NBA Deep Dive – 3/09/17
High Priced ($8,500+)
Russell Westbrook has a tough matchup against the San Antonio Spurs tonight. The Spurs will throw a combination of Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard at Westbrook in an attempt to contain the MVP candidate. Westbrook has only faced the Spurs once this season, scoring 27 points with 14 assists, 6 rebounds and a steal. Victor Oladipo’s return to the lineup should also make Westbrook slightly less productive than he was during Oladipo’s absence. There is no doubt that Westbrook has a high floor and ceiling any time he takes the floor- the issue is his price. He is $13,300 on FanDuel, despite the matchup, and is $12,500 on DraftKings. The price on DraftKings is a nice discount, but it still means you want 70+ fantasy points in tournaments from Westbrook in a game against a team that is playing at the 6th slowest pace in the league with the best defensive rating over the last month. Rostering Westbrook is always a viable option given his ceiling, but I will not be doing it tonight.
LeBron James is facing a Detroit team that he has struggled against over the last couple of seasons, averaging just 1.06 DraftKings points per minute in four games since Marcus Morris joined the Pistons, but the game has a surprisingly high 217.5 Vegas total. Detroit has been playing at a faster pace over the last month than they were earlier in the season, ranking 15th over the last month. The Pistons have capable wing defenders that can make life difficult for LeBron, but he is a threat to triple-double whenever he plays. LeBron has since a slight increase in his usage percentage and assist percentage since Kevin Love’s increase, but his rebounding percentage has increased from 12.1 percent to 16.7 percent. Since it is only a five-game slate, there are not many players that have the raw point upside of LeBron or Westbrook. While neither matchup is ideal, LeBron seems like the better point-per-dollar play.
Kawhi Leonard has been playing incredibly well lately and it has caused his price to increase into the mid-high $9,000 range. He has shown that this is a reasonable price, however, scoring at least 54 DraftKings points in four straight games. Leonard has a 34.3 usage percentage, 23.8 assist percentage and 10.1 rebound percentage since the All-Star break and he should benefit from a pace-up matchup against an Oklahoma City team that ranks 6th in pace and 22nd in defensive rating over the last month.
Eric Bledsoe is in an interesting spot because he has a tremendous matchup with the Lakers, but there is reason to be concerned about his minutes. He has only played more than 30 minutes once since Tyler Ulis’s emergence, and that was against the Celtics when he played alongside Ulis. The Celtics backcourt features 5’9 Isaiah Thomas, which allowed Earl Watson to go small with Ulis-Bledsoe-Booker/Barbosa-Warren on the floor together. The Lakers have a taller backcourt, with 6’5 D’Angelo Russell, 6’4 Jordan Clarkson and 6’7 Nick Young. The extremely small Suns lineup was not deployed at all against the Wizards, who have a similarly sized backcourt. If Ulis is not going to play next to Bledsoe, it caps both of their ceilings as Watson wants to see what he has in Ulis, which directly correlates to less minutes for Bledsoe. On the other hand, Bledsoe has been phenomenal against the Lakers this season, averaging 1.5 DraftKings points per minute over three matchups. His price has risen across the industry, making him a risky play because of the concern over his minutes. He does make some sense in GPPs, however, because he has 60+ fantasy point upside if Watson does find a way to get him 33-35 minutes.
Damian Lillard is a little more expensive than we would like but it is a short slate and he has a very nice matchup with the Sixers. Philadelphia is playing at the 2nd fastest pace in the NBA over the last month and they rank 20th in defensive rating. Lillard has been disappointing for much of the season, but he does still have upside and he has benefitted from the injury to Evan Turner and trade of Mason Plumlee. Lillard has a 33.9 usage percentage and 31.9 assist percentage without Turner or Plumlee on the floor this season and is averaging 1.31 DraftKings and 1.23 FanDuel points without them. His usage percentage alongside Plumlee without Turner falls to 28.5 and his assist percentage falls to 27.8 with his per minute production dropping to 1.15 DraftKings points per minute and 1.08 FanDuel points per minute. He has a 28.7 usage percentage and a 22.6 assist percentage and is averaging 1.10 DraftKings points and 1.01 FanDuel points per minute alongside Plumlee and Turner. All of this to say, he is in a MUCH more productive spot now than he has been for most of the season and we should start to see him capitalize on good matchups more often.
Mike Conley is in a matchup that he has dominated this season against Chris Paul, who he has a friendly rivalry with as Paul was his tour guide when he visited Wake Forest as a senior in high school. Conley has had mixed results in this matchup in the past, but has excelled in it this season averaging slightly over 1.5 DraftKings points per minute. Obviously a two-game sample size is not enough to overlook that this is not a particularly friendly matchup and we should not expect him to regularly have the success that he has this year, but it does show that he has massive upside for his price- especially on DraftKings where it has fallen to $7,400.
D’Angelo Russell is in a phenomenal spot against the Suns. Phoenix ranks 1st in pace over the last month, though their defensive rating has “improved” to 19th in the league. They have given up huge games to opposing point guards all season and that trend has continued lately as they have allowed 48 DraftKings points to Kemba Walker, 89.9 to Westbrook, 51 to Isaiah Thomas and 61 to John Wall since the calendar turned to March. Russell is in a different situation now than he has been for most of the season, as Lou Williams’ departure solidifies his minutes. Luke Walton has been impressed with his play of late and Russell even gets run in garbage time so his minutes appear extremely secure at the moment. Russell has a 29 percent usage percentage and 31.9 assist percentage since the Williams trade and he should do very well in this matchup.
Devin Booker showed signs of improvement against the Wizards, playing about 38 minutes and attempting 18 field goals and 6 free throws. It was just a matter of time before Booker began shooting the ball again and we should see him approach 18 field goal attempts more often than
he only takes 12 or 13 shots over the rest of the season. This game is going to be played at an incredibly fast pace, as the Suns rank first in pace and the Lakers rank third over the last month. Los Angeles has allowed the fourth most points per game in transition this season, and Booker averages 1.39 points per possession in transition, ranking in the 82nd percentile across the NBA.
Staying in the same game, Julius Randle has shown his incredibly high ceiling a couple of times lately with 66.75 DraftKings points against the Hornets and 55.5 DraftKings points against Dallas within his last four games. Randle should benefit from the increase in pace as he likes to grab a rebound and then run point in transition, increasing his floor and ceiling by allowing him more assists. There is nobody in the Phoenix frontcourt that is likely going to be able to stop him from doing his thing on the boards or on the offensive end and it is likely that we see another huge performance from Randle tonight. Pairing him with D’Angelo Russell is a very high-upside play in tournaments as they have a high positive correlation this season.
Center is, arguably, the deepest position on the slate and there are several mid-range options to look to:
Marc Gasol is reasonably priced, especially on DraftKings at just $7,600. He has faced DeAndre Jordan four times in the last two seasons and is averaging 1.11 DraftKings points per minute over those four games. He has been very consistent in the three games this season, scoring at least 43 DraftKings points in all three and no more than 46.5. He is a safe option at his price, although he will most likely not be the highest point-per-dollar play at the position since there are high-upside options available for less money.
One of those options is Andre Drummond, who is $7,900 on FanDuel and just $6,800 on DraftKings. The FanDuel price is fair and the DraftKings price is criminally low. Drummond has a massive size advantage on Tristan Thompson, as Drummond is listed at 7’ 280 pounds while Thompson checks in at 6’9 238 pounds. Thompson is a high-energy guy who will likely also have some success (more on that later), but Drummond should be able to use his size to his advantage. He has started games against Thompson four times going back to last season and has had success, averaging 1.20 DraftKings points per minute in those matchups.
Jusuf Nurkic is in a great spot against the Philadelphia 76ers. As mentioned before, this is a major pace-up game for the Blazers as Philadelphia ranks 2nd in pace over the last month. Nurkic is an athletic big who should benefit from the extra possessions and rebounding opportunities. Joel Embiid last played on January 27th. Since that time, Philadelphia is tied for the most rebounds allowed per 36 minutes to starting centers. They are also tied for 24th in assists allowed, which plays into Nurkic’s game, 19th in steals allowed, 29th in blocks allowed and 29th in points allowed. It is a phenomenal spot for Nurkic and it is likely he goes somewhat overlooked at his “expensive” price tag given all of the other options on the slate.
Secondary: C.J. McCollum, Robert Covington, T.J. Warren, Marcus Morris, Blake Griffin (especially DraftKings), LaMarcus Aldridge, Dario Saric, DeAndre Jordan, Alan Williams (elite on FanDuel due to relatively lower price and price relative to the other centers)
Ish Smith is a very intriguing tournament option tonight as it is a game where Reggie Jackson is likely to struggle. We have seen Stan Van Gundy bench Jackson in games where there is a high-usage point guard alongside an offensively capable two-guard. That will not be the case to start the game, as Kyrie Irving will likely start alongside Iman Shumpert (unless J.R. Smith returns to the lineup) but it probably will be the case to close as the Cavaliers have been using Deron Williams alongside Irving in the fourth quarter. It would make sense for the Pistons to leave Smith on the floor in the fourth since he provides a better defensive matchup and is the better point guard anyway, in terms of making the players around him better and giving the Pistons a chance to win. Jackson himself has upside if he actually plays 30 minutes, but my guess is that Smith plays more minutes than Jackson in this one and he has a nice ceiling at just $4,600 on DraftKings and FanDuel alike.
If you agree on the assumption that Smith sees more playing time than Jackson, then Kentavious Caldwell-Pope deserves a long look. Caldwell-Pope has a 21.2 usage percentage and is averaging 0.86 DraftKings points per minute alongside Ish Smith this season, compared to a 15.8 usage percentage and 0.65 DraftKings points per minute alongside Reggie Jackson. In addition, the Cavaliers have allowed the most points per game in transition this season which plays into KCP’s three-and-D game. 20.3 percent of Caldwell-Pope’s offense has been in transition this season, averaging 1.12 points per possession. He will also have increased upside due to defensive stats from defending Kyrie Irving. Normally we prefer Caldwell-Pope in pace-up games, but there are other factors playing into his favor in this one and it should at least be played at a reasonable pace.
Danny Green is not a productive player on a per-minute basis but he is a viable option tonight with Kyle Anderson and Manu Ginobili sidelined. Green is averaging 26.6 minutes per game in games with Kyle Anderson compared to 30.2 in games without him and he is averaging 26.8 minutes per game with Ginobili compared to 29.5 minutes per game without him. When you are as unproductive in your minutes as Danny Green is, it is essential to get as many as you can. Also in his favor is that it is a substantial pace-up game and that he will likely spend some time defending Russell Westbrook.
Nick Young is a cheap tournament option with some upside in a fast-paced game against the Suns. Young is the Lakers’ best core player in transition from a points-per-possession standpoint, averaging 1.22 points per possession with a frequency of 21.3 percent. The Suns have allowed the second most points per game in transition this season and Young has already shown his ceiling against them once, scoring 37.2 DraftKings points in November. Young is always a hit-or-miss player, but he makes sense in tournaments as a higher upside alternative to Danny Green if you are punting shooting guard.
Tristan Thompson is too cheap on DraftKings. I cannot recommend playing him over Alan Williams at the same price point on FanDuel, but $4,700 on DraftKings is too low. He has had reasonable success against Drummond in the past, averaging 0.92 DraftKings points per minute in the four games he has started against him since last season, including double-digit rebounds in three of them. Thompson is at a major size disadvantage, but he makes up for that with energy and hustle against the relatively slow and lazy Drummond. He is not a super exciting option given all the high-upside guys at center but he is a viable option if you need a $4,700 guy at the utility spot to fill out your lineup.
Secondary: Jordan Clarkson, Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray, Brandon Ingram (FanDuel), Marquese Chriss (FanDuel), Steven Adams (especially DraftKings)