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NBA: Monday Picks

MIL vs. BKN (-1.5), O/U: 233.5

DEN vs. PHX (-4.5), O/U: 219.5

It's pretty clear that the BKN-MIL matchup is the better game to target, mostly due to the Brooklyn side. They are without James Harden and whenever that's the case, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irvingget big bumps and automatically become more appealing options. The Nets also have the best two pieces of cheap value on the slate in Blake Griffin and Mike James, not to mention the highest implied team total. On the Bucks side, of course Giannis is a good option, but Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday have considerable upside as well and won't be as popular.

If only for the reason that it's a two-game slate and sure to be less popular, there would be merit to targeting the DEN-PHX matchup. Pairing the red-hot Devin Booker with Nikola Jokic and some of the viable cheap value on either side makes a lot of sense in tournaments from a leverage perspective. We've seen plenty of blowouts, upsets and busted chalk in the past couple of weeks and there are plenty of scenarios where this game ends up the better target.

Injuries to Monitor

James Harden (hamstring): OUT

Harden left Game 1 after playing just one minute due to hamstring tightness and he's been ruled out for tonight. Bruce Brown started the second half in his absence while Mike James saw 30 minutes off the bench.

Elite Players


Giannis had 34 points, 11 rebounds and 57.75 DK points in Game 1. He played 35 minutes and shot 16/24 from the field. It's a bit concerning that he didn't see more minutes in a close game. Compare that to Durant, who's almost certain to play 40, especially with Harden out. The salaries are pretty efficient tonight and Giannis is likely the top play from a raw points perspective, but it's close. If the Bucks win, there's a very good he's on the winning lineup. It makes sense to pair him with multiple Nets.


Nikola Jokic ($10,800)

Jokic had a great series against Portland as he topped 55 fantasy points in five of six games. The Suns are a team that I avoided targeting for most of the season based on their stellar defense and propensity to be involved in lower-total games. However, Deandre Ayton is no match for Jokic and games don't need to be shootouts for him to smash. Similar to Giannis, I wouldn't roster him as a one-off. If Jokic is going to be on the winner tonight , it's likely that at least one Sun and another Nugget will be too.


Kevin Durant ($10,300)

Durant put up a 29/10/3 line on his way to 52.5 DK points in 40 minutes Saturday. I wrote many times this season that when Harden is out and KD is healthy, he's almost always the best play on the slate. However, a couple things make it a tougher decision tonight. His salary has risen to a season high, and Giannis is one of only a handful of defenders that have the length and athleticism to give Durant problems. That being said, the Nets have the highest implied team total and I expect him to have more than the three assists and one three-pointer that he had in Game 1. I plan on rostering him.


Kyrie Irving ($9,200)

Irving had 25 points and eight assists in 45 minutes as he put up 48.25 fantasy points in Game 1. Normally I love rostering him when Harden is out but I don't love rostering anyone against Holiday, who's arguably the best defender in the league at guard. The fact that Kyrie played 45 minutes and took 26 shots in Game 1 is very encouraging, however. There are other appealing options at guard and I won't have Durant and Kyrie together, but the latter makes for a nice pivot and should come with the benefit of being slightly less popular.

Expected Chalk

Blake Griffin ($4,100) and Mike James ($3,300)

Griffin had 18 points and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes on his way to a massive 46 DK points in Game 1. The big performance came rather unexpectedly after he didn't see more than 25 minutes in any of the games against Boston. James was the biggest beneficiary of Harden's early exit. He played 30 minutes off the bench and put up a 12/7/3 line that helped him to 26.25 fantasy points. I'd expect them to be the two most popular players on the slate. Griffin is safer but there isn't much risk for $3,300 either.

Value Picks

Devin Booker ($8,500)

Booker torched the Lakers for 47 points, 11 boards and a whopping 71.25 DK points as the Suns closed out that series in six games Thursday. He won't be as popular as he should be with more people likely to spend salary in the BKN-MIL matchup.

Jrue Holiday ($7,800)

Holiday is coming off 36.75 fantasy points in Game 1 despite shooting just 7-for-19 from the field and without recording any steals or blocks. He averaged 43 or more DK points in the Miami series, and the matchup against the Nets should be more favorable from a fantasy perspective.

After being a non-factor in the first four games of the Portland series, Porter's resurgence was a big reason that the Nuggets closed it out in six. He's put up 51 and 42.75 DK points in his last two games and his salary is still quite depressed, as he'd been valued at $8,700 as recently as May 15, and nothing has changed for the Nuggets from a personnel perspective.

Chris Paul ($6,500)

There aren't many players more frustrating to roster than Paul. He's proved that again after being chalky and failing to reach 30 fantasy points in consecutive games. He's appealing because his salary is still so low for a player with his upside, but he's impossible to trust at this point. His minutes haven't been consistent and lingering injuries are a concern too. There are plenty of good reasons to play him or fade him, so go with your gut.

Monte Morris ($5,400)

The emergence of Morris helped turn the tide against Portland. On Tuesday, he played 41 minutes in the double-overtime thriller and on Thursday he saw 33 as the Nuggets won the series. He topped 43 fantasy points in both games and he did it with some of everything, shooting threes, getting to the line and dishing out assists. His salary continues to climb and rightfully so, but he's still good value in the mid-range.

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