NBA Deep Dive – 1/6/17

HIGH-PRICED   [$8500+]


Not unlike Wednesday, there are five players on Friday’s slate priced at or above $9,700 on DraftKings and FanDuel. When this is the case, it’s best to approach it by focusing less on matchups and more on who’s less likely to disappoint at their respective price points. I’ll explain what I mean by this below…


The diatribe I wrote on Giannis Antetokounmpo for Wednesday’s matchup with New York was vindicated by yet another strong performance. The Greek Freak poured in 27 points on 10-18 shooting, including his first career buzzer-beating game-winner, while racking up another run-of-the-mill line of 13 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal across 39 minutes of work. I’ll be referring to Antetokounmpo as “Fifty” from now on, because he’s been a lock to post 50-plus fantasy points almost every night. He should do the same on Friday against the same Knicks team he whooped his last time out, and the expected return of Kristaps Porzingis should do nothing to curb his production.


Antetokounmpo has been operating more in the post this season, and he’s been doing so with greater efficiency. He’s also been trusted to handle the rock in clutch situations, which as evidenced by Wednesday’s results has also been a success. We’re talking about a player who leads his team in literally every fantasy-relevant statistical category, has seen a considerable rise in usage and assist rate, and is shooting an unfathomable 71 percent at the rim. The combination size, speed, agility and vision makes him a matchup nightmare for whoever opposing coaches decide to offer up as that night’s sacrificial lamb, while his improving jump shot only adds to an ever-increasing level of unstoppability.


At $10,700 on both FanDuel and DraftKings Antetokounmpo remains in play. Porzingis has done a solid job of protecting the rim, and is more athletic than one would initial suspect, but Antetokounmpo’s unmatched versatility should keep him productive. In what’s projected to be a competitive, high-scoring affair, there’s no reason not to run him back out with confidence.


John Wall is yet another player whose uncanny consistency has morphed him into a fantasy cornerstone. Wall wasn’t always this productive, and he certainly wasn’t always this consistent, but playing under Scott Brooks has undeniably elevated his value. Averaging nearly 50 DraftKings Points per game over his last 25 starts is impressive, but his 22 40-plus fantasy point performances and 15 50-plus fantasy point performances over that span has been most impressive. Wall’s floor is not dissimilar to DeMarcus Cousins or Anthony Davis, but we continue to view him as a lesser version of the two.


Friday’s home tilt with Minnesota poses no threat to Wall’s success. The Timberwolves are coughing up the highest field goal percentage to opposing point guards while allowing the fifth most points and third highest efficiency this season. They’re playing at an increasingly slow pace of late, but a matchup with the Wizards should help mitigate some of that concern (211 O/U). With Wall set to log upwards of 40 minutes in a closely contested affair, it’s hard to believe he could disappoint. His 31 percent usage, 46.3 percent assist rate and 90 touches per game — only Russell Westbrook and James Harden are averaging more touches than Wall this season — should propel him to yet another elite performance at a palatable cost. Even at $10,100 on DraftKings Wall should be considered a top play on Friday’s eight-game slate.


James Harden logged 38 minutes last night in a heart-pounding home victory over the Oklahoma City Westbrooks, and now he’ll travel to Orlando to take on the rested Magic at the Amway Center. Now I’m not saying to fade Harden solely because he’s playing the second of a back-to-back on the road, but at his exorbitant price point it’s certainly something we should be considering. Here’s the thing: Friday’s slate is chock full of quality options in almost every tier. Unfortunately, there is hardly any low-end value to pull from.


Peter Christensen (AKA DraftCheat) detailed how to approach the roster construction process for nights like this in his Wednesday NBA Thoughts article. The general thesis was based around the notion that we cannot lock high-priced players into our lineups early in the day before any news is available, as their viability is directly tied to the value, or lack of value, around them. If strong value opens up throughout the day Harden will become a more than appealing play, but the bounty of mid-range talent currently available to us diminishes his appeal for now. It’s not Harden’s ability to produce that I’m worried about, but more so our ability to produce adequate lineups with him as the centerpiece.


DeMarcus Cousins serves as an appealing tournament play following a miserable performance against the shorthanded Heat. If you read Wednesday’s Deep Dive and tuned into the Deeper Dive you probably faded Cousins based on his alarmingly high price point, but nonetheless, we could never have projected him for such an awful showing. Foul trouble was one of the reasons Cousins failed to make an appearance on Wednesday, but he’s actually done a fine job of limiting fouls this season.


This game owns a respectable 208.5 total with Sacramento being 1.5-point dogs at home. Cousins should see his full allotment of minutes as the Kings won’t play again until Sunday, and while DeAndre Jordan’s defense is always a concern, Boogie hammered him for 38/13/7/1/3 in their only other meeting this season. He’s capable of excelling in any matchup, and makes for a strong low-owned contrarian play now that sites have lowered his price point. Having said that, Antetokounnmpo and Wall both make for preferred options in the $10K-plus price tier.


Kevin Durant’s price tag on DraftKings and FanDuel is worth noting, as he’s been a nightly cash game option with a near 50-fantasy point floor. The matchup with Memphis is less than ideal on paper, but the Grizzlies have actually been gouged by forwards for big games lately, serving up 46.5 DKPT to Austin Rivers (started at SF), 58.5 DKPT to Julius Randle, 36.5 DKPT to Matt Barnes and 40 DKPT to Aaron Gordon over the past one-plus weeks. Durant is on a entirely different level than every one of those aforementioned players, and in an entirely different universe than two of the four.


Durant will likely go overlooked in this spot, but his consistent playing time and blowout-friendly rotation should place him firmly in play. I personally don’t see this game being a blowout, though, and we’ve seen countless teams get up for matchups with Golden State. Durant’s current price point is simply too low considering what he’s capable of producing every night.


CORE – Giannis Antetokounmpo; John Wall

SECONDARY – Kevin Durant

GPP – James Harden; DeMarcus Cousins


MID-RANGE   [$5900-$8400]


Marcin Gortat remains inexplicably cheap for a center logging 40 minutes per game. That’s really all you need to know in order to deploy him on Friday. But for those of you in need of more convincing, there’s this: Minnesota’s frontcourt defense has taken a few steps back since last season, having allowed the fifth most points and fourth highest field goal percentage to opposing bigs. Centers have drawn more personal fouls against Minnesota than any other team, too, which although Gortat doesn’t take many trips to the charity stripe, still bolsters his value on Friday night.


The Polish Hammer’s 20 double-doubles on the season is good for 11th most in basketball. He also amazingly ranks top-10 in minutes played thus far. While one may argue that Scott Brooks is covertly attempting to kill Gortat by season’s end, I’ll be happy to exploit his services before his heart calls it quits. At $6,200 on DraftKings and $6,500 on FanDuel you’d be hard-pressed to find a better play for the price.


Nikola Vucevic is one of many enticing center options on Friday, drawing an uptempo matchup with the Rockets in what’s projected to be the highest scoring contest on the night. Vooch is more than capable of hanging with fast-paced teams, and Frank Vogel is going to need his range — 31 percent of Vucevic’s field goal attempts have come from 16-plus feet out this season — against this high-powered Rockets offense. Vucevic may not be a strong three-point shooter, but he’s still capable of knocking down perimeter jump shots at an impressive clip.


Bismack Biyombo’s playing time continues to wane, while Vucevic has logged 30-plus minutes in each of his last three games. Elfrid Payton’s reintroduction to the starting lineup could potentially hurt Vucevic’s efficiency in the pick-and-roll, but he’s also likely to see increased usage and more ball handling responsibilities as a result; Vooch’s 76 touches and 56 passes made on Wednesday were 12 more and 11 more than his season average respectively. His usage also saw a three percent bump.


While I’ll likely only be deploying Vucevic in GPPs on a night where the center position is deep, I’ll be certain to have plenty exposure to him in a spot where he’s very capable of erupting. Consider him a core GPP option against the Rockets.


Goran Dragic quelled many of my concerns on Wednesday when he played 30 minutes on the second of a back-to-back road set. It wasn’t the best performance we’ve seen, but Dragic escaped this game unscathed, tallying 34 fantasy points against the Kings. He’s had a day to rest his balky back before taking on the Lakers at the Staples Center — a matchup we should all be looking forward to — and figures to see ample opportunity to produce with Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside sidelined. Dragic is sporting a 32 percent usage rate with those two and Dion Waiters off the court this season, which is worth noting since Waiters will likely still be playing limited minutes off the bench.


Los Angeles not only ranks dead last in defensive efficiency this season, but they’re playing at the league’s sixth fastest pace. They’ve also allowed the second highest FG% and third highest 3PT% to opposing point guards, while ranking 29th in DRtg at the position. Dragic thrives in uptempo conditions and shouldn’t see his minutes restricted with Miami not playing again until Sunday. His discounted price point is far too favorable for us to ignore on a night where he’ll be asked to shoulder the load in a closely contested affair.


Kyrie Irving is an interesting tournament play on Friday, but he absolutely cannot be trusted in cash for a couple of reasons: first, Irving is returning from an ankle injury that sidelined him for three straight games, and could be limited in his first game back. Second, he’s facing a Nets team that remains a 12.5-point home dog with Cleveland’s Big 3 healthy. Third, Irving has seen a noticeable price hike across the industry, and especially on FanDuel.


We know that targeting players against the Nets is wildly profitable; Myles Turner and Jeff Teague helped many FanVice succeed just last night. Irving is more than capable of racking up elite fantasy totals in this spot, especially considering his 31 percent assist rate is the highest mark he’s owned since LeBron returned. We just have to be careful not to overexpose ourselves to a player with a considerable amount of risk.


Bradley Beal is having himself a career year with the Wizards, amazingly shooting at a higher clip from beyond the arc that he did last season despite attempting 2.3 more threes per game. Not unlike the rest of this Washington starting lineup, Beal is being force-fed minutes on a nightly basis. The Timberwolves have managed to contain shooting guards quite well this season, but Beal’s heavy playing time and shot volume should be enough to target him at $7K on FanDuel and $6,900 on DraftKings. Wall, Beal and Gortat play so many minutes together that unless one of them gets hurt, it’s rather difficult to fail.


Marc Gasol will play an integral role in Friday night’s road tilt with Golden State if the Grizzlies intend on keeping things competitive. He’s been an absolute force for Memphis this year, averaging career highs in points (19.7 PPG), assists (4.3 APG) and usage (27%) through 36 games. Gasol has also discovered a lethal three-pointer, shooting 41 percent on 3.4 attempts per game after never averaging north of .2 3PTA/G through his first eight campaigns. Easily one of the most versatile bigs in the game, Gasol can hang with the Warriors in what will be a huge pace-up spot for the Griz. Memphis is a 13.5-point road dog, but we’ve seen countless teams come into the Oracle and hang around for at least three quarters of play. If the Grizzlies do manage to keep things close, Gasol will be the reason why.


Joel Embiid is on track to play Friday in a road tilt with Boston. He was battling a stomach bug but managed to fully participate in morning shootaround and shouldn’t be limited outside of his normal 28-minute cap. Embiid’s minutes restriction makes him a tougher play every day his salary creeps higher, but he continues to defy all odds, posting 40-plus fantasy points in five of his last six starts while averaging 24 points, 7.5 rebounds, two assists, 2.2 blocks, 1.3 steals and 42.1 fantasy points per game in that span.


Boston continues to hemorrhage rebounds to big men, but they’ve also struggled to contain the scoring as well. Embiid is more of a secondary play now that his salary has almost caught up with his production, but he amazingly owns one of the safest floors at his position regardless of matchup. Embiid’s salary is more appealing on FanDuel, but his power forward eligibility also puts him in play on DraftKings.


CORE – Marcin Gortat; Goran Dragic

SECONDARY – Bradley Beal; Marc Gasol; Elfrid Payton; Joel Embiid

GPP – Nikola Vucevic; Kyrie Irving; Al Horford; Ersan Ilyasova


VALUE   [$3000-$5800]


James Johnson is miraculously averaging north of one fantasy point per minute this season. Yes, this is the same James Johnson that we’ve been tilting for years now, yet this time we’re praising him for his propensity to rack up 30-plus fantasy points on a bi-nightly basis. Justise Winslow is likely done for the season and Hassan Whiteside isn’t expected back until Sunday, so Johnson should once again be in the mix at a mid-$5K price point.


The Lakers have been trampled by every position this year, with the forward positions being no exception. They’re surrendering the third highest FG% to opposing fours, and have been miserable at protecting the rim. Luol Deng’s potential absence will only exacerbate their struggles, and they don’t have a viable defensive replacement in that event. Johnson’s minutes have been relatively difficult to project, but with Miami being shorthanded in an uptempo matchup with the Lakers, there’s no reason to avoid Johnson on Friday night.


Raymond Felton has logged 31-plus minutes in seven of his last eight games, with the lone sub-31 minute outing coming on a night where he was sick. Felton isn’t just playing big minutes though; the veteran guard tallied 32-plus fantasy points in three of his last four starts while sporting a respectable 22.6 percent usage rate in that span. The Clippers are entirely devoid of scorers and shot creators, which leaves Felton and Austin Rivers with heavy workloads until Chris Paul returns. Felton is the preferred option at a lesser cost on DraftKings but both can be considered on FanDuel against an inferior Sacramento defense.

EDIT: Chris Paul went from DOUBTFUL to PROBABLE, and is now expected to play in Friday night’s road matchup with the Kings. Felton and Rivers both lose considerable value at their price points, and now become much easier fades across the board.


Aaron Gordon is arguably the most athletic player in the NBA, which should serve him well on Friday against the Rockets. He doesn’t belong at the three, but Gordon at least appears to be adjusting quite well, averaging 17 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 Stocks and 30 fantasy points per game over his last five starts. Lack of consistency will continue to be a issue for Gordon, and Frank Vogel’s tendencies to bench him if he gets in early foul trouble also won’t help, but this fast-paced matchup simply feels too enticing to overlook. Having some Gordon exposure at a sub-$5K price point and a weak small forward position sure makes a lot of sense.


Josh Richardson has seen his price come back down to a reasonable level, owning a mid-$5K price point again on DraftKings and FanDuel. The depleted Heat will once again require his services with Dion Waiters working his way back from injury, and he could reasonably see another 35-plus minutes in the starting lineup. The Lakers’ backcourt defense has been so putrid that I don’t mind slightly overpaying for a shooter if he’s a lock to see big minutes and double-digit field goal attempts. That’s what we’re dealing with on Friday.


Greg Monroe remains in play this evening, but he also makes for a great tournament fade now that his salary has skyrocketed across the industry. Porzingis’ return could impact both his minutes and production, while Jason Kidd’s bipolar coaching tendencies could pop up at any time. There’s clear upside here with the way Monroe has been playing, and despite his relegation to the bench in Milwaukee, he is still one of the better post scorers in the game. Monroe actually feels more appropriate for cash than GPPs, as his ownership will likely be high once again.


Evan Fournier could be the beneficiary of the “Beverley Funnel Effect” in Houston this evening unless Beverley is guarding him and not Elfrid Payton. I’ll be researching more throughout the day to find information on who Bev will be guarding, but for now it’s a rather tough call. Keep Fournier on the radar, though, as he possesses plenty of upside in this uptempo matchup. This game owns the highest total on the night at 224 points, and Orlando should be able to keep things competitive with Houston traveling on the second of a back-to-back. He’s a stellar tournament play with a 40-plus fantasy point ceiling at a sub-$6K price.


If you searching for a near min-sal punt, you’re probably out of luck. Depending on your risk tolerance, though, Vince Carter has upside at his price point. If he gets hot, David Fizdale is going to keep him on the court, and that’s really all we can hope for. Punts are at a premium on Friday, and Carter, as of now, is the best we’re going to get.


CORE – James Johnson

SECONDARY – Aaron Gordon; Josh Richardson; Raymond Felton; Austin Rivers [FanDuel]; Greg Monroe

GPP – Evan Fournier; Jae Crowder; Vince Carter