NBA Deep Dive – 3/10/17

HIGH-PRICED   [$8400+]


James Harden hasn’t been stellar since Lou Williams came to Houston, but his now depressed price point mitigates much of that concern. Not only has the Beard’s salary dropped to a reasonable place, but Friday’s matchup with Chicago generates plenty of appeal. Chicago’s backcourt defense has been dismal since the All-Star break, serving up some big games to opposing guards, including Elfrid Payton (22/14/14/1/1), Reggie Jackson (26/6/2), Kyrie Irving (34/9/7), Devin Booker (27/3/2/2), Eric Bledsoe (17/7/10/1/1) and Jamal Crawford (25/2/2/2)just to name a few. They’re only 5.5-point home dogs, though, which should keep Harden on the court for his usual 36-38 minutes.

Another thing worth noting regarding Harden’s recent play is matchups; his last four starts have come against Utah, San Antonio, Memphis and L.A. Clippers, all of whom are fully capable of limiting opposing guards. The Bulls are far less imposing whether they’re healthy or not, but they should be able to keep this game competitive enough to maximize fantasy production. The one obvious concern with Harden is his usage since Williams was acquired, as it has dropped from 34.8 percent to 26.6 percent in seven games since the break. Harden’s assist rate has remained steady at a whopping 50 percent, however, and assists aren’t factored into usage. I’m expecting Harden to bounce back nicely on Friday, but I’m also projecting his ownership to be depressed. It’s hard to go wrong with such an elite player when he’s fallen below $12K across the industry.


Giannis Antetokounmpo has been good to us this week, and we were fortunate enough to get him at low ownership in each of his last two starts. While he may be slightly higher owned on Friday at $10,100 on DraftKings, Antetokounmpo once again boasts elite upside against the Pacers’ 18th ranked defense. Let’s take a few things into consideration: Giannis has been starting at power forward since Michael Beasley and Jabari Parker were injured, allowing him to play closer to the basket without affecting his individual matchups. Thaddeus Young will likely be tasked with guarding Antetokounmpo on Friday while Paul George looks to keep Khris Middleton off the scoreboard. Giannis has a three-inch height advantage on Young and won’t have much trouble getting to the rim with the inexperienced Myles Turner being Indiana’s last line of defense.

Through two meetings with the Pacers this season, Antetokounmpo is averaging 23.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 9.5 assists, two blocks, 1.5 steals and 53.5 fantasy points per game. He’s drawn 21 trips to the free throw line in that span, while 21 of his 27 field goal attempts came within five feet of the rim. After studying Giannis’ shooting in these two games a few things became clear: first, Paul George was guarding him without much success, and he could be assigned to Middleton anyway so this shouldn’t be a concern. Second, Milwaukee forced a lot of switches, creating numerous mismatches for Antetokounmpo to exploit. Third, while the Pacers have done a decent job of limiting fast break points this season, Giannis carved them up in transition when they were slow to get set.

Antetokounmpo has looked much more aggressive over his last two games, as evidenced by 25 free throw attempts and a willingness to attack the rim, with 23 of his 34 field goal attempts coming within five feet of the basket. I’d be surprised if the Greek Freak didn’t surpass the 50-fantasy point mark for the third straight game, and at $10,100 on DraftKings he should continue to be considered a strong high-end option on this eight-game slate.


Karl-Anthony Towns could go largely overlooked on Friday, but I’m not willing to ignore him against a Warriors team that has seen their defense decline by more than four points per 100 possessions since Kevin Durant hit the shelf. My theory on the Warriors’ struggles since losing Durant is simple: last season they had Harrison Barnes to lock up the wing and shift to power forward when Draymond Green played the five. With Durant sidelined and Barnes in Dallas, Golden State’s death lineup becomes far less imposing. Green is a spectacular defender, but he’s still five inches shorter than Towns and can’t lock down the frontcourt by himself.

Towns is sporting a near 30 percent usage rate with 1.35 FPPM since Zach LaVine went down for the season, and some recent tough matchup should suppress his ownership against the Warriors. Towns has faced the Clippers, Jazz, Spurs, Mavericks and Cavaliers over the past two weeks of basketball, resulting in serviceable, yet unspectacular fantasy totals at his price point. Look for him to churn out a strong performance against the undermanned Warriors at home, where he’s averaging a stellar 51 FPPG on the season. Tom Thibodeau will play his star big man for upwards of 40 minutes if this game stays competitive (MIN +5), and the extreme pace-up matchup for Minnesota will only provide him with more opportunity to produce. I’m listing Towns as a secondary option due to a slightly inflated price point, but he should also be strongly considered in GPPs where the upside is bountiful.


Jimmy Butler draws a spectacular matchup with Houston, but he simply hasn’t been spectacular himself. Even with Dwyane Wade sidelined for back-to-back games, Butler produced modest fantasy totals and didn’t appear to have the same attack-first mentality we’d become accustomed to seeing from him in the past. He’s certainly a candidate to bounce back on a night where the Bulls face one of the fastest paced teams in basketball, but Butler is unfortunately priced north of $9K across the board. I’m not against deploying him in a few tournament lineups, but rostering Butler in cash or investing more than 20 percent exposure in GPPs feels like an unnecessary risk — especially since Dwyane Wade is expected to return without any restrictions.


CORE – James Harden

SECONDARY – Giannis Antetokounmpo [DraftKings]; Karl-Anthony Towns

GPP – Jimmy Butler


MID-RANGE   [$5900-$8300]


Kemba Walker utilized the All-Star break to recharge his batteries, and nothing evidences that more than his averages in eight starts since getting back on the court. Walker has posted 43-plus fantasy points in seven of eight post-break starts, with stellar averages of 28 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.2 steals and 45.2 fantasy points per game. Here’s what I love most, though: Walker is shooting 47.5 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from beyond the arc over that span, and he’s doing so on a whopping 20 and 8.75 field goal attempts per game, respectively. He possesses all the necessary ingredients to make an ultra-strong fantasy option, including 30 percent usage, 36-38 MPG and a very palatable matchup with the Magic. Ignoring Walker’s recent extraordinary run of success could be a mistake on Friday, as he still remains affordable enough to deploy across the industry.


Dwyane Wade is scheduled to take the court on Friday and he couldn’t have picked a better time return, as the Rockets play at the league’s fourth fastest pace and serve up just shy of 109 points per game. Patrick Beverley could limit Wade’s efficiency, but on a night where the Bulls are 5.5-point home dogs in a 224-point total game, he’ll have a difficult time failing to meeting expectations. Houston serves up the fifth most points in transition, but they are elite at limiting ball handlers in the pick-and-roll. Fortunately, Wade doesn’t rely exclusively on the PnR like many ball-dominant guards, and because his minutes are staggered with Jimmy Butler’s, the veteran two-guard is going to earn ample opportunity to produce. Moreover, Wade’s short first rotation should keep him from seeing too much Beverley. At $6,900 on DraftKings he’s a top mid-range option, while his $7,700 salary on FanDuel also puts him in play.

Nicolas Batum is also very much in play against Orlando, and he is inexplicably priced at $6,900 on DraftKings. The veteran swingman hasn’t been outstanding of late, but he’s still more than capable of dropping 40-plus fantasy points against the Magic. You could make an argument for Batum being the best value at shooting guard along with Wade. You’re also getting a $500 discount from Wade on FanDuel.


Andrew Wiggins should benefit most in Friday’s matchup with Golden State, as Kevin Durant’s absence will undoubtedly boost his projection. Sure, Wiggins will see some Andre Iguodala defense, but he’s likely to start against Patrick McCaw and gets a massive pace boost at home. I’m expecting much of Minnesota’s offense to be ran through Wiggins on a night where Thibodeau will look to exploit one of the Warriors’ few defensive weaknesses.

In 13 games since Zach LaVine tore his ACL, Wiggins is sporting a sexy 32.3 percent usage rate with 27.6 points, four rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.9 steals and 40.2 fantasy points per game. He’s in line to play upwards of 40 minutes on Friday in a game where the Timberwolves are only 5-point dogs at home, the elevated pace should greatly enhance his production. Wiggins is not only a strong play in this matchup, but he’s priced accordingly across the industry.


Paul Millsap continues to be one of the most consistent fantasy options in the game, which immediately puts him on the radar in closely projected affairs. I’m not a huge fan of Friday’s matchup with Toronto, but the 2.5-point spread in favor of the Hawks should keep Millsap on the court for upwards of 40 minutes. He’s pretty much a lock to finish with around 40 fantasy points in competitive games, and although the Raptors have locked down power forwards since the Serge Ibaka trade, I’m willing to roll the dice on huge minutes, 25-plus percent usage, and a very respectable price point. I’d be less inclined to play Millsap if the power forward position had more to offer.


Dirk Nowitzki becomes a more interesting play now that Nerlens Noel has been ruled out. While I don’t anticipate Nowitzki playing heavy minutes on Friday, his playing time becomes more secure now that Nerlens is sidelined. 28-30 minutes against the Nets should be more than enough to dismantle such a pathetic basketball team, but if this game blows out early — Brook Lopez being out definitely doesn’t help the competitiveness factor here — Nowitzki will be the first one off the court. The Nets lead the league in pace and sit 28th in defensive efficiency, so it’s not the matchup I’d be worried about. A 212-O/U is huge for the Mavericks, but so is a 10-point spread. If you’re willing to roll the dice on this being a semi-competitive affair, Nowitzki makes plenty of sense at a low-$6K price point on DraftKings and FanDuel.

Harrison Barnes is a safer option if you’re looking to target the Mavericks. He’s a virtual lock to play between 33-35 minutes even if this game gets out of hand, and Barnes is actually less expensive than Nowitzki on FanDuel. Upside is limited here, but Barnes feels pretty safe in such a stellar matchup. 35 fantasy points would be more than enough in cash games, while 40 fantasy points at a low-$6K price point would be sufficient in GPPs.


CORE – Kemba Walker; Dwyane Wade [DraftKings]; Andrew Wiggins; Nicolas Batum [FanDuel]

SECONDARY – Dwyane Wade [FanDuel]; Harrison Barnes; Nicolas Batum [DraftKings]

GPP – Dirk Nowitzki; Bradley Beal; Wilson Chandler [If Nikola Jokic is OUT]


VALUE   [$3000-$5800]


Mason Plumlee will make a case for the best point per dollar option on Friday’s slate if Nikola Jokic misses his third consecutive game. Jokic has been battling a flu for nearly a week now and wasn’t able to participate in Thursday’s practice. His Friday shootaround attendance is still unknown, but according to Rotoworld, Jokic was sounding doubtful as of last night. If he is in fact unable to play, Plumlee would be locked in across the industry against a Boston team that struggles to rebound and also plays at an elevated pace. This game currently owns a 222-point total with the Celtics being mere 2.5-point favorites on the road.

Plumlee has smashed in Jokic’s two-game absence, totaling 29 points, 22 rebounds, 10 assists, three Stocks and 75.5 fantasy points in 62 combined minutes of work. Mike Malone is clearly willing to supplant Jokic with Plumlee by giving him full starter’s minutes, and that shouldn’t change on Friday in a must win game for the Nuggets. Denver is currently hanging onto the eighth seed in the west, but the Mavericks and Blazers are nipping at their heels. This is another perfect spot to deploy Plumlee if he draws another start.


Al Horford is an interesting pivot away from Plumlee if you’re feeling frisky. His salary has bottomed out following a string of dismal performances, but this matchup with Denver poses an excellent opportunity for the veteran big man to rebound. Horford is still logging 32 minutes per game and Denver plays at a top-five pace, so the stars could certainly align on Friday. At such a depressed price point, Horford won’t need to produce any more than one FPPM to hit value. The bottom line here is another down game from Horford won’t hurt you nearly as much now that he’s priced in the cellar.

Cody Zeller is a third value center we should have on our radar, and he’s actually more cash viable than Horford. Zeller’s minutes are no longer limited, Frank Kaminsky is out for the season, and Orlando’s frontcourt defense is pedestrian at best. Actually, Zeller is closer to a core play than most on Friday, and he’d make for a very nice pairing on DraftKings with Plumlee.

I don’t want to spend the entire value segment talking about centers, but I’d be remiss to not mention Robin Lopez against the Rockets. RoLo played 40 minutes against Houston earlier this season, and assuming he logs even 32 minutes on Friday he should surpass value at a mid-$4K price point.


Jamal Murray is a GPP-only play, but he could be very sneaky against the Celtics. Mike Malone expressed that he wanted to get Murray more minutes going forward, and Jameer Nelson’s recent lull in production is further making a case for the rookie guard to get extended run. Murray has seen 24-plus minutes in three of his last four games, and assuming he sees similar minutes against the Celtics in an ultra-fast-paced affair, that near min-sal price point will begin to look very enticing.


Jeremy Lamb and Marvin Williams are two highly volatile value plays, but both are seeing extended minutes in three games since Kaminsky went down, averaging 24 minutes and 38.3 minutes per game, respectively. Lamb is obviously more of a boom-or-bust option, but he’s eligible at a relatively weak small forward position and is near minimum salary across the industry. Williams, on the other hand, has seen an uptick in price, but his near 40 MPG will make it hard to fail against Orlando.


Tyreke Evans is more than viable if he starts, but if he comes off the bench he’s a easy fade. Let’s hope we get the news before lock, because Dave Joerger hasn’t had much rhyme or reason to his lineup decisions since the deadline. We can assume this much, though: if Evans starts at small forward and Sacramento can keep things relatively close, he’ll log around 28 minutes in a plus matchup with the Wizards. Considering Evans is sporting a near 28 percent usage rate with 1.18 FPPM as a King, I’d be more than willing to deploy him at $5,200 on DraftKings and would even consider him at $5,900 on FanDuel — but only if he starts.


CORE – Mason Plumlee [If Nikola Jokic is OUT]; Cody Zeller;

SECONDARY – Robin Lopez; Marvin Williams; Tyreke Evans [If starting]

GPP – Al Horford; Jamal Murray; Avery Bradley; Kosta Koufos; Jeremy Lamb; Trevor Booker