NBA DEEP DIVE- April 15, 2017- Playoff Edition
The regular season that seemed like it would never end is finally over and we have playoff basketball! We can finally stop worrying about how many minutes the tenth man on the roster will play and get back to having a reasonable chance at predicting rotations, as they will obviously be tighter throughout the playoffs than they are during the regular season. Along with reading this article, be sure to join Fast Eddie Fear and myself for a live NBA playoff show at 2:00 Eastern on Fanvice.com.
LeBron James averaged about 41.5 minutes per game in the Cavaliers’ first round sweep of the Pistons last year and we can expect more of the same this season. The Cavaliers really struggled down the stretch, even losing the number one seed in the process, and James is going to be looking to get off to a hot start against the Pacers. He averaged 1.36 DraftKings points per minute in his games against Paul George this season, which gives us a projection of about 56 DraftKings points if we assume that he plays the same amount of minutes that he did in the playoffs last year. He is an expensive play on a slate where it is difficult to find good value, but he has a very high floor and a nice ceiling for his price nonetheless.
Kawhi Leonard faces the Grizzlies in what will be a very slow-paced game. His price is appealing, however, as he sits at $8,500 on DraftKings compared to $10,800 for LeBron James and $9,800 for Paul George. The Grizzlies did a nice job of keeping Leonard in check this season, with the exception of the one game against the Spurs that Tony Allen missed. Leonard scored 62.5 DraftKings points in that game after not topping 50.5 DraftKings points in any other game against Memphis. Tony Allen will not be playing today, and it is unlikely that Wayne Selden, Vince Carter and James Ennis can do much to slow down Leonard.
Secondary: Giannis Antetokounmpo (elite on FanDuel because shooting guard sucks), Paul George
Chris Paul is my top projected point guard on a slate where there are several strong options to choose from. Paul averaged 1.2 DraftKings points per minute against the Jazz this season, and we saw Utah struggle to stop top point guards all season long despite being a very good defense overall. Paul played around 37-38 minutes a night in the first round against the Blazers last year as long as the games stayed close, and we do not have to worry as much about blowouts in this matchup with the Jazz. He is a very strong play in this spot, especially on DraftKings where he sits at just $8,100.
Jeff Teague is in a good spot against Kyrie Irving and the Cavs. He averaged 1.18 DraftKings points per minute against Irving this season and, in theory, will see closer to the 36 minutes per game that he played at times this season as opposed to the 30-32 minutes that he hovered around for much of the season. He is the riskiest option out of the four point guards that I am writing up, but he has a nice ceiling at probably the lowest ownership if he does see 36 minutes. He is one of my preferred GPP options on the day.
Kyrie Irving will likely be popular in a good matchup against Jeff Teague and the Pacers. Irving averaged 1.17 DraftKings points per minute against the Pacers this season and is well-rested heading into the postseason. There is no reason not to expect at least 37 minutes per game out of Irving, which makes him a very strong option on DraftKings at $7,800. He is a secondary option on FanDuel where he is the highest priced point guard. A good way to approach Irving is probably to roster him in cash games on DraftKings and GPPs on FanDuel.
Kyle Lowry is finally healthy and faces a Milwaukee team that is not a great matchup for point guards as they do a good job of cutting off the pick-and-roll and forcing the ball out of the point guard’s hands. That said, Lowry still averaged 1.09 DraftKings points per minute against the Bucks this season. While that is not a lot compared to Paul, Teague or Irving, Lowry averaged over 40 minutes per game in the first round of the playoffs last year for Toronto. His minutes give him a very nice floor at a price below $9,000 across the industry.
Thaddeus Young is a strong play toward the bottom of the “mid-range” price range at just $5,600 on DraftKings (and even better, $5,200 on FanDuel). Young went through a stretch this season where he was absolutely awful, but he turned things around at the end of the season, averaging 30.2 DraftKings points per game in 33.5 minutes per game over his last four games as the Pacers fought to make the playoffs. Young has had success against Cleveland this season, which makes sense because Cleveland allowed the fifth most points per game in transition this season which is where Young gets a lot of his offense since he is not a primary option in the half-court. He may go somewhat under the radar tonight, but he matches up well with this Cleveland team so he is someone to pay attention to tonight and for the rest of the series moving forward.
Secondary: George Hill, DeMar DeRozan, Marc Gasol, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gobert, DeAndre Jordan
J.R. Smith is a weird name to be writing as an elite play but shooting guard is incredibly weak on this slate. Smith averaged 35.6 minutes per game in the first round for Cleveland last season and he is likely to get plenty of run this postseason as well, especially because of Cleveland’s struggles defensively. He is not a consistent scorer, but he does have upside if he gets hot from three. Smith averaged just 0.62 DraftKings points per minute this season, but even that will produce an acceptable score if he sees over 35 minutes of play.
Tristan Thompson may be the most mispriced player on the slate in terms of upside (possibly Greg Monroe on DraftKings but he is much more volatile). While Thompson averaged just 0.73 DraftKings points per minute against the Pacers this season, he also averaged 35.6 minutes per game. Excluding one game where he played just 13 minutes, Thompson averaged 33.3 minutes per game against the Pistons in the first round last year. It is likely we see closer to 36 in this series as Timofey Mozgov is no longer on the team and the backup center, Edy Tavares, was signed out of necessity right before the season ended as a result of Andrew Bogut breaking his leg and Larry Sanders being unable to commit to making it to the team bus on time for games. At just $4,500 on DraftKings and $4,700 on FanDuel, Thompson is a relatively safe option who has the potential to greatly outperform his salary if he has a good day on the offensive glass.
Jonas Valanciunas has a great matchup against a Milwaukee team that was one of the worst rebounding teams in the league after the All-Star break. Valanciunas’s minutes trended up toward the end of the season as we saw him approach 27-30 minutes more often than he was limited to 24 minutes. Although we do not know how the minutes will be distributed in the Milwaukee frontcourt, neither John Henson or Greg Monroe are the type of player that will drag Valanciunas to the perimeter and cause him to be removed from the game. Valanciunas is Toronto’s best option at center, and matches up well with the Milwaukee frontcourt, so it would not be surprising to see him play more minutes per game in this series than we were accustomed to seeing during the regular season. Along with Thompson, Valanciunas is one of the top point-per-dollar upside plays on the slate.
Serge Ibaka is the most frequent spot-up shooter on the Raptors, and that is usually someone who thrives against the Bucks because of their defensive scheme. Ibaka was solid against the Bucks in all four games against them this season, three with Orlando and one with Toronto. He sits at $5,300 on both sites and has plenty of upside in this matchup- although he is a bit risky as we saw him disappear in plenty of games after joining the Raptors.
Secondary: Wayne Selden, Vince Carter, Mirza Teletovic, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Zach Randolph, Greg Monroe, Pau Gasol, John Henson