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Daily Fantasy Rundown – NBA DFS – February 4th, 2015

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of the Daily Fantasy Rundown with “leonem” and “dinkpiece”.  Each day throughout the NBA season our daily NBA scouting reports will highlight the best top, value and cheap plays of the day based on the Daily Fantasy Industry’s pricing for salary cap games. Our analysis will help you consistently build winning rosters over the long run.

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Point Guard – Our featured site for the point guard position is DraftDay

Top Play:

Russell Westbrook (OKC) – We’re operating under the assumption that Kevin Durant (listed as doubtful) will rest tonight. Westbrook owns a 43.6 percent usage rate with Durant off the floor this season compared to 27.9 percent usage rate when Durant is on the floor. Westbrook has played so much time this season without Durant that his overall usage rate (36.5 percent) and price point are elevated, but Durant’s health in January was enough to bring Westbrook’s price back down modestly. He’s a slight value at current price points whenever Durant is out given the insane usage rate. New Orleans ranks as a neutral matchup for point guards but rank 24th in overall defensive efficiency. Westbrook is the top overall point guard and in contention for the top overall play on Wednesday.

Next in line:

Stephen Curry (GS) – As we’ve noted over the course of the last week, projecting Curry at his current price points comes down to projecting minutes. If you can catch Curry in a competitive contest where his minutes hit 35 or more, he’s likely going to deliver on his current price tag. The Warriors are back at home and favored by 9.5 points but they’re also on the second night of a back-to-back and playing a good Mavericks team. If Curry’s minutes inch towards 35, I think he’s very likely to surpass his value thresholds tonight. Dallas is without Rajon Rondo and likely without Devin Harris as well. If both sit, Curry will be guarded by J.J. Barea who has a career defensive rating of 110. He’s a below average defender with size limitations and Curry would be able to get his shot off wherever he wanted. On sites with a wide price gap between Curry and Westbrook, I think he’s an acceptable step down from Westbrook in cash games.

Value Plays:

Marcus Smart (BOS) – Smart got the start last night and delivered the type of modest all around production we’d expect (13 points, four rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 37 minutes). He’s not a traditional point guard in terms of usage rate or assists so he’ll need to make his way with hustle statistics like rebounding and steals. The good news is he’s currently priced near the minimum on most sites and he’s facing a Denver defense that has drastically fallen off. Over the last 10 games the Nuggets rank 29th in overall defensive efficiency and head coach Brian Shaw has publicly questioned whether his team is trying to win. It’s a great matchup for Smart and the depressed price point gives him a good shot at hitting value.

J.J. Barea (DAL) – This recommendation carries the most risk of the value plays at point guard. We know Rajon Rondo is out and I’m banking on Devin Harris also missing tonight’s game, but he’s officially listed as questionable and is traveling with the team. The injury suffered late on Monday didn’t look great and the initial reaction from most around Dallas was that they thought they’d lost Harris for a while. As a result, I’m banking on him missing the contest which would leave all the point guard duties to J.J. Barea and Raymond Felton. Barea has always been a fairly efficient Fantasy asset for a guard. He’s averaged 0.80 Fantasy points per minute in his career and is up to 0.88 this season. He played 29 minutes last game with Harris active (24 minutes), so I think he’s a good bet to approach 30 minutes if Harris is inactive. With a near minimum price point, he’s a strong candidate to return value. UPDATE: Rick Carlisle indicated after shoot-around that he thought it was likely Devin Harris would play. This makes Barea a bit of a riskier selection, though someone we’re comfortable with at minimum price points.

D.J. Augustin (DET) – Augustin rewarded our faith again with a huge effort last night against the Heat. He draws a tougher matchup tonight against George Hill (returning to the starting lineup) and the Pacers but the price point remains depressed from our expected baseline for Augustin. I’d be surprised if he we see another 50 point Fantasy effort, but Augustin should approach 30 again while playing 35-37 minutes. His price tag on DraftDay is severely undervalued ($10,350) as it’s actually under the average cost of a roster spot. We think fair value for Augustin is closer to 10 percent above the average cost. On most sites he’s priced right around the average spot, making him a fine value play.

George Hill (IND) – Hill is returning to the starting lineup for the Pacers but will maintain a minutes limit of around 28 minutes per game. His price point has declined substantially as he’s been limited to just 20-22 minutes in his first five games since returning from a groin injury. With Hill priced for 20-22 minutes of action and the Pacers targeting 28 minutes tonight, there is a nice discount on his current price tag.

Additional point guard notes: Jordan Clarkson (LAL) is another viable point guard option in that salary relief bucket. My lone concern with Clarkson is Milwaukee is the number one ranked team in defensive efficiency against point guards and Clarkson derives so much of his value from scoring. I think his floor might be a bit lower than the other options in that area. I should note Clarkson is silly cheap on Star Fantasy Leagues ($4,875) and is an elite value play on that site. Jerryd Bayless (MIL) would emerge as another in a long list of point guard value plays if Brandon Knight (MIL)is unable to go. Bayless played 33 minutes off the bench last game in that scenario. Knight is fairly priced and the Lakers represent a great matchup (30th in defensive efficiency against point guards) so if active, he’s worthy of consideration. With such depth at the position, I’d probably consider him a better tournament option, if healthy. John Wall (WAS), Kyle Lowry (TOR) and Jeff Teague (ATL) both have fun price points on DraftKings but again the depth at the point guard position with values, makes it difficult to use a roster spot on tem in cash games. I think they’re exceptional tournament options. Patrick Beverley (HOU) is another one of my favorite tournament options. Derrick Rose has been very turnover prone of late and Beverley gets a lot of value via his defensive efforts. He posted a big game in the first meeting against the Bulls and is priced in that range with all the cheaper value plays. I’d be surprised if he was more than five percent owned in tournaments and has 30 Fantasy point upside in him.

Shooting Guard – Our featured site for the shooting guard position is Star Fantasy Leagues

Top Play:

James Harden (HOU) – The good news for Harden is he’s playing without Dwight Howard which leads to a nice bump in usage rate and he’s playing in a game Vegas expects to be competitive (Rockets 3.5 point favorites) and high scoring (204.5 total). The bad news for Harden is he’s banged up and the Bulls rank fourth in defensive efficiency against shooting guards. I’m prioritizing Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis ahead of Harden on Wednesday night, which makes him more of a tournament option for me. In fact, I think he’s an incredible tournament option. With the immense depth at point guard and everyone’s infatuation with Westbrook (rightfully so), I think a great tournament strategy tonight would be to fade Westbrook and use cheap/mid-priced point guards and pay up for Harden at shooting guard.

Value Plays:

Dion Waiters (OKC) – Waiters started and played 41 minutes for the Thunder on Monday. They were without Kevin Durant and Perry Jones and both appear shaky to play on Wednesday. If that’s the case again, the lack of viable wing players (Roberson, Waiters, and Morrow with a little bit of Reggie Jackson) ensures Waiters of 30 or more minutes and gives him an upside in the forties. Waiters is so scoring dependent that there is plenty of volatility in his game, but the elevated minutes and the modest price tag make him a good bet to deliver on his current value thresholds. New Orleans ranks 26th in defensive efficiency against small forwards and shooting guards, providing a nice matchup for Waiters.

DeMar DeRozan (TOR) – DeRozan was disappointing on Monday as the Raptors benched their starters for much of the second half and he was limited to just 25 minutes. The five games prior to that, he averaged 20.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.2 steals in 36.6 minutes per game. The assist total is a bit inflated but those totals aren’t far off from DeRozan’s breakout 2013-2014 campaign in which he spent most of the year contending for our top shooting guard spot. He’s not priced that way around the industry, which provides a nice buying opportunity. Brooklyn ranks dead last in defensive efficiency against shooting guards but DeRozan is playing more small forward of late where the Nets rank 12th in defensive efficiency. I still think the matchup is favorable overall and DeRozan’s price is discounted, making him a strong target at shooting guard.

Kevin Martin (MIN) – Martin has played 37 and 39 minutes the last two games with his return to the starting lineup. He also should benefit from the return of Ricky Rubio. It’s a small sample but with Rubio on the floor this season, Martin has posted a true shooting percentage of 66 percent compared to just 54.7 percent with Rubio off the floor. For Martin’s career he’s been at 59.1 percent so at the very least I think the return of Rubio should help Martin approach his career numbers. The Timberwolves face the Heat who rank 29th in defensive efficiency against shooting guards over their last five games in large part due to the loss of Dwyane Wade. The price is slightly discounted from Martin playing so much this season without Rubio and the matchup is favorable as well.

Additional shooting guard notes: Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) and Eric Gordon (NO) also have strong matchups at the shooting guard spot. Antetokounmpo’s price point is a bit more approachable industry wide, but a few sites still have room for value with Gordon. On both players, I’d ideally like to invest at 10 percent below the average cost of a roster spot. There are a number of underpriced shooting guard options on DraftKings. Jimmy Butler (CHI) at $7,500 is a nice bargain and worthy of strong cash game consideration. Manu Ginobili (SA) at $4,400 is far too cheap, but blowout risk against a horrific Orlando squad pushes him down my list of preferred options. Avery Bradley (BOS) who came through in a big way for us last night has another favorable matchup against Denver. It’s hard to count on the ridiculous shooting we’ve seen of late (19-29 last two games with a sprained thumb), but the volume in minutes and field goal attempts remains. I think he’s got a good chance to approach value again. Evan Turner (BOS) loses some luster with another ball handler in the starting lineup but he’s still got triple double upside. He’s a nice tournament option at the position. Monta Ellis (DAL) may have to play 40 or more minutes given the depleted backcourt in Dallas. The matchup is really tough against Golden State but the volume could help him overcome it. I think he’s also in play for tournaments, as is his counterpart in that game: Klay Thompson (GS). Tyreke Evans (NO) is fairly priced for his role as point guard. He’s a safer cash game option than someone like Thompson or Ellis while providing similar overall upside. I find myself taking the discount with DeRozan more frequently than paying up for Evans, but I think it’s a viable strategy.

Small Forward – Our featured site for the small forward position is FanDuel

Top Play:

Kawhi Leonard (SA) – Orlando has fallen apart recently and they’ve struggled all season with small forwards (28th in defensive efficiency against the position). Kawhi is the top option at the position but he comes with a fair to slightly elevated price point around the industry and rather severe blowout risk. I think he’s a better consideration for tournaments than cash games.

Value Plays:

Jared Dudley (MIL) – Ersan Ilyasova and Zaza Pachulia aren’t expected to play on Wednesday. They are going to dress, according to Greg Matzek, which adds a bit of a risk especially given the Bucks poor history with injuries. If Dudley is in the starting lineup, I think he’s a worthwhile option at the shallow small forward position. The Lakers rank 29th in overall defensive efficiency and Dudley should get plenty of looks as a small ball power forward as the Lakers big men tend to like to hang around the basket. He’s played 34 and 38 minutes in his last two starts and at those levels, his average per minute production would put him right on top of his value thresholds.

Danilo Gallinari (DEN) – Gallinari is a punt play that I think offers value in his salary relief. He’s played 24 and 26 minutes in the last two games and taken 27 shots as the primary scorer off the bench. For his career he’s averaged 0.77 Fantasy points per minute on the floor. This year he’s down to 0.74 which is probably a combination of variance and some slight deterioration in skill after multiple knee injuries. At that level of production, he should approach 20 Fantasy points in his normal bench role. It’s not quite enough to hit our value thresholds, but it is close enough to make him one of the better options at a thin small forward position. With a few stars in elite matchups, I think Gallinari’s salary relief is especially valuable on a site like FanDuel that requires two small forwards.

Additional small forward notes: The rest of the position is cluttered with options that all project to fall a few points shy of our value thresholds. Khris Middleton (MIL), DeMarre Carroll (ATL), Josh Smith (HOU), Trevor Ariza (HOU), andChandler Parsons (DAL) project best of that group. On DraftKings, C.J. Miles (IND) is priced as a punt play and I think he’s an elite value play when priced close to the minimum. Tobias Harris (ORL) is an interesting case as he’s underpriced due to some time coming off the bench in his return from injury. I just don’t think tonight is the right night to take a shot on that depressed price point with blowout risk and a matchup against an elite defender in Kawhi Leonard.

Power Forward – Our featured site for the power forward position is DraftKings

Top Play:

Anthony Davis (NO) – Davis and Westbrook are the two top overall plays and if spending the options I’m gravitating towards on Wednesday night. Davis is at home where we’ve noted throughout his career he’s averaged more than a block per game than on the road (we believe in large part due to a friendly home scorekeeper) and he’s facing a Thunder frontcourt that has slipped to 20th in defensive efficiency against power forwards. Davis has dominated the Thunder in two previous meetings this season (31.5 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, 3.5 blocks, and 3.5 steals per game). With every matchup against the Thunder key for the Pelicans playoff hopes, I think we’ll see Davis extended closer to 40 minutes tonight. In a favorable matchup, he should be able to deliver another monster line.

Value Plays:

John Henson (MIL) – Henson is in the same situation as Jared Dudley where his minutes are dependent on Ilyasova and Zaza Pachulia missing the game. Early indications make it sound like that will be the case and if so Henson qualifies as one of the better value plays on Wednesday night. Henson has always been a good per minute producer, averaging just under one Fantasy point per minute in his career and the last two games he’s played 27 and 29 minutes respectively. The Lakers provide a favorable matchup as they rank 20th in team rebounding rate and 17th in defensive efficiency against opposing frontcourts. Henson gets an additional boost with Kenyon Martin ruled out. Martin had played 17 and 19 minutes in the last two games and there aren’t many frontcourt options for those minutes to go to. Henson seems like a good bet to approach 30 Fantasy points if he plays 29-30 minutes and if he gets the rare opportunity to play 35 or more minutes because of the Bucks lack of frontcourt depth, he’ll be one of the better value plays across the industry.

Jared Sullinger (BOS) – Sullinger went off last night and gets an even more favorable matchup tonight against the Nuggets who rank 26th in defensive efficiency against opposing frontcourts. Sullinger got back to playing heavy minutes last night (36) which was a staple of early January when we saw Sullinger’s value sky rocket. If he gets those same minutes tonight, he should outperform his price tag around the industry.

Additional power forward notes: Donatas Motiejunas (HOU) and David West (IND) are the next best value plays at the power forward position. I think both are a cut below the recommendations above, but viable secondary value plays. Dirk Nowitzki (DAL) seems perpetually at a price where he won’t hurt you but also won’t provide big return on investment. Pau Gasol (CHI) represents the next in line option behind Anthony Davis. He should benefit from the pace and the size advantage on a smaller Houston frontcourt. I’d just prefer to pay up for Davis on most sites. Tim Duncan’s (SA) price tag has tumbled and the matchup with Orlando is great but it’s hard to foresee extended minutes against the Magic. He’s efficient enough to post big games in short stints so I think there is some tournament appeal. Amir Johnson (TOR) is one of my favorite tournament plays. He’s very cheap around the industry and his athleticism is a challenge for Kevin Garnett at this stage of his career. The challenge with Johnson is projecting the minutes. He played just 17 last game after playing 38 and 35 in the previous two. Generally the minutes are dictated by the performance for Johnson so if he gets rolling early, he could play a ton. This brings nice upside in tournaments.

Center – Our featured site for the center position is DraftDay

The Play:

Hassan Whiteside (MIA) – Center is the position I’m least enamored with on Wednesday. Without Cousins we don’t have an expensive option to lean on and most of the others in top play consideration have very difficult matchups. The Heat, however, have an elite matchup. Minnesota ranks 30th in defensive efficiency against opposing frontcourts, 22ndin team rebounding rate, and 30th in overall team defensive efficiency. Yesterday I touched on some of the challenges in evaluating Whiteside. He carries minutes risk and his production at every other point in his career pales in comparison, but he just keeps chugging along. Whiteside topped 30 DraftDay points for the fifth consecutive game last night and over his last 15 games, he’s been under 1.1 DraftDay points per minute just twice (1.08 and 0.78). The consistency of the Fantasy point per minute production is incredible and suggests if he gets 25-30 minutes, he’s a very good bet for 30 Fantasy points. The challenge with Whiteside is the price point is making a baseline of 30 Fantasy points too low to hit value. He now needs closer to 40 points on most sites. This is where the elite matchup with Minnesota comes into play. I think the matchup helps push Whiteside’s baseline closer to 35 and with his upside and a dearth of appealing options elsewhere at the position, I’m willing to invest.

Additional center notes: I find the rest of the position a bit muddled. Omer Asik (NO) seems cheap enough to consider a safe value play without much upside. Steven Adams (OKC) is the cheaper version of Asik with more upside and less predictability. Jonas Valanciunas (TOR) is slightly more expensive and has a bunch more upside than Asik. I think he’s probably a better secondary cash game play if you have the funds. Brook Lopez‘s (BKN) price tag hasn’t risen as quickly as his minutes have the last two games. I’m not sure how much we can bank on 24 field goal attempts per game but he’s earned big opportunities in minutes and shots off the bench the last two games. I think he’s a viable cash game option, but I’d prefer to use him in tournaments. Chris Bosh (MIA) has a longer track record of success and the same great matchup as Whiteside, but he’s been far less consistent with Whiteside on the floor. His rebounding rate has cratered putting almost all of the responsibility on his scoring. The usage rate without Wade supports an increase in scoring, but he’ll need 30 or more points to approach value thresholds with the dip in rebounding rate. Jusuf Nurkic (DEN) is going to deliver a huge return on investment one of these days, given his immense per minute production and the low price tag. I just don’t know when the minutes are going to come. Last night the foul trouble was his own fault but Brian Shaw hasn’t been committed to him. The matchup with Boston’s undersized frontcourt is another good one, but he’s a better tournament play tonight. Joakim Noah (CHI) is cheap enough in spots to consider in cash games. He’s looked healthier over the last few weeks and has stated he feels much better. The matchup with Houston sans Dwight Howard is a good one for pace and offensive rebounding opportunities. I’d target a price point right around the average cost of a roster spot, or ideally a bit below.

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