I like to start by identifying which NBA teams are in the best game environment. Identifying pace-up spots is more than just looking at who plays a faster paced team. I try to quantify pace boost by projecting the pace of each game and then comparing it to the teams’ averages. I will then go tier-by-tier (price-wise), breaking down the plays that stand out to me, and which chalk merits fading (on bigger slates, don’t expect anyone to command fade-worthy ownership unless there is big injury news). I’ll summarize by position at the end.
Games/Teams to Target
All stats in the following chart are from the past 10 games.
Here are my Pace Projections alongside opponent defensive ratings for today’s slate:
I start by multiplying the Pace Factor of each team, then dividing by league average. Thus, a team gets a pace boost anytime they play a team that is faster than the league average. Finally, I make a small adjustment to weight the pace of the home team more, which is a nod to Vegas totals more heavily reflecting the pace of the hosts.
Sound the alarm, we have a 110+ pace game! This is just the third game I’ve projected for a Pace Factor over 110. The first time it involved Sacramento, there were 245 points scored in regulation after nearly 140 in the first half.
Philly vs Dallas is easily the second best game environment today, but GS-SAC takes the cake and it’s not close. I’m not sure you can possibly have too many players from that game.
How do you fade this guy right now? His usage rate over the past ten games is an enormous 39.7%, yet over that same span he has a 63.2% true shooting percentage (higher than his season average). Portland is a neutral matchup from both a pace and defensive perspective. To me, the only argument for fading Harden is fitting a full game stack of GS/SAC.
Perhaps I spoke too soon. Harden can be faded in GPPs for the other fantasy MVP in Anthony Davis. Davis’ usage rate is over 30% in the past ten days, up from his season average, and Cleveland is terrible defensively.
Speaking of big men with massive usage rates, Joel Embiid’s keeps climbing. His 31.5% usage for the season is only made more impressive by the 33.3% he’s posting in the past ten games. His rebounding totals are way up (13.6 per game), and he’s showing more defensive upside than ever, averaging 2.5 steals + blocks per game.
Harden is a tough fade, but the studs are loaded tonight.
Steph Curry and/or Kevin Durant
These two are neck and neck for the usage lead over the Warriors’ last ten games, around 29%. Neither player has been overly impressive with their peripheral rates, so I lean towards Steph between the two for the explosion game where he goes off from three. Oddly enough, though, I don’t love either despite the game environment.
This is an absurd price for Andre Drummond. Drummond is averaging 44.3 FPPG and 48.9 FPPG at home, yet his price implies under 40 DK points? Is Gobert a great defender? Yes. Does Utah rebound well? Also yes (3rd in DEF rebound rate). However, Gobert stays around the basket offensively, putting Drummond in position to get in passing lanes, block shots, and absorb most of the defensive rebounds.
Two games ago, Fox complained of a sore shoulder, and since then his numbers are down. As a result, his price dropped from a more appropriate $8400 back down to $7300 in a perfect game environment for him. Hopefully the shoulder feels better, because I can’t pass up on him at this price tonight. In the last 110+ pace game, Fox scored over 58 DK points.
Up tempo is usually best for guards, but Draymond is a major exception. Green’s defensive upside, rebounding, and assist rates all benefit from pace, making him far too cheap tonight. I feel pretty confident calling a triple double for him.
Hield, like Fox, has seen his usage rate climb over 25% over the past ten games. Also like Fox, Hield went nuts in the 110+ pace game for 56.5 DK points. The minutes have been awesome too, as he’s seen over 35 in three straight. Averaging 7.2 3PA per game, it would be no surprise to see him put up 10+ threes in this pace, giving him tremendous upside.
Yes, another guy from GS – SAC. DK really didn’t price up anyone in this game, which is a major mistake we need to take full advantage of. Klay’s shooting woes appear to be behind him, and he’s responded by shooting 19+ times in three of the past four games.
This blurb should feel a lot like the one for Drummond. DJ averages 35 FPPG, but his price implies under 30 DK points. Opposing centers do well against Philly because of the pace, and the fact that they’re always around the ball/rim when facing Embiid. Furthermore, Embiid’s massive usage rate can make him a little tired on the defensive end at times. This is one of the easiest plays of the night for me.
Toronto will get a small pace boost, but more importantly, Monroe will have a really tough time seeing the floor against the space-the-floor type bigs Milwaukee employs. As a result, we should see extra minutes for Ibaka in a game environment that plays well into his defensive upside. His usage is down at the moment and his shot isn’t falling, but the upside is there if he makes a couple early.
Gentry wasted no time getting Payton up to speed as Elf played 34 minutes in just his second game back. Payton is over a FPPM on the year, facing a terrible defense, and Jrue has been more than content to let Payton run the offense the past two games. It looks like Jrue is thrilled to have some pressure taken off him offensively.
TT only played 27 minutes last game, but it was a blowout and he was in minor foul trouble. TT has been comfortably over a FPPM on the year, thanks in large part to his elite offensive rebounding. That offensive rebounding should be in full force tonight against New Orleans’ 17th ranked defensive rebound rate since AD is undersized for Thompson.
Back to the game of the night! I will say, watch for Bagley’s status, as an active Bagley would threaten the minutes floor for Bjelica. Nemanja is averaging over a FPPM on the year, contributes in all categories, and is playing around 30 minutes a night these days. If Bagley plays, his minutes floor would suddenly be just over 20, so be careful.
Like most of the guys I highlight, Favors is great per minute. The idea here is that against the size of Blake Griffin, we could see Favors play more minutes than his usual 25.
Harkless is playing awesome basketball for Portland, and should see mid 30s minutes tonight as the primary defender against Harden. I worry about regression in his defensive stats (4+ steals + blocks in 4 straight), but if the minutes are there it shouldn’t matter.
I don’t see a ton of punt options, but TJ is playing plenty of minutes and taking advantage of them. As the chart shows, the Philly-Dallas game is clearly the second best environment of the night and Dallas’ turnover rate benefits TJ greatly.