Welcome to another edition of the NBA DFS Slate Starter! We had some awfully fun finishes in the Association yesterday, wouldn’t you say? Obviously it wasn’t the best look for the zebras who had way too much pull for my liking, but it was entertaining nevertheless. Plus Jae Crowder and Lugentz Dort were lineup heroes for me, so I am certainly not going to ask for more on a profitable night.
We have another exciting day of hoops ahead of us, so let’s get right into it breaking down Thursday’s two-game main slates on DraftKings and FanDuel.
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NBA DFS Picks: The NBA Slate Starter for DraftKings + FanDuel
Celtics vs. Raptors Game 3
Today’s slate of games kicks off at 6:30 p.m EST with an absolute must-win for the defending-champion Raptors. For the first time in NBA history, the one seed and two seed in a conference each face an 0-2 deficit in the same playoff round, and it’s hard to argue against the underdog seed being the better side in both so far.
The Celtics have won six straight to start off their postseason run, and while the cast remains the same, there seems to be a new lead actor every time out. In Game 2, Jayson Tatum re-asserted himself as the alpha Boston needs him to be going forward, putting up a 34/8/6 line while going 14-for-14 from the line. If he stays this aggressive and the likes of Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown keep knocking down perimeter shots like they have been, it’s going to be some tough sledding ahead for Toronto.
One of the fun things about playoff DFS is trying to make educated guesses on what kind of adjustments will be made by a team coming off of a loss. I anticipated Nick Nurse, one of the best coaches in the league, to utilize Pascal Siakam more on the block coming off Game 1 where smaller Celtics like Smart and Brown were his primary defenders.
That’s exactly what happened, but one big problem: Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, the direct recipients of open shots on kick-outs from Siakam in the post, combined to shoot a grotesque 13-for-38 (3-for-19 from 3). If the Raptors are going to have any chance at coming back in this series, O.G. Anunoby can’t be their most efficient scorer on the offensive end.
From an NBA DFS perspective, I’m going to keep hoping for some positive shooting regression from the Raptors again. I expect the aforementioned Anunoby to be a popular source of value at $5,100 on DraftKings and $5,200 on FanDuel, but otherwise ownership should be pretty spread out among the rest of the starters that sit around similar price points. Marc Gasol at $4,200 should garner ownership on this slate, but there’s such an opportunity cost at center today, and the upside doesn’t seem to be there like it used to. I will pass on him.
As for the Celtics, they just keep playing better and better, so their prices keep going up and up. What used to be value in the likes of Smart and Daniel Theis on DraftKings are now erring on the side over-priced. Kemba Walker and Brown are bounce-back candidates from a fantasy viewpoint, but both are expensive and restrict your ability to roster the studs in the faster-paced nightcap.
Lastly, as nuts as it is to say, I think Robert Williams at $3,600 on DraftKings is an essential talking point on today’s slate. He provides the only source of sub-$4,000 relief in this entire game, and if Patrick Beverley remains out, perhaps the entire slate. The defensive standout has been playing under 20 minutes per game, but has still managed to be a fantasy point-per-minute player in that time. While not an overly-active participant on the offensive end, his athleticism and ability to finish at the rim make him a more imposing threat on that end of the court than you’d expect a 6-foot-8 center to be. Prepare yourself; his ownership might make you do a double-take today, but I’ll be on board.
Clippers vs. Nuggets Game 1
I get giddy every time a new series starts in the bubble because I know for at least one day, we’re going to be blessed with a brand-spanking-new NBA DFS slate. And this matchup between the Western Conference’s second and third seeds shapes up to be one of the higher-scoring series of the second round, which means more fantasy goodness for us.
Let’s start on the Clippers side of the ball. Kawhi Leonard continues to be my favorite spend-up target in the playoffs, as I find myself over-exposed every slate he’s on. Through their six playoff games so far, Leonard sports a 30.8% usage rate and averages a hair under 60 DraftKings points per game in just under 40 minutes of work. In other words, he is very good at basketball and you should play him.
Someone who the jury’s been out on all postseason is Paul George, who can’t seem to buy a bucket at times. In the Dallas series, George shot under 32% from the field in half of the games, although we saw the potential that’s there in the 35-point Game 5 performance that showcased the kind of easy scoring he’s capable of. It’s going to be hard guessing the spots he goes off in this series, but it’s a virtual certainty there will be a game or two that he does.
We have a smattering of other Clippers to consider today, but my favorite is certainly Ivica Zubac, who clocks in as the highest point-per-dollar play on the team. My only concern lies with Montrezl Harrell as he plays himself back into form after a late entrance to the bubble. You could see those center minutes even out more and more as the series goes on.
All right, now to the Nuggets. Tuesday was one of the more tilting experiences I can remember, as I had multiple potential winning lineups on both sites shot down by the Nugget’s closing rotation. Michael Porter Jr. lit it up in the first half against Utah, only for Mike Malone to opt for a full-on defensive unit in Torrey Craig and Gary Harris to play the entire fourth quarter.
This throws all sorts of uncertainty into what the closing rotations are going to look like for the Nuggets in this series, and as a result, I’m going to factor some major minutes variance into their projections. After all, Porter got that entire fourth quarter run in a similar win-or-go home Game 6. Against a bigger Clippers front line than the Jazz had to offer, you have to think his size will be needed over either Harris or Craig (not to mention his offensive prowess).
I’m burying the lead though. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are your two big spend-up options for the Nuggets, and it’s hard for me to make a case against either. I don’t need to tell you much about Jokic. He fills up a box score in ways no other center on this slate, which is why he’s exponentially more expensive. I expect him to be popular, but not having some seems silly to me.
And we’ve seen Murray’s ceiling game about 50 times recently, so if the Nuggets want to have any chance in this series, he’s going to need about 50 more. If his ownership is as depressed as what I expect it to be, he’s an interesting play to take an overweight position on in large-field tournaments. You’ll need some more of those outlier shooting performances, but the opportunity will certainly be there.
This is another outstanding tournament slate as far as two-game slates go. As always, check Awesemo’s ownership projections to leverage your preferred plays against the field. And may God bless young Robert Williams today.
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