I’m going to level with everyone reading this: I am a full-fledged, die-hard Toronto Raptors fan. I was born in the city in 1992; I was eight-years-old when Vince Carter put on a show at the Slam Dunk Contest, and I forced myself to believe Andrea Bargnani could be the best player on a playoff-caliber team. I was at the game where Matt Bonner tried to fight Kevin Garnett; I was standing in the top row of the then Air Canada Centre when a rookie Norman Powell led a comeback to beat the Pacers in Game 5, and DeMar DeRozan has been my cell phone’s lock screen on multiple occasions. I guess what I’m trying to say here, heading into tonight’s matchup between Toronto and Milwaukee, is I’m just a little bit biased.
Still, and I can’t emphasize this enough, that also means you’re unlikely to encounter anyone who’s watched as much Raptors basketball as I have this season; or find someone who’s taken in the first four games of this series as closely. So, with that all in mind, allow me to think with my wallet and not my heart. Let’s break down Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals from a DraftKings Showdown perspective.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
FIVE BETTING TRENDS
— The Bucks have won each of their last 24 games after losing as favorites.
— The Bucks have covered the spread in 14 of their last 15 games after losing as favorites.
— Malcolm Brogdon has scored 14+ points in 13 of his last 15 appearances at Fiserv Forum.
— Marc Gasol has scored 14+ points in six of his last eight appearances against the Bucks.
— Norman Powell has scored 14+ points in each of his last three outings.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
Here’s the scary thing when it comes to ever considering a fade of Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,600): It doesn’t feel like he’s played to his potential so far in this series, yet he still has averaged 59.1 DKFP per contest. Now, that’s not to say we simply should accept the fact that 60 fantasy points is Antetokounmpo’s floor. There are reasons the possible MVP has not been able to play his most aesthetically pleasing basketball to this point against Toronto — namely, Kawhi Leonard ($11,400). According to NBA.com, Leonard has guarded Antetokounmpo on 75 possessions since Nick Nurse switched up his defensive rotations following Game 2. In that span of time, the Greek Freak has shot just 5-for-19 with four turnovers and two assists in the direct presence of Leonard. That’s not great. However, when your usage rate is 31.9% across the past four contests and you’re grabbing 22.0% of the available rebounds when you’re on the floor, you still are going to be a force in DFS. In what could be viewed a “must-win” spot for the Bucks, I’m going to be looking at 100% exposure to Antetokounmpo.
Figuring out the rest of Milwaukee’s key offensive pieces are a little more difficult. I guess I’ll start by pointing out that Eric Bledsoe ($5,600) should be considered an easy avoid at this stage of the playoffs. He simply is becoming unplayable. Not only is Bledsoe shooting a measly 23.3% on catch-and-shoot opportunities throughout the 13 games he’s played so far in the NBA’s second season; but he just can’t seem to get a bucket to fall versus specifically Toronto — and he’s been given a ton of wide-open attempts. With the Raptors more than willing to double-team Antetokounmpo with Bledsoe’s primary defender in the half-court, the point guard has been gifted 14 3-point shots without an opponent within six feet in this series. Bledsoe has converted only one of those chances. Generally, I’d suggest something that absurd would be set to normalize; yet, with Bledsoe down to 20 minutes logged in Game 4, we might already be past the point of no return. Additionally, Malcolm Brogdon ($7,000) and George Hill ($3,600) have contributed at a higher degree. Brogdon’s salary feels fair with an $800 decrease after a poor showing Tuesday, while Hill seems like a can’t-miss value option — especially considering he’s scored a team-best 0.35 points per touch since Game 3. Pairing efficiency with an expanding role is always welcomed news.
Nikola Mirotic ($4,800) is another player who’s grasp on his own rotation spot could be a little tenuous. The hired gun has been anything but so far in this series, shooting just 6-for-28 (21.4%) from beyond the arc. He’s been awful on defensive, as well. Even going back to included the prior rounds against the Pistons and the Celtics, the Bucks have seen their opponents’ offensive rating spike by 7.4 points per 100 possessions when Mirotic is on the court. Sure, he’s one hot-shooting quarter away from none of this mattering; yet, Brook Lopez ($6,000) is a similar archetype of player with a much higher ceiling and not all that different a price point. Plus, while Toronto clearly would rather Mirotic take uncontested 3s in favor of shots at the rim or the ball in Giannis’ hands, it’s Lopez who has attempted a team-high 19 wide-open 3-pointers through four games. Mirotic’s 10 are dwarfed in comparison. At this point, would you really be shocked if Brogdon got his starting spot back?
Finally, there’s Khris Middleton ($9,400). The first-time All-Star mercifully broke out in Game 4, dropping 30 points while going 11-of-15 from the field. That all equated out to a robust 50.0 DKFP — the first time since Game 2 versus Boston that Middleton’s crested the 40-point plateau. It’s been a relatively uneven run. Though no longer guarded by Leonard on offense, Middleton still has been tasked with covering the Raptors’ No. 1 scoring option on defense; something that understandably has affected his own point-producing potential. In fact, coming into Tuesday night, Middleton was averaging only 0.68 DKFP per minute — easily the worst mark of any Milwaukee player to that point in the series. I think Middleton is viable on tonight’s slate; however, I also believe there are better targets within that tier of players.
So, if I’m trumpeting max Antetokounmpo exposure, it probably goes without saying that salary distribution limits my dependency on Kawhi Leonard ($11,400). This is by no means a knock to Kawhi’s incredible playoff run, though. Despite his efficiency numbers tapering off slightly in recent contests, Leonard still is averaging 31.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game with a .633 true shooting percentage backing everything up. He’s been incredible; yet, the level of burden in which he’s had to produce those figures appears to be taking its toll. While Leonard has denied he’s dealing with any type of injury, there’s been more than enough ancillary proof to the contrary. Heck, even putting aside the obvious on-court limping, teammate Kyle Lowry ($8,800) referred to Leonard as “limited” following Tuesday’s 120-102 victory to knot up the series at 2-2. It’s simply difficult to swallow a near identical price point to Antetokounmpo for a player who clearly is not going to be 100%. Not to mention one who hasn’t produced from a fantasy capacity at the same level as Giannis, either. Both teams’ benches run deep enough where a “stars-and-scrubs” lineup build is not off the table; however, if you’re looking to build around one man with a salary over $11K, it has to be Antetokounmpo.
Leonard posted just a 23.7% usage rate in Game 4, the second-lowest offensive utilization the 2014 Finals MVP has had in Toronto’s 16 playoffs contests. That usage rate was the third-highest mark on the Raptors, trailing the unlikely tandem of Norman Powell ($4,400) and Serge Ibaka ($5,200). The former is a truly interesting case study in a one-game slate format. On the one hand, Powell’s scored 30-plus DKFP in back-to-back games, took a team-best 18 shots Tuesday night and continues to steal Danny Green’s ($4,000) minutes in the fourth quarter. On the other, Powell is a notoriously inconsistent player who is likely to have a huge ownership this evening. It feels like whenever you get a chance to be contrarian by fading Powell, you probably should do it. Think about all the ways heavy exposure could go wrong. Green, who barely missed out on being named All-Defensive Second Team and shot 45.5% from 3 during the regular season, simply could break out of his recent funk. There’s also the presence of Fred VanVleet ($2,600). Toronto’s back-up point guard broke out of his own slump a couple nights back, hitting all three of his attempts from distance and dishing out six assists. VanVleet was out-touched 54-46 by Powell in Game 4, but the duration of those 46 touches showcase the 25-year-old’s more ball-dominant role on this roster. I’ll be avoiding Powell on Thursday.
Leonard’s off-night was additionally key in opening the door for the Raptors to run their offense through the likes of Lowry and Marc Gasol ($6,600) — a philosophy that directly led to Toronto accumulating 32 assists on 41 made field goals. I can’t see why this strategy wouldn’t find itself crossing over to Game 5, especially with Milwaukee essentially begging Gasol to orchestrate Toronto’s half-court possessions from above the break. In fact, Gasol’s had more touches than any member of the Raptors going back to Game 3; a span of time where the big man has averaged 16.5 points, 7.0 assists and 48.4 DKFP. Gasol also has taken more wide-open 3-pointers than any player in either conference final (22). Considering his price point is back to its exact level from Game 1 of this series, Gasol is a vital player in this matchup with a more-than-fair salary. You can’t ask for much more.
The wild-card is Pascal Siakam ($8,000). Consistently priced above $9K throughout these playoffs, the Cameroonian forward now finds himself at his cheapest point. That fate has been earned, with Siakam scoring in single-digits twice already in the Eastern Conference Finals, yet, it must be noted this is a player with 50-point upside. The biggest X-factor is seemingly just foul trouble. Siakam fouled out of Game 2, and his five infractions during Game 4 limited him to just 23 minutes. There’s no guarantee this issue will dissolve this evening, but, as a pivot play off of Middleton or Lowry, you won’t find much higher upside in an already erratic tier of players.
I think there are two distinct ways of going about your builds ahead of Game 5. The first scenario is the most obvious: Make Giannis Antetokounmpo ($17,400 CP) your Captain’s Pick, fill out the bottom of your lineup with the likes of Hill and VanVleet and hope arguably the league’s most destructive player has himself a career-defining performance. The other option is a little more balanced. Marc Gasol’s ($9,900 CP) salary at 1.5x value allows for a lineup with both Antetokounmpo and Leonard while still not sacrificing the other mid-tier options. Either choice is fine in what should be a highly competitive contest.
Final Score: Milwaukee 112, Toronto 102
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.