We are down to just two series of NBA action here and tonight we have two types of games to play. We have a two day DFS slate with normal roster construction and a showdown slate for just tonight’s game. I will break each game down individually, paying more attention to the first one since that it is the showdown slate for tonight and also the first game of that series.
Toronto Raptors @ Milwaukee Bucks
Bucks -6.5, 217
Series Preview: These two teams faced off four times this season. The first game featured neither Kawhi Leonard, nor Giannis Antetokounmpo, so as far as analysis goes I have discounted that one the most. Those two guys are such a big part of their respective teams on both ends of the floor that the data isn’t really representative of what to expect when they are not on the floor on either end. The other three games were all won by the road teams. Milwaukee beat Toronto by 5 and 13 points in Toronto and Toronto beat Milwaukee with Giannis by 7 in Milwaukee. So at the very least, it doesn’t look like being the home team is much of an advantage when these teams get together. The Toronto win finished with a massive 239 total, but the other two games Milwaukee won finished with 203 and 197 total points. The Bucks were the highest scoring team this season at over 118 per game with Toronto 11th at over 113. Toronto was slightly better defensively allowing the 6th fewest points at 106.8, with the Bucks not far behind in 10th allowing 108.5. Milwaukee played much faster at 5th overall for pace with Toronto mid pack tied for 14th in that department. This is why they both scored and allowed a few more points as faster paces lead to more possessions for both teams. These are two of the most efficient teams on both ends of the floor though. The Bucks are 3rd overall in offensive efficiency and had the top defensive efficiency ranking in the NBA this season. Toronto was 6th overall offensively and 4th on defense. It’s no wonder both of these teams are still around given how well they play on both ends of the floor.
In terms of individual performances, Giannis was the man for the Bucks in these matchups. He had 51, 67, and 54 DK points in the three meetings he was active for. He had 19 points, 19 rebounds, followed by a monster 43 points and 18 rebounds, and his worst game was 19/9. The third game was the easy double digit victory for the Bucks in which Giannis saw just 28 minutes so that 19/9 would have been closer to 24/12 or better if he saw the 37ish minutes he played in the other closer matchups. The rest of the Bucks are tougher to gauge here. In the games against the Raptors, they had 5, 6, and 7 guys score in double figures. Everyone basically contributed 12-16 points consistently. Great spread of usage, shots, and production amongst the top players, but not great for looking for concentrated upside in fantasy. Two things I want to mention so everyone does understand. The first is that Kawhi Leonard is likely to be on Khris Middleton for much of this series. That means Middleton not reaching upside in these matchups is not a fluke. Kawhi defense is going to stifle the production of whoever he guards and that is why Middleton is not a guy I am looking to be heavy on in this series. The other thing I wanted to point out is that the rotation has changed for the Bucks. Malcolm Brogdon is back and recovered enough to play, which is going to squeeze some minutes. Nikola Mirotic is now healthy and playing a much larger role if you look at the last series. Mirotic played over half the game against the Celtics in those matchups and produced a solid 11 points per contest with about 7 rebounds to go with it. Mirotic was not a big rotational piece during the year, so those numbers may need to be adjusted for everyone else who was seeing a bigger role. The two I think it hurts the most are Lopez and Brogdon. The Bucks can play with a big man duo of Giannis and Mirotic, meaning less minutes for Lopez. Mirotic is also scheduled to start tonight, most likely at SF next to Middleton at SG. I would still expect Kawhi on Middleton, but that does leave Danny Green on Mirotic. It might cause some defensive problems, but the solution is to sub out either Mirotic or Lopez for Brogdon to better smooth out the matchups of the top units. Outside of Giannis we really want to try to find value on the Bucks and pricing will be important. Guys like George Hill, Mirotic, and Lopez are all under $5K on DraftKings and Eric Bledsoe at only $5500 on FanDuel are all very interesting plays. Mirotic is in play on both sites for me. I prefer Hill on DK if I use him and I have a little exposure to Lopez on FD. Brogdon needs to see his minutes ramp up before I go chasing him and Middleton is the guy I am avoiding this series due to his matchup with Kawhi.
Top Plays: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Mirotic
Secondary Plays: George Hill (DK), Eric Bledsoe (FD), Brook Lopez
Fade: Malcolm Brogdon (Minutes), Khris Middleton (Kawhi)
Kawhi basically led the way for the Raptors in these matchups, but he wasn’t always great. He missed the first matchup, but had 20/8/4 in the second meeting for a solid 46 fantasy points. His best game was the third matchup when the Raptors won in the game with the outlier 239 total. He went for 30/6/6 that night for 59 DK points. The third game he played like crap and that was a big reason they lost. He still played his 35 minutes, but the line was just 16/8/2. He shot only 35% that game, and this was a guy with over a 50 FG% on the season. He made 50.4% of his shots during the year and underperformed that number in all three games against the Bucks he played. Kawhi played over his season average for minutes in each of these games, yet averaged 5 less points. This illustrates how good the defense has been for the Bucks during the year. Playoff Kawhi is producing better than regular season Kawhi, so you can definitely make the argument that his better more aggressive play in the playoffs trumps the good defense, but at worst you have to admit it is not going to be an easy series for him.
The other guy that real produced well in these matchups is Pascal Siakam. He had games of 28, 30, and 17 actual points on his way to putting up 36-45 fantasy points in the last three games with both teams at near full strength. This is a guy who averaged 33 fantasy points on the season, so even in the blowout game where the Raptors only scored 92 points, you still got Siakam bettering his average production in each of the matchups. HE did draw Giannis defense which is a scary thought, but Giannis does a lot of weak side helping as a defacto rim protector and main rebounder for this team and sometimes the secondary rotation is the one that hurts you and not the primary defender. Giannis goes to help on a drive and Siakam cleans up the mess of the missed shot or gets the dump off for an easy dunk before the defense rotates. It’s not like he was going one on one with Giannis and scoring on him at will. Siakam is not a great shooter and Giannis is bigger than many of the guys he usually muscles up on near the rim.
Kyle Lowry didn’t really have great games against the Bucks this year. He had one with a big assists total, but they won’t win this series if he doesn’t hit some shots from outside. The games Lowry played against the Bucks they lost and he barely scored in any of them. The game they won, Lowry was sitting out and Fred Van Vleet knocked down 5 3s on his way to 21 real life points in 35 minutes of action. If Lowry can’t knock down those shots like Van Vleet did, it’ll make things tougher for the guys who drive like Kawhi and Siakam to operate and get lanes to the rim. Van Vleet was a non-factor averaging under 15 minutes a game in that last series. It’s tough to count on him eating into Lowry’s minutes here, but the fact Lowry has not played well against the Bucks and Van Vleet has does give me reason to fade Lowry.
Another interesting point I wanted to make is that I think Serge Ibaka sees more time here than MArc Gasol. Gasol was on the roster, but not active for a few of the more recent meetings between these teams. The box scores there show Ibaka not only played, but played well. Gasol and/or Serge Ibaka are going to be guarding Giannis more this series as he is the big man that operates more in the painted area with guys like Mirotic, Ersan, and Lopez playing more on the perimeter alongside him. His is too athletic for Gasol, thus Ibaka is likely to have a larger role here as he will be needed to guard Giannis more often. Ibaka only saw over 22 minutes twice in the 76ers series and both times he dropped 30 fantasy points, which was twice as much as he did when playing 22 minutes. Ibaka has more upside than Gasol and should see his minutes rise this series. Gasol is a solid 20-25 fantasy point per game guy and at the price it’s good for cash play. The better upside and the lower price belongs to Ibaka though, so he makes sense as a GPP play or upside play in a showdown. The only other guy I’ll mention quickly here is Danny Green. HE left the most recent meeting between the two teams at halftime with an illness, so discount that low minute, low production contest. The other two games he was basically Danny Green. He knocked down a couple 3s, he grabbed a few boards, and he had a few assists playing 33 and 40 minutes in those games. He does lack upside, but when healthy he produced 26-30 fantasy points which at his price on both sites is not a bad 5-6X production number.
Top Plays: Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka (too cheap for likely increased role)
Secondary Plays: Kawhi Leonard (I prefer Giannis and/or Steph if I spend up on normal DFS slate), Danny Green, Fred Van Vleet ($3500 DK/$2900 FD full roster)
Fade: Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry
Portland Trail Blazers @ Golden State Warriors (Game 2)
The Warriors defensive strategy this series is simple: try to get the ball out of the hands of Damian Lillard. Lillard underperformed last night and only took 12 shots. This was by defensive design as the Warriors concentrated on keeping him bottled up. What this lead to was increased shots for everyone else. CJ McCollum led the team with 19, although he didn’t shoot particularly well. Moe Harkless really stepped up big taking 12 shots and blowing by his expected scoring totals with 17 points. Rodney Hood off the bench also had a good scoring game and took 8 shots in just 26 minutes of action. Those were the four main scorers for the Blazers. Kanter was a horror show on defense, but was able to pick on the weak defensive interior of the Warriors when he was on the floor. He had a solid 10/16 double double and the scoring was down because they doubled him early in the game which actually led to a bunch of uncharacteristic assists from the big man. No one else really did much of anything here. Al-Farouq Aminu was quiet, Zach Collins was decent in limited minutes, Seth Curry and Evan Turner basically did nothing playing a quarter and a half each. Those four guys combined for only 14 points and Collins had 8 of them. It wasn’t a good showing for the Blazers at all.
So what do we have to look at going forward here. Guys like Rodney Hood and Moe HArkless should continue to be decent cheap options who can outperform. HArkless being cheaper than Hood everywhere actually has me preferring him, especially because Hood is still not 100% and if he gets injured again it would only benefit Harkless anyway. I think Kanter has a low ceiling here because his defense is trash and was a big reason Steph was able to knock down 3s as Kanter never did and would not be able to step out on screens and force Steph to go wide to give his teammate a chance to get over those screens. When Kanter is on the floor, he will produce high per minute rebounding and scoring averages, but I really don’t think they can afford to play him 35 minutes this series. He’s still a solid cash play and a guy who could put up 30 fantasy points for a $5K price, but don’t expect big upside games from him. That really leaves us with Lillard and CJ McCollum to discuss. Lillard will bounce back and have better showings than his miss in game 1. CJ playing well and Dame underperforming has the two within only a few hundred dollars of each other here. Normally we always like Dame better and then have to account for the price difference which had been $2000-$3000 different at various times throughout the season. Right now it’s like a $600-$700 difference on both sites. CJ has played better, but I’m still sticking to Dame >CJ. I will say this matters more for the showdown slate, because on the overall 2 gamer, I don’t want either one of these guys right now.
Top Plays: None
Secondary Plays: Moe Harkless (price too cheap), Enes Kanter (more for cash, lacks upside if he can’t play defense), Rodney Hood (More GPPish)
Fade: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum (I expect them to do the most damage, but at the price I’m not jumping to include them on my rosters)
Vintage Warriors last night without KD and as long as KD is out, I think we continue to see the same. Steph Curry was unreal after a basically pedestrian series against the Rockets. It was nice to see and I’m banking on him keeping it up here against suspect guard defense on a team without a rim protector (Nurkic to Kanter is a huge downgrade). He played 35 minutes and took 23 shots yesterday. Klay Thompson did not have a visually great game from watching it, but he played 37 minutes, took 24 shots, and ended up with 26 points. That was second the on the team behind Steph Curry’s 26. Draymond Green took 11 shots and was the only other Warriors in double digit scoring with 12. Draymond played 35 minutes and still was a great play because he added his 10 rebounds, had 5 assists, and even added 5 defensive stats to finish with 40+ DK points. These three guys are the ones you want to concentrate on from the Warriors. I like all three with Steph being my favorite, followed by Klay. Draymond is going to do what Draymond does and he has a high floor because of it. The guys who get the bump without KD are the ones who can make up for his lost scoring. Klay is better at that than Draymond and is also cheaper. Again, no knock on Draymond, but Steph and Klay have more upside and just as safe of a floor with the current roster construction.
Andre Iguodala played 30 minutes as expected. He didn’t have a particularly good game either, but still did a little bit of everything. Again, his new role gives him a chance for a higher ceiling and also a higher floor. The price has risen as well though. That’s why I’m not super high on him going forward. He’s priced like a guy who needs 30+ just to make value and 35+ to exceed it and even with increased minutes he is still not a top offensive option at any point when he’s on the floor. The cheap Warrior to take a shot on is Kevon Looney. Without KD, Andre Iguodala slides into that SF role, but the Warriors Hampton’s five, Lineup of Death, Small Ball team only works because you have elite rebounders like KD and Draymond who can slide to the 4 and 5. Without him, the Warriors keep Draymond playing the PF spot, Iggy at the 3 and are using a combination of guys like Jordan Bell, Andrew Bogut, and Kevon Looney as the fifth. Looney easily sees more minutes than anyone else outside the core four and was the only other guy to play over 15 minutes. He played a solid 24, even if he didn;t produce much. The difference between Looney and Iguodala is that looney is priced like a bench warming scrub when Iggy is now priced like a starter. Looney is $3600 on DK, almost $2000 cheaper than Iguodala. He’s pricier on FD at $4800 and not as good an option over there, but again still nearly $2000 cheaper than Iguodala. Iggy likely plays more and scores more than Looney in every game, but for the discounted price, the best point per dollar upside and play might be the young big man. I can’t even consider anyone else as those guys are basically playing a quarter or less. Quinn Cook could hit some shots, but unless an injury opens up minutes you can’t go there even at the price. Looney is about the only non core 4 player that can put up 20-30 fantasy points with the playing time he is getting.
Top Plays: Steph Curry (Co-top play on the slate with Giannis), Klay Thompson (Upside with KD out)
Secondary Plays: Draymond Green, Kevon Looney (Especially on DK. Super under priced)
Fade: Andre Iguodala (Price risen too much too fast)