongside Hill because his assist percentage increases from 10.2 with Hill on the floor to 20.7 with Hill off.  Boston is playing at the 13th fastest pace over the last month, so it is a significant boost in pace for Hayward and the Jazz.  He is an elite option in any format.


Paul George has a little bit of appeal just because of the other options on the slate, but he will likely be much higher owned than he should be, just like he is on every other slate.  His floor and his ceiling are both too low for his price, and a matchup with the Pistons is not ideal.  Leave him alone, especially in tournaments.


Andrew Wiggins has been playing well lately which has caused his price to go back up.  He is an incredibly scoring dependent player, so the best approach is to fade him at the top of his price range and roster him when he is at the bottom of it.  Philadelphia is a much better defensive team with Embiid on the floor than they are without him, so Wiggins is not a great option tonight.


Harrison Barnes has a nice matchup with the Wizards, but his price is a little expensive for his production when Dirk is on the floor.  His usage percentage overall this season is 27.2, but it falls to 22.3 when he is paired with Dirk, and even further to 19.2 when Deron Williams is also on the floor.  Williams is questionable for tonight’s game, but went through shootaround so it is looking like he will play.


Danilo Gallinari has been aggressive lately, taking at least 10 field goal attempts in five of his last six games and drawing at least 9 free throw attempts in half of those games.  His price is still too low for his new found aggression and he is one of the better options at a weak position.


Wilson Chandler is one of the best small forward options on the slate and may go overlooked because of the other names.  Chandler has played at least 36 minutes in three straight and at least 27 in nine games in a row.  He is capable of the occasional dud, but overall is much more consistent than people give him credit for.  The Nuggets have the highest team total on the slate and Chandler is way too cheap for this spot.

T.J. Warren is in play every day until his price gets back over $6,000, including today against a Miami team that is without Justise Winslow, Hassan Whiteside, and possibly James Johnson.  Warren has played at least 30 minutes in five of his last seven games and attempted at least 11 field goals in six of them.  His price is way too cheap, as he showed earlier this season, and we should have a lot of exposure to him until it increases.


Core:  Gordon Hayward, Wilson Chandler, T.J. Warren

Secondary: Kawhi Leonard, Danilo Gallinari, Andrew Wiggins, Harrison Barnes

Value: Robert Covington, Luol Deng




LaMarcus Aldridge has been playing very well lately, especially in games that Kawhi Leonard is on the floor.  He has another very nice matchup with the Raptors today, especially if Patrick Patterson is out.  The Raptors have struggled to defend power forwards that are capable of scoring away from the basket all season and Aldridge should continue that trend tonight.  He is likely to be a very popular option, but for good reason.


Nikola Jokic is a beast.  He has a tough matchup with DeMarcus Cousins, which very well could result in him seeing limited minutes as a result of foul trouble.  For this reason, he is a risky cash game option.  For tournaments, however, he is one of the best plays on the slate.  His price is $1,500-$2,000 too low for his upside.  He has a 24.3 usage percentage, 32.7 assist percentage and 19.1 rebound percentage over his last ten games, which is absolutely phenomenal, especially for someone in his price range.  He routinely goes underowned because people find reasons not to play him like not trusting Mike Malone, thinking he will see less minutes in uptempo games, or being afraid of foul trouble.  If it appears during the day that everyone is going to play him, then fading in tournaments could make some sense.  It seems unlikely that will happen, however, and if you are fading an under-owned player who has the highest ceiling-per-dollar upside on the slate because you are worried about foul trouble, you probably shouldn’t be playing tournaments.


Julius Randle is a strong option against a difficult Memphis team simply because he is underpriced.  He is consistently seeing over 30 minutes per game in games that he is not in foul trouble and his price has not increased as a result yet.  He may go overlooked somewhat because of the matchup but he is a very strong option at his price at a weak power forward position.


James Johnson is one of the best power forward plays if he is active after missing shootaround.  He should excel in this fast-paced game against Phoenix, even with Dragic back.  Hassan Whiteside’s absence opens up a few minutes for him at center and Winslow’s absence opens up more wing minutes.  Johnson contributes in every category and has a very high floor and ceiling tonight.


Core: Nikola Jokic (GPP), LaMarcus Aldridge, James Johnson

Secondary: Julius Randle, Ersan Ilyasova, Tobias Harris, Gorgui Dieng, Thaddeus Young

Value: Derrick Favors, Dario Saric, Dirk Nowitzki (DraftKings), Jon Leuer, JaMychal Green




DeMarcus Cousins is a top option at center and stands out because he is one of the few expensive players on the slate.  He is more valuable where he is forward eligible, but is a great center option as well.  Cousins has not faced Denver yet this season, but has averaged 1.73 DraftKings points per minute against them over the last two seasons (he is averaging 1.54 points per minute this season).  Talented scoring centers have dominated the Denver frontcourt this season and Cousins should be no exception.


Karl-Anthony Towns is a very talented player and is always capable of a monster game, but he is too expensive given all of the other quality center options on the slate and the fact that Embiid is going to play.  There is too much opportunity cost at center for Towns to be a good play, although he is slightly more viable at power forward where he is eligible.


Andre Drummond is a great option today against the Pacers.  There should be plenty of rebounding opportunities because of the increased pace that Indiana plays at and Drummond should be able to get plenty of offensive rebounds and put backs against Myles Turner and the Indiana frontcourt.


Rudy Gobert is an elite option that people tend to overlook.  His price is in the low-mid $7,000 across the industry despite his consistent production and his upside.  He does not take a lot of shots, but he has a 71.6 true shooting percentage so efficiency makes up for the lack of volume.  Add in that he is an elite rebounder against a poor Boston frontcourt and that he is a great shot blocker facing a 5’6 point guard who averages 14 drives per game and you get an absolutely elite spot for Rudy Gobert.


Joel Embiid should have success against a Minnesota frontcourt that has struggled with quality offensive bigs this season.  The drawback to Embiid is, of course, the minutes limit.  It is tough to roster him on this slate because a lot has to break right for someone limited to 28 minutes to outscore all of the other good mid-range options, regardless of how talented he is.


Myles Turner had a monster game in his last outing and is in line for another good one tonight.  He will have difficulty rebounding against Drummond, but should excel offensively.  Drummond is prone to mistakes defensively in the paint and, more importantly, will struggle to defend Turner away from the rim.  He comes at a discount compared to most of the other center options, which makes him worth tournament consideration.


Jonas Valanciunas is too cheap if he is going to get 28+ minutes.  Toronto experimented with bigger lineups against the Lakers and it resulted in Valanciunas playing 31 minutes, his most since December 14th.  It remains to be seen if this trend continues but Valanciunas’s price is low enough that it is worth taking a risk to find out on two center sites where you can use him at a utility spot.


Tyson Chandler should wreck his matchup with Willie Reed and the Miami frontcourt.  Reed is a 6’9 220 pound center and Chandler should get just about any rebound that he wants.  His offensive game is always limited, but he legitimately has 20 rebound upside in this matchup.



Core:  Rudy Gobert, DeMarcus Cousins

Secondary: Andre Drummond, Myles Turner

Value: Jonas Valanciunas, Tyson Chandler, Willie Reed