NBA Deep Dive – 3/05/17

Note:  It is a three-game slate.  Just about everyone is in play.  These are my favorite plays.

High Priced ($8,500+)

Russell Westbrook is the most expensive player on the slate in an interesting matchup against Portland.  He has scored over 40 actual points against them in two of three games this season, and did so while missing a lot of wide open shots last game, but his peripherals have taken a hit as he has not recorded more than 8 rebounds or assists in any game against Portland despite averaging a triple-double for the season.  Westbrook has a very high ceiling any time that he takes the floor, but Portland is a more difficult matchup than it appears on paper as the lack of playmakers around Westbrook allow them to use combinations of Mo Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu and Noah Vonleh on Westbrook in addition to Damian Lillard.  Westbrook is a stronger play if Oladipo sits this one out, as his usage and assist percentages increase along with his fantasy points per minute.

John Wall has an excellent matchup against the Phoenix Suns in what should be a fast-paced and high-scoring game.  Tyler Ulis has done a good job defensively since his addition to the rotation, but that was against the likes of Kemba Walker and Isaiah Thomas, who are both small point guards.   John Wall has a big size advantage on Ulis, so it is not as likely that we see Ulis slow him down.  It is tough to justify paying $11,000 for Wall on DraftKings but he makes for a very strong play on FanDuel at $10,200 – or almost $3,000 less than Westbrook.

Damian Lillard gets a pace up game against a Thunder team that he has done pretty well against this season.  He has averaged 1.26 DraftKings points per minute against Oklahoma City this season, up slightly from his 1.22 season average.  Russell Westbrook has defended him pretty frequently in past matchups and the likelihood that he draws Westbrook’s defense increase if Oladipo is out.  The concern is that, if Lillard is scoring easily against Westbrook, Andre Roberson can switch on to him.  It is more difficult for Roberson to defend him if Oladipo is out because it would mean that Westbrook or Abrines have to defend McCollum, whereas if Oladipo is in he can defend McCollum and Westbrook can hide on Harkless (or whatever wing is on the floor).  Lillard’s price is toward the top of his price range but he is certainly a viable option on a three-game slate.

Eric Bledsoe was losing minutes to Tyler Ulis for a few games but that changed against Boston, when Earl Watson played Bledsoe alongside Ulis in a very small lineup that featured three guards with T.J. Warren at the four.  It remains to be seen if Watson will utilize the same lineup tonight against a big point guard in John Wall, as opposed to 5’9” Isaiah Thomas, but it is likely that he at least gives it a shot as it worked well against Boston and Washington has struggled with small ball lineups of late.  Either way, Bledsoe should be in line for plenty of minutes in this one against his former college teammate, John Wall.  Wall is a very good defender, but Washington plays at a fast pace and Bledsoe has a very similar ceiling to Wall and Lillard, for less money, as long as he is back to playing around 35 minutes.

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

D’Angelo Russell has seen very steady minutes of late and coach Luke Walton has praised his work ethic since the All-Star break.  Russell is averaging slightly over one DraftKings point per minute in two games against Dallas this season, despite the substantial decrease in pace.  He is averaging 32.7 minutes per game in his five games without Lou Williams this season, compared to 26.5 minutes per game when Williams was on the team.  Russell has a 27.7 usage percentage and 30 percent assist percentage without Williams on the floor this season and we should see him approach his ceiling with more consistency for the remainder of the season.  He is a strong play across the industry, especially on FanDuel at just $6,400.

Devin Booker has not had a big game in a while but it has caused his priced to drop, as he now sits at $6,300 on DraftKings and $6,000 on FanDuel.  Booker was in foul trouble against Boston which cost him some playing time, but he will still play 33+ minutes on most nights barring foul trouble and blowouts.  He is likely to go somewhat overlooked at shooting guard, or as overlooked as anyone does on a three-game slate, thanks to the presence of Bradley Beal and Seth Curry.  Booker has a 26.4 usage percentage alongside Warren and Bledsoe without Tucker this season so it seems likely that, although he has not attempted more than 13 field goals in his last five games, his shot attempts will start to trend upward soon.

Otto Porter has a tremendous matchup against the Suns.  He should benefit from the boost in pace as it will allow him more possessions, rebounding opportunities and chances for threes in transition.  He also will draw a lot of T.J. Warren defense and Warren has struggled against spot-up shooters this season, allowing 1.17 points per possession.  Porter is absolutely phenomenal, averaging 1.42 points per possession on spot-up shots (99th percentile) and averaging 5.5 catch-and-shoot attempts per game.

Jusuf Nurkic faces off with Steven Adams in a matchup that he has done well in this season.  He averaged 1.12 DraftKings points per game in the two games he started against Adams with Denver and he scored 55 DraftKings points in this matchup last week.  We should not expect another 55 point outburst from Nurkic as it came on the back of 2 steals and 5 blocks, but he still has more than enough upside to pay off his sub-$7,000 price tag now that he is seeing minutes in the mid-high 30s barring foul trouble.

Nerlens Noel makes for an excellent GPP play in a pace-up game against a weak Los Angeles frontcourt.  He may go overlooked because of the presence of Alan Williams and Nurkic and because people do not trust him since he comes off the bench and only played 16 minutes last game.  Those 16 minutes were entirely a result of foul trouble, however.  Salah Mejri played 10.4 minutes in Noel’s place and, if you add those minutes to the minutes Noel played, you end up with about 27 minutes.  Factor in that the end of the bench played the last 2-3 minutes of the game and a 27-30 minute projection for Noel off the bench seems very reasonable.  The Lakers rank 22nd in offensive rebounds per 36 minutes allowed and 21st in total rebounds allowed per 36 minutes to backup centers this season.  They also rank 27th in blocks allowed per 36 minutes.  The Lakers do not have a strong, dominant center that can cause Noel problems and he should be in line for a very big game tonight.

Alan Williams has been playing great lately, usually playing most of the first and second halves after Alex Len plays about 6 minutes to start each half.  Williams has been productive all season long, producing over one fantasy point per minute for the season.  His price has skyrocketed on DraftKings, where he sits at $6,700.  It is difficult to recommend Williams at that price since he is capped at about 30 minutes and it is $100 less than Nurkic’s price.  He is a very strong play on FanDuel, however, where he is just $5,500.

Secondary: C.J. McCollum, Bradley Beal, Seth Curry, Harrison Barnes, T.J. Warren, Enes Kanter, Julius Randle

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

Wesley Matthews is too cheap in a pace-up game against the Lakers.  He has not been shooting the ball much of late, but that should increase some moving forward.  He has a 16.1 usage percentage alongside Curry, Barnes and Dirk this season, but it increases to 20.2 percent when Dirk is off the floor.  Nowitzki and Ferrell are benched about 6 minutes into the game and then brought back with the second unit, so Matthews’ increase in production without Nowitzki on the floor is worth noting.  He is not the safest play, but he does have upside at his very low price point.

Tyler Ulis has played extremely well lately and his price has increased quickly.  It is very risky to play him at his current price point, but there are encouraging signs from the last game against Boston.  Ulis’s minutes had been limited by Earl Watson’s decision not to play him alongside Eric Bledsoe.  Against Boston, however, he played alongside Bledsoe in a lineup that featured 3 guards and T.J. Warren.  If that is the case moving forward, then Ulis’s 25-minute cap increases and he has the potential to play minutes into the low-mid 30s.  He will still take a back seat as far as usage goes, but he should be able to pick up assists and defensive stats as he is very good at racking up steals.  On most slates, his current price would be too expensive but it is a three game slate and he is in play because he can pay off the price nicely if Watson continues using the small-ball lineup.

Alex Len is an interesting GPP play, especially in large-fields and qualifiers.  He continues to only play about 12-13 minutes per game as Alan Williams comes off the bench and takes the rest of the minutes.  The appeal to Len is that his price has dropped and he is a very productive fantasy player when he gets the minutes.  We have not seen what happens yet when Alan Williams comes in and has a bad performance or gets in foul trouble.  It would be surprising to not see Len have any big games the rest of the season and a three game slate is the kind of slate that we can gamble on, especially because if Len sees more minutes and performs well it will be directly at the expense of one of the chalk plays on the slate in Alan Williams.

Secondary: Marquese Chriss, Al-Farouq Aminu, Yogi Ferrell, Mo Harkless