NBA DEEP DIVE – March 26, 2017
Damian Lillard is finally playing great basketball and he has a fantastic matchup tonight against the Lakers. Los Angeles is playing at the third fastest pace in the league since the start of March and has the worst defensive rating over that period. They have been surprisingly good at keeping games close at home all season long, and the Blazers are only favored by 6 points, so there is a relatively good chance we actually see normal minutes out of Lillard tonight- definitely good enough that I am not concerning myself with a blowout at all in tournaments. During Lillard’s recent hot streak, he appears to actually be making an effort on the defensive end as well, as he has averaged 2.2 steals per game over his last six, with at least two steals in five of them. The Lakers are in the bottom third of the league in turnover percentage since the start of March and that, combined with the fast pace of the game, should provide Lillard the opportunity to continue boosting his fantasy production with steals. Since March 1st, the Lakers rank last in points allowed per 36 minutes to opposing guards. They also rank 20th in steals allowed, 29th in assists allowed, 19th in rebounds allowed, 28th in free throw attempts allowed, 22nd in three-point percentage allowed, and last in field goal percentage allowed. Needless to say, there are a lot of different ways for Lillard to produce a big game tonight in Los Angeles.
Stephen Curry is at home against a Memphis team that is traditionally known for their defense, but that has struggled of late. Curry sees a price decrease on DraftKings, where he sits at just $9,100. Curry has shot much better at home than on the road this season, shooting 50 percent from the field and 46 percent from three at Oracle compared to 43.2 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from three on the road. Curry makes for a strong tournament option as he has a 29.2 usage percentage and is averaging 1.3 DraftKings points per minute alongside Thompson and Green without Durant this season. The Warriors have also been staggering his minutes with Thompson a little bit, resulting in Curry getting time without Klay on the floor. Alongside Draymond Green, without Klay, Curry has a 44.4 usage rate and is averaging 1.79 DraftKings points per minute in a 296 minute sample size. In the game against Sacramento, Curry saw about 13 minutes on the floor without Thompson. With Damian Lillard in a great spot against the Lakers for only $400 more, it is very likely that Curry goes under owned in a pace-down game against Memphis which makes him an elite GPP option.
Nikola Jokic put up a 60 fantasy point performance against Indiana in his last game. It is probably not a coincidence that that game coincided with Mason Plumlee moving back to the bench as the Nuggets starting lineup returned to full strength. Since acquiring DeMarcus Cousins, the Pelicans rank 28th in total rebounds allowed per 36 minutes to starting centers and 25th in offensive rebounds allowed per 36. Jokic, of course, is a triple-double threat whenever he takes the floor, as he ranks 6th in points per 36, 10th in rebounds per 36 and 1st in assists per 36 among centers who have started at least 30 games this season. Tonight’s game should be up-tempo and Jokic should have plenty of opportunities to pile up stats.
DeMarcus Cousins is questionable for this game. If he sits, Anthony Davis becomes an elite play. If he plays, however, Cousins is a great option against a Denver team that plays fast and does not play much defense. Cousins appears to finally be settling in in New Orleans, as he has put together very good games back-to-back for the first time since joining the team. He has more upside than Davis because he does more when they are on the floor together. Both dominate usage and rebounds when the other is on the bench but, when they are together, Cousins has a 31.9 usage rate and averages 13.46 rebounds and 3.59 assists per 36 minutes compared to Davis’s 28.6 percent usage rate, 10 rebounds and 1.15 assists. Cousins is averaging 1.43 DraftKings points per minute alongside Davis, whereas Davis averages just 1.05 DraftKings points per minute alongside Cousins and relies on his time without Cousins to pile up most of his stats. As an added bonus, Cousins is now taking a ton of three-pointers (5, 9 and 9 in his last three games) and Denver ranks last in the league in three-point percentage allowed to opposing centers as they do not have bigs that are capable of defending the perimeter.
Secondary: Paul George, Anthony Davis
Jeff Teague is finally putting up the fantasy performances we would expect based on his role in the offense after a prolonged shooting slump. Today he gets a Philadelphia team that ranks 4th in pace, and will play even faster if Okafor is out, since the start of March. Teague’s minutes have trended up lately with his strong play, so it is a good sign that he is not actually capped at 32 minutes. Teague has a 25.9 usage rate and is averaging 7.53 assists and 5.12 rebounds per 36 minutes over the last two weeks. He has shot at least 40 percent in three straight games, after doing it just twice in his previous seven. He is shooting 44.3 percent for the season, so we should see this trend continue and can continue to roster Teague in a pace-up spot against the Sixers.
Jrue Holiday also appears to be getting comfortable playing alongside Davis and Cousins, as he has averaged 37.2 DraftKings points per game over his last three that they were both active. Tonight he gets a great matchup against Denver, who ranks 25th in points per 36 minutes to opposing guards and second to last in field goal percentage allowed. Holiday is in a great spot to produce even if Cousins plays, and his usage will obviously go up if Cousins is ruled out.
Wilson Chandler started at the four over Mason Plumlee upon Danilo Gallinari’s return to the lineup and that should be the case today as Plumlee attempting to defend Anthony Davis will not end well. The Pelicans have been vulnerable against stretch fours since acquiring Cousins and, if both New Orleans bigs are active, Chandler should be able to take advantage from the perimeter. He is a volatile play but he has a massive ceiling and the pace and matchup could lead to a very big game at his price.
Julius Randle has a 23.8 usage rate and is averaging 1.21 DraftKings points per minute this season alongside Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell, which is the Lakers new starting unit. He is also averaging 11.15 rebounds per 36 and 4.33 assists per 36 with Russell and Clarkson on the floor. The game against Portland should be high scoring and Randle has a nice ceiling. He does come with some risk, however, because he has struggled against Portland this season. A lot of those struggles can be attributed to Al-Farouq Aminu, however, so it will be interesting to see how he does now that Noah Vonleh has taken minutes from Aminu. He is a risky cash game option, but can pay off his price tag very nicely in tournaments if Aminu continues to lose minutes to Vonleh.
Marc Gasol is questionable for tonight’s game but he is underpriced if he does suit up. He is sitting at just $7,100 on DraftKings despite a matchup with a relatively weak Golden State frontcourt. In his last five games against Draymond Green and the Warriors, Gasol is averaging 1.08 DraftKings points per minute. This does not seem great, until you consider that he is playing massive minutes for the Grizzlies right now, averaging 37.5 over his last five. At just $7,100, he would be a viable option in any format as long as he suits up.
Jusuf Nurkic is getting more expensive but he has a tremendous matchup against the Lakers. Los Angeles is allowing the most points per 36 to opposing centers and ranks 23rd in offensive rebounds per 36. They also rank last in assists allowed per 36, playing right into Nurkic’s game. As a bonus, the Lakers are primarily a jump-shooting team so there are more rebounds to go around as a result of misses and there are less players driving to the basket and getting hacked by Nurkic. He is in a great spot to pay off his elevated price tag tonight.
Secondary: Mike Conley, Goran Dragic, Gary Harris, C.J. McCollum, D’Angelo Russell, Jae Crowder, Robert Covington, Draymond Green, Dario Saric, Myles Turner, Richaun Holmes, Ivica Zubac, Hassan Whiteside, Al Horford
Marcus Smart will be a strong play at just $5,100 with shooting guard eligibility if Avery Bradley is ruled out. Against Phoenix, Smart played 31 minutes and provided 25.75 DraftKings points despite shooting just 1-for-13 from the field. Obviously Miami is better defensively and plays at a much slower pace than Phoenix, but Smart is the point guard for the second unit and should still be able to pay off his salary in multiple ways if Bradley is out and he is forced into additional minutes again. Smart has a 26 percent usage rate and averages 0.87 DraftKings points per minute alongside Horford without Thomas, Bradley or Crowder, which is where a healthy amount of his minutes came from with Bradley sidelined against Phoenix.
Tony Allen and Zach Randolph are both in very good spots and underpriced on DraftKings. Allen returned to the lineup against San Antonio and played 28.4 minutes so he should be good to go in this one against Steph Curry and the Warriors. In five games against Golden State over the last two seasons, Allen is averaging just shy of 0.90 DraftKings points per minute and he has produced at least 24.5 DraftKings points in all four games that he played at least 23 minutes. He is a sneaky option at a weak position. Randolph is less than $5,000 on DraftKings and is a risky, high-upside, option tonight. His minutes are less stable now than they were earlier in the season due to the return of Brandan Wright, but Golden State is a matchup that he has thrived in this season due to their weak frontcourt and second unit. In his three games against Golden State this season, Randolph has averaged 1.39 DraftKings points per minute. He scored 24.8 points in 20.5 minutes in the first, 51.2 points in 35 minutes in the second and 35.2 points in 24.7 minutes in the third. Needless to say, he does not need a ton of minutes to pay off a $4,800 price tag nicely in this matchup. There is still risk because he has seen 18 minutes in plenty of games recently, but he has also seen north of 25. He makes for a very strong GPP option because of his upside.
Secondary: T.J. McConnell, Sergio Rodriguez, Monta Ellis, Gerald Henderson, E’Twaun Moore, Jaylen Brown, Larry Nance, Thaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu