NBA Deep Dive 2/15/17

HIGH-PRICED   [$8500+]


Russell Westbrook finds his name here every time the Thunder are on the schedule; 40 percent usage, 80-fantasy point upside and a triple-double average on the season will generally do that. He faces a Knicks team that flat out sucks in all facets of the game, but they’re also playing at an elevated pace this season, creating a high-scoring atmosphere for this contest at Chesapeake Energy Arena (218 O/U). It’s really this simple: if enough value opens up on a 14-game slate, don’t hesitate to lock Westbrook in across the board. He’s a virtual lock to produce elite totals against a Derrick Rose-led backcourt, but right now we don’t have enough viable punts to make him worth using at the current time. Look at it this way: on a night with this many games, you won’t need Westbrook to win. That’s not to say you can’t win with him, though, and I’ll be choosing him over James Harden if it comes down to deciding between the two guards.


Giannis Antetokounmpo will not be contained on Wednesday. Brooklyn doesn’t have the personnel to contain him in transition or around the rim, while they also rank at or near the bottom of the league in offensive rebounding (26th), turnovers (30th) and blocks against (29th) this season. Seriously, what better matchup could Antetokounmpo draw than one with a team who coughs the rock up at a ridiculous clip, gets their own shots swatted more than all but one other team, and is allowing a bottom-five DFG% within six feet of the rim? His $10,800 price point on FanDuel and DraftKings won’t make him the easiest of plays, but there’s legitimate 60-plus-fantasy point upside in this pace-up draw with the Nets (218 O/U). Moreover, the Bucks are only 5.5-point road favorites, which should lock Antetokounmpo into upwards of 40 minutes against the fastest paced team in basketball.


Nikola Jokic further proved in Monday’s blowout win against the Warriors that he is unstoppable, posting 17 points (7-13 FG), 21 rebounds, 12 assists, two steals and 67 fantasy points across 36 minutes of work. He led the Nuggets with 106 touches and 80 passes made on the night! It’s amazing to me that Mike Malone actually brought Jokic off the bench earlier this season, even playing him for fewer than 20 MPG in certain matchups. His newly inflated price point is rather prohibitive, especially at $11,000 on FanDuel, but I don’t think he should be ignored on DraftKings for this home tilt with Minnesota.

The Timberwolves have done a miserable job of containing opposing centers this season, allowing the second highest FG% and fifth most points to the position. They’ve also struggled to protect the rim (55% FG), as Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng’s defensive woes have been well documented through three and a half months. With Malone already suggesting that Jokic and Mason Plumlee will not play much alongside each other tonight, I’d expect Jokic to see his full allotment of minutes without having to share facilitating duties with another pass-happy center.

The Timberwolves are playing their second of a back-to-back on the road, and are 6-point dogs in what’s certain to be a high-scoring affair (226 O/U). Jokic will earn every opportunity to produce his fourth straight 50-plus-fantasy point performance and his third 60-fantasy point outing in his last four starts. Don’t ignore him solely due to a price increase, as he’s earned the attention with some brilliant recent play.


Kawhi Leonard continues to go overlooked despite his extraordinary play. This is something I’ve been harping on lately, and Wednesday’s road tilt with Orlando is no different, as Leonard will draw yet another opportunity to produce elite fantasy totals in a premiere matchup. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year has tallied 32-plus points in four straight starts while averaging 52.1 FPPG in that span. Actually, Leonard has racked up 30 or more points in 11 of his last 15 games, while failing to eclipse the 40-fantasy point mark only once over that stretch. He is legitimately one of the safest options in basketball, making for a strong cash game option but also a stellar GPP play with inexplicably low ownership on most nights.

Orlando won’t have the personnel to contain Leonard on Wednesday, as Aaron Gordon continues to improve as a defender but still has many holes in his game. Serge Ibaka is no longer around to defend the rim, and Terrence Ross, assuming he plays, has never been known for his defense. To break this down in more simpler terms, Leonard should not be $8,900 on DraftKings. He’s sporting a 31 percent usage rate, averages nearly 1.3 FPPM and is top-10 in steals with 1.8 per game. I’m willing to entertain the thought of deploying him at $9,900 on FanDuel, but the real value comes on DraftKings where he is significantly underpriced.


Hassan Whiteside, for the first time in a long time, is beginning to look healthy again. He suffered through a span of 15 games between December and January where he failed to register more than two blocks in a contest, while his field goal percentage at the rim ballooned to an uncharacteristically high rate. Over his last seven starts, however, Whiteside is averaging 17.4 points, 16.2 rebounds, 2.7 Stocks and 44 fantasy points per game, while posting 42-plus fantasy points all but twice in that span.

Wednesday’s matchup with the Rockets places him in another position to excel, as Houston lacks size in their frontcourt and won’t be able to contain him down low. Not only is Houston allowing a league-worst 1.16 PPP to roll men in the pick-and-roll, but they’re coughing up the most points in the paint to their opponents this season. Moreover, the Rockets’ lightning-fast pace of play will open the door for more rebounds, blocked shots and putback points due to the increased possessions. Whiteside can hang in uptempo affairs, and I expect him to drop 50-plus fantasy points on the Rockets this evening if Miami can keep things semi-competitive.


LeBron James warrants plenty of consideration with Kevin Love sidelined, as he’s proven that back-to-backs won’t hinder his production even in his 14th NBA campaign. Actually, James is averaging more points and minutes on B2Bs than he is on island games this season, so the lack of rest shouldn’t be much of a concern. With a 5.5-point spread and a whopping 219.5-point total, there’s no reason LeBron should disappoint on Wednesday. 32 percent usage, upwards of 40 minutes and virtually no scoring outside of himself, Kyrie Irving and Channing Frye (who relies solely on James’ facilitating to produce) will propel him to yet another strong performance against the Pacers and Paul George’s career-worst defense.


CORE – Giannis Antetokounmpo; Kawhi Leonard [DraftKings]; Hassan Whiteside

SECONDARY – Russell Westbrook; Nikola Jokic [DraftKings]; LeBron James

GPP – Kawhi Leonard [FanDuel]; Kevin Durant


MID-RANGE   [$5900-$8500]


Rudy Gobert finds himself in a phenomenal spot against the Blazer, who following the loss of Mason Plumlee are left with an unsightly center rotation of Ed Davis, Jusuf Nurkic and Meyers Leonard, none of whom will be able to contend with Gobert on the glass. Nurkic could earn decent run in his Blazers debut, but he’s been a miserable rim protector (56.2 DFG%) and lacks any semblance of athleticism. Davis gives away several inches to Gobert, and although Leonard has the height, he’s a dismal rebounder who refuses to play a physical game around the basket. Gobert is one of the more moderately priced centers on this 14-game slate, and the matchup with Portland will create more peripheral opportunities in the form of rebounds and blocks. At $7,400 on DraftKings and $7,700 on FanDuel, Gobert should be a core cash game option across the industry.


Draymond Green remains underpriced despite routinely showcasing his ability to churn out monster fantasy lines without having to score double-digit points. His floor has been lower than we’d prefer lately, but I don’t expect that to be a concern on Wednesday when the Warriors host the Kings. The only concern, here, however, is the looming blowout about to take place inside the Oracle. Golden State will look to take out their aggression against an unwitting Kings squad after being embarrassed by the Nuggets on Monday, and they will likely blow their doors off by the end of the first half. Having said that, Green draws an optimal matchup against this depleted Sacramento team that’s playing their second of a back-to-back on the road. I’m willing to roll the dice on Green seeing around 32 minutes, as that should be all he needs to get the job done this evening.


Will Barton could be locked into another 40 minutes of work on Wednesday if Wilson Chandler remains sidelined, as Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur have already been ruled out. Emmanuel Mudiay has also missed five straight games, and it would seem logical to keep both him and Chandler out with Denver playing their last game before the All-Star break. Barton, assuming he draws another start at the three, should have no trouble producing against a T-Wolves squad that allows the second highest FG% and 3PT% to opposing small forwards this season.

Barton isn’t exactly a threat to post triple-doubles, but he’s more than capable of stuffing the stat sheet in this high-scoring affair. The sample is small, but in 40 minutes with each of the aforementioned names off the court, Barton is sporting a 28 percent usage rate with 1.14 FPPM and a respectable 25 percent assist rate. If Chandler remains out, Barton needs to be viewed as a top option across the board, and especially on FanDuel where he remains at only $6,400.

UPDATE: Wilson Chandler and Emmanuel Mudiay are OUT on Wednesday. Lock Barton in.


Steven Adams makes for a great lower mid-range play on Wednesday, facing a Knicks squad that coughs up Goliath fantasy totals to opposing bigs. You would think that Joakim Noah’s absence might help New York shore up their interior defense, but since he’s been out the Knicks are coughing up a whopping 62.3 percent shooting with the most points allowed to the center position. Adams hasn’t been stellar in Enes Kanter’s absence, but he continues to log huge minutes as Oklahoma City’s only true center. Billy Donovan will be forced to run him for heavy minutes again on Wednesday, as the Knicks utilize two bigs in the frontcourt at all times and the Thunder will have no reserves to combat their size. Jump on Adams now while everyone is jumping off. There’s a 40-fantasy point game coming very shortly.


LaMarcus Aldridge shouldn’t be confused with the elite fantasy producer he was in Portland, but a plummeting price point should keep him firmly in play on Wednesday. There are a few things to love about Aldridge in this road tilt with Orlando: first, Frank Vogel has already suggested that the Magic will play a lot of small ball. This could help Aldridge in one of two ways: he’ll either draw mismatches at the four where he’ll have no trouble knocking down his patented elbow jumper and backing them down in the post, or he’ll see extended run at the five if Popovich decides to match Orlando. Either way, Aldridge should have no trouble scoring easy buckets in this matchup, while his rebounding totals should climb in the process. He makes for a phenomenal play at $6,300 on DraftKings, while his $7,300 tag on FanDuel also creates some appeal.


Al Horford is facing the Joel Embiid-less Sixers on Wednesday. Need I say more? Centers are routinely victimizing Philadelphia with Embiid sidelined, and Horford should have an even easier time doing so this evening with Jahlil Okafor back in the rotation. I prefer using big, physical centers against Nerlens Noel, but Horford’s rotation will have him on the court with Okafor for close to half of his minutes.

This should come as no surprise by now, but the Sixers are ceding the most rebounds, fourth most points, fifth most blocks, third highest FG% and highest efficiency to opposing centers since Embiid hit the shelf. Horford not only has nice range for a center, but he also ranks top-10 in post points this season. There are many ways for Horford to produce against this dreadful Philly frontcourt, and at $6,800 on both FanDuel and DraftKings, we won’t need a career game for him to finish the job.


Jeff Teague is in a prime spot to churn out stellar fantasy totals on Wednesday, facing a Cavaliers team that allows the most points to ball handlers in the pick-and-roll and is playing their second of a back-to-back. Most will ignore Teague on a 14-game slate, especially considering he’s been posting pedestrian fantasy totals of late, but at a low-$7K price point he could be a difference maker in GPPs. I’ll certainly have some exposure to Teague, as he should be able to exploit the putrid defense of Kyrie Irving in what’s projected to be a competitive (CLE -5.5), high-scoring affair (219.5 O/U) in Cleveland.


Ricky Rubio is maybe the worst shooting point guard in basketball, but he’s also one of the best distributors, as evidenced by Tuesday’s 16-assist performance against the Cavs. He’ll draw another opportunity to rack up the dimes this evening against the Nuggets and their fifth fastest pace of play. In a game that boasts a 226 O/U at the Pepsi Center, Rubio figures to have legitimate triple-double upside here, as even he should be able to generate some scoring against the Nuggets deplorable backcourt defense. 35-plus minutes in one of the highest scoring contests of the night should be enough to deploy him in all formats.


Paul Millsap faces a Clippers team that ranks dead last in DRtg since Chris Paul hit the shelf in mid-January. L.A. has fallen apart at the seams at nearly every position without Paul’s anchoring of the defense, and with this game owning a close spread (LAC -3) and a solid total (213.5 O/U), Millsap should earn every opportunity to produce across 36-plus minutes of work. Julius Randle also makes for an intriguing GPP play at the power forward position. He’ll be virtually unowned after Luke Walton benched him and most of the starters against the Kings, but 30 minutes of work against Phoenix should be enough to get the job done. This game owns the highest total on the night at 226.5 points.


CORE – Rudy Gobert; Will Barton [If Wilson Chandler is OUT]; LaMarcus Aldridge [DraftKings]

SECONDARY – Draymond Green; Steven Adams; LaMarcus Aldridge [FanDuel]; Al Horford; Ricky Rubio; Paul Millsap; Kyle Lowry

GPP – Jeff Teague; Eric Bledsoe; Devin Booker; Julius Randle; Klay Thompson


VALUE   [$3000-$5800]


Juancho Hernangomez makes for a solid play on Wednesday, but he is not the lock he was on Monday before Mason Plumlee joined the rotation. The Nuggets will be without Chandler, Gallinari, Faried, Arthur and Mudiay this evening, so Hernangomez will definitely see 30-plus minutes of work. That being said, he is no longer minimum salary and will also have to compete with Plumlee for minutes. I have him as a secondary play right now until we get some clarification on Denver’s starting lineup. Moreover, Minnesota uses a big frontcourt duo of Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns, so Malone could feasibly run Plumlee and Jokic together for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, we’ve received mixed signals on whether or not he will pair them, as several different sources have cited conflicting reports.

Mason Plumlee is $4,000 on DraftKings, and needs to be considered in all formats. Even if he only plays 23 minutes, which seems like a low-end estimate, he should do enough to eclipse value at this price point. Plumlee is averaging 1.07 FPPM on the season, so at $4K in a 226 O/U game against the T-Wolves he will have a very tough time disappointing. The only concern here, however, is Mike Malone has never been someone to keep his word, so we’ll have to roll the dice and hope Plumlee gets the minutes. The lack of personnel and matchup with Minnesota should guarantee him at least decent run, though, and Plumlee will almost certainly soak up all of the backup center minutes behind Jokic.


Aaron Gordon may finally get moved back to the four where he’s always belonged. As a player who offers supreme athleticism, elite bounce and the ability to play above the rim but can’t shoot worth a lick, Gordon needs to get more run at power forward, and hopefully Serge Ibaka’s departure will facilitate that move going forward. Frank Vogel also noted that he plans on playing a lot of small ball Wednesday, which means Gordon could log big minutes at the four. He won’t be able to stop LaMarcus Aldridge, but he’s Orlando’s best shot of slowing him down. So at a mid-$4K salary across the board, Gordon makes plenty of sense as a low-owned tournament pivot. I’ll certainly have plenty of exposure here in GPPs.


Rondae Hollis-Jefferson should see 30-plus minutes if Trevor Booker is unable to play, as they have been splitting the power forward minutes down the middle since Booker was moved to the bench. RHJ isn’t a strong FPPM producer, but Kenny Atkinson is going to need his defense against Giannis Antetokounmpo and a fair amount of perimeter shooting wings for Milwaukee. Hollis-Jefferson has fallen to $4,000 on DraftKings, making him well worth a look if Booker is unable to take the court.


Jameer Nelson isn’t worth using at $6K on DraftKings, but his $5,300 salary on FanDuel is still very appealing. The Nuggets are so short on bodies that Nelson will likely see yet another 35 minutes with Mudiay already ruled out. This game owns a behemoth 226-point total, and although the Nuggets are 6-point favorites at home, I have a tough time believing this game doesn’t remain incredibly close throughout. Gary Harris also remains in play despite his paltry production of late. I’d expect him to see around 35 minutes on Wednesday, and there is nothing about the defense of Brandon Rush that should scare any of us away.


Kelly Olynyk is going to go largely overlooked on such a large slate, but I love him for GPPs in this home matchup with the Sixers. Consider this: Olynyk is already seeing close to 30 MPG over his last two outings, and he’ll figure to get some additional run if Boston blows the Sixers out. Furthermore, Horford will be the more popular center option here, but Olynyk is more than capable of dropping 30-plus fantasy points at half the cost. As a stretch center who can knock down threes but also clean up around the rim against weak interiors, Olynyk should demolish Philadelphia. He’ll likely play the bulk of his minutes against Jahlil Okafor, who can’t defend perimeter-shooting bigs and also can’t protect the rim. Olynyk is actually one of my favorites tournament options on Wednesday night, and I’m not sure he’ll be on the radar for many.


Greg Monroe is one of the most volatile fantasy options around, but he also possesses fantastic upside when provided sufficient run. Jason Kidd has been willing to give Monroe minutes over the last two games, and he’s rewarded him with excellent performances in both. The Nets own bottom-five marks in nearly every relevant statistical category against the center position, and they don’t have a single player on their roster capable of contending with Monroe in the post. Monroe makes for an elite boom-or-bust fantasy option against one of the league’s most heinous defenses.


CORE – Mason Plumlee [DraftKings]; Juancho Hernangomez [FanDuel]

SECONDARY – Juancho Hernangomez [DraftKings]; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson; Jameer Nelson [FanDuel]; Gary Harris; T.J. McConnell

GPP – Aaron Gordon; Kelly Olynyk; Greg Monroe