HOU vs. OKC (+5.5) O/U: 218
MIA vs. MIL (-5) O/U 221.5
(odds subject to change)
At face value, we already have a pretty good idea of the game flow for the HOU/SA, and a six-game sample size can help us determine a core group of producers. Of the four teams, the Thunder seem to be the squad with the highest variance on a nightly basis, and while their targets could represent some decent tournament value, their exposure would be limited in cash. While no one likes to split a prize pool, your variance in cash is a lot higher with a small slate such as this, as missing one player can torpedo your chances in a lot of 50 to 100-player fields. That's why a GPP-heavy lineup set, despite the likelihood of duplicate lineups, has the higher profit potential. Thanks to an excellent Game 1 from Miami, we can make both elite and value selections there with some degree of confidence.
POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN The dip between elites and the next tier is significant. If you exclude Russell Westbrook, who sits in a no-man's land in the middle, the difference between the Harden/Giannis grouping and the next-available player is $2,900. If you apply 5x value to that salary difference, you're looking at 14.5 DKFP, or $200 per DKFP. There's no denying the value for the top two. Still, this considerable dip makes the argument for a more balanced lineup since I can think of a few players that can get within 14.5 points of Harden and Antetokounmpo's production. The only position where I don't see that potential is at center. If Bam Adebayo is at the top of the offering, it isn't a good night for big men, and there are a few ways to sniff out some value at this spot. ELITE PLAYERS Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,400) and James Harden ($11,200) failed to meet 5x value in their most recent games. They've both had moments in the playoffs where they've crushed value in relation to their salary, but Miami's defense effectively kept Giannis at bay with some frequency, and Harden's numbers, while excellent, have fluctuated enough that a 55-DKFP evening is far from certain. If I were to make a call on the most likely person to exceed that number and make his price worthwhile, it would be Giannis despite his less-than-stellar Game 1 numbers. A move to Giannis immediately puts you up against it with an average of $5,514 per player. That number is mostly irrelevant because I will have a tough time getting away from Jimmy Butler ($8,300), who I think is massively under-priced currently. A Giannis/Butler stack puts you at just above 5k per player, which I believe is still palatable, but I am going to use a Butler core often because it gives me a lot of flexibility to go for other guys who have a shot at getting close to that 14.5-DKFP difference I explained earlier. Although it would be foolish to exclude Russell Westbrook ($8,900), he's still too expensive compared to his current production. He's a GPP flier candidate due to his upside potential. INJURY SITUATIONS TO MONITOR The only blemish on the slate is a questionable tag for Eric Bledsoe, and he was a full participant in Tuesday's shootaround. His minutes could take a slight tumble, but at present, I see no reason for pivoting to a lesser guard on the roster. George Hill ($4,300) only provided 13.5 DKFP in his Game 1 start.
EXPECTED CHALK AND OTHER TARGETS
Khris Middleton, MIL ($8,100) vs. MIA
Middleton finally gave us two excellent games in a row, and at only a $200 salary bump, he's still a great idea if he can keep the momentum going. Although he's probably only affordable in a Butler-centric build, it's hard to ignore Middleton after watching Game 1. Middleton was the unlikely high-scorer for the Bucks as the Heat held Giannis to just 18 points. Even though Antetokounmpo can stand under the basket and pad his line with rebounds Middleton found himself open more often. It seems the Heat's strategy is to hold down Giannis and make the Bucks beat them elsewhere, which creates a monster opportunity for Middleton.
Bam Adebayo, MIA ($7,900) vs. MIL
Ok, I gave Adebayo a hard time earlier, but that doesn't mean I don't like him in this spot. All he did in Game 1 was deliver his best rebounding total over his Orlando tenure, and despite scoring only 12 points, his ancillary numbers gave him one of his best DKFP totals while in the bubble. His salary is a bit too high, but I think he has tremendous upside against a Bucks team that had trouble containing Nikola Vucevic, and at least for one game, failed to keep Bam from crashing the boards.
Goran Dragic, MIA ($6,900) vs. MIL
Dragic will be extremely popular tonight, and for good reason. His last sub-30 DKFP outing was in his second game in the bubble, and even though his price has skyrocketed since then, he's beating value regularly. With Kendrick Nunn currently in the 'Where Are They Now' file, Dragic is their go-to option after Butler. Nunn did get the most minutes he's seen in over two weeks in Game 1, but I think it's extremely unlikely that we'll see a drastic usage change. Whatever the Heat did in Game 1, it seemed to work. Erik Spoelstra won't tinker with something that isn't broken.
As much as I want to like Chris Paul ($8,200), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($7,100) and Dennis Schroder ($6,400), you're throwing darts in this spot. CP3 has the best floor, but his salary is a little high for my taste, and both SGA and Schroder's totals have been extremely volatile. I might regret a complete fade, but I'm pretty close to that right now. On lineups where I fade the top two, Paul could see some exposure, but that would be it.
Brook Lopez, MIL ($5,500) vs. MIA
His one-rebound performance could move many off Lopez, but if he can up that total and stay hot from the field at the same time, you have the potential for a value-crashing night. Lopez roamed the perimeter with great success in Game 1, draining four threes in six attempts. With Giannis clamped down, the Bucks were able to find Lopez with the open shot, and he took them with confidence. I suspect the Heat will adjust to keep this from happening, but it would probably work too much to Giannis' favor, and they can't afford to diminish the pressure there. As I said, the Heat's challenging the Bucks to beat them with their supporting cast, and Lopez will be crucial to that effort.
Danuel House, HOU ($5,000) vs. OKC
His numbers have been so-so over the past two games, but House's potential ceiling makes him someone I'm gravitating towards on the slate. It doesn't take long for House to get going, and he's been able to surpass 5x value for his current salary in five of his last 10 games. P.J. Tucker ($4,500) will fight for rebound supremacy, and I like both of them, but have it set that I won't roster them together.
Jae Crowder, MIA ($4,600) vs. MIL
Crowder was a victim of lousy shot selection in Game 1, and if he can fix that problem, he should have an excellent night. The Heat are certainly giving him enough minutes to be successful - he's averaged 27.6 minutes per game since the playoffs began. If you have a regular starter at this price, you have to pay some attention, and Crowder's defensive skills will make him extremely valuable against the Bucks, who will be primed for a bounce-back game.
Darius Bazley, OKC ($3,900) vs. HOU
Bazley is as low as I'm going on this slate. Firstly, he doesn't have to do a whole lot to beat value at $3,900, and he's averaged 24 minutes over his past two games – well over his usual averages. Houston's undersized defense has given Bazley a bit more value for the Thunder, as they can't keep Steven Adams out for more than 30 minutes per game. You'll often see Bazley and Adams share the floor anyway. Since he came straight out of high school, Bazley is young and raw, but cutting his teeth with a key role in the playoffs is one aim for the franchise and its future outlook.