NBA Deep Dive – 3/13/17

HIGH-PRICED   [$8400+]


Nikola Jokic faces the Lakers on Monday — need I say more? Whether it’s Ivica Zubac or Tarik Black to start at the five for L.A., Jokic should systematically dismantle them one possession at a time. They have virtually zero interior defense, but even if they did, the Lakers are so incredibly unmotivated that it wouldn’t make a difference. Last night, D’Angelo Russell did this in a home loss to Philadelphia as they fell to 20-46 on the season.

The blowout concern in this game is real, as the Nuggets are 13-point home favorites at the Pepsi Center and L.A. is playing their second of a back-to-back. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this punchless, deplorable, unmitigated disaster of a Lakers team lay down on a night where they stand hardly any chance of winning, but Jokic is in such a phenomenal spot that fading him could yield disastrous results.

We’re looking at a 230.5-O/U and a 122-point implied total for Denver, while the Lakers allow a whopping 57 percent shooting at the rim. Jokic is the Nuggets’ best ball-handler, scorer and rebounder facing an L.A. team that ranks bottom-five in points, rebounds and assists to opposing centers this season. Even if Denver blows their doors off early and Jokic plays 28-30 minutes in an uncompetitive game, he’s still going to drop 50-plus fantasy points at a very accommodating price point.


Karl-Anthony Towns is doing to demolish the Wizards on Monday. Not only does Towns draw a spectacular matchup with a Washington team that cedes massive fantasy totals to opposing frontcourts, but the Wizards are playing their fifth game in seven days, all of which have come on the road. That being said, Scott Brooks’ squad has won five straight and six of seven in March, as they now sit only two games behind Cleveland for first place in the East. Look for this game to remain competitive throughout, especially with how well Minnesota has been playing defensively of late. The T-Wolves rank second in defensive efficiency since the All-Star break and are 1.5-point home favorites in what should be a relatively high-scoring affair (214.5 O/U).

Towns has been dominant at home this season, averaging 25.7 points, 12.9 rebounds and 50.7 DraftKings Points per game. He’ll face a Morris/Gortat frontcourt that serves up top-five marks in points and field goal percentage to opposing bigs, while the latter is allowing 57 percent shooting at the rim — easily the worst of his career. Towns is no longer uber-affordable, but he’s the focal point of Minnesota’s offense and should be force-fed the basketball on Monday.

Here’s the kicker, though: Washington has been trashed by roll men in the pick-and-roll, ceding a 58.5 EFG% (29th) and 1.08 points per possession (27th) this season. Towns ranks behind only Anthony Davis in PnR points where he’s been wildly efficient, scoring 1.18 PPP with a 15.6 percent free throw frequency on the year. He’s my the top overall play on Monday night, as there is far less risk of this game developing into an early blowout than there is in Denver.


Giannis Antetokounmpo possesses some serious tournament appeal on DraftKings at $9,800. He’s seen another drop in salary with the Bucks facing a tough-on-paper matchup, but I have no doubts that Antetokounmpo can exploit this struggling Grizzlies team on Monday night. Memphis is 0-5 in March, while allowing 114 points per game in the process. Three of those five losses came at home, and one of them came against the Nets. Need I say more?

Incredibly, the Grizzlies are coughing up the second highest FG% at the rim this month (63% DFG) while ranking dead last in defensive efficiency over their five-game losing streak.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where they’ve gone wrong, but this notoriously formidable defense has fallen apart at the seams. Marc Gasol will always pose a threat to Giannis in the paint, but at his current price point there’s ample room for upside. Memphis remains a 4-point favorite at home, but this game will almost certainly remain competitive. Antetokounmpo, who’s averaging north of 40 MPG over his last three starts, should see huge run on Monday and won’t need a career game to post 6x his salary on DraftKings.


Kawhi Leonard, if he starts, will make for a very strong play on FanDuel at $9,300. He’s dealing with a concussion and remains questionable for Monday’s home tilt with Atlanta, but if he’s healthy enough to take the court, Leonard should be all systems go in a very important game for the Spurs. San Antonio currently sits a half game behind the idle Warriors for first place in the West and would move into a statistical tie for the lead with a win over the Hawks.

LaMarcus Aldridge remains sidelined along with Tony Parker, and Pau Gasol continues to play scarcely off the bench, so Leonard would figure to eat up the majority of San Antonio’s possessions if he plays. On the season, Leonard is sporting a 38 percent usage rate with a whopping 1.32 FPPM produced in 291 minutes with Aldridge/Parker off the court. In 179 minutes with Gasol also off the court, Leonard’s usage skyrockets to 42 percent with 1.87 FPPM. He would become a core play on FanDuel if active, and a secondary play on DraftKings at $9,900. It’s not so much Leonard’s salary that is prohibitive on DraftKings, but more so the value of comparatively priced players like Towns and Jokic that curb his appeal.


CORE – Karl-Anthony Towns; Nikola Jokic; Kawhi Leonard [FanDuel]

SECONDARY – Kawhi Leonard [DraftKings]

GPP – Giannis Antetokounmpo


MID-RANGE   [$5900-$8300]


Kemba Walker has been otherworldly since the All-Star break, averaging 27.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.3 Stocks and 44.5 fantasy points per game. Over that 10-game span, Walker has posted 23-plus points all but once with 43-plus fantasy points in eight of those starts. He’s undoubtedly been reenergized after showing serious signs of fatigue, as evidenced by 48 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc on 20 and 9.6 attempts per game respectively since the break.

Monday’s home tilt with Chicago places Walker in another excellent spot, as the Bulls are in the midst of yet another colossal meltdown. Not only has Chicago lost each of their last five games, but they’ve been tuned up by opposing point guards in the process. Jerian Grant and Rajon Rondo are both well below average defenders, while Dwyane Wade appears to have given up all hope in Chicago. There’s actually some concern of a blowout with how poorly the Bulls have been playing (CHA -7), but Walker’s palatable price point should keep him in play across the board. So long as he continues to operate with 30 percent usage and 20-plus shots jacked up per game, Walker will have a difficult time failing on Monday night.


Andrew Wiggins remains a volatile player despite for a brief moment disguising himself as a consistent fantasy producer, as he cannot salvage a poor shooting performance with respectable peripheral stats. That being said, Monday’s matchup with Washington places him in a pretty fantastic position, as the Wizards are playing their fifth road game in seven days and have for some time struggled to defend shoot-first small forwards.

Wiggins will have his underwhelming performances where he can’t get anything to fall, but one thing is for certain: Wiggins is never not going to shoot. The second-year gunner has attempted fewer than 15 field goals only once in 15 games since Zach LaVine went down, while sporting a team-high 32 percent usage rate in that span. He isn’t the highest fantasy point per minute producer, but Wiggins’ monster minute totals should mitigate much of that concern. In an uptempo matchup with the Wizards (214.5 O/U) Wiggins should be considered a very strong mid-range play at a low-$7K price point across the industry.


Marc Gasol’s Grizzlies have been dismal of late, but he’ll need to reproduce his early season play if they plan on bouncing back this evening. Memphis is a 4-point home favorite against the Bucks, who have really struggled to contain opposing centers of late, and Gasol’s style of play figures to matchup well against this under-talented Milwaukee frontcourt. Greg Monroe won’t be able to guard Gasol away from the basket and John Henson doesn’t have the size to contain him down low. Milwaukee has done a solid job of defending in the post, but I don’t see them being able to handle Gasol’s versatility across 48 minutes. The low point total in this game shouldn’t be much of a concern if it remains competitive, and Gasol has seen his salary dip to a very respectable point across the board.


Khris Middleton finds himself in a similar position to teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo, as he has seen his salary dip on dynamic pricing sites due to a tough perceived matchup with Memphis. The Grizzlies have been miserable defensively of late, allowing 114 PPG over their recent five-game losing streak while incredibly serving up one of the highest 3-point percentages to their opponent in that span (40% 3PT). Middleton is set to play upwards of 37 minutes in a competitive affair, is priced at a low-to-mid-$6K salary across the industry, and is sporting a 25 percent usage rate with 1.08 FPPM since the start of March. He’ll make for a fantastic tournament option on a night where he should go largely overlooked.


Ricky Rubio makes for a strong pairing with Karl-Anthony Towns, as he’s boasting a 43 percent usage rate with KAT on the court since Zach LaVine hit the shelf. Rubio’s 1.08 fantasy points per minute produced since the start of February is an encouraging sign on a night where he should log upwards of 35 minutes in a closely contested affair. John Wall is no slouch defensively, but the Wizards struggle to contain roll men in the pick-and-roll, which should lead to inflated assist opportunities for the T-Wolves’ starting point guard. At a very reasonable price point on both FanDuel and DraftKings, Rubio should be viewed as one of Monday’s top mid-range guard options. His significant home/road splits also enhance the appeal, as I’m beginning to think the Pelicans’ scorekeeper has been moonlighting at the Target Center.

D’Angelo Russell is a nice pivot from Rubio in what’s virtually guaranteed to be the highest scoring contest on Monday’s eight-game slate. He’s more of a tournament play at $7,700 on DraftKings, but at $6,700 on FanDuel Russell becomes a difficult fade. Both he and Julius Randle, who is also severely underpriced at $6,500 on FanDuel, should earn every opportunity to produce against a paltry Denver defense that ranks dead last in the NBA.

The only concern here is a blowout, as the Lakers are 13.5-point road dogs having to play in altitude on their second leg of a back-to-back. Assuming Luke Walton runs them for their normal allotment of minutes, however, both Russell and Randle should have no trouble blowing past their value thresholds on FanDuel. Moreover, Wilson Chandler’s potential absence would make Randle a significantly better play, but it’s also encouraging to know that Randle will see some minutes at the five with Walton thinning out his frontcourt rotation.


CORE – Kemba Walker; D’Angelo Russell [FanDuel]; Julius Randle [FanDuel]

SECONDARY – Andrew Wiggins; Marc Gasol; Ricky Rubio; Julius Randle [DraftKings]

GPP – Khris Middleton; D’Angelo Russell [DraftKings]; Danilo Gallinari


VALUE   [$3000-$5800]


Patty Mills’ services weren’t required in the second half of Saturday’s blowout win over the Warriors, as Patrick McCaw’s 0-12 shooting performance was enough to propel San Antonio to a win. Monday’s draw with Atlanta poses a more difficult task for the Spurs, who are 6.5-point home favorites but no lock to run away with things early. Mills should see solid run with Tony Parker and Dejounte Murray sidelined, and I wouldn’t expect Bryn Forbes to see another 25 minutes off the bench if this game stays close.

LaMarcus Aldridge’s absence will inflate Mills’ usage, but if Leonard also sits, Mills will be heavily utilized throughout the night. It would be wise to have shares of Mills in all formats this evening, as I have trouble believing Popovich won’t need his only legitimate point guard on the court for more than 21 minutes. Furthermore, the Hawks pose a very friendly matchup for opposing point guards, who have had ample success against them all season long.


Manu Ginobili is not the most trustworthy fantasy option in his 347th NBA season, but much like Mills, Popovich will likely require his services on Monday. Parker and Murray will both be sidelined and Leonard is also in jeopardy of missing another game, so Ginobili could definitely log around 25 minutes off the bench in a competitive meeting with Atlanta. Manu will produce well over a fantasy point per minute when either Aldridge or Leonard is off the court, but with San Antonio being banged up at a number of positions I’d expect to see 25-plus percent usage and substantial ball-handling duties for one of the few players capable of bringing the ball up the court for the Spurs. I’ll happily consider Ginobili a core value option if Leonard is out, but he’s more of a secondary play at the moment with Leonard’s status unclear.


Jamal Murray becomes a favorite fantasy option of mine if Jameer Nelson (questionable) is unable to play. Mike Malone continues to feed Nelson minutes despite some despicable play since the All-Star break, but if he’s sidelined against the Lakers Murray should see a sizeable uptick in minutes and hopefully a start at the point. The rookie guard has been impressive with his limited workload this season, but extended run against the Lakers would place him in a position to possibly have the best game of his young career. In case you were wondering, Los Angeles is allowing the highest field goal percentage to opposing point guards this season, while coughing up the fourth highest three-point percentage and second highest efficiency to the position. If the Nelson news doesn’t drop before lock, I’ll still be willing to deploy Murray in GPPs where his ownership will be severely depressed.


Willie Cauley-Stein makes for a very solid play on Monday, as he should have no trouble producing against a Vucevic/Gordon-led frontcourt at home. Cauley-Stein has been logging solid minutes in the starting lineup since DeMarcus Cousins was traded to New Orleans, and Dave Joerger should look to continue developing him this evening. Whether Vucevic or Gordon is assigned to Cauley-Stein won’t matter, as the former is a miserable defender while the latter lacks the size and discipline to contain him down low.

I’m expecting WCS to be relatively low-owned across the board despite the strong matchup, but we shouldn’t be ignoring him at a weak power forward position. The Kings are 1-point home favorites at home, meaning Cauley-Stein should see upwards of 35-38 minutes barring any unexpected foul trouble, and his ability to post big fantasy totals in quality matchups should facilitate another strong performance. Kosta Koufos should also see another ~25 minutes as the Kings’ starting center, making him well worth a look as a low-end punt in cash game formats.


Ivica Zubac only saw 19 minutes in Sunday’s loss the the Sixers, but he posted a serviceable 25 fantasy points in his second career start. Timofey Mozgov continues to receive DNP-CDs and Tarik Black won’t play more than 15-18 minutes on any given night, but I could see Zubac’s minute totals climb on Monday against a much bigger frontcourt. The Sixers played small for long stretches last night, which likely limited Zubac’s playing time, but with Denver rotating Jokic and Plumlee at center, Walton could use his size and impressive rebounding. Zubac is obviously a risky play, but in a game sporting a 230.5-point total and an ultra-fast pace, he could easily post 30-plus fantasy points if provided sufficient run. It’s also worth noting that Zubac would likely play through a blowout even if most of the starting lineup rides the pine.


CORE – Patty Mills; Jamal Murray [If Jameer Nelson is OUT];

SECONDARY – Manu Ginobili; Willie Cauley-Stein; Kosta Koufos

GPP – Jameer Nelson [If Jameer Nelson isn’t ruled out by lock]; Ivica Zubac; Jordan Clarkson; Tyreke Evans