November 29, 2018, 2:22 pm
Hey Hoop-Ballers! Welcome back to another edition of Deep League Digging – my weekly column scouring the darkest reaches of the fantasy NBA landscape in search of diamonds in the rough for deep league owners.
I hope that everyone had a restful and gluttonous Thanksgiving, because now is the time of the year where the action really starts to heat up in the NBA. We now have a solid set of data on most players and teams in the league, so we can really start to map out trends and start to form hypotheses from a fantasy perspective. We’ve covered streaming specialists here before, so to take this to the next level I will also be comparing which teams are most likely and least likely to give up counting stats to an opponent.
Matchups are important to consider when streaming. There are myriad streaming options out there, but targeting players that have the best matchup for a specific category that you are trying to boost can be helpful breaking a tie between two otherwise equally viable options.
After missing last week, I’m nearly bursting at the seams with fantasy goodness, so buckle up because we’re going in on this one!
Editor’s Note: Join our latest Beat the Expert contest on DraftKings! The contest runs tomorrow night and you can join by clicking right here. Top-10 spots pay out and the overall winner gets a Hoop Ball t-shirt! Good luck out there.
Before we dive into which teams are the best to target for specific categories, it is important to quickly highlight pace of play. Pace of play can have a big impact on fantasy production, particularly in deep leagues. We know that the studs will get theirs even on slow-paced teams – look no further than Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. However, when we are looking for deep league value, a bench player in a faster paced system has a better chance of providing more overall value if you subscribe to the logic that higher pace = more possessions = more chances to accumulate stats.
Considering pace does not only go so far as looking at players on fast paced teams either. Take a look at the correlation between the fastest pace teams and the teams which also allow give up the most fantasy stats to opposing teams. You will frequently see teams near the top of the pace rankings also allowing some of the largest amounts of just about every stat (I’m looking at you Hawks). So, if you need to stream a player in for that extra category boost and all other things remain equal, you would be wise to opt for the player whose matchup projects to have the higher pace.
There aren’t many surprises here. The Hawks are a young team that likes to play fast, and isn’t known for stalwart defensive effort, so it is not a shock to see that they give up the most points in the NBA by a fairly wide margin. The Wizards and Pelicans are both near the top in pace ranking, so again, not a shock to see them allowing some of the highest point totals per game. The Grizzlies are making a return to their grit and grind roots, so look to see this slow pace of play continue. Meanwhile, the Nuggets have gone from one of the fastest teams in the league to embracing a more methodical half-court style of play this season. With that changed philosophy has also come an elevated emphasis on defense. Don’t let the predominant narrative with the Nuggets over the past few seasons fool you, this team is different, and is a significantly less attractive option to stream against.
Rebounds allowed also seems to have somewhat of a correlation with pace. We can see that the Cavaliers, Nuggets and Pacers all rank near the bottom in pace of play, and also give up the fewest number of rebounds per game to opposing squads. The Kings, Hawks and Wizards are among the fastest teams in the league, and also give up the most rebounds. The Bulls are an interesting outlier in that they give up the most rebounds by far, but are fairly middling when it comes to pace. Some of this may be scheme related – emphasizing transition defense over offensive rebound opportunities – but a lot of it may simply come down to the fact that a frontcourt pairing of Jabari Parker and Wendell Carter Jr. leaves a lot to be desired in terms of both experience and tenacity down low.
There is some significant overlap here between the amount of points a team allows and the number of assists it allows. It is far from a direct correlation when you compare the results to the charts above, but you can see that the teams that play with a higher pace and allow the most points also generally allow more assists per game.
The way that this stat is portrayed can be confusing at first glance, but the charts below are showing how many steals per game the teams opponent is averaging. In other words – how many times does a team turn the ball over in a given game by way of a steal for the opposing team. Some of this is more player specific. Trae Young is notoriously prone to turning the ball over, so it isn’t a huge surprise to see the Hawks at the top of the list here. Interestingly, you could draw the conclusion that experience plays a larger role here than pace. Many of the top teams in steals allowed feature young backcourts and/or lead guards (with notable exceptions in the Warriors, Rockets and Pelicans to an extent).
The charts below illustrate how many shots are blocked by a team’s opponent on a per game basis. If you’ll indulge me for a moment in some not necessarily fantasy-relevant advanced stat geekery… I was trying to find a correlation between blocks allowed and some other factor beyond pace of play or shot attempts per game (some more straightforward explanations) and there seems to be a decent link between a higher number of unassisted two-point baskets made and the number of blocks an opposing team registers. For example, the Knicks lead the league in unassisted two-point conversions at 62.2 percent and allow the most blocks per game at 6.9. The Warriors on the other hand have the lowest percentage of unassisted two-point baskets at 40.8 percent while also allowing the fewest blocks at 3.6. Nothing earth shattering there that will win you your league, but a pretty cool correlation that does make some sense.
Weekend Streaming Options
Thanks for indulging my brief dive into the wonkier side of fantasy hoops above. Let’s take all of those numbers now and put them to good use in determining which streaming options may help give you an edge this weekend in returning a higher than average performance.
A few criteria first for who made the selection and who did not in this article. I only looked at teams that are playing two games between Friday and Sunday. Many leagues don’t allow for seven acquisitions per week. In those cases, it can make sense to use your last acquisition on a Friday for a player that will have two games over the weekend. Alternatively, you can save that final acquisition for a relatively light Sunday slate to solidify your standing in a category or two.
*Note* While I am including guys that play two games over the weekend, Friday is an 11-game slate, so the odds of being able to work a streamer into your starting lineup that night are fairly slim.
As always, I will be looking at players that are less than ten percent owned. That seems to be roughly the cutoff for a waiver wire player in many 16-team leagues.
James Ennis, F, Rockets (8% Rostered) – Threes and Steals
Schedule: 11/30 Spurs; 12/1 Bulls
There is a chance that Ennis has already been snatched up following a solid run of top-150 performance in the past two weeks, but check your wire to make sure. Ennis won’t give you a huge lift in any one category, but he can be a solid option for an extra steal or three over the weekend considering the favorable Saturday matchup against the Bulls.
Gary Clark, F, Rockets (1% Rostered) – Blocks
Schedule: 11/30 Spurs; 12/1 Bulls
Clark has slowed down lately, but is still averaging 1.1 blocks per game in the past month in limited minutes. Saturday’s slate is light enough that you could probably work him into your lineup and hope for a block or two given the extremely favorable matchup against the Bulls. He is around on plenty of deep league waiver wires, so give him a look if you need blocks to close out your week.
Tony Parker, G, Hornets (3% Rostered) – Assists
Schedule: 11/30 Jazz; 12/2 Pelicans
The Hornets’ Friday matchup against the Jazz isn’t the juiciest in the world, I’m looking more toward the Sunday contest against the Pelicans. The Pelicans are a great team to target for guard streaming stats as they allow the fourth-most steals in the league and the fifth-most assists. We can expect Parker to get his usual run of around 20 minutes per game and give a nice Sunday boost in assists with the potential for a steal or two.
Ed Davis, F/C, Nets (6% Rostered) – Rebounds
Schedule: 11/30 Grizzlies; 12/1 Wizards
Davis is one of the premier rebounds streamers regardless of league size. He has a favorable matchup against the Wizards on Saturday, as they are currently allowing the fourth-most rebounds in the league. He is only on the wire in one of my 16-team leagues, so the odds of him being available may be slim, but give your wire a look just in case if you need boards.
Maxi Kleber, C, Mavericks (2% Rostered) – Blocks, Rebounds
Schedule: 11/30 Lakers; 12/2 Clippers
The Lakers matchup on Friday is decent for Kleber, but I’m looking more towards the Sunday showdown against that other team in Los Angeles. The Clippers allow the fifth-most blocks in the league and ninth-most rebounds, making Kleber a great boom-or-bust type play if you need to throw a Hail Mary and hope for a big two or three block performance to close out your week.
Maybe streaming isn’t your thing, or maybe you are looking for someone who could have a bit more season-long appeal. Fear not – I won’t let you leave, dear deep-league comrades, without a few hot waiver wire options. This monstrosity has gone on long enough, so let’s shoot from the hip here rapid fire style.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Hornets (6% Rostered) – Top-100 player over the last week with 1.5 steals and 1 block per game. Expect roughly top-200 value from him moving forward and a steady dose of defensive stats.
Richaun Holmes, Suns (6% Rostered) – Minutes are steadily creeping up toward the 20 per game mark – yes please. It won’t take him much to be a top-150 guy, so consider him must-add until further notice.
Elie Okobo, Suns (4% Rostered) – The Suns waived Isaiah Canaan and Okobo went from out of the rotation to 31 minutes and a huge line on Wednesday. Absolutely worth a flier in all deep leagues. Expect inconsistent lines and inconsistent utilization, but top-175 upside is there if this sticks.
Tim Frazier, Pelicans (3% Rostered) – Racked up 12 assists in his start on Wednesday. Payton will be out for a while, so Frazier could have some extended value in that time. Don’t expect quite this level of performance, but top-150 isn’t much of a stretch. He should be rostered in all deep leagues.
Omari Spellman, Hawks (2% Rostered) – Spellman has gotten consistent run lately even with John Collins back on the floor. Top-100 in the last week and his playing time should only tick up as the Hawks continue to pile up the Ls and Dedmon’s role is diminished. He is worth a flier in all deep leagues, though he is more of a luxury stash at the moment in 14-team league formats.