It’s a super early start time here on the West Coast and the website I normally use to track projections and recent performance (which many of you also may use) is down. Tough start to a slate! But we’ve got four games and much like many denizens of the globe yesterday I’m going to burn through them to try to help you guys out tonight.
Check back later for Awesemo’s rankings and projections if you’re a premium member and for now onto the slate.
Philadelphia 76ers (108.75 implied points, -9.3 on their last 10 games) at Miami Heat (105.25 implied points, +0.3 on their last 10 games)
The Sixers were buoyed by Joel Embiid’s return last game as a unit but as individual players, almost all of the supporting cast were dinged by Embiid’s usage and role in the offense. Marco Belinelli’s run on the second unit was the only profitable place to look. His price is on the rise on FanDuel but he strikes me as still playable on Draftkings, at least as far as a points dependent scorer getting bench minutes can be. I could see going with Embiid or Ben Simmons to have a higher salaried player who can get you to 5x-ish and Dario Saric and Robert Covington look like okay plays with similar upside but it doesn’t strike me as as much of a slam dunk play as the Sixers often were sans Embiid.
I’m in on Goran Dragic again as he proved to be a strong play whose shots finally fell last time out. Kelly Olynyk got extra run in Game 3 with Hassan Whiteside in foul trouble most of the game. He still seems like a steady play given Whiteside’s ability to take himself off the floor with ineffectiveness or fouls. Ditto James Johnson, who benefitted from the Sixers’ decision to lay completely off of him to shoot open threes. The Sixers played Justise Winslow similarly, driving him to hit four threes with his highest usage rate of the season. I trust Johnson more than Winslow by a lot but it’s hard to argue Winslow’s potential upside if you want to look his way. I can’t see thinking Whiteside again after his issue in the previous game but he’s cheaper than Winslow on DraftKings and that’s tempting on some level if he stayed out of foul trouble and got slightly more involved in the offense. Dwyane Wade shot 2-for-10 in Game 3 and still put up 20 DK points. He shouldn’t brick that many shots again. Lastly, Josh Richardson could be a good sneak play given his ability to get peripherals and the fact that he put up seven three-pointers in the last matchup.
Portland Trailblazers (104.25 implied points, +3.3 on their last 10 games) at New Orleans Pelicans (111.75 implied points, -0.5 on their last 10 games)
The Trailblazers are on the verge of getting swept tonight and it doesn’t seem like Vegas has a lot of faith in them given the 7.5 point spread. I have to ask the same questions I have all series: Can Damian Lillard get going? Maybe. He’s priced to move but boy does Jrue Holiday have his number. Can CJ McCollum get going? Maybe. He has an even more appealing price given his steadier play but Lillard’s the star of the team who should be the one to will the team to avoid elimination. Can Jusuf Nurkic get anything done? That feels like a no to me. I don’t see how he can even be on the court this game given how his minutes and play have gone. Al-Farouq Aminu is where I’d look instead given his role as de facto center with Nurkic so frequently run off the floor. Mo Harkless disappointed a lot of folks during his last start but he did get the shots he needed to hit value, just didn’t make them. I wouldn’t go nuts on him but he’s no worse a play than the other day.
Nikola Mirotic will be a popular play today but the margins for his success are getting pretty narrow. He hasn’t hit double digit boards in his last two games and it took 12-of-15 shooting to crush value like he did last time. Even if he shoots above 50%, the margins are getting narrow with him. Rajon Rondo strikes me as a steadier play given his ability to drive the offense and near triple-double upside. I like him a lot. Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis look like Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis to me, totally fine plays with not much to fear, some possible upside, and not much to love pricewise in this series.
Houston Rockets (110 implied points, +6.7 on their last 10 games) at Minnesota Timberwolves (104.5 implied points, -0.7 on their last 10 games)
Call it a hunch but I don’t think James Harden is shooting 2-for-18 again no matter how much people may want to spin his ghosts of playoffs past into an ongoing theme. I’d expect him to play angry en route to trying to build the Rockets to a 3-0 lead on the road. Chris Paul also seems fine to me and his usage has upticked in a really solid way in the playoffs. Clint Capela tends to go as James Harden goes from a correlation standpoint and that bore out last time. I like Harden to recover so I feel the same for Capela as well, particularly given the solid increase on team total. I’m not buying a Gerald Green follow-up on his big game but he and Eric Gordon combined for 30 shot attempts in Game 2. It’s possible they return a third of those back to Harden given his usual usage but one of those two will have a shot to be viable tonight. Trevor Ariza shot 5-for-14 last time which is bad but the fact that he got 14 shots is good. He can be considered even though, again, I find it hard to believe he’ll shoot that much if Harden isn’t ice cold from the floor.
Karl-Anthony Towns has been a better player at home all season at a decent clip. If he’s going to have any shot to make positive memories out of this playoff series, tonight is the night. He’s at his lowest price since December and both he and Jeff Teague would be the guys I’d want to go with if I were a believer in a Towns renaissance to fight off a 3-0 deficit. Jimmy Butler has been actually bad this series to the point where I’d be a little worried about his knee’s status if I were a Wolves fan. He’s priced where he could do damage but I don’t trust it. Weirdly I trust Andrew Wiggins more given his ability to hit value lately while still missing a lot of shots. If those shots fall, Wiggins could be a sneaky high upside play. Nemanca Bjelica was a quality play who provided some floor spacing last time but he got just 18 minutes, most of which coming with the game out of hand. He’s not trustable barring a lineup change.
Oklahoma City Thunder (101.25 implied points, -11.4 on their last 10 games) at Utah Jazz (105.75 implied points, -4.1 on their last 10 games)
Tough team totals here in another key Game 3 (kinda weird scheduling that the Trailblazers might get swept with a bunch of teams still on 2-1 leads) but we already know where to look here. Russell Westbrook is as steady as they come for a high-priced 5x. Paul George has been too and he’s flashed 6-7x upside at his current price. Carmelo Anthony has been fine too and he’s another guy who really should be able to hit a few more shots and really smash value one of these nights. Steven Adams was hampered by some foul trouble in Game 2 but I still don’t love the matchup with him and Rudy Gobert. I get why you’d want to play him at his price but a lot has to break his way to get much past 5x. Jerami Grant was solid picking up minutes with Adams on the bench but relying on foul trouble is no way to bank on a player’s success. Corey Brewer’s minutes are solid and he’s an okay moderate boom or bust play.
On the Jazz’s side, Derrick Favors was the big story in Game 2 as he went for 10x value while also playing well in concert with Rudy Gobert (no Jazz pun intended). I don’t see a problem with either guy but it’s important to note how up and down Favors’ usage and rebounding efforts can be. Ricky Rubio is a guy who’s all upside to me. He’s been good this series despite his shooting percentage dipping from the regular season. He and Donovan Mitchell also get so many shot attempts per game that they have absolutely insane ceilings with a few more bounces breaking their way. Jae Crowder was impeded by Favors’ success last time out and Joe Ingles has been bad all series so I’d focus on the Jazz’s core four over any of those guys.
Bingo bango, a very early four-game NBA playoff breakdown in the books. Follow me on Twitter @ChrisSpags for questions or to watch me dissect JR Smith’s godawful game-ending shot attempts:
JR Smith has been training all his career for this kind of awful game ending play pic.twitter.com/YJLhj905Iu
— Chris Spags (@ChrisSpags) April 21, 2018
Check back shortly for Awesemo’s rankings and projections and I’ll see you guys soon with more NBA action.