NBA Core plays 1/16/20

THE CORE

1) Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

FanDuel: $6,600, SG DraftKings: $7,400, PG/SG Yahoo: $31, SG FantasyDraft: $13,800, G

From a priority standpoint, Mitchell obviously stands out way more on FD at $6,600 than he does at $7,400 on DK. I really have no idea why his price dropped on FD to what has to be the lowest since his rookie season. I am guessing it is some sort of combination of this last three-game stretch in which:

- Mitchell only had to play 22 minutes in a blowout against Charlotte, resulting in just 15.2 FD points.

- Mitchell missed the next game at Washington due to illness.

- Mitchell ‘only’ got 31 FD points in their game on Tuesday against the Nets (while still playing 36.5 minutes).

I’d say a drop from $7,200 in that Brooklyn game down to $6,600 in this matchup against the Pelicans (without their best perimeter defender) is a slight overreaction, wouldn’t you? And I still like him plenty as a starting point for cash games on the other sites as well, but this is obviously mainly a FanDuel discussion.

Surprisingly, Mike Conley being off of the court this season has basically had no effect on Mitchell from a fantasy perspective. For the season, he is at 1.09 FD / 1.12 DK points per minute on a 30.7% usage rate and 22.6% assist rate. In that 877-minute sample with no Conley, he is at essentially the exact same usage and assist rates (which ultimately has resulted in the same FPPM rates).

A matchup against a fast-paced Pelicans team (sixth in pace) without their best perimeter defender only sweetens the pot here. They already rank 25th in defensive rating and 27th in overall team defensive efficiency. Theoretically, I can’t imagine they do any better with Jrue Holiday.

So with Mitchell getting 34-36 minutes in competitive games, and the Jazz only being -4.5 on the road in New Orleans, the math obviously checks out here. Quite simply, there is no reason for Mitchell to be priced anywhere close to this level on FD. We should be locking him in there with no hesitation, and he is the starting point for me on the other sites as well while we await more news in places like Boston and Denver.

(Tournament pivot: Going up the pricing spectrum for either D’Angelo Russell and/or Devin Booker makes for a compelling tournament strategy if you are looking for ways to pivot off of Mitchell. Russell is my favorite of the two; I think there is just more profit potential at his price tag compared to Booker’s and the ownership probably is lower as well. Lou Williams is in that same general price range on DK as Russell and Mitchell, but he is really cheap on FD at only $6,200. He’s another guy to consider on all sites considering Paul George is out once again tonight.)

2) Monte Morris, Denver Nuggets

FanDuel: $4,000, SF DraftKings: $4,400, PG Yahoo: $10, PG FantasyDraft: $9,100, G

Jamal Murray is not one to miss many games, but it would be quite surprising to see him suit up tonight after getting carried off of the court last night due to an ankle injury. That means Monte Morris should step right into the starting lineup at point guard, making him an appealing source of salary relief for our cash game builds.

As a point of reference, Monte Morris has gotten 0.91 FD / 0.90 DK points per minute this season thanks to a 18.5% usage rate, 27.2% assist rate, and 52.2% true shooting percentage. It was at 0.87 FD / 0.87 DK last season, largely due to a slightly lower assist rate. Of course, he gets most of his minutes with other reserves; the most frequently used five-man lineups for the Nuggets that have Morris in them also feature names like Plumlee, Grant, Beasley, Hernangomez, etc.

I say that because figuring out the per-minute production isn’t go to be easy. We know the minutes are going to go up, which is great, but what about his rates? For that, I think it helps to look to a stretch of games last season when he started in place of Murray.

Murray missed six games last season at the end of January and start of February, and Morris stepped into the starting lineup for the last four of them. He played a bunch of minutes (averaged 38 minutes per game) and put up huge fantasy nights (was over 40 fantasy points in three of them).

Let me stop there and reign everybody back in a bit, as we shouldn’t be expecting anything close to that tonight. For one, they really had no other ball handlers on the roster at that time last season. Malone already showed last night that he will give PJ Dozier some run backing up Morris. And as for the fantasy production in those games, he shot way above expectation. He has a 56.3% true shooting percentage for his career, and it was anywhere from 61% to 80% in each of those four games.

The main thing I am focused on is that his usage rate and assist rate didn’t suffer too much playing with the starters. And if Paul Millsap and Gary Harrisare out again tonight in addition to Murray, I’d feel confident projecting him to be the same per-minute player that he usually is while probably getting a little bit of a boost thanks to the matchup. The Warriors have been really bad this season against opposing backcourts, ranking 28th in defensive efficiency in that metric.

I think mid-to-high 20’s minutes is a realistic expectation for Morris tonight, with plenty of upside for more. Once again, the price tag on FD is way more attractive, but he stands out as a nice source of salary relief on DK as well. I will tag him in LineupHQ on all sites for now, but there is a chance he moves down the priority list on DK later in the day based on how news shakes out.

(Tournament pivot: Point guard on FD is strange in that no one is priced higher than Kemba Walker at $6,700, and Ricky Rubio figures to be a popular pairing with Morris since Kelly Oubre is out tonight. Kemba may get a boost as well if Jaylen Brown (thumb) is ruled out. That makes Lonzo Ball the clear tournament pivot for me in this price range. Those other guys probably garner more ownership since Lonzo has to take on the Jazz, but the FD scoring system suits him well since they give +3 for steals and blocks. On DK, my favorite tournament pivot off of Morris is the aforementioned PJ Dozier at $3,000. One possible reason that Morris would fail tonight would be because Dozier just flat out played better and got more minutes. So not only could you have a minimum-priced guy in Dozier possibly crushing his price tag, but it might even gain you a little bit of leverage if Morris is indeed popular on DK.)

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