I’ll get to the NBA DFS breakdown here in a second, but first, that Boston/Toronto game. I don’t know what was more impressive: the quick-trigger three by O.G. Anunoby, or the rainbow-like inbounds pass/prayer by Kyle Lowry. But without a doubt, that was a top-five buzzer-beater I’ve ever seen in my life. Can’t wait to see how the Celtics respond in Game 4, but that series went from done to resurrected in those 0.5 seconds like the Undertaker at WrestleMania.
Don’t know how today gets any better, but there’s work to be done so let’s get to it. This is the Slate Starter for Friday’s two-gamer on DraftKings and FanDuel.
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What the Buck is Going On?
Game 3 between the Heat and Bucks kicks this slate off at 6:30 p.m. EST, and I have to ask: Why does Mike Budenholzer hate his starters so much? Sure, those deep-bench rotations work in the regular season, where limiting injury risk makes sense when the team is coasting to double-digit wins against inferior opponents. But this the playoffs we’re talking about here. It does teams no good to be fresh when the bench isn’t as valuable. The same thing happened to the Bucks in 2019, and coach Budenholzer refuses to learn.
I went through all the box scores from their Eastern Conference Finals against Toronto last year, and two things stuck out. First, I completely forgot about Nikola Mirotic; I miss that guy. But secondly, it wasn’t until facing elimination in Game 6 that a single Bucks starter received 40 or more minutes.
Think about that for a second. This is a sport with the most well-conditioned athletes in the world — as well as the NBA’s MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo — and the coach limit their minutes for what exactly? It’s not like they need to save Giannis’ legs for his jumper because he doesn’t have one.
Which is what brings me to their Game 2 on Wednesday, where no Bucks starter received over 36 minutes of run. That’s inexcusable down 0-1 when the kind of guys they’re limiting them for are Marvin Williams, Pat Connaughton or Donte DiVincenzo. I have to imagine that will change today in Game 3, but I won’t hold my breath.
Heat of the Moment
All props to the Heat. They are balling out in the bubble right now and looking to put the hammer down to go up 3-0 on the top-seeded Bucks. Vegas continues to disrespect them, with the Bucks line sitting at -5, but I don’t think that matters much to them or to us.
Goran Dragic has been scary-good since joining the Heat’s starting unit in these playoffs. With a 28.7% usage rate and having exceeded five times his salary in every single game thus far, he’s been a model of consistency for lineups these past two weeks. His salary’s crept up to $7,000 on DraftKings and $7,200 on FanDuel, but it’s hard to argue against those prices with his current level of production. I’ll still be looking to get plenty of exposure, especially on FanDuel where point guard options are few and far between.
Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo were the only things preventing me from taking down GPPs on Wednesday, as both came in well below expectations. It’s hard to call it a bounce-back spot when they’ve led their team to two consecutive victories as underdogs, but that’s exactly what we’re hoping for rostering them today. If you only have the salary to fit one, my lean would be to grab more Adebayo at the center position on DraftKings, which is a barren wasteland today.
I buried the lead, though. Andre Iguodala and Kelly Olynyk are listed as questionable today, which would certainly elevate Tyler Herro and Jae Crowder into elite sources of savings on this slate. And as scary as it is to put these words in writing for all the world to see and judge me on, Meyers Leonard at the flat min on both sites becomes a potential pure punt, as someone has to play a few minutes at the back-up five in Olynyk’s absence. I’ve rostered worse plays than that but not by much.
City of Angels, Not Value
I’ve said before how much I love breaking down Game 1’s because you get to theorize how a series is going to play out. I’d like to amend that statement and say that I do not enjoy breaking down series where the favored team has no mid-tier value whatsoever.
I’m obviously referring to the Los Angeles Lakers, who outside of their superstar combo LeBron James and Anthony Davis do not have a single player projected over 20 fantasy points for me today. That doesn’t mean I’m not intrigued by some plays down in the basement, specifically if we don’t get a minutes limit on a $3,200 Rajon Rondo.
But playing rotation-player roulette is one of my least favorite things to do in NBA DFS. The Heat value that could open up won’t be cheap enough to pair Davis or James with another stud like Giannis or James Harden. So to go true stars-and-scrubs on this slate, you’ll still probably be forced into taking a flier on the Danny Greens and Kentavious Caldwell-Popes of the world. I’m sure one of them will perform adequately enough, but good luck identifying which one.
On the Houston side, I’m very curious what Harden’s ownership is going to come in at. I have a sickness where I go way over the field on him every slate he’s under-owned, and with the return of Russell Westbrook to mid-30s minutes. I’m hoping that’s the case today.
Speaking of Westbrook, I trust my projections quite a bit. I’ve been doing this pretty religiously for six years, and whenever something doesn’t quite make sense to me, I go with the numbers over my gut. That said, I might have to blow the whole thing up after my model spit out over 50 fantasy points on both sites for Westbrook’s projection today. I don’t know what to do with that information, but I assume it’s more of a knock against the Lakers’ point guard defense than anything. I don’t know if I’m ready to fully trust Westbrook yet, but with a sub-$9,000 price tag across the industry, it makes having exposure a little more palatable.
The rest of the Rockets still feel like they’ve got pre-Westbrook’s return baked into their prices. Robert Covington might be the only other Rocket besides the Harden and Westbrook I have any exposure to, yet I don’t entirely trust the minutes for a Game 1 quite the way I did in Game 7 of the Thunder series. In other words, there’s a floor there, and if he’s going to be popular, I’ll simply go elsewhere.
I sound like a broken record, but this is yet another fantastic tournament slate for a two-gamer. There are so many lineup constructions and builds to consider, and a lot of what I do revolves around the Iguodala and Olynyk injury news. If you’re paying up for one stud and one stud only, make it Giannis, who should finally be unleashed by Budenholzer in a must-win Game 3. I’ll probably go Harden if the ownership disparity is there, but I have a problem.
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