Before Game 5 of the Clippers/Nuggets series on Friday, I was convinced it was the final two-game NBA DFS slate of the year. But 2020 is out of its mind, so of course Denver rallied back from yet another 3-1 deficit in these playoffs to force a decisive Game 7. That means it’s time for one last hurrah before Showdown season, so let’s make it count. This is your Slate Starter for Tuesday’s main slate on DraftKings and FanDuel, starting at 6:30 p.m. EST.
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Game 1, Should Be Fun
Tuesday kicks off with the Eastern Conference Finals matchup between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics (-1.5). I love Game 1’s because of all the uncertainty that exists around a new series. And uncertainty is generally an asset to the sharp DFS player, as the ability to predict matchups and rotations before they happen is a huge edge. More specifically, I’m talking about the ability to predict which players could experience regression as they’ll face a more formidable one-on-one matchup than in their previous series and who might see an uptick in production thanks to a lesser defender across from them.
One such player I know will be breathing a huge sigh of relief is the Celtics’ Kemba Walker. Raptors guards Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet are extraordinary defenders that made Walker’s life miserable in the second round. And while the likes of Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn aren’t exactly slouches on the defensive end, they’re certainly more gettable than the stone-wallers he’s been facing for the past two weeks. The price on DraftKings ($7,700) is still on the upper edge of what I want to be paying for Walker here, but at $7,400 at a thin point guard position on FanDuel, I’ll be jamming him in at will.
On the other side of that coin, Jayson Tatum went berserk in Games 6 and 7 of the Toronto series, putting up 68.5 and 60.5 DraftKings points, respectively, against formidable defender Pascal Siakam. As if that wasn’t a hard enough matchup, Jae Crowder (aka the guy who just shut down Giannis Antetokounmpo) now awaits him in the Eastern Conference Finals. Add in that his price ballooned to the high-$9,000 range on both sites, and this feels like a stay-away spot to me. Sure, we’ve seen him overcome matchups before in these playoffs to hit a ceiling, but he’s a prime candidate for regression at those exorbitant salaries. I’ll take the wait-and-see approach before jumping back on the Tatum train.
For Miami, it’s been a week since their last game, having made quick work of Milwaukee in a 4-1 series victory. It’s hard to say the Celtics will be a more difficult opponent considering the Bucks were the No. 1 seed and a league-best 56-17 record, yet that seems to be the consensus. Despite the formidable matchup, there are still a number of plays from the Heat with the upside to help win one of these massive contests.
Dragic continues to do ridiculous things in the postseason, averaging almost 37 DraftKings points per game in nine outings so far. Long gone are the days of Dragic providing salary relief; after beginning the playoffs at $4,400 on DraftKings, it’ll cost you a whopping $7,300 to get there today. Similar to Walker, I’m more inclined to fire him up on FanDuel at a cheaper price ($7,000). Jimmy Butler is normally my favorite type of NBA DFS play, as he has upside in multiple stat categories and isn’t scoring-dependent. However, in this series, I imagine the burden of getting buckets will be on him more than normal. At just $8,000 on FanDuel, pairing him with Paul George at shooting guard feels like the optimal lineup construction.
Speaking of FanDuel, my favorite play of the day over there is Crowder at only $5,100. There’s only four small forwards to consider, so I might just lock him and Kawhi Leonard in and get different elsewhere. Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro are the only other players I will be considering from Miami tonight, but neither interests me all that much at their current prices on either site.
Rocky Mountain High
I’m not sure who was in charge of a putting the Clippers – Nuggets Game 6 at the exact same time as NFL’s Week 1 kickoffs, but they should be fired. What makes it worse is how good the game was, as Denver erased a 19-point deficit early in the third quarter to force a Game 7. Nikola Jokic was the one responsible for a lot of the damage, posting a ridiculous 34/14/7 line and initiating the offense every possession coming down the stretch. No question ownership is going to flood his way today, and no question I will not care. There’s no center that can touch his upside, and even if he only puts up 45, he could make the optimal lineup based on raw points alone.
The rest of the Nuggets are much more difficult to peg down tonight. Jamal Murray has yet to bust through the 50-fantasy-point barrier in this series, but in a do-or-die Game 7 this might be the spot a ceiling shows up if his shot is falling. Michael Porter closed out the entire fourth quarter in both Games 5 and 6 yet continues to underperform from a fantasy perspective. In his last ten games he has exceed 28 DraftKings points only once, and at over $5,000 on both sites that’s not getting it done. That is not to say that I’m more excited to roster the likes of low-usage Paul Millsap or Jerami Grant, the latter of which saw a playoff-low 20 minutes and might be borderline unplayable at this point.
As weird as this sounds, my second-favorite Nugget play to Jokic might be Monte Morris as a pure punt. While he’s likely to only go 17-19 minutes or so, he sports the third-best usage rate in this series at 23.7%. We need to find a punt to round out something that resembles stars and scrubs on his slate, and Morris has proven the ability to get work done in no time at all.
Let’s move on to the Clippers, who have been incapable of closing the door on Denver in this series. They blew leads of 15-plus points in both Game 5 and 6, and I won’t claim to know all the ins and outs of why, but Montrezl Harrell sure hasn’t helped. I’m not a big plus/minus guy, but the Clippers are -60 in these playoffs with Harrell on the court and +130 with him off it. Logic tells me they should keep him off it for a majority of this one, so don’t get cute here. And by don’t get cute, I mean play Ivica Zubac, who should bounce back from the 3-for-14 from the field he’s been in the past two games. I’m projecting him for more minutes and fantasy points than I have ever before (30 of each), so that makes him one of the better value plays of the day.
When it comes to the Clippers, though, everything begins and ends with Leonard and George. Both are in massive spots to crush again today, and I will have as much of both as humanly possible. George I expect to garner more ownership due to the savings you get, so I might make a concerted effort to have a little more Leonard for leverage. He carries the bigger salary but also the bigger upside.
Final Thoughts for Your NBA DFS Lineups
I didn’t touch on this too much above, but the cheap value on this slate is brutal to say the least. If you want to build anything that resembles stars and scrubs on this slate, you’ll need to play minutes roulette for the likes of Robert Williams, Brad Wanamaker and Kelly Olynyk. However, all three have spiked GPP-winning upside within the past week, so it’s hard to argue against it being a viable strategy.
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