NBA Deep Dive – 1/5/17



Russell Westbrook is, of course, the most expensive point guard option on the slate.  He is always in play because he is capable of massive fantasy performances in any matchup.  There are a few things working against him, however.  First, he is on the second game of a back-to-back after playing 34 minutes against the Hornets last night.  Second, Victor Oladipo is back for the Thunder.  Westbrook is still very capable of producing alongside him, but his production does take a slight hit- mostly his assist percentage- and at his price you need all the production you can get.  Third, Patrick Beverley is expected back for the Rockets and he greatly improves their defense.  Beverley made his season debut on November 17th.  From the beginning of the season until November 17th, the Rockets had the 21st best defensive rating in the league.  Since then, they are 6th best.  A lot of people, myself included, are guilty of just plugging and playing guys against Houston because they play fast, but they have actually been a strong defensive unit since Beverley’s return.  In addition to the factors working against Westbrook, there are plenty of high-upside mid-tier options on the slate.  There is nothing “wrong” with rostering the best fantasy player on the slate, but do it at your own risk on this slate.  He does see an increase in value if Beverley, who was downgraded to questionable as I am writing this, sits.


Damian Lillard is expected to return against the Lakers tonight.  According to the Blazers broadcasters, he was ready to play against Golden State last night but the Portland brass did not want him playing both games of a back-to-back.  He is expensive on FanDuel at $9,100 but, assuming he is not on a minute restriction, he is a great option on DraftKings at $8,000 in a fast-paced game against a Lakers team that does not play much defense.


Kemba Walker is on the second leg of a back-to-back after playing 33 minutes against Oklahoma City.  He is not a top option on this slate, but he is in play in tournaments.  The game is on the road, where Walker is usually not quite as good as at home.  The Pistons’ defense has really struggled since the return of Reggie Jackson, however, which recently led to Jackson calling out his teammates for their poor defense.  From the beginning of the season until Jackson’s return, the Pistons ranked 5th in the NBA in defensive rating.  Since Jackson returned a month ago, the Pistons are 19th in the league.  Walker is certainly capable of a big outing in this matchup and should be relatively low owned since there are a lot of point guard options to like tonight.


Kyle Lowry has another slow-paced matchup after an awful outing against the Spurs.  It is a good bounceback spot for tournaments at his price, however.  George Hill has been ruled out for Utah, and we have seen that their backcourt defense is somewhat exploitable with Hill sidelined- most recently when Isaiah Thomas torched them in their last game.  Lowry is in the top 5 in minutes played in the NBA and is an integral part of the Toronto offense.  His price is reduced across the industry for the difficult matchup, making him a strong option since the matchup is not as bad as it seems on paper without Hill.


Eric Bledsoe gets an extreme downgrade in pace in his matchup with Dallas, but all hope is not lost.  Dallas ranks 4th worst in defensive rating over the last month and is 2nd worst in the NBA at protecting the rim.  Andrew Bogut has not been nearly has good defensively this season as he was last season, holding opponents to 3.7 percent worse than average compared to 9.9 percent worse than average last season.  In addition, Bledsoe has become more involved in the Phoenix offense over the last month and Brandon Knight has more or less become excluded from the rotation.  Without Knight on the floor this season, Bledsoe has a 28.4 usage percentage and 31.5 assist percentage.  Over the last month, it increases to 29.7 and 36.2 respectively.  Bledsoe is certainly in play in tournaments.


Jeff Teague has an exciting matchup against a Brooklyn team that ranks 1st in pace and 8th worst (an improvement) in defensive rating over the last month.  Teague has increased his productivity lately, seeing his assist percentage increase from his season average of 36.5 percent to 41.9 percent over the last month, likely as a result of Monta Ellis’s injury and subsequent move to the bench.  As long as Ellis is coming off the bench, Teague remains a very strong option in a matchup that features two of the seven fastest teams in the league over the last month.


Jrue Holiday gets a turn at attacking an Atlanta defense that has been extremely vulnerable to point guards.  Holiday’s price increased substantially on DraftKings from $6,500 to $7,200 and remains in the low $7,000s on FanDuel.  The biggest concern with Holiday is that he plays alongside Anthony Davis and, to an extent, Tyreke Evans.  This limits Holiday’s usage somewhat, as it is only 23.4 percent when playing alongside Davis this season.  The good news, however, is that playing alongside Davis opens the door for high assist numbers and Holiday takes advantage, racking up a 39.4 assist percentage in his 565 minutes alongside Davis this season.  Holiday has either recorded a double-double or come within one assist of one in six of his last seven games and has a great chance to do so again tonight against Atlanta.  His ceiling is also higher than his game logs indicate, as he has not really had a good shooting night yet.  He has shown he can score over 40 fantasy points but, when he gets hot from the field, he easily has 50-plus fantasy point upside.


Reggie Jackson has been playing extremely well lately as he seems to finally be comfortable coming back from his injury.  He gets a pace-up matchup against the Hornets today, but be careful because the Hornets have the 11th best defensive rating in the NBA over the last month.  Jackson still has a high ceiling at his price, although the price is quickly rising, but there are more reliable options at the position today which leaves him as a secondary tournament play.


D’Angelo Russell is on fire and gets a great matchup today against the Blazers.  Damian Lillard is expected back for Portland, which is great news for Russell.  Since Lillard’s last game on December 23rd, the Blazers actually have the fifth best defensive rating in the NBA- and that is after their game against Golden State last night.  From the start of the season until Lillard’s most recent game, the Blazers have the worst defensive rating in the NBA.  They have also been particularly vulnerable in the backcourt when Lillard is on the floor.  Russell has played at least 30 minutes in three straight and six of his last seven.  He should be in for another big night tonight at a price tag that is rising but is still way too low.


Emmanuel Mudiay is in play as a high risk-high reward GPP option at his current price tag, particularly on DraftKings at just $4,300.  He has a difficult matchup with San Antonio, but Tony Parker is not as bad of a matchup as Mudiay’s surrounding cast will have.  Mudiay has played at least 27 minutes in his last 4 games and has attempted at least 10 field goals in 3 of them.  His 20.7 usage percentage and 17.8 assist percentage show that he is involved enough in the offense to have some upside at his price.  He has a very low floor, but will likely be much lower owned that someone at his price tag with his ceiling should be in tournaments regardless of matchup.


Tony Parker has been playing out of his mind lately and gets a strong matchup against Denver tonight.  He only has one game in his last six where he played less than 28 minutes for reasons other than the game being a blowout, and he has been extremely aggressive over those games- averaging 13.2 field goal attempts per game.  Denver plays at a fast pace that will afford San Antonio extra possessions and, according to Coach Mike Malone and defensive ratings over the last month, has the worst defense in the league.  We will likely see Parker fall off at some point since he is old and usually inconsistent, but he is a strong play in this one.


Shelvin Mack remains a very strong value option, particularly on FanDuel where he is just $3,800.  He has not had a really big game yet, but he is capable with George Hill sidelined and Toronto offers a sneaky good matchup.  Mack has played just 64 minutes alongside Hood, Hayward, Favors and Gobert this season, but he has been involved in the offense when he does.  He has a 20.4 usage percentage and 27.5 assist percentage.  All that is really holding him back is his 51.1 true shooting percentage, but he is very capable of getting hot in any given game and greatly exceeding his salary.  He had 14 field goal attempts two games ago against Brooklyn and 10 in his last game against Boston, so the opportunity should certainly be there for him to take advantage of against Toronto tonight.



Core: Damian Lillard (DraftKings), Jrue Holiday, D’Angelo Russell, Jeff Teague

Secondary: Russell Westbrook, Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry, Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Jackson

Value: Emmanuel Mudiay, Tony Parker, Shelvin Mack




James Harden is the top shooting guard option on the slate going up against his former team.  Harden has struggled in his previous two meetings with the Thunder this season, but he shot 25 and 26.1 percent from the field in those games.  He is shooting 44.5 percent for the season, which is in line with his three games against Oklahoma City last year with Andre Roberson active, where he averaged 45.1 percent from the field.  Even if some of his inefficiency in the first two matchups is attributed to a better defensive scheme this season, he is still due for positive regression and is the best player to pay up for if you are paying up anywhere on this slate.


DeMar DeRozan gets another slow paced matchup against the Jazz.  He is in play in cash games as a result of his high floor based on shot volume and the relative weakness of the position, but he is tough to recommend in tournaments because he just does not have a very high ceiling for his price since he is so scoring dependent and this is a difficult matchup.  It is better to look elsewhere in tournaments.


C.J. McCollum is expensive now as a result of his time without Damian Lillard.  If Lillard returns, as expected, McCollum will be overpriced.  It is still a strong matchup, however, and he is much more efficient with Lillard on the floor, evidenced by a true shooting percentage of 65 percent with Lillard compared to 52 percent without him, which helps to make up for his reduction in usage and assists.  He is out of play on DraftKings if Lillard plays, but is still a tournament option at $8,000 on FanDuel.  If Lillard ends up sitting, McCollum will be an elite option across the industry.


Victor Oladipo is more expensive today than he was yesterday, but will probably still be a popular option in a fast-paced matchup with Houston.  Oladipo is always appealing because of the minutes that he plays.  The issue is that his ceiling depends on how many minutes he is playing alongside Westbrook.  Against Milwaukee he was on the floor without Westbrook for about 3 minutes.  Last night he played without Westbrook for about 8 minutes.  When he is alongside Westbrook, he has a 18.7 usage percentage and 11.1 assist percentage.  Without Westbrook, those numbers are 29.7 and 21.4, respectively.  His 8 minutes last night were still only about 20 percent of his playing time.  I am fine looking to Oladipo in cash and fading him at high ownership in tournaments as long as he continues to not play many minutes without Westbrook.


Tyreke Evans is a strong option on DraftKings at just $4,400.  He is expected to work his way up to 22 minutes in the near future and he is very productive when he is on the floor with a 28.7 usage percentage and 45.2 assist percentage so far this season.  He can blow that salary out of the water even at his reduced minutes and he is going somewhat overlooked.  He was about 11 percent owned in his last game at $4,100.  He had a bad game so it would be surprising if that ownership increased today.


Sean Kilpatrick is the FanDuel version of Evans.  He is just $4,400 in a very nice matchup with the Pacers.  He is coming off two horrible performances but there is a possible reason for them.  This may be the dumbest sentence I ever write, but I think that Kilpatrick’s poor performances against Utah and Washington were a result of Trevor Booker revenge games.  Booker took 11 shots in 20 minutes against Washington (and then everyone sat because it was a blowout) and 14 shots in 34 minutes against Utah.  Booker had not taken more than 7 shots in any of his previous 6 games.  Not coincidentally, Kilpatrick attempted 6 shots against Washington and 7 against Utah after attempting at least 10 in four straight games which included games that Lin was active.  He is not a safe option tonight but there is massive upside for a low price and I will have a ton of exposure in tournaments because he has a 22.7 percent usage rate and 17.6 percent assist rate without Lin and alongside Lopez and Bogdanovic this season so the reward is very much worth the price.  Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is also out which could open some additional minutes for Kilpatrick.  Brooklyn said that they will monitor minutes tonight because they have three games in four days, but I have no idea what that means for Kilpatrick specifically so I am not going to speculate.


Core:  James Harden, C.J. McCollum (if Lillard sits), Victor Oladipo (Cash)

Secondary: C.J. McCollum (FanDuel only, if Lillard plays), Nicolas Batum, Devin Booker, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wesley Matthews

Value: Sean Kilpatrick, Tyreke Evans, Seth Curry, Nick Young, Buddy Hield




Small forward is a dumpster fire today, which makes Kawhi Leonard a very appealing option.  He has a nice matchup with Denver, plays reliable minutes and is an important part of the San Antonio offense.  He has a very high floor and is capable of hitting a good ceiling for his price if he can pick up defensive stats.  Facing an offense led my Emmanuel Mudiay is a good opportunity for those defensive stats.  Leonard is a strong play tonight in any format.


Paul George is in play in cash games on FanDuel (his price on DraftKings is absurd) because of how unreliable most options at the position are, but there are still better options in tournaments.  He does not contribute enough of anything to be counted on to outperform his salary, even in a good matchup against Brooklyn.  His 28.6 usage percentage, 13.9 assist percentage and 9.3 rebound percentage are more in line with a $6,500 player than an $8,000 player, yet George is consistently over-owned in tournaments because of his name and perceived safety.


Gordon Hayward’s price is finally decreasing a little bit.  He is in play with George Hill inactive because he gets a significant increase in assist percentage which increases his floor and his ceiling.  The issue is that he is still somewhat overpriced because most of his season was played without combinations of Hill, Hood and Favors.  He is definitely in play tonight at a weak position but he is still not a must play.  He is a much better tournament option than Paul George.


Harrison Barnes draws a nice matchup against Phoenix.  Unfortunately, he is at the top of his price range and suffers when he is on the floor alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams.  With Williams on and Nowitzki off, Barnes’ usage percentage is 27.3, his assist percentage is 7.5 and his rebounding percentage is 10.  With Nowitzki joining Barnes, those numbers are 20.6, 6.3 and 7.9.  Phoenix almost always has a big center, so it is unlikely that Dirk sees many minutes at the five in this matchup which means more time at the three instead of the four for Barnes.  It is encouraging that he has taken 18 shots in each of his last two games despite Dirk playing 23 and 24 minutes, but there is still reason to doubt his ceiling for his price.  He is a viable option, but there is merit to taking a riskier, high-ceiling play for less money in tournaments.


T.J. Warren burned myself and many others in his last game out.  Tonight is a chance to rebound against Dallas.  As mentioned previously, Dallas plays at an incredibly slow pace but they are not a strong defensive team and they do not protect the rim well.  Warren looks like he is going to be an inconsistent option as he works his way back from his head injury but there is not a lot to be excited about at small forward tonight so he is worth taking a chance on in tournaments.


Core:  Kawhi Leonard

Secondary: Gordon Hayward, Paul George, Harrison Barnes, Trevor Ariza

Value: T.J. Warren, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Mo Harkless




LaMarcus Aldridge is in a great spot against Denver and may go overlooked again tonight because of how closely he is priced to Jokic, Randle and Millsap.  He makes for an excellent tournament option, as he has been very aggressive recently.  He has averaged 16.8 field goal attempts per game over his last five games with Kawhi Leonard.  Look for him to excel in this up-tempo matchup against a weak Denver defense.


Julius Randle is an elite option tonight against a fast Portland team that is on a back-to-back.  Over the last month, Randle has a 22.7 usage percentage, 20.9 assist percentage, and 14.8 rebounding percentage.  Factor in that he handles the ball even more in pace-up games and that Luol Deng is questionable and Randle should pick up more assists than usual tonight.  Any semblance of minute restrictions on Randle appear to have been removed as he has played 37 minutes and 36 minutes in his last two games and at least 31 in 7 of his last 9.  Luke Walton said he expects to see more triple-doubles out of Randle in the future and tonight is a great chance for another one.


Nikola Jokic continues to perform at a high level and does not need a ton of minutes to put up strong fantasy lines.  His price is slowly increasing but it is still way too low for what he is capable of.  The matchup against San Antonio is not ideal, but bigs can have success against Pau Gasol and Jokic’s passing ability gives him a very high floor and ceiling combination.  It will be interesting to see where he falls on the ownership spectrum amongst Randle, Aldridge and Millsap but it is recommended that you be overweight on him.


Paul Millsap is on the second half of a back-to-back but has consistently outperformed expectations in this spot.  He only played 30 minutes against Orlando last night so he should have no issue getting back to the 37+ we have seen out of him on a nightly basis lately.  Anthony Davis plays more at the five now than he was earlier in the season, so Millsap has an even better matchup since he won’t have to deal with Davis as much.


Anthony Davis has not been as assertive on offense lately and it has caused him to struggle a bit from a fantasy perspective.  There are much better options on this slate than paying $11,100 for him on FanDuel but he is still intriguing at $10,000 on DraftKings because he still plays a ton of minutes and he is still consistently producing 50+ fantasy points.  In addition, he took 27 shots last game so that could be a sign of things to come.  Tyreke Evans is also now questionable for this game which would open up more shots for Davis.


Derrick Favors played 29 minutes last game and is criminally underpriced against a weak Toronto frontcourt.  Do not be scared off by the 18 minutes against Brooklyn because it was the first half of a back-to-back and Utah has been resting Favors in-game on the first half of back-to-backs all season.  Utah does not play tomorrow so Favors should be in line for about 30 minutes at a sub-$5,000 price tag.



Core:  LaMarcus Aldridge, Julius Randle, Nikola Jokic (FanDuel), Paul Millsap

Secondary: Anthony Davis, Tobias Harris, Thaddeus Young

Value: Derrick Favors, Al-Farouq Aminu, Frank Kaminsky, Dirk Nowitzki (DraftKings)




Rudy Gobert struggled against Boston but remains an elite tournament option because people do not like to roster him even though he has a high floor and ceiling at his price point.  Gobert should be able to grab plenty of rebounds against Valanciunas and pick up blocks against Kyle Lowry.  There are several very strong center options so it is likely that Gobert goes completely overlooked again.


Myles Turner has played well lately and it has caused his price to rise some.  He is still a strong play against Brook Lopez and the Nets.  Brooklyn averages the second most drives per game in the league, although Jeremy Lin’s absence hurts that number.  There should still be blocks to go around for Turner and he has averaged an impressive 1.24 DraftKings points per minute against Brooklyn in his first two matchups this season.


Core:  Rudy Gobert, Myles Turner, Nikola Jokic (DraftKings)

Secondary: Mason Plumlee, Brook Lopez, Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Steven Adams

Value: Tyson Chandler, Montrezl Harrell (FanDuel)