1/6/20 NBA Core Play

Updated: Jan 7

THE CORE

1) Thaddeus Young, Chicago Bulls

FanDuel: $4,200, PF DraftKings: $3,700, SF/PF Yahoo: $11, PF FantasyDraft: $7,200, F/C

With Lauri Markkanen listed as doubtful for tonight’s game, we should expect Thad to step into the starting lineup at power forward. This is somewhat uncharted territory for the Bulls, as neither of their starting frontcourt players (Markkanen, WCJ) have missed a game this season.

Generally speaking, Thad has gotten 0.88 FD / 0.89 DK points per minute this season on a 20.9% usage rate, 13.7% assist rate, and 10.6% rebound rate. However, he has only averaged 21.7 minutes per game.

Before talking about those minutes though, there are a few CourtIQ queries I want to run to make sure we can expect similar per-minute production. The first is the easiest: Lauri OFF. With Thad mainly being Lauri’s backup at the four, we have a big 585-minute sample and a 0.91 FD / 0.92 DK points per minute rate.

The next one I want to run is Lauri OFF, LaVine ON. The more time that Thad is on the court with LaVine, an extremely high usage player, means there is less to go around for Thad. The end result here is actually good news, as Thad’s FPPM rates in 251 minutes are right in line with his season FPPM rate. I will say that I am a bit skeptical on that since his underlying rates (usage, rebound, assist) are all down compared to the season rates, but I suppose you can make the case the efficiency is a bit higher.

The last one I want to look at is what the production shows with Lauri OFF, LaVine OFF. This is more for curiosity sake, as I’m not even sure how much time Thad would get on the court without LaVine. If he steps right into the Markkanen role, then he should see most of his court time with LaVine out there as well. For example, Lauri has played a total of 1,084 minutes this season, and 944 of them have been with LaVine on the court. For whatever it is worth, Thad does see an expected boost (albeit a small one) in the 333-minute sample (0.93 FD / 0.95 DK).

A lot of what I just typed out is probably moot anyways (or moo, as Joey Tribbiani would say), as the expected minutes and cheap price tags across the industry are what really matters. You’d have to be absurdly conservative on his per-minute production for him to not grade out as a great play at our 33-minute projection and $4,200/$3,700 FD/DK price tags. As such, we have ourselves our first Core Play in cash games.

(Tournament pivot: I like Nemanja Bjelica as a tournament pivot here, especially on FD at only $4,800. The Kings have been closing with Ariza over him, but all it takes is Bjelica playing well on both ends of the court for him to make it hard for Walton to take him off the court. So if things break right, I think he has a 35-40 fantasy point ceiling in this matchup against Golden State. On DK, perhaps you give a look to Cody Zeller at only $4,200. The minutes haven’t been great lately as he has been Biyombo’s backup, but it has also caused the price tag to come way down. Who knows, maybe we see them roll out some Biyombo/Zeller lineups like they did last time they played the Pacers (it is worth noting that PJ Washington was out for that game though). I think there is a big ceiling here if you catch the game where both the minutes and efficiency spike.)

2) Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

FanDuel: $4,900, SG DraftKings: $5,200, PG/SG Yahoo: $22, SG FantasyDraft: $9,900, G

Smart had a subpar fantasy performance on Saturday night, but that resulted in the price decreasing just in time for a matchup against the Wizards. The price tag on FD is especially egregious.

CourtIQ tells us that Smart gets precisely one fantasy point per minute in a 286-minute sample with Kemba Walker off of the floor. Where does that increase come from (0.85 on the season)?

The usage rate goes from 17.2% up to 20.3%.

The assist rate goes from 20.7% up to 24.4%.

So why did he crap the bed on Saturday? He had exactly zero rebounds, and he has gotten 3.8 per 36 minutes this season. He is good for a total of 2.0 steals + blocks per 36 minutes, and he only got one of those on Saturday. And lastly, he shot well below expectation too. He has a 49.5% true shooting percentage on the season, and it was 36.1% on Saturday. Sometimes guys just don’t play as well as we would hope.

Would you say that facing the Wizards is a get-right spot? I sure would. We say the same thing every time they are on a slate. Worst defense; one of fastest teams in the league. Blah blah blah! You guys know the drill by now.

Smart has played 35.5 and 33 minutes, respectively, in these past two games without Kemba. We have him projected for 34 tonight. 34 minutes multiplied by his FPPM rate (which will probably get an even bigger increase due to the matchup) makes him far too cheap on FD and DK.

(Tournament pivot: On FD, going up the pricing spectrum just a bit for Damion Lee at $5,600 should make for a nice tournament pivot. D’Angelo Russell and Draymond Green have already been ruled out for Golden State, so there is plenty of usage up for grabs amongst the leftovers. We saw on Christmas the kind of ceiling this guy has, although 40-45 FD points is perhaps more realistic. Evan Fournier is another option in this price range on FD, but I like him much more on DK where he is cheaper than Lee. Fournier and the Magic have a favorable matchup against the Nets, a team that ranks 25th in defensive efficiency against opposing backcourts.)

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