NBA DEEP DIVE- April 4, 2017


High Priced ($8,500+)


Russell Westbrook has a less than ideal matchup with the Bucks but remains a high-floor and high-upside play as he chases the record for triple-doubles in a season.  He has really turned it on of late, attempting at least 30 field goals in three of his last four games and scoring at least 70 DraftKings points in each of them.  Westbrook is not a “must play” on this huge slate, especially in tournaments, but if value opens up and he becomes more affordable the ceiling is certainly there even at his high price tag.


Stephen Curry had a monster game against the Wizards and we should see more for as long as Kevin Durant remains sidelined.  Curry has played 609 minutes this season alongside Klay Thompson without Kevin Durant.  In those minutes, he has a 29.5 usage rate and is averaging 1.34 DraftKings points per minute.  He has played 440 minutes without either of Thompson or Durant and has a 41.8 percent usage rate and has averaged 1.65 DraftKings points per minute.  The Warriors have staggered his minutes with Klay Thompson in a way that he typically sees 10-13 minutes per game without Thompson on the floor, so we can increase his projection substantially for about 1/3 of his minutes.  This game is also at home so, while I am not convinced his shooting splits are real, we do not have to worry about them anyway since he has shot very well at home this season.


Giannis Antetokounmpo will see a substantial boost in pace tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder.  The Thunder have played at the 10th fastest pace in the league since the All-Star break, compared to the Bucks who rank 28th in pace over that span.  Antetokounmpo tends to play well in pace-up games as he can do damage in transition and use his athleticism to his advantage.  He appears to have found a second wind to close out the season, after appearing fatigued and lacking upside for a stretch in the second half.  Giannis still has a lower floor than most players at his price point, but he has a higher ceiling- as shown by his ability to surpass 60 DraftKings points in four of his last ten games.


LeBron James is criminally underpriced in a great matchup against the Orlando Magic.  James has put the Cavaliers on his back as they struggle to close out the season as they battle the Celtics for the number one seed in the East.  Orlando is ranked 21st in defensive rating since the break and do not have anyone to defend LeBron.  There is blow-out risk in this game but James will likely reach 50+ fantasy points in three quarters if the Cavaliers run away with it early, so he is still a high-floor play with a high-ceiling.  In two meetings with Orlando this season, James has averaged 1.44 DraftKings points per minute.


LaMarcus Aldridge is questionable for this game and, if he sits, Kawhi Leonard becomes a very strong play despite the possible presence of Tony Allen in a game that will be played at an incredibly slow pace.  In 269.5 minutes without Aldridge or Pau Gasol on the floor this season, Leonard is averaging 37.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per 36 minutes.  He has a 38 percent usage rate and is averaging 1.7 DraftKings points per minute.  His price is down a little bit for the difficult matchup and slow pace so there is plenty of upside if Aldridge is out.  If Tony Allen (questionable) misses this game, then Leonard becomes an even stronger option.  If Aldridge plays, Aldridge is an excellent play as he matches up very well with the Grizzlies.


DeMarcus Cousins seems to finally be comfortable in New Orleans and he is playing very well.  Since joining the Pelicans, Cousins has a 34.3 percent usage rate and is averaging 13.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per 36 minutes.  When he shares the floor with Anthony Davis, he has a higher usage rate than Davis and dominates the rebounds and assists.  His numbers, of course, only improve when he is on the floor without Davis.  Tonight, he faces a Denver team that ranks 12th in pace and 28th in defensive rating since the All-Star break.  For everything that he does offensively, Nikola Jokic does not provide much in the way of defensive value and Cousins should be able to take advantage and post a big game tonight.


Across from Cousins, Nikola Jokic makes for a high-upside GPP option.  There is always an increased risk of foul trouble for whoever has to defend Cousins, but Jokic has shown the ability to defend Cousins without getting too handsy going back to Cousins’ time in Sacramento.  In three games against Cousins over the last two seasons, Jokic has continually gotten better at not fouling Cousins.  He picked up 4 fouls in 3.7 minutes the first time they played, 5 in 20.2 minutes the second time and, in their only meeting this season, Jokic was called for only 3 fouls in 28.4 minutes.  He has been extremely productive with his minutes in this matchup, averaging 1.55 DraftKings points per minute.  Since acquiring Cousins, New Orleans is allowing starting centers to average the 2nd most rebounds and 9th most offensive rebounds per 36 minutes.  This is a spot where we can see Jokic do a lot of damage and he will probably be under-owned as a result of all of the big names on the slate.


Secondary:  Damian Lillard, DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, Anthony Davis, John Wall, Karl-Anthony Towns


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


Elfrid Payton has been playing very well lately and has a great matchup against Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers.  Cleveland has been atrocious defensively since the All-Star break, ranking 29th in defensive rating and trailing only the Los Angeles Lakers.  Kyrie Irving himself is also not a quality defender and Payton should be able to win that matchup.  The Cavaliers are ranked 26th in points allowed to opposing guards per 36 minutes since the break, and they also rank 27th in assists allowed and 21st in rebounds allowed.  It appears that Payton is making an effort to be a more all-around contributor, as he has averaged 10.6 assists and 7.6 rebounds over his last five games compared to season averages of 6.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game.  Probably not coincidentally, Payton has been locked into more minutes of late, as he consistently sees minutes at least in the low-to-mid thirties after being capped in the low thirties on good nights and frequently seeing less than 30 minutes for much of the season.  It is important to keep these changes in mind when evaluating him at his increased price tag, as he is in a different situation now than he has been for much of the season.


Kyrie Irving should be able to have success against Payton and the Magic as well.  Orlando ranks 22nd in points allowed per 36 minutes to opposing guards since the break.  They are also in the bottom ten in assists and rebounds allowed per 36.  Irving has a massive ceiling in this matchup if his shot is falling, which is difficult to predict because he just is not a very good shooter.  But the opportunity is certainly there in this matchup.


Ricky Rubio continues to excel late in the season after becoming more aggressive from a scoring standpoint.  He faces a Golden State team that is currently not playing as fast as people probably think they are, but they still represent an increase in pace for the Timberwolves.  Tom Thibodeau continues to play his starters huge minutes despite having nothing to play for and that should help us to feel more comfortable about rostering Rubio (and the rest of the starters) down the stretch. Rubio struggled in his first two games against Golden State this season but, in his only game since Thibodeau encouraged him to shoot more, he scored 17 points to go with 13 assists and 4 rebounds.  He remains a very high-upside option at a price point below $8,000.


Klay Thompson has a very friendly matchup with Minnesota and he has succeeded in it three times already this season.  As a team, the Timberwolves are allowing the third most points per possession to spot-up shooters this season as well as the third highest field goal percentage.  Individually, Brandon Rush ranks in the bottom five percent of defenders in points per possession to spot-up shooters.  Thompson, of course, is one of the best and should thrive in this matchup.  In his three previous games this season, he has averaged 1.09 DraftKings points per minute compared to his 0.98 DraftKings points per minute season average.


Paul George continues to be more dominant offensively as the Pacers battle for seeding in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  George had a 31.2 percent usage rate in March, which sits 2 percentage points higher than his previous monthly high of 29.1 percent in January.  In his only game so far in April, he had a usage rate of 38.4 percent.  P.J. Tucker is a capable defender for the Raptors, but George appears to have taken it upon himself to carry the Pacers as far as he can.  Additionally, his price has decreased to $8,100 on DraftKings.


Gordon Hayward has played 741 minutes without George Hill, Derrick Favors or Rodney Hood on the floor this season and is averaging 25.8 points, 4 assists and 5.6 rebounds per 36 minutes on the back of a 32.7 percent usage rate.  This has translated into 1.16 DraftKings points per minute.  He will face a Portland team that has quality wing defenders in Mo Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu, but he will have the ball in his hands constantly and should easily pay off his mid-range price tag.


Brook Lopez faces a Philadelphia team that has been bad against opposing centers since Joel Embiid went down with an injury and absolutely awful of late.  Since the start of March, Nurkic has surpassed 80 DraftKings points against the Sixers while DeAndre Jordan, Al Horford, Nikola Vucevic, Brook Lopez and Dwight Howard have all surpassed 50.  Whiteside, Drummond and Myles Turner have all scored between 40 and 50.  Since the start of March, the only centers to play at least 20 minutes and not score more than 30 DraftKings points were Steven Adams and Tristan Thompson.  Kenny Atkinson has stated that the Nets will play their veterans down the stretch and that Lopez will continue to go for the franchise scoring record.  Expect Lopez to continue to be aggressive and to have a monster outing tonight against the Sixers.


Rudy Gobert should absolutely dominate a Portland frontcourt that does not have any true centers with Jusuf Nurkic sidelined.  Gobert also benefits from a matchup against Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, who are both small guards and drive to the basket frequently.  In five games against Lillard since the start of last season, Gobert, who is averaging 2.7 blocks per game this season, has block totals of 4, 3, 5, 2 and 3.  He has not had a monster fantasy game in any of those games, but there is nobody that should be expected to keep Gobert off the glass.  He has the potential to post a monster double-double tonight.


Secondary: Jeff Teague, Jrue Holiday, Rajon Rondo, Nicolas Batum, Bradley Beal, Victor Oladipo, Buddy Hield, Wilson Chandler, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng, Kevin Love, Aaron Gordon, Kristaps Porzingis, Nikola Vucevic, Jonas Valanciunas


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


Jamal Murray should see big minutes tonight with Jameer Nelson and Will Barton both sidelined.  He played 29 minutes two games ago with Barton sidelined and 28 minutes last game without Barton or Nelson.  He did not have a big fantasy game in either game, but the potential is always there for Murray, who is not afraid to shoot the ball and is a very capable scorer once he gets going.  The Pelicans are a strong defensive team, but Murray has a high ceiling at a very low price point.


Timothe Luwawau-Cabarot has been seeing big minutes with the absences of Sergio Rodriguez and Robert Covington and that should continue this evening.  He has played at least 32 minutes in four straight games and has at least 10 field goal attempts in each of those games.  He will face the Brooklyn Nets tonight, who bleed fantasy points to anyone who is on the floor opposing them.  He is a viable option at $5,100 on DraftKings and a tremendous option on FanDuel at just $4,200.


Frank Kaminsky is too cheap for his upside in a game against the Washington Wizards on his birthday.  I do not actually believe in birthday narratives but, if that is your thing, he turns 24 today.  I do believe in rostering perimeter scorers and bigs against the Wizards, however, and, in Kaminsky, we get both of those in one player.  The Wizards are very willing to go small, which would allow Kaminsky to get more minutes at center.  They have been terrible at defending the three-point line for much of the season, and definitely of late.  He is a risky play but the Hornets have been giving him steady playing time in the 25-30 minute range and he can top 40 fantasy points if he gets close to 30 minutes in this matchup.


Secondary: Matthew Dellavedova, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Bobby Portis, Al-Farouq Aminu, Noah Vonleh, Tristan Thompson, Steven Adams