NBA Deep Dive 2/1/17

HIGH-PRICED   [$8300+]


Russell Westbrook will play his second game of a back-to-back on Wednesday, but that should be a major concern for none of us. He’ll face a Bulls team that is imploding upon itself, and shouldn’t see an abbreviated workload with the Thunder being only 3.5-point favorites at home. I have a sneaky suspicion that Westbrook will be under-owned after posting “underwhelming” fantasy totals for his standards in four straight starts, so this is a spot where we should be buying. Westbrook’s $12,000 price tag on DraftKings is the lowest he’s been since facing Utah, but in this specific matchup it simply doesn’t make sense.

On a 12-game slate where we should have no trouble finding value, Westbrook needs to be strongly considered. I’m not sure about you, but any player who sports a 42 percent usage rate, a league-leading 30.7 points per contest, and averages a triple-double in literally every other game he plays should be viewed as the top overall option whenever he’s poised to take part in a competitive affair. With blowout concerns being irrelevant here, and Westbrook averaging north of 67 fantasy points per game at home on the season, you need not look any further to find Wednesday’s top play.


Kyle Lowry gave us a scare last night after he finished the first half of an eventual overtime win against the Pelicans with 13 fantasy points and an apparent lack of motivation. That all changed after halftime, though, as Lowry lit the Pelicans up for 27 points and six assists in the second half and overtime period, concluding the night with 56 fantasy points in 45 minutes of work. Toronto’s star point guard, who according to many brilliant basketball minds should be starting over Kyrie Irving in this year’s All Star game, took control with DeMar DeRozan sidelined and never let off the gas. He’ll be asked to do more of the same in Wednesday’s tilt with Boston, as DeRozan has already been ruled out and the Raptors are 6.5-point dogs on the road.

Lowry’s back-to-back averages have been strange this season; he’s logging 38 MPG on zero days rest and hasn’t been affected as either a scorer (46.7 FG%) or rebounder (5.8 REB/G), but has seen his assists drop slightly to 5.9 per game. What we can ascertain from this is Lowry simply hasn’t been affected by B2B’s, and considering he’s tied with LeBron James for the league lead in minutes per game (37.5) there’s no reason to believe his performance will negatively influenced on Wednesday.

At $8,600 on DraftKings and $8,700 on FanDuel, we should be viewing Lowry as one of the top point guard options on this massive 12-game slate. The likely absence of Avery Bradley should only bolster Lowry’s appeal, as a combination of Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart won’t be able to contain him. Lowry is averaging 51 FPPG through two meetings with Boston this season.


Stephen Curry makes for an appealing tournament pivot at a comparable price point on DraftKings. After a string of dismal performances in December Curry has turned the heat back up, averaging 27.8 points, 6.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 4.8 threes and 48 fantasy points per game through 13 January starts. I wouldn’t recommend loading up on Curry shares with the Warriors being 15-point favorites at the Oracle, but if you’re playing ten or more lineups on this 12-game slate I’d look to get some exposure. At $8,500 on DraftKings, Curry remains underpriced and is capable of erupting for a monster performance even if he doesn’t see his full allotment of minutes against the Hornets. Moreover, people will likely avoid him in his first game back from a minor illness.


LeBron James unleashed on Charles Barkley the other night after the Cavs lost to the Mavericks and finished the month of January with more losses than wins (7-8). He ripped the former All-Star on a personal level, attacking him for his gambling debt, his on and off-court antics, and let the world know that he wasn’t going to let Barkley tarnish his “legacy.” You may be wondering why all of this is relevant. The answer is quite simple: James has done plenty of complaining about not having enough playmakers in Cleveland and continues to mourn the “devastating” losses of Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov despite personally being the best player on planet earth. He’ll need to show up on Wednesday, and quite frankly, James is running low on excuses.

The Cavaliers are 7-point home favorites against the Timberwolves, a team that struggles to defend the rim and ranks 23rd in defensive rating this season. Kevin Love has already been ruled out, J.R. Smith won’t be returning anytime soon, and Matthew Dellavedova is seemingly enjoying life in Milwaukee. James will need to carry the Cavs to victory, and while I’m generally not a big fan of narratives, this one has enough merit for me to take notice. I’d be surprised to see LeBron finish with anything less than 55 fantasy points this evening.


Anthony Davis could go largely overlooked on Wednesday, but I’d urge you to take a closer look before crossing him off the list entirely. Year after year Davis leads the league in pick-and-roll points as a roll man, and for the past two seasons Detroit has struggled mightily to defend the PnR. They’ve seen slight improvement this year, but the Pistons still surrender the fifth most points to roll men, and are being attacked in the PnR quite often. Unfortunately, Davis could see his rebounding totals suffer while Andre Drummond is on the floor, and he won’t have the Pelicans’ home scorekeeper in the building to credit him with questionable blocks and assists.

Simply put, Davis should have no trouble scoring at will in this matchup, and should bounce back nicely after shooting 4-18 from the field in last night’s loss to the Raptors. The concern here is peripheral stats, being that Detroit limits rebounds and blocks to opposing bigs. I’ll be deploying Davis in some tournaments this evening, but with an abundance of talent to choose from at the upper echelon of the pricing tier he isn’t someone we’ll need to target heavily. There’s plenty of upside, but also ample room to disappoint, which is why he should be strictly reserved for GPPs.


CORE – Russell Westbrook; Kyle Lowry

SECONDARY – LeBron James; Isaiah Thomas [If Avery Bradley is OUT]

GPP – Stephen Curry [DraftKings]; Anthony Davis


MID-RANGE   [$5900-$8300]


Carmelo Anthony posted underwhelming fantasy totals in last night’s blowout loss to Washington, but he didn’t exactly struggle, either, shooting 10-15 from the field with 26 points across 32 minutes of work. Melo has been logging 35-plus minutes in competitive games, and generally doesn’t fail to supplement his scoring with peripheral stats like he did on Tuesday (5 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 0 BLK). Wednesday’s matchup with Brooklyn poses a far weaker threat to Anthony’s production that the streaking Wizards did last night, as the Nets are allowing the most points, second most rebounds, second most blocks, third most steals and highest field goal percentage to opposing small forwards this season. I’ll happily deploy Melo on DraftKings in all formats even if the ailing Kristaps Porzingis is active, but the Latvian forward’s status is a lot more important on FanDuel where Anthony has jumped to $8,500.

The floundering Knicks are only 2.5-point road favorites against the league’s most pathetic basketball team, but this is good for fantasy purposes as we’re staring down the barrel of a 224 over/under at the Barclays Center. Anthony finds himself in an elite spot against the Nets, and despite playing his second of a back-to-back there’s simply no reason to avoid him on Wednesday. Consider him a core play on DraftKings and a secondary option on FanDuel. Melo becomes a core play on FanDuel if Porzingis remains sidelined, though. Kristaps Porzingis, despite his inability to stay out of foul trouble since returning from injury, needs to be considered in GPPs at a low $6K price point if he’s active.


Mike Conley continues to go overlooked across the industry, but we’ve been sure not to make that mistake at FanVice. He trashed the Suns in a blowout win in the desert the other night and now he’ll draw another opportunity to excel in a stellar matchup with the Nuggets. Not only has Denver been victimized by opposing point guards this season, allowing the most points, second most assists and highest efficiency to the position, but they also play at the league’s fifth fastest pace with the second worst defensive rating in basketball.

Yes, this matchup is as good as it gets for Conley, whose Grizzlies are 2-point favorites at the Pepsi Center. Couple the optimal positional matchup against either Emmanuel Mudiay or Jameer Nelson with the uptempo matchup and 2-point spread and we have ourselves the perfect recipe for success. People will continue to ignore Conley, but I don’t see how we can avoid him in this delectable matchup. Jeff Teague also makes for a strong play in this mid-range tier, facing a weak Orlando defense in what should be a closely contested affair throughout (IND -2).


Andre Drummond is coming off an explosive performance against the Celtics, posting a Goliath 28-point, 22-rebound, two-block, two-steal, 69-fantasy point double-double across a season-high 41 minutes of work. We shouldn’t expect the Manchild to replicate these numbers on Wednesday, especially considering this was the first time he’s logged more than 38 minutes in a game this season, but a home matchup with the Pelicans should still serve him well. New Orleans has allowed more rebounds to opposing centers than any team in basketball, and Anthony Davis’ permanent move to the five hasn’t changed a thing.

The Pelicans have done a solid job of limiting centers’ scoring, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re allowing the highest field goal percentage within six feet of the rim (61.3%) while coughing up the fourth most made defended field goals on the season. New Orleans is also ceding the fifth highest FG% at the rim since Davis took over as the team’s primary center. As a result, there should be no reason to worry about Drummond’s performance on Wednesday outside of foul trouble, which is certainly possible if he’s tasked with guarding Davis throughout the night.


Marc Gasol, much like every center on DraftKings, is underpriced again. This type of pricing has made writing the Deep Dive rather strenuously lately, as the disparity in salaries on DraftKings and FanDuel has become outrageous over the past few weeks. Having said that, we’ll still need to view Gasol as a solid secondary option across the board in a plus matchup with Denver. Yes, Nikola Jokic has been a monster offensively, but this stellar production has overshadowed his inadequacies on the defensive end, where he sports a 110 DRtg and allows a near 59 percent shooting around the rim. Only the Magic are allowing more points per possession than Denver in the post this season, where Gasol leads the league in scoring and operates with a near 35 percent frequency. He should torch them with ease down low and from the elbow, where he also unsurprisingly leads the league in touches.


Gordon Hayward has been rather underwhelming of late, and there’s no denying Derrick Favors’ return to action has played a role in his decline in productivity. On the season, Hayward sees a near five percent usage bump with Favors off the court, while his fantasy point per minute production rises to 1.08 in the process. Favors has already been ruled out of Wednesday’s home tilt with Milwaukee, which places Hayward in a phenomenal position for fantasy purposes when you consider his salary has plummeted to $6,600 on DraftKings. He’ll remain in play on FanDuel, too, as Carmelo Anthony is still $1,100 more expensive.Look for Hayward to bounce back on a night where Favors’ absence should bolster his production.

Rudy Gobert is also well underpriced across the industry, and while the Bucks have done a solid job of limiting opposing centers, the Stifle Tower doesn’t rely on scoring to post respectable fantasy totals. The problem with rostering Gobert on Wednesday is the center position remains incredibly deep. I’ll be reserving him for GPPs, but could understand wanting to deploy him in cash, especially on DraftKings where he’s unfathomably cheap. The same goes for Brook Lopez, but with Kenny Atkinson apparently wanting to develop his younger players, I worry that BroLo could continue to see his minutes decline as the season wears on.


Reggie Jackson and Dennis Schroder both serve as appealing lower mid-range point guard options who are comparably priced on FanDuel and DraftKings. Schroder remains inexplicably cheap for a player who’s posted 35-plus fantasy points in six of his last eight starts, while averaging 20 points, 7.5 assists and 16 field goal attempts per game in that span. Meanwhile, Jackson is averaging a respectable 35 FPPG over his last five appearances, yet he remains at a mid-$6K price point in a plus matchup with New Orleans. The Pelicans are allowing the second most points and most field goal attempts to opposing point guards this season. I’ll be mixing Schroder and Jackson into GPPs on a night where the abundance of options at the position should keep their ownership low.


CORE – Carmelo Anthony [DraftKings]; Mike Conley; Andre Drummond

SECONDARY – Carmelo Anthony [FanDuel]; Jeff Teague; Marc Gasol; Gordon Hayward; Rudy Gobert [DraftKings]

GPP – Kristaps Porzingis; Rudy Gobert [FanDuel]; Brook Lopez; Dennis Schroder; Reggie Jackson


VALUE   [$3000-$5800]


Brandon Jennings should be the highest owned player on Wednesday’s slate, and rightfully so. He’s in line to draw the start against a Nets team that ranks bottom-five in nearly every relevant statistical category against the point guard position, and should continue to log a boatload of minutes with Derrick Rose sidelined. There’s really no need to elaborate here; Jennings is affordably priced across the board, is facing the fastest paced team with the third worst defensive rating in basketball, and won’t risk losing minutes with the Knicks being mere 2.5-point favorites on the road. You know what to do, fellas.

Speaking of the Knicks, Guillermo Hernangomez could draw another spot start if the ailing Porzingis remains out. Hernangomez was fantastic in Tuesday’s loss to the Wizards, posting a 15-point, 14-rebound, 39.5-fantasy point double-double across a season-high 32 minutes of work. Jeff Hornacek has praised the 22-year-old Spaniard of late, and his pledge to feed him more playing time finally came to fruition last night.

What makes Hernangomez most appealing, however, is the fact that he’s playing the second game of a back-to-back. It isn’t the two games in two nights part that should get you excited, but more so the fact that sites haven’t had the chance to raise his price tag. At $3,900 on DraftKings and $4,300 on FanDuel, Hernangomez will remain an elite option in all formats if Porzingis is sidelined. Kyle O’Quinn will make for a nice pivot in some GPP lineups, though, as we’re all very familiar with Hornacek’s bipolar coaching tendencies when it comes to his frontcourt rotations.


Victor Oladipo’s dirt cheap price tag puts him in play on a night where we are desperate for talent at the shooting guard position. Don’t ask me how, but Oladipo remains at $5,500 on DraftKings and $6,000 on FanDuel despite eclipsing the 30-fantasy point mark in four straight starts and six of his last eight games. A matchup with Jimmy Butler isn’t optimal assuming Butler guards him for the majority of this contest, but we cannot overlook Oladipo’s salary with the shooting guard position being devoid of talent. Playing alongside Russell Westbrook will suppress anyone’s production to an extent, but Oladipo’s big minutes, serviceable shot volume and incredible steal rate over the aforementioned eight-game stretch should place him firmly in play this evening.


Wesley Matthews also comes into play with the shooting guard position being so barren, especially on DraftKings where he’s basically free. Upside isn’t in Matthew’s arsenal, but Deron Williams’ absence should at least boost his usage enough to eclipse the 30-fantasy point plateau against the Covington-less Sixers. Yes, Robert Covington’s absence plays a sizeable role when evaluating Matthews’ appeal, as Philadelphia’s starting small forward has played spectacular defense over the past couple months. Consider Matthews a secondary option on a night where we’ll be digging deep to salvage value at the worst position available.


Dirk Nowitzki also makes for an intriguing value play for the Mavericks, as he’ll square off against the atrocious defense of Jahlil Okafor with Joel Embiid sidelined. Nowitzki has looked much better of late, and if this game stays competitive he’ll likely play upwards of 30 minutes at home. Considering the Sixers’ defense plummets to a bottom-five mark with Embiid off the court, and their frontcourt defense is easily penetrable when Okafor is at the five, Nowitzki should have no trouble producing in this matchup. His outside shooting should also suit him well against Nerlens Noel, who is a much better defender around the rim than he is when forced to chase opposing bigs out to the perimeter.


Channing Frye did not disappoint us on Monday, although it looked like things were going downhill fast when he didn’t play a single second in the third quarter. Frye re-entered the game early in the fourth and immediately started knocking down threes, wasting no time on the perfect dimes dished to him by none other than LeBron James.

I’m going to pull a quote from Monday’s Deep Dive where I talked about Frye’s reliance on James: “Channing Frye will always make for a solid value play when Kevin Love is out, as he relies upon LeBron James’ facilitating skills to produce. On the season, half of Frye’s made field goals have been assisted from James. Actually, Frye is sporting a respectable 20 percent usage rate and exactly one fantasy point per minute with both James and Irving on the court and Love is off.”

Frye came off the bench last game, and due to the lopsided score he finished with only 19 minutes on the night. We’ve already received news that Frye will start on Wednesday, though, which makes him a stellar value play against the Timberwolves. For every minute Frye plays alongside LeBron he becomes that much more valuable, and considering the only capable scorers in the Cavaliers’ starting lineup are James and Kyrie Irving, Frye should see plenty of opportunity to produce. If he logs close to 30 minutes against Minnesota, I have no doubt he’ll finish as one of the best fantasy point per dollar options on the night.


Yogi Ferrell is the newest guard addition for the Mavericks after Pierre Jackson was released. He logged a very surprising 35 minutes as the starting point guard on Sunday and followed that up with a monster 38-fantasy point performance in 38 minutes against the Cavs the next night. It was initially unclear how willing Rick Carlisle would be to roll him back out there for similar minutes, but now that the Mavericks beat the Spurs and Cavaliers on consecutive nights I’d be surprised to see his minutes lowered much, if at all on Wednesday.

Devin Harris is the only true backup point guard on the roster right now (assuming Seth Curry continues to see all his minutes at the two), and he isn’t going to see more than 20 minutes on any given night. This leaves Ferrell with the lion’s share of the run against Philadelphia, and he won’t need to produce much in order to pay off his price tag at $4,000 on DraftKings. Ferrell’s usage rate jumped from 12 percent on Sunday to 21.2 percent on Monday, and while his assist totals left much to be desired, it’s impossible to ignore his low-end price point when starting at the most fantasy-friendly position in basketball and playing nearly 40 MPG.


Jonas Valanciunas absolutely tormented the Celtics last time these teams met, posting 18 points, 23 rebounds and two blocks across only 28 minutes of work. At a dirt cheap price point across the board I’ll have no reservations about rolling JoVal out in GPPs, where this massive slate should keep his ownership depressed. A proficient scorer around the rim and above average rebounder, Valanciunas possesses all the necessary tools to beat up on Horford this evening. Stretch fives can struggle with the Celtics, but bigger centers will generally enjoy plenty of success if they stay around the rim. Fortunately for Valanciunas, Dwane Casey has stopped making him stray from the paint to defend, which has bolstered his fantasy totals on the season.


Caris LeVert is an interesting tournament punt for those of you who are as disgusted with the wing positions as I am on Wednesday. The rookie Michigan product has seen his fantasy totals decline of late, but his playing time has remained consistent with 26-plus minutes in three straight games. Kenny Atkinson has alluded to wanting to develop his young players over the second half of the season, so while LeVert is no lock to produce gaudy fantasy totals on Wednesday, he could certainly see another 26-28 minutes of run in a fantastic matchup with the Knicks and their piss poor defense.


CORE – Brandon Jennings; Guillermo Hernangomez [If Kristaps Porzingis is OUT]; Channing Frye; Victor Oladipo

SECONDARY – Wesley Matthews; Dirk Nowitzki; Steven Adams; Yogi Ferrell [DraftKings]

GPP – Kyle O’Quinn [If Kristaps Porzingis is OUT]; Yogi Ferrell [FanDuel]; Courtney Lee; Jonas Valanciunas; Caris LeVert