NBA Deep Dive – 3/01/17

HIGH-PRICED   [$8400+]

Anthony Davis won’t come at a discount on Wednesday, but drawing a start without the company of DeMarcus Cousins places him squarely in play. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though; this is the same Anthony Davis from before the All-Star break, and his salary hasn’t declined enough to label him a lock simply because Cousins is serving a suspension. With that in mind, we’ll need to make a clear enough case for Davis as a standalone play before blindly plugging him into our lineups on a whim. Let’s do it…

You’ll hear me talk a lot about Andre Drummond’s struggles as a defender. The hulking big man rebounds at an elite clip and has improved as a rim protector, but he remains a liability in the pick-and-roll. Drummond loses his man easily when he’s defending off the ball, allowing them to slip behind him for easy dunks or cut to the basket unevaded. This sets up as a phenomenal matchup for Davis, and it’s one I’ve exploited several times in recent seasons.

Davis leads the league in roll man points and it isn’t even close, although I’d love to see his free throw frequency (13%) a bit higher going forward. The Pistons have surrendered the third most points to roll men this season while being targeted at an 8.1 percent frequency, good for third most in basketball. This should come as no surprise to anyone considering Davis ruthlessly exploits teams who struggle to defend the PnR, but he is averaging 40 points, 13 rebounds, 3.8 blocks and 71 fantasy points per game over his last four meetings with Detroit, having racked up 30-plus points in each.

Davis gets some home cooking at the Smoothie King Center where the Pelicans’ scorekeeper has been notoriously generous. Combine that with Cousins’ suspension and he becomes a phenomenal play across the board in what should be a highly competitive affair. I’m willing to pay a premium on FanDuel, but only because I believe in the matchup and Davis’ ability to churn out 70-plus fantasy points against Detroit.

Giannis Antetokounmpo will be asked to shoulder an even heavier load now that Michael Beasley joins Jabari Parker on the shelf. Simply put, Milwaukee doesn’t have enough ball-dominant players to siphon usage away from Antetokounmpo. Outside of Khris Middleton, whose minutes will still be capped, and Greg Monroe, who is fed down low quite often, the Bucks are operating with a cast of three-and-D guards like Matthew Dellavedova, Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell, and offensively inept bigs like John Henson and Thon Maker. Antetokounmpo will be relied upon to run the offense for every second he’s on the court.

Wilson Chandler is a strong defender, but the numbers don’t exactly bear that out. He’s sporting the highest defensive rating of his career (113 DRtg), falls outside of the top-100 in deflections and loose balls recovered, and owns modest steal and block rates at 1.3 and 1.0 percent, respectively. Even if Chandler has played better defense than the numbers indicate, he won’t be able to contend with Antetokounmpo’s combination of size, speed and length.

Denver’s 57.2 percent shooting allowed at the rim is good for third worst in basketball, while Nikola Jokic ranks dead last among all qualified centers in that department (59% DFG). The Nuggets are playing at a blistering pace, which won’t do them many favors when you factor in their league-worst 110.7 defensive rating on the season. This will be a marked change in pace for the Bucks, who remain 2.5-point favorites in a projected high-scoring affair (224.5 O/U). With Denver on the second of a back-to-back and Antetokounmpo likely sporting a usage rate well north of 30 percent, there’s no reason we shouldn’t love him on Wednesday night.

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are beginning to look like a lethal tandem again, and Sunday’s overtime win against the Hornets showcased their unparalleled chemistry. A whopping 61 percent of Griffin’s assisted field goals have come from Paul, a rather astounding number when you consider he’s played 11 of his 39 games without his star point guard. There aren’t many PG/PF duos in the game who own comparable correlations to these two, but that also makes it difficult to play one without playing the other.

Wednesday’s tilt with Houston positions both Griffin and Paul to excel, as their staring down the barrel of a slate-high 232.5-point total with the Clippers being 2-point favorites at home. Ryan Anderson is a liability on defense, and Clint Capela can’t be trusted to roam out to the perimeter in order to stick with Griffin. Mike D’Antoni could presumably use Trevor Ariza on Griffin, but the aging small forward has seen a precipitous decline in defensive ability over the past couple years.

Paul will benefit from the elevated pace as he should see a substantial uptick in offensive possessions and even some additional rebounding opportunities with Houston’s voluminous three-point shooting spraying rebounds across the court. Patrick Beverley will likely do a sufficient job of limiting Paul’s efficiency as a scorer, but his 50 percent assist rate and league-leading 2.2 steals per game (3.5% STL) should be more than enough to mitigate a poor shooting performance. Assuming this game does in fact remain competitive, Paul and Griffin should be afforded unlimited opportunity to produce in nearly every facet of the game.

Hassan Whiteside is one helluva sexy option on Wednesday, facing a 76ers team that has been gutted by opposing centers since Joel Embiid was sidelined. In a month since Embiid hit the shelf Philadelphia’s defensive rating has plummeted, but that should hardly come as a surprise considering they were already nine points per 100 possessions worse with Embiid off the court this season.

Big men are shredding the Sixers in all departments, scoring the third most points with the second most rebounds, third highest field goal percentage and fourth most free throw attempts to date. Philly simply doesn’t have the personnel to contain physical bigs, as Jahlil Okafor is a fundamental disaster, and Richaun Holmes, despite his high-energy approach, isn’t a natural center.

Assuming Whiteside doesn’t take the night off, he should have no trouble muscling his way to an elite fantasy performance. He’s posted 45-plus fantasy points in four of his last five starts and should face little adversity in his attempts to make it five of six on Wednesday. Willie Reed’s absence only further bolsters Whiteside’s value on this 11-game slate.

Isaiah Thomas may go overlooked now that Avery Bradley is back in the fold, but I actually view this as a positive position for the diminutive guard. Bradley is expected to play between 15 and 25 minutes on Wednesday, but logged just shy of 15 minutes on Monday and likely won’t crack the 20 minute mark against Cleveland. Thomas draws a stellar matchup with Kyrie Irving and a Cavaliers team that’s allowed the most points per possession to ball handlers in the pick-and-roll. He leads the league in drives with 13.2 per game, and can be expected to attack the Cavs at will in a contest owning a 222-point total and a 1-point spread (CLE -1). This newfound rivalry has become an enjoyable one to watch, and Thomas’ scoring will be frequently required if Boston intends on leaving TD Garden with a win.

Nikola Jokic openly admitted that he’s been dealing with fatigue, which as me worrying about his ability to produce on Wednesday with Denver playing their second of a back-to-back on the road. I’m willing to consider him a tournament play with his newly depressed price point, but this slate offers enough alternative options to where we won’t need to jam him into lineups. Having said that, Milwaukee has really struggled to contain centers since Jason Kidd inexplicably scrapped a successful big man rotation, so the potential for upside is immense.

CORE – Anthony Davis; Giannis Antetokounmpo; Chris Paul [DraftKings]; Blake Griffin [DraftKings]; Hassan Whiteside; Isaiah Thomas [DraftKings]

SECONDARY – Chris Paul [FanDuel]; Blake Griffin [FanDuel]; Isaiah Thomas [FanDuel]

GPP – Nikola Jokic


MID-RANGE   [$5900-$8300]

Jrue Holiday has unquestionably been negatively impacted by DeMarcus Cousins’ arrival in New Orleans. In three games (64 minutes) playing alongside Boogie, Holiday is posting a dismal .64 fantasy points per minute with an 18.4 percent assist rate and 22 percent assist rate, down from 1.11, 38 percent and 25 percent on the season, respectively. Cousins siphons production away from point guards like no other big man is capable of doing, as he not only demands his fair share of field goal attempts, but also serves as an elite facilitator who thrives with the ball in his hands. His absence on Wednesday should uncuff Holiday, who has seen a significant decrease in salary since Cousins arrived.

Holiday and Davis will be a popular pairing across the industry, but the move is justified; given the departure of both Buddy Hield and Tyreke Evans, Holiday should dominate the Pelicans’ offensive possessions throughout the night. In 570 minutes with Hield, Evans and Cousins off the court this season, Holiday is sporting a 26.2 percent usage rate and 38 percent assist rate with 1.14 FPPM produced. Moreover, Holiday is averaging an additional five fantasy points per game at home this season, where he and Davis have dominated with regularity.

DeAndre Jordan should massacre the Rockets on Wednesday, but as we regrettably witnessed with Myles Turner the other night, not every big man is capable of exploiting stellar matchups. Fortunately for Jordan, he is utterly suited to victimize this Houston frontcourt, boasting superior size and strength to every player D’Antoni could use at the five. I highlighted recent starting center performances against Houston in Monday’s Deep Dive, but let’s take another look: In the month of February, starting centers averaged 20 points, 13 rebounds, 3.5 Stocks and 46 fantasy points per game against the Rockets. Those averages are even more incredible when you consider they include an injury-shortened dud from Cody Zeller, a 19-minute performance from Alex Len, and a disappointing effort from Myles Turner.

Houston has been hemorrhaging rebounds to opposing centers, but they’ve also ceded the second most blocks and fourth most points to the position over the last one-plus months. On a night where Jordan should see around 35 minutes of work, there’s no reason to believe he won’t rack up the peripheral stats while also accumulating some easy points on putbacks and lobs against the fast-paced Rockets.

Nikola Vucevic is another one of many stellar center options on this 11-game slate, facing an injury-laden Knicks team at home. New York will be without Joakim Noah, who’s expected to miss the remainder of the season, and Willy Hernangomez, which ultimately leaves them with Kyle O’Quinn as their only “traditional” center. Kristaps Porzingis figures to earn some run at the five, but I wouldn’t expect Jeff Horacek to play him out of position for long stretches of time.

Vucevic has been a stud since moving back into the starting lineup, and is averaging 38 FPPG over his last 10 starts. More importantly, however, is Vucevic’s 32 percent usage and 1.24 FPPM in three games since Serge Ibaka was traded. On a night where the Magic are 1.5-point favorites in a 213.5-O/U game, Vucevic should be viewed as a strong mid-range option with easy 45-plus-fantasy point upside.

Serge Ibaka was a colossal letdown on Monday in a premium matchup with New York, but I’m expecting a bounce back performance in tonight’s home tilt with the Wizards. Look, Ibaka still played 36 minutes and attempted 14 shots against the Knicks in a last second victory, so it’s not like he wasn’t utilized. His usage rate hasn’t budged since being traded, and he hasn’t played fewer than 33 minutes in any of his three starts with Toronto.

Wednesday’s matchup with Washington places Ibaka in an optimal position to impress, as the Wizards have surrendered the second most points, third most rebounds, third highest field goal percentage and second highest efficiency to opposing power forwards this season. Markieff Morris’ defense has been underwhelming at best, and Marcin Gortat is sporting the worst DRtg of his career with the third highest FG% allowed at the rim of any qualified center. Look for Ibaka’s rebounding totals to improve along with his scoring, and don’t underestimate the absence of Kyle Lowry, as Cory Joseph is far less offensively inclined at the point.

Greg Monroe is another center I’ll be targeting in GPPs, as he should see depressed ownership on a night where the center position is chock full of talent. Monroe will always be a volatile option for as long as he’s playing under Jason Kidd, but the upside is simply undeniable. Milwaukee’s frontcourt rotation is thinning out by the day, and with Thon Maker seemingly falling out of favor with his bipolar head coach, Monroe figures to earn another heavy workload in this plus matchup with Denver.

The Nuggets are playing their second of a back-to-back on the road and Nikola Jokic is dealing with fatigue. He’s also allowing a position-high 59 percent shooting at the rim. So long as Monroe isn’t inexplicably benched on Wednesday — anything is possible under Kidd — he should earn every opportunity to torture this Denver frontcourt. An elevated pace of play doesn’t help Monroe like it would help Antetokounmpo or other guards, but increased offensive possessions and peripheral chances can never hurt, either.

Tyreke Evans logged 25 minutes in Monday’s home loss to the Timberwolves but he would’ve finished with 27 minutes of court time had this game not been a blowout. It’s been hard to watch Reke play since moving back to Sacramento, as his involvement fluctuates based on whom he’s sharing the court with, but a matchup with Brooklyn should mitigate any of those concerns. On the season Brooklyn has been trashed by point guards and small forwards alike, so regardless of which position he plays the most of on Wednesday, I’m confident in his ability to produce.

Here’s the good: Evans is producing 1.09 FPPM in three games with the Kings, while sporting a 26 percent usage rate in the process. He’s also facing the Nets. The bad, however, is Dave Joerger still hasn’t played him for more than 26 minutes in a game, and we don’t know if this is the result of blowouts or the desire to keep him healthy. Nevertheless, I’m willing to roll the dice on Evans once again, and I’d put my money on him posting 30-plus fantasy points at a sub-$6K price point.

Harrison Barnes is far from an exciting fantasy option, but I’d venture to say he’s safer than Tyreke Evans for cash with Wesley Matthews sidelined. Barnes’ usage jumps from 25 percent to 28 percent with Matthews off the court, but his usage sits just shy of 30 percent with Deron Williams sidelined, too. The Mavericks don’t possess many high-usage players, so at $6,100 on FanDuel and $6,000 on DraftKings, it’s reasonable to project Barnes for 30-35 fantasy points against the Hawks. Despite the limited upside, Barnes has been relatively safe, as evidenced by six 30-plus-fantasy point performances over his last eight starts.

CORE – Jrue Holiday; DeAndre Jordan; Serge Ibaka

SECONDARY – Nikola Vucevic; Harrison Barnes

GPP – Greg Monroe; Tyreke Evans


VALUE   [$3000-$5800]

Khris Middleton is one of those frustrating fantasy options. On one hand, I hate playing guys who don’t have a chance of seeing 30 minutes regardless of score. Upside is something we prioritize in daily fantasy basketball, and a minute ceiling doesn’t inspire the utmost confidence. On the other hand, Middleton is facing the Nuggets in a contest owning a Goliath 224.5-point total. He’s also one of only a couple healthy Bucks players capable of contributing on offense, as Jabari Parker and Michael Beasley remain sidelined. I’m willing to pull the trigger on Middleton for a couple of reasons, though: the small forward position is weak, Denver ranks dead last in defensive efficiency while playing at a top-five pace, and they’re also playing their second of a back-to-back on the road.

Terrence Ross is the reason Middleton shouldn’t be considered a core play on FanDuel, as Orlando’s newly acquired wing is inexplicably priced at $4,400 despite consecutive impressive starts. Frank Vogel has clearly taken a liking to his new small forward, running him for 33-plus minutes in back-to-back games while allowing him free rein to shoot the rock at will with 32 combined field goal attempts over that span. I wouldn’t project him for another 38 fantasy points on Wednesday, but at $4,400 that won’t be necessary. So long as he continues to get the run, Ross should have no trouble producing against the lowly Knicks in what’s projected to be a competitive, high-scoring affair.

Kyle O’Quinn always seems to disappoint when he’s chalk, but man, it’ll be hard to avoid him on Wednesday. Not only is O’Quinn positioned to start in a plus matchup with his former team, but the Knicks are devoid of healthy options at the center position. Even if Jeff Hornacek wanted to yanked O’Quinn early, his options will be limited. Joakim Noah is done for the year, Willy Hernandez has already been ruled out, and Marshall Plumlee has been assigned to the D-League. The only feasible way for O’Quinn to see his minutes severed would be for Kristaps Porzingis to play big minutes at the five with Lance Thomas soaking up run at the four. O’Quinn’s FPPM production has been stellar, and although it hasn’t always converted to quality production in the starting lineup, I’m having a tough time believing he won’t impress on Wednesday. That being said, I’ll be looking to fade O’Quinn in GPPs with center being the deepest position of any on the night.

Willie Cauley-Stein’s power forward eligibility on FanDuel makes him a very appealing play from night to night, and nothing will change on Wednesday in a stellar matchup with the Nets. Cauley-Stein also makes plenty of sense on DraftKings where you can plug him in the utility spot, and seeing how Joerger is more than willing to run him for 30-plus MPG, it’s hard to believe he’ll let us down in such an optimal position.

I don’t see Kosta Koufos earning much run against a Brooklyn team that doesn’t run two bigs in the frontcourt, so Cauley-Stein should earn plenty of minutes at the five. Moreover, the elevated pace will free up ample rebounding and shot-blocking opportunities, while increasing the offensive possessions for Sacramento. Don’t forget about WCS just because Wednesday offers a bounty of quality players at the frontcourt positions.

Jamal Crawford and Trevor Booker are two low-owned tournament options I’ll be considering tonight. Crawford has seen his minutes disappear over his last two games, but Doc Rivers has been more prone to give him additional run in fast-paced affairs such as the one he’ll draw with Houston. He’s dirt cheap across the board, and if Crawford gets hot on a night where the Clippers will need his three-point shooting off the bench, he could easily produce eight times his salary.

Booker has been impressive off the bench for Brooklyn, and a 30-plus-fantasy point performance is very realistic against the Kings. Sacramento’s frontcourt defense will suffer for the rest of the season, and this game should remain competitive enough for Booker to log around 28 minutes of work. I like him as a minimally owned power forward with enticing upside.

CORE – Khris Middleton [DraftKings]; Terrence Ross [FanDuel]; Kyle O’Quinn [Cash]; Willie Cauley-Stein

SECONDARY – Khris Middleton [FanDuel]; Malcolm Brogdon

GPP – Terrence Ross [DraftKings]; Jamal Crawford; Trevor Booker