NBA Deep Dive 2/10/17

HIGH-PRICED   [$8500+]


Giannis Antetokounmpo hasn’t been great lately, finishing with fewer than 50 fantasy points in eight of his last 10 games, but that shouldn’t stop us from targeting him on Friday. Ask yourself this: who on the Lakers is even remotely competent enough as a defender to limit Antetokounmpo? Julius Randle possesses neither the height, speed or defensive positioning to contend with Giannis, while the 190-pound Brandon Ingram will get victimized in both isolation and transition if tasked with guarding the Greek Freak. Luol Deng may throw his hat into the ring, but that won’t work, either; Deng is sporting a career-worst 112 DRtg and 0.0 DBPM on the season. Believe it or not, Tarik Black is the only Laker worth being even remotely concerned about, but just because he’s played better defense than Timofey Mozgov doesn’t make him a legitimate threat to contain Antetokounmpo.

The Lakers not only rank 29th in defensive efficiency this season, but they’re allowing the second highest FG% at the rim and the second most points in transition. They’re allowing the highest FG% within six feet of the rim, but that number has actually increased since Black entered the starting lineup. L.A. also plays at the league’s fifth fastest pace, which should create ideal conditions for Antetokounmpo in an uptempo matchup (219.5 O/U). Giannis’ salary is tough to stomach, being the highest priced player on both FanDuel and DraftKings, but he should absolutely decimate the Lakers for every second he’s on the court. Moreover, the loss of Jabari Parker should force him to take full control of the offense on a night where the Bucks are mere 4.5-point favorites at home. Antetokounmpo is my top overall play on Friday night.


DeMarcus Cousins will shoulder another heavy load on Friday, as the Kings will be unbelievably shorthanded in a home tilt with Atlanta. Rudy Gay is done for the season, Ty Lawson is doubtful, Garrett Temple and Omri Casspi remain out, and every other healthy player not named Darren Collison is wholly incapable of creating their own shot. Cousins is legitimate threat to post his third triple-double in the last two weeks, as he serves as Sacramento’s best scorer, rebounder and facilitator by a wide margin.

Over his last ten starts, Cousins is sporting a 39 percent usage rate with a jaw-dropping 92 touches per game! Over that stretch, Boogie is posting a Goliath 1.62 FPPM with an elite 37.5 percent assist rate, topping nearly every point guard in basketball. This matchup with Atlanta may appear unappealing on the surface, but the Hawks only excel against centers who operate exclusively down low. Atlanta is allowing 42 percent shooting to opposing fives, and Dwight Howard will struggle to defend Cousins whenever he strays from the paint. He’s a usage monster who’s well-rested coming off a one-game suspension, and Sacramento incredibly remains a mere 2-point home dog on Friday. Cousins and Antetokounmpo should be our top targets across the industry.


Karl-Anthony Towns has now tallied 50-plus fantasy points in each of his last 10 home games, a rather incredible feat for a player who sits at $10K flat on DraftKings. One may look at a matchup with Anthony Davis’ Pelicans and see a difficult spot to produce, but I see opportunity. Towns is producing 1.21 PPP in the pick-and-roll this season, which is a spectacular mark when you consider he is second in roll men points despite averaging far few possessions than the league leader (Davis). He is also one of only five big men to rank top-30 in touches per game, and the T-Wolves’ loss of Zach LaVine should increase that number going forward.

Minnesota’s starting lineup lacks scoring outside of Towns and Andrew Wiggins, which means both will be frequently utilized on Friday. Towns is sporting a 28 percent usage with LaVine off the court — his usage actually sees a negligible decrease with LaVine sidelined — while also averaging 1.33 FPPM in the process. More importantly, however, is the 37-plus MPG Towns has been logging on a nightly basis. He’s one of the safest options on the board in what’s projected to be a competitive affair at the Target Center (MIN -3).


Anthony Davis has seen his salary nosedive across the industry, sitting at $10,900 on FanDuel and just barely above $10K on DraftKings. To be fair, Davis hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire of late, but he’s still too cheap for a matchup with Minnesota. Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng, who is the most likely to draw the assignment with Davis, have struggled mightily to contain opposing bigs, allowing the highest field goal percentage (50.3%) and fourth most points to opposing frontcourts this season. They’ve been beat up around the rim and have been gashed by centers to the tune of 57.2 percent shooting, but one thing that concerns me with Davis is the pick-and-roll; Minnesota is currently allowing the fewest points per possession to roll men in the PnR, where Davis leads the league in scoring.

A depressed price point and mostly solid matchup will keep Davis in play, but there are a few red flags worth keeping in mind. Davis is also playing away from home, where he’s been less productive by a rather wide margin this season. I’m viewing him as a secondary play, but I could certainly be mistaken here; Davis is capable of scoring in such a variety of ways that Minnesota’s seemingly elite PnR defense won’t be enough to curb his production. It’s worth keeping in mind, and so are his home/road splits, but the salary bargain in what will be a closely contested affair (MIN -3; 213.5 O/U) should put him over the top.


Kevin Durant tallied 55 fantasy points in his last meeting with the Grizzlies, an overtime loss at the Oracle that took place in early January. If you remember this game, Durant entered the extra frame having already eclipsed the 50-fantasy point mark, and was actually already hovering around 50 before the fourth quarter even started. He missed several wide open threes over the last 15 minutes (including OT), uncharacteristically bricked more than couple free throws, and in no small way fell apart as Memphis mounted their comeback. Despite all of his late-game woes, Durant still posted elite fantasy totals. Had he not deteriorated by no fault but his own, though, K.D. would’ve been winning us GPPs.

I mention all of the above because the Grizzlies actually pose a pretty solid matchup for Durant. The lanky, 6’9” forward creates matchup nightmares for Memphis, as Tony Allen doesn’t have enough size to guard him, and James Ennis, who was tasked with guarding Durant the last time these teams met, had trouble sticking with him on drives to the rim. Golden State also forces a ton of switches and their elite ball movement will free him up for plenty of open looks. A depressed price point makes Durant a very appealing option on Friday’s nine-game slate, and assuming he doesn’t commit the same number of unforced errors he did the last time these teams met, 60-plus fantasy points is a legitimate possibility. Consider Durant a top tournament option in a game where he should almost certainly see his full allotment of minutes.


Nikola Jokic faces a Knicks squad that has been absolutely dismal against opposing centers, allowing the second most points, free throws and third most blocks to the position. Joakim Noah’s absence should do nothing to improve their interior defense, either, as Kyle O’Quinn simply isn’t skilled enough to hang with Jokic and will likely fall into early foul trouble, anyway.

Jokic has stumbled through a few underwhelming performances lately, but tough matchups, blowouts and fouls have limited his production. He’s still primed to log 32-36 minutes in the highest projected scoring contest of the night (229 O/U), and owns an affordable salary following a string of bad games. The center position is awfully deep on Friday, but Jokic offers legitimate 60-fantasy point upside against the Knicks, who are allowing the third highest FG% within six feet of the rim and are serving up the second most points per possession in the post this season. You can deploy him in any format, but I love Jokic most in GPPs where I expect his recent performance to keep ownership depressed.


NOTE: Jimmy Butler could erupt against the Suns if Dwyane Wade is out. Even if Wade is healthy Butler could post monster fantasy totals, but with this slate having such depth at the top, I’d feel more comfortable deploying him if we had early word on Wade. Nevertheless, Butler’s tournament value is sky-high due to Wade’s uncertainty, and he would make for a stellar GPP option if Wade’s status is still in question heading into lock.


CORE – Giannis Antetokounmpo; DeMarcus Cousins

SECONDARY – Karl-Anthony Towns; Anthony Davis

GPP – Kevin Durant; Nikola Jokic; Jimmy Butler


MID-RANGE   [$5900-$8500]


Will Barton and Wilson Chandler make for two of the night’s top mid-range options, facing a putrid Knicks defense in a game sporting the highest total of the night (229 O/U). Not only is this game sporting a point total similar to a meeting between the Rockets and Warriors, but neither team is skilled enough to run away with the score (NYK -2). Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried have already been ruled out, which means Mike Malone will be forced to give Barton and Chandler huge minutes at the three and four, respectively.

Barton has now posted back-to-back 45-plus-fantasy point performances where he’s logged 37-plus minutes in each. Barton’s 69 touches per game over that span are a massive increase from the 47 touches he’s averaging on the season, while his 50 passes received per game leads the Nuggets outside of point guard Jameer Nelson. Barton is producing north of one fantasy point per minute with Faried and Gallo off the court, and over the last two games he’s sporting a near 29 percent usage rate. At $5,800 on FanDuel and $6,100 on DraftKings, Barton easily serves as a top option in a game that should be loaded with fantasy goodness.

Chandler has logged minute totals of 41, 26, 40 and 36 in four spot starts for the injured Gallinari, while his only game with fewer than 36 minutes over that stretch came in a blowout loss to the Spurs. He should see another heavy workload on Friday when the Nuggets take on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, as Malone will almost certainly want Chandler to stick with Carmelo Anthony throughout the night. In a ridiculously fast-paced affair between to putrid defenses, Chandler should have no trouble paying off a mid-range price tag in around 40 minutes of work.


James Johnson should once again be considered a top mid-range forward play against the Nets. This matchup would’ve already been outstanding if Miami was healthy, but with Dion Waiters ruled out and Josh Richardson remaining on the shelf, Johnson should be a lock. Waiters is a black hole on offense at times, who siphons usage away from everyone within 50 feet of him on the court. Amazingly, Johnson’s usage spikes from 18.5 percent with Waiters on the court to 23.1 percent with Waiters off. Moreover, Johnson’s per minute fantasy production jumps from .85 to 1.06 in the process.

Waiters’ absence isn’t as much about minutes as it is about ball distribution, as upwards of 20 field goal attempts become available when he’s sidelined, and ball-handling duties are distributed throughout the offense. Johnson should be considered a phenomenal lower mid-range option against the Nets, who not only lead the league in pace, but own one of the most incompetent defenses in basketball. I’d be surprised to see Johnson finish with fewer than 35 fantasy points here with the Heat being 6.5-point road favorites in a 215-O/U affair.


Goran Dragic also sees a significant boost when Waiters is out, sporting a four percent usage bump (28.5%), five percent assist rate bump (32.8%) and a slight rise in per minute fantasy production (1.09). He should put these to use on Friday against the Nets, who have been blasted by point guards all season long, top the league in turnovers and lead the NBA in pace. There’s not much to say here; Dragic should post an easy 40-plus fantasy points in the best imaginable matchup.

Eric Bledsoe is wildly underpriced on DraftKings, though, which makes Dragic less of a lock. Bledsoe has struggled through a string of tough matchups, and he’s always been one of the streakier guards in basketball, but at $7,200 on DraftKings I’ll have a very difficult time overlooking this matchup with Chicago. Bledsoe has been stellar at home this season, and I’d expect his minutes to climb back into the mid 30’s on Friday. The Suns are only 2.5-point dogs in what’s certain to be a high-scoring affair, so unless Earl Watson is intentionally punishing his starting point guard for reasons unbeknownst to us, there’s no reason Bledsoe shouldn’t easily eclipse value at such a sizable discount.


Derrick Rose bounced back wonderfully after a miserable effort against the Lakers in his first game back from injury. I was willing to chalk that first game up as rust and successfully rolled Rose back out there at $5,500 on DraftKings at very low ownership. Rose isn’t as cheap on Friday, but he draws an equally, if not more enticing matchup with the Nuggets, who are ceding the most points, second most assists, and third most steals to opposing point guards this season. I’m still willing to deploy Rose at a low-$6K salary on both FanDuel and DraftKings, as he’s primed to play around 35 minutes in the highest projected scoring game of the night. Denver’s backcourt defense is simply so deplorable that even a bad game from Rose should result in around 30 fantasy points.


Andrew Wiggins doesn’t draw the best matchup with New Orleans, but he benefits most from Zach LaVine’s injury. In 616 minutes with LaVine sidelined this season, Wiggins is boasting a 33.8 percent usage rate with 1.06 fantasy points per minute. He’s also locked into 37-40 MPG which makes him one of the safer small forward plays on Friday’s slate. The position is rather weak, and Carmelo Anthony should struggle against the arguably elite defense of Wilson Chandler, so Wiggins comes into play as someone who should attempt 20-plus field goals in a closely contested affair. Paul George also serves as a strong tournament option against the Wizards, who’ve been notoriously bad against both forward positions. It also doesn’t hurt to know George is playing his best basketball of the season.


Paul Millsap should always be on the radar as a strong secondary play when he’s facing a weak defense in a competitive game. That’ll be the case on Friday when the Hawks travel to Sacramento to take on a depleted Kings squad, as Millsap is primed to log big minutes against the league’s 25th ranked defense. At a sub-$8K price point on FanDuel and DraftKings you can’t really go wrong.


CORE – Will Barton; Wilson Chandler; James Johnson; Eric Bledsoe [DraftKings]

SECONDARY – Goran Dragic; Derrick Rose; Andrew Wiggins; Paul Millsap; Bradley Beal

GPP – Mike Conley; Paul George; Brook Lopez


VALUE   [$3000-$5800]


Darren Collison is one of the last men standing in the Sacramento backcourt following an injury to Ty Lawson on Wednesday night. With Lawson, Temple, Gay and Casspi all sitting for this home tilt with Atlanta, Collison will almost certainly be forced to play north of 40 minutes at the point. The Kings will have only six healthy bodies capable of occupying the 1-3 positions, but no one other than Collison is capable of running the point, initiating the offense and creating his own shot. DeMarcus Cousins’ return from suspension will significantly lower Collison’s usage and per minute production, but it shouldn’t matter much if he’s going to log 42 or more minutes on Friday.


Wayne Ellington will retain his value on Friday with Dion Waiters out, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him log 30-plus minutes against the Nets. Not only does Brooklyn play at the fastest pace in basketball, but they allow the second highest 3-point percentage to their opposition. Ellington loves to hoist up the long ball, and last time he earned extended run against the Nets he finished with 22 points on 8-15 shooting and 4-7 from beyond the arc. Furthermore, Ellington will see minutes in a blowout, but also won’t lose any run if Brooklyn manages to keep this game close. He’s in play across the board, but his $3,700 price tag on FanDuel is far more appealing.


James Ennis is far from an exciting fantasy play, but with Chandler Parsons sidelined he should see north of 30 minutes against Golden State. Memphis doesn’t have the personnel to defend Kevin Durant outside of the 6’7” Ennis, who although he won’t be able to contain the former MVP, is their best shot at slowing him down. Minutes and elevated pace are the only attractive aspects of this matchup, and at near minimum salary across the board, Ennis is a fine fit for stars and scrubs lineups including Antetokounmpo, Cousins, Durant and other high-end studs. Vince Carter is also available for GPPs if you’re willing to roll the dice on a boom-or-bust wing.


Julius Randle has seen his salary drop significantly since dealing with an illness that sidelined him and then forced him to play limited minutes off the bench. Friday’s matchup with Milwaukee isn’t great, but at such a low price point Randle will have trouble failing to produce at least serviceable fantasy totals. I’d expect to see him get back to around 32 minutes of court time, and at $5,400 on DraftKings and $5,700 on FanDuel we won’t be taking much of a risk.

Myles Turner is also wildly underpriced on DraftKings, especially now that he’s logging huge minutes since Thaddeus Young hit the shelf. Marcin Gortat has been a disaster defensively this season, hasn’t been able to protect the rim, and Turner has fared well in two meetings with Washington thus far. At a sub-$6K salary on DraftKings, Turner needs to be considered.


Willy Hernangomez is one of my favorite tournament options on Friday, as he could see heavy minutes off the bench in a strong matchup with Denver. Kyle O’Quinn will likely be the popular play after posting strong numbers last time out, but there are serious foul concerns against Nikola Jokic, and Jeff Hornacek has shown his preference toward HernanGOATmez of late. He’s no lock to see serviceable playing time, but with Joakim Noah out and O’Quinn posing legitimate concerns, Hernangomez could make for a great low-owned tournament option in a contest boasting the highest total on the night. I’ll be sure to have some exposure in GPPs.


Jabari Parker’s absence will create a huge void in the Bucks’ frontcourt, but who will fill this void is a question none of us can answer. Here’s the problem: Michael Beasley or Mirza Teletovic could start at the four, with the latter being a more logical choice, but Jason Kidd could also decide to go with Thon Maker over both of them. I don’t think Maker would start against a smaller Lakers frontcourt, but I’ve stopped trying to predict Kidd’s bipolar decision making. Moreover, Giannis Antetokounmpo is legitimately capable of playing any of the five positions, so we could see him log minutes at the four with Milwaukee using a smaller lineup including Dellavedova, Brogdon, Middleton and Henson or Monroe.

There’s really no telling what happens here, so the most prudent approach would be to consider Beasley and Teletovic GPP plays with massive bust potential. I’m not willing to recommend either of them in cash, and honestly don’t feel comfortable deploying them anywhere at the current time.


CORE – Darren Collison; Wayne Ellington

SECONDARY – Julius Randle; Myles Turner [DraftKings]; Matt Barnes

GPP – James Ennis; Vince Carter; Willy Hernangomez; Michael Beasley/Mirza Teletovic; Kentavious Caldwell-Pope