It’s an early start for the NBA tonight with both playoff matchups taking place on the East Coast. But have no fear, we’re here for you with the Switch and Hedge, Awesemo’s rankings (which were updated bright and early) and ownership projections coming later today. Two games, lots of places to look to create some value and differentiating lineups. Because of the early slate kickoff, Josh Engleman and I will go live tonight at 5:30 Eastern on the Awesemo YouTube with our boy Jake Hari for a little menage e livestream talking NBA, MLB, and harassing Jake about his very clean room. Should be fun, especially if I can pick a 3% ownership guy in MLB to hit a home run like I did in yesterday’s stream. Nbd but I’m basically a psychic about a sport I’m figuring out as we go, don’t be too impressed.
Without further adieu let’s get into the slate so I can try to recover from the pain of not finishing first in the Showdown last night, a tough fate for the self-dubbed Showdown King. I’ll heal by guiding us all to basketball glory tonight. Let’s go.
Cleveland Cavaliers (103 implied points, -3.4 on their last 10 games) at Toronto Raptors (109.5 implied points, +1.5 on their last 10 games)
The Cavaliers have a lot of if/then situations that can determine who hits value and who doesn’t tonight. Kevin Love is slated to start at center again, a position in which he got eaten alive by Jonas Valanciunas and also didn’t hit the shots to stretch the floor to balance out the negatives. His price has been at a playable level for a while and it’s tough to advocate for him at this point and watching him with a 50% stake in him last game simply crushed my spirit…but he’s an A in value in Awesemo’s rankings and isn’t as bad of a player as he’s been. He was his most effective in the fourth quarter, putting up 5 points and 6 boards in nine minutes of action and if you roster him, my hope is that he figured it out down the stretch and that will carry over tonight. After he burned so many people, you may be able to get him at depressed ownership too. Tristan Thompson solved the Jonas Conundrum much more capably but he’s still a limited and foul-prone player at a rising price. I’m not opposed to him but he’s at a price point where he’s not a must-play. JR Smith and Kyle Korver rose to the occasion versus Toronto and the latter put up 17 shots in 38 minutes of action, both season highs for him. I’m okay with both those guys and less okay with George Hill, who receded into the background again after a strong Game 7 versus Indiana. Jeff Green was effective in super small-ball lineups to counter Jonas but I don’t know that I’d personally bank on him tonight. I can see him working again but it feels a little unsustainable, particularly if Love or Tristan are effective and getting more run. And LeBron is LeBron. The guy rules and is a killing machine so far in the playoffs. He’s the only player on this slate with 70 point upside tonight barring Joel Embiid pushing it to a new level and in my opinion you can’t go wrong playing him this postseason even if roster construction doesn’t result in him being on a first place lineup tonight.
DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry again look like locks to get you 40 fantasy points and not much beyond that. I’m cool with both of them. Jonas Valanciunas will be a popular play after he was underowned in my opinion last time out with people not realizing the Cavaliers have no true counter to a player like him. Over 20 points and 20 rebounds will do that for a guy. I don’t think the Cavaliers will solve the matchup problems he brings but I do worry a little about LeBron attacking him and getting him into foul trouble, something that would open up opportunity for Jakob Poeltl. Serge Ibaka has played like completely dog crap all playoffs and he’s at a super appealing price. Play him sparingly if you roll him out, the risk outweighs the upside in my opinion. Delon Wright lost a lot of the value in his role to Fred VanVleet and the Raptors really seem to want to get VanVleet going despite his banged up shoulder that visibly affected him for points in the game. The fact he took both Raptors gamewinning three point attempts says a lot about their belief and need for him but also about their mental makeup. I’m interested in VanVleet tonight after he was underwhelming at high ownership but he should be treated like a punt play rather than a lineup fixture. Pascal Siakam got the run he needs to have upside but he’s a limited player in this offense. He’s also a punt play but at even lower volume than VanVleet. OG Anunoby is cheap enough to be interesting, particularly given the run he gets as the certified LeBron defender. Poeltl makes sense to me as the Jonas pivot point and CJ Miles has some upside given his run of minutes but I think VanVleet is the most interesting bench play on their side.
Philadelphia 76ers (104.85 implied points, -13.4 on their last 10 games) at Boston Celtics (100.75 implied points, -4.1 on their last 10 games)
Ben Simmons struggled like some, myself included, thought he might with the Celtics clogging the paint and generally making it tough on Simmons to do the things he’s done to balance out his inability to stretch the floor. I think Simmons is a smart and very competitive player who has been simmering on ways to adjust and overcome for tonight’s matchup and that makes me very afraid to fade him fully tonight. Vegas has now favored the Sixers in both matchups so I would assume they’re thinking along the same lines. The Celtics had no answer to Joel Embiid in Game 1 and that won’t change overnight. Embiid is at a fantastic price on both sites and should find a ton of ownership tonight. Robert Covington was awful last game and has been mostly awful all playoffs. He feels due for something to fall but I don’t trust him. JJ Redick is an okay play but I’m not crazy about him, especially with Jaylen Brown possibly returning tonight and offering another athletic wing defender whom he’ll struggle with getting his shot against. The whole Redick/Covington/Marco Belinelli/Dario Saric/Ersan Ilyasova 76ers underclass worries me a little in this series currently. They’re still priced for their Miami Heat series success in games where Embiid is deservedly taking all of the usage until the Celtics can stop him. There is some game theory in looking towards those guys to pivot off Embiid — and if you did, I would think Saric and Ilyasova along with Redick would be the beneficiaries due to double teams or Embiid foul trouble-induced usage — but the likelier outcome to me is Embiid crushing again and those guys facing narrow margins of success.
The “Scary Terry” Terry Rozier train has reached full hype levels and how can I ever begrudge a guy with a Rick and Morty inspired nickname?
I like Rozier a lot and think he’s perfectly capable of doing the same tonight. But at his price, especially on FanDuel, we are getting close to the time where you might want to consider a fade. If you were to go that way, it seems like Marcus Smart would be the beneficiary. Smart can run the offense, has shown he wants to keep shooting despite his thumb/wrist injury, and he can get you a ton of stats across the board. Jayson Tatum has stepped his role up recently and would be a beneficiary again if Jaylen Brown sits. Al Horford is a better player in Boston but it took some crazy efficiency for him to exceed value last game, hitting 10-of-12 shots. That’s a narrow margin for success so even though I think he can do it again, there may be safer plays out there for cheaper. Aron Baynes was okay but not great in Game 1 and while he can certainly improve, provide value, and has shown more upside, he may be more tempting for his price than he deserves. Marcus Morris hasn’t done anything impressive lately but 28 minutes of court time in Game 1 are noteworthy. I don’t think he’ll find a high ownership tonight but he can help you fit some of the more interesting plays while providing some theoretical upside.
Playoff action, CATCH THE FEVER. Make sure to check out the early starting livestream tonight at 5:30 PM Eastern with me, Josh Engleman, and Jake Hari, check Awesemo’s rankings and come back later for his ownership projections, and I’ll see you guys tomorrow for more NBA breakdowns.