For the next several days – eight, at least – there will be one NBA game every night, with the Eastern and Western Conference Finals alternating days, starting with Game 1 out West on Tuesday and Game 1 in the East on Wednesday. But don’t worry, there will be new DFS contests kicking off every single day. Each of these contests will span two days, so this column will feature the two Game 1’s (Tuesday-Wednesday) and tomorrow’s target column will feature a Game 1 and a Game 2 (Wednesday-Thursday). And so on. In other words, the choices you have available aren’t changing again this season, and the job will be figuring out who is going to go off, and when. With only four teams still in action, these next few targets columns will cover just about every available option, either giving you reason you might want to start almost every player… or not. Good luck!
POINT GUARD TARGETS
Stephen Curry vs. HOU ($10,300) – On paper, Curry and Harden are both playing against top-10 fantasy defenses against their position. On the court, I have a feeling that’s not exactly what you’re going to witness. This series is going to turn these final few NBA DFS tournaments into a quest to pick the spots where you have to start a player from the CLE-ATL series very carefully. Wide open looks like this one just come to Curry a lot in the flow of this offense, and Houston has not proven to me that they will be getting back and getting outfits enough to stop it.
Jeff Teague vs. CLE ($7,300) – Teague had three big offensive games down the stretch in the last series, and averaged 19.5 ppg, up almost 4 points from his regular season numbers, in games 4-7. And it’s not as if Cleveland is known as a point guard stopping unit, whether Kyrie is out there or not. If the Hawks continue to struggle to create offense, you can likely expect Teague’s role only grow while he is out there.
Kyrie Irving @ ATL ($7,200) – QUESTIONABLE – I am compelled to write about him here after he told reporters that he was definitely playing in Game 1. Honestly, against Teague on the perimeter and the collapsing Atlanta defense on his penetration, this might not be his series anyway. But at the very least, I am going to need to see him playing at or near 100% before I can trust him.
Pablo Prigioni @ GS ($2,700) – This will be the last time you read about him from me in this series, because actually, Dennis Schroder (ATL, $4,600) is a much better option, even playing mostly behind Teague. This is my way of saying the Rockets don’t have a PG worth rostering.
SHOOTING GUARD TARGETS
James Harden @ GS ($9,500) – Harden notched 57.25 fantasy points in Game 7, and it was one of those performances which was great on paper because it was great on the hardwood. This was the kind of individual performance that wins playoff games, as Harden posted a 31-7-8, helping his team in all facets. And if he is playing like that with the green light to try to score enough to keep up with Golden State, you could be looking at a monster statistical series for Harden here, regardless of the outcome of the games.
Klay Thompson vs. HOU ($7,400) – Thompson has a nice matchup with Houston on paper, but here’s his problem: when Houston plays most point guards, they D ’em up good, leaving much of the offensive production up to the SG. Not here. So where most teams might see a spike in opportunities for the SG against HOU, Curry will just still be getting all those chances, and Thompson will be in his usual role, consistently around 30+ fantasy points but without that high-flung ceiling, not while Curry is around to gobble up most of the opportunities.
Kyle Korver vs. CLE ($5,400) – Korver is out there a lot, averaging close to 40 minutes a night, but he just didn’t get a lot of looks on offense in the second half of the last series. He usually has enough time out there to grab a couple of rebounds and assists, but as Teague stepped up his game on offense, Korver saw his shots cut in half, and his upside went from 30+ to 25, and his floor dropped from twenty to flirting with single digits. I am going to have to see that role go back to the way it was at least once before I trust him.
J.R. Smith @ ATL ($4,800) – You’d think that Smith might have seen a bit more action in the last series with Kyrie out, but his minutes were consistent with what he’s seen all season. The way the Cavs use him and Shumpert actually does mean SG is one of the positions with more than four options (especially with Corey Brewer also getting minutes un Houston). But as far as the Cavs tandem goes, Smith to me seems like the better fit for this series. With the way the Hawks play defense, the Cavs are going to be looking for shooting and explosiveness, not length and defense like they were against Chicago when Shumpert was in there to try to contain Butler.
SMALL FORWARD TARGETS
LeBron James @ ATL ($11,400) – Yup, LeBron. He’s awesome. But here’s the thing – $1,000 more than Steph? $2,000 more than Harden? The Hawks play some defense, and both of these teams slow it down at times. If this is where his price stays for the whole series in relation to the other superstars still left standing, I might not have King James in my lineup very much to close out the DFS season.
DeMarre Carroll vs. CLE ($6,900) – Let’s face it, Carroll is going to have one primary role in this series: defending LeBron. If chasing LeBron around outside draws him off the glass even a few times, his fantasy value takes a hit. He could easily have an excellent series for what the Hawks want and need from him, and still not be a fantasy choice you can rely on.
Trevor Ariza @ GS ($6,600) – Ariza and Smith make SF another position with more than four options (really six, with Iguodala and Barnes also splitting a position in GS). In the last series, Ariza went for 35+ fantasy points five times, and averaged more than 35 minutes, so just because you see two guys getting minutes and being listed at the same position here, don’t think the opportunities can’t be there.
Josh Smith @ GS ($6,500) – It is just really hard to know on any given day about whether Ariza or Smith will have the bigger day. But I wrote about both of them here instead of the Golden State guys because of the way this next series might play out. With Draymond Green at PF for the Warriors, Ariza and Smith might be the perfect duo to man the front court with Howard, enabling a lot of different options for small-ball, large-ball and medium-ball choices to make for McHale.
POWER FORWARD TARGETS
Paul Millsap vs. CLE ($8,200) – Here’s the thing about Millsap: unlike a lot of power forwards in the league, he is actually too big and strong for LeBron to handle. There will be no willy-nilly switches on defense that end up with James in an iso on the post with Millsap backing him down. And he is obviously too fast for someone like Mosgov. So this is a series where the Cavs will be relying on a young kid to play a big role, because Tristan Thompson is exactly the sort of player who should be able to match up with and hopefully help neutralize Millsap. Thompson’s apparent injury and definite inexperience are going to play a role in this one.
Draymond Green vs. HOU ($7,700) – While Houston has the personnel to perhaps keep up with Green, going with Smith and Ariza with a little bit of Terrance Jones, the reason they could go that route is because of something they don’t have: anyone to create a legit mismatch with Green down low. He should have free reign to do what he does best in this one, which covers a lot of ground. In my opinion he is in line to have a monster few games against this team.
Tristan Thompson @ ATL ($5,800) – He showed up suddenly on the injury report, but they are saying he should be available for game 1. But that added risk combined with Atlanta’s defense is enough to make me shy away for now. The Cavs hope he’s available for defense and rebounding – real basketball problems, not fantasy ones.
Terrance Jones @ GS ($4,400) – At this point it is more accurate to say that Smith is splitting a position with Jones than with Ariza. Really, it is the three of them filling two slots, as determined by matchup, foul trouble, or the hot hand. Jones’ skill set, unfortunately, just isn’t as conducive to big fantasy performances, but he fills a solid role. His best chance at a solid performance over these next few games is if Green just proves too much for Smith or Ariza on the defensive end, and Jones earns his minutes that way (and hopefully some garbage production around the hoop), boosting his fantasy value.
Dwight Howard @ GS ($8,200) – He averaged 18-17 for the last three games of the Clippers series. I mean, he was a beast. And this series should be interesting – the way these two rosters are constructed, they each have the ability to go with the one big man surrounded by a bunch of moving parts, and with Howard playing this well, he should be able to win that matchup. It’s enough to make you wonder if it’s a part of their game that will get a closer look as the coaching staff prepares for tonight.
Al Horford vs. CLE ($7,900) – Horford just doesn’t get the recognition he deserves – never has. Maybe now is his chance. People will be watching because, you know, LeBron. And Horford will be dominating because, well, you know, Mosgov. It’s a rare team that has the front court to just severely outmatch what the Cavs have on defense, including the kind of help LeBron usually provides – these guys are just too big, too good. They can make it interesting, to say the least. Horford does a lot of things well – he didn’t get a 17-10 average with three blocks per game against Washington by accident.
Andrew Bogut vs. HOU ($5,000) – All year long, Bogut’s only issue has been minutes. And it hasn’t been limited due to lack of production. The Warriors have just been in the luxurious position of only playing them when they need to. Well, they need to. The matchup might not be great, but this guy puts up numbers whenever he is out there, and you should expect a decent chance at a double-double, good value for the price.
Timofey Mosgov @ ATL ($4,900) – This one would take nerve. If you’re rooting for the Cavs, you just hope he competes.