We have three more NBA Playoff games set to tip off tonight. The toughest one for me is the Spurs/Grizzlies matchup because the Spurs could jump out to a big lead, hindering the upside of a lot of players in the game. The Celtics/Hawks and Cavaliers/Pistons games should stay a lot closer. We have a lot of middle-tier players who are interesting and a lot of stars that play the same positions. It could make for some differentiation with roster construction, and that is never a bad thing on a small slate of games. Let’s take a look at some of the top plays.
Kyrie Irving – Cavaliers vs. Pistons – $8,000 – Kyrie finally looks right, and just in time for the playoffs. He has averaged 45 fantasy points through the first two games of the series. His minutes are up to about 36 per game, and he is scoring over 25 real life points per contest, as well. He is the priciest PG on the board today, but his scoring alone makes him a viable option. He hung up over 50 fantasy points in game 1, so he has safety and upside.
Isaiah Thomas – Celtics v. Hawks – $7,900 – It looks doubtful again for Avery Bradley, and when Bradley was out earlier in the year we saw IT2 shine. He is more volatile than Kyrie, as his scores can reach into the high 40s (Game 1) or barely into the 20s (Game 2). The Celtics will need some scoring out of him if they are going to turn this series around. With the series moving back to Boston, I expect him to play better in front of their home crowd.
Jeff Teague – Hawks v. Celtics – $6,800 – I know it’s not exactly cheap, but the $1,000+ discount off of Kyrie and IT2 makes him a better value. His numbers have been every bit as good. He had a 48 fantasy point performance in Game 1 and followed that up with almost 30 DKFP in Game 2. I expect Teague to play over 30 minutes in what I expect to be a closer game, and without Avery Bradley’s defense, I would not be shocked to see another 35-45 point performance out of him here.
Reggie Jackson – Pistons v. Cavaliers – $6,700 – Again, the price is not cheap, but it is relative to his peers. R-Jax is my favorite cash play on the slate. His price is lowest of the top 4, and he has the softest matchup against Kyrie Irving’s defense. R-Jax is putting up about 34 fantasy points a game in the playoffs so far, which leaves him in the 5-6X range and playing big minutes game in and game out. The upside isn’t as high for him as it is for the others, but he is consistent and so are the large number of minutes he is playing.
Evan Turner – Celtics v. Hawks – $6,000 – Evan Turner is the highest priced shooting guard on the day, and he should have a big role. Avery Bradley is out, so that means a lot of minutes open up for IT2, Smart, and Turner to split. Turner had 24 and 31 DKFP in the first two contests, so I’m not sure how much upside there is here, but shooting guard has been a way to attack the Hawks and his minutes are as safe as they have been all season. I can see a useful 30 DKFP contest coming out of Turner for cash games but do think he lacks upside for a tournament.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Pistons v. Cavaliers – $5,200 – KCP plays a boatload of minutes at a very reasonable price. That is why he is always in play for me. I prefer him in tournaments because of the feast or famine nature of his fantasy scoring. Like most shooting guards, his fantasy scoring is very points dependent. If his shot is dropping, he can easily put up 25-35 DKFP. If it is not, he rarely does enough in the other categories to provide a good floor.
J.R. Smith – Cavs v. Pistons – $4,700 – A lot of what was just said about KCP is also true here for J.R. His minutes are up, which is a good sign, and his price is a tad cheaper. Game 1 and game 2 sum up J.R. Smith better than any words I can use. He played 35 minutes both games. In game 1 he scored 9 points and had 22 DKFP. In game 2 he scored 21 points on his way to 33 DKFP.
Vince Carter – Grizzlies v. Spurs – $3,200 – The Grizz have been blown out in back-to-back games against the Spurs, so you will not see a ton of them listed here. Carter, though, is intriguing. He is dirt cheap and seeing more minutes now. Carter has always been able to score and has never been shy to shoot it. He gets about 20 minutes of run per game, but manages to get 7-10 shots off in that time. Memphis has been getting blown out, too, so he sees the floor regardless of score. I don’t love the upside, but you will be happy with 20 or so DKFP for $3,200 if you need the salary savings.
LeBron James – Cavaliers v. Pistons – $10,700 – LeBron is likely to be the highest scorer at the position. On a value scale, he may only get us about 5X, but those 50-55 points are very useful. If the game stays close, he will play big minutes. He contributes across the board, so he will have no trouble filling up the stat sheet. He is averaging over 40 minutes, about 25 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3.5 defensive stats. He has a safe floor in the mid 40s and upside into the high 60s.
Kawhi Leonard – Spurs v. Grizzlies – $9,000 – The problem with using Kawhi in cash has nothing to do with his talent or the matchup. Both of those are off the charts good. The problem is whether or not the game stays close. They blew out Memphis in each of the first two games, and Pop uses that as a chance to rest his players. That is not ideal for the upside value of Kawhi’s fantasy scores. Kawhi is strictly a GPP play, and if the game stays close, he has the upside to post a monster score.
Marcus Morris – Pistons v. Cavs – $5,500 – The Pistons share the ball well, so the fantasy scores and stat lines look even for all of them. When you have the cheaper guys like KCP and Morris, though, that is a great return on investment. Morris is averaging 28 DKFP in the series which puts him at a little over 5X. He sees huge minutes, so I think the floor is very safe with him. His upside is probably just shy of 40 DKFP, but that is great at a price of only $5,500. He is not likely to be the top overall point scoring small forward on the day, but he has a good shot at being one of the best on a point per dollar scale.
Lance Stephenson – Grizzlies v Spurs – $3,900 – This is strictly a price play with upside. Lance has not looked good in this series or to end the season. Still, he has produced DKFP into the 30s and 40s this year, and that kind of upside would be huge for under $4K. I have no delusions about the Grizz winning this series or even this game, but if you want to take a flyer on any of them, price should be the driving force. At $3,900, this could be a great spot for Lance to explode.
Kevin Love – Cavaliers v Pistons – $7,700 – Love is my favorite power forward, and my hot take of the day is that he is the only one worth paying up for. The two other stud PFs, Aldridge and Millsap, haven’t been worth spending up on. Aldridge will likely be involved in another blowout, and Millsap is deferring to Al Horford because of the weak matchup inside. Love, on the other hand, is cheaper than both and outproducing them as well. He is playing big minutes and has 50 and 34 DKFP in his first two games. He’s using his size advantage to dominate down low against the Pistons. Love is averaging 42 fantasy points per game so far which is a nice 5.5X return on his salary.
Zach Randolph – Grizzlies v. Spurs – $6,200 – Z Bo is the best player left on the Grizzlies and has the double-double potential to pay off his price tag. I still expect his team to get blown out, but if they can keep it close, he should produce. It is not easy to get value if you are sitting the fourth quarter of a blowout, but if the game stays close we will see 32-36 minutes out of him, a double-double and likely 30 DKFP.
Jonas Jerebko – Celtics v. Hawks – $2,300 – I’m not in love with Jerebko, but all reports indicate he should see more minutes. He is dirt cheap at $2,300, so every stat is huge for his points per dollar value. He can easily bump his score up to the low 20s with an extra 5-6 minutes of floor time, and that would be a 8-10X return at his price.
Al Horford – Hawks v. Celtics – $7,800 – I love Horford today at the center spot. The Celtics were putrid all season long at stopping opposing centers, and Horford has gone off for 47 and 39 DKFP in the first two games. He’s seeing more floor time against the weak Celtic interior, so it is not a fluke his production is up from the regular season. I think Horford is safe for 35-45 DKFP again tonight, which puts him squarely in the 5-6X category. For this reason, he’s my top center of the night.
Andre Drummond – Pistons v. Cavaliers – $7,500 – Drummond is the only other big time center option today, but I don’t like him nearly as much as I like Horford. For starters, the Cavaliers are much tougher against big men than the Celtics. The Pistons share the ball and rebound pretty equally which makes them more efficient as a whole, but hurts them all for fantasy upside. If Drummond matches the 30 DKFP he has averaged through the first two games, it would likely make him the second highest scoring center, but at $7,500 that is only 4X his value.
Tim Duncan – Spurs v. Grizzlies – $5,100 – Tim Duncan does not see huge minutes anymore, but he can still produce. The salary is up, but he is playing enough to score 22-25 DKFP a game in the playoffs. You can get more potential upside for cheaper with a guy like Jared Sullinger ($4,400) or Chris Anderson ($3,000) in a tournament, but if you want a safe 20-25 DKFP for around a $5K salary, then Duncan is your man. With this series shifting to Memphis, the game may stay closer. If this happens, Ducan could see upside of 30 DKFP (6X value). We’ve seen him produce big numbers in limited minutes before, and there is no one on the Grizzlies interior that is going to stop him from doing so again tonight.