Nice 11 game slate to end things off here today in the NBA regular season. I wanted to start by saying…
Nice 11 game slate to end things off here today in the NBA regular season. I wanted to start by saying thank you to all those who have rocked with us during this NBA season. We will have coverage throughout the playoffs for NBA DFS, but the prize pools and field sizes are going to drop significantly from this point forward. Today may be the last day we have with big prize pools and full fields of games.
As far as playoff implications, we have one spot left and two teams with a chance to take it down. The Detroit Pistons are currently hanging on to the #8 seed and a one game lead over the Hornets. They draw the New York Knicks tonight in a win and you’re in kind of scenario. They are 9.5-point road favorites against the Knicks tonight on the tail end of a back-to-back. If they do happen to crap the bed, which they almost did being down 22 in the second half to the Grizzlies yesterday, then the door is open for Charlotte to sneak in. The Hornets not only need the win today, but also a Detroit loss to make it happen. Charlotte does not have an easy matchup here as they face the Orlando Magic who are currently in the playoffs and could move up to the #6 spot with a win and a Nets loss. The problem for Orlando is that they may be short-handed today. Jonathan Isaac is already ruled out and now we also have Nikola Vucevic questionable with a stomach bug. Mo Bamba is out with a leg fracture, so the front line could be very thin here. It would make this more interesting as the Hornets chances of winning improve. Of course, they would still need the Knicks to beat the Pistons, but the point is both teams should be motivated to play the starters and that makes them interesting spots for fantasy.
In the West we have the 8 teams locked up, but 2-4 and 6-8 spots are dependent on today’s outcomes. The Warriors locked up the #1 spot. The Nuggets with a win could lock up the #2 spot as they are currently tied with the Rockets for wins, one game ahead of Portland. Houston is done playing regular season games. That means if the Nuggets win, they go to #2 with 54 wins on the season, but Portland can still catch the Rockets at 53 wins. The Nuggets made it easier for them to do so this weekend by sitting their starters for that Blazers game. The Nuggets aren’t dumb. They would much rather play Portland in round 2 and let the Warriors face the winner of a tough Jazz/Rockets series. It’s the easiest path to the finals for them. Portland is a 7.5-point favorite over Sacramento today and Denver is an 11+ point favorite over the Timberwolves. The scenario looks likely to play out this way and that should mean full run for the stars on the teams involved here. At the bottom of the bracket, OKC has a one game lead on the #6 spot over the Spurs and Clippers. OKC faces a Milwaukee team that is going to be short-handed with starting frontcourt players like Giannis and Brook Lopez both slated to sit this one out. The Clippers got lucky as they are facing the Jazz reserves today as Utah is solidified in that 5 spot in the West win or lose and have chosen to sit the entire starting five for this one. That just leaves the Spurs who are currently ahead of the Clippers with the tie breaker. They are one of the bigger favorites on the day facing a Mavericks team that has been really banged up at home as a 13-point favorite. Assuming all three win, nothing changes and the West finishes with the Thunder in 6th, followed by the Spurs and the Clippers. If any of them lose, it opens the door up for that bottom three to change and thus change the entire outlook of the matchups for round 1. Needless to say, Utah’s second unit will be popular as punt options with none of the starters expected to play and the starters for the Thunder, Spurs, and Clippers are all in play as they should get normal run at a minimum.
I want to caution everyone that late scratches are going to happen today and happened to slate changing type players. Last night we had the announcement of Karl Anthony-Towns sitting out, which made Gorgui Dieng a great late addition to your lineups. We had Julius Randle confirmed out too, also paving the way for a cheap Jahlil Okafor bump in production. Mario Hezonja late scratch after FD lineups locked meant he was our zero-point guy yesterday. Luckily Jamal Crawford went parabolic for the Suns and made up for that zero. It’s always risky to play stars in games that don’t matter and last night was a perfect example of why. On FD, there is not much you can do when something like this happens. On DK though I wanted to touch on strategy a little bit here. When a massively good play opens up like happened yesterday with Dieng and Okafor, you have to make those switches to them if you can. Use the savings to upgrade some other position to one of the top price studs if possible. In Tournaments, not as many people use late swap when news break as we should see doing it, so I always change when the opportunity presents itself. The one thing we should all have been doing anyway, but it’s worth mentioning is to check the start times of the guys you roster. The guys with the latest starting games should be in your G, F, and Util positions. I can guarantee you a big-name guy is going to be a late scratch today or someone who gets his minutes limited and it’s likely to be a guy on a team with nothing to play for today. If I knew who it was, I would tell you guys, but the point is that if you build your roster correctly with the guys in the latest games at the bottom three spots than you have options if and when the news does come down. It’s a big advantage in any format, especially when we know that not everyone is looking to make changes and better their team, even when they get the information with enough time to make moves to capitalize on it. If you can be around a computer watching games, it’s a big advantage today. If not, remember you can play FanDuel and not have to worry about this while also having the protection of a droppable score if you get into a situation like I did with Hezonja last night. With so much value, the last thing I wanted to mention here is roster construction. No surprise, but stars and scrubs are the way I went here again today, and the slate really lends itself to that kind of a build.
Top Cash Plays
Damian Lillard – The Blazers can move up to the #3 seed with a win today as they would pass the Rockets, so Dame should be in line to play as many minutes as he can handle and produce near ceiling levels. He gets one of the better matchups to do it in as the Blazers face one of the fastest paced teams in the Kings who also happen to give up a ton of points. CJ McCollum is back, but not 100% and they are still without Nurkic, so the bulk of the offensive load continues to fall on Dame.
Kemba Walker – Kemba wasn’t really needed to have a big game last night, but tonight is a win or go home game for the Hornets. Even if they win, they would still be going home if the Pistons beat the Knicks, but the Hornets game starts first, and they have to handle their business before worrying about anyone giving them help. Orlando is not normally a key matchup to target, but I like Kemba v. DJ Augustin and if Vucevic is held out with stomach issues, the Magic will have weak rim protection as the usual backup Mo Bamba is already out with a leg issue. Kemba only played 27 minutes last night in what turned into a 30-point game, so he’s even rested up more than expected. He’s routinely playing 35-40 minutes in recent games, and he’s been putting up 50+ regularly while doing so.
TJ McConnell – 7 guys on the 76ers are listed as doubtful today and with nothing to play for we may not see any of them. That would mean massive minute and usage boosts for whoever does suit up for Philly tonight. McConnell is min priced on FD and pretty close to it on DK too. He is in line for 30 minutes here if not more and with the ball in his hand he should be able to come close to a double double. At his price, that would be an 8X return or better. I’ll take that.
Quinn Cook – Steph is out for this finale here and that opens the door for a 30+ minute game from Cook. We’ve seen him be solid before and the more other Warriors out the better it is for his usage rate. Currently Cousins is listed as out along with Steph and Draymond. Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant are questionable, but with nothing to play for we might not see any of them. That would only help Cook as not only would the minutes see a huge boost, but the usage would too.
D’Angelo Russell – The Nets are currently in a battle for the #6 and #7 spot in the East with the Magic. The Magic have a tough assignment against the Hornets who need to win to stay alive. The Nets face the Miami Heat who were eliminated from the playoffs yesterday. I’m not sure how the Heat are going to handle tonight. They are a deep team anyway, but you would guess they let everyone get some run in this final game. The Nets on the other hand should be trying to win and while normally playing guys against the Heat is not advisable, I’m willing to make the exception here given the motivation of the Nets and the utter disappointment in the first game after being eliminated the Heat might feel.
Delon Wright – Was not the best showing from him last night after some monster games, but he did still play a massive 37-minute workload. He also draws a better matchup here today as he’s looking at a second team unit for the Warriors as opposed to the motivated Pistons starters, he faced last night trying to make the playoffs. Wright has produced big in games without Conley and Bradley and the minutes load is huge, so I’m willing to forgive the bad night and go right back to him today.
NARRATIVE STREET: I wanted to mention this because it was one of the easiest plays the last time it happened. Kobe Bryant played his last game as a Laker and took about a billion shots. This could very well be the last time we see Dwyane Wade in an NBA uniform too. If so, this could be that 50+ point 30 shot Wade game where he drops 50+ fantasy points and walks off into the sunset. Narrative, absolutely, but it’s not like we haven’t seen it happen before and with Miami eliminated, what else do they have to play for.
CHEAP OPTIONS: I currently have 15 players projected for 6X or better at the SG position on DraftKings today. Only 2 are over $4800. 9 of the 13 below $4800 are in the $3000 price range. None of them are safe, but they all do project well today for 28-34 minutes. The list of names includes Grayson Allen and Naz Long (Jazz), Zhaire Smith and Shake Milton (76ers) who all benefit from increases in usage and minutes due to guys sitting out. You have options like Gary Harris, Will Barton, Nic Batum, Dwayne Bacon, and Tyler Dorsey too, but those guys are actually worse plays in my eyes. The unknowns from the Jazz and 76ers are stepping into black holes left because all the usage and minutes of the starters is on the bench today. The other guys are seeing the same minutes, but they are also playing on the floor with guys like Jokic, Kemba, and Delon Wright respectively who are dominant high usage guys. The second group is players who have been solid cheap options during the year when we didn’t have better places to go. Today the minutes for some of the more random names I mentioned first may not look pretty in the game logs, but those types of guys project for higher ceilings today as opposed to the guys we normally use who remain the 4th or 5th options in their offenses with the high usage guys still playing. Normally we steer towards the “Safer” household names with more easily predictable minutes in cash, but today I throw out projections when you are replacing 5-6 key pieces of a team in one quick swap.
Paul George – If I pay up today it’s going to be for PG 13. Averaging 38 minutes and 50 fantasy points over his last three and he grades out as the clear highest raw total guy at the position today. The Thunder need to win to hold on to the sixth spot so we should get near full run out of hi today. KD may not even play and I have no one else projected for over 35 at the position on FD. With KD, Giannis, Hezonja, and Gallo all listed as questionable or worse, the next best option I have is the Bulls Jakarr Sampson. We have tons of cheap options that project for 6-10X today to use with him at $5K and below, so fitting in PG 13 is not that hard. For cash it just makes sense to go that route on FanDuel. On DK I prefer other stars at other positions and won’t be squeezing him in unless the money works out right and I’m able to upgrade to him from someone cheap. Most likely I go cheap on DK with one of the guys mentioned below.
Again, here if you are asking me for certainty, I don’t really have it, but I have a list of guys I project for 30 minutes at near min price with tons of usage up for grabs. Guys like Thabo Sefolosha and Royce O’Neale for the Jazz, Jonathon Simmons of the 76ers, and Wes Iwundu of the Orlando Magic who is starting for the injured Jonathan Isaac today. I rank the Jazz guys #1 and #2 followed by Wes Iwundu and finally Jonathon Simmons. Every one of these guys are barely over min price on both sites. They all project for near 30 points, which is around 8X or better.
Aaron Gordon – I was hesitant at first, but if Vucevic is out and Isaac is out, he is the only true starter in that frontcourt in a game they kind of want to win. They are in the playoffs either way and I would look to see if the decide to rest starters today. If not, Gordon should have an increased role on offense and rebounding, which would give him chance for an upside game.
Bam Adebayo – Bam has taken over as the main big man for the Heat and produced pretty well. My nerves here are with the fact the Heat were just eliminated and I have no idea what that means for minutes distribution. I know D Wade is likely to do his Kobe Bryant thing and take every shot, which could mean massive rebounding numbers if Bam gets his normal 30ish minutes. He’s not overly expensive either and the matchup is one we have made a ton of cash picking on this year.
Georges Niang – Jazz big man plays a nice 20 minute a game role, but this could be his chance to shine with almost everyone playing in frontcourt ahead of him sitting. He’s near min price and a talented young player. He projects for 10X for me today and that’s tough to ignore.
DJ Wilson – We already know Giannis and Brook Lopez are out and they have other pieces listed as questionable today too. Wilson should be in line for a massive minute boost up to the mid-30s at least. Not only are frontcourt minutes available for the taking, but you also have massive usage available and rebounding without the two big men playing.
Ersan Ilyasova – Everything I just said for Wilson applies here too. No Mirotic, Giannis, or Lopez means plenty of minutes for whoever is left in that frontcourt. Wilson and Ersan are both likely to see minutes and Ersan may even be the more productive of the two.
Andre Drummond – This one is easy for me. It’s Drummond or Jokic and I just trust Drummond more right now. The Pistons control their own destiny in a win and you’re in game. With Blake banged up, Drummond has taken more of the offensive load, which has led to a jump in both points and assists. Drummond is also one of the premier big rebound number guys in the league. 20/20 games are not out of the question and 15+ is routine. Motivated, likely to get ceiling minutes, and carrying the load for his team are all reasons he remains the best bet for me today.
Cheap Options: I have 4 guys priced at $4K or below that project for about 9-10X. Boban Marjanovic and Greg Monroe for the 76ers, Ekpe Udoh for the Jazz, and Kevon Looney for the Warriors. I rank Monroe #1 followed by Udoh, Looney, and Boban. All of them are decent plays, so on DK you can easily try to fit two of them in if you don’t want to play Drummond or use one of them in Util with Drummond as I did on my initial build.