After another wild playoff weekend where the games came fast and furious, we’re down to a very manageable and even more tightly priced two games for tonight’s slate. Two key Game 4s in the Western Conference which are do-or-die but not elimination games await us tonight and there are some impossibly tough choices to make when building your daily fantasy sports rosters, the kind of choices you need someone to hand-wring over in a column like the Switch and Hedge. That’s what I’m here for, to think about the abilities of basketball players until I’m bleeding out of my ears or, more optimistically, trying to reenact this famous GIF:
Check out Awesemo’s rankings and come back later for his ownership projections for the slate, don’t forget to tune in to our live before lock show at 6PM Eastern tonight on the Awesemo YouTube for more on this slate and tonight’s MLB games, and now let’s get to the action.
Houston Rockets (111.75 implied points, +8.5 on their last 10 games) at Minnesota Timberwolves (105.75 implied points, +0.5 on their last 10 games)
Houston lost to the Timberwolves last time out and had not a single player on their side approach 5x value other than Ryan Anderson. That’s a brutal game. The series hasn’t been much better for the Rockets with most of their guys in something of a fantasy slog despite two wins and one close loss in Game 3. James Harden’s usage rate has been the steadiest but his price is going to be really tough to pay on a slate this small with precious little value. Chris Paul had some foul troubles last game and he’s at a more manageable price but one that a lot of people will likely look to Ricky Rubio instead. There’s logic in using him for that reason but it’s hard to fully trust Chris Paul given his performance this series. Clint Capela’s ability to do damage on the boards has been mitigated with the Wolves clogging the lanes and he hasn’t gotten as many shots or minutes as he did in Game 1, making his theoretically appealing price seem a little less compelling. Eric Gordon is putting up enough shots to be a productive player but not hitting any of them. He’s the most interesting play to me on the side from that perspective but, again, no trust from me. I could see using Ryan Anderson but trusting Ryan Anderson is a fool’s errand. You’ve got to settle on something on this side given the lack of options on the slate and while Paul and Gordon seem like the most logical combination of upside and price, Harden has the best chance of breaking the slate…if you can find a way to make his salary work.
On the Wolves’ side, everyone showed up for their first home playoff game with Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns both getting off their personal schneids while Jeff Teague and Andrew Wiggins both held up their ends. The Wolves will need similar performances again across the board to keep tie the series up. Towns’ price is the most appealing and he should be a fairly safe bet to get to 5x. I’m a little less interested in paying up for Jimmy Butler from a roster construction perspective, though he and Towns both posted their highest usage rates of the series in Game 3. Butler also played 41 minutes, noteworthy considering his knee issues. Wiggins and Teague both performed highly efficiently last time while ceding usage to the two other Wolves stars and that worries me a little tonight since both are at prices that seem designed to tempt people into ownership. I like both guys but expecting them to shoot over 50% again feels like a bit of a stretch. Taj Gibson ceded minutes to Derrick Rose down the stretch and Rose has been effective with the opportunity (not effective enough to seriously want to play him tonight, but effective). I theoretically like the idea of a Taj Gibson bounce back tonight given his price but there’s nothing he’s shown statistically this series that would make me think that’s anything more than throwing a dart at the wall. Taj hasn’t broken 20 DK points in any matchup versus the Rockets this year.
Oklahoma City Thunder (102.5 implied points, -10.1 on their last 10 games) at Utah Jazz (106.5 implied points, -3.3 on their last 10 games)
Russell Westbrook has had something of a nightmare series versus Utah with the Jazz thwarting him at the rim, on switches, and limiting the pace just enough to keep him uncomfortable. Paul George seemingly went back to Bad Paul George places last time out and the best way to tell was his effort level defending Joe Ingles, a player who went from a complete non-factor with George’s stifling D in Games 1 and 2 to running around freely en route to 5-for-10 shooting from three in Game 3. His focus is something I’m most curious about in Game 4. I like Paul George’s opportunity to hit value but I wonder if maybe Westbrook flips the Russ switch and tries to do it all alone recognizing that his teammates may not want this one as badly as he does. Much like Harden, Westbrook is tough to fit pricewise but he’s got some appeal to me as one of two pivots on the slate with 70 fantasy point upside. Carmelo Anthony saw a few less shots less time out, only four in the second half. His price will make him a popular place to look tonight and I still believe in his ability to get at least 5x but this Thunder team seems worrisome from a wide variety of perspectives. Steven Adams continued to be able to get nothing done versus Rudy Gobert while Corey Brewer is mediocre salary filler with little upside. Raymond Felton could be a sneaky low-cost play given how they’ve desperately needed his second unit offense lately and Patrick Patterson got about 20 minutes to try to space the floor last game but there’s a whole lot of “Ugh” when going down the roster here.
Ricky Rubio has been stellar this series, and really all year even though a lot of people have held the sins of his previous inefficiencies against him in his new role in Utah. He hasn’t been under 5x at his current price in any matchup versus Oklahoma City and should be one of the most popular plays on the slate given his combination of consistency and upside. Every player can be faded but Rubio’s playmaking ability, scoring, and even rebounding — both he and Donovan Mitchell out-Westbrook’d Russ by putting up double digit rebounds in Game 3 — make him look like a must-have on this slate. Mitchell looks fine but has had less playmaking upside with Rubio dominating the ball this series. I like him, like Rubio more, but both guys look like great plays. Joe Ingles recovered from a few games of being suffocated by Paul George and his value depends solely upon which Paul George we see tonight. If George focuses in defensively like he did in Games 1 and 2, I see no way Ingles gets anywhere near value. If George lapses again, Ingles will get his throughout the game and in crunch time when PG switches over to guard Mitchell. Rudy Gobert has been back to his old self with Steven Adams unable to offer any counter and he looks as steady and full of upside as Rubio and Mitchell. He’s the lone A value in Awesemo’s rankings for the slate. Game 2 feels like an aberration for Derrick Favors and with his floor I’m not dying to pay $6,000 for him on DraftKings on the off chance that he somehow catches lightning in a bottle again this series. The Jazz don’t play anyone on the bench with enough meaningful minutes to pan for gold with a cheap flyer unless you think it blows out and Royce O’Neal gets run.
Hopefully the breakdowns for these two games weren’t too doom and gloom and my ebullient feelings for Ricky Rubio balance out how much of a slog the rest of this slate is. It’s a tough two games but, thinking optimistically, there are so few realistic options that you’ve got as good a shot as anyone to take down a tournament tonight! Optimism! Follow me on Twitter @ChrisSpags, go check Awesemo’s rankings to figure out how to build your lineups, and I’ll see you guys tonight at 6PM Eastern for our live before lock show with Josh Engleman where I will probably say the word “Rubio” no less than 760 times.