Welcome to another edition of our NBA Preview here at PlayON. Below is a breakdown of my top picks at each position for tonight’s game.
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The NBA playoffs are here, and the first round begins with a four game slate tonight. Here is where you might find players with good fantasy value among those four matchups.
#1 Toronto Raptors versus #8 Washington Wizards
Health-wise, the only absence of note for either team is Raptors reserve point guard Fred VanVleet, who suffered a shoulder injury in the regular season closer and is listed as day-to-day. If he does not play, fellow reserve Delon Wright will bump down a position and become the reserve point guard – however, as with all slates, the likely tightening of rotations for the playoffs will potentially have an impact on the fantasy value of any reserve on the slate, so be cautious.
That said, Toronto’s depth is so strong that they may, or perhaps should, opt to employ as much of it as they have to date anyway. Regularly using a 11 man rotation, bench reserves such as Jakob Poeltl (centre, $9.2 million) and Pascal Siakam (power forward, $9.6 million) have carried fantasy value unto this point anyway.
For the Wizards, after having missed 27 games due to injury, John Wall’s fantasy price tumbled from above $20 million down to $17.9 million. This seemingly minor decline does make the margins for determining his fantasy value much looser – any fantasy point performance above the 40 point threshold will be of value to us here. And considering that any chance of Washington’s success in this relies upon their main guy, lead guard and talisman playing at something close to his best, we should be expecting him to clearly pass that mark.
#2 Golden State Warriors versus #7 San Antonio Spurs
Stephen Curry is still out for the Golden State Warriors, and is likely to miss the whole of the first round. In his stead, the Warriors have been playing Quinn Cook ($10.4 million), who has gone from little-used player to key rotational piece, and from G-League player to NBA player. Cook has been a good fantasy player for a month, and even though small incremental increases to his price continue to gnaw away at the quality of that value, it still would need to go up a few million more than this to be fully diminished.
His rival at the starting point guard tonight will be Murray, who also has gone from little-used reserve to starter – in his case, purely on merit. Winning the starting spot from incumbent legend Tony Parker, Murray too has had fantasy value for much of the season, and picked it up again towards the end of the season after a mid-season lull. Averaging – Parker will be relied upon for his veteran know-how off the bench, and his price is suitably low that we will be picking him in his space soon enough if he has any kind of significant role, yet the role and opportunity will be Murray’s in the first instance.
At forward, Durant has been relied upon for more superstardom in Curry’s absence, and has responded with a 51.1 fantasy point average down the stretch of the season (we will discount the last game in which he played unrepresentatively few minutes). The Spurs’ main opponent for him, Rudy Gay ($11.6 million) and Kyle Anderson ($12.1 million) have also finished the regular season with strong fantasy value, Anderson with a highly consistent 24.8 fantasy point average over his last six games, and Gay with a more variance-heavy 28.2 over six. As good defenders, both will be key parts of the schemes to slow Durant, and so both are worth our consideration here.
#3 Portland Trail Blazers versus #6 New Orleans Pelicans
The Blazers had the fewest games lost due to injury of any team this season, and so it is no surprise that they enter these playoffs relatively healthy. First big off the bench Ed Davis will be game time decisions for a while, giving some very low-end value to Zach Collins (C, $5.5 million), but the rookie might struggle for minutes anyway if rotation tightening is deemed better than overexposing him to te mighty Anthony Davis.
With forward Mo Harkless also recovering from knee surgery, Evan Turner (SF, $7.7 million) has been strong on the wing of late, averaging 21.0 fantasy points over his last four games.
For the Pelicans, Nikola Mirotic (PF, $16.1 million) ended the regular season playing as well as anyone in the league. He shaved his beard off and went on a season-saving tear, averaging 50.3 fantasy points over his final four games, in particular rebounding the ball at a furious page. There is no reason to assume his hot streak will die off. Also finishing up well was Rajon Rondo (PG, $14.2 million), who averaged 41.5 fantasy points over his last three games. Despite being as streaky as ever, Rondo is a noted playoff performer, including as recently as last season, so he is a good candidate to make a step up here.
#3 Philadelphia 76ers versus #6 Miami Heat
Joel Embiid will miss game one, and in his recent absence, Amir Johnson ($7.1 million) has been starting. In the last seven games including this expanded role, Johnson has averaged 25.3 fantasy points per game, and is the best value pick on the slate tonight. Particularly at the centre position, which otherwise lacks for obvious steal picks.
For Miami, Wayne Ellington ($7.8 million) has had a variable role all season, but proved himself to be too important to bench with a mid-season shooting flurry, and will be a part of the team’s rotation in the playoffs for a while. He ended the regular season with a 22.6 fantasy point average over his last four games, and will be called upon to shoot in this series, so keep your eyes on him.
MY TEAM TONIGHT:
PG – John Wall ($17.9 million)
SG – E’Twaun Moore ($11.2 million)
SF – Kevin Duraant ($22.7 million)
PF – Nikola Mirotic ($16.1 million)
C – Amir Johnson ($7.1 million)
Bench – Quinn Cook (PG, $10.4 million)
Bench – Rajon Rondo (PG, $14.2 million)
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your line-ups in!