We are scrapping the normal Leverage format tonight due to the unique nature of the NBA’s final day. Very few teams have anything to play for and most are resting their regulars. Below are my projections for starters tonight along with some notes on motivation and production. Please note these projections are subject to change — be sure to stay on top of the news.
In general, this is the best night of the year to go stars and scrubs. That’s because many of the “scrubs” are locked into 30-35 minutes and cost near minimum on DraftKings.
BUCKS (vs. PACERS)
Notes: The Bucks don’t seem to be tanking, as they brought Middleton back from injury and are giving huge minutes to Giannis/Jabari despite a lost season. On paper, a road game against the Pacers isn’t a great matchup. But Indy could very well rest many of their regulars since they clinched the East’s No. 7 seed last night. It’s a small sample, but Giannis and Parker are FAR more productive without Middleton. Giannis is at 36.3 DK ppg with vs. 53.5 without and Parker is at 24.7 with vs. 31.8 without.
BULLS (vs. Sixers)
Notes: The Bulls will only have eight players available for this game and Butler will only play limited minutes. The three guys not listed above are Bobby Portis, Aaron Brooks and Doug McDermott. The Sixers are on a back-to-back road spot and rank T-24th in defensive efficiency. It’s a good spot to target Mirotic who has a baseline of .962 DK points per minute. That baseline will be elevated as his offensive role will be massive given who the Bulls have. There are a ton of good center plays tonight, but it’s at least worth noting that Felicio averages .948 DK points per minute and the Sixers give up a slate-worst 5.95 more DK points than expectation to centers.
CAVS (vs. Pistons)
Notes: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Mo Williams have all been ruled out. Tristan Thompson ($4,500) will be the Cavs’ starting center in the playoffs, so I’m not sure how much they’ll want to extend him here. But in four games without Kevin Love this season, he’s averaged 25.2 DK points in 27.7 minutes. Dellavedova ($3,400) averages 0.84 DK points per minute with the Cavs’ Big Three off the floor and is a virtual lock for at least 30 minutes in this spot.
CELTICS (vs. Heat)
Notes: Boston can finish anywhere from the No. 4 to No. 6 seed, so they should be playing to win. Isaiah Thomas was upset after playing just 21 minutes on Monday and cleared the air with Brad Stevens. Expect his minutes to be back in the 31-34 range tonight, making him an interesting tournament play. … It’s a tough matchup for all the Celtics as the Heat are T-24th in pace and 7th in defensive efficiency. They’re also expected to play all their regulars.
CLIPPERS (at Suns)
Luc Mbah a Moute
Notes: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick are all out. Not only will Austin Rivers have to play a ton, but he’ll have a primary playmaking responsibility and the Suns are the league’s worst team against point guards. Aldrich will have to play 30-plus minutes and averages 1.198 DK points per minute. He costs just $4,200.
GRIZZLIES (at Warriors)
Notes: The Grizzlies have a shot to avoid the Spurs, so they should be playing to win. Of course, they also want to derail the Warriors’ quest for a record 73 wins. That said, they are very likely to get trucked in this spot by the buzzsaw that is Steph Curry and the Warriors. It’s a spot where the Grizz could end up playing 10 guys and try to save some energy for the playoffs.
HAWKS (at Wizards)
Notes: This is a tentative lineup as the Hawks are guaranteed home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The only motivation is winning the Southeast conference (if that’s motivation at all) and a chance to avoid the Cavs in Round 2. … Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer is a Gregg Popovich protege, meaning I’m worried a little about minutes here. If Dennis Schroder ends up starting and Teague is out, the German Strudel will be a very viable play. He gets a strong 1.093 DK points per minute.
HEAT (at Celtics)
Notes: The Heat can finish as high as the East’s No. 3 seed and as low as the No. 6. They’ve been clear about wanting home-court advantage in the first round. In other words, I’m expecting the starters to play and try to win the game. Still, it’s a back-to-back road spot with the playoffs looming in three days. Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Joe Johnson and Hassan Whiteside each played at least 34 minutes last night. … Whiteside is the most intriguing here as his minutes ceiling is now raised due to the starting role and the matchup against Boston is ideal. They give up the sixth-most rebounds per game in the league.
HORNETS (vs. Magic)
Notes: The Hornets don’t have a lot to play for as they will either be the No. 5 or 6 seed in the East. In other words, they can’t get home-court advantage in the first round. So even though I expect the starters to get some burn, I’m not confident they’ll play the whole game. The guy I’m most interested in is Jeremy Lin if he starts in place of Nicolas Batum (out, ankle). In 11 games without Batum this year, Lin ($4,700) has averaged 30.5 DK points in 36.2 minutes.
JAZZ (at Lakers)
Notes: The Jazz can still make the playoffs, but only if the Rockets lose at home to the Kings. That’s highly unlikely and an 8pm game, so the Jazz will likely have nothing to play for come 10:30pm. That will leave them in Kobe memoirs zone, making it hard to be excited about any Jazz outside of perhaps Trey Lyles.
KINGS (at Rockets)
Notes: The Kings won’t play Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Darren Collison or Caron Butler. They’ll have eight guys available. The three not listed above are Quincy Acy, Eric Moreland and Duje Dukan. Curry is going to have to play 34-40 minutes with the lack of guards available. He’s an elite option at $5,000. … In the last three games that Cousins has sat, Willie Cauley-Stein has averaged 37.0 minutes. He gets .828 DK points per minute.
MAGIC (at Hornets)
Notes: Surprising news from Orlando Wednesday morning, as Gordon (concussion) and Vucevic (groin) are both expected to play. It makes all of the Magic very thin as they’ll have a lot of bodies available and very little to play for. I wouldn’t count on full minutes for Vooch given his leg soreness. Hezonja is very talented, but averages just .681 DK points per minute. His offensive workload is in doubt now that Gordon and Vucevic are expected to play.
MAVERICKS (vs. Spurs)
Notes: It’s possible the Mavs could fall down to the No. 7 seed if they lose, which would mean a first-round date with the Spurs. Obviously, that’s not ideal. So the starters should get significant run against the Spurs’ B-team tonight. J.J. Barea and Devin Harris are both out with injuries.
NETS (vs. Raptors)
Notes: Thomas Robinson (knee) was the one guy I was riding on the Nets. But he and his 1.038 DK points per minute are done, leaving Chris McCullough (.787) and Henry Sims (.868) as thin options. The Nets are likely to give nine guys at least 20 minutes once again. Shane Larkin ($4,600) gets a matchup boost with Kyle Lowry resting.
NUGGETS (vs. Trail Blazers)
Notes: Kenneth Faried is not expected to get on the floor again. The Nuggets seem to want to look at Nurkic and Jokic together a lot – Jokic is an interesting tournament play. Gary Harris (groin) is questionable.
PACERS (at Bucks)
Notes: Paul George (rest) has already been ruled out, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if more normal starters are announced as out later. The Pacers are locked into the East’s No. 7 seed. If everyone does end up sitting, the guy I’m most interested in is Myles Turner. He averages .946 DK points per minute and will be facing a Bucks team that is among the worst against bigs.
PELICANS (at Wolves)
Notes: Yes, the Pelicans are playing all of their backups. But that’s what they’ve been doing for the last three weeks, so the salaries reflect it. This is also the toughest matchup they’ve had lately, as they’ve played five of their last six games against CHI, PHX, LAL, PHL and BKN. … Don’t forget about Tim Frazier off the bench, as he continues to log starter’s minutes.
PISTONS (at Cavs)
Notes: This is a very tentative projection as the Pistons have not announced their intentions as of noon. But they are locked into the East’s No. 8 seed and the Cavs have already announced they’ll be resting all their starters. If the above lineup holds, Aron Baynes and his impressive .966 DK points per minute would be the guy I’m most interested in.
RAPTORS (at Nets)
Notes: Toronto is locked into the East’s No. 2 seed. In four games without Kyle Lowry this season, Cory Joseph ($3,700) has averaged 24.9 DK points in 29.8 minutes. In three games without DeMar DeRozan this year, underrated Norman Powell ($4,000) has averaged 32.8 DK points in 36.0 minutes. … In 21 games without Jonas Valanciunas, Biyombo has averaged 27.7 DK points in 30.3 minutes.
ROCKETS (vs. Kings)
Notes: The Rockets have the most motivation on the slate as they need to win to clinch the No. 8 spot in the West. They also have the best matchup against the Kings’ B-team. James Harden has the highest floor/ceiling combo on the slate by far. Just realize he costs an absurd $11,300 and will be the highest owned player on the slate.
SIXERS (at Bulls)
Notes: The “Big Three” of the Sixers (Ish, RC3, Nerlens) continue to log massive minutes for the thinned-out Sixers. They are all strong plays against the woeful Bulls defense. Note that Jerami Grant got into horrible foul trouble on Tuesday night, and therefore he only ended up playing 15 minutes. He should bounce back into the 30-33 range tonight, making him a sneaky value at just $4,800.
SPURS (at Mavericks)
Notes: The Spurs will only have nine total players available for this one. That includes Boris Diaw, who is coming off an injury and is unlikely to see big minutes. The four players not listed above are Patty Mills, Matt Bonner, Jonathan Simmons and Kevin Martin. … Boban ranks 13th in the entire NBA in DK points per minute at 1.247. His season-high for minutes is 30 and he should push for that number tonight. It’s really hard to pass him up at just $3300.
SUNS (vs. Clippers)
Notes: I’m not expecting Tyson Chandler to play again, giving lots of opportunity to Leuer, Len and Teletovic. The matchup here is upgraded by the fact that the Clippers are resting all of their starters.
TIMBERWOLVES (vs. Pelicans)
Notes: We’re not getting any salary breaks here as the Wolves have been running the same lineup for a couple months now. But we do get talented offensive players in a very good matchup. They should be motivated to play well at home and get a win in the finale, meaning standard minutes for Karl-Anthony Towns. Coming off a down game and priced up at $8,800 with so many punt centers in great spots, KAT will be underowned. He has massive upside.
TRAILBLAZERS (vs. Nuggets)
Notes: The Blazers will either be the No. 5 or 6 seed in the West, meaning they don’t have a ton to play for unless they really want to avoid the Thunder in Round 1. Expect the starters to play reasonable minutes, but not overextend themselves.
WARRIORS (vs. Grizzlies)
Notes: The Warriors are one win away from their stated goal, to win 73 games. Steph Curry is also eight 3-pointers away from his stated goal of 400 for the season. Put that together and he’s right there with James Harden for the safest stud on the slate.
WIZARDS (vs. Hawks)
Notes: The Wizards finally wrap up a miserable season. The good news for us is Ramon Sessions ($5,200) is a very solid backup point guard who gets .889 DK points per minute and has averaged 31.7 minutes per game without John Wall this year. I’m not sure why the Wizards are giving Marcus Thornton so much run when they should be developing young players, but it is what it is. Over the last two games, Thornton has played 31.5 minutes and gotten 33.1 DK points per game. He’s also small forward eligible and still costs just $3,500.