This article is part of our DraftKings NBA series.
We enter the playoffs with the usual oddities in the opening round, with rolling game locks across four games throughout the day. While showdowns become an increasingly attractive option, we aren't quite to the point where we want to abandon the classic format.
While the first game (BKN/PHI) will happen not long after this article is published, and ORL/TOR starting soon after that game's conclusion, I'm going to work our cheat sheet a little differently so that everyone is served, whether they end up playing four, three or two-game contests. This means I'm going to go game-by-game, and identify TWO picks per team.
Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers
The biggest news here is that Joel Embiid Is unlikely to suit up against the Nets tonight. If we take a look at usage and DKFPPM totals over the past 15 days with Embiid off the court, the value skews heavily to Ben Simmons ($7,800) with 26 percent usage and a 1.4 DKFPPM average. While Tobias Harris tops the list in usage, his DKFPPM average is only 1.0, implying that he does less with his increased use. As for Embiid's replacement, it's pretty clear that Boban Marjanovic ($3,500) is the guy you want here, even though we saw a bit more of Greg Monroe as the season ended.
Jimmy Butler ($6,900): While Simmons is a solid cash play, my tournament lineups are going to see some heavy use out of Butler, who knows how to turn it on when it counts. His history against Brooklyn this year has been exemplary, with a 16.9 DKFP average over two contests.
J.J. Redick ($5,800): While you'd think Redick's numbers would take a hot as a prime assist collector by way of Embiid, Redick also finds a way to create opportunities on his own. He'll also facilitate looks to multiple mouths inhabiting the paint tonight. Throw in a few rebounds and Redick should be a good candidate for 6-7x value.
On the Brooklyn end, I think there are better elite plays than D'Angelo Russell ($8,700). His history against the Sixers isn't all that great, and with the resurgence of Caris LeVert ($5,500) and Joe Harris ($5,000), the offense will be spread out a bit.
Jarrett Allen ($4,400): I think it's safe to throw all four of the precious matchups out the window for Allen, as he faced Embiid in all of them. Allen isn't a guy I'm locking in usually, but he deserves a look in GPPs based on the opportunity he has inside against a short-handed Philly interior.
Spencer Dinwiddie ($4,700): I'm getting sneaky in this game, but a look at Dinwiddie reveals similar totals to Russell when it comes to the Sixers, and at this price, a four-game average of 23 points and 5.5 assists per game is nothing to sneeze at. His totals aren't spectacular recently, but he could end up as one of the best contrarian GPP plays you'll find on the slate tonight.
Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors
The Magic are my pick to pull off an upset in this round. They split their contests 2-2 against Toronto during the season, and Orlando is playing some inspired ball. Conversely, Toronto has proven their inability to close the deal in the postseason, and I don't know that the DeRozan-Leonard switch Is going to change their fortunes all that much.
I think the number one play in this game is Nikola Vucevic ($8,500). He has an excellent chance to be the best center play on the slate, and you'd be foolish to ignore him. While there's a lot of great talent playing for the Magic, it's also one of the most volatile rosters, especially recently.
Michael Carter-Williams ($4,000): The volatility is one reason why I think Orlando is one of the best teams for value-hunting. D.J. Augustin ($5,300) is going to be a highly owned cheap guard, but Carter-Williams' totals have mirrored Augustin's, and he's an arguably better defensive player.
Terrence Ross ($5,300): They call Ross 'The Human Torch' for a reason. He can slide into multiple positions and ignite the offense quickly and decisively, and everyone seems to excel when he's on the floor. Going with these two guys leaves Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier out in the cold, but we know about their scoring potential already. As I said, Carter-Williams' cost and Ross's ability for explosive totals make the duo superb value plays in both formats.
Fred VanVleet ($4,900): What's truly discouraging for the Raptors is their almost-universally mediocre history against the Magic this season, and it's one reason why I think this series could go Orlando's way. VanVleet is one guy who beats value against them, as opposed to Leonard, Siakam and Lowry, who have struggled even to meet value at their price against Orlando. When VanVleet gets minutes, he frequently matches Lowry's totals. I expect guys like Kawhi and Siakam to show up, but I don't think the high-dollar play comes from this team.
Serge Ibaka ($6,100): Often the forgotten man for the Raptors, he shapes up as the best defense for Vucevic, as I think Marc Gasol lacks the hustle to slow Orlando's big man down. Ibaka has a decent history against the Magic as well, which gives additional credence to the theory that avoiding the big names (save Vucevic) in this game might be the prudent way to go.
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors
This series has the highest likelihood of a sweep in my opinion, but don't fall asleep on the Clippers, who fought hard to make the Big Dance, and they'll be ready with a game plan for the Warriors.
DeMarcus Cousins ($7,000): Call me foolish, but I don't see this year's Warriors getting past Houston and Denver without the addition of Cousins. Since joining the team, the Warriors have looked unstoppable. The Clippers are woefully outmatched at this position, so I think it's the prime place to profit for the Warriors. Durant and Curry will get theirs, but I like Boogie in this spot.
Draymond Green ($5,700): The Clippers can rack it up offensively, and this series will be all about which defense can dominate. The Warriors have the definite edge in that department, and while Draymond's intangibles don't always register in his stat lines, I predict he'll do more than enough to beat value at this reasonable price.
Lou Williams ($6,200): Danilo Gallinari is still a little wobbly from his recent injury, and the Clippers have no choice but to look to experience as they tackle the Warriors. Sweet Lou will do all he can to thwart the Warriors' aspirations. He's averaged 21 points per game over three contests against them, and it seems like there's a bit of a spring in his step when he takes on a powerhouse team.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($5,300): Could it be the rookie's time to shine? He's performed admirably against the Warriors, and while he had some shooting struggles toward the end of the season, he still finds a way to score. This play carries a lot of risk, but he could pay off in a GPP format.
San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets
This game is where I found myself paying up.
Nikola Jokic ($9,000): A Jokic/Vucevic stack will likely dominate my cash lineups, as I see both of them blowing up for big totals tonight. Gregg Popovich will have a scheme to contain him, but the Nuggets are out to silence the naysayers and Jokic will be primely motivated to get things going early in this series. He will be a nightly double-double threat as long as Denver stay alive, and he may even give us a triple-double or two before the season is out.
Jamal Murray ($6,000): I like the Murray-to-Jokic assist connection tonight. Murray has stung me a few times this season, but the guard is turning things on when it counts. Over the last two weeks of the season, he solidified his floor, settling into the low-40 DKFP range, and also popping up for bigger scores along the way.
LaMarcus Aldridge ($7,500): I don't like the Spurs' chances in this series, but if they are to have any hope they need Aldridge to step it up. The Spurs do know how to rise to the occasion in the playoffs, and Aldridge quietly put up 40-plus DKFP scores throughout the final month of the season. His rebound totals were sub-par against the Nuggets this year, but he still managed to turn in a 22.3 PPG average over four contests against them.
DeMar DeRozan ($7,200): It's also time for their other big playmaker to step things up. His DKFP averages against the Nuggets were almost in the 40's over four contests, so you know he can put up a significant number against them. I think the only way that the Spurs prevail in this series is via DeRozan and Aldridge taking things over, and we've seen DeRozan do that for Toronto many times in the playoffs.
Sorry for the odd format, but I think this was the best way to cover all the bases. You'll also notice that the article skewed a bit toward value plays. By all means, the elites have their place in this build, but you won't get there without some cheap calls!