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NBA DFS Today: Round One Western Conference

The playoffs are finally here and the fun gets going right away today with a game nice and early! The West looks like it should be pretty predictable as every series is heavily tilted toward one team at the book, but that doesn’t mean we can’t see some competitive games. Let’s talk about the players to target from each team in the NBA DFS Today: Western Conference to find green screens! 

The NBA Playoffs have arrived, but the strategy remains the same. Be sure to utilize the tools, as you have been all season long:

Phoenix Suns (1) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (8)

Suns – Phoenix ran away with the best record in the league pretty much from Day 1 of the regular season so this series is likely to be the least competitive. Their starting rotation of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, and Deandre Ayton was one of the best units in the league night in, and night out but Crowder is not likely to be on our list for fantasy most nights. If he’s the last forward that fits a lineup, I wouldn’t fight you too hard on that, but keep in mind that Crowder and Bridges were both under .90 FPPM on the season. I lean towards being more likely to play Bridges, not because of his 15.3% usage but because he’s most likely to be tasked with matching up with Brandon Ingram from New Orleans most nights. Bridges is a DPOY candidate for a reason and while he can’t shut down Ingram totally, he has the length and ability to make it difficult on Ingram and hit some big shots at the other end. 

The key reserves for the Suns are Cam PayneCam Johnson, and JaVale McGee but those would be model plays on any given night. If you think that Phoenix can blow out the Pelicans (Game 1 is a 10.5-point spread), they could come into play but the stars of this series for me are Paul and Booker. Ayton is going to be going back and forth in the paint with Jonas Valanciunas all series but Booker and Paul are going to be able to pick on the defense of CJ McCollum and the pick-and-roll game could be devastating. The Pelicans were in the bottom eight in points per game allowed to the ball handler and roll man in the pick-and-roll, and Paul (with Ayton) can exploit that in a major way. For Booker, I think the Pelicans may try and combat him with Herb Jones if they can and Jones has played well defensively. Booker is at the next level and this isn’t a matchup that I would fear until proven otherwise. 

Update 4/22 – Booker is now out with a hamstring injury for the rest of this series and longer should the Suns move on. Through the regular season, Paul led the team in minutes without Booker and produced 1.27 FPPM and I don’t see that changing in a playoff game. I would think either Cam Johnson or Cam Payne would draw the start and they’re not overly expensive but neither cleared 0.85 FPPM with Paul on the court. I would expect CP3 will be more aggressive looking for his shot and we can also utilize Landry Shamet as a punt, if the model signs off on it.

Pelicans – This side of the ball is not going to be terribly interesting to me on most slates. Ingram has some tough sledding and it’s not that he can’t score at all but I’m not going to be paying the salary very often. Jonas Valanciunas should have safer minutes because the Suns don’t really take Ayton off the floor and JoVal is going to be needed to try and slow down the pick-and-roll game from the Phoenix offense. The Suns also were fifth in points allowed in the paint so it’s a bit of a tougher matchup for JoVal on paper as well. CJ McCollum might have to do the heavy lifting on the perimeter but this is still one of the best defenses in the league (third in defensive rating). Herb Jones will get plenty of minutes but perhaps the most interesting thing is does catch Willie Green turn to any of his bench players to spark the lineup? Larry Nance and Trey Murphy III both played BIG roles in the comeback against the Clippers. Was that a one-time thing or is there something else? The model will guide us but if anything, maybe Murphy can be a cheap pivot in the punt range. Nance’s minutes came at the expense of JoVal so I don’t see a larger role for him on most nights. 

Series Picks 

Adam – Suns in 4

Ghost – Suns in 4 

Memphis Grizzlies (2) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (7)

Grizzlies – He may have missed plenty of time during the regular season but the Grizzlies best chances for a deep playoff run still reside with Ja Morant. He led guards in scoring in the paint in the NBA this season (14.8) and is one of the most fearless finishers in the league. Minnesota is 19th in scoring allowed in the paint and there’s not exactly anything that scares me with Morant. Playoff basketball tends to grind down a little bit but these two teams could be a big exception because they were first and fourth in pace during the regular season. Additionally, both teams are in the top seven in offensive rating so this series should be entertaining 

After Morant, there are going to be mid-range options. Dillon Brooks is going to be on the court a ton and most likely tasked with defending Anthony Edwards. Brooks is tenacious and in-your-face and while the offensive game is flighty, he’s going to go off in at least one or two games. He’s also going to rack up some foul trouble in others so he’s not bringing a lot of stability to the proceedings. I’d expect Desmond Bane to match up with D’Angelo Russell as Memphis will try to “hide” Morant on Patrick Beverly when they can and the T-Wolves were fifth in 3-point frequency allowed this year. I’m very curious to see what happens with Steven Adams. Do the Grizzlies let him play 30 minutes and just eat the glass, trying to see if he can bait Karl-Anthony Towns into bad fouls again? Or do they not worry about it as much since KAT isn’t exactly Mr. In The Paint and potentially just try to run even more with Jaren Jackson Jr. playing more center? The salaries are going to matter per slate here, and we can potentially take shots with Brandon Clarke as well. He’s been at 1.13 FPPM on the year and even in 20 minutes, he could pay off a cheaper tag and if Adams is off the floor, he has a path to success. 

Timberwolves – The good news is KAT cannot play much worse than he did in the play-in round, fouling out early and generally having one of his worst games ever. I could see him coming out aggressive in this one to try and put that one behind him and he did lead the Wolves with a 27.9% usage rate and 1.37 FPPM. It’s really tough to get anyone on the fringe correct here because even after KAT, Edwards and D’Lo are going to be chucking shots and they both played well in the game against the Clippers. Does that give them too much swagger and derail the offense? Maybe not, but Ant has that hero ball streak in him where he can hog the ball. This trio is going to hoist the majority of shots and they all had usage rates over 25% with D’Lo leading in assist rate at 32.1%. I don’t believe we should take much from the rotations from the play-in game because foul trouble was everywhere and another thing to keep in mind is Memphis was sixth in defensive rating. The perception around the Memphis squad doesn’t make you think about the defensive end but they are good on that end of the floor as well with JJJ being a DPOY candidate. We’ll also likely be able to play Beverly as the last man in since he’ll try to get under the skin of Morant as much as possible, so it should be a cheap 30 minutes or so at the guard position. I do believe Memphis will be a more playable team since the hierarchy in the offense is easier to parse. 

Series Picks

Adam – Grizzlies in 6

Ghost – Grizzlies in 5 

Golden State Warriors (3) vs. Denver Nuggets (6) 

Warriors – It’s almost difficult to say exactly what to expect from the Warriors in the early going because A. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green have shared the court for 11.3 minutes this season and B. Curry will have a minutes limi,t at least in Game 1. That leads me to not really playing Curry early on but focusing on Klay, Dray, Jordan Poole off the bench in the scoring role, and potentially Andre Iguodala as a cheap punt. The Iggy play is more “let’s see what the model does with him” but I could see him having a decent-sized role off the bench on that second unit, or whatever passes for it. Dray has been a 16-game player throughout his career, a term he’s said many times meaning the focus is always on the playoffs. When the Warriors looked like title contenders early in the year, they were leading the league in defensive rating. Without Green on the floor, the defensive rating was 112.0 and that would be around 18th in the league. Green is that important to this team and he can rack up fantasy points without scoring, acting as the de facto point guard (32.6% assist rate, highest on the team) and defensive maestro on the other end. 

If Curry is actually limited, Klay and Poole are going to have a green light to real chuck shots and the Nuggets permitter defense is nothing to be scared of. Denver was in the top 10 in FG% allowed from 3-point land, but these guys are different. We all know the insane heaters Klay is capable of and Poole found his groove after the Curry injury late in the year. Poole, Curry, and Thompson were the only three with a usage rate over 23% on the team and those four are my main targets in this series. I don’t see Andrew Wiggins making a fantasy impact as his play has really dropped off after the All-Star break and he sunk to 0.92 FPPM, and that was without the trio on the floor together. It’s not going to get better when they’re playing the majority of the game. One last player that I at least want to see if he starts is Kevon Looney. He hit 27 DK in three of four games against the Nuggets this year and played at least 26 minutes in all four. If the Warriors opt to start him and play him a good amount, he could be a cheap source of value while trying to provide at least resistance against the league’s soon-to-be 2x MVP. 

Nuggets – You’d probably guess that the Nuggets start and ends with Nikola Jokic and you’re mostly going to be right. There’s not that much left to say about the man at this point since we’ve been playing him all season and he has 1.80 FPPM and a 32.2% usage rate. His season has been historic on many fronts and if the Nuggets have a chance in this series, he needs to somehow be even greater. The Warriors are not really equipped to deal with him and I wonder if they just let him get his and force everyone else to do more to win games. I’d rather let Joker go 40/15/5 every game because getting another 60-75 points from Monte Morris, Aaron Gordon, and Will Barton is not going to happen very often. The only other players on the team that averaged more than a fantasy point per minute were DeMarcus Cousins and Bones Hyland. The latter is about the only other player for the Nuggets that I may play because I think there’s going to be a game or two where his shot falls off the bench and the Nuggets wind up keeping him on the floor. If they get down 2-0, I wouldn’t even be shocked if he draws a start. The only question for Denver slates is “can I afford to play Jokic without ruining my lineup” for the duration of this series. 

Series Pick 

Adam – Warriors in 6 (likely 5 but I can’t do that to my guy Jokic)

Ghost – Warriors in 6

Dallas Mavericks (4) vs. Utah Jazz (5)

Mavericks – This series took a crappy turn on the last day of the regular season when Luka Doncic hurt his quad and is out for Game 1 and almost certainly more than that. The average return from a quad injury in the NBA is 16 days, which is a lot longer than this series may go if there is no Luka. From the fantasy side of things, Spencer Dinwiddie and Jalen Brunson are going to be primary targets because they have to pick up a ton in this offense. Losing a player like Luka who had a usage rate near 40% just opens the door to so much production. Dinwiddie has the edge in the sample since the trade deadline with a 32.% usage rate and 1.29 FPPM, but Brunson is still strong at 29.4% and 1.15. Maxi Kleber was the only other player that was over 0.90 for the FPPM in that sample and he’s been battling the injury bug coming down the stretch. You could maybe twist my arm into a cheap Reggie Bullock as the last man in because they’re going to need scoring but he does literally nothing else. Dorian Finney-Smith will have a game or two where he hits some threes and has value because he plays so many minutes, but the offense runs differently with no Luka. The passing as a whole is simply not the same and while that is obvious, this is going to be tough for the Mavericks to stick in these games. I’m mostly going to stick with Dinwiddie and Brunson with the preference toward Dinwiddie. They do like driving to the hoop at 24 drives per game combined but they’ll need that mid-range game going because Rudy Gobert is at his best when he can stick right by the hoop to defend. 

Jazz – It still surprises me that the Jazz ended the season with the best offensive rating in basketball since their offense is somewhat one-dimensional Ask Gobert if you don’t believe me. He’s not a world-beater offensively but they don’t take enough advantage of him down low and he should be able to dominate the likes of Kleber and Dwight Powell in this series. The biggest question is if he gets enough work on the offensive side of things to make it worth playing him and that may wind up being no on most slates. Donovan Mitchell should have a field day driving to the basket because Dallas was only 14th in points allowed in the paint and Mitchell drove 15.2 times per game. He was also top-five in attempts per game from beyond the arc and this postseason is make or break for this version of the Jazz. The pressure is on, especially with Luka out and I would expect Mitchell to rise to the challenge (unless he’s already set on bailing). The trio of Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Jordan Clarkson will be choices as lineup fillers, but keep in mind these teams played at the bottom eight paces all year. They aren’t pushing the ball up and down the floor and Dallas was dead last. Without Doncic, that should only get worse because they need to drag Utah into the mud to win games 100-98 as opposed to anything else. Both teams were also in the top 10 in defensive rating, so this series is not going to have a bounty of fantasy options most nights. 

Series Picks 

Adam – Jazz in 5 if Luka doesn’t play at all, Jazz in 6 if he makes a comeback

Ghost – Jazz in 6 

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