After two days of one game per night, the NBA is back with a doubleheader this Friday. The Celtics visit the Sixers in a pivotal Game 3 in their series tied 1-1, while the Suns try to battle back against the Nuggets as they come home to the desert.
Let’s dive into some of the top plays on the slate using the FantasyLabs tools and metrics.
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Note: Projections and Leverages Scores/Ratings may change throughout the day after this article is posted. The NBA DFS landscape changes quickly.
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NBA DFS Point Guard Picks
Jamal Murray has the second-highest Projected Plus/Minus on the entire slate on DraftKings, where he is extremely underpriced at $7,900 and has a 94% Bargain Rating. He has an extremely high ceiling and has been impressive this postseason. In his seven playoff games, Murray has averaged 45.75 DraftKings points and 43.7 FanDuel points per game at the rate of 1.2 DraftKings points and 1.1 FanDuel points per minute.
In Game 1, Murray went off for 34 points with nine assists in 37 minutes in a ceiling game. He came back to earth in Game 2, struggling with his shot and shooting just 3-for-15. However, he still scored several critical baskets down the stretch and finished with 10 points and eight assists.
He’s carrying a huge workload for coach Mike Malone, averaging 39.2 minutes and 20.2 field-goal attempts per game over his six most recent contests. He’s projected for 38.9 minutes with a 29.6% usage projection, so he’s a great play to build around Friday, especially on DraftKings, where he’s cheaper.
Of the two games, the Suns-Nuggets have the higher over/under and should be a more fantasy-friendly environment.
The biggest adjustment on this slate from the earlier games in the series will be the absence of Chris Paul, who suffered his seemingly annual injury in Game 2 when he was forced to leave with a groin strain.
Chris Paul’s pain will likely be Cameron Payne’s gain as the reserve guard steps into a much larger role. Payne played 15 games this season without Paul available and averaged 31.8 DraftKings points and 30.4 FanDuel points per game. That was obviously with a very different roster construction and different stakes since the Kevin Durant trade totally turned over the roster.
Payne may not step into quite that large of a role since Devin Booker and Durant will likely pick up even more usage, but he still should be a good value. He has the second-highest projected Plus/Minus at the position on FanDuel and the third-highest projected Plus/Minus on DraftKings.
Along with the rest of his team, Payne struggled in Game 2, making only 1-of-7 from the field and missing all four of his long-range attempts. The Suns will need more from him Friday, as all of a sudden, Payne will be a key piece in the series.
He had a high ceiling but also comes with high risk. At around $5K, though, he has too much upside to ignore.
In the Eastern Conference matchup, Marcus Smart and Tyrese Maxey both offer inconsistent upside. Maxey was huge in Game 1 but fell into a smaller role with Joel Embiid back on the floor in Game 2. Smart is playing through multiple injuries and can always pop for a big game with multiple stat contributions, but most of his grit and effort doesn’t show up in the box score.
After his costly turnover at the end of Game 1, Malcolm Brogdon bounced back in a big way in Game 2 with 23 points and 38.5 DraftKings points. He has exceeded salary-based expectations in each of the first two games in this series scoring at least 20 points in each contest.
He would have been my top value pick in this spot if it wasn’t for Payne’s increased role in Phoenix.
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NBA DFS Shooting Guard Picks
Devin Booker will have to be the man for the Suns, whose lack of depth will be even more exposed now that Paul is sidelined. Booker has the highest ceiling projection at shooting guard on both DraftKings and FanDuel and has a positive Plus/Minus on both sites as well.
He had been outstanding in the postseason, producing 1.34 DraftKings points and 1.33 FanDuel points per minute to lead the team by a significant margin. He also has the highest usage rate on the team in the postseason at 30.9%. With Paul off the floor, that usage rate jumps to 35.25%, so he’ll be even busier on Friday night.
Booker has averaged 42.9 minutes per game during the postseason for the Suns and averaged 35.4 points per game. While Kevin Durant’s presence does get attention, it’s been Booker who has been the better fantasy option to this point, and with more playmaking responsibility, he could be set up for a huge night on Friday.
One of the biggest differences between the “Bad Celtics” and the “Good Celtics” is the performance of Derrick White. The projections clearly think we’ll get the good version of both on Friday night, and White has the highest projected Plus/Minus on the entire slate on both FanDuel and DraftKings, with his salary under $5K.
White looked lost in Game 1 with just four points and 12 DraftKings points but bounced back in Game 2 with 15 points and 19.25 DraftKings points. He was excellent in the opening series against the Hawks as well, and his performance in Game 3 will be one of the under-the-radar indicators of whether the Celtics will be able to earn back homecourt advantage.
On FanDuel, White brings a solid 63% leverage rating along with his 86% Bargain Rating which can help you differentiate your lineups.
Payne can flex to shooting guard on FanDuel, so you can move his value here if you prefer. Additionally, Damion Lee ended up playing 26 minutes in Game 2 and cleaned up a lot of time after Paul’s injury. He didn’t produce any points at all (0-for-5 from the field) but did have six rebounds. He’s an interesting ultra-cheap play if you think he gets some of the workload vacated by CP3’s injury. Another candidate is Landry Shames, although he seems to be behind Lee and Payne for playing time.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope offers the second-highest Projected Plus/Minus at the position on DraftKings and is projected for a hefty 34.9 minutes on Friday night. He gets plenty of playing time due to his defense and can chip in decent scoring as well. He had double-digit points in each of the first two games in this series and in five of the Nuggets’ seven postseason matchups this postseason.
Obviously, James Harden and Jaylen Brown both bring very high ceilings if they’re at the top of their games. Harden had his ceiling game in Game 1, and Brown was very good in Game 2 until it turned into a blowout. Both of them are somewhat eclipsed by the bigger stars on their team, though, and make high-risk plays as a result.
NBA DFS Small Forward Picks
The two big forwards on this slate are Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum, and both are eligible at both small forward and power forward. Durant’s projections are slightly higher across the board, and he comes in much cheaper than Tatum on FanDuel, where he has the second-highest Projected Plus/Minus on the entire slate behind only White.
Durant has trailed Booker in usage and production, but he has closed the gap significantly when Paul is off the floor. His usage rate climbs to 31.8% in the postseason without CP3, and he actually passes Booker’s production rate as his averages climb to 1.31 DraftKings points and 1.32 FanDuel points per minute.
You can see how Durant’s production increased in the fourth quarter after CP3’s departure in Game 3’s Game Flow.
With Booker potentially moving more to point guard, one player who could get more work on the wing and try to focus on shutting down Jamal Murray is Josh Okogie. Okogie hasn’t been very involved on the offensive end since the arrival of Durant but did show some upside before Durant’s arrival. He started both the games in this series but has only scored four points, which is why he’s still a bargain play.
Okogie has the highest Projected Plus/Minus at small forward on DraftKings and the third-highest on FanDuel behind pay-up options Durant and Jaylen Brown.
While his focus will definitely remain on the defensive end, Okogie could get more shots without CP3 in the mix. If you decide to pay up for Booker or Murray and also include one of the high-salaried centers, Okogie as a punt play makes sense in between those high-priced bookends.
Bruce Brown has done a little bit of everything this season for the Nuggets, but in this series, he hasn’t had to do as much work on the offensive end. He’s still priced higher than Okogie, so he isn’t quite as good of a value, although he does still bring a pretty good ceiling since he can pick up more scoring off the bench if needed.
Michael Porter Jr. also has big scoring potential for the Nuggets but has been quieter with Murray and Jokic carrying the load. In Game 2, he only had five points in his 23 minutes in a disappointing performance. The Nuggets won anyway and will hope MPJ bounces back in Game 3. He’s a little pricey, though, given his low floor.
Tobias Harris also seems a little overpriced after posting decent but not spectacular numbers in Games 1 and 2 with under a 20% usage rate in each contest.
NBA DFS Power Forward Picks
Even though he falls behind Durant in the projections, Jayson Tatum brings an extremely high ceiling and should be motivated to quickly erase a forgettable seven-point showing in Game 2.
He actually shows up in more optimal lineups than Durant on DraftKings, according to our sims, and he has a 33.8% Perfect%, which is the highest of any power forward on the slate.
Tatum always has a high ceiling and has averaged 1.36 DraftKings points and 1.20 FanDuel points per minute in his eight postseason contests, even after Game 2’s disappointing showing. He leads the team with a 29.1% usage rate and is projected for 30.7% usage on Friday. That number is slightly higher than Durant’s projected usage.
Tatum is also projected for lower ownership than Durant on both sites, meaning he could be a nice source of leverage as a way to differentiate your lineup rather than rolling with chalky KD.
There isn’t a lot of depth at power forward once you get past the two megastars. Aaron Gordon is the best mid-level play and has the second-highest projected Plus/Minus at the position behind Durant on FanDuel. On DraftKings, Gordon is a little more expensive at $6K but still can work as a pivot from Durant and Tatum if you’re strapped for cash.
Gordon had 16 points in Game 2 but only managed one rebound and one assist. In stark contrast to his teammate Nikola Jokic, Gordon’s lack of assists and rebounds does limit his upside. He is lined up for heavy minutes once again, though, so there is upside to consider.
In the seven games in the playoffs, Gordon has averaged 34.4 minutes per game while posting a 16.7% usage rate. He has contributed 0.79 DraftKings points and 0.78 FanDuel points per minute, which is enough to be a decent midrange option, given the lack of other options from these four teams.
Tobias Harris can slide to this spot for the Sixers, but most of their power forward minutes go to low-usage option P.J. Tucker. Similarly, Torrey Craig gets some work for the Suns but doesn’t get many shots in his time on the floor.
Another approach at this spot would be to go with Al Horford (discussed more in centers below) as a slightly cheaper option than Gordon.
NBA DFS Center Picks
Especially with Joel Embiid (knee) questionable on Friday and not at 100% in his most recent action, Nikola Jokic is the clear top option in the middle for Friday. Jokic has the highest ceiling projection on the entire slate by a wide margin on both DraftKings and FanDuel and is worth considering paying up for. Despite his elevated salary, The Joker has the fifth-highest projected Plus/Minus on the whole slate on DraftKings and the sixth-highest on FanDuel.
In his seven games this postseason, Jokic is producing 1.67 DraftKings points and 1.57 FanDuel points per minute. He has had over 15 rebounds in three straight games and has scored over 20 points in six straight contests. What’s maybe most amazing about Jokic’s numbers is that he has put them up while not even seemingly maxing out his potential.
The Nuggets can basically put the series to bed by taking a 3-0 lead on Friday night, so look for Jokic and Murray to be aggressive from the jump. If you’re building a lineup to have the highest ceiling, there’s not much room to leave Jokic out.
If you can’t or don’t decide to pay up for Jokic, it must be that you’re playing Embiid or building around other stars in other spots. One option that does make sense under $6K on both DraftKings and FanDuel is former Sixer Al Horford.
Big Al has filled in here and there for Boston in these playoffs, flexing his role to meet the team’s needs. He closed out the first round with a 10-point, 12-rebound double-double in Atlanta. and totaled 16 points and 13 boards in the first two games of this series in Boston. He only had to play 23 minutes due to the nature of Game 2, and the extra rest may help the veteran be ready to rise to the challenge on Friday night.
He’s a streaky contributor since he can get his three-point shot dropping at times, and he could be used to challenge Embiid’s health in Boston’s offensive sets in Game 3. While he isn’t a sure thing like Jokic, he does save enough salary to be a solid midrange contributor depending on your lineup construction.
When he’s healthy, Embiid can definitely match Jokic’s ceiling, but he may not be, which makes him very high-risk. He was limited to 15 points and three rebounds in 27 minutes in Game 2, but it’s tricky to know how much of that was due to the game turning into a blowout. If things were closer, could he have played more and contributed more? With another recovery day, is he closer to 100%? If so, he could be a sneaky-great GPP play, but the questions definitely make him risky. If Embiid is limited or ruled out, Paul Reed would be a great value.
The Suns will need Deandre Ayton to step up against Jokic, and he does have the highest Projected Plus/Minus on this slate at center on FanDuel, and the second-highest behind Jokic on DraftKings. He tends to play better at home and could post a double-double after averaging 7.5 rebounds in the first two games of the series.