Daily Fantasy NBA Basketball Picks for FanDuel and DraftKings - 4/16/17
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Atlanta Hawks at the Washington Wizards
Favorite: Wizards (-5)
Pace: Atlanta 10, Washington 11
Unsurprisingly, the 4/5 match-up in the East has the smallest spread of the day, with Vegas favoring the Wiz by just 5 points over the Hawks. Both of these teams play an above average pace, but the tight defense of Atlanta and some of the more electric teams going today has this as just the 3rd highest total on the day. That doesn't mean there isn't value to be had, but it might be had in more of the "off the beaten path" variety rather than finding a lot of chalk to hang your hat on.
Let's start with the favorites. The Wizards' minutes were all over the place at the end of the season, particularly with the non-Beal, non-Wall starters. So what are we expecting for the playoffs? Well, it's sort of tough to say. I will say that teams in the playoffs tend not to split positions nearly equally among multiple players, much less 3 total positions. I have to believe that the Wiz were just trying to get guys like Oubre and Mahinmi a little more run at the end of the season in case they needed to be called on for the postseason, and that they'll stabilize into the higher minute rotations they showed earlier in the season. With Mahinmi out for at least the beginning of the postseason, it's hard to imagine Gortat in particular playing fewer than 34 minutes a game. This leaves the 'lesser Wizards' squarely in value-town if you believe in the minutes projection. If they play fewer than 30 minutes each like they have recently we'll be pretty disappointed, but it's probably a risk I'm willing to take on this slate.
As for the Hawks, there should be a little bit more sanity. We don't have a great recent example of them playing at full strength, but one has to assume that we'll get a full dose of Millsap, Schroder, and Howard here. Millsap is looking like a very solid play considering the discount you're getting on his peak prices and a great match-up with the Wizards' frontcourt. The Wiz gave up the 6th most fantasy points per game to opposing power forwards this season, and are worse against opposing 4s than every team in the postseason except the Trailblazers.
The big question marks on the Hawks' side of the ball are at the 2 and the 3. I'm in the camp that we'll see 35 minutes from Tim Hardaway Jr., but believe his price was fairly stabilized leading into the post-season, leaving him as less than a terrific value here. But where do the small forward minutes wind up? With Bazemore, Thabo, and Prince all available, I think we'll get a few too many cooks in that kitchen to make the value work. That situation is a stay away for me until we see them in action for a game.
Portland Trailblazers at the Golden State Warriors
Favorite: Wizards (-5)
Pace: Portland 13, Golden State 4
So now we move into a series with a considerably higher total, but a considerably higher spread as well. At -14.5 point favorites, the Warriors are the biggest post-season favorite by far, making their minutes seem fairly at risk here. Portland did give them a series last year with Steph banged up, but the Dubs have since added one Kevin Durant, and the Trail Blazers will head into this series without prized trade acquisition Jusuf Nurkic.
What to make of the minutes, here? My general philosophy for game 1s of a playoff series is that teams tend not to play the 'rest the starters' game nearly as aggressively. I think the Warriors will get essentially their full run even if they're up 15 points going into the fourth quarter, making them a lot less risky than in a normal circumstance where they're this heavily favored. If they're up by 15 with 3 minutes left that might change, but overall I'm going into this one with an open mind about playing the big names here. For me, I'm looking heavily at Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson here. All are dramatically undercosted relative to what they can do in 36+ minutes, and each (and particularly Green) has a plus match-up here. The presence of Durant is scary to some degree, but he's actually the one guy I'd imagine the Warriors taking a more cautious approach with. Steph's nagging injuries last postseason still have to be somewhat fresh in their minds, and risking their star addition on big minutes in a series where they'll be favored by double digits every game is something they'd like to avoid.
On the Blazers' side of the ball, I think much of the same. Yes, they might be down a lot going into the fourth quarter - but there isn't any basketball to be played after this one, so resting their starters even if things are looking pretty grim won't make a whole lot of sense. Lillard and McCollum in particular seem fairly safe here, as their respective skillsets lend themselves to being necessary pieces in any potential comeback situation. After them, though, the picture gets a lot fuzzier. The big man situation was thrown entirely into turmoil at the end of the season, with Noah Vonleh surprisingly getting more minutes than previous favorite Al-Farouq Aminu. Vonleh performed admirably, but is the plan really to play him for 35+ minutes a game in the postseason? And what's his role if the game gets out of hand? Still, he's cheap enough (and enables enough big money payoffs) that you might see a lot of him in cash game lineups.
The small forward situation for Portland looks like a stay away for me until we see them tip their hands. Evan Turner has worked himself back into the mix and provides a much better offensive punch than Mo Harkless, but they'll have their hands full with all of the Warriors' wings, meaning they might lean on Harkless instead. Either way I'll wait and see how it plays out first.
Chicago Bulls at the Boston Celtics
Favorite: Celtics (-7.5)
Pace: Boston 12, Chicago 20
Two of the slower teams going today, and the game with the lowest overall total. Early returns have this being one of the games we'll have the lowest exposure to for a couple of different reasons, but let's take a look at this team by team.
Let's get the hard one out of the way first - The Bulls. The one constant in their whirlwind limp into the playoffs was Jimmy Butler. It's hard to believe that the plan going into this one is anything other than to give him the ball as often as possible, but is it enough to get Butler to be in real consideration among the big money options here? I'm not totally sure. The return to favor of Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade's reappearance have to ding his value just a little bit, and while the Celtics have been somewhat poor against the small forward position throughout the season, their never-ending stream of bodies on the wing could make things tougher on Butler than they appear at first blush.
I'm actually a little bit more interested in some of the fringier Bulls pieces here. Early news is that D-Wade could play 30+ minutes a game in spite of not doing so in quite some time, and that could throw a real wild-card into this series from a DFS perspective. At $6,000 on FanDuel, I'm tempted to be pretty excited about him here. But that match-up, though. One has to think he'll be getting the Avery Bradley treatment when he's on the court, and I'm not sure that he has enough to sustain 30+ fantasy point per game performances throughout a series against such a physical defender. Game 1 will tell us a lot, but I'm not sure if I want to invest my cash game line-ups in finding out. And then there's Rajon Rondo. His wrist was acting up at the end of the regular season, but prior to that he was handily paying his playoff prices on high 30s minutes per game. The injury is one concern, though, and then there's the return of Dwyane Wade. Will we really see Rondo with the ball in his hands that much if both Butler and Wade are playing the top end of their minutes? I'm frankly not sure. I'm not really into speculating on the Bulls' power forward situation here, and am likewise going to do what I can to not play Robin Lopez.
The Celtics certainly have a lot more certainty than the Bulls do, but I'm not sure that the relative minutes security translates into a lot of DFS value. The Bulls are one of the slower teams in the playoffs, and a lot of their bigger names (Thomas, Horford, Bradley) are priced pretty aggressively for what they do in an average game. I am fairly interested in Jae Crowder, though. Jimmy Butler will be shouldering such a considerable portion of the offensive burden that I think he'll be more prone than usual to lapses on the defensive end, and Crowder had been providing solid across the board contributions leading into playoff time. I'm not sure if it's exactly where I want to be fo rcash game purposes, but he's at least a guy I'm considering.
I'm also prepared for just about anything in this series - Vegas has this game pegged to be a lot closer than my gut tells me, particularly since it's in Boston. I think game 1 will give us a great sense of where we'll go from here, and you shouldn't be surprised if our projections change dramatically from game 1 to game 2.
EDIT: News just came out that Isaiah Thomas' sister passed away last night. Who knows how this will effect the game, but if Thomas misses, this obviously creates a huge opportunity for Marcus Smart, and to a lesser extent, Avery Bradley.
Oklahoma City Thunder at the Houston Rockets
Favorite: Houston (-7)
Pace: OKC 8, Houston 3
The fastest combined pace of the day, and the highest total running away. So this game should be a treasure trove of DFS value, right? Well, it's one of those "yes and no" situations.
Let's start with the more obvious side of the ball - OKC. Word as of now is that the chains (were there chains?) will come off Russell Westbrook here, and we could see high 30s and even low 40s minutes from him. What stat line is he capable of on increased minutes? Is it safe to play a man who's playing this hard that many minutes? Only time will tell. What we do know is that he averaged 36/9/9 vs. the Rockets during the regular season, an absurd average that we can only expect to grow with higher stakes on the line here. You can expect to see him as a cash game staple regardless of the site you play to be sure, but you should be aware that finding value on these small slates where no one is resting their starters is a lot harder than it typically is, making the concessions you make to get Russ in your line-ups a lot more significant than usual.
What about the rest of the Thunder? That's where things get a little trickier. The first place we're like to look is Victor Oladipo, who played 37 minutes a game against Houston during the regular season, and averaged a respectable 18/6/3 line. He's going to play as many minutes as his legs will allow him as the Thunder do all they can to keep Harden in check while not sacrificing too much of their offense. But as we've seen from the Thunder, Oladipo can also be a one man disappearing act in certain game scripts, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him come in under value here. As for the rest of the Thunder starters, it's sort of anybody's guess. I suspect Andre Roberson will play a lot of minutes while likely being irrelevant for DFS purposes, and they have such a log jam across their bigs that it's tough to know what their plan is until we actually get a game under our belts. For this first game of the playoffs, I'm going to be in wait and see mode.
On the Rockets side of the ball, we can get the obvious out of the way first - James Harden will be asked to match Westbrook's production here. During the regular season, Harden was kept relatively in check when it came to scoring, averaging just 20.5 points per game (his 3rd lowest average across all match-ups), and leaned more on his assists to put up fantasy totals (averaging 12.3). All in all, though, he had a tough time producing nearly what Westbrook did thanks to the defensively capable duo of Roberson and Oladipo. He's still a reasonable cash game play thanks to the pace of the game, but not one I'd be overly excited about.
After Harden, it's a bit of a dice roll. Trevor Ariza wasn't particularly impressive against the Thunder during the regular season, and Patrick Beverley did almost nothing at all. After that we get a pretty dicey power forward situation, and Clint Capela. Capela actually offers a little bit of upside here that might not be obvious on the surface. He's priced like a guy who was playing 25-26 minutes at the end of the season, and while he was, Houston wasn't exactly playing for much. As the importance of the games increases and teams tend to lean on their starters, might the Rockets decide that Capela's strong interior defense is what they'd like for the feisty Steven Adams? If he does, we're probably getting a 20% discount on him, making him a very attractive center option on a day that's fairly lacking in them.
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- Russell Westbrook: (AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)