NBA Deep Dive – 3/15/17

HIGH-PRICED   [$8400+]


James Harden is obviously a high-upside play against the Lakers, but also a high-risk play at a premium price point. It’s hard to envision a way in which he reaches value on a night where the Rockets are 17.5-point home favorites against a dreadful Lakers team that’s won three games since the beginning of February. Harden could drop 80 fantasy points in this matchup, but he could also be wildly disappointing if this game is as lopsided as Vegas projects. I’ll have some tournament exposure in hopes of the off chance of a ceiling game, but paying top dollar for Harden in what’s virtually guaranteed to be an uncompetitive game just doesn’t seem logical. I would genuinely be surprised to see him play more than three quarters on Wednesday.


Karl-Anthony Towns isn’t the lock of locks that he was on Monday, but he’ll still make for a strong high-end PF/C play against the Celtics. Boston’s undersized frontcourt won’t only struggle to guard the 7-foot phenom down low, but they’ll serve up ample rebounding opportunities throughout the night, too. The Timberwolves’ defense has also been so strong lately that this game should remain competitive throughout, despite the 6-point spread in favor of Boston.

This play is geared less towards advanced analytics and more towards opportunity; Towns is locked into 38-40 minutes in close games, operates with close to 30 percent usage every night, and faces a Boston frontcourt that’s served up massive performances to opposing bigs. I’d have much more exposure to Towns if he wasn’t flirting with an $11K price point across the board, but he’s still a very strong option in what should be a accommodating matchup with the C’s.


John Wall is too cheap on DraftKings — it’s really that simple. Any player who routinely drops 50-plus-fantasy point performances, racks up massive double-doubles on the regular and sports a career-high 31 percent usage rate should warrant consideration in any matchup when his salary is depressed. Wednesday’s draw with Dallas is less than enticing on paper; they play at a crawling pace and sport a top-10 defensive rating, but Wall won’t need a monster performance in order to pay off his salary.

Those who follow my NBA work know I’m not big on trends, as they generally include a lot of noise and lack a relevant sample, but in Wall’s case I’m going to use one to hammer my point home: in 24 games with a point total of 210 or lower this season, Wall has performed seven fantasy points above expectations. In 13 home games with the same point-total constraints Wall is averaging a whopping 11 fantasy points above expectations. The point here is Wall doesn’t rely on fast-paced, high-scoring affairs to produce. He plays upwards of 40 MPG and returns home after a grueling 5-game west coast road trip in which Washington went 4-1. Don’t sleep on the All-Star point guard just because he isn’t facing the Suns.


CORE – John Wall [DraftKings]

SECONDARY – Karl-Anthony Towns

GPP – James Harden; DeMarcus Cousins


MID-RANGE   [$5900-$8300]

Devin Booker somehow still owns a mid-$6K price point across the industry, sitting at $6,700 on DraftKings and $6,600 on FanDuel heading into a spectacular matchup with the Kings. The fact that  Booker doesn’t get much love in the daily fantasy world confounds me; Earl Watson is using the latter half of another lost season to get his young players maximum experience, and Booker has been handed the keys to the car. Over his last four starts, the second-year two-guard is averaging 38 minutes and 21 field goal attempts per game.

Monday’s tilt with Sacramento owns a 221-O/U with the Suns somehow being 5.5-point favorites at home. Yes, the Kings are so bad that Phoenix is a near touchdown favorite in a real NBA basketball game. Eric Bledsoe’s minutes are down in March, where Booker is sporting a 28 percent usage rate, and he shouldn’t have any restrictions on Wednesday against Buddy Hield’s nonexistent defense. Volume is king in daily fantasy basketball, and Booker should see no shortage of opportunity tonight.


T.J. Warren also makes sense for many of the same reasons we like Booker: minutes, opportunity, matchup and predictability. It’s unusual to think Warren is predictable, because his production isn’t, but Watson is going to give him another 30-35 minutes regardless of score. It’s important to pay attention to coaching changes as we draw closer to season’s end. Some teams are in the thick of a playoff race vying for a top seed, while others are clawing their way to the eighth spot in their conference and others are so far out of the race that player development has become the focus. Phoenix is an example of the latter, and with Warren expected to play a significant role in the Suns’ future plans, there’s no reason to believe he shouldn’t continue to get the run. Sacramento is allowing the second most points and third highest efficiency to opposing small forwards since Cousins was traded.


Blake Griffin is $7,900 on DraftKings in a home matchup with Milwaukee, the same team he just dropped 21/9/8 on just two weeks back. It hasn’t been an uber-successful month for Griffin, who’s averaging only 34.3 fantasy points per game in March, but he’s also faced some tough recent matchups against Utah, Memphis and Minnesota, a team that’s completely reinvented their defense since the break. This is a spectacular buy-low spot for Griffin, as he boasts legitimate triple-double upside and won’t stay struggling for long. Chris Paul is also underpriced on DraftKings at $8,200, and a string a recent pedestrian performances should keep his ownership down against the Bucks.


DeAndre Jordan is also well underpriced across the industry, placing him firmly in play against the Bucks. Milwaukee’s frontcourt defense has been unraveling of late, and with the Clippers battling for the fourth seed in the west, Jordan should see no shortage of playing time on a night where his interior presence will be needed to deter Giannis Antetokounmpo. Much like Griffin, Jordan makes for a strong price play with a nice floor at his depressed salary.


Hassan Whiteside’s services will be needed on Wednesday, as Miami hosts a Pelicans team that’s running two of the world’s best offensive big men in their starting frontcourt. After losing 30 of their first 41 games, the Heat are amazing only a half game out of the final playoff spot in the east, and they’ll earn an excellent opportunity to move up in the standings against a New Orleans squad that’s playing their second of a back-to-back on the road.

Whiteside should play upwards of 37 minutes here, and although the Pelicans have played stout defense since acquiring DeMarcus Cousins, I’m expecting Miami’s star big man to produce elite peripherals on the night. Over the last three seasons, no player has been blocked more than Cousins, who admittedly can’t jump. Miami is also favored by 6.5-points at home. So long as Whiteside stays out of foul trouble, he’s going to log more than enough minutes to produce a healthy double-double with elite block totals on Wednesday night.


Alan Williams likely won’t see a big uptick in minutes even if Alex Len remains sidelined, but that shouldn’t keep him out of tournament consideration against the Kings. Sacramento has been ravaged by opposing bigs since the break, and Big Sauce’s high-energy style of play should overwhelm whoever Dave Joerger decides to run at the five. With ridiculous per-36 minute averages of 18 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks, two steals and 47 DraftKings Points on the season, Williams won’t need more than 25 minutes to pay off his price tag across the industry. Williams is more appealing on FanDuel, though, where his $5,600 salary simply doesn’t reflect the quality of his recent play.


Julius Randle risks an early benching if Luke Walton isn’t satisfied with his starting lineup’s effort — there’s more than just a possibility that this could be the case against the Rockets — but the third-year Kentucky product is simply too cheap on FanDuel in such a fast-paced affair. This tilt between L.A. and Houston owns a slate-high 235-O/U as both teams play at a top-five pace, but the Lakers are so inferior that they may be down by 30 at the half. With that in mind, Randle should be viewed as a boom-or-bust tournament option with a massive ceiling at $6,500 but also a disconcerting floor. If this game remains even remotely competitive, Randle should have no trouble paying off this inexplicably low price point. If it gets out of hand early, however, he may not play more than 23 minutes on the night.


CORE – Devin Booker; Blake Griffin [DraftKings];

SECONDARY – T.J. Warren; Hassan Whiteside; DeAndre Jordan; Alan Williams [FanDuel]; Chris Paul [DraftKings]

GPP – Alan Williams [DraftKings]; Dwyane Wade [DraftKings]; Julius Randle [FanDuel]


VALUE   [$3000-$5800]


Rajon Rondo was one roll of the dice I felt rather confident in on Monday, as Fred Hoiberg, desperate to keep his job, is going to do everything in his power to win games and keep Chicago in the race. Rondo doesn’t just go from being out of the rotation, to playing limited minutes off the bench, to being inserted back into the starting lineup without Hoiberg intending on giving him sufficient run. Hoiberg is in pure desperation mode, and the sign of Rondo starting indicates that he believes this gives them the best chance to win games at the current time. Whether it works or not isn’t important; we’re here for the minutes and opportunity.

Hoiberg stated that he plans on using a nine-man rotation on Wednesday with Cameron Payne already ruled out. This essentially locks Rondo into a ~35-MPG role against the Grizzlies barring any unforeseen injury or foul trouble. Memphis lost five of six games in March while sporting a bottom-five defensive rating in the process. I don’t expect this to last, but I’m also not concerned about the matchup for Rondo. The Bulls are only 2-point dogs at home, and considering Rondo sported a 23 percent usage rate with a very serviceable 27 percent assist rate on Monday means he should earn every opportunity to produce this evening.


Clint Capela is one way to gain exposure to the highest projected scoring game on the night without having to pay a premium for Harden. The third-year big man faces a Lakers team that has all but made their offseason vacation reservations and packed it in for the year, as they’ve gone 1-10 over their last 11 games while allowing 117 PPG in the process. Houston should annihilate them on Wednesday, which creates blowout concerns for everyone involved, but Capela is at least cheap enough to deploy at $5,300 on FanDuel and $5,500 on DraftKings. He’s capable of playing in transition and scoring on fast-break dimes from Harden, should see plenty of putback opportunities with this lightning-fast pace, and shouldn’t struggle to rebound against the free-firing Lakers. Capela’s strong recent play combined with a discounted price tag and an outstanding matchup makes him well worth the risk.


Ivica Zubac is a higher upside, lower floor center in this same game, as he could play through a blowout as he did against the Nuggets, but could also lose minutes with Houston’s frontcourt being much smaller than Denver’s. The problem here is I don’t know if Walton is willing to run Zubac in any situation or he’s actually going to base his rotation on matchup fits. With a now increasing price point, Zubac shouldn’t be considered in cash, but his impressive per 36’s and potential 30-plus minutes of work in the starting lineup makes him a phenomenal tournament option even if his ownership is slightly inflated. The Rockets simply don’t have enough size to contain him in the paint, as a scorer or a rebounder. It will simply all come down to how long of a leash Walton is willing to give him on Wednesday.


Jordan Clarkson will start again on Wednesday, and although this game stands virtually no chance of staying competitive, he should still play at least 30 minutes against the Rockets. That being said, I see Clarkson as more of a cash game option and a fade in GPPs, as he’ll likely see the shutdown defense of Patrick Beverley for the first three quarters of play, and generally doesn’t contribute enough assists or peripherals to salvage a poor shooting performance with high-upside potential.

Actually, D’Angelo Russell stands out as a very intriguing GPP play on FanDuel, as he should get the same blowout run as he did against Denver, where he was on the court for the final 16 minutes of the game. Russell’s $6,500 salary makes sense in tournaments, as the field will almost certainly ignore him entirely now that he’s been removed from the starting lineup.


Thaddeus Young has truly been terrible, but I’d be remiss to not point out his dirt cheap price tag for Wednesday’s tilt with Charlotte. Here’s the thing: Young has been dismal in every sense of the word, but he’s played 37-plus minutes in back-to-back games and is bound to have a decent game eventually if these minutes continue. That’s really all there is to it, though, as Young has been so miserable from a fantasy perspective that we can’t expect anything from him even at a bottomed out price point.


Nemanja Bjelica would’ve seen less than 29 minutes on Monday had Karl-Anthony Towns not fallen into early foul trouble, as the Yugoslavian forward check in three minutes after tip, but only played 12:30 minutes in the second half. He likely would’ve played around 24 minutes against Washington, but still capitalized on the extended run and finished with an impressive 16-10 double-double. Wednesday’s matchup with Boston is one where I see him earning additional minutes, though, as the Celtics run a smaller, more athletic frontcourt at times, and Bjelica makes for a better fit than Gorgui Dieng against their bench unit. At $4,400 on both FanDuel and DraftKings, Bjelica should be considered a nice secondary value play at a relatively weak power forward position.


CORE – Rajon Rondo

SECONDARY – Clint Capela; Jordan Clarkson; Thaddeus Young; Nemanja Bjelica; Jeremy Lamb [FanDuel]

GPP – D’Angelo Russell [FanDuel]; Ivica Zubac; Jeremy Lamb [DraftKings]; Kosta Koufos [DraftKings]