We are now firmly ensconced in the conference semifinals tonight as LeBron goes to Toronto to further his one-man march to the Finals and the Warriors looking to barnstorm the possibly-out-of-their-depth New Orleans Pelicans. But the bigger item to discuss: Much like a confusingly named Encyclopedia Brown book, I cracked the case of the Celtics’ NBA Showdown game and took down first place in DraftKings’ big $100,000 top prize tournament last night. The good news: I was definitely in first place. The bad news: Because there was no way to pivot off of the top scoring lineup, there were about 1500 people also in first place with me:
Good news: I finished first in a $100,000 tournament. Bad news: So did like 1500 people. Still counts! pic.twitter.com/eIWwfyTntX
— Chris Spags (@ChrisSpags) May 1, 2018
Including folks who read my column breaking down the slate:
Read your write-up on awesemo. Thanks bro 🤙🏽 pic.twitter.com/Nl0avPwiwu
— Jason Allen (@jasonxallen) May 1, 2018
Trying to help others while sabotaging myself. If there were any concept that sums up my life, that would be it. And today I’ll try to do more of the same for you guys as we discuss the TWO games we have tonight which will hopefully be slightly less chalky than a single game showdown with two teams who hardly use their bench. Optimism!
As always in a limited slate, Awesemo’s rankings and ownership projections will be a big asset in helping you build your lineups tonight so make sure to get that premium membership for just $9.99 and learn what the #1 DFS player in the world is looking at to make his lineups. Without further adieu, onto the games:
Cleveland Cavaliers (104.25 implied points, -2.2 on their last 10 games) at Toronto Raptors (110.75 implied points, +2.8 on their last 10 games)
In the Cavaliers’ Game 7 win over the Pacers, LeBron was a one-man show in a way I personally haven’t felt since watching Michael Jordan as an impressionable youth. Older NBA fans fight that comparison but the reality is LeBron’s blend of singlehandedly steering the offense, forcing impossible shots that somehow go in, and doing everything in his power to compete until he walks away with a win were absolutely Jordanesque in that series. LeBron has historically owned the Raptors, sweeping them last year in the playoffs, and there’s no reason to expect otherwise in this series. That said, I have a little reluctance with him tonight with the Cavs coming off an emotionally draining series going into Toronto against a team frothing at the mouth for a chance to redeem themselves versus him. Kevin Love was godawful all last series but I think he’s got a chance to dig out of his poor run tonight. He’s scored over 40 DK points versus Toronto twice this year and the Raptors struggled with a similar player in Mike Scott all first round (when he got minutes). Tristan Thompson was the big story last game, moving into the starting lineup and using his newfound life skills at handling double teams that have caused women across the country to hate him to routinely thwart the Pacers in the paint. If he gets the same amount of minutes versus Toronto, I like his chances. George Hill excelled in short minutes in Game 7 and has been really good versus Kyle Lowry all year so I don’t mind him tonight either. If Kyle Korver picks up the start, he tends to get enough shots to do something and the chance to win more minutes, though I wonder if he might move to the bench for George Hill’s defense. Overall there are a few things to like here if the Cavs can avoid a letdown game.
DeMar DeRozan has struggled versus Cleveland all year but he’s proven his ability to put up a lot of shots and crush value at his current price so far this playoffs. The Cavs likely won’t be able to defend him the same way as they did Victor Oladipo last series, namely double-teaming him 35 feet from the basket, due to the number of floor stretching players the Raptors have around DeRozan. I like both DeRozan and Kyle Lowry as fairly confident shots to hit 40 fantasy points and 5x value on DraftKings and with a little risk on FanDuel. Serge Ibaka was more awful than not in the Washington series but he strikes me as a better matchup versus Cleveland. I wouldn’t go crazy on a player like him given the risk profile but he seems like a player who can recover tonight at fairly low ownership. I like Jonas Valanciunas a lot tonight, especially if the Cavs start Tristan Thompson again since that means Jonas will be squarely around the basket where he’s most effective and can put up a double double in one quarter. If they go small with Kevin Love at center forcing Jonas into some uncomfortable defensive spots, that would be a less appealing spacing matchup to me that could result in Jonas being run off the floor. Fred Van Vleet seems like an interesting play but one who may find more ownership than he should given his role while Delon Wright loses a lot of appeal to me with Van Vleet active and looking very effective in their series clincher versus Washington. Pascal Siakam has been good versus Cleveland all season and may find some popularity after his sneaky low-owned performance helped some people, including our own Awesemo, win a tournament last week. I like him as a pivot off of Serge Ibaka but I’m personally not banking on him putting up a near-double double again. There may be an urge for some to get cute here with the Raptors’ bench, particularly given their prices relative to how awful the Cavs’ second unit has been, but I think the starters on the Raptors’ side are going to be the more effective spots to target.
New Orleans Pelicans (108 implied points, -9 on their last 10 games) at Golden State Warriors (119 implied points, +15 on their last 10 games)
The Pelicans got destroyed in Game 1 and that was without Steph Curry on the floor. If the Pelicans can’t steal Game 2 in the Bay Area, this series may very well get away from them. Rajon Rondo looks like the safest play on the New Orleans side as Playoff Rondo was the one bright spot in Game 1. If his team pulls their weight, Rondo’s ceiling gets even higher due to his playmaking ability but even in a dud team performance he seems perfectly capable of getting you the value you need. Jrue Holiday was awful last game but he seems like he really should be able to get you where you need to if the Pelicans can keep this game competitive or pull it out. If you believe in the Pelicans, you should believe in Jrue. Nikola Mirotic seems like he should bounce back after a tough Game 1, his worst game in a while. The Pelicans need him to get going to keep up with the Warriors and it should be a focus of theirs to get him better looks. Anthony Davis had a bad Game 1 but he didn’t see any fourth quarter run with the game fully out of hand. These Pelicans would all have nice upside if they can avoid getting blown out at the breakneck pace they’re offering the Warriors offense. E’Twaun Moore would be part of that rising tide if the Pelicans keep it close and I would only consider the bench players if you’re playing a blowout build, a dark place where Darius Miller and Jordan Crawford shined in Game 1.
Steph Curry is probable for Game 2 and his return will cut into the offensive loads that Kevin Durant and Draymond Green got in Game 1. Steph has shown a great ceiling versus the Pelicans this year and his price is definitely at a tremendous spot, particularly on DraftKings. I worry a little bit about Jrue Holiday getting motivated to defend him the same way he did Damian Lillard in the first round, something which could fire Jrue up on the offensive end as it did that series, but Steph has proven to be above individual defensive matchups more often than not. Klay Thompson had a strong Game 1 and Curry’s presence helps him with spacing while taking away some of his usage, making it something of a breakeven overall for Klay. Draymond was stellar in Game 1 and even if he loses a few shot attempts and assists, he still looks like a strong play as a rebounder, defender, and playmaker, albeit with a slightly lower ceiling. There’s nothing wrong with Kevin Durant tonight but Awesemo currently has him projected to be one of the highest owned players on the slate so I may be inclined to spend my money elsewhere given all of the guys I like priced beneath or above him. Andre Iguodala’s role will be reduced as a result of Steph’s return and David West is a little interesting as a cheap and steady play but nothing else here seems noteworthy unless you think Anthony Davis gets hot and they call on Kevon Looney for some specialty defensive effort there.
And there it is, two more playoff games in the books. Follow me on Twitter @ChrisSpags, subscribe to the Awesemo YouTube channel to catch me and Jake Hari when we go live-before-lock tonight at 6PM Eastern, and I’ll see you guys tomorrow with another riveting single game slate!