Basketball Lineups Daily Fantasy Expert Advice

Doug Norrie

Daily Fantasy NBA Playoff Picks for FanDuel and DraftKings - Round 1 4/23/18

Monday in the NBA brings us a short slate of games with two series heading into Game 4. These slates are awfully tough when it comes to roster construction because teams have completely consolidated their respective rosters and few "punt" plays are seeing the light of day on the court. But we've still got some great basketball action coming your way and some teams providing more value than others.

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Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves

Houston leads series 2-1

Minnesota took a game back from Houston on Friday with a, somewhat stunning, sixteen point victory. Houston had pretty much controlled the series leading up to that point, but the Timberwolves were able to keep the pressure on and shot an insane 56% from three. The long-range shooting isn’t likely to continue and of course, Houston is still a heavy favorite to win the series. But this was likely something of a wakeup call for the Rockets who’ve been cruising for the better part of two months now.

After an insane Game 1, James Harden (FD $12200 DK $10600) hasn’t really put it together in the last two games. He struggled from the field in Game 2 (2-18) and was decent in Game 2 (29 points 7 rebounds and assists). Now he’s a fantastic value on DraftKings and is likely the highest floor cash game play on this two-game slate. Some of the minutes’ considerations for the Minnesota guys make things interesting in terms of lineup construction, but I’m projecting this as a Harden statement game. The Rockets simply don’t want this to go 2-2.

Look, it’s going to be tough making lineups on these short, two-game playoff slates. There simply aren’t many (if any) cheap plays you can safely roster and from our projections, the most reliable guys are also falling into the highest pts/$ projections. This is somewhat uncharted territory. Even after an underwhelming performance in Game 3, Clint Capela (FD $7600 DK $6700) is still one of the best bargains you can find on the slate. He lost minutes in the blowout loss on Friday, but don’t count on that again here. He’s averaged 13 points and 13 rebounds a game in the Conference Finals and has been a force on the defensive end. After Harden, he strikes me as the safest Rocket for the price.

Eric Gordon (FD $5400 DK $4600) has shot really poorly in the Conference Finals, but the minutes have been there. I still think he’s as close to a punt play as you’ll find on these smaller slate and if the three ball is falling he can hit value.

If the 40+ minutes are the new normal for Jimmy Butler (FD $8800 DK $8000) going forward then he’s about as good a deal as you’ll find. He found his usage in Game 3 with 19 shots and finishes with 28 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. The 4-6 shooting from beyond the arc isn’t sustainable but the scoring is encouraging.

Meanwhile, Karl-Anthony Towns’s (FD $10200 DK $8600) DraftKings price is close to a joke if he’s going to run 40+ minutes as well. He’s played disappearing acts in each of the first two games but broke out in Game 3 with 18 points and 16 rebounds. The T-Wolves know they need him involved and I’m most encouraged by the effort on the glass. For the money, I’d rather roster Capela at center on FanDuel. But stacking them on DraftKings seems a higher EV play.

And finally, Derrick Rose isn’t someone I want to buy on even at the lower prices. All he can do is score and I just don’t see a lot 8-16 shooting games in 20 minutes much in his future.


Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz

Utah leads series 2-1
Utah won in, somewhat, convincing fashion in Game 3 with a 13 point victory thanks to a third-quarter push that put them up double digits. The craziest fantasy story has been Ricky Rubio (FD $7400 DK $7500) who’s averaged 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in the first three games. The Thunder have conceded his jumper since opening tip and he’s obliged by jacking up 17 shots a game (seven from three). This usage is so far beyond his regular season number that it’s almost hard to make sense of. He’s averaging over 50 FanDuel points per game in this series and blowing most expectations out of the water. I want to call him something of a bargain still and at the same time, I’m waiting for him to revert to regular season Rubio.

Derrick Favors (FD $5600 DK $6000) remains one of the better value plays on these short slates. His minutes are secure and he’s made the most of the opportunity. The 13 point, eight rebound averages (with some assists and defensive stats to boot) are more than hitting his salary values and he’s no longer losing minutes to being a defensive liability (at least not in this series). I’m happy to continue rolling him out there in cash games and he makes for another one of the cost-saving measures we find on these short slates.

I’m not incredibly interested in any of the other Jazz at their price points, though if you fade the big money and middle out lineups then Donovan Mitchell (FD $8200 DK $7800) has his place in lineups. But I’d prioritize the two guys above from this squad.

And finally, honestly, I’m really not all that interested in the Thunder guys on this short slate. We have to call the ball somewhere here and they continue to have the worst matchup of the first round. If anyone, I’m willing to go filler with Carmelo Anthony (FD $5600 DK $5600) who’s been able to stay on the court more than I thought the Jazz would allow. He’s such a defensive liability that they started scheming more for him in Game 3 and I expect that to continue. But for his lower middle tier salary, I’m hoping he just keeps jacking up shots whenever given the chance.


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