Maybe it’s the fact we all struggle with hyperbole at the moment or maybe it’s that the outcome of this NBA season seemed inevitable just six months ago; but the 2019 Finals feel like one of the strangest series we’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I mean, I’m not even sure if I’m emotionally prepared for Game 6 less than 72 hours removed from the events of Game 5. We had Kevin Durant attempting a superhero act only to be thwarted by his Achilles. We had Kawhi Leonard ($11,800) entering God mode in the fourth quarter and leading the Raptors to a point where they had a win expectancy of 93.7%. Then, to top it all off, we had the Warriors dipping back into the ink of 2015 to hit three consecutive daggers from beyond the 3-point line.
What’s next? I legitimately have no idea. However, here’s what the stats suggest might go down.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
FIVE BETTING TRENDS
— The underdogs have won each of the last four NBA Finals games
— The Warriors have failed to cover the spread in 10 of their last 11 Thursday games at Oracle Arena
— Stephen Curry has scored 33-plus points in each of Golden State’s last seven games following a win
— Klay Thompson has scored 24-plus in each of his last four appearances at Oracle Arena
— Kawhi Leonard has scored 31-plus points in seven of Toronto’s last nine road games
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
Golden State WarriorsWe don’t have to get into Stephen Curry ($12,000) too much, as he’s obviously the focal point of Golden State’s offensive attack, but there’s an interesting and necessary discussion to be had about Curry’s viability when directly juxtaposed with Leonard. It’s not that’s it’s impossible to insert both superstars into a single build, yet the salary ramifications of owning both – even without making one your Captain’s Pick – are dire. If you choose to begin with the duo in your lineup, you’re left with just $6,550 to spend on the remaining slots. Considering how shortened both team’s rotations could be in a do-or-die setting, that might not be the best way to go about constructing things. So, is Curry the superior play to Leonard? I’m leaning no. Again, the monopoly the Davidson product has had in this Golden State system is incredible. Though his 31.3% usage rate in the series is somewhat lower than I would have expected, Curry is the lone Golden State player to have attempted more than 75 shots through five contests (111). That total doesn’t account for his 51 free throws, either. Still, despite this utilization, Curry’s averaged just 1.24 DKFP per minute, while Leonard’s managed 1.38. Plus, Curry’s output is heavily influenced by the 73.0 DKFP he dropped in Game 3 sans Klay Thompson ($9,200). Even on the road, I’d have to take Leonard over Curry if looking to for any semblance of lineup balance.
Speaking of Thompson, we’ve reached his personal point of maximum narrative. The origins of “Game 6 Klay” are pretty straight forward. With his team down 3-2 against Durant’s Thunder in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, Thompson proceeded to score 41 points in a Golden State victory, hitting 11 of his 18 tries from distance in the process. Honestly, while that’s all well and good, I’m not actually sure Thompson could start playing any better than he has already in this series. Not generally regarded as the most consistent DFS piece throughout his career, Thompson has averaged 41.5 DKFP over his past three games. This is the direct result of lights out shooting. Within this span, the All-Star has a true shooting percentage of 68.1%, as he’s knocked down 17 of the 29 3-pointers he’s taken. That’s nuts. Honestly, in normal circumstances, he would be laughably due for regression; yet, these circumstances definitely aren’t normal. Accounting for the Warriors’ desperation for shooting, I’d imagine Thompson logs in excess of 40 minutes for the third-straight contest. With that workload bolstering his floor – and the small stretches he’ll get being the No. 1 option with the second-unit providing some ceiling – Thompson feels like an incredibly safe are fairly priced option.
Thompson’s stability on this slate is only amplified more through the lens of Draymond Green ($10,400). Like Thompson, Green has been about as consistent a fantasy asset as one can be through five games against Toronto. Green’s played at least 40 minutes in every single matchup, he’s scored in double-figures all five times, and he’s produced a double-double in every contest aside from Game 3. Yet, since June 2, Green’s box score-stuffing prowess has still left him averaging fewer DKFP per 60 seconds than Thompson. It truly goes to show how much more valuable a DFS skill efficient scoring is than anything else on the table. Green isn’t so expensive that he’s an avoid by any means; however, I wouldn’t prioritize him in a manner similar to Thompson. There’s obviously the potential for Green to score more frequently – especially if Kerr goes small and places him at the five – but Green does lack a little of the clear upside you’d usually find in a player with a five-digit salary.
The final three Warriors you can even think about using are DeMarcus Cousins ($5,800), Kevon Looney ($5,000) and Andre Iguodala ($4,800). Shaun Livingston ($3,800) has received his regular allotment of minutes, Alfonzo McKinnie ($2,000) could see some run with Durant out, and Andrew Bogut’s ($3,200) role changes if Looney’s unable to play; yet, at the end of the day, none of these players have been a factor all series from a fantasy standpoint. Cousins is assuredly the player that most fits the “boom-or-bust” archetype. Boogie scored 14 points and garnered 26.5 DKFP on Monday – easily his second-best performance in the Finals. Still, that was an incredibly low bar to overcome. In fact, prior to Durant’s injury early in the second quarter, the impression was Cousins and his poor defensive play might have been benched for Game 5. It’s unlikely to think he’s a risk of this tonight, especially with how short-handed Golden State’s roster is, but we’ve seen Cousins follow up positive efforts in this series with huge duds. His ceiling keeps him viable, however, I’d advise a very tempered approach to my exposure. Its the opposite of how I feel about Iguodala. Quietly, the former Finals MVP has recorded at least 20.0 DKFP in every game of this series, despite only twice registering more than six raw points in the game. His minutes are locked in with Durant out and his sturdy floor at a price below $5K does allow one to daydream about a stars-and-scrubs lineup dynamic.
Toronto RaptorsMy allegiances when it comes to Kawhi Leonard were revealed above, however, for the sake of detail orientation, let’s briefly go over why the All-Star has to be considered the lock on this slate. Going back to Game 2’s loss, Leonard is averaging 60.2 DKFP every time he steps out onto the floor. These are the types of performances that can occur when one isn’t just dropping roughly 30 points per game, but also putting up 11.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.5 blocks. I mean, most of this is based off the fact that no player has logged as many minutes as Leonard has so far in these playoffs (898); yet, regardless of why, its difficult to not put the guy leading all players in playoff points (710), field goal attempts (480), rebounds (212) and steals (38) into your lineups. Both Leonard and Curry possess a true shooting rate above 60.0% with a usage rate that exceeds 30.0% in the Finals. Both have been fantastic. Still, one has been the distinctly more efficient and valuable DFS option and that man, for whatever reason, is $200 cheaper than the other this evening.
So, with Leonard’s viability not really up for questioning, the most important decision you’ll make as a prospective owner on this slate has to do with Pascal Siakam ($8,800) and Kyle Lowry ($8,000). Their prices make sense, as the pair rank second and third behind Leonard in both minutes seen and possessions played over the past five games; yet neither has been overly reliable for the purposes of fantasy. Siakam, in particular, has been trending downward since a fantastic showing in Game 1. Since that point in time, the Cameroonian has averaged just 0.75 DKFP per 60 seconds on the court, failing to crest 30.0 DKFP in three of the series’ past four contests. However, his workload has remained voluminous, as the third-year forward has still attempted the third most shots on the team within this same span. Lowry’s been a little more consistent lately, but he’s often found himself in foul trouble throughout the Finals and has shot just 1-of-10 from beyond the arc in the last two games. That should normalize a little bit – as Lowry’s 0-for-5 on attempts NBA.com would designate as “wide-open” opportunities from three – nevertheless, the key here is the player’s salary grouping. Simply put, the price discrepancy between Siakam and Lowry versus Green and Thompson doesn’t seem wide enough. Additionally, it feels like the Raptors’ roster offers better value options to take advantage of.
With Marc Gasol’s ($7,000) salary climbing back to match its highest prior point of the series, the two Toronto pieces I’d be focusing on when looking for value are Serge Ibaka ($5,400) and Danny Green ($4,400). Ibaka’s never been shy on offense and we’re seeing that aggressiveness come to light in the last two contests, specifically. While the forward has logged only 39 minutes, his usage rate is a team-high 33.1%. He’s scored an eye-popping 1.52 points per possession used and has averaged 1.49 DKFP per minute played. Heck, even before breaking out of a shooting slump in Game 4 with 20 points, Ibaka had been putting up a more than respectable 1.38 DKFP per 60 seconds during Games 2 and 3. He’s yet to exceed 22 minutes in a single contest, but, with his ability to get on the glass and block shots, Ibaka provides a decent floor if his streaky shooting lets up on Thursday night.
Speaking of inconsistent shooting, let’s talk about Green and Fred VanVleet ($6,600). With the narrative surrounding the performances of these two players, you’d think deciding which of the pair to use in DFS would be easy. VanVleet’s been the cult hero of the Finals so far; hounding Curry on defense, averaging 12.4 points a night, and coming back strong on Monday after literally getting his teeth knocked out in Game 4. However, from a raw statistical perspective, the two have been very similar. While Green’s put up a lowly 0.66 DKFP per minute in this series, VanVleet’s figure is only 0.71. That’s because, after eating into some of Green’s workload, VanVleet’s also been forced to adhere to Green’s usual role of off-ball shooting threat. Don’t get me wrong, he’s out there because he can create his own shot when the Warriors decide to blitz Leonard; however, his usage rate since Game 3 – the day he began starting the second-half in place of Green – is 13.5%. Green’s is actually higher within the same span. On top of all that, each has played an identical 90 minutes going back to last Wednesday. The Raptors as a whole shot an anemic 3-for-18 on “wide-open” threes in Game 5. Green, specifically, missed all four of his chances. If he can get back on track, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t produce better than VanVleet in Game 6 on a per dollar basis.
THE OUTCOMEAs inconceivable as Golden State losing all three games at Oracle would be, I think Toronto has the clear upper hand in this series. The Raptors have outscored the Warriors in 14 of the 20 quarters the two teams have played, and, following Kevin Durant’s exit in Game 5, Golden State couldn’t even muster two points per minute the remainder of the game. Still, my sense of the game-script doesn’t negate mid-tier players like Klay Thompson ($13,800 CP) from being considered as a Captain’s Pick. Really, if you wanted to try and squeeze both Stephen Curry ($18,000 CP) and Kawhi Leonard ($17,700 CP) into a lineup, bestowing Andre Iguodala ($7,200 CP) with 1.5x value would make a little bit of sense, too. Yet, no one’s going to protest if you just want to play it safe with Leonard.
Final Score: Toronto 107, Golden State 102
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