There is a very good chance that this will be the final game of the NBA season. Tonight, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will tackle in game five of the NBA Finals, and although Cleveland won game four to pull the series back to 3-1, this potential decisive game five will be taking place in Oakland, at the Warriors’ home court. With a 36-5 home record in the regular season and an 8-0 home record thus far in the playoffs, this is quite the task for Cleveland.
Can Cavaliers Keep Shooting Like This?
The Cavaliers were able to win game four through a historic shooting performance, including 40 points by Kyrie Irving, a follow-up to his 38 performance in game three. In both games, Kyrie has taken on the offensive responsibility of going at the Warriors regularly in one-on-one situations, and making shots with ridiculous degrees of difficulty, mostly at the basket in game three (16-22 two-point shooting) and mostly from the perimeter in game four (7-12 three-point shooting).
Crucially, at a time that his team has needs to play perfect basketball at their highest level to win, Irving has outplayed his point guard counterpart Steph Curry. Curry recorded 26 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists in game three, but shot 8-19 to do so, then dropped to 14 points and 10 assists on 4-13 shooting last time out. These are really good numbers for anyone else, but for a two time MVP in the NBA Finals, those performances (or game four’s, at least) were a little short. Irving represents a cheaper pick than Curry despite scoring just as many points if not more, and given the dominant share of the ball he will have once again tonight, he represents a sure-fire if pricy pick.
The NBA’s Best Battle It Out
LeBron James and Kevin Durant also represent sure-fire brilliance. In the Finals thus far, LeBron averages 31.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 10.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks on 54% shooting, with two triple doubles, while Durant averages 34.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.8 blocks on 52.2% shooting. Most probably the two best players in the world, on definitely the world’s largest stage, we strongly recommend fitting both into your team and saving the money elsewhere.
Up front, after being a non-factor in the first three games, Tristan Thompson finally showed some life on the glass in game four, recording 5 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. His fantasy cost however still far outweighs his production at this point, and although the Warriors’ centre duo of JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia are inconsistent in both their results and their minutes (given Kerr’s preference to using either Durant or Draymond Green at centre in small ball line-ups), they nevertheless play every game and usually do something. With the need to save the cost elsewhere invest in the Durant and James pairing – which, really, we cannot recommend enough doing – either of those picks represents the percentage play at the centre spot, rather than the expensive yet underwhelming Thompson (or Channing Frye, who is now out of the rotation altogether).
Which JR Smith Shows Up?
At shooting guard, after a very poor season and an even poorer first two Finals games in which he made only one shot combined, J.R. Smith arose from the dead in the past two outings to make five three-pointers in each. Smith is doing extremely little outside of shooting the three – he has not made a two-pointer all finals; he has made only one free throw; he does not rebound; he barely handles the ball; he makes plenty of mercifully-not-in-the-stats defensive mistakes – yet when Cleveland has needed something, anything, from the shooting guard spot, he has remained the primary option there. Smith needs to stay aggressive, because when he is gun-shy and when Thompson is limited offensively, the Cavaliers cannot compete when they are essentially playing three-on-five on offense. So while we certainly cannot ensure from a fantasy perspective that Smith will continue to put up shots and bring home some points, we can be fairly sure his team will be asking him to.
The only Cavaliers bench player with any fantasy impact are Kyle Korver, who plays quite a lot of minutes for the occasional three-pointer, and Richard Jefferson, who plays roughly the same amount of minutes for some points and rebounds. Both play the small forward position, though, which will be filled out by the James/Durant picks above.
In the need to find value picks from elsewhere, then, look away from the Cavaliers’ bench and turn back to Golden State, where Shaun Livingston has had two double-digit scoring games with his unique combination of cuts and post-ups. Also in the Warriors’ backcourt bench, Ian Clark has 19 points on the series while being one of the cheapest fantasy players around, while up front, David West records a few points, rebounds and assists with the occasional block from the power forward spot. The power forward spot is proving the hardest to fill from a fantasy perspective this series – Kevin Love is playing well, averaging 18/11 with plenty of three-pointers and some defensive metrics thrown in, but he is very expensive, while Draymond Green is providing his usual mixed bag of stats yet also being pricy in the process. West, then, may represent one of the few value picks out there.
It is tough to balance the price of the superstars with the need for great lower-pick value when dealing with only a one game slate. Nevertheless, it is possible. My team: James, Curry, Durant, Pachulia, McGee, Clark and West, for a total cost of $99.8 million. If this is how the season ends, let’s hope it’s a good one.
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