NBA Deep Dive 2/24/17


HIGH-PRICED   [$8400+]


Russell Westbrook’s astronomical price tag makes him a very difficult fit on Friday, as he accounts for 26 percent of total cap space on DraftKings and 21.2 percent of the allotted salary on FanDuel. Anything below 70 fantasy points would be a disappointing outcome, but we’re really targeting an 80-fantasy point game on DraftKings where six times his salary equates to a whopping 78 DKPTs. Having said that, Westbrook offers more upside on DraftKings than he does on FanDuel, as the triple-double and three-point bonuses raise his ceiling while the boatload of turnovers aren’t nearly as destructive.

Friday’s matchup with the Lakers is undeniably stellar. On the season, L.A. has coughed up top five marks to opposing backcourts in points (26th), assists (30th), field goal percentage (29th), three-point percentage (29th) and efficiency (27th). They simply don’t have any personnel capable of containing Westbrook in any facet of the game, and won’t be able to impede his progress at the rim where their 57.7 FG% allowed ranks dead last in basketball. Moreover, the Lakers play at the league’s sixth fastest pace and own the second worst defensive rating as a team.

Westbrook draws an uptempo matchup (221.5 O/U) that should facilitate a monster performance, but the concern of a blowout is worth considering. I’ll be deploying him in tournaments but there isn’t enough low-end value available to trust him in cash. Even Westbrook will need a full helping of minutes on Friday to pay off such an exorbitant salary.


Jimmy Butler is no longer a mid-range small forward option, but I’m expecting him to post elite fantasy totals against the Suns, mitigating that $9K-plus salary on Friday. Phoenix traded away their best wing defender in P.J. Tucker before the deadline, so now they’ll be relying on the likes of T.J. Warren and Jared Dudley to deal with Butler. The Suns play at a lightning-fast pace (4th) and sport a bottom-four defensive rating on the season, so Butler should have no trouble torching them with ease. Whether he carves Phoenix up in transition or takes them to school in isolation, Butler will have every opportunity to produce in this matchup.

This is one scenario where I’m willing to pay a premium for Butler despite Dwyane Wade also being healthy. There should be more than enough scoring to go around in what’s projected to be a high-scoring affair, and the departure of both Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson should lock Butler into 40-plus minutes if the Suns can keep things competitive.


Karl-Anthony Towns won’t benefit from an elevated pace on Friday, but he still draws a strong matchup against a Mavericks team that won’t have the services of Nerlens Noel until Saturday at the earliest. Towns hasn’t seen his production decline much in lower projected scoring games, and Dallas simply doesn’t have the personnel in their frontcourt to slow him down. He’ll see some combination of Dirk Nowitzki, who’s allowing 54 percent shooting at the rim, and Salah Mejri, who isn’t mobile enough to contain him anywhere outside of the paint.

Towns has been seeing big minutes at power forward, and Rick Carlisle won’t be able to stick Harrison Barnes on him and expect positive results. Towns creates a matchup nightmare for the Mavs, who ironically enough really could’ve used Nerlens Noel’s services to neutralizes his production. I simply don’t see any way Carlisle can scheme against Towns, whose inexplicable spike in production at home this season makes him that much more appealing on Friday.


Nikola Jokic logged only 25:31 minutes in a blowout loss to the Kings last night — yes, the Cousins-less Kings who just gave away the farm for an uninspiring return in talent blew out the Nuggets in their first post-trade contest — but it wasn’t his total playing time that concerned me most. Jokic logged less than 12 minutes in the first half while Mason Plumlee saw nearly 13 minutes off the bench. Denver is getting healthy now, and I worry that Jokic will no longer be seeing 35-plus minutes per game. Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Juancho Hernangomez and Plumlee are all healthy, so the Nuggets went from being absolutely gutted to having more than enough bodies in a span of one week.

I’ll have some exposure to Jokic in tournaments, but his near $11K price tag on both FanDuel and DraftKings concerns me quite a bit. Sure, the Nets are a miserable basketball team, leading the league in pace and ranking 28th in defensive efficiency, but will Jokic receive enough run to pay off his salary? He’s more than capable of dropping 60-plus fantasy points in this matchup, and shouldn’t be too tired after playing only 25 minutes on Thursday, but I’d caution you to at least consider the circumstances before blindly deploying him across the board. Mike Malone is one of the most unpredictable coaches in the game, especially now that the Nuggets are healthy enough for him to get “creative.”


Kyle Lowry generally isn’t the sexy play at a routinely deep point guard position, but he makes for a stellar option against the Celtics on Friday. Avery Bradley is doubtful to play after going through only one-third of Thursday’s practice, which means the Celtics will have to rely on Isaiah Thomas’ scoring to get the win. Boston is an eye-popping 12 points better per 100 possessions when Thomas is on the court, but their defensive rating balloons from 99.5 to 109.5 in the process. To put this in context, Boston would rank first overall in defensive efficiency if Thomas didn’t play, but his scoring is so important that they amazingly still have a positive net rating when he’s on the court. Ultimately Lowry benefits from this most, as he should be able to torch Thomas without hesitation. In a game that owns a 3.5-point spread and a respectable 215.5 total, Lowry makes for one of the safest plays on the board and should see another 38-40 minutes of work at home.


CORE – Jimmy Butler; Kyle Lowry

SECONDARY – Karl-Anthony Towns; John Wall

GPP – Russell Westbrook; Nikola Jokic; Isaiah Thomas


MID-RANGE   [$5900-$8300]


Dwyane Wade is quietly enjoying another solid season from a fantasy perspective, and he should continue to produce on Friday against the Suns. Not only is phoenix allowing more points to opposing shooting guards than any other team, but they don’t have any guards capable of effectively limiting Wade. Devin Booker owns a miserable 116 DRtg, Eric Bledsoe’s reputation as a stout defender is a fallacy, and P.J. Tucker is no longer around to lessen the blow. Two-guards are shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 44.5 percent from beyond the arc against Phoenix, both of which lead the league.

The Suns have surrendered the most points and points per possession in transition, while ceding the second most points to ball handlers in the pick-and-roll. Wade should systematically carve them up in what is arguably his best matchup of the season, and he remains affordable enough to roster with confidence across the industry.


Marcin Gortat has been far less reliable since the start of the new year, but Friday’s matchup with Philadelphia should place him back in early-season form. The Sixers unloaded both Ersan Ilyasova and Nerlens Noel at the trade deadline, which leaves them with Jahlil Okafor, Richaun Holmes and Dario Saric to man the frontcourt while Joel Embiid remains sidelined. This opens the door to big production for Gortat, who will have no trouble racking up rebounds and easy putback opportunities throughout the night.

The Sixers are allowing 57 percent shooting at the rim since Embiid went down in late January, while serving up the most rebounds, seconds highest field goal percentage and the highest efficiency to opposing centers over that span. At a mid-$6K price point, Gortat makes for one of the best mid-range options on this 10-game slate.


Dario Saric planted his flag firmly into America’s soil this month, averaging 16 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and 30 fantasy points per game through nine February outings. He is quickly acclimating to life in the NBA and only continues to improve, as the Croatian forward went into the All-Star break posting 38-plus fantasy points in four consecutive games. Saric’s 28 MPG in February was serviceable, but the absence of Noel, Ilyasova and Embiid should significantly bolster his playing time going forward, especially considering he’s primed to start Friday’s home tilt with Washington.

Despite his elevated price point across the industry, Saric should earn more than enough opportunity to produce against the Wizards. Philadelphia’s frontcourt is devoid of healthy bodies, leaving them with only three bigs to rotate through two positions. Saric is a lock to see north of 30 minutes on Friday, and he couldn’t draw a better matchup than this one with the Wizards, who have served up top five marks to opposing power forwards in points (29th), rebounds (27th), FG% (29th), 3PT% (29th) and efficiency (29th) this season. Robert Covington also makes sense as a secondary small forward play, as he’ll log big minutes in a game that I’m expecting to stay competitive throughout.


DeMar DeRozan hasn’t been stellar since returning from injury, but that decline in production has worked in our favor, effectively lowering his salary across the industry. Avery Bradley will miss yet another start as he recovers from an Achilles injury, so DeRozan will draw an easier matchup with Marcus Smart, who still has plenty of holes in his defensive game. This is more of a price play than anything else though, as DeRozan could log upwards of 38 minutes in what’s projected to be a competitive (TOR -3.5), high-scoring (215.5 O/U) affair at Air Canada Centre. Any player who sports a usage rate north of 34 percent and attempts 21 field goals per game should be firmly in play at $7,800 on DraftKings and $8,100 on FanDuel.


Paul Millsap has been one of the more consistent power forward options this season and pretty much every season since coming to Atlanta. He usually always makes for a reliable mid-range play at his position, but Millsap becomes even more enticing on Friday with Dennis Schroder suspended. On the season, Millsap owns a 23.8 percent usage rate and a 16.8 percent assist rate with 1.07 FPPG with Schroder on the floor. With Schroder sidelined, Millsap’s usage spikes to 27.3 percent while his assist rate and FPPM production jump to 20.3 percent and 1.23, respectively.

At $7,400 on DraftKings and $7,700 on FanDuel, there’s no reason not to consider Millsap in this home tilt with Miami, especially considering the Heat have struggled to defend opposing fours since suffering  injuries to key defensive forwards. This game won’t see a ton of scoring (208.5 O/U), but it should remain competitive throughout (ATL -3.5), subsequently putting Millsap in line to see upwards of 38 minutes of work.


The center position is an interesting one on Friday, as we are presented with a number of mid-range options who all possess considerable upside. Marc Gasol is well underpriced on DraftKings at $7,700, and I’m expecting him to take the inexperienced Myles Turner to work. Gasol is an ultra-talented post scorer (6.6 post points per game leads league), while Indiana ranks 27th in both points and points per possession allowed in the post this season. The slow pace doesn’t concern me at all, either, as Memphis has always operated at a snail’s pace and this contest owns a 1.5-point spread at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Expect another strong game from the three-time All-Star center.

Rudy Gobert also draws a strong matchup against a Bucks team that has crumbled against centers of late. Milwaukee’s interior defense has been dismal since Jason Kidd changed the frontcourt rotation after Jabari Parker’s injury, and Gobert should have no trouble exploiting them around the rim. John Henson is their only viable defensive big and he has received three straight DNP-CD’s, so it’s reasonable to think Thon Maker and Greg Monroe stand no chance of slowing him down.

Brook Lopez is a difficult player to analyze as we can’t predict his playing time from night to night. Kenny Atkinson has been limiting Lopez’s minutes at times, while other times he logs a full allotment of minutes in competitive games. The matchup with Denver is strong, though, and this game should easily be the highest scoring of any contest on Friday’s 10-game slate (232 O/U). As long as the altitude inside the Pepsi Center doesn’t negatively affect his play, Lopez could be the difference maker in GPPs.


CORE – Dwyane Wade; Marcin Gortat; Dario Saric

SECONDARY – Robert Covington; DeMar DeRozan; Paul Millsap; Marc Gasol; Rudy Gobert

GPP – Brook Lopez; D’Angelo Russell


VALUE   [$3000-$5800]


Malcolm Delaney will be the chalk value on Friday, but there’s no reason to fade him based on ownership alone. Dennis Schroder’s suspension will thrust Delaney into the starting lineup in a game that owns a 3.5-point spread in Atlanta, and unless Tim Hardaway gets some run at the point — Hardaway will likely play decent minute at point guard now that Thabo Sefolosha is healthy — the Hawks don’t have anyone capable of siphoning minutes away from Delaney. At minimum salary across the industry, Delaney easily makes for the top overall value play on Friday’s slate. There’s simply no need to overthink this. Moreover, Delaney was the type of value we needed in order to play Russell Westbrook, if that’s your type of thing.


Jahlil Okafor dismantled the Wizards the last time these teams met, posting 26 points on 10-16 shooting, while coming one rebound shy of a double-double across 35 minutes of work. The Sixers’ lottery bust finished with 40 fantasy points that night, and was seeing his first action since receiving a string of consecutive DNP-CDs. Okafor finds himself in a similar position on Friday, having played only once since February 9th, but now he won’t be vying for minutes with Nerlens Noel in the frontcourt. The Sixers are so thin that Okafor could log 30-plus minutes in a strong matchup with Washington, and his $4,500 price tag on FanDuel is very difficult to resist.


Enes Kanter makes for a very sneaky GPP play against the Lakers, as he’ll go virtually unowned in his first game back since losing a battle to a chair on the bench. Not only do the Lakers lack interior defense and any semblance of rim protection, but they’re also double-digit road dogs and just traded away their best scorer in Lou Williams. Meanwhile, the Thunder shipped Joffrey Lauvergne to Chicago, which should free up minutes for Kanter is Taj Gibson doesn’t play. I’ll have decent exposure to Kanter if Gibson sits, as he possesses ample upside in a phenomenal matchup and shouldn’t be limited since his injury wasn’t to his lower body.


Jordan Clarkson should see extended run now that Lou Williams is in Houston and Tyler Ennis won’t be making his Lakers debut. Marcelo Huertas is also gone, not that it matters, so Clarkson could easily log 30-plus minutes against the Thunder. Oklahoma City has struggled to defend opposing point guard, where Clarkson should see a fair share of his minutes, and even if this game develops into a blowout he won’t be affected. Clarkson is always one of the more volatile options from a fantasy perspective, but he’s capable of getting hot when provided the run.


Dirk Nowitzki has flashed some vintage skills of late, averaging 37.4 fantasy points per game over his last five starts. He’s logged 30-plus minutes in all but two of those games and 29 minutes in another, so his $5,500 price tag on DraftKings seems very reasonable against Minnesota. The Timberwolves frontcourt defense has struggled mightily this season, and neither Towns or Dieng will be able to contain Dirk across a full 48 minutes. He’s always a risky proposition, but Dirk definitely makes sense in all formats on DraftKings and GPPs on FanDuel. This game will almost certainly stay competitive, too, so Nowitzki has a real shot of eclipsing 30 minutes for the fourth time in six games.


Jeremy Lin is a fade for me on Friday even though the matchup is incredibly tempting. He hasn’t played since December 26th and now he’ll have to make his return in Denver, where the altitude can be quite problematic. Take into consideration the fact that his stamina is limited after being out for two months and combine that with Atkinson’s propensity for limiting his guards’ minutes, and Lin has a lot more risk than I’m willing to roll the dice on. The matchup is fantastic, but the venue is literally the worst possible place for Lin to return to action.


CORE – Malcolm Delaney; Jahlil Okafor [FanDuel]

SECONDARY – Jahlil Okafor [DraftKings]; Dirk Nowitzki [DraftKings]

GPP – Tim Hardaway Jr.; Enes Kanter [If Taj Gibson is OUT]; Jordan Clarkson; Dirk Nowitzki [FanDuel]; Nikola Mirotic