NBA Deep Dive – 3/12/17


High-Priced ($8,500+)


James Harden faces off with LeBron James and the Cavaliers after a couple of difficult matchups in his last two games.  Cleveland has been awful defensively of late, ranking 29th in the league in defensive rating over the last month.  This game should be played at a fast pace, as Houston ranks in the top five in pace and Cleveland is in the middle of the pack.  We have seen Cleveland play fast against faster teams this season, so expect Cleveland to be pushing the ball more in this one.  Harden is a triple-double threat whenever he takes the floor and is one of the top options on this slate despite his price tag.


LeBron James had another big game last night after a slow start and showed what a reliable fantasy option he is, producing 64 DraftKings points on just 14 field goal attempts.  He contributes in every category and is playing huge minutes lately, registering at least 37 in every game since the All-Star break since he is the only thing keeping Cleveland from completely falling apart.  In those seven games, he has a 30.4 usage percentage, 40 percent assist rate and 18.4 rebounding percentage.  He is doing it all right now and we should see a huge game from him on national t.v. tonight in a pace-up game with a 231 total.


Damian Lillard has a phenomenal matchup tonight against the Phoenix Suns.  Phoenix is playing at the fastest pace in the league over the last month and ranks 20th in defensive rating.  In addition, Phoenix ranks 23rd in three-point percentage allowed and 4th in points allowed per 36 minutes to opposing guards over that time.  Lillard scored at least 42 DraftKings points in both games against Phoenix earlier this season, and Mason Plumlee and Evan Turner were active for both. Lillard sees a boost in productivity with Turner sidelined and Plumlee gone and should contribute in a big way against the Suns tonight.


Secondary: Kyrie Irving, Eric Bledsoe


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


D’Angelo Russell is playing in another game where there should be a ton of fantasy points to go around.  This may not be as obvious a spot as the Suns game was, but it is just about as good.  The Vegas total is 221 and, if I were a betting man, I would take the over.  Los Angeles ranks 5th in pace and 28th in defensive rating over the last month and Philadelphia ranks 2nd in pace and 20th in defensive rating.  Russell should thrive once again in the up-tempo game.  Against opposing guards over the last month, Philadelphia ranks 28th in points allowed per 36 minutes and 29th in field goal percentage allowed.  Since the All-Star break, Russell has a 28.6 usage percentage, a 29.5 assist percentage, and has played at least 33 minutes in five of seven games.  Russell has 50+ point upside in this matchup.


Devin Booker is being aggressive on offense again and it is paying off in his fantasy performances.  He scored 36 real points in a pace-down game on 12-20 shooting last night, marking the third straight game he has at least 18 field goal attempts after a stretch where he was taking no more than 13 per game.  Portland is a pace-down game, but they still rank 13th in pace so there should be plenty of posssessions available.  Booker gets a slight boost due to the Suns incorporating Tyler Ulis into the rotation as well.  Booker has played 42 minutes alongside Ulis, without Bledsoe, since the All-Star break and has a usage percentage of 36 percent compared to 22.3 percent alongside Bledsoe without Ulis.  It is usually only a couple of minutes per game that they play together, but it is worth noting the slight uptick in potential.


C.J. McCollum has been underwhelming of late for the most part, but he still has a high ceiling on any given night as he showed last night against Washington and last week against Brooklyn.  Phoenix, like Washington and Brooklyn, is another boost in pace combined with a poor defense.  McCollum, like Lillard, benefits without Plumlee or Turner on the floor and he gets time with the second unit where he is the primary scorer.  Shabazz Napier is now playing with the second unit as well, which takes the ball out of McCollum’s hands a little bit but he is still the number one offensive threat.  McCollum is still cheap enough across the industry that he is very unlikely to hurt you at his price and he has the potential to pay if off very nicely in a great matchup.


Robert Covington had a monster game against Portland before falling back to Earth against the Clippers.  His price tag is high, but he makes for an excellent tournament play as he has a 50+ point ceiling and the price will likely keep people away.  Brandon Ingram has struggled to defend spot-up shooters this season, ranking in the bottom half of the league with 1.03 points allowed per possession.  Covington is not the most efficient shooter, but 35.2 percent of his offensive plays are spot-up jump shots so the opportunity should be there for him to do well in this matchup.  Combine the favorable matchup with the boost in pace and increased opportunity for defensive stats and this game sets up nicely for Covington.


Kristaps Porzingis appears to be back to full strength and gets a nice matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.  Brooklyn is not as bad as they were earlier in the season, but they still play at a fast pace and have a weak defense.  I expect to see Carmelo somewhat phased out of the offense and for New York to run the offense through Porzingis as the season winds down and they have nothing to play for.  Porzingis is averaging 1.45 DraftKings points per minute in two games against Brooklyn this season, including last month when he went for 19 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 blocks in just 25.5 minutes of play.


Julius Randle will most likely be in this articule every time that I write it until he is at least $8,000.  He can still be inconsistent at times, but his ceiling is massive and he gets a rare pace-up game against Philadelphia.  Randle’s ceiling is at its highest when he is playing in a game where he will really be able to push the ball up the floor after getting a defensive rebound and when he is facing a weak defensive frontcourt.  He gets both today against Jahlil Okafor, Dario Saric and the Sixers.  Philadelphia is 27th in points allowed per 36 and 27th in rebounds allowed per 36 to opposing forwards since Embiid’s injury at the end of January.  They are also 29th in both categories to opposing centers, so basically just play in the paint against the Sixers and you can expect a big night. Randle has contributed across the board this season, but especially since the All-Star break.  His usage percentage is just 19.8 percent since the break, down from 21.9 for the season, but his assist percentage has climbed from 20.4 to 22.5 and his rebounding percentage has increased from 15.7 to 19.3.  He is becoming reminiscient of Draymond Green in that he is not an elite scorer, but he can stuff the stat sheet and is a threat to triple-double in good matchups.


Jusuf Nurkic let a lot of people down last night against the Wizards because he could not stay out of foul trouble but we can go right back to the well tonight against the Suns.  Nurkic is athletic enough to stay on the floor in a fast-paced game, as evidenced by the 38 minutes he played against the Sixers when he exploded for 81 DraftKings points.  Unfortunately, Jahlil Okafor does not play for the Suns, but they are still weak in the paint with a combination of Alex Len, Alan Williams and Marquese Chriss manning the five.  Since Tyson Chandler was removed from the rotation after the All-Star break, the Suns have actually done a pretty good job limiting rebounds to opposing centers, ranking 11th in the league in rebounds allowed per 36 minutes.  They have not done a good job of doing anything else, however, ranking 29th in points allowed, 24th in blocks allowed, 27th in steals allowed, 27th in assists allowed and 26th in field goal percentage allowed.  In addition, they have not been as good at preventing offensive rebounds as rebounds in general, ranking just 19th in offensive rebounds allowed per 36 minutes.  Long story short, Nurkic should be in line for another big game as long as he can prevent himself from hacking Eric Bledsoe every time he drives to the basket.


Myles Turner is cheap enough to fall into the value category on DraftKings, but he is over $6,000 on FanDuel.  He is a strong tournament play on both sites as he matches up well with Hassan Whiteside.  We have seen athletic bigs who can knock down a shot from outside the paint give Whiteside fits this season and Turner is no exception.  In two games against Whiteside, Turner has produced 33.8 DraftKings points in 37.2 minutes of play and 36.2 points in 31.9 minutes.  We have not seen a big game out of Turner in a while, but this is a spot where we should see him turn it around at a reasonable price and probably relatively low ownership for a five-game slate.


Secondary: Derrick Rose, T.J. Warren, Dario Saric, Brook Lopez, Alan Williams, Hassan Whiteside



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


Some of the shine has worn off Lou Williams after his two offensive explosions when he first joined the Rockets.  That does not mean that he does not still have upside, however.  He is still taking 10 or 11 shots on most nights, he just has not been making them.  He has a chance to do very well tonight against a terrible Cavaliers defense, however.  As bad as the Cleveland starters are at defense, the bench is even worse with a defensive rating of 115.3 since the break.  Williams is going to be inconsistent moving forward but he still has a nice ceiling in this spot.


Jordan Clarkson has been playing very well lately and his price has not increased too much as a result.  He still does not have a huge ceiling, but until he hits $6,000 he will be in play in good matchups such as tonight.  He is playing north of 30 minutes most nights lately and is closing alongside D’Angelo Russell in close games.  He has taken at least 14 shots in six of his last 7 games and he should benefit, like everyone else, from the pace tonight’s game will be played at.  He is even more valuable where he is shooting guard eligible.


Willy Hernangomez is back in the starting lineup for the Knicks and he is too cheap.  We have seen some centers struggle against the Nets recently as Brook Lopez draws them away from the basket and they struggle to get rebounds.  The upside for Hernangomez in this matchup is worth the risk, however, as he has the potential to be one of the best point-per-dollar plays on the slate.  Although he did not start the last game he played against Brooklyn, much of his time on the floor was against Lopez.  In that game, he had 16 points, 16 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block in just 25.1 minutes.  He has played at least 27 minutes in both games since returning to the starting lineup and he should pay off his low price tag nicely in this matchup.


Secondary: Jeremy Lin, Allen Crabbe, Brandon Ingram (FanDuel), Larry Nance, Jahlil Okafor, Clint Capela, Ivica Zubac