NBA DEEP DIVE- April 10, 2017
Note: It is the NBA in April, so there will probably be news breaking throughout the day. As always, when news comes out throughout the day, reach out to us in premium chat and/or tune in for the Final Countdown behind the paywall with Eddie Fear and Cedric Phillips at 6:00 EST.
For easy reference, here is a look at the current playoff standings. With only a few days left in the season, we can avoid some surprises by accounting for who is still playing meaningful games and who is not:
LeBron James returns to Miami to face the Heat in a game that actually matters for Cleveland’s playoff seed because of their inability to maintain a 26-point lead against the Hawks yesterday. As you can see above, they are tied with the Celtics for the number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. It is very possible that the Cavs are not concerned with whether they finish in first or second since they have LeBron but, if they are, they will need to beat Miami as Boston has a cake matchup at home against the Brooklyn Nets. This seems like a game where the Cavs will come out with a chip on their shoulder after their embarassing loss yesterday (again, if they care and do not rest their stars). In five games in April, James is averaging 1.38 FanDuel points per minute and, against Miami this season, he has averaged 1.47 FanDuel points per minute. Keep an eye on news througout the day in case the Cavs indicate that they would rather rest their stars than try and get the top seed. If they are going to play their stars normal minutes, then LeBron is an elite option on a slate that is lacking in star power with the Thunder not playing and James Harden a risky play due to minutes on a back-to-back with nothing to play for.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is not in a perfect spot against Charlotte but the shooting guard position is extremely weak, especially if you are concerned about Harden’s minutes. Antetokounmpo was terrible against the Hornets last month, but did manage a 31-9-5 line against them back in October. The Bucks are playing for playoff seeding so Giannis should see his full allotment of minutes. He is averaging 1.4 FanDuel points per minute in his four games this month as he looks to catch the Hawks for the five seed or, at worst, lock down the six seed. He is a much more valuable option on FanDuel at small forward than he is on DraftKings where he is eligible at much deeper point guard or shooting guard positions.
Kawhi Leonard faces the Portland TrailBlazers and Gregg Popovich has already announced that he will not be resting his starters any more this season. He said that they do not have any more back-to-backs or tough travel so they will treat their remaining games like the playoffs and try and get into a rhythm. That sounds, to me, like we can expect heavy minutes out of Leonard (and the rest of the San Antonio core) tonight. Portland actually has the 10th best defensive rating in the league since the start of March, but Leonard has shown his ceiling against them within that time frame. He posted a 34-9-6 line with 3 steals and 2 blocks against them on March 15th. Portland, as a team, is allowing the most points per possession to pick-and-roll ball-handlers this season and Leonard operates out of the pick-and-roll on 24.7 percent of his offensive plays. He also is amongst the most effective pick-and-roll ball-handlers in the league, ranking in the 92nd percentile with 1.02 points per possession. His price has dropped and it is too low for this spot against Portland with Popovich confirming that his starters will not be rested.
Secondary: John Wall (keep an eye on Wizards’ beat writers as they have nothing to play for), Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie Irving, James Harden (elite if confirmed playing full minues), Kevin Durant, Rudy Gobert, Paul George
Elfrid Payton has a very nice matchup against a Chicago backcourt that has been dreadful against opposing point guards for a while now. Orlando mixed things up and rested some players two games ago against the Nets, but they played a tight nine man rotation last game against the Pacers with each starter playing at least 31.1 minutes. Payton played 33.3. Before the Brooklyn game, Frank Vogel made a comment that they would not rest their guys against a team in playoff contention. The Bulls are in playoff contention, so we can expect the Magic to play their starters plenty of minutes again tonight. Payton is easily playing his best basketball of the season since the start of March, averaging 1.16 FanDuel points per minute over that span compared to 0.92 FanDuel points per minute over the first 4+ months of the season. In addition, he averaged 30.8 minutes per game last month and is averaging 31 minutes per game so far in April. Payton should have plenty of opportunity in this game and he has some of the best mid-range upside on the slate as he is very capable of eclipsing 50 fantasy points at his $7,400 price tag. If you need proof, he put up a 22-14-14-2-2 line in his last game against Chicago, good for 65.8 FanDuel points. That is obviously his absolute ceiling and we should not expect him to sniff that production again, but the upside is clearly there at his price.
Ish Smith could be in line for a massive amount of minutes tonight as Reggie Jackson is done for the season and it appears that Beno Udrih is likely to be sidelined for the rest of the season as well. Smith has played at least 29 minutes in five straight games and should see that number increase as the Pistons no longer have a backup point guard behind him. He draws a nice matchup with the Wizards who, despite John Wall being a very strong defender, rank 27th in defensive rating since the start of March.
Nicolas Batum is not a great play in a vacuum but, when you look at the mid-range shooting options on this slate, he stands out. Klay Thompson faces the Jazz with the Warriors finally fully healthy and Bradley Beal faces Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and questions of whether or not the Wizards will play their starters full minutes. That, essentially, leaves Nicolas Batum. Batum is a streaky shooter and has been worse on the road than at home this season. That said, we like to target spot-up shooters against the Bucks and, along with Kaminsky and Marvin Williams, Batum is one of the team leaders in catch-and-shoot attempts per game. In my opinion, the best approach at shooting guard is to go stars and scrubs but, if you need a mid-range shooting guard Batum offers decent upside for his price. *EDIT* Kemba Walker is doubtful for this game. Without Walker on the floor this season, Batum has a 25.8 percent usage rate and is averaging 1.15 DraftKings points per minute.
Jae Crowder has a great matchup against Brooklyn and small forward is not particularly strong in the mid-range. There are plenty of cheap options and a couple guys to pay up for at the position, but Crowder stands out in the middle. Crowder is averaging 32 minutes per game over his last five and is averaging 1.12 DraftKings points per minute in three meetings with the Nets this season.
James Johnson faces LeBron James and the Cavaliers tonight and he should see plenty of playing time as Miami’s best chance at defending LeBron James in a must-win game. Luke Babbitt is questionable for Miami tonight and, if he sits, it should help to solidify Johnson’s minutes. In the last three games that Babbitt missed, Johnson has seen 32, 38 and 37 minutes. He is not a must-play, as his price has increased with his playing time and productivity, but he is a strong play at a reasonable price point. He will also take a small hit if Dion Waiters is cleared to play as Waiters will absorb some wing minutes and is, of course, a high-usage player who has a tendency to dominate the ball on offense.
Nikola Mirotic makes for an excellent GPP play in a good matchup against the Magic. Mirotic struggled in his last game, going 1-for-9 from the field but he still played about 27 minutes and closed the game for Chicago. Mirotic’s rebounding numbers are up, as he is averaging 8.0 rebounds per game over his last 6 and has at least 7 rebounds in 6 of his last 7 games, which makes him a less volatile play than he has been for much of the season. Dwyane Wade’s return will cut into his usage but, as long as he continues seeing minutes ranging from the mid-upper twenties to the low thirties, he will remain a strong GPP option because of his upside if his inconsistent shot is falling.
Myles Turner has the dream matchup against Philadelphia’s frontcourt this evening. His price across the industry is a little higher than we can feel comfortable with for a player with his volatility, but he still has a very nice ceiling for tournaments as it would not be surprising at all to see him score greater than 40 fantasy points in this spot. Since March 24th, Turner has played at least 34 minutes in six of nine games. The three games that he did not see that many minutes were decided by totals of 15, 15 and 13 points. If this game stays close, we should expect to see Turner log minutes in the mid-high thirties as the Pacers try and solidify their seeding in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Philadelphia has been atrocious against opposing centers since Joel Embiid’s injury in late January and Turner has already taken advantage once recently, posting 45.5 DraftKings points behind 17 points and 16 rebounds in 34 minutes on March 26th. Turner is one of the highest-upside center options on the board today.
Brook Lopez is one of my favorite plays, as always. His price continues to hang out below $7,000 across the industry and his recent struggles have not been due to a lack of opportunity. With the exception of a game against Philadelphia where he played just 23 minutes in a blow-out, Lopez has played at least 28 minutes and taken at least 13 field goal attempts in seven straight games. He has struggled from the field in his last two, shooting 4-13 and 6-14 and going just 1-8 combined from beyond the arc. Lopez needs 22 points tonight to break the Nets all-time scoring record and Kenny Atkinson has already stated that the Nets’ starters would play down the stretch and that Lopez, in particular, would be allowed to chase the scoring mark. Lopez has not had success against Boston so far this season, but there does not appear to be a reason for it from a matchup perspective. Lopez, as always, has massive upside at his price and he will likely come at low ownership.
Secondary: Goran Dragic, T.J. McConnell, Richaun Holmes, Kevin Love, Aaron Gordon, LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Horford, Nikola Vucevic, Pau Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Trevor Ariza
Patrick Beverley and Eric Gordon will be strong plays tonight and get even stronger if news comes out that James Harden will rest or be limited. Lou Williams has already been ruled out so there should be more minutes and usage available for Gordon. If Harden is limited, Beverley will act like a true point guard and have the ball in his hands a lot more. Beverley flirted with a triple-double in the last game that Harden missed, scoring 26 points with 9 assists and 8 rebounds on 19 field goal attempts. Tonight’s game is obviously not as friendly a matchup as that Suns game was, but Beverley is still too cheap if he is going to be the primary ball-handler and he is also shooting guard eligible on DraftKings, which is a nice bonus.
Channing Frye is an excellent GPP play if LeBron and the Cavaliers’ starters play. Frye is not good at getting his own shot, but should be able to get away from Hassan Whiteside and work free for open looks if LeBron is on the floor to run the offense. If the stars do not play, it will make Frye more popular because people will flock to the minutes, but he is less productive without LeBron on the floor to find him for open spot-up field goal attempts.
Boban Marjanovich gets a very nice matchup against the Washington Wizards, who have really struggled to defend opposing centers over the last month-plus. Boban played 28 two games ago and 23 yesterday, and it sounds like Stan Van Gundy plans to play him 20-24 minutes every game to close out the season. He is a fantasy point monster, producing 1.45 DraftKings points per minute this season. In the two games where he has seen heavy run, against Houston and against Memphis, he has averaged 1.49 DraftKings points per minute. There is a little concern that he is on the second game of a back-to-back, but he only played 23 minutes last night so he should be fine for this game unless we hear otherwise.
Joe Ingles will benefit from Rodney Hood’s absence and should benefit even more if George Hill and Gordon Hayward both miss this game as well. Ingles is averaging 31 minutes per game without Rodney Hood this season, compared to his season average of 21.2 minutes per game. In 358 minutes without any of Hill, Hood or Hayward on the floor, Ingles has a 17.2 percent usage rate and is averaging 0.80 DraftKings points per minute. In 650 minutes alongside Hayward, without Hill or Hood, Ingles’ usage rate drops to 15 percent but his per-minute production remains the same, likely as a result of improved efficiency with Hayward being on the floor to demand the defense’s attention. Ingles is an especially strong play on FanDuel where he is just $4,100.
Secondary: Shelvin Mack (elite if Hill and Hayward sit), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarot, Brandon Jennings, Thaddeus Young, Trevor Booker, Frank Kaminsky, Henry Ellenson, Kelly Olynyk, Cody Zeller, Terrence Ross, Troy Williams, Al-Farouq Aminu