NBA Analysis – January 2, 2021

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Early Slate

Sacramento Kings at Houston Rockets


Time: 5pm

Vegas Total:   234 – HOU 119 – SAC 115

Injuries – SAC:    Tyrese Halliburton – OUT

Injuries – HOU:   Ben McLemore – OUT / Kenyon Martin – OUT / Mason James – OUT / Eric Gordon – PROBABLE


There are six games today, but, if you look at all of the Vegas totals, you see something troubling – there are 2 games sitting in the mid-230s and the rest of the games are sitting under 220, separated by 15-20 points. Even more unfortunate, one of those two good games is a standalone, 5pm game leaving us a 5-game main slate lacking in a ton of great options. A slate that is sure to leave a lot of folks frustrated that they can’t build a lineup filled with people they like, or filled with folks in great spots they are confident in. Fortunately, I will have a full analysis of this slate by itself before showing you some people you can target tonight (though there will be a ton of risk no matter what).

On this one game showdown, what will separate me from the field is that I am going to focus my lineup on Kings players in this matchup for a couple of reasons. Obviously, it’s early in the year and we should realize that things can change drastically (and the current sample size is negligible), but like I said yesterday, my job is to flush out what is noise, what is sample size, and what is real. I think these things are real.

First, the Rockets have been the worst defense in the NBA so far this year. If you look at the value numbers, they are pretty crazy. Overall, they add almost double the fantasy value to a team as anyone else in the NBA. So far, they’re adding 11% to points (most in the NBA), 17% to 3s, 10% to rebounds (T2nd most), 8% to assists, 33% to steals, 12% to blocks, 6% to FG%, and reducing turnovers by 2%. Given the defenses of John Wall and Eric Gordon, these numbers might go down, but we shouldn’t expect them to go down by much. 

If we break it down further, Houston has been particularly and insanely terrible against guards, where they rank worst in the NBA in that metric as well. And It isn’t close. The Rockets are about league average against Bigs. That should tell you just how bad they are against guards, to be twice as bad as everyone else overall, and most of that comes from how bad they are against guards. Due to the play of their stars and wing players, guards are doing whatever they want against Houston, and that is something I expect to continue.

That means my favorite play in this game is going to be De’Aaron Fox (and it’s not that close). I would also have exposure to anyone else that will be playing PG/SG/SF for SAC. That means Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, and even Cory Joseph are in play. Barnes plays SF/PF but there are plenty of times he gets wing duty with Bagley and Holmes playing. Especially with Halliburton out and the most likely replacements being PFs like Bjelica and Bagley, I expect Barnes to spend most of his time at the 3 today. 

Fox is 9400, the second most expensive player on the slate, but he’s 2400 cheaper than James Harden. And Fox has 60+ DKP upside here, with a good shot at 50 DKP as a median.  While I wouldn’t bet on it, he has a decent chance of outproducing Harden and the price wouldn’t indicate that was even a possibility. 

Hield is 7600 which is too expensive for the way he’s been playing this year. But he’s shown 50 DKP ceiling in similar games to this so, again, i wouldn’t necessarily trust him, but I would have exposure in GPPs. He is just gonna put up 3s and, if Houston doesn’t try to stop him and he gets hot, he is going to break this slate open. He gets a sizeable boost with Halliburton out, as he should get more shots overall, more 3s specifically, and gets more time at SG, which is better for him here.

Barnes may be the biggest surprise on the team for me. Last year, he was content with being the veteran who took a step back and let the kids get experience and do most of the work. He was still playing hard, but he was focusing on other things on the court and not caring about putting up stats. This year, everything has changed. So far, in 4 of his 5 games, he has put up 30+ DKP (with 2 games over 40+ DKP already this season). In those games he’s getting rebounds, and assists, while shooting between 14 and 16 times a contest. His price was too low to start the season (after his entire performance in 19/20), and it hasn’t adjusted yet. All things being equal, Barnes is probably my 2nd favorite play on the Kings.

Cory Joseph is a punt play that showed you how weak Houston is against guards last game when, in his normal 20-23 minutes of play time, he wound up putting up about 24 DKP of production. He didn’t even have to do too much extra – a few extra steals due to poor ball handling from Houston, and a few extra assists due to poor Rockets D. He didn’t take more shots. He just faced a D that allowed him to get a bunch of extra production. And he took it. Will he do it again? Maybe not. He isn’t gonna get more than 10-15 DKP most games this season. But, again, I don’t mind taking a chance on him. He may also get some added run with Halliburton out, though that isn’t guaranteed at all. And may be a minute or two, when it all comes down to it. 

Second (holy shit all that was just the first point?!), and what will prove as a sizable boost to SAC, the Kings are playing a very condensed rotation to start the season. If not for blowouts, they are running with a fantasy fantastic nine man rotation. That means everyone is getting a good chunk of minutes and, so far, almost everyone has been underpriced for that (as we saw earlier).

With Halliburton out, this rotation shrinks to 8 players. Meaning we could either see even greater value from the other players who’ve been seeing minutes, or some guaranteed minutes for punt priced players like Glenn Robinson or Kyle Guy. Pay attention to whoever is supposed to get that time, and be prepared to take advantage of those savings. Whoever it is will be cheap

If this is a high scoring, close game, we can expect a ton of production from the Kings and, while the field is focusing on the big names on the Rockets – Harden, Wall, Wood, Cousins, etc.. – I think the smartest way to start your attack is with the Kings, who are probably going to put up just about as much production as the Rockets as a whole (if not more), but be priced cheaper and see less ownership.

I don’t mind taking some of the Big dudes from Sacramento, either – namely, Richaun Holmes, who is still underpriced for his ceiling but may not get as many looks – as the Rockets (led by PJ Tucker) are significantly better against bigs. I would only have exposure to Bagley, Whiteside,  and Bjelica in deep GPPs. And, if you are playing 20 or 150 lineups on a single game slate, having them in at least one lineup may not be the worst play (given injury/foul variance and the possibility of a blowout). Even if they get those Halliburton minutes, I’m still not a huge fan. 

The third major thing I wanted to talk about is about the Kings D, so let’s switch gears from talking about the Kings offensive players and talk about the Rockets here, the expensive and popular superstars, who it may make sense to use sparingly, and soon.

No one is going to say that the Rockets are a bad offensive team. I mean, maybe someone would say that, but that person would be a fucking idiot who you shouldn’t listen to for any reason. They have a couple of the top offensive people in the game in James Harden, John Wall, and Demarcus Cousins (who is playing a limited bench role right now), an emerging offensive superstar in Christian Wood (my favorite Episcopalian porn magazine), and some killer 3-point shooters in Eric Gordon and Danuel House

For the most part, this is a team that has decided they don’t care about defense. They are going to offer up minimal resistance because, even if they do that, they have a really, really good chance of just outscoring you anyway. They do it game after game after game, and I expect us to keep being able to profit from it. 

This gives us license to play all of the Rockets’ opponents with reckless abandon. It does not mean we can play all the Rockets all the time. Just because they don’t play D, doesn’t mean other teams don’t. And it doesn’t mean that there aren’t some games the Rockets will have to trudge through. Over the last year or so, the Kings have emerged as one of those spots (much to the shock of many). 

While, again, things can change drastically as the season progresses, two trends we should expect to continue are for the Kings to be either in, or right outside, the bottom 10 in pace, and for the Kings to be one of the top 10 teams at limiting fantasy value. Both of those are true right now. In fact, as a team, the Kings are 9th best at decreasing value and, if you take out some fluke steal/block stats, they would be doing even better. They are reducing fantasy production in every stat except rebounds (where they increase production by 1%), steals (4%), and blocks (14%). Steals/blocks are the most highly variable at this point in the year, so I try to disregard those this early. I would be surprised if the other ones change that much.

If you break it down further, the Kings reduce fantasy value from every position except for PF, where, if not from some of those flukey numbers, they could very well be there, too. 

Not only do the Rockets have a tougher matchup than people would otherwise realize (hence increasing their ownership), but I would also like to point out that, when I am listing a bunch of fantastic, high usage players and they all play on the same team, that is not always a good thing. It’s something I like to call “too many cooks syndrome,” where fantastic teams filled with fantastic players do fantastically in every metric but in DFS, where their prices are fair and their production is limited by the myriad other mouths that need to be fed. 

So if Harden or Wall or Wood or Cousins (or even Gordon) were by themselves, or if 2 or 3 of those dudes were sitting due to injury/rest, we could count on all of that usage going in the hands of a small number of stars that will pay off. But when they are all fighting each other, and when their prices are all fair, you wind up losing a lot more than you win by betting on which star, if any, has the breakout game that night. As we saw a few years ago in GS, sometimes it’s no one, and, even knowing that, their ownership is still ridiculously high. Especially when they are going against a slower, defensive team.

So yeah, you don’t need me (or anyone else) to tell you about Harden, Wall, Wood, Cousins, and co. They are fantastic, high usage players who have slate-breaking ceilings. But, as long as they are all playing, more often than not they will barely hit 5 or 6x value. Or, worse yet, they won’t get there at all because someone else on the team has a good day. LIke on those rare days when, to continue the analogy, despite the Warriors all being healthy, Kevon Looney would come in off the bench and get 30 DKP that could no longer go to an elite-priced star.

If you want to go hard on the Rockets, be my guest. They should get a ton of points today. Just know that everyone else is going to have that strategy and there are tons of ways the Kings outproduce them in DFS, especially when you consider that your goal is to get the most value out of your roster as a whole, and not just pick the highest scoring, most expensive guy while the rest of the roster suffers (I call doing that a “2001 Texas Rangers”).

Main Slate

Vegas Lines

(Today’s Update in Parenthesis)

214 – PHI 111.75 – CHA 102.25
218.5 – ORL 113 – OKC 105.5
215 – IND 112 – NY 103
213.5 – TOR 107.5 – NO 106
233 – ATL 119.75 – CLE 113.25

Advantage Spots

Coming Soon

Caution Spots

Coming Soon

Situations to Monitor

Coming Soon

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