NBA Deep Dive – 3/18/17

High-Priced ($8,500+)

James Harden is the most expensive player on the slate in an excellent matchup against the Denver Nuggets. Denver is not playing at the same pace that they have for most of the season, ranking just 14th since the All-Star break- likely as a result of playing Jokic and Plumlee next to each other compared to the small lineups they have been using for much of the season. That said, this game still has a 239.5 Vegas total so we should not be overly concerned about the small drop in pace. Harden has been doing it all lately with three consecutive triple-doubles and he has scored at least 30 real points in five of his last seven games- a good sign since his scoring was down for a handful of games after the addition of Lou Williams. Harden’s price is climbing back up, as it sits at $12,400 on DraftKings and $11,800 on FanDuel, but he is still a strong option at his price in this matchup.

Nikola Jokic has also been playing outstanding basketball and he has the upside to be even more productive from a fantasy standpoint, as his minutes have been limited by blowouts lately. In his last four games, he has played 26.9 minutes in a 20 point win against Boston, 30.2 minutes in a 13 point win against Sacramento, 24.0 minutes in a 28 point win against the Lakers and 30.4 minutes in a 15 point win against the Clippers. He lost at least a couple of fourth quarter minutes in each of these games. We can still project him for 32-34 minutes assuming this game is close to the end and, considering Jokic averages over 1.6 fantasy points per minute without Chandler or Gallinari on the floor, those extra minutes are important. Jokic is a triple-double threat whenever he takes the floor these days and he has a good chance to record one in a pace-up game against the Rockets.

John Wall has been doing everything he can to push the Wizards to the two seed in the Eastern Conference, compiling a 30.2 usage percentage and 47.4 assist percentage since the All-Star break while averaging 1.38 DraftKings points per minute over his last seven games despite a brutal travel schedule. Wall has been overpriced for much of the year, but his price is now falling- especially on DraftKings where he sits at just $9,300. He always has a high floor because of the heavy minutes that he plays and his role in the offense, but he now has decent upside for his price as 55-60 fantasy points is a nice ceiling for a low-$9,000 price tag. It is also worth noting that Wall did not show ill effects of a left foot sprain in closing out the Dallas game or racking up 20 assists against the Bulls last night.

Secondary: LeBron James, Steph Curry

Mid-Range ($5,500-$8,400)
Chris Paul has been a little bit underwhelming lately but he gets a nationally televised matchup against Kyrie Irving, who he has had success against in the past. Coach Doc Rivers has asked Paul to shoot the ball more, which can only help his fantasy upside. Cleveland as whole has been awful defensively, ranking 26th in defensive rating since the All-Star break. The return of Kevin Love should help the defense some, but Paul’s matchup with Irving is favorable regardless. Paul’s price is sitting in the low-mid $8,000 range across the industry and he has 50+ fantasy point upside in this matchup. Doc Rivers has not been staggering Paul and Griffin’s minutes over the last couple of games, which is concerning since Paul is much more productive without Griffin on the court. There does not appear to be a reason that Rivers stopped, however, and the Clippers lost the two games that he decided not to do it so hopefully we see it start again moving forward. I would rather roster Paul at a low price and hope that Rivers does what is in the best interest of his team (and fantasy players) than wait and see Rivers start to do it again and miss out on Paul at reduced ownership and price.

George Hill has had a couple of bad games of late but that should not deter us from rostering him in a matchup against the Bulls. The only two point guards to average less than 1 DraftKings point per minute against the Bulls this month were Patrick Beverley (not really a point guard) and Chris Paul (32 points in 32.5 minutes). The other eight point guards, ranging from Reggie Jackson to James Harden, all scored well over 1 fantasy point per minute- including Elfrid Payton’s 22-14-14 triple-double. It is worth noting that Rajon Rondo recently reclaimed his spot in the starting lineup and he has actually been very good at defending the pick-and-roll this season, but that is not going to be enough to completely fix Chicago’s defensive issues in the backcourt. Hill averages over 1 DraftKings point per minute when he is on the court alongside Gobert and Hayward without Hood or Favors this season and he should return to form sooner rather than later after poor performances against Detroit and Cleveland. Take advantage of his decreasing price and the fact that he is almost never highly owned in tournaments.

Rajon Rondo has played well since returning to the starting lineup and he is too cheap across the industry for his current role. In three games since returning to the starting lineup, Rondo has a 18.3 usage percentage, 35.3 assist percentage, 8.5 rebounding percentage and is averaging slightly less than 35 minutes per game. The Jazz are a strong defensive team who play at a slow pace, but Rondo can still have success in this matchup- especially because he is not reliant on scoring points. He did well against Utah when he was a member of the Kings last season and Ricky Rubio, a similar point guard to Rondo, is averaging just shy of 1 fantasy point per minute against Utah this season. Rondo’s past production against Utah and Rubio’s (and other point guards) strong production against the Jazz this season make me confident in projecting Rondo for close to 1 fantasy point per minute tonight, which is very nice for his price.

Klay Thompson has at least 20 field goal attempts in every game since Kevin Durant’s injury with the exception of one. His usage rate over that span is 32.2 percent and he has a great matchup tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks who allow the most spot-up field goal attempts per game this season. Thompson averages 9.1 catch-and-shoot attempts per game, which is the most on the Warriors (ahead of Steph Curry by 4.1 per game), and he ranks in the 79th percentile with 1.11 points per possession on spot-up attempts. Milwaukee’s defense is designed to force the ball out of the hands of the point guard and into the hands of wings on the perimeter, which suits Thompson perfectly. His price has somehow not risen very much despite his current hot streak and this is the perfect matchup to take advantage.

Will Barton got expensive very quickly, but he is still a strong option in a pace-up game against Houston with Gallinari and Chandler sidelined. Barton has a 20.3 usage percentage and 22.0 assist percentage in 129 minutes alongside Jokic without Gallinari, Chandler or Nurkic this season and he played 35.4 minutes against the Clippers in Denver’s most recent game. Barton has been very productive against Houston in recent meetings, as the fast pace and opportunity for transition points (Houston allows the 6th most points per game in transition in the league) suits Barton’s style of play perfectly. Do not let Barton’s price increase scare you off in a great matchup.

Rudy Gobert faces off against a Chicago team that has struggled somewhat on the boards since the All-Star break. The Bulls rank 28th in rebounds allowed per 36 minutes and 25th in offensive rebounds allowed per 36 minutes to starting centers since the All-Star break. Gobert is not a high-usage player, but he can dominate games if he is able to grab offensive rebounds. He currently ranks 5th in the NBA in offensive rebounds per 48 minutes (just behind Robin Lopez- more on that later) and this is a matchup where he has a chance to put up a monster double-double at an attractive price point, particularly at just $7,200 on DraftKings.

DeAndre Jordan is still sitting at just $6,500 on DraftKings, $900 less than on FanDuel. Jordan is similar to Gobert in that a lot of his offense is derived from offensive putbacks. Cleveland ranks 27th in the NBA in offensive rebounds allowed per 36 minutes to opposing centers and Jordan has a significant size advantage on Tristan Thompson, as Jordan is 6’11” tall and weighs 265 pounds and Thompson is listed at just 6’9″ tall and 238 pounds.

Secondary: Mike Conley, Patrick Beverley, Nicolas Batum, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marvin Williams, Marc Gasol, Mason Plumlee, Greg Monroe
Value ($3,000-$5,400)

Jason Smith is the best point-per-dollar play on the slate if Markieff Morris misses tonight’s game with the Hornets. He is still the absolute minimum price and has been very efficient when given playing time for the Wizards, with a 59.3 true shooting percentage and .88 DraftKings points per minute this season. He played 37.4 minutes last night against Chicago and Charlotte has a small frontcourt that Smith can match up with well. If Morris misses this game, Smith should be in line for huge minutes again.

Nikola Mirotic has a difficult matchup with Utah, but his price is still too low for his current role. He has averaged 29.3 minutes per game in the three games since he rejoined the rotation and is averaging 1.20 DraftKings points per minute despite being only slightly better than average from the field over that span. The per-minute production should decrease moving forward, but there is still excess value at his price even if you allow for some regression. Utah is also allowing opposing bench players to shoot 37 percent from three since the All-Star break, which ranks 22nd in the league, so the matchup is not quite as bad for Mirotic as it appears at first look.

Robin Lopez had a monster night last night agains the Wizards and his price is even lower tonight on DraftKings. He is not as appealing on FanDuel at $4,400 but, at just $3,600 on DraftKings, he is a strong tournament play despite a difficult matchup with Rudy Gobert. Lopez ranks 4th in the NBA with 5.5 offensive rebounds per 48 minutes and in his last six games against Gobert, going back to his Portland days, Lopez has averaged 6.9 offensive rebounds per 48 minutes- including 7 offensive rebounds in their meeting earlier this season. Lopez has recorded double-doubles the last two times he has faced Gobert, and he had 21 real points the game before that as well. In addition to the offensive rebounds in their meeting earlier this season, Lopez was consistently able to get open looks as a result of Gobert being late to close out on pick-and-pop plays. There is still risk in this matchup, but there is a ton of upside at just $3,600.

Secondary: Jameer Nelson, Joe Ingles, Jamal Murray, Trevor Ariza, Matt Barnes, Juan Hernangomez, Ryan Anderson, Clint Capela, Cody Zeller, Tristan Thompson