After an upset-filled first night of the NBA Playoffs we’re back with an intriguing four-game NBA DFS playoff slate. Let’s get right to it…
Indiana Pacers @ Boston Celtics (o/u 209.5, BOS -7)
Indiana is 3rd in defensive rating, 25th in pace.
Boston is 6th in defensive rating, 16th in pace.
The Pacers are going to be a tricky team to target throughout the first round of the playoffs as they are a star-less team where everyone sort of shares production in a subpar game environment.
One area of weakness for the Celtics is containing centers as they rank 23rd in the NBA in rebounding rate allowing bigs multiple second chance opportunities. I’m in on Myles Turner tonight. Turner has at times seen inconsistent minutes however he’s an impact player for Indiana and impact players typically see 30+ minutes in the playoffs especially on the road. Turners $7k FD and $6k DK price tags provide bounds of upside in part because of his defensive upside. On FD, Turner is dollar for dollar my favorite center on the board. On DK with everyone priced down Turner is still intriguing but is less of a priority.
Turner’s front-court companion is also on my radar as Thad Young is simply too cheap. $5400 on FD and $5700 on DK are about $600-$1k too low for Thad. I don’t love the matchup but Thad provides a fairly safe floor with decent upside at his price point.
On DK only Darren Collison is just way too cheap at $4800. Collison has been hobbled by groin injury to close out the year but expect him to be in the 30+ minute range for game 1.
I’m sort of off on the rest of the Pacers. This is the least exciting DFS game environment of the slate. Wes Matthews is cheap and will play a ton but he provides not much of a ceiling. On playoff slates though with only four games you can get away with Wes at his price even if he’s in the 18-22 fantasy point range.
Targeting Celtics is slightly more intriguing for me than targeting Pacers as we have star power and a thinner rotation with Marcus Smart out.
It’s playoff time and Kyrie Irving is under priced at $8800 on FD and $8100 on DK. Indiana is an elite team defense but Kyrie is matchup proof and will see increased usage simply because it’s the playoffs. Kyrie’s final two weeks of the season were fairly lack-luster but I fully expect him to be back in the 50+ fantasy point territory. Kyrie is one of my favorite targets on the slate at his price tag, he’s an elite target.
With Marcus Smart OUT both Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris will see increased minutes. Both are strong values priced at under $5k on both sites. Most will flock to Gordon Hayward, which I’m not against, but dollar for dollar I prefer targeting Brown and Morris. Morris is too cheap priced at $4400 on FD and $4200 on DK; he provides safe cap relief with some upside. Hayward is easier to stomach on DK priced at $5200 rather than on FD at $6400. Jaylen Brown will take over Marcus Smart’s role as the teams premier perimeter defender, that alone will lock in his minutes around 30.
I expect Al Horford to be on the higher owned side as people chase the playoff Al narrative. Indiana is a terrible matchup to target centers in so I’m fairly off on him. I do understand the play though, historically Horford is an elite producer in the playoffs. I’m just not ready to go all in on Al in a terrible matchup.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Portland Trail Blazers (o/u 224, POR -4)
Oklahoma City is 4th in defensive rating, 6th in pace.
Portland is 16th in defensive rating, 18th in pace.
This is far and away the premier game environment of the slate as the Thunder will bring their electric pace to Portland and face a Blazers team that tends to mimic their opponents pace. In terms of the matchup, Portland is not a team we need to fear defensively.
For OKC it’s all about Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Both are clearly elite targets but unless purposefully stacking them in GPPs we’re going to only have to pick one. In terms of stacking it’s surprisingly easier to stack them on DK with their prices down. On FD, while what I’m about to say terrifies me, I prefer targeting PG13 as we save around $2k and SF is the weaker position of the night. I’m all for paying up for PG’s 40+ floor. DK makes our lives miserable with RW, Harden, and Giannis all priced down between $10k and $10.4k. I’ll dive into which of RW, Harden, and Giannis I prefer to target later in the breakdown.
Jerami Grant is one of those players that thrives in important games as his versatility on the defensive end leads to HUGE minutes. I love Grant tonight as I expect him to be in the 35-40 minute range priced at $5700 FD and $5300 on DK. Again, because DK priced everyone way down Grant is a much more appealing sub $6k target on FD and 3 point steals and blocks also plays in his favor. There is a chance Grant sees some small-ball five minutes and Portland ranks 18th vs rim protecting centers.
Targeting Steven Adams has been a roller coaster all year and while I like the price I don’t trust him at all. I do think Adams will be on the higher owned side as he sort of fits a lot of potential builds. Portland is an above average matchup for Adams but his risk is if Portland goes small Adams could potentially see his minutes limited. I’m not against targeting him but I don’t really think he’s worth the risk.
If you’re fading both Westbrook and Paul George I would want to target Dennis Schroder. Schroder is an intriguing GPP pairing with PG13 if fading Westbrook. If playing Westbrook I’m not really interested in Schroder. Schroder is also much more of a FD target priced at $5400.
This is an elite pace-up series for the Blazers against a Thunder team that has elite level defenders but because of their pace give up a ton of fantasy production.
Damian Lillard is an elite target tonight as the Thunder rank 27th vs primary ball-handlers and 26th vs scorers. There’s not much to say here, the elite nature of the matchup and Dame’s usage bump coupled with his sub $10k price tag put Dame firmly in play. Lillard averaged 57.23 FD and 57.31 DK points in four games vs the Thunder this year. One qualitative factor I think worth pointing out is Dame is someone who plays with a gigantic chip on his shoulder. We’ve seen Dame EXPLODE when snubbed for the All Star game. Vegas lists the Thunder as favorites to win this series as the 6 seed, I’m sure Dame is well aware of that.
Because the Thunder struggle to contain scorers if you’re fading Dame I think it’s important to target CJ McCollum. McCollum’s price is good on both sites and this is just as good of a spot for him as it is for Dame. CJ’s risk is that he’s just recently coming back from injury but I don’t expect him to be limited at all. A Dame and CJ stack is an intriguing GPP strategy.
Al-Farouq Aminu falls into the same category as Jerami Grant. One vs one I prefer Grant but we could see Portland go small if Enes Kanter get’s exposed defensively which would help Aminu’s production.
Speaking of Enes Kanter, although he smashed the last week of the season I’m very off on him today. Kanter is someone who gets exposed in any meaningful game attempting to guard the pick and roll and we’ve seen coaches have an extremely short leash with him. The Thunder run the pick and roll 17.9% of the time and I expect that number to be closer to 25% today. With that thinking Zach Collins is an intriguing value PF worth considering. If Kanter gets exposed than there’s a good chance Collins sees extended run as he’s capable of switching on to guards and is a better pick and roll defender. Collins is a capable scorer and carries intriguing defensive upside.
Evan Turner’s late season emergence has slightly complicated trusting Mo Harkless but still I’d prefer to target Harkless. Harkless is a good defender with the ability to guard multiple positions. With CJ McCollum back in the lineup the Blazers have more of a need for a defender than another ball-handler. Harkless is a strong target.
Detroit Pistons @ Milwaukee Bucks (o/u 219.5, MIL -11.5)
Detroit is 12th in defensive rating, 28th in pace.
Milwaukee is 1st in defensive rating, 5th in pace.
The Pistons are in an elite pace-up spot but are the team I’m least interesting in targeting today as the Bucks pose a brutal matchup for them sweeping the season series vs them and winning by an average of 12.5 points. Blake Griffin is considered questionable but I fully expect him to play.
I want to want to target Andre Drummond but I HATE targeting bigs against the Bucks as Brook Lopez is a spot up shooter in their offense meaning Drummond will be pulled away from the hoop. Drummond will likely dominate the offensive glass but overall this is a bad matchup for him. If Blake Griffin is scratched then Andre Drummond becomes an elite target.
I don’t really want to play Blake Griffin either. If Blake is a full go and deemed healthy this is a decent spot for him as the Bucks rank 25th vs athletic 4’s. Attacking Milwaukee at PF is their biggest weakness. I just don’t think or know if Blake Griffin is that healthy. His price tags offer him a path to upside.
I’m ok with fading the Pistons completely but my favorite target on Detroit is far and away Ish Smith. The Pistons are a better team with Ish Smith on the floor opposed to Reggie Jackson with a 2.3 higher net rating. Priced at $4100 on FD and $3900 on DK Ish provides elite cap relief with appealing upside. I expect him to be in the 22 minute range with the potential for 25+ if the Pistons are clicking with him.
This is the one matchup in the playoffs that carries legitimate blowout potential every game which could have a negative effect on Milwaukee Buck players in DFS. The Pistons play at a painfully slow pace and will likely further slow the pace down to try and keep the game as close as possible for as long as possible.
Still, Giannis Antetokounmpo is an elite target and fully in the play or fade at your own risk category. In terms of prioritizing Giannis over other studs? I’ll get to that at the end of the article.
As good of a rebounder as Andre Drummond is he’s a bad defensive player. The Pistons rank 27th in Advanced DvP vs skilled centers making Brook Lopez an intriguing middle priced target to consider. In four games vs the Pistons this year BroLo has averaged 30.7 FD and 28.94 DK points; he’s a safe sub $6k center worth considering. I consider Lopez a borderline elite target.
With Mirotic back in the lineup and not really priced down I’m fairly off on Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton. We’re getting both at Giannis out price-tags on FD and neither is priced down enough on DK for me to want to play them. Couple that with the bad game environment and…no thanks.
If you’re playing a bunch of lineups I would want some exposure to Nikola Mirotic. I expect Miro to see minimal minutes but he’s someone who will be low owned and always carries intriguing GPP upside.
Utah Jazz @ Houston Rockets (o/u 219, HOU -5.5)
Utah is 2nd in defensive rating, 14th in pace.
Houston is 18th in defensive rating, 27th in pace.
We wrap up day two of the NBA Playoffs with perhaps the most competitive first round series. The Rockets tend to REALLY slow things down in the playoffs running high pick and rolls with Harden and CP3 over and over again with 10 seconds left on the shot clock. That style of play limits opposing players fantasy production.
Before we go into Utah’s star players dollar for dollar my favorite Jazz player to target is Jae Crowder. His $4600 FD and $4500 DK price tags are a bit cheap for him. Crowder is also the sort of player that sees increased minutes come playoff time and that rings especially true matched up vs the Rockets. Houston will force Favors to switch on to Harden and CP3 almost every play he’s in the game. That should lead to Favors being exploited and thus Crowder seeing extended minutes.
Another potential beneficiary of Favors potentially being exposed defensively on the perimeter is Thabo Sefolosha. Thabo is more of a FD free punt and strictly a very risky GPP dart throw.
After Crowder I don’t really have any interest in Jazz players on FD. Mitchell and Gobert are priced up and I worry about Favors’ minutes. On DK however, Rudy Gobert is a rock solid target priced at $7700. That’s about $1k too cheap for Gobert, he’s an elite target on DK.
Utah is arguably the best defensive team in the NBA, this is a tough spot to produce for Houston.
I briefly touched on this before but it’s playoff time which means the Rockets are going back to isolation basketball with bigs forced to switch on to Chris Paul and James Harden almost every play. I was against targeting CP3 during the regular season but in the playoffs I expect his usage to increase. CP3 will be on the lower owned side with Westbrook, Dame, and Kyrie on the slate making him a strong GPP target. James Harden is well, James Harden. He’s an elite target on any given slate and will further see his already insanely high usage climb.
Now, in terms of Harden vs Giannis vs Westbrook; who do we prioritize? For me, it’s Harden. Westbrook feels like the least necessary because of how deep the PG position is today. On DK Giannis vs Harden is a complete coin flip as Paul George isn’t THAT much cheaper than him. On FD, I’m a fan of saving the $2.5k and going PG13 and trying to fit in Harden or stacking Dame and Kyrie. The Rockets are going to run basically every play through Harden when he’s in the game, he carries the highest floor and highest ceiling on the slate. He’s my favorite of the elite “studs” on the slate.
Clint Capela ended the season really well with 40+ fantasy points in six of his last eight games. We’ve seen the one area where Utah can be exposed defensively is actually against centers as Rudy Gobert tends to either over play or sag on pick and rolls. That allows for easy lobs to Capela. Capela is an elite target priced at $6700 on DK, that’s just way too cheap. He’s a solid target on FD at $9000.
I’m off on the Rockets role players except for PJ Tucker. Tucker is usable simply because of his price and minutes floor.
PG: Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul (GPP), Darren Collison (DK), Ish Smith
SG: James Harden, CJ McCollum, Dennis Schroder (GPP), Jaylen Brown
SF: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George, Gordon Hayward (DK), Maurice Harkless, Jae Crowder
PF: Jerami Grant, Al-Farouq Aminu, Thad Young, Marcus Morris, Zach Collins
C: Andre Drummond (if Blake out), Clint Capela, Myles Turner, Brook Lopez
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.