NBA | Staying Ahead of the Curve, 3/11

NBA | Staying Ahead of the Curve, 3/11

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

Zach Lavine

The Bulls played without Lavine yesterday and looked completely lost against a surging Pistons squad. I think it’s fair to disregard this game and move forward with the expectation that Dunn, Porter, and Markkanen should all see increased usage if Lavine misses any more games. Arcidiacano will get extended run, but the offensive efficiency as a whole will surely take a hit.

Larry Nance Jr

Nance and TT are out for at least one more game, giving Kevin Love free reign of the frontcourt. Chriss and Zizic will see time there as well, but now that Kevin Love is consistently seeing over 30 minutes, the Cavs won’t need to see too much of the other two. I’d expect the rest of the minutes to spread out among the wings.

Kenneth Faried

Capela has an outstanding matchup tonight vs CHA, but Faried’s return is a little concerning for his rebound equity and potentially even a few minutes or pick and roll reps. This is definitely a situation to watch closely as Capela seems to be back to full strength (meaning he’s severely underpriced if Faried doesn’t affect him).

Brandon Ingram

The Lakers have initiated tank mode, so expect heavy minutes from Caruso, Wagner, and Hart down the stretch. Ingram’s absence just opens the door further for them to do so.

Karl-Anthony Towns & Andrew Wiggins

Taj and Saric are obvious if KAT misses more time, but Jeff Teague went underowned last night and is way too good to not take advantage of increased usage. Unless he sees a dramatic price hike, he will be a consistent target of mine assuming Towns and/or Wiggins are out for longer than just last night.

Ricky Rubio

Rubio will miss tonight’s game while Exum returns, likely in a limited fashion. That makes Donovan Mitchell a prime target in a pace up spot as the team’s starting point guard. Similarly, Gobert thrives in pace and has seen almost a 3 fantasy point per 36 minute boost without Rubio according to TQE’s player impact tool.

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

Denver continues to play significantly faster than their season average. Joining them with equally large pace boosts Memphis and New Orleans. While this move simply takes Memphis out of the teams to avoid list, it makes New Orleans one of the premier teams to target.

There are a couple of surprising teams whose defense is suddenly struggling, namely Miami and Milwaukee, but I’m not confident either will continue. Instead, I would note the defensive improvement in Philly, especially now that Embiid is back. Despite their pace, I’m thinking we should get out ahead of the curve and avoid attacking the Sixers when possible.

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. Washington Wizards
  3. Los Angeles Lakers
  4. Minnesota Timberwolves
  5. New Orleans Pelicans

Last Week: New Orleans is playing fast! With less AD, more of the offense is going through Jrue, Payton, and Randle. All three of them love to push the pace, so this isn’t a surprise and should continue.

Sure enough, the Lakers’ defensive rating actually got worse this week. I believe in LeBron, but this team is in trouble.

This Week: The Pels are posting Pace numbers that we haven’t seen from anyone all season. Attack them at all costs!

Minnesota remains lost defensively without Covington and the Minnesota pace will balloon with Teague at the helm if Towns misses significant time.

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. Memphis Grizzlies
  2. Indiana Pacers
  3. Orlando Magic
  4. Detroit Pistons
  5. Boston Celtics

Last Week: All four (Memphis, Indiana, Detroit, and Orlando) of these teams saw their Target Score plummet, which is impressive considering they were already on this list. Avoid them at every opportunity!

Miami slipped off the list, which could be due to Whiteside’s absences or Dragic’s return, or both. Keep an eye on them.

This Week: Down the stretch and fighting for seeding, Boston will lean more heavily on their defense. They are definitely a team I want to avoid now.

Memphis is hanging onto their spot on the list, but given their pace increase, I’m fine using players against them now. For me, Pace is king, even over defensive rating.

Players to Keep an Eye On

No single player stands out to me this week, so instead, I’ll say the following: Look for players on teams who need to win that could be relied more heavily upon. For example, I could see Lou Williams’ minutes balloon into the low 30s down the stretch if Sacramento begins to close the gap for the eight-seed. Similarly, we’re already seeing players like Beal, Kemba, and Batum playing around 40 minutes per night over the last week or so.

The flip-side of that is teams who are out of the playoff race could begin to see what they have in younger/new players by giving them more run. Jabari Parker in Washington, Cheick Diallo in New Orleans, and Dwight Powell in Dallas come to mind as players who could really capitalize on extra opportunity (Powell already has).

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