This article is part of our DraftKings NBA series.
As is customary on a playoff weekend, you have several ways to tackle the four-game slate, especially if you can't make it to the early game. For this article, I'm going to touch on the early game and discuss a few plays there, and then continue with the traditional structure of this article with the three remaining games.
The overarching question for the early game is the status of Joel Embiid (knee). I expect his doubtful designation to hold through game-time and I believe it is Philly's best option at the moment. If the team hopes to make it past Brooklyn, they need to build on what worked for them in Game 3.
Without Embiid, the Sixers are most successful when they tailor their offensive attack to Ben Simmons' strengths. He's a talent that thrives in transition and is arguably a more effective player in a small-ball lineup and using guys like Mike Scott as a decoy gives the sharpshooters more room to operate. They've achieved this kind of synergy with varying levels of success but to succeed they need to play more like a team that never had Embiid as opposed to a team that is trying to cope without him.
What does all of this mean from a DFS perspective? It all depends on how effectively they embrace that concept. If they can jump that hurdle, then you have to lean on the guys that helped make that mindset a reality. Tobias Harris ($6,500) had an insane game where he went a perfect 6-for-6 from long range in Game 3, and while he comes at a very reasonable price, I think this kind of production isn't as dependable as it looks on paper. You have two ways to approach Philly today – buy Simmons, or spread your wealth among lower targets like J.J. Redick ($5,000). You also can't sleep on Greg Monroe ($4,300), who may turn out to be one of the best values on the entire slate tonight.
I think the Sixers will ultimately prevail in the first round, but that doesn't mean there isn't value on Brooklyn's side of the ball. D'Angelo Russell ($8,100) and Caris LeVert ($5,500) are likely to get lost in the shuffle today and won't come close to the ownership numbers you'll see from other marquee guys on the slate. I wouldn't go to Jarrett Allen ($4,700) at all, despite Embiid's likely absence. There are too many values at center that will outdo him, and it's best to eliminate him from consideration altogether.
If you are up to tackle the four-game slate, you can plug all that thinking into your builds. Let's now target players in the final three games.
James Harden, HOU at UTA ($10,800): For my money, Harden is my cash game cornerstone, and you run the risk of falling behind the pace if you don't clear cap space to play him. I don't think the change of environment is going to do much for Utah here – the Jazz look snake-bitten in almost every aspect, most notably in their defensive capability. Harden has shown no mercy, and his triple-double on Wednesday was a thing of beauty and a true DFS gem. I could throw a bunch of numbers at you, but do you really need them?
Eric Bledsoe, MIL at DET ($6,500): Since this is the first mention of this game, I feel obligated to mention Blake Griffin's (knee) status, even though it won't affect Bledsoe at all. Simply put, the Pistons don't have a prayer against the Bucks without him, so you can continue to load up on guys like Bledsoe, who's playing some of the best hoops of his career recently. He provides some of the best floors you'll find at this price level despite disappearing a bit in the Game 1 blowout. If Detroit can manage to get Griffin on the floor tonight, we might see a slightly closer outcome, but that will only bolster Bledsoe's value.
Derrick White, SA vs. DEN ($5,700): I have to say, the Spurs are a big surprise, but it just goes to show that you can never rule Gregg Popovich and company out. Thursday showed us that they are arguably more successful across the board at home, and I think you'll see good numbers from White once again after he blitzed the Nuggets for 36 points in Game 3. He's more of a GPP candidate for me due to his volatility this season, and while it's usually prudent to steer clear of a player after a blow-up game, playoff-time is a different animal, and I think Pop will stick with what's working.
I can't NOT mention Giannis Antetokounmpo ($10,500) here (worthy of a double negative), and I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't playing with a Harden/Giannis stack and littering the remainder of my lineup with value spots. It's a sure-fire way to min-cash, and you can probably hit your cash games hard if you ace the cheap spots. I'm approaching Giannis according to the Griffin variable today, but not in the way you might think. I believe Griffin's presence will boost Giannis' totals, as he'll be forced to play at a higher level with the Bucks facing a tougher test.
DeMar DeRozan, SA vs. DEN ($7,900): Bam, bam, bam. That's the sound of DeRozan's stat lines, as he's pummeled the Nuggets with 40-plus DKFP performances for three straight games. The Nuggets have been unable to contain him, and despite Paul Millsap's proclamations that Denver will prevail tonight, I doubt they'll find a solution to keep DeRozan from posting another big number.
Luke Kennard, DET vs. MIL ($5,200): Without Kennard's contributions in this series, the Pistons would look even more pitiful than they do already. I think he'll be a safe 30 DKFP bet again today, as his minutes and 3-point production are on an upward trend. With the Bucks focused on Andre Drummond, Kennard's been able to sneak up on the Bucks with some excellent play at the perimeter.
P.J. Tucker, HOU at UTA ($4,500): While he hasn't blown up yet, his usage has been through the roof in this series, and I think based on opportunity alone, he's hard to beat at this price. While I'd restrict his use to large-field tournaments due to his inevitable variance, he's been a reliable target for Harden and CP3 when they need to dish the ball inside. His totals are tied to Capela's success often, but he's a great money-saving play tonight.
I've already mentioned Greg Monroe as one of my favorite low-cost targets at this spot, but let's identify two other opportunities at center.
Nikola Jokic, DEN at SA ($9,300): The Nuggets are up against it, and Jokic has to have a big game tonight for them to have any hope of staying out of a deep hole in this series. I think the same holds for their entire starting lineup, but let's face it – as effective as guys like Jamal Murray and Derrick Favors can be, Jokic is the heart and soul of this team offensively and defensively, and they are a shell of themselves if he isn't playing at a high level. I'll be the first to say that he's a bit cost-prohibitive when you consider Denver's luck against the Spurs thus far, but that might be enough for him to warrant consideration as a lower-owned GPP value at center.
Paul Millsap, DEN at SA ($5,500): Maybe I'm a fan of meaningless proclamations, but I'm going to give Millsap a chance to put his money where his mouth is. This is a gut prediction more than anything else, but if you give any merit to Millsap's claims, he'll be very eager to post a career number tonight to silence all the critics. This kind of news can sometimes fly in the face of the actual math, but spots like this that have often given me some of my best GPP cashes.