Basketball friends: It has been a long two days without the NBA. Thankfully, the playoffs are here and shaping up to potentially be one of the best tournaments we’ve had in years. You’ve got a ton of story lines, new and exciting teams poised to break through, and some really nice high pace games. We’re going to see a lot of shortened rotations and increased usage for stars since this is the playoffs, along with some unique pricing changes, so there will be tons of ways to construct lineups and be contrarian. And it’s the PLAYOFFS!
To celebrate the kick off, we’re partnering with FanDuel and their new single-game series with a single entry tournament for tonight’s New Orleans-Portland game. I’ll be playing along with Awesemo, Josh Engleman, Jake Hari, and the rest of our Awesemo.com team. Join now and try it out and you’ll also get Awesemo’s projections (not just rankings) for the game. And now, onto my breakdown of the slate.
San Antonio Spurs (98.75 implied points, -8.3 on their last 10 games) at Golden State Warriors (106.75 implied points, +2.7 on their last 10 games)
For the Spurs, this starts with LaMarcus Aldridge. He’s had three strong games versus Golden State this year and to me looks like one of the safest “pay up to get 5x and not much more” plays on the board. The Warriors have given up increased production at point guard and Dejounte Murray really needs to do something in this matchup to solidify his hold on the point guard job given how Gregg Popovich may want to pivot to his old steady plays to not cost the Spurs the game. That said, I like the opportunity for him in the matchup. I also like Kyle Anderson; he wasn’t summoned into duty in the Spurs’ last game versus the Warriors with Kevin Durant out but he is generally their assigned Durant stopper. The role gives him a better shot at usage and defensive statistics. I would like to see how the rest of the Spurs’ rotation shakes out before trusting them given the low team total but I could see Pau Gasol getting more run suddenly and guys like Rudy Gay or Patty Mills having value. I just don’t want to build around them.
Despite the Spurs having Kyle Anderson as a Kevin Durant stopper, Durant has sometimes excelled in the matchup. Durant posted a 35% usage rate and 66 DK points in his last time facing Anderson and the Spurs with Steph Curry out. I’d also consider Draymond Green given his successful history versus San Antonio but Klay Thompson and Quinn Cook will likely not get much love from me tonight. It’s hard to imagine much usage for the bench unless an Andre Iguodala carries them for a stretch so I’d stick to the top guys only.
Washington Wizards (101.5 implied points, -1.2 on their last 10 games) at Toronto Raptors (109.5 implied points, +3.7 on their last 10 games)
John Wall crushed down the stretch after returning from injury and I don’t see any reason Toronto would be able to limit that. He’s priced where he can have a ton of upside. Bradley Beal’s price is awesome on DraftKings, less so on FanDuel, and he should be a really interesting play. I wish the total were higher but I like both Wall and Beal as a stack that people may not land on as much as they should given the likely popularity of the New Orleans-Portland matchup. Otto Porter is currently questionable, a bit of news that’s hugely important. He’s played well versus Toronto all year and, if he misses, he would open up a lot of opportunity for Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre.
One would assume the Raptors’ highly successful bench should shorten some for the playoffs, but it’s hard to tell to what degree. The safer players on the board here are DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Lowry is at a stellar price on FanDuel and a decent one on DraftKings and it’s easy to imagine this matchup becoming becoming a duel between the backcourt mates. One would think Jonas Valanciunas will get a stronger run than he usually received towards the end of the season and 30 minutes for Jonas can be gold despite the tough matchup. I’m never a Serge Ibaka guy but he had a really good run towards the end of the year and I can imagine him being somewhat valuable here with his pricing. At their current prices, no bench guys for me until we get a read on how Dwane Casey is approaching their run for the playoffs.
Miami Heat (105 implied points, +1.1 on their last 10 games) at Philadelphia 76ers (111.5 implied points, -7.4 on their last 10 games)
Despite the Sixers’ total being down on their recent games, this line has actually taken a big jump by going from a 209 1/2 combined total to 216, making it now the projected second highest scoring game on the slate. It makes sense given the Sixers’ top four pace and the Heat’s willingness to get there.
Hassan Whiteside has been good against the Sixers all year and will now face them without Joel Embiid. There’s a chance he gets run off the floor by small ball lineups and the Sixers’ top 5 pace but he should be considered. If he did get run off the floor, it’s easy to imagine Kelly Olynyk or James Johnson soaking up a lot of run and ripping a ton of boards at the accelerated pace. Goran Dragic has historically seen his usage go up in the playoffs and it seems like there’s a good shot of that again today. He’s at very playable prices on both sites. Josh Richardson also strikes me as interesting given the minutes he should get defending the many wings of the Sixers. I wouldn’t fully trust him per se but something about the matchup for him seems right to me. Honestly, this side seems pretty ripe with value given the pace up and total on the rise and it likely will go underowned since people assume all Miami games can be a slog when they’ve actually shown a willingness to run at times.
JJ Redick looks like one of the best values on the slate based on his recent usage. He may have a tough time getting his shot versus the rangy wings of Miami but he’s such a pro that you have to assume they’ll find ways to get him good looks. Ben Simmons is going to have a tough time with Goran Dragic’s veteran defense but the Heat have given up shots all year in the areas he likes best. Simmons owns a 58 DK point game versus Miami without Joel Embiid this year, and that was before that run of really finding himself after Embiid went out at the end of season. Dario Saric got back on track in the last game of the year after a tough run and he’s played well versus Miami all year. He may get forgotten on this slate because of how poorly he played initially after Embiid went out. I’m not as in on Robert Covington and I worry that Ersan Ilyasova may take a back seat to Saric now that he has his groove back. I would play Marco Belinelli in small doses given his likely lesser playoff role but there’s still a lot of guys here to consider.
New Orleans Pelicans (105.75 implied points, -7.7 on their last 10 games) at Portland Trailblazers (111.25 implied points, +8.5 on their last 10 games)
I really assume this is going to be the most popular game on the slate and Anthony Davis in particular is going to find a whoooole lot of ownership. He put up 75 DK points in his last matchup with Portland and nothing has changed on their end or his. I think Nikola Mirotic is in a totally acceptable spot and Rajon Rondo also seems like he’ll likely drive a lot of offense against a defensively competent Portland squad. Jrue Holiday also looks like a good play to me but all of these guys are fairly expensive so you’re going to need to find value somehow to make it work.
Portland is going to get a big time pace-up for the matchup along with a big team total and there’s a lot of argument for Damian Lillard here. His whole season has been a statement and he matches up tremendously with the Pelicans given their penchant for giving up threes and weak point guard defense. Evan Turner seems like a fine Swiss Army knife style of play here and possibly a very necessary bit of value. He’s Evan Turner so there’s always risk but the matchup and pace should benefit him. Jusuf Nurkic and Al-Farouq Aminu look similarly good to me. Nurkic in particular has a massive ceiling but both guys will get more shots than expected. CJ McCollum interests me the least and, though he’s totally capable of exceeding value, I’d rather grab his teammates than him and spend that money elsewhere on the slate.
And there we have it, an NBA PLAYOFF (!!) slate in the books. Watch the games, we’re finally done with the crappola of tanking season. Follow me on Twitter, go join our FanDuel contest for the Portland-New Orleans game, and I’ll see you guys tomorrow for the rest of our playoff matchups.