The NBA Playoffs are finally here! Before we start with the breakdown I want to go over some tips for anyone new to NBA DFS Playoffs.
- Rotations are shortened
Obviously, predicting minutes is crucial for NBA DFS and as we’ve just embarked on a month of “rests” and “minutes monitored” that all ends today. Knowing that is important. Starters will see their minutes approach 40, especially in close games and top reserve players will approach 30. Veteran starters who have hovered in the 25-30 minute range the last month will likely be back in the 30-35 minute range. Eighth, ninth, and 10th men (some teams will only play nine) on the bench will see their minutes dip slightly. All of those become more and more drastic as the playoffs go on. This also all slightly varies per team, but I believe is the proper way to generalize it.
- Stars’ usage goes up
This is the playoffs and the best players on their teams will see more and more of the ball. A good way to leverage that is to look for players who are “stars” on their respected team but necessarily considered or priced as NBA stars (Lou Williams).
- Pace typically slows down
Teams who may be overmatched will purposefully slow the game down to keep it as close as possible for as long as possible.
- Individual defensive matchups matter slightly more
Because pace tends to be down in the playoffs, teams have more opportunities to put their defenders in matchups they want. This, however, is team dependent as some teams (The Rockets) will switch on every screen.
- Stud defenders will see more minutes while bad defenders will see less
Patrick Beverley and Enes Kanter are perfect examples of this. When on OKC, Kanter was unplayable in the playoffs because he has no idea how to defend the pick and roll.
With that, let’s get right to it…
Note: I’m not sure if this will continue throughout the playoffs but FanDuel has priced everyone up while DraftKings has priced everyone down.
Brooklyn Nets @ Philadelphia 76ers (o/u 232, PHI -7.5)
Brooklyn is 15th in defensive rating, 11th in pace.
Philadelphia is 14th in defensive rating, 8th in pace.
There is one major piece of injury news for today’s slate and luckily it’s the first game meaning we SHOULD have an update before lock. The status of Joel Embiid is crucial not just for the Sixers but for targeting Nets players as the Sixers have a 113 defensive rating in the 18 games Embiid missed. That is bad, like Hawks bad as 113 would tie Atlanta for 28th in the NBA.
At under $9k on both sites, D’Angelo Russell is one of those “star” players who’s not priced as a star. If Embiid is ruled OUT, DLo becomes one of my favorite FD targets priced at $8300. He’s one of the few players FD has not priced up and ironically the one player who DK has not priced down at $8700. $8700 is typically a fair price for DLo, just not when guys like Durant, Kawhi, Curry, and Butler are $700+ cheaper. The Sixers rank 25th in Advanced DvP against scorers over their last 15 games (mostly without Embiid) so coupled with DLo’s likely usage bump if Embiid sits DLo is an elite target today.
Spencer Dinwiddie is also priced at a discount on both sites at $4900 on FD and $4700 on DK. That’s about $1k too cheap for Spencer, especially in a meaningful game. Dinwiddie’s price is down because his minutes dropped a touch once the Nets locked up a playoff birth, I expect those minutes to go back up to around 30. Here’s the deal, Kenny Atkinson trusts Dinwiddie and although he’s “young,” Dinwiddie is considered one of the “veterans” on the Nets. It’s equally as good of a matchup for DLo as it is for Dinwiddie and an interesting GPP contrarian strategy is to stack them. If you’re worried about DLo’s price Spence is a great pivot as he provides cap relief and upside in an appealing game environment. Dinwiddie has averaged 33.4 FD and 35.62 DK points in four games vs the Sixers this year.
Guys like Joe Harris and DeMarre Carroll are usable, particularly Carroll at $4k on FD, but far from trustworthy. The Carroll intrigue stems from him being a veteran and someone who can potentially match up with Ben Simmons (athletically speaking).
Jarrett Allen is strictly a high risk and high reward GPP center. Allen’s 40+ fantasy point upside is there but is also rare. I would prefer Allen without Embiid.
A sneaky GPP dart throw to consider is Ed Davis but only if Joel Embiid plays. Embiid’s strength is a problem for Jarrett Allen, that coupled with foul trouble could see Davis see extended minutes.
We love attacking the Nets in NBA DFS and we get to do so for potentially seven games (my Nets bias in full effect) in the first round.
IF Joel Embiid plays, he’s the top overall player on the slate. We ALWAYS attack the Nets at center as they rank 30th vs skilled centers, 22nd vs rim protectors, 29th vs rebounders, and 29th vs DFS superstars. Superstar big men CRUSH the Nets and look for Embiid to improve on his 57.1 FD and 59.81 DK point average against the Nets during the regular season. If he plays and is deemed fully good to go, he’s the first player in my lineups.
IF Embiid plays, I’m not particularly interested in any other Sixers target. Jimmy Butler is usable on DK priced at $6900 but he sees a 9.22% usage decrease when on the floor with Embiid and the Nets have defended wings well all year.
IF Embiid is OUT, then the Sixers become the most popular stack of the slate. Here are the per minute differentials with Embiid OFF the court during the regular season.
All four would be in play, but I would prioritize both Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler. While Simmons’ per minute metrics aren’t a drastic bump, he does see a minutes bump in games Embiid does not play. I would expect Simmons to be at around 40+ minutes. Jimmy Butler will likely be in the 37-41 minute range and sees the strongest per minute bump with Embiid OFF the floor. $8200 on FD and $6900 on DK are good prices for Butler, especially on DK.
Tobias Harris and JJ Redick would end up being the lesser-owned of the Sixers starters without Embiid. Redick would be a sneaky value pivot off of Butler but again ultimately I would prioritize targeting Butler.
No Embiid would open up minutes for either Boban Marjanovic or Jonah Bolden with Mike Scott also seeing a minutes bump. Whoever starts at center between Bolden and Boban would be my favorite to target.
Orlando Magic @ Toronto Raptors (o/u 216, TOR -8)
Orlando is 8th in defensive rating, 24th in pace.
Toronto is 5th in defensive rating, 15th in pace.
This is the least desirable DFS game to target today as both teams are stout defensively and the Magic play at a painfully slow pace that I expect will be even slower.
The one area where we’ve learned we can attack Toronto is in the frontcourt making Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic usable Orlando targets. The Raptors rank 19th vs stretch 4’s and 13th vs athletic 4’s. As always, Gordon is a high risk and high reward target. Ultimately I prefer spending elsewhere. Vucevic is the top pricey pivot off of Embiid if he plays. The Raptors rank 15th vs skilled centers meaning Vucevic is not affected by the matchup. I fully expect Orlando to play at an excruciatingly slow pace meaning Vuc will see a TON of touches in the low post. Vuc carries an elite $8500 price tag on DK as he’s been one of the safest bets for 50 fantasy points all year long.
The sneaky low owned GPP Magic player to consider is Terrence Ross. Ross is a streaky shooter but when he gets hot he gets HOT and has been over 33+ fantasy points in his last four games. Ross is one of those bench players who will likely see a slight minutes bump. I love his $5300 DK price tag, especially with DK’s 3PT bonus. On FD at $6400, Ross is a bit of an unnecessary risk.
Since the Marc Gasol trade, I have stayed away from targeting Raptors players as everyone has remained expensive while eating into each other’s production. The Magic do not provide a strong matchup to produce in.
It’s the playoffs so I’m not exactly saying fade all Raptors, but FD’s pricing does not do us any favors. On DK, priced at $7900, Kawhi Leonard is just too cheap. Kawhi has been basically limited all year, he will no longer be limited in the playoffs. It’s rare to find someone priced below 5x his floor and with PF eligibility, Kawhi makes for a great stack with some of the other stud SFs.
A guy who may get overlooked a touch is Kyle Lowry, who should also see a slight usage bump as he looks to control the tempo of the game. I just sort of like Lowry’s price on both sites at $7800 on FD and $6500 on DK. He’s not a priority for me but Lowry is a strong target.
I hate targeting bigs against Vucevic as his high low-post usage limits rebounding and turnover opportunities. While I get the Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka intrigue, I’m off on both.
Danny Green is an intriguing value to consider. Danny Green and the playoffs go hand in hand, expect Green to play around 30ish minutes. 30 minutes with defensive and scoring upside priced under $5k carries a ton of intrigue on a small slate. On FD, Green’s risk is that SG overall is loaded so it’s tough to prioritize him.
Los Angeles Clippers @ Golden State Warriors (o/u 230.5, GS -12)
Los Angeles is 19th in defensive rating, 7th in pace.
Golden State is 11th in defensive rating, 10th in pace.
While we’ve attacked the Warriors late in the regular season in DFS, the Warriors no longer provide a great matchup for production as we’ve consistently seen them improve their defense the second the playoffs start. That being said, both teams play at an appealing pace which leads to added peripheral stats, this is a solid matchup to target.
At $6700 on FD and $6200 on DK, Lou Williams is one of those underpriced “stars” and bench players who will see extended minutes. While I expect to see an improved Warriors defense they ranked 28th vs scorers and 22nd vs primary ball-handlers over the regular season. Over his last seven regular season games against the Warriors, Sweet Lou is averaging over 38+ FD and DK points. I fully expect Lou to be in the 33-35 minute range and DOMINATE usage for the Clippers. LA’s only chance in this matchup is if Lou Williams goes off and Game 1 is always the easiest game to try and steal on the road. I love Lou tonight, he’s an elite target.
Lou’s running mate is Montrezl Harrell and we get to target Trez at a discount too priced at $6700 on FD and $5600 on DK. Harrell and Lou will likely mimic each other’s minutes in the 30+ range and their ability to run the pick and roll make them an intriguing stack in GPP’s. While the Clippers start Zubac, Harrell is the one who plays starters minutes and with the way the Warriors play forcing opponents to switch on screens I don’t expect Zubac to play much at all.
Danilo Gallinari has been one of the most productive players since the All-Star break but because I think Sweet Lou dominates the ball in this matchup, I’m off on Galo. He’s usable but ultimately, I prefer to spend elsewhere.
As mentioned above, stud defenders will see more minutes and I fully expect Patrick Beverley to be the beneficiary of that. Pat Bev’s energy is CRUCIAL for the Clippers to have any chance of competing with the Warriors and Doc knows that. While Bev doesn’t see a ton of the ball, he will likely play 35+ minutes in a pacey game environment vs a turnover prone team, meaning he should dominate the peripherals. Bev is priced appealingly at $5400 on FD and $4800 on DK, I consider him an elite value.
Attacking the Clippers was a sound strategy throughout the regular season and something we can certainly do again in the playoffs. The risk with targeting Warriors is always picking the right ones.
Kevin Durant is my favorite Warrior to target. KD has slept through the last month of the season rarely taking over 12 shots a game. With that, KD is underpriced on both sites at $9600 on FD and $8000. $8k for KD in the playoffs is ridiculous, slightly under $10k is a bargain. I fully expect us to see an aggressive Durant tonight for the first time in a month.
On DK, it’s fairly easy to stack both Steph Curry and KD as Curry is also insanely priced down at $8300. At home in the playoffs at that price with a 0.5 DK 3PT bonus is tough to pass up especially vs a Clippers team ranked 29th vs primary ball-handlers. Curry is an elite target on both sites.
So why KD over Curry for me? Honestly, it’s more of a gut call. We’ve seen Durant just sit back and walk through meaningless game after meaningless game. I expect the competitor in Durant to come out Game 1 in the playoffs.
Klay Thompson is a DK only target priced at $5900. If he was priced $1k higher, where he should be, I’d be off on Klay but his price makes him worth considering. While Klay is priced even lower at $5800 on FD, Klay is someone I prefer targeting on DK simply because of the 3PT bonus. SG on FD is strong so Klay is tough to squeeze in.
I expect DeMarcus Cousins to be heavily owned, especially if Joel Embiid is scratched. The Clippers rank 29th in standard DvP against centers and Boogie has historically dominated the Clippers. Again, we have price discrepancy as Boogie is $9k on FD and $7k on DK. Boogie is an elite target on both sites.
How to view Draymond Green is also crucial as he sees some of that fantasy goodness bigs and ball-handlers have vs Los Angeles and is one of those fiery defenders that typically comes alive in the playoffs. FD has overpriced Draymond at $7700, DK, however, has kept Draymond’s price down at $5700. He’s an elite target on DK with 45+ fantasy point upside at under $6k. On FD Draymond carries much more risk at that price as he has seen his production take a considerable hit with Boogie around.
A veteran bench player and wing defender worth considering is Andre Iguodala. Iggy has always provided strong early playoff value as he typically sees a minutes increase. While I like Iggy, his risk is Boogie and often do the Warriors go small which is when he plays his most productive minutes.
DK has made it so stacking Warriors is very do-able, something that I am a fan of as long as you run it back with some Clippers.
San Antonio Spurs @ Denver Nuggets (o/u 211.5, DEN -5)
San Antonio is 20th in defensive rating, 22nd in pace.
Denver is 10th in defensive rating, 26th in pace.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the lowest total of the night comes from this game as both teams play at a bottom ten pace. The Nuggets are back to their strong defensive ways ranking seventh in D-Rating over their last ten games.
What to do with DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the trickiest dilemmas of the slate. Both will see incredibly high usage however I HATE the matchup as the Nuggets play slow and feature a highly used center which will pull Aldridge just far enough away from the rim to effect his rebounding ceiling. FD has also priced DeRozan slightly up at $8600 in a pace-down game. If Jakob Poeltl starts at center, then Aldridge carries much more appeal as he will be around the basket matched up vs Millsap. If Poeltl does not start I’d be fully off on Aldridge.
Dollar for dollar, my favorite Spur to target is Rudy Gay. All year long we’ve seen Pop play Rudy extended minutes vs top Western Conference teams, Gay is priced as if he’s going to play 22-25 minutes. Gay is an experienced scorer and the Spurs will need him to score to have any chance to pull off the upset. $5400 on both sites is a bargain.
Two Spurs GPP dart throws worth considering are Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli. Both are sub $4k and both are players we’ve seen Pop trust with big minutes in the playoffs before. I expect to see less of guys like Bryn Forbes and Davis Bertans and more of Mills and Belinelli.
The Spurs are an exploitable team to attack in DFS; however, the Nuggets are one of the trickiest teams to target as they play a DEEP rotation featuring a lot of pricey guys.
Of the stud centers, Nikola Jokic is my least favorite. The Spurs have contained centers all year ranking 3rd vs skilled centers and with the Nuggets finally healthy he’s slightly overpriced.
Paul Millsap is one of my favorite targets on the slate as he’s remained priced down at $5800 on FD and $5400 on DK. Millsap is one of those players who has seen his minutes limited basically all year, I expect him to be back in the 30+ range. Sign me up for 30+ minutes as a 1.06 FD and 1.04 DK FPPM producer priced under $6k.
My favorite value on the Nuggets is Gary Harris. Harris is an elite defender who will likely match DeRozan’s minutes. Harris has been terrible from a production standpoint all year but in the playoffs, we are desperate for value. $4200 on FD and $3900 on DK is good value for someone who will potentially play 35+ minutes. Unfortunately, Harris was moved from SF to SG on FD, at SF he would be an elite target.
The best individual matchup for the Nuggets is Jamal Murray as the Spurs rank 26th vs primary ball-handlers and 25th vs scorers. I hate Murray’s $7800 price tag on FD as I don’t think his ceiling is worth the risk. At $6k on DK, Murray is an intriguing target who’s both cash and GPP viable. In four games vs the Spurs this year, Murray has averaged 34.95 FD and 37.44 DK points.
PG: Ben Simmons (if Embiid OUT), Steph Curry (DK), Jamal Murray (DK), Patrick Beverley, Spencer Dinwiddie
SG: D’Angelo Russell (FD), Jimmy Butler (if Embiid OUT), Lou Williams, Terrence Ross (DK GPP), Danny Green, Gary Harris
SF: Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard (DK), Rudy Gay, DeMarre Carroll, Johnathon Simmons (FD Punt/Drop)
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge (if Poeltl starts), Draymond Green (DK), Montrezl Harrell, Paul Millsap, Jonah Bolden/Mike Scott (if Embiid OUT), Ed Davis (GPP – If Embiid IN)
C: Joel Embiid*, Nikola Vucevic, DeMarcus Cousins, Jarrett Allen (GPP), Boban Marjanovic (if Embiid OUT)
Stefano Vaccarino is the NBA Product Manager for The Quant Edge. Formerly known as Rotodamus NBA on Twitter, Stefano provides consistently accurate NBA insights and predictions. His perception of the game and understanding of analytics allows him to identify profitable NBA situations.