NBA Deep Dive – 3/19/17

High-Priced ($8,500+)


LeBron James burned a bunch of people last night when he was rested unexpectedly against the Clippers, but he is expected to play tonight against the Lakers.  James’ price is too high on FanDuel at $12,000, but he is still a viable option on DraftKings at $11,400 with a bonus for double-doubles and triple-doubles in a pace-up game against the Lakers.  Lebron has triple-doubled in five games since the All-Star break and has double-doubled in all but one.  There should be a little bit of concern moving forward because his rebounding numbers have been up due to the Kevin Love injury, but we can expect Love’s minutes to remain limited for the time being.  There is obvious blowout risk in this game, but the game is in Los Angeles where the Lakers have actually kept some games surprisingly close this season.  James is not a must-play, but he does have legitimate triple-double upside in a great matchup if the Lakers are able to keep it close.


Anthony Davis is in a nice spot against the Timberwolves.  His price is a little bit higher than it probably should be since he has had a couple of monster games when DeMarcus Cousins is sidelined or in foul trouble.  Even so, this is a matchup that Davis should do well in.  Minnesota struggles to defend stretch fours that can make shots away from the basket and Davis is a capable shooter.  In two games against Minnesota this season, Davis has shot 63 and 72.7 percent from the field and scored 45 and 42 actual points.  Obviously we can not project him to shoot 60-70 percent from the field every time he faces Minnesota, but it is not a coincidence that he has had two monster games against a team that is vulnerable against stretch bigs due to defensive scheme and Karl-Anthony Towns usually being slow to close out.


Karl-Anthony Towns also gets a very nice spot against Anthony Davis, although the game is on the road where he has played significantly worse this season.  The Pelicans have struggled with bigs that are capable shooters as well, as the big frontcourt of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins has struggled to defend the perimeter.  Towns is a capable shooter and has attempted at least three three-pointers in six consecutive games and seven of his last eight.  If forced to choose between the two I prefer Davis, but Towns is a strong play in his own right.


Hassan Whiteside has returned to form lately with at least 20 points and at least 14 rebounds in three straight games.  He has a friendly matchup tonight against Portland.  Jusuf Nurkic is a capable rebounder and the Blazers allow the fifth fewest rebounds per 36 minutes to starting centers since acquiring him.  The Blazers have struggled to prevent offensive rebounds, however, ranking just 24th in the league at 8.3 offensive rebounds allowed per 36 minutes to opposing centers since the All-Star break.  Portland is also ranked 23rd in points allowed per 36 minutes to starting centers over that span.  Tonight’s game will also be played in Miami where Whiteside is averaging nearly a full 2 rebounds more per game than on the road this season.  Finally, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum both are aggressive in driving to the basket, which increases Whiteside’s block upside.  In his last five games against Damian Lillard, dating back to January 2015, Whiteside is averaging 5.43 blocks per 36 minutes- with individual totals of 4, 6, 5, 4 and 5 blocks in those games.


Secondary: Kawhi Leonard, DeMarcus Cousins, Damian Lillard, Paul George


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


Ricky Rubio has been playing incredibly well lately and is price, while it is has risen somewhat, is still closer to his floor than his ceiling.  Coach Thibodeau said that Rubio needed to start shooting more if he wanted stable playing time and Rubio has responded by attempting at least 10 shots in each of his last seven games.  The threat of him shooting has also liked helped to open up passing lanes.  From the time of Zach LaVine’s injury to March 4th, when Rubio began to shoot more, Rubio was averaging 1.04 DraftKings points per minute.  In the seven games since he began shooting more, Rubio is averaging 1.24 DraftKings points per minute.  He has a difficult matchup today against Jrue Holiday and a New Orleans defense that ranks seventh in defensive rating since the All-Star break, but it is also a pace-up game as the Pelicans rank 12th in pace since the break.  Rubio remains a strong option in this one.


Jeff Teague has been disappointing for a while and his price continues to fall.  This looks like a good time to jump on.  His usage rate since the All-Star break is actually slightly higher than his full-season usage rate and his assist rate is slightly lower since the break.  He has seen a slight increase in rebounding rate.  The big difference has been a drop in field goal percentage and true shooting percentage, which means that he should be in line for positive regression since his usage has not changed.  Teague has shot 39.7 percent from the field in March and has a 51.8 true shooting percentage since the All-Star break.  For the season, Teague is shooting 43.8 percent from the field with a 56.6 true shooting percentage.  Last season, he shot 43.9 percent from the field with a 55.1 true shooting percentage.  No matter how you look at it, he should start making more shots and we want to be on board when that happens.  It is also worth noting that Teague ranks in the 81st percentile on the pick-and-roll with 0.94 points per possession and he utilizes it 42.1 percent of the time.  Cory Joseph ranks in the bottm 17 percent of pick-and-roll defenders, allowing 0.98 points per possession to opposing ball-handlers.  Teague seems capped around 32 minutes per game now that Rodney Stuckey is healthy, but that is still enough time for him to pay of a low-mid $6,000 salary nicely- plus there is the chance that if he is actually making shots they give him a few extra minutes.


Tyler Johnson is averaging about 3 more minutes per game without Dion Waiters this season.  In addition, he sees an uptick in usage and assist percentage without Waiters on the floor.  Alongside Dragic without Waiters, Johnson’s usage percentage climbs from 15.7 percent to 19.7 percent and his assist percentage increases from 7.5 percent to 13.1 percent.  He will probably play around 22 minutes in this situation today.  He will also play around 10 minutes without Dragic or Waiters on the floor, where he has a 23.8 usage percentage and 26.6 assist percentage.  As a team, Portland ranks 19th in defensive rating since the All-Star break and their bench ranks 23rd.  It is a nice matchup for Johnson and he is inexpensive across the industry.


Julius Randle is still too cheap, sitting at $7,000 on DraftKings and $6,800 on FanDuel.  His minutes have been relatively stable of late, as he sees around 30-34 minutes per game and usually gets run even in blowouts.  Cleveland’s defense should improve now that Kevin Love has returned to the lineup, and because it really cannot get any worse, but Randle is still a high-upside player that can contribute in every category.  He is a poor man’s Draymond Green for fantasy purposes and he makes for a strong tournament play just based on upside at his current price since his minutes have been stable even when the Lakers are losing.


Jusuf Nurkic has a 25 percent usage percentage, 18.1 assist percentage and 17.7 rebounding percentage since joining the Blazers.  He is averaging 1.21 DraftKings and 1.13 FanDuel points per minute over that span.  To put it in perspective, he ranks 5th in assist percentage and 9th in usage percentage among centers who have started at least 5 games since the break- and that is with Cousins and Davis both included as centers.  He has a seemingly difficult matchup with Hassan Whiteside, but Whiteside has struggled to defend bigs who can take him out of the paint all season long.  Nurkic is a strong rebounder in his own right, so he should still be able to get some rebounds despite Whiteside’s presence.  His price tag is still too low for his ceiling, especially on FanDuel where he is just $6,300.


Myles Turner has been playing a little better of late and gets a nice matchup with the Raptors.  Jonas Valanciunas struggles to defend stretch-fives and Coach Casey has said that he will most likely not leave Valanciunas in the game in those matchups.  That leaves guys like Patrick Patterson and Serge Ibaka to potentially defend Turner, or Jakob Poeltl who they used against Dirk Nowitzki about a week ago.  Turner should be able to do well on the perimeter against the Toronto frontcourt.  Toronto has only faced two centers who are capable of playing on the perimeter in their last ten games, but they allowed Nowitzki to produce about 10 percent more DraftKings points per minute than his season average and they allowed Cousins to produce about 4.5 percent more DraftKings points per minute than his March average with the Pelicans.  There is always risk when rostering Turner, but he has upside as we have seen the Pacers give him plenty of minutes lately.


Secondary: Kyrie Irving (DraftKings), DeMar DeRozan, Goran Dragic, Andrew Wiggins, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jordan Clarkson, Willie Cauley-Stein, Ivica Zubac (DraftKings)



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


Gorgui Dieng is an elite tournament option at this slate going up against the big New Orleans frontcourt.  Dieng has faced Cousins and Davis twice each this season (before the trade) and he logged 42.9 minutes (with a plus-1 rating) and 34.6 minutes (with a +15 rating) against Cousins.  He played 24 minutes in one meeting with Davis, but he was limited by foul trouble and then did not play in the fourth quarter due to a blowout.  In the other game, he played 33.7 minutes and missed about 2.5 minutes due to fouls.  On top of the likelihood that he wrestles plenty of minutes away from Shabazz Muhammad, the Pelicans have been terrible against opposing centers since the Cousins trade.  New Orleans ranks dead last in rebounds allowed per 36 minutes and 28th in offensive rebounds allowed per 36 to opposing centers since the trade.  Dieng could go overlooked in this one since his game logs are not pretty but he has huge upside in this matchup as long as he can keep his hands to himself.


Ivica Zubac is way too cheap on FanDuel, where he sits at just $4,300.  Zubac has played about 30 minutes in two of his last three games and the only one that he didn’t was because he was in massive foul trouble the entire game.  He has averaged just over a fantasy point per minute for the season and is averaging just  under 1.2 fantasy points per minute over his last 5 games since he has taken a more prominent role in the Los Angeles rotation.  Cleveland has struggled to rebound since the All-Star break, ranking 26th in rebounds allowed per 36 and 25th in offensive rebounds allowed per 36 to opposing centers.  Love’s return should help some but it is still a nice spot for Zubac.  He is playable on DraftKings at $5,600 but is an elite play on FanDuel at the significant discount.


Secondary: Deron Williams (FanDuel), Iman Shumpert (some “rest” risk), Wayne Ellington, E’Twaun Moore, Pau Gasol, Tristan Thompson