Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of the NBA Slate Starter! Before we start, I’d like to thank Milwaukee for the Eric Bledsoe late scratch, resulting in me pivoting all of my Rockets/Thunder value pieces to Bucks and thus blowing up my lineups in gloriously bad fashion. I suppose sometimes in DFS you can make the right decision that just goes the wrong way, but that sure doesn’t make it feel any better.
Anyways, we march on: here’s my analysis for the two-game main slate on DraftKings and FanDuel for Tuesday, Sept. 1.
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Game 2: Celtics vs. Raptors
I don’t often break things down game-by-game in this column, but I might have to do more of it going forward, as the same strategies will apply to all of two-game sets we have going forward. I’ll keep drilling those concepts in — leave salary on the table to be different, predict possible scenarios that could unlock low-owned value, etc. — but for today, let’s breakdown each game first and then discuss the slate at the macro level.
The day kicks off for us at 5:30 p.m. EST with the Raptors attempting to come back from a putrid Game 1 performance against the Celtics. The first-quarter barrage that saw Boston go up 36-20 and never look back was something to behold, especially because Celtic star Jayson Tatum was uninvolved in it. Daniel Theis and Marcus Smart, the two chalkiest plays on Sunday, both blew up their price tags and subsequently saw their prices jump significantly on both sites today.
While all of the Boston starters are viable again today, two bench players stick out as possible punts on a slate where we’re going to be starved for value: Robert Williams ($3,300 on DraftKings) and Brad Wanamaker ($3,500). There was some speculation on who would be backing up Theis at center, and Brad Stevens elected to role with defensive-specialist Williams over the offensive skill set of Enes Kanter.
Wanamaker found 28 minutes in Game 1, and while a few of those might’ve been blowout-induced, he’s going to be on the court enough in Gordon Hayward‘s absence that he could accidentally run into 20 fantasy points if things break his way. The big problem here is guard is absolutely stacked on this slate, so giving up one of your precious guard slots to a punt may not be optimal. But then again, we’re not looking for optimal in these big tournaments, we’re looking for different.
As for the Toronto side of the ball, one of the ironies of DFS is that a player can perform poorly and still put up a viable stat line. Case in point, Fred VanVleet was suffocated by the Celtics defense, going an abysmal 3-for-16 from the field and 2-for-11 from 3 and still managed a 40-point fantasy game on the back of six steals. Expect a bounce-back shooting performance for the Wichita State product in this one.
In fact, sign me up for all the Raptors today. Recency bias is a thing, and I’m hoping on a slate chock-full of chalk plays, we’ll get VanVleet and fellow backcourt mate Kyle Lowry at lower ownership than normal because of it. Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka also carry upsides at moderate price tags. O.G. Anunoby, Norman Powell and Marc Gasol provide us some much needed sub-$5,000 relief on DraftKings. Basically, we saw no changes to salaries for this team due to the stinker they put up on Sunday, so they become significantly better plays in my eyes compared to their opponents.
It’ll depend a lot on ownership (as most things do on two-game slates), but right now my big stand on the day is an inverse of Game 1: a big Toronto performance, paired with a big Tatum stat line.
Game 7: Murray vs. Mitchell
That’s not hyperbole — Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell have been the alphas and omegas of their respective teams in this series, and today we’re treated to a Game 7 nightcap to determine who moves on. While it might’ve felt like a one-on-one tournament at times, I hear there are other players participating in this game. I suppose we should take a look at a few of them.
For Denver, the non-Murray production still revolves around center Nikola Jokic. Jokic has been quietly efficient the past few games and has shown an increased propensity to step out to the 3-point line, forcing defensive stalwart Rudy Gobert to follow him. If his shot is falling in this one, that spells major trouble for Utah, who needs Gobert to stay in the middle to protect against the athleticism of the Denver wings trying to finish around the rim.
Those wings would be Jerami Grant and Michael Porter, the only other Nuggets I’m interested in playing today. Grant always has the minutes security, although perhaps not the upside at a $5,100 price on DraftKings. Porter Jr. on the other hand oozes upside, but the minutes can be all over the place. That was not the case in Game 6, as Mike Malone played him the entire fourth quarter. This bodes well for his Game 7 prospects, and as weird as it is to say this, is the Nugget not named Jamal Murray I will have the most exposure to.
For Utah, I’m not too keen on playing anyone outside of Mitchell and Gobert. That’s probably going to be the popular consensus for most of the field today, so if you’re building a bunch of lineups, exposure to Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale makes sense. Their prices are simply too inflated on DraftKings for my taste, and I feel like on FanDuel a few of them might garner more ownership than I’m comfortable following. I’ll happily look elsewhere for my value and live with the result.
Putting It All Together
For a two-game slate, this is a pretty fantastic tournament slate. I fully expect Mitchell/Murray builds to be popular on DraftKings, so I will happily pivot one of them to Tatum in a majority of my builds if the ownership isn’t there. On FanDuel, Tatum/Porter Jr. at power forward will be the cornerstone of almost all of my lineups, and then I will rotate around the myriad of incredible guard plays.
And Toronto, you’re where I’m heading for value, so don’t pull a Milwaukee, please and thank you.
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