NBA DEEP DIVE- April 16, 2017- Playoff Edition
The regular season that seemed like it would never end is finally over and we have playoff basketball! We can finally stop worrying about how many minutes the tenth man on the roster will play and get back to having a reasonable chance at predicting rotations, as they will obviously be tighter throughout the playoffs than they are during the regular season.
Russell Westbrook and James Harden are the two most expensive players on the slate and they will battle each other in the first round of the playoffs. We can expect the former teammates to play huge minutes and to do everything they can to one-up the other while trying to carry their respective team to the second round of the playoffs. From a fantasy perspective, there is nothing to dislike about either one. Westbrook draws a “tough” matchup with Patrick Beverley, but he is matchup proof and demonstrated as much in his three games against Beverley this season. In those three games, he had two triple-doubles and a 49 real point game. He accounted for 61, 72 and 75.8 DraftKings points, averaging 1.86 fantasy points per minute. His minutes were kept in check compared to other superstars for most of the season, so fatigue should not be much of an issue as the season wears on. We should see a few more minutes per game from Westbrook now that the playoffs have started, as he typically saw north of 38 minutes in any game that stayed close in the first round last season. One thing to keep an eye on is whether or not Steven Adams continues to let him pad his stats with rebounds, because that will be important moving forward.
James Harden did not have as much success against him former team as Westbrook did against the Rockets, but his performance was still nothing to sneeze at and he has massive upside at a price discount compared to Westbrook. Harden averaged 1.37 DraftKings points per minute in the four games he played against the Thunder this season and did not eclipse 60 DraftKings points in any of them. Still, it is a four game slate and Harden has legitimate 100 fantasy point upside. One thing to keep in mind with both players is that, at least on DraftKings (FanDuel is down right now so I cannot see their prices), Westbrook and Harden are significantly more expensive than every other player in the field- nobody else is more than $10,000 except for Jimmy Butler at $10,200. Since playoff slates typically do not have great value options, there is likely going to be a lot of merit in not going after the two superstars in a marquee matchup because it hamstrings you elsewhere while there is plenty of upside in the mid-range.
John Wall faces off against Dennis Schroder and the Hawks. In my opinion, the Vegas total in this game is too low and I will be targeting this game heavily in tournaments as players are generally priced very fairly and I think that it will go relatively overlooked even though both teams rank in the top 10 in pace in the NBA. Atlanta was vulnerable against point guards all season long and Wall was no exception. He averaged 1.38 DraftKings points per minute in four meetings with Schroder. Washington was able to rest Wall a little bit down the stretch, so he should be fresh and ready to go for this series. Wall routinely played 38-40 minutes per night for stretches this season, so that is likely to be the case in the playoffs despite the addition of Brandon Jennings as a capable backup point guard. Wall finished the season with a 30.5 percent usage rate and 46.9 percent assist percentage. He offers plenty of upside at a substantial discount from Westbrook and Harden.
Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Kevin Durant will all meet in Game 1 of their series at Oracle Arena. All three players are priced significantly below their ceiling and they are all in nice spots. The Portland backcourt did a good job of limiting peripherals to opposing point guards this season, but they will allow them to score plenty of points. That, obviously, fits Curry’s game and Curry shot much better at home than on the road this season. He did not do anything special in either of his two games against Portland this season, but he still has 60-plus fantasy point upside at less than $9,000 on DraftKings if he is able to get hot from three early. Lillard, like Curry, did not flash his upside in either of their meetings this season but he did in two games last year, scoring 69.8 and 78 DraftKings points against Curry. Granted both of those games were in Portland, but he has plenty of upside in this game as well. He has scored at least 30 real points in four of his last six games against Curry and he will need to put the team on his back if Portland is going to have any chance to upset the Warriors.
Kevin Durant is criminally underpriced on DraftKings at just $8,800. He appears to be fully recovered from his injury and able to take on his full role against the Blazers. The Blazers have capable wing defenders in Harkless and Aminu, but Durant is matchup proof. He is also relatively blowout proof, as Steve Kerr has staggered his minutes in such a way throughout the season that he is on the floor to start the fourth quarter. Kerr also has had a tendency to leave his starters in until late in the fourth quarter during blowouts at home, further reducing the blowout risk. Durant had plenty of success against Portland this season, averaging 1.53 DraftKings points per minute across four meetings. Curry did not play in two of those games, but Durant’s best performance came in the second game of the series alongside Curry. All three players make for high-upside tournament plays as they all have the potential to eclipse 55 or even 60 fantasy points in their respective matchups.
Secondary: Jimmy Butler
Rajon Rondo gets to play against his former team and he gets to do it on national television. I do not necessarily buy into the “national tv” narrative, but I do think that Rondo is someone who can flip a switch as far as his effort level goes and the playoffs is a good time for him to flip that switch on. Rondo will draw the best matchup out of the “Big Three” on the Bulls, as Wade will likely have to contend with Avery Bradley while Butler deals with Jae Crowder. Rondo closed the season strong, averaging nearly 1.3 DraftKings points per minute in his four April games. He is a very strong play at a low mid-range price point.
Dwyane Wade has a difficult matchup against Bradley, but the Bulls have said that the expect him to essentially return to his normal role and play at least 30 minutes in this game. Wade did not play in any of the four games against the Celtics this season, but he is priced at just $5,900 on DraftKings as his price fell due to his injury and subsequent decrease in playing time. Now is a great time to jump on, as the Bulls will need everything they can get from Rondo, Wade and Butler is they want to win this series. It is a great time to buy low on Wade.
Paul Millsap is just $7,100 on DraftKings and faces a Wizards team that ranks in the bottom five defensively since the All-Star break. He has had success against Markieff Morris in the past, averaging 1.06 DraftKings points per minute against him in five games over the last two seasons, with a high of 48.2 points in their first meeting this season. Millsap will need to have a big series if the Hawks are going to upset the Wizards (hint: they are not) and he is a strong play in any format at a relatively low price tag.
Draymond Green, like just about everyone in the Golden State game, is underpriced. He matches up well with a Portland team that likes to play small, especially if Nurkic is sidelined or limited. In eight meetings over the last two seasons, Green has averaged 1.37 DraftKings points per minute and has at least 39 DraftKings points in seven of the eighth games, with his most recent game against them on January 29th being the lone exception. Green would be a debatable play at $1,000 more than his current $6,900 DraftKings price tag. He can be rostered with confidence in any format.
Dwight Howard saw his minutes increase down the stretch as the Hawks fought to stay within the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference. For much of the season, Howard was seeing his minutes capped in the 28-32 minute range but, for the last couple of weeks of the regular season, he was playing around 35 minutes per game in close games that mattered. He gets a matchup against a Wizards team that has struggled on the offensive glass of late. In four games against Gortat and the Wizards this season, Howard posted DraftKings totals of 45,8, 40, 33.8 and 42.2, which was good for a 1.30 points per minute average. The frontcourt is where I want to attack Washington the most, although Schroder and Hardaway are strong plays in their own right, and it begins with Dwight Howard.
Secondary: Dennis Schroder, Isaiah Thomas, Bradley Beal, C.J. McCollum, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Victor Oladipo, Klay Thompson, Nikola Mirotic, Jusuf Nurkic (elite if active and not on a minutes restriction), Al Horford
Markieff Morris has had success in the past against Paul Millsap, who is a better defender near the basket than when he is drawn to the perimeter. Morris is a capable mid-range shooter who can knock down the occasional three, so he matches up well with Millsap. In five games against Millsap since joining the Wizards, Morris is averaging 1.25 DraftKings points per minute and has not scored less than 30 DraftKings points in a game despite playing more than 28 minutes just once. His minutes fluctuated down the stretch for Washington, but it would make sense for the Wizards to return to the tight rotation that they ran early in the season now that getting their starters more rest does not matter. It is also worth noting that Morris could get some time at the five with Ian Mahinmi sidelined and Mike Muscala not a center that you need a big to match up with.
Al-Farouq Aminu is a strong play regardless of Nurkic’s status, but he is an even stronger play if Nurkic is out as this is the perfect spot for him to get a lot of minutes at center. He has been relatively productive in his three meetings with the Warriors this season, averaging just over 0.90 DraftKings points per minute and 32.5 minutes per game. His price is up somewhat as a result of his performance since Nurkic was injured, but it is still a very reasonable at $5,100- especially if Nurkic is out or limited.
Marcin Gortat and Steven Adams are relatively similar plays. They are both too cheap for their respective upsides, with Gortat at $4,100 on DraftKings and Adams at $4,400. Starting with Gortat, there is reason to be excited about him in this game and this series. Ian Mahinmi is going to miss at least the start of the series, which leaves the Wizards with no true backup. Going up against a traditional center in Dwight Howard, the Wizards are likely to need big minutes out of Gortat in order to match him. Along with the Wizards needing his minutes, he has done relatively well against Howard this season as he has averaged nearly a DraftKings point per minute. It does not seem unreasonable at all that the Wizards would run him out there for at least 30-32 minutes in this matchup and, if that is remotely close to the case, Gortat has massive upside at just $4,100.
Secondary: Marcus Smart, Otto Porter, Mo Harkless, Jason Smith, Bobby Portis, Steven Adams