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 continues with another four game slate tonight. Here is where you might find players with good fantasy value among those four matchups.
#2 Boston Celtics versus #7 Milwaukee Bucks
Kyrie Irving will miss the remainder of the playoffs, no matter how far Boston go in the time, due to knee surgery. This then has knock-on effects to the offensive responsibility of the rest of the roster, and particularly so at the point guard position (where Marcus Smart is also out for the series).
The main beneficiary has been and will continue to be Terry Rozier (PG, $14.3 million), who has been starting as the point guard spot since Irving’s injury. With some big games in that time, too, Rozier has done a good job of assuming the role of primary halfcourt creator. Irving’s injury of course caps the Celtics’ potential for a deep run quite significantly, but there are still games and minutes to play, from which Rozier will benefit more than most. Other beneficiaries will include his backup, Shane Larkin ($7.0 million), as well as the starting wings Jaylen Brown (SG, $12.2 million) and Jayson Tatum ($13.7 million), who have more of a requirement to attack off the dribble now. And although it is at a very different position, as one of the main half court options, Greg Monroe (C, $12.1 million) should see a scoring uptick as a result as well. (Daniel Theis and Gordon Hayward are also out for the series.)
The Bucks, conversely, enter the playoffs with a clean bill of health. But this has only recently been the case, and thus they have a couple of players whose price is low – and fantasy value thus high. At point guard, Malcolm Brogdon ($5.5 million) has long been a key part of the team who is now priced for the fantasy minimum, and although Eric Bledsoe took his starting spot, he will still have a big role off the bench at both guard spots. Meanwhile, up front, Jabari Parker (PF, $11.7 million) averaged 33.8 fantasy points over the last six regular season games, and has perhaps the best value of anyone at any position tonight.
#4 Cleveland Cavaliers versus #5 Indiana Pacers
Behind the obvious two most expensive players in LeBron James (SF, $27.4 million) and Kevin Love (PF, $16.6 million), the Cavaliers have no fantasy players costing more than than the $11.4 million of Larry Nance (PF). Indeed, there is a concertina effect whereby they have eight players costing between the cost of Nance and the $8.0 million of Tristan Thompson (C). Because of this, because of Tyronn Lue’s stated intent to go with a ten man rotation, because of the streakiness in the production of the players involved in that cluster and because it is still unclear quite who those ten players will be, we cannot recommend any of them specifically for fantasy value at this time. It is however of note that Love has been outperforming that price of late.
Similarly, throughout this season, the Pacers have not had many players with stand-out fantasy value. Lance Stephenson (SG, $10.9 million), Domantas Sabonis (PF, $12.9 million) and Al Jefferson (C, $7.4 million) have all had fantasy value at times when players ahead of them have been injured, yet the Pacers enter the postseason with a clean bill of health, so any particularly good fantasy value performances out of them would be a surprise. That said, having become an NBA All-Star this season, Victor Oladipo (SG, $21.1 million) has become a big-game player, and will play as big of minutes as he can handle.
#4 Oklahoma City Thunder versus #5 Utah Jazz
For a while now, Corey Bewer (SF, $8.4 million) has been starting in place of the injured Andre Roberson. All throughout that time, he has had fantasy value, and price increases have been too small to diminish that. Averaging 23.2 fantasy points per game over the last seven regular season games, Brewer might benefit even further by the tightening of rotations that generally happens in the playoffs.
The Jazz are at full health except for small forward Thabo Sefolosha, which does open up some forward minutes for others. Specifically, trade deadline acquisition Jae Crowder (SF, $9.8 million) and undrafted free agent Royce O’Neale (SF, $7.5 million) have been getting time at both forward spots on account of their excellent defensive impacts. Crowder has recorded more than 20 fantasy points in four of his last five games, and should do so again, while O’Neale averaged 18.7 fantasy points over the last four regular season contests.
#1 Houston Rockets versus #8 Minnesota Timberwolves
Aside from rookie centre Justin Patton, who would not have played anyway, the Timberwolves enter this series at full strength. Tom Thibodeau being who he is, this means that the five starters will play the vast majority of the minutes, and the reserves will be relied upon only for breathers. This probably negates any fantasy value for them – however, among the starters, Jimmy Butler’s recent injury (SG, $20.0) slightly decreased his price, and he can be expected to score in the 40s of fantasy points tonight.
Conversely, the Rockets will definitely be without Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, and are likely to be without Ryan Anderson also. In their stead, P.J. Tucker (SF, $9.2 million) has been starting at power forward, and Gerald Green (SF, $9.3 million) has had an expanded role off of the bench in the resultant small ball line-ups. Tucker’s role is to rebound and play a physical, berserk defence, something which does not lend itself well to fantasy value, but as one of the most confidence and aggressive shooters in the league, Green has proven for over a decade now that he will ring up the points when given minutes. And minutes, he should here get.
MY TEAM TONIGHT:
PG – Terry Rozier ($14.3 million)
SG – Victor Oladipo ($21.1 million)
SF – Giannis Antetokounmpo ($22.5 million)
PF – Jabari Parker ($11.7 million)
C – Al Horford ($15.0 million)
Bench – Corey Brewer ($8.4 million)
Bench – Shane Larkin ($7.0 million)
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your line-ups in!