NBA Deep Dive 2/27/17


HIGH-PRICED   [$8400+]

NOTE: Monday’s high-priced plays are almost entirely dependent on injuries, as there are at least five players in this tier whose values are tied to injuries in some way or another. It’s difficult to make any concrete decisions until we have clarification on a number of statuses, but we’ll do our best to break down these scenarios and prepare either outcome.

Isaiah Thomas should continue to shoulder the load on Monday with Avery Bradley likely missing one more game before finally making his long anticipated return. The pint-sized point guard is sporting a 36 percent usage rate with a 33 percent assist rate and 1.35 fantasy points per minute when Bradley is sidelined this season, while averaging a whopping 33 points per 36 minutes in the process. Atlanta’s primary defensive weakness has been at the point guard position, and Thomas will have no trouble exploiting them in what’s set to be a competitive affair in Boston. My only concern here is the Hawks’ dreadful play of late, having lost each of their last three games by an average margin of 17.3 points.

Assuming Bradley sits this one out, Thomas needs to be considered a top option at $8,700 on DraftKings but also a very strong play on FanDuel at $9,300. He’s simply too involved offensively to ignore at a semi-depressed price point, and believe it or not, Thomas is averaging more points and minutes on back-to-backs than he is on island games this season.


DeMar DeRozan has been phenomenal with Kyle Lowry sidelined this season, and considering Dwane Casey stated just three days ago that his starting point guard was out indefinitely, it’s hard to believe he’ll take the court Monday against New York. Oddly enough, Lowry was listed as questionable last night before ultimately being ruled out, so we’ll need to wait and see what his status is for tonight’s tilt with the Knicks. In the event that Lowry is unable to play, however, DeRozan would become a top shooting guard option across the industry. The shooting guard position is devoid of talent on this seven-game slate, so unless you’re paying for James Harden in what will be a high-scoring game (231 O/U) with some risk of a blowout (HOU – 10), there aren’t many places to turn.

DeRozan’s numbers with Lowry off the court are eye-popping, as he boasts a 42 percent usage rate with 1.36 FPPM across a 545-minute sample this season. He’s attempting north of 25 field goal attempts per 36 when Lowry is out, and the arrival of Serge Ibaka will do nothing to change his massive shot volume against the Knicks. DeRozan is no longer cheap, but he should tune the Knicks up with relative ease on Monday, both in isolation and in the pick-and-roll, while having no trouble producing at the rim where New York will likely be without both of their starting bigs.


Kyrie Irving is yet another player whose value is contingent upon a teammate’s status, as LeBron James surprisingly missed Monday’s shootaround and is questionable to play against the Bucks. If James misses a second consecutive start, Irving will need to be viewed as a stellar play despite his rising price point. The sixth-year point guard exploded against the Bulls on Saturday, posting a near triple-double with 34 points (13-25 FG/2-10 3PT/6-7 FT), nine rebound, seven assists and 58 fantasy points across 35 minutes of work. Expect to see more of this against Milwaukee if James’ illness keeps him out; Irving is sporting a Goliath 42 percent usage rate with a 41 percent assist rate and 1.43 FPPM across 512 minutes with james and Kevin Love sidelined since the start of last season.

Irving is no longer weighing in at an appealing price point, and the Bucks have done a quality job at containing opposing point guards, but it’s hard to ignore the massive volume he’ll inherit on Monday. If nothing else, Irving will earn every opportunity to produce in what’s projected to be a relatively high-scoring affair, as the Cavaliers simply don’t have the offensive weapons to stay competitive without him. Ultimately, we have three guards in Irving, Thomas and DeRozan whose values are all contingent upon a teammate being sidelined. All three of them are top options if the stars happen to align this evening.


Karl-Anthony Towns hammered the Rockets on Saturday, racking up 37 points and a career-high 22 rebounds for 73 fantasy points in the Timberwolves 130-142 loss. We’ll further discuss the importance of this in the mid-range section, but for now let’s talk about Towns and his matchup with the Kings. Following the departure of DeMarcus Cousins and the waiving of Matt Barnes, Sacramento is left with Kosta Koufos, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and Anthony Tolliver to man the frontcourt. They simply don’t have the personnel, or the talent, to contain Towns in a game where Minnesota is a 5-point road favorite.

Here’s what we know: Towns is a lock to play between 37-39 minutes in a semi-competitive game, and is sporting a very serviceable 28.4 percent usage rate since Zach LaVine hit the shelf. That alone is enough to consider him against a Kings team that will struggle to both contain him in the paint and rebound without Cousins. Towns is one of the safer high-end plays on Monday night.


Stephen Curry’s Warriors are 13.5-point road favorites against the Sixers team that recently traded Nerlens Noel and Ersan Ilyasova, while announcing Joel Embiid will be sidelined indefinitely. No one would be surprised to see this game end at halftime, but I also wouldn’t be shocked to see Philadelphia’s gritty style of play keep them competitive for three-plus quarters at home. Curry makes for an intriguing tournament option now that Kevin Durant is expected to take the court, as most people will ignore him at a deep point guard position. If the Sixers can stay within 13 or so points heading into the final frame, Curry will almost certainly see his full allotment of minutes, and that’s enough to like him in GPPs where ownership will undoubtedly be depressed.


CORE – Isaiah Thomas [DraftKings – If Avery Bradley is OUT]; DeMar DeRozan [If Kyle Lowry is OUT]; Kyrie Irving [If LeBron James is OUT]

SECONDARY – Isaiah Thomas [FanDuel]; Karl-Anthony Towns

GPP – James Harden; Stephen Curry


MID-RANGE   [$5900-$8300]


Paul George has been a colossal disappointment this season, seeing a decline in literally every relevant statistical category while appearing especially lost in each of the Pacers’ last four games. There’s no denying the risk associated with rostering George right now, but Monday’s road tilt with Houston places him in a phenomenal spot to bounce back after a string of putrid performances. The Rockets’ offense has rivaled Golden State for the top spot in basketball, ranking second in points (115 PPG) and ORtg (112.0) this season. Defense, however, has been modest at best, allowing the sixth most points per game which is mainly the result of an elevated pace of play (4th).

George hasn’t been particularly effective in any offensive category this season, but at $7,700 on DraftKings and $7,800 on FanDuel he won’t require a monster performance in order to impress. He’s still sporting a 28 percent usage rate, and in games where he doesn’t get ejected, George is consistently logging north of 35 minutes of work. Houston’s run-and-gun, three-point-slinging, wide-open style of play facilitates big fantasy performances to their opposition, and they don’t need to be efficient in order to finish the job. I’ll take the over on eight three-point attempts for George on a night where he’ll be able to play in transition and jack up 20-plus field goal attempts. The 231-point total attached to this game is simply too enticing to ignore.


Myles Turner might be my favorite overall play on Monday night, facing a Rockets team that’s been mutilated by opposing bigs night after night. I mentioned earlier that we’d get back to Karl-Anthony Towns’ eruption vs. Houston over the weekend, and here we are: he carved them up with virtually no resistance shooting 16-24 from the field, while hauling in a ridiculous 68 percent of contested rebounds on the night. Towns hasn’t been the only center to victimize the Rockets, though, as DeMarcus Cousins (27/14/5/5/4), Hassan Whiteside (23/14/1/5), Alex Len (13/9/2/1 – 20 MPG), Nikola Vucevic (14/19/4/3/1), Robin Lopez (7/11/2/0/2) and Dwight Howard (23/24/3/1/2) have been the other starting centers to face them this month.

Turner isn’t the best rebounding big man, but he’s a skilled shot blocker and polished scorer for his age. Houston simply doesn’t have the size to contain opposing centers, but they also play at such a fast pace that the athletic Turner should benefit from transition points and added peripheral scoring opportunities. At $6,100 on DraftKings and $6,500 on FanDuel, Turner easily makes for one of the best lower mid-range options on this seven-game slate.


Dario Saric is on pace to lock up the Rookie of the Year award now that Joel Embiid’s return seems unlikely. Over his last six games the Croatian forward is averaging a 20.3-point, 10.3-rebound double-double with 2.9 assists and 41.4 fantasy points per game, while his two post-All-Star break starts since the departure of Ilyasova and Noel have been even more impressive (20 PTS, 13 REB, 4.5 AST, 43.8 FP, 36.5 MPG). Assuming Brett Brown continues to run the surging rookie for ~35 MPG, there’s no reason we should be ignoring him. Saric is sporting a 26 percent usage rate with 1.17 FPPM in his last two starts, and he’ll continue to be the Sixers’ offensive focal point with Embiid and Simmons out.

I’d be lying if I told you this matchup with Golden State doesn’t concern me, but the power forward position doesn’t offer many mid-range alternatives. Paul Millsap draws a quality matchup with Boston, but he and the entire Hawks team have been dreadful of late, inspiring little confidence in those of us looking to roll the dice. Draymond Green has been even worse, and an apparent clash with head coach Steve Kerr has done nothing to help his cause. I do, however, think Green makes for an elite tournament play on a night where he’ll go largely overlooked due to a lack of recent production. He’s going to log quality minutes at the five when Zaza Pachulia is off the court, and no team has been hemorrhaging fantasy points to opposing centers like Philadelphia since Embiid hit the shelf. Green definitely makes for a risky play as we can’t predict how Kerr is going to use him, but if he does in fact see his normal allotment of minutes, Green should demolish this Jahlil Okafor-led frontcourt.


Dwight Howard and Dennis Schroder also make for strong tournament options, but I’m not willing to use them in cash with Atlanta’s recent play resembling that of the Nets. Howard’s rebounding should pad his totals against this undersized Boston frontcourt that’s been victimized on the glass, but his absence of shooting has been a major deterrent. Howard has attempted single-digit field goal attempts in nine of 10 games this month, finishing with 11 or fewer points eight times in that span. He’ll need to knock down 70-plus percent of his shots to be productive even though the rebounding should be elite.

Schroder came off the bench in his return from a one-game suspension, finishing with a respectable 31 fantasy points across 31 minutes of work in a blowout loss to Orlando. He would’ve played more than 31 minutes had Atlanta kept things even remotely close, but the clean up crew came in to mop up during garbage time. Schroder attempted 17 shots and was clearly Mike Budenholzer’s favorite point guard option after Malcolm Delaney squandered opportunities to impress. If he moves back into the starting lineup I’m willing to deploy Schroder in cash, as Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics have struggled mightily to defend point guards with Avery Bradley out. If Schroder continues to come off the bench, however, he should be viewed as a strong tournament option in what should be a close-fought affair.


Andrew Wiggins has been stupendous since Zach LaVine was lost for the season, sporting a 32.5 percent usage rate with a 34 percent field goal attempt share in Minnesota. Over that nine-game span, Wiggins is averaging 30.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.9 steals and 44.4 DraftKings Points across 37.4 MPG. He’s a lock to play north of 35 minutes and rarely attempts fewer than 20 shots in a game, so there’s a lot to like here in a plus matchup with Sacramento. The only thing I’m not overly fond of is Wiggins’ price tag, which leaves him with little room for an inefficient performance. Nevertheless, he should have no trouble producing against Sacramento’s D-League roster on a night where the Timberwolves are mere 5-point favorites on the road.


CORE – Paul George; Myles Turner

SECONDARY – Dario Saric; Paul Millsap; Dennis Schroder [If he starts]; Andrew Wiggins

GPP – Draymond Green; Dwight Howard; Jeff Teague; Serge Ibaka


VALUE   [$3000-$5800]


Willie Cauley-Stein will continue to be a main beneficiary from the Cousins trade, as Dave Joerger will look to development him over the remainder of another lost season in Sacramento. He isn’t minimum salary anymore, but Cauley-Stein should earn enough minutes to pay off his low-$5K price point in a very palatable matchup with Minnesota. The T-Wolves are not only allowing the fifth most points to opposing centers this season, but also ceding the second highest FG% in the process.

I’m not sure if Joerger will start Cauley-Stein alongside Koufos against Minnesota’s jumbo frontcourt, but either way he’s poised to play north of 30 minutes in a competitive affair. Cauley-Stein has added value on FanDuel where he’s power forward eligible, but he should be on the radar across the board with value being scarce on this seven-game slate.


Nerlens Noel should see 30 or more minutes per game now that he’s with the Mavericks, which already makes him more appealing than he was with the Sixers. Sure, Dallas plays at a lethargic pace, but their lack of frontcourt depth is going to keep Noel on the floor for enough time to pay off a $5,300 price point on DraftKings. He’ll also see solid run at the five when Nowitzki is off the court, and Carlisle is going to need his defensive strengths to combat Hassan Whiteside. For what it’s worth, Noel trashed the Heat just a couple weeks back, and he should be able to use his athleticism/active hands to rack up enough peripherals to pay off a depressed salary on Monday.


Monta Ellis is far from an exciting fantasy option, but he should be considered in tournaments on a night where an elevated pace of play should bolster his ability to produce. Ellis is capable of playing in transition against a Houston team that loves to run, and if Indiana plans on keeping things competitive, they’ll need to fight fire with fire. If Nate McMillan continues to run him for 28-31 MPG off the bench, Ellis shouldn’t have much trouble paying off a depressed price point in what’s virtually guaranteed to be the highest scoring game on Monday night. Rodney Stuckey is also worth a look in GPPs, as he’ll see extended run in the event that his shot is falling early.


Lance Thomas is not a good basketball player, and he’s quite possibly an even worse fantasy player, but with 35-plus MPG I’d be remiss to not even mention him at minimum salary. Joakim Noah is expected to miss the remainder of the season and Kristaps Porzingis is doubtful to play on Monday, meaning Thomas will likely start and log another huge workload at the power forward position. 20-22 fantasy points is enough to pay off a dead minimum price point across the industry, even if the Raptors don’t make for the friendliest matchup.


Michael Beasley is poised to see another hefty workload with Khris Middleton getting the night off. Jason Kidd has become fond of the veteran journeyman, and we’ll need to consider him a strong value option for as long as this remains the case. Cleveland is already missing Kevin Love and could definitely be without LeBron James on Monday night, which would leave them with the likes of Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye and maybe even Kyle Korver to defend Beasley. I need not say much more in order to make a case for Beasley, who’s averaging exactly one fantasy point per minute this season.


CORE – Willie Cauley-Stein [FanDuel]; Nerlens Noel [DraftKings]

SECONDARY – Willie Cauley-Stein [DraftKings]; Nerlens Noel [FanDuel]; Michael Beasley; Dirk Nowitzki; Gorgui Dieng

GPP – Monta Ellis [DraftKings]; T.J. McConnell; Rodney Stuckey; Tyreke Evans; Lance Thomas