NBA DEEP DIVE- April 1, 2017

Note: It is a three or four game slate depending on what site you are playing on, so pretty much everyone is in play.  These are my favorites, but you can make a reasonable argument for just about anyone on slates like this.

High Priced ($8,500+)

Damian Lillard has been playing extremely well of late and gets a very good matchup against the Phoenix Suns.  Phoenix has been better defensively since Tyler Ulis became a starter, but “better” is not hard to do when you have been one of the worst defensive teams in the league all season.  They still rank in the bottom ten in defensive rating since the All-Star break and they have played at the fastest pace in the league over that time.  Over that span, Phoenix ranks 29th in points allowed per 36 minutes to opposing guards.  They also rank 29th in steals allowed per 36 and 28th in rebounds allowed per 36.  Lillard has played 144 minutes without Jusuf Nurkic on the floor since the All-Star break and has a 44.7 usage rate and is averaging 1.60 DraftKings points per minute in that time.

Karl-Anthony Towns is still too expensive, in my opinion, but it is a three-game slate and there is merit to locking in the raw points that he will give you- especially on sites like DraftKings and FantasyDraft where he does not necessarily come at the expense of one of the mid-range centers.  Sacramento ranks 27th in defensive rating since the break and has been playing at a slightly faster pace as well.  Along with struggling defensively, the Kings have struggled to rebound since trading DeMarcus Cousins as they rank 25th in rebounds allowed per 36 minutes over that span.  Sacramento is allowing 1.11 points per possession to opposing roll-men this season, which puts them second-to-last behind only they Houston Rockets.  Obviously, a lot of those possessions came with DeMarcus Cousins on the team, but there is no reason to think his absence makes their frontcourt defense any better.  It is a very good spot for Towns and he has a high floor with some upside.

 

Secondary:  Jimmy Butler (DraftKings)

 

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

Elfrid Payton gets to face a Brooklyn team that has struggled defensively and played at a fast pace all season long.  Payton’s minutes have stabilized of late, as he has played 33.1 minutes per game over his last five and has not had the short leash that he had earlier in the season in quite a while.  Payton has just a 20.2 usage rate over the last month, but he has been a productive fantasy player because he has increased his production in other categories, namely averaging 9.89 assists per 36 and 8.84 rebounds per 36, and it has led to 1.22 DraftKings points per minute.  Brooklyn ranks in the bottom five in points allowed, steals allowed and rebounds allowed per 36 minutes to opposing guards since the All-Star break and Payton should be in line for another big game.

Ricky Rubio is getting more expensive but he still has significant upside at his price.  He is no longer just a pass-first point guard who is going to disappoint you when he misses a triple-double because he only has six points.  We could possibly see some regression moving forward as Rubio’s true shooting percentage in March was almost five percent higher than any other month this season, but he will still be a strong play because of his increased volume.  Rubio’s usage rate in March was over 24 percent and it makes him a more effective player overall as it opens more passing lanes and creates easier scoring opportunities for his teammates now that opposing defenses have to respect him as a scorer.  Sacramento, as mentioned before, is very poor defensively and pairing Rubio with Dieng or Towns is a strong play.

Devin Booker returned from an ankle injury to face the Hawks and had another very productive game, scoring 33 real-life points in 37 minutes before fouling out.  Booker will continue to play big minutes for the rest of the season and has been extremely aggressive lately.  His usage rate over the last four weeks is 32.1 percent and, over the last two weeks, it jumps to 36.4 percent.  Portland’s backcourt will not be able to stop Booker and they also do not have much in the way of rim protection to deter Booker around the rim.

Gorgui Dieng is finally seeing his price increase, but he has a very good matchup against Sacramento.  As mentioned earlier, Sacramento is allowing the second most points per possession to opposing roll-men this season.  Since trading DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings rank 27th in total rebounds allowed per 36 minutes to starting centers and are tied with the Warriors for 29th in offensive rebounds allowed per 36 minutes to centers.  Dieng’s minutes have stabilized after a brief stretch where he was consistently losing minutes to Shabazz Muhammad when the ‘Wolves went small.  Look for another solid outing from Dieng tonight.

Brook Lopez and Nikola Vucevic face off against each other tonight and both should be able to do well.  Lopez’s price remains low despite a 50+ point ceiling, and he has also been more active on the glass recently, which increases his floor.  Lopez is averaging 7.4 rebounds per game over his last seven and he has not had less than 6 in any of those games.  He is averaging 6.8 over his last ten.  For comparison, his season average is just 5.4 rebounds per game.  He had a poor outing against the Pistons on 4-of-17 shooting, but tonight is a nice bounce-back opportunity against Vucevic.  Vucevic has been playing very well lately, with at least 40 DraftKings points in six of his last ten games.  Vucevic has had plenty of success against Lopez in the past, averaging 1.25 DraftKings points per minute in four games dating back to the start of last season and 1.43 DraftKings points per minute in two games this season.

Secondary: Dennis Schroder (DraftKings), Rajon Rondo (DraftKings), Jeremy Lin, Evan Fournier, C.J. McCollum, Andrew Wiggins, Nikola Mirotic (DraftKings), T.J. Warren

 

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

The Portland Trailblazers offer a lot in the way of value on this slate due to the injury to Jusuf Nurkic and the Suns’ willingness to play small.  Maurice Harkless, Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe should all see an increase in minutes on the wings as Noah Vonleh and Al-Farouq Aminu see more time at the five.  Minutes at the five are valuable, so they become better plays as well.  Meyers Leonard should also get time on the floor against a weak Phoenix team and he is available at the minimum across the industry.

Aaron Gordon is finally starting to flash some upside and he gets a very nice matchup against a Brooklyn team that plays fast and sloppy.  We should not expect another 60+ point outburst from Gordon, but it is a good sign that he has taken double-digit field goal attempts in four straight games, including 24 last night against the Celtics.  He will be extremely popular but is a strong play.

Marquese Chriss had a couple of poor performances but still has plenty of upside as he can be expected to play minutes in the mid-high thirties as long as he is not in foul trouble.  He should get plenty of minutes at center in this game as the Blazers do not have a traditional center on the roster with the loss of Nurkic.  He makes for a nice tournament pivot off Aaron Gordon if you are looking to fade the chalk at power forward.

Secondary: Kris Dunn, Buddy Hield, Terrence Ross, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Skal Labissiere, Alex Len