We’ve got three big games, two projected to go to a Game 7 and one which might be a series clincher in Salt Lake City, and a lot of options to choose from. It’s a nice change of pace from yesterday’s single-game focused tournaments across the daily fantasy sports industry.
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Toronto Raptors (106.5 implied points, -1.5 on their last 10 games) at Washington Wizards (108 implied points, +4.1 on their last 10 games)
The Raptors can close out the Wizards tonight with a win in Washington, a place where they were unable to pick one up in Games 3 and 4. DeMar DeRozan has posted a Westbrookian usage rate this postseason and, although his price is at a high point, he can still have 5x and more value given how much he’s been gunning; if a few rebounds or assists break his way, he can easily get to 6x. Kyle Lowry hasn’t flashed the same ceiling but is at a similar price. I’m okay with him but not as enthusiastic. I was all over Jonas Valanciunas last time out after he lost minutes to Jakob Poeltl in Game 4 and that paid off big time. Valanciunas notched over 30 minutes for the first time in the series and his performance in a unique Poeltl/Jonas/DeMar/Lowry/Delon Wright lineup was what put the Raptors over the top in the win. It’s hard to bank on Jonas getting the same run again but Jonas at 30 minutes is awfully appealing. From a game theory perspective, I could see wanting to go back to Serge Ibaka after he was pretty much run off the court in Game 5 but I don’t know that I believe in his usage enough to actually reclaim his role like Jonas did. Wright has received over 24 minutes in three games this series and while a Fred Van Vleet return would hurt him a bit, Wright has shown to be a decent lower priced play more often than not. Lastly, Poeltl strikes me as a decent punt play given his minutes and the different lineups coach Dwane Casey has deployed him in.
Otto Porter is currently questionable with a leg injury that’s reportedly limited his effectiveness for a lot of the series. If he sits, a boost for Kelly Oubre, Mike Scott, Markieff Morris, and Bradley Beal is in order. Beal is a good play whether Porter sits or not and I like him a lot in his return back home. Oubre bombed last time out, in part because his shot simply didn’t fall. He’s still getting enough shots and can be a nice lower-priced 5x salary filler. I’m not a believer in Scott or Morris unless Porter sits. John Wall though is the headliner here. He has been a steady 5x value all playoffs with even more upside and I feel him balling out tonight to give his team a shot at Game 7.
Cleveland Cavaliers (101.25 implied points, -5.2 on their last 10 games) at Indiana Pacers (102.75 implied points, -1.2 on their last 10 games)
You know who’s a great basketball player? That LeBron James guy. From a competitive and shot taking and making aspect, James has done his best Michael Jordan impression this series to will his middling Cavs squad versus a deeper team in the Pacers. LeBron will try everything in his power to do it again and I have no issue with his price. A LeBron/Westbrook/flotsam lineup was what would have won you any tournament last time out so that’s something to keep in mind tonight given his 70-80 point upside. Can Kevin Love have a single good game this series? A great question! Regression to the mean seems incredibly overdue but at a certain point it’s not crazy to wonder if he just doesn’t have it. The price is solid, an A value in Awesemo’s rankings, so I wouldn’t mind having some of him still but I would have a hard time locking him into my lineups personally. Kyle Korver has been far more of a gamer than Love this series and I’m fine with playing him despite his price getting a bit up there for Kyle Korver standards. I talked myself into JR Smith last time and I am not doing it today.
Victor Oladipo has continued to have the worst shooting series imaginable for a rising star in the league and the Cavs have rolled out some gimmicky defensive ploys to make it hard for him to breathe. He put up 36 DK points while hitting only 2 of 15 shots in Game 5 so his upside is definitely there but he does worry me relative to a cheaper Beal or slightly more expensive DeRozan. Thad Young has been one of the steadier plays on the Pacers’ side and I like him to recover and offer a little upside in his return back home. Darren Collison lost some run to Cory Joseph last time out and there’s a shot for him to recover today. I’d expect him to play with a bit of a chip on his shoulder but whether that matters given his role on the team is hard to say. Myles Turner has ceded some minutes to the infinitely-more-effective Domantas Sabonis in Game 4 and 5. Game 4 was due to foul trouble, Game 5 was due to ineffectiveness in the first half and foul trouble in the second half. If you’ve banked on Turner the last two games hoping he snaps out of his funk, I see nothing wrong with hoping he snaps out of it tonight. But I think Sabonis is the better player for this series and it’s hard to imagine coach Nate McMillan not recognizing that in an elimination game. I don’t want to buy in on Joseph, Bojan Bogdanovic seems due to do something but isn’t trustable, and I don’t see it happening for Lance Stephenson tonight.
Oklahoma City Thunder (100.25 implied points, -12.4 on their last 10 games) at Utah Jazz (106.75 implied points, -3.1 on their last 10 games)
Vegas seems to be predicting some dark times coming for Oklahoma City and you have to assume Russell Westbrook will bring it again tonight to try to not get embarrassingly eliminated after this mostly ineffective series for him. Russ shot a hilarious 39 times last game out, a 47% usage rate, and no matter how great the Jazz’s rim defense is, it’s tough for Russ to not have a big game when putting up as many shots as a WNBA team. Both he and Paul George, who temporarily gets his “Playoff P” nickname restored after a good game last time out, played over 44 minutes in Game 5 and I would assume they’ll get the same here even if the Jazz pile up a lead early. Carmelo Anthony and Corey Brewer lost run to Jerami Grant and Alex Abrines in the second half of Game 5 and I don’t trust either guy tonight. Steven Adams got 41 minutes and did nothing with them, as has been the case all series. You will likely see similar run for him tonight and while I think it’s logical to roster him at his price, I still don’t think he has it versus Rudy Gobert and the tough Jazz interior. Weirdly, I think you could go Abrines as a super cheap punt for 5x if it helps you accomplish a wacky lineup you love but I wouldn’t go crazy there.
If you’ve read this column or watched our YouTube livestreams regularly over the playoffs, I’ll give you one guess on a player I love tonight. Ready? The answer, of course, is Ricky Rubio. Rubio has been at value despite a few poor shooting nights this series and we’ve seen the ceiling he has at home. I think the Jazz will throw everything out there to finish the Thunder off without going back to Oklahoma City and Rubio is the one who will have to initiate whatever they attempt. Donovan Mitchell will also go full Wild West duel with Westbrook and George if he needs to and I like him being able to get it going at home in a potential clincher. Jae Crowder has been an absolute dawg this series and, while I questioned his upside, the Jazz need him out there defensively and to balance out the chippiness of the series. I assume he’ll be highly owned tonight and you know he’s capable of a dud — a lot of his run last game was because he was making everything in sight to open up his run in the first quarter — but I’ll definitely play some lineups with him tonight. If you wanted to pivot off of him, Derrick Favors is the guy he’s siphoned most of his minutes off of…I don’t love Favors but that’s the kind of contrarian move that could help in a tournament. Joe Ingles looks good to me back in Utah after getting over 40 minutes in Game 5. Rudy Gobert had some foul trouble last game, possibly the Law of Averages kicking in given how many shots Westbrook took. I’m okay with Gobert but that foul risk is there.
There it is, three more games that should be intense as hell tonight. No matter how tough it’s been to make lineups for these playoffs, it’s hard to argue these have been some extremely fun and competitive games with a chance for a few tonight to go up even another level. Basketball at its finest.
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