NBA | Staying Ahead of the Curve, 2/5

NBA | Staying Ahead of the Curve, 2/5

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

Joe Harris

Harris missed last night’s game and Napier was the big beneficiary. Napier’s usage takes away from Russell, and Harris’ shot-making ability also helps space the floor to give Russell more room to operate. Another subtle change is in the expected minutes of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Last time Harris was out for a couple games, RHJ saw 27 and 24 minutes, before dropping back to under 20 when Harris returned. Last night, RHJ only played 20 minutes but was in foul trouble early and often. He’ll be an excellent GPP target if Harris misses any more games.

Rodney Hood & Cedi Osman

With Hood traded out of town and Osman hurt, there are a ton of minutes that need replacing. The first and most exciting candidate to do so is Jordan Clarkson, who is averaging exactly an FPPM, should be in line for 30+ minutes easily, and is priced around 5k.

Many will flock to Alec Burks, but Burks is already playing mid-30s minutes-wise, so I don’t expect too much of a bump for him. Nwaba saw his first action in months last game and played 15 strong minutes. He’s a clear candidate for a significant boost in playing time.

Ivica Zubac

Zubac joins a crowded injury report, but we know how to handle the rest of the players from experience. Zubac is a new addition, so let’s dive in. Obviously, both JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler would be set for more minutes (making McGee an excellent play given his FPPM ratio), but assuming the rest of the guys are healthy, expect a lot of small ball from LA. LeBron is the key. If he plays, the Lakers can go small because of his strength inside.

The Grizzlies

Yikes, this injury report is crowded. With both Noah and JaMychal Green GTDs, Jaren Jackson Jr. could be in for a heavy workload! Additionally, Ivan Rabb played one his best career games last time out, so expect him to get plenty of run, as well. Memphis wants to trade Conley and Gasol, so I think we may see them limit each players’ minutes, particularly Gasol’s.

On the wing, expect continued heavy workloads for Mack and Holiday, with Caboclo an interesting option, as well.

Knicks & Mavs

Let’s start with the Mavs. I don’t want to predict too much because of Carlisle’s comments here.

This is not what we want to see from a fantasy perspective! However, I do feel confident in predicting Burke and Hardaway will play more of a bench role so as not to soak usage away from Doncic. Additionally, I think Carlisle will continue to favor Kleber as the starting center because of his defensive prowess. For most of the season, Doncic’s usage rate was around 25%. Lately, it’s been above 30% and trading DSJ nearly guarantees that his usage will remain at an elite level.

The Knicks are a mess, but I actually believe this trade will help them stay competitive in games more often than not. Assuming they play their new guys instead of resting them to tank, Jordan should help their rebounding and could put up some more offensive numbers than we’ve seen from him in the past. I expect a ton of pick and roll between him and DSJ.

Speaking of Dennis Smith, he’s probably better suited to be a shooting guard, but for the time being will be the main creator on the offense. Even if Fiz fazes out DJ and Matthews, DSJ will see a lot of run on a nightly basis. I expect his usage rate will be higher on the Knicks than it was in Dallas, and he’ll be playing at a faster pace. I plan on being heavily invested in DSJ early on in his NY tenure.

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.

I copy-pasted this from last week, but I promise he’s expected to return soon!

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

First and foremost, Atlanta is a full tier higher than the rest in terms of teams we want to target. Make sure you have a piece or two against them every tie they play.

While the Lakers’ defensive rating has slipped dramatically, the return of LeBron should bring it right back down. Old man James may bring their pace down a touch, too.

Once again, the pace boost from Brooklyn stands out as something we want to attack, despite their defensive rating improving just as much.

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

Last 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.

This week: Sacramento’s pace is a touch higher over their last 10 than it was a week ago. Hopefully, it continues to trend toward their season average.

The Pelicans’ defense is going to be awful without AD, and check out how centers have performed against them since Okafor entered the starting lineup, prior to Myles Turner putting up nearly 40 tonight (courtesy of fantasy5x5):

If ever there was a situation to attack, it’s this!

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. Memphis Grizzlies

Last 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.

This week: After the first quarter last night, I was doubting the chart’s wisdom that said fade the chalk against Detroit. Sure enough, it ended up working nicely. The Pistons continue to play excruciatingly slow while playing better defense than you’d expect from such a benign team.

Memphis was a team I noted last week for their defensive struggles. They have since righted the ship on that end, once again making them a team to avoid based on their similarly slow place to that of Detroit.

Players to Keep an Eye On

Joel Embiid

If it weren’t for Harden mania, a much bigger deal would be made of Embiid’s usage. With a mostly healthy team, it’s 36% over the last 10 games! His price went down on DK…

Marvin Bagley III

Bagley is playing big minutes for SAC at PF these days and really making the most of them. So far, we haven’t seen a big FPPM game from him where also sees more minutes than usual, but it’s coming. Get there early if you want to reap the benefits before his price explodes.

Dennis Smith Jr.

Like I mentioned earlier, I expect DSJ to benefit from his relocation based on both additional usage and faster game environments. It may take him a few games to get acclimated to life in NY (on a crappy team), but I expect the production to outpace his price.

Jimmy Butler

Butler is showing serious signs of offensive aggression for the first time as a Sixer. He certainly benefitted from the absence of JJ Redick last game from a usage standpoint, but the Sixers will benefit form him carrying a greater load offensively, especially late in games. Assuming this trend will continue, he’s significantly underpriced.

Whoever is starting opposite Jahlil Okafor

Is this cheating since I already pointed out how bad Okafor is defensively? Oh well. Play the opposing center until DK begins pricing opponents for the matchup against Okafor, not NOP as a whole.

Cheick Diallo

Diallo has now produced quite well in back to back games. Now, considering what an improvement he is defensively, doesn’t it make sense for Gentry to play Diallo more and Okafor less if Diallo can give them even half the offensive production that Jah can? I think so, anyway. Diallo is a strong GPP play every time NOP plays. I like him most against talented, agile bigs that can really expose Okafor defensively.

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