NBA Deep Dive 2/8/17

HIGH-PRICED   [$8500+]


Karl-Anthony Towns has been churning out otherworldly fantasy totals of late, posting 50-plus fantasy points in 11 of his last 15 starts with 60-plus fantasy points five times over that span. Moreover, Towns hasn’t finished with fewer than 50 fantasy points at home in over a month, averaging 59.2 FPPG at the Target Center since January 8th. He’ll look to extend that streak on Wednesday when the T-Wolves host the Raptors in what’s projected to be a competitive, relatively high-scoring affair.

Towns has been logging heavy minutes at the four lately, which should serve him well against a Toronto team that’s struggled to defend the position. Over their last three games the Raptors have been victimized by opposing power forwards, coughing up a 26/11/11 triple-double to Blake Griffin, a 15/10/2/3 double-double to Trevor Booker in 26 minutes off the bench, and a monster 20/12/1/3 line to Serge Ibaka. Toronto’s interior defense has been suspect, and although they’ve done a respectable job of protecting the rim, they still stand no chance of containing Towns. The Raptors are allowing top-three marks to opposing fours in points, rebounds and assists this season.

The second-year big man is churning out 1.33 fantasy points per minute with Zach LaVine sidelined, and he’ll continue to be featured as Minnesota’s go-to scorer on Wednesday. Only three PF/C’s are averaging more touches per game than Towns, who also ranks seventh in rebounding and fourth in contested rebounds per game. Finally, Toronto is allowing 1.11 PPP (24th) to roll men in the pick-and-roll and .98 PPP in the post (27th), two areas where Towns excels. He’s an elite option at $9,800 on DraftKings but remains in play on FanDuel despite the elevated salary.


John Wall is no longer a bargain at the point guard position, but that’s what happens when you’re averaging 50 fantasy points per game over your last 25 starts. Not only has Wall been enjoying a spectacular campaign, posting career highs in points (23 PTS/G), assists (10.4 AST/G), steals (2.2 STL/G), free throws (6.1 FTA/G) and usage (30.5% USG) through 49 games, but he’ll square off against a Nets team that serves up the fifth most points, second most rebounds, fourth most assists and most steals to opposing point guards this season.

Brooklyn continues to play at a league-leading pace despite owning one of the worst defenses in basketball. With Wall averaging 11.2 drives per game (5th) and attempting more than 35 percent of his shots around the basket, he should have no trouble racking up the fantasy totals against a Nets team that allows near 62 percent shooting from within five feet of the rim. Brooklyn also leads the league in turnovers while Wall leads all players not named Chris Paul in steals per game. He’s a phenomenal fantasy option on Wednesday, but an unprecedented price point keeps him from being a core play on this massive 12-game slate.


Blake Griffin has wasted no time rounding back into form since returning from an 18-game hiatus, as he’s averaging 1.4 FPPM and 50 fantasy points per 36 minutes over his last six starts. Griffin is sporting a 31.3 percent usage rate in that span, but it’s his 32 percent assist rate with Chris Paul sidelined since the start of last season that bolsters his value on Wednesday. To provide another example of why Griffin is so valuable with Paul out of the lineup, we need to look at his involvement in the Clippers’ offense: Griffin is the only PF/C outside of DeMarcus Cousins to rank top-20 in touches and top-30 in passes received since returning from injury. He is L.A.’s go-to scorer, but also their best distributor, as evidenced by Monday’s 26-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist triple-double against the Raptors.

The Knicks are in complete disarray right now, with public in-fighting and rumors of irreparable dysfunction running rampant in New York. Kristaps Porzingis has yet to regain his health, having racked up five or more fouls in six of his last seven games, while Joakim Noah is dealing with a hamstring injury and Carmelo Anthony is seemingly uninterested in contributing on defense. Fortunately for Griffin’s fantasy value, the Clippers have been equally dreadful, dropping seven of their last nine games while ranking dead last in defensive efficiency over that span (118.7 PPG allowed). They are mere 1.5-point road favorites in what’s projected to be a high-scoring affair (218.5 O/U), making Griffin an outstanding option who should see low ownership now that his salary has climbed.


Nikola Jokic has been plagued by foul trouble and blowouts over his last two starts, but that shouldn’t have been enough for DraftKings to bottom out his salary at $8,700. Sure, Jokic will continue to post some lopsided fantasy totals until he learns to limit the fouls, but prior to his last two disappointing outings, the Serbian phenom had posted 50-plus fantasy points in seven of 10 starts with 40-plus fantasy points in 12 of his last 15.

Dwight Howard has done a stupendous job of buoying what was previously known as a perennially soft Atlanta frontcourt. His ability to deter shots at the rim and force poor percentage field goal attempts has limited centers to the fewest points against the Hawks this season, while Atlanta has held opposing bigs to the third lowest efficiency thus far. That being said, Jokic is not your average center, as he leads the Nuggets in usage (28%), rebounding rate (21.1% REB) and assist rate (28.5%) since the start of January.

At $8,700 on DraftKings I’ll certainly have some exposure in GPPs, knowing that many will avoid him in fear of both foul trouble and the matchup with Howard. With 1.5 FPPM over his last 20 games and 1.4 FPPM on the season, Jokic is simply too productive to ignore at this severely depressed price point. Furthermore, Jokic only becomes more appealing with Danilo Gallinari, and possibly Kenneth Faried off the court.


Kevin Durant is now priced significantly cheaper than LeBron James across the board, offering up a $900 discount on DraftKings and a $1,200 discount on FanDuel for Wednesday’s home tilt with Chicago. Jimmy Butler’s status is still in question, and if he’s out the Bulls will stand no chance of keeping this game even remotely competitive at the Oracle. Having said that, Durant is averaging 33 MPG in contests decided by double-digit points this season, and Steve Kerr hasn’t been shy about giving him fourth quarter run to salt away these blowouts.

I won’t be over-exposed to Durant on Wednesday, but have no problem labeling him as a secondary option based on his affordable price point. He’ll either draw a matchup with Jerian Grant and Paul Zipser or he’ll be guarded by Jimmy Butler, who poses a more difficult individual matchup but should help keep this game more competitive. This is a win-win situation for Durant, who won’t need to post career totals in order to pay off a very palatable price tag.

It’s worth noting, however, that Stephen Curry has been an absolute juggernaut of late, averaging 36.5 points, 8.5 assists, 7.8 three-pointers and 63.3 fantasy points per game over his last four starts. He’s sporting a 31.4 percent usage rate in that span compared to a paltry 19.9 percent usage rate for Durant. This won’t last, but it’s at least worthy of mentioning for Wednesday.


CORE – Karl-Anthony Towns [DraftKings]; Blake Griffin

SECONDARY – Karl-Anthony Towns [FanDuel]; John Wall; Kevin Durant

GPP – Nikola Jokic [DraftKings]; Stephen Curry


MID-RANGE   [$5900-$8500]


Andre Drummond is no longer discounted, but he won’t need a depressed salary to garner appeal on Wednesday. This matchup with the Lakers, who rank 29th in DRtg and seventh in pace, should provide Drummond with ample opportunity to light up the stat sheet as both a scorer and a rebounder. Los Angeles is ceding top-five marks in points, rebounds, assists and blocks to opposing centers, while they’ve also coughed up the most steals to the position in the process. The latter statistic is more important than one may initially suspect, as Drummond leads all centers in swipes this season, sporting a career-high 2.8 percent steal rate and 1.7 steals per game.

The Lakers will look to push the pace at the Palace of Auburn Hills, subsequently leading to increased rebounding, shot-blocking and steal opportunities for Drummond. They are allowing a dismal 56.8 percent shooting at the rim (29th), can’t defend the pick-and-roll, and will likely start Tarik Black at center over Timofey Mozgov for the second straight game. It’s impossible not to love Drummond here, with his elevated price point on DraftKings being the only minor concern.


Mike Conley obliterated the Suns when they met in Phoenix late last month, tallying 38 points on 12-18 shooting and 7-10 from beyond the arc, six rebounds, nine assists, two steals and 65.5 fantasy points across only 33 minutes of work. It was a flawless display of efficiency from Conley, who almost single-handedly blew out the Suns in their own house. Projecting him for another 60-plus fantasy points on Wednesday is probably a bit misguided, but at $7,500 on both FanDuel and DraftKings Conley won’t require a monster performance in order to succeed.

On the season, Phoenix has allowed more points to opposing point guards than any other team, while also ceding the fourth highest FG% and third most free throws to the position. Moreover, the Suns play at the league’s third fastest pace while owning the 30th ranked defensive rating since the start of the new year. Eric Bledsoe has been mistakenly represented as a legitimate defender, but this season has been particularly concerning, as he owns a career-worst 112 DRtg and 2.0 percent steal rate through 52 games. There’s no reason we should be ignoring Conley in this uptempo matchup against one of the league’s worst backcourt defenses.


Bradley Beal draws a matchup with the Nets, who as all of us have come to understand, are the best team to pick on for fantasy purposes. It doesn’t matter which stats you’re pulling from; the conclusion will always be that Brooklyn is flat out bad. Beal, on the other hand, is enjoying a career season, shooting 39.1 percent from three on 7.2 attempts per game while also averaging career highs in points, rebounds and free throw attempts. He’s an obvious play at a weak shooting guard position, but with a rising price tag and 12 other games to choose from on this slate, I wouldn’t consider Beal a must play on Wednesday.

Markieff Morris is in a similar position, drawing an elite matchup with Brooklyn, but also seeing an increase in salary after a string of very solid performances. Foul trouble has been a recurring theme for Morris, who fouled out after 30 minutes in Monday’s loss to Cleveland and racked up five personals the previous night against New Orleans. He’s a legitimate tournament option in a high-scoring road tilt with the Nets (222 O/U), but I’ll be avoiding Morris in cash due to a litany of concerns at an elevated price point.

As is always the case with Brooklyn, full starting lineups can succeed against them. Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat are the two cheapest starters for Washington, and both draw excellent positional matchups on Wednesday. Team stacks and game stacks are in play here, and although the Wizards are 10.5-point favorites on the road, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this game stay close after Washington took their first loss at home in more than two months. While much of this is anecdotal, teams tend to come out flat after snapping lengthy streaks the game before.


Dennis Schroder is your prototypical hit-or-miss fantasy option who either finishes with 40 fantasy points or 14 fantasy points with no in between. Fortunately for those of us considering him on Wednesday, however, Schroder draws a spectacular matchup with the Nuggets, a team that currently ranks dead last in defensive efficiency against the point guard position. Denver is tied with Phoenix for the most points allowed to opposing PGs, but they’re also surrendering the third most assists, steals and fourth highest FG% on the season.

While Schroder is no lock to produce, we have to love him in this matchup. Teams frequently target Denver in the pick-and-roll, as their guards get lost on defense and can’t fight through picks, while their bigs are incapable of protecting the rim. Schroder and Paul Millsap make for a nice PG/PF pairing on Wednesday, as both are very much affordable across the industry.


Wilson Chandler has started all three games that Danilo Gallinari has been sidelined, logging 40-plus minutes in the two contests where Denver stayed competitive. Chandler’s one poor performance over this trio of spot starts came in a brutal matchup against Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs, but Wednesday’s road tilt with the Hawks should remain close and high scoring in Atlanta. It’s worth noting that the Hawks have done a solid job against small forwards, but Thabo Sefolosha’s absence will likely result in Tim Hardaway Jr. guarding Chandler while Kent Bazemore handles Gary Harris. As a price and minutes play, Chandler needs to be considered across the industry, especially with small forward being one of the weakest positions of the five.


Marc Gasol draws a very enticing matchup with the Suns, who have coughed up a league-high 24 points per game to opposing centers this season. Tyson Chandler’s time as a viable defender has expired, as he’s lugging around career-worst marks in defensive rating, block rate and DBPM through more than three months. Gasol was just decent in his last meeting with Phoenix, but he logged only 29 minutes in a Conley-fueled blowout and simply wasn’t needed.

Rudy Gobert is another mid-range center worth targeting on Wednesday’s 12-game slate, as he is primed to log big minutes against Anthony Davis in a contest that owns a 4-point spread in favor of Utah. Gobert is especially enticing on DraftKings where he is inexplicably priced below $7,000 despite averaging 40.4 FPPG over his last 10 starts. The Pelicans are weak are weak in the one area Gobert excels: rebounding. With more rebounds allowed to centers than any other team, New Orleans should facilitate a strong game for Gobert across 35-plus minutes of work.


NARRATIVE ALERT! NARRATIVE ALERT! The storyline surrounding Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks could be quite efficacious on Wednesday, as the veteran small forward might look to take his aggression towards Phil Jackson out on the court. Jackson posted a cryptic tweet last night that was ultimately presumed to be directed towards Melo, essentially insinuating that he’ll never change his ways. Whether Anthony responds to these remarks on the hardwood is almost irrelevant, though, as the Clippers rank dead last in defensive efficiency since Chris Paul hit the shelf.

This is a matchup worth exploiting for Melo, as we should see ample scoring and virtually no defense between two faltering clubs. He has seen a steep decline in salary since Porzingis returned, but the Latvian big man has not looked healthy and Melo is averaging 40 fantasy points per game at home. He’s a miserable player to sweat regardless of the circumstances, but Anthony needs to be in the conversation on a night where he could erupt for 50-plus fantasy points against the Clippers.


Jeff Teague and DeMar DeRozan are worthy of a mention on Wednesday’s massive 12-game slate, as both are affordably priced in solid matchups. Due to depth at his position I’d expect Teague to go largely overlooked, but he should have no trouble churning out a strong performance against the Thunder and their bottom-10 defense against opposing point guards. DeRozan’s position lacks viable options, so although he’s seen his salary rise since returning from injury, there’s enough upside to like him against the Timberwolves’ makeshift backcourt.


CORE – Andre Drummond; Mike Conley

SECONDARY – Bradley Beal; Dennis Schroder; Paul Millsap; Otto Porter; Marcin Gortat; Wilson Chandler; Rudy Gobert; Carmelo Anthony; Jeff Teague

GPP – Markieff Morris; Reggie Jackson; DeMar DeRozan; Dwight Howard


VALUE   [$3000-$5800]


Kosta Koufos should benefit greatly from DeMarcus Cousins’ suspension. Not only will Dave Joerger have limited options to rotate in the frontcourt, but Koufos will almost certainly see the most minutes of any Sacramento bigs. In almost 200 minutes with both Cousins and Rudy Gay sidelined this season, Koufos is sporting a 21.2 percent usage rate with .95 fantasy points per minute. Cousins missed only one game this season when the Kings were torched by the Rockets for a 32-point loss, but Koufos logged 25 minutes and almost certainly would’ve seen upwards of 30 had Sacramento not been down by 35 points heading into the fourth.

The Kings are 8.5-point dogs on Wednesday, but they’re at least playing at home. They’re also short on healthy bodies so Koufos should play though a blowout in the event that Boston takes an early lead. This may be slightly aggressive, but I’d be surprised if Koufos didn’t tally a double-double, or at least come very close to one, against this undersized Boston frontcourt. Willie Cauley-Stein also needs to be considered, as he could realistically log around 25 minutes in this matchup. I don’t expect Joerger to run a lot of jumbo frontcourt sets against Boston, but Cauley-Stein should back up Koufos and also see some run at the four. As a tournament option he needs to be on the radar, especially considering he will be significantly less popular than Koufos, who we expect to start.


Ty Lawson arguably benefits more than any other King with Cousins (and Gay) sidelined, as he’s operating with a 26.3 percent usage rate and 1.09 FPPM this season. Lawson isn’t greatly discounted at $4,700 on FanDuel and DraftKings, but he should log plenty of minutes alongside Darren Collison in the Kings’ backcourt, cementing rather heavy playing time against the Celtics. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lawson play upwards of 35 minutes on Wednesday, and the absence of Avery Bradley will only improve his chances of succeeding.


James Johnson and Wayne Ellington are going to earn extended run on Wednesday with Dion Waiters doubtful to play. Waiters has been logging mid-30’s in minutes almost nightly, so his absence combined with the continued loss of Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow (out for season) will only bolster the playing time of both Johnson and Ellington. Both of these wings have seen their salaries decline across the industry, which places them firmly in play against the Bucks.

Ellington is close to the minimum, and he should look to fill the void left by Waiters. Johnson, on the other hand, is playing out of position at the four, but Miami’s lack of depth at the wing could have him play a combined 30-plus minutes between the three and four. For now we should be viewing Ellington as a boom-or-bust GPP play who is scoring-dependent in any matchup, while Johnson makes for a strong secondary play with a higher floor. Tyler Johnson is also in play for tournaments, but he’s been so inconsistent that I wouldn’t feel comfortable paying a mid-$5K price tag for him in cash.


Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will either win you GPPs or lose them — there is simply no in between. On Wednesday, however, I’d like to think he’s capable of winning them, facing a weak Lakers backcourt in an uptempo matchup at home. Caldwell-Pope is rarely ever more than 10 percent owned due to his volatile nature, but with the Lakers owning bottom-three marks in points, field goal percentage and three-point percentage allowed to opposing shooting guards, you have to think he owns ample upside at a mid-$5K salary. I’m hugely in favor of using KCP in GPPs, as he could be a difference maker on such a large slate.


Kent Bazemore is suffering through a putrid campaign, but he should continue to see stable playing time with Thabo Sefolosha sidelined. Small forward is routinely one of the weakest positions on the board and Bazemore frees up ample salary at his mid-$4K price point. Furthermore, the Nuggets’ backcourt defense is as punchless as they come, hemorrhaging fantasy points to opposing shooting guards almost every single night. On the season, Denver has surrendered the most points and field goal attempts to opposing two-guards, while their elevated pace of play (5th) and miserable defensive rating (30th) should allow for the stars to align for Bazemore this evening.


Derrick Rose was horrendous in his return from injury, finishing with five points and 13 fantasy points across 32 minutes (.40 FPPM) against none other than the Lakers. He will go virtually unowned on Wednesday in what may appear to be a difficult matchup, but I wouldn’t recommend ignoring him entirely. As earlier noted, the Clippers are literally playing the worst defense in basketball without Chris Paul, and considering Rose is so cheap across the industry, you could be rewarded with 35-plus fantasy points at sub-5 percent ownership on such a large slate. He’s worth the gamble in GPPs. The same goes for Guillermo Hernangomez now that Joakim Noah is doubtful, as mostly everyone will overlook some quality Knicks plays based on perceived difficulty of matchup.


CORE – Kosta Koufos; Ty Lawson; Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

SECONDARY – James Johnson; Kent Bazemore

GPP – Willie Cauley-Stein; Wayne Ellington; Tyler Johnson; Derrick Rose; Guillermo Hernangomez