Like real-life basketball, playoff DFS differs in important ways from the regular season. The end-of-bench players often see shifts in roles, and personnel matchups take on increased significance. Every night features a small slate of games, so the scores needed to win fantasy contests drop.
Regardless of those differences, there is still value in identifying team-wide trends. Since the All-Star break, the Wizards and Rockets have been below-average defenses, with the Wizards ranking in the bottom four per-possession. The Warriors and Hawks, alternatively, ranked in the top five in the same category. The Rockets and Warriors were the fastest paced playoff teams during the regular season.
Damian Lillard, POR at GS ($46): On a fundamental level, the Warriors are a better team than the Trail Blazers. In many ways, this matchup follows a script familiar in March NCAA games: chippy underdogs are a decent paper matchup verse the blueblood Duke/Kansas/etc. The little guys keep the the big dogs honest for the first 15-25 minutes, but eventually the superior talent and a near-professional conditioning program results in a predictable ending. Each team read their lines perfectly in Game 1, when the Blazers hung around until the Warriors pulled away early in the fourth. One key feature of this familiar tale: as the big boys start to pull away, the underdogs turn to their star point guard/sharpshooter to try to shoot their way back into contention. In the fourth quarter Sunday, Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined for 62 percent of the team’s scoring, including attempting every shot during the final 1:38. Lillard scored at least 40 fantasy points in 14 of his last 15 appearances – and with the low scoring slate, that floor alone might be enough to profit.
Andre Iguodala, GS vs. POR ($14): The discount guard field is very weak Wednesday, so the bar for a recommendation has to lower. Iguodala scored only 10.4 fantasy points in Game 1, but he did play 33 minutes. He is a critical contributor for the Warriors, as his versatility allows them to shift between big and small lineups without many of the sacrifices each strategy typically requires. During the 2016 playoffs, Iguodala averaged 32.0 minutes per game, after playing only 26.6 during the regular season. That increased court time is likely to continue in these playoffs, as was already shown in the first game. Though it didn’t lead to a lot of fantasy production last time, Iguodala averaged 20.1 fantasy points in just 26.3 minutes per game during the regular season.
Other suggestions: Patrick Beverley, HOU vs. OKC ($17); Dennis Schroder, ATL at WAS ($30); Eric Gordon, HOU vs. OKC ($14); Kent Bazemore, ATL at WAS ($10)
Guard to Avoid
Russell Westbrook, OKC at HOU ($65): Betting against Westbrook never feels smart, but winning in DFS is not about gut instinct. His salary is just so high. It is literally the highest salary Yahoo has given to any player all season – and Yahoo’s pricing algorithm already puts a hefty cost on elite players compared to other host sites. On top of that, Patrick Beverley is a very good defender, and he will continue to shadow Westbrook. I’d bet against Beverley holding Westbrook below 27 percent shooting from the field every game, but this price is so high that even if Westbrook had shot 70 percent from the field in Game 1, he still would not have profited (assuming the rest of his stats stayed the same).