NBA | Staying Ahead of the Curve, 1/29

NBA | Staying Ahead of the Curve, 1/29

Each Monday, I will be taking a look at upcoming injury/suspension impacts, teams/situations to attack, and NBA players who I believe will either be under-owned or underpriced. On bigger slates, it’s easy to get lost in the vast number of options, sudden injury news, etc.

Having an idea ahead of time of whose price you should be immediately aware of can help you sort through the chaos. More importantly, anticipating which NBA players are in a position to take a step forward ensures you will get a player that doesn’t just outperform his salary but does so at suppressed ownership.

From this point forward, all stats will be filtered to include the previous 10 games (~three weeks) only, in order to catch trends that haven’t had enough time to drastically change season-long numbers.

Without further ado:

Injury/Suspension/Trades Impacts

Jamal Murray

Nikola Jokic (usage bump) and Monte Morris (minutes) are the more obvious beneficiaries, but I believe it’s actually Will Barton who will benefit most. He should essentially play Jamal Murray’s role, as the playmaking/scoring sidekick. Barton is locked into 30+ minutes with Murray out.

Tyreke Evans

Darren Collison is basically the only playmaker for Indiana with Oladipo and Tyreke out. He was effective against GS before the game got out of hand, including an encouraging 50% assist rate.

Derrick Jones Jr & Dwyane Wade

The hardest thing about rostering Heat players is trying to anticipate Spoelstra’s wacky rotations. For example, after letting Waiters close back to back games instead of Wade, one would have thought Waiters would be in for big minutes once Tyler Johnson was ruled out. Nope! That being said, the overwhelmingly likely scenario, if Wade joins Derrick Jones on the inactive list, would be for Waiters to come off the bench in the role Wade has played all season. In that scenario, I would love Waiters in a nice bounce-back opportunity.

Robert Covington

Covington appears to be nearing his long-awaited return, which means get ready for the Wolves’ defense to improve dramatically, and quickly. As a low usage player, he won’t affect the usage of the Wolves’ starters.

Teams/Situations to Attack or Avoid

Team Data: Pace | DEF

“Target Score” is the average percentile for the team’s defensive and pace rankings (where worse defense and faster pace leads to a higher percentile). As such, a higher Target Score means we should roster players facing that team, and a lower Target Score means we should avoid their opponents whenever possible.

Noteworthy Trends

The Grizzlies are struggling immensely right now, and it’s showing on the defensive end. The only teams with a larger negative shift in defensive rating are OKC and Indiana. OKC is scoring so well these days and playing so fast that their effort level has fallen off a bit on the other end of the court. This makes them excellent targets.

Indiana, on the other hand, could be in for a rough stretch as they get re-accustomed to life without Oladipo. I expect they will figure out sooner than later, just like they did during his last extended absence.

Milwaukee is doing their best to push us away from their fantasy-friendly pace. They are the best defensive team over the past 10 games.

As the league as a whole continues to tire and slow down, Brooklyn and Houston are playing significantly faster than their season averages. Attack them before the public catches on!

Bad Defense / Fast Pace (Attack)

The gold mine of fantasy opponents, pinpointing which teams will play at a fast pace (more possessions, more turnovers) and defend poorly is essential. Teams with a ‘Target Score’ of 75 or higher are:

  1. Atlanta Hawks
  2. New Orleans Pelicans
  3. Phoenix Suns

Honorable Mention: OKC

Last week: Look how slow Sacramento is playing now! For the first time in a while, Fox and Hield both played over 35 minutes last game. I do believe there’s a chance that their pace will pick up if these two, the engines that make them go, return to 35-ish minutes per game. Until we see that, though, the biggest story here continues to be their absence from the list, as the three on the list are no surprise.

This week: It’s sad to see Sacramento is still playing slow. They’ve been one of the best teams to target all season, but now we must at least hesitate before stacking against them.

Without AD, the Pels’ defense has immediately deteriorated. In my opinion, they should be viewed on the same level as we viewed Sacramento earlier in the year.

Good Defense / Slow Pace (Avoid)

Similarly, the teams with a ‘Target Score’ at or below 25 should be avoided whenever possible. Currently, these teams are:

  1. Miami Heat
  2. Detroit Pistons
  3. Denver Nuggets

Honorable Mentions: Utah, Boston

Last week: I’m really interested to see what will happen to Miami’s defense if Waiters begins to see more minutes. It seems to me their ascension defensively is mostly due to starting players like Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow at “point guard”. It gives them a lineup of defensive studs, while also slowing their pace (no true PG). Dion Waiters could throw a wrench into the whole thing, but for the time being, he remains on the outside looking in.

This week: Miami has a stronghold on the No. 1 spot and is actually still getting slower. Detroit is the big surprise on this list, but one look at their pace and it becomes clear why. With their best two players being big men, it suits them to play as slowly as possible. Since they are a surprise member, fading chalk against them is an excellent GPP strategy.

Players to Keep an Eye On

Blake Griffin

In the last 10 games, Blake is averaging over 38 mpg, with a shockingly high 33% usage rate. He’s topped the NBA in touches per game all season, but it’s not close right now. This kind of volume is worth a lot more than his price implies.

Donovan Mitchell

Speaking of elevated usage rate, Mitchell is up to 33.8% over the past 10 games, second in the NBA only to James Harden. Mitchell has been an entirely different player since Rubio got hurt, and he’s sustained the elevated play and usage since Rubio returned.

DeMarcus Cousins

A few things here: 1. Cousins minutes should continue to trend upwards and his usage rate is over 28%. If his price doesn’t keep pace, he’ll be immensely underpriced. 2. Cousins is confirmed blowout-proof. The Warriors showed last game that they will get Cousins his minutes regardless of the score in order to get him back to full strength as soon as possible. This is huge!

Michael Beasley

Beasley’s days in the starting lineup are certainly limited, but he’s averaging over 1.2 FPPM and is surely motivated to prove his worth and earn himself a consistent role in the Lakers’ rotation.

Good luck this week and find me on Twitter @Alexblickle1!