NBA Deep Dive 2/9/17

Note: A lot of stats on are down right now, so some of the write-ups are not as in depth as usual since I cannot see the actual numbers.


High Priced ($8,500+)


Russell Westbrook faces the Cavaliers’ bench tonight.  As always, he is a strong option since he is essentially the entire Oklahoma City offense.  Liggins is a capable on-ball defender for Cleveland but Westbrook should still post a very nice stat line in this matchup.  In limited minutes with Tristan Thompson on the court without any of the big three this season, the Cavaliers have played at an incredibly slow pace, averaging just 91.6 possessions per 48 minutes compared to 96.8 possessions per 48 when all four players are on the court.  Westbrook is not in quite as good of a spot as Harden, but he still makes for an excellent tournament play because it will probably be hard for people to click his name instead of Harden’s since the spread is larger and the total is lower, even though Westbrook’s ceiling is just as high.


James Harden is the top option on the slate in a very friendly matchup against the Charlotte Hornets.  The game has a 226 total and 3.5 point spread so there should be plenty of fantasy goodness to go around.  The Hornets will likely attempt to defend Harden with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but he has not been able to do the job in the past in limited time against Harden.  Kidd-Gilchrist was the primary defender on Harden when these two teams played earlier this season and Harden scored 40 points with 15 assists and 10 rebounds in 37.8 minutes for 79.8 DraftKings points.  We saw Harden go through a stretch recently where he was not shooting the ball nearly as much, but he appears to be done with that as he has attempted 23, 33 and 21 shots in his last three games.


Damian Lillard is likely to go overlooked in tournaments because of the presence of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, but he gets a kind of sneaky boost with Evan Turner sidelined.  People may not pay attention to it since they play different positions, but Lillard has averaged 38.4 minutes per game in three games without Turner this season (his season average is 35.5).  Lillard averages 1.03 DraftKings points per minute when he plays alongside McCollum and Turner, as he has been often since Turner was inserted into the starting lineup, but he averages 1.19 DraftKings points per minute when he is only alongside McCollum and 1.43 DraftKings points per minute when McCollum and Turner are both on the bench.  The Blazers like to stagger Lillard and McCollum’s minutes, so Lillard should see a healthy amount of time without McCollum on the floor tonight.  Two of the three games without Turner this season remained close through 4 quarters and Lillard played 11:11 without McCollum in the first one and 6:48 without him in the second one.  The matchup with Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics is very friendly, especially because the Celtics cannot just move Isaiah Thomas off of Lillard since he cannot defend McCollum or Harkless either.


Secondary: Isaiah Thomas


Mid-Range ($5,500-$8,400)


Nicolas Batum is a very strong option in a fast-paced high scoring game against the Rockets.  Kemba Walker will be defended primarily by Patrick Beverley, which should lead to a bigger offensive role for Batum.  Batum has consistently outperformed expectations in pace-up games over the last two seasons and the Rockets are playing at the fastest pace in the league over the last month.  He has a very high floor because he contributes in so many categories and he is a triple-double threat in this matchup.


C.J. McCollum, like Lillard, also gets a boost with Evan Turner sidelined.  McCollum averaged 36.7 minutes per game without Turner (compared to a season average of 34.3 minutes) and, in the two games that were not blowouts, he played 9:31 and 8:51 without Lillard on the floor.  McCollum averages 0.89 DraftKings points per minute alongside Lillard and Turner, 1.11 alongside just Lillard, and 1.25 when Lillard and Turner are both on the bench.


Serge Ibaka is more expensive on DraftKings but, inexplicably, is still just $6,000 on FanDuel.  He is a strong play on either site, but obviously is stronger on FanDuel.  Philadelphia has struggled to defend stretch 4s with Ilyasova on the floor this season, as he is known more for his offensive prowess than anything he does defensively.  Embiid’s weakens the Philadelphia frontcourt in terms of rebounds as well, increased Ibaka’s upside.


Ersan Ilyasova is too cheap for his role and matchup tonight with Embiid still sidelined.  He had an awful game last night against San Antonio, but still played 28 minutes.  Ilyasova averages 0.88 DraftKings points per minute alongside Okafor without Embiid, down from his season average of 0.99, but he averages 1.13 DraftKings points per minute when Embiid and Okafor are both sidelined.  Philadelphia has been somewhat random in their rotations, as sometimes Ilyasova and Okafor both come off early and then come back early in the second quarter and other times Ilyasova comes off while Okafor stays on, leading to more minutes without Okafor for Ilyasova.  He is a risky play since we do not know how much he will play alongside Okafor, but his price is low enough that he can pay off very nicely if things go his way.  Serge Ibaka has struggled to defend stretch fours away from the basket this season, so that is also working in Ilyasova’s favor and makes him a little bit less risky since he should, hopefully, be relatively efficient with whatever shots he does get.


Nikola Vucevic is coming off of a great game against Houston and gets another very soft matchup with Jahlil Okafor.  Vucevic has a huge rebounding advantage against Okafor, who pretty much just shoots the ball and does not offer anything in the way of rebounding or defense when he is on the floor.  Nerlens Noel is a much better defender, but has been coming off the bench so most of Vucevic’s minutes should be with Okafor on the floor.  He is an elite option even at an increasing price point.


Rudy Gobert may go overlooked tonight since his game has a very low total and because he is Rudy Gobert and he always goes overlooked.  He posted 27 points and 25 rebounds the last time he faced Dallas, although 5 points and 7 rebounds came in overtime.  Still, he has massive upside against Dirk Nowitzki, who does not even pretend to compete on the offensive glass.  Gobert should be in line for another big double-double and makes for a nice tournament option because of his likely low ownership.


Secondary: Elfrid Payton, Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, Steven Adams, Al Horford


Value ($3,000-$5,400)


The Cleveland Cavaliers are the obvious source of value on this slate with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love all expected to be sidelined.  This would be the first game that all three stars sat, so it is uncharted territory to some extent.  We can expect Kay Felder and Jordan McRae to take on a big role in the backcourt and in the offense.  In 160 minutes without the Big Three on the floor (including the preseason), Felder has a 30.3 usage percentage, 41.3 assist percent and has averaged 1.12 DraftKings points per minute while McRae has a 24.7 usage percentage, 11.5 assist percentage and has averaged 0.88 DraftKings points per minute in 145 minutes.  Those minutes do not exclude role players like Iman Shumpert who also will not be active tonight, so they could theoretically increase slightly.  Cleveland is very thin in terms of ball-handlers, as DeAndre Liggins is basically the only other point guard candidate on the roster and he is more of a defensive specialist.  This means that Felder and McRae should spend a ton of time on the court.  I think that it is likely that Felder and Liggins start, with McRae coming off the bench, but Felder and McRae are still the guards to load up on, especially in tournaments.  Liggins is a viable cash game option because he will likely be needed to defend Westbrook and therefore see plenty of minutes as well.


The frontcourt gets a little bit more dicey, as James Jones, Channing Frye, Kyle Korver, Tristan Thompson, Richard Jefferson and recently acquired Derrick Williams will all be active.  Channing Frye has averaged 0.84 DraftKings points per minute in limited time without the Big Three, but there are reasons to be concerned because he only has a 15.3 usage percentage without them and his true shooting percentage drops from 64.1 percent alongside LeBron to 49.1 percent without him.  He strikes me as more of a cash game play because he should get plenty of minutes and be highly owned, but a good candidate to fade in tournaments based on ownership and the role that LeBron James plays in getting him open looks.  Kyle Korver falls into the same category as Frye.  He has not been with the team long enough to even pretend to have any reasonable data on what will happen, but it makes sense for him to struggle to get open without any of the Big Three on the floor, which should lead to an inefficient evening although he may be able to make up for it through sheer volume.


Tristan Thompson is a strong play because he will be needed to match up with Steven Adams, who will most likely play a ton of minutes for Oklahoma City.  He had a monster game the last time he faced Adams, picking up a double-double to go along with 4 blocks and 4 steals.  Obviously, we cannot expect the same number of steals and blocks, but Oklahoma City does allow the 4th most blocks and 3rd most steals to opposing centers this season.


Moving on from Cleveland, Mo Harkless should see a boost without Evan Turner as he will likely move back to the starting lineup and see an uptick in minutes.  He averages 0.73 DraftKings points per minute with Lillard and without Turner or McCollum, 0.65 DraftKings points per minute with McCollum and without Lillard or Turner, and 0.75 DraftKings points per minute alongside Lillard and McCollum without Turner.  His rotation will likely pair him with Lillard or both more than just McCollum, making him a viable- albeit unexciting- option.


Dirk Nowitzki makes for a sneaky GPP option.  He had a terrible game in this matchup last time, shooting just 1-13, but most of that was because he just sucked at shooting and not because of great defense.  Rudy Gobert struggles to get out and defend perimeter shooters and he consistently left Nowitzki open around the three-point line.  George Hill defended Nowitzki at times, and did a good job forcing some ugly shots, but I would bet on Dirk being able to figure out a way to score on George Hill this time around if that is the plan again.


Secondary: Yogi Ferrell, Patrick Beverley, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Robert Covington, Andre Roberson, Ryan Anderson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Cody Zeller, Jahlil Okafor


Secondary:  Patrick Beverley, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Trevor Booker, Dirk Nowitzki, Miles Plumlee (if Zeller out)