Wednesday’s NBA targets breakdown looks at two crucial, potentially historic Game 5’s in the Eastern and Western Conference Finals. Creating a roster for these games is about putting on paper the manifestation of everything you witnessed throughout the regular season and two-and-a-half playoff series, while still knowing your choices are more about who you think can step their game up in a the biggest moments. Can you incorporate everything you’ve gleaned over all those games and turn it into the perfect lineup? Let’s find out!
Russell Westbrook – OKC @ GS – $11,200 – The most expensive play on the board is also the most obvious. Clearly the choice of which elite PG you want comes down in large part to what narrative you think plays out in Game 5: does OKC continue to roll or does the team with the all-time pedigree get off the mat and defend their home court? But for a difference of only $500, you’d better be sure, because Westbrook has been the best player on the court for the last two games, and that could continue to be the case even in a OKC loss.
Stephen Curry – GS vs. OKC – $10,700 – Really, the answer here is “see above.” Golden State could win without a monster game from Steph. That normally might not be the easiest thing to predict, but coming off two games in which he was unable to get any separation and ended up shooting, for example, just 5-for-21 from three, it’s easy to speculate that he might not be 100%. Of course, the upside is there – he belongs in at least one of your lineups – but it is starting to feel less likely that he goes off for a monster game that justifies the second-highest price tag on the board.
Kyrie Irving – CLE vs. TOR – $8,100 – After seeing what Lowry did in Game 4, Irving is going to want to step up his game, in a formula that might not, in the end, be the best course for the Cavs to take. Cleveland was essentially the presumptive nominee for the Finals heading into the playoffs, but a 2-2 series is a real series. And they’ve lost those two games with Kyrie going 14-for-40 from the field. But regardless of whether it’s good for the team or not, he has scored 20+ points in three of the four games in this series, and that’s good for fantasy owners: it gives you a floor in the mid-30’s, plus upside.
“As the cheapest starting option on the board for the position, he has plenty of upside…”
Kyle Lowry – TOR @ CLE – $7,800 – “What Lowry did in Game 4” was take it to the defending Eastern Conference champs and their top-rated defense to the tune of 35 points on 14-for-20 shooting (70%), including 4-for-7 from downtown. The question is whether to expect the Lowry who emerged over the last two games and seems like he could have figured out a thing or two about this Cleveland defense, or whether to expect the guy who showed up in Cleveland in Games 1 and 2 (and averaged 20 DKFP for those two games). As the cheapest starting option on the board for the position, he has plenty of upside, making him a logical choice for at least one of your rosters heading into larger GPP tourneys.
Klay Thompson – GS vs. OKC – $7,800 – Klay had his minutes limited in Game 4 by foul trouble (he ended up with 29). After picking up his third foul just a few minutes into the second quarter, he had to sit longer than Kerr wanted him to, and still he ended up with 17 shot attempts and a team-leading 26 points. And remember, Klay and Steph is not an either-or proposition. In their three losses in this series, they are averaging almost exactly 100 points per game. In the regular season, that number was more like 114; there is room for everyone’s fantasy value on this team to go up – it doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.
DeMar DeRozan – TOR @ CLE – $7,300 – Lowry’s 35 point game in Game 4 got the headlines almost more because he has been so inconsistent in the postseason, so he was getting credit – appropriately – for stepping up when he needed to. On the other hand, DeRozan is the guy who provided the baseline, with 32 in each of the Raptor’s two home games. But despite a few down nights, he has been the rock for this offense in all three series they’ve played so far, making it a bit easier for his performances to go unnoticed. But fantasy owners need to be paying attention here – with a price tag in the low $7,000-range and eight of ten games since the beginning of the Heat series with over 30 DKFP, he is providing consistent value right now, something that is not easy to come by with only four teams left in action.
J.R. Smith – CLE vs. TOR – $5,000 – He has been ineffective in this series, outside of a Game 3 loss in which he scored 33.25 DKFP by putting up a completely ridiculous 15 attempts from behind the arc. If things are going well for Cleveland, they shouldn’t need a big game from Smith, and if things are going poorly, it means their offense isn’t flowing. And while he could score a lot, it would have to be on pure volume. I don’t like relying on that kind of production, so for me he’s only a long-shot upside play in big tournaments.
Andre Roberson – OKC @ GS – $3,700 – Dion Waiters ($4,200) has played well, but it is so rare to find legit upside for the price in a series like this that Roberson couldn’t go unmentioned. He blew up for 17 points and 12 boards in 40 minutes in Game 4, but that was actually his second game of the series with over 30 fantasy points (14 points and 7 boards in Game 1), a feat Waiters hasn’t accomplished even once in the series. The downside is the same for both: output nearing single-digits. So if you’re not going to spend big on the position, you will need to find ways to save at other positions.
LeBron James – CLE vs. TOR – $10,500 – He averaged 26.5 points – 8.5 rebounds – 5.5 assists in the two losses on 20-for-33 shooting, while playing great defense. So what happened? Everyone else got outplayed. As it turns out, Toronto’s defense is legit, and no one could get the easy looks they needed to keep pace with a few hot Toronto shooters. But I don’t need to predict the winner of the game, so instead I’ll just say this: LeBron is most likely going to get you 50+ fantasy points.
“. . . but he is still giving you incredible value for the dollar”
Kevin Durant – OKC @ GS – $10,300 – Did you hear about Westbrook’s triple-double? Of course you did. But as it turns out, Durant pitched in too, with his little contribution of 26 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks. Realistically, what is anyone supposed to be able to do against these two? With three games in this series with 50+ DKFP, including both the games in GS, Durant probably doesn’t have quite the upside of a Wesbrook or a LeBron, but he is still giving you incredible value for the dollar, useful in any kind of tournament.
Andre Iguodala – GS vs. OKC – $4,500 – Every game, this is a referendum on who I would prefer, Iguodala or Barnes. And while Barnes has emerged as the more consistent scoring threat, we know Andre will step up in a big spot – we’ve seen it. You’re talking about the Finals MVP last year. And, in a game that, to me, is going to come down to passion and energy as much as execution, what the Warriors are going to be looking for is exactly what he can provide: grittiness, defense, some scoring and plenty of energy.
DeMarre Carroll – TOR @ CLE – $4,000 – He is cheap. And he’s been battling injuries throughout the playoffs, really since the end of the regular season. But in Game 4, he played 36 minutes, his most of the series by far, and ended up with just north of 20 DKFP. So, apparently that’s his upside. But he is someone who actually does play a large role in what the Raptors are trying to accomplish and just getting someone this involved for this price makes at the very least for a decent cash-game option.
Draymond Green – GS vs. OKC – $9,000 – He has scored a grand total of only 29 points combined in the Thunder’s three wins in this series, which just isn’t going to be enough. With a guy like Westbrook playing like a man possessed on the other side and big men like Durant, Ibaka and Adams attacking the rim, Draymond’s role on this Warriors team of enforcer, rebounder and defender extraordinaire is the key to their success. They NEED him flying all over the court, contributing in every category and helping stave off runs from the stars on the other side, and we haven’t seen that guy in this series. His best game was Game 2, but despite a little scoring, he had only 5 rebounds and not much else, good for just about 40 fantasy points, which really doesn’t count as upside at this price.
“Love should look more like the player we saw in the first two games of the series. . .”
Kevin Love – CLE vs. TOR – $7,900 – He didn’t play a single minute in the fourth quarter of Game 4 after looking like maybe he banged up his knee at the end of the third. Channing Frye ($3,900) came in and scored 12 points on four threes, and Tyronn Lue asserted afterwards that health wasn’t a factor for Love. It’s conceivable Lue was just turning to Frye for his shooting as the Cavs needed some offense in a hurry, and they’re definitely hoping that’s not the case this time around. With the potential return of Valanciunas, Cleveland would much rather rely on Love and Thompson to man the middle in this one, which means Love should look more like the player we saw in the first two games of the series, when he averaged 16-5, good for just under 30 DKFP per game.
Serge Ibaka – OKC @ GS- $5,800 – He is averaging 11 points and 8 rebounds for the series, with a total of 5 blocks and 5 steals to go along with those baseline numbers. He is causing enough havoc near the rim to occupy Draymond’s attention, since he is the only guy on the Warriors with the combination of size and athleticism to deal with him. Ibaka is providing the third wheel OKC needs, the perfect foil to Westbrook and Durant’s offensive abilities, letting the two stars shine while still making his own contribution felt.
Patrick Patterson – TOR @ CLE – $4,300 – He is averaging 18.5 DKFP per game for the series, with no fewer than 15.75 in any one game. He’s played at least 26 minutes in all four games, with his minutes increasing in every game so far for the series. It’s not a lot of upside, but for the price, it counts. You need some cheap options in these tourneys with so few players to choose from, and he could provide some stability for a cash game lineup while you free up cash to spend elsewhere.
Jonas Valanciunas – TOR @ CLE – $6,800 – You know the Raptors love the fact that he’s back – he might be their best asset. But the return could certainly be a complication for fantasy owners: do you really want minutes taken away from a guy like Bismack Biyombo right now? But with so few options at the position, taking him for upside in at least one lineup makes sense, in case he steps right into Biyombo’s rebounding role with a few more opportunities to score mixed in.
Steven Adams – OKC @ GS – $6,300 – He had 11 points and 7 boards in Game 4, playing 25 minutes, encouraging after only seeing 18 minutes of action in Game 3. He’s an important part of what OKC is doing right now, giving them an energetic force in the middle to disrupt plays on defense and clean the glass, and that roll is going to be vital in Game 5 as the Warriors bring all the frenetic energy they can muster to bear in their attempt at extending the series. Whether or not guys like Adams can match that intensity will go a long way towards determining the outcome of this one (I say “guys like Adams” meaning “not Westbrook” – we know he can match anyone’s intensity).
“At the very least you would expect to see him play fewer than the 35+ he has seen so far in the series”
Bismack Biyombo – TOR @ CLE – $6,000 – You’d love to just roll with him after averaging almost 40 DKFP on the back of 40 combined rebounds in Games 3 and 4. But now his minutes are all of a sudden in question, and at the very least you would expect to see him play fewer than the 35+ minutes he has seen so far in the series.