This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
As we move into the playoffs, we will be tailoring the content of strategy articles to provide the best endorsements possible. Visiting the slate on a game-by-game basis seems to be the best approach.
At first glance, the striking element of this slate is the pricing of the San Antonio Spurs. The downtick in salaries is especially evident over at DraftKings, but it's also the case over at FanDuel, where the top player (DeMar DeRozan) clocks in at $7,500. The rest of the Spurs starters are equally well-priced, and when you add in some spend-up elements available for Memphis, the first game is the better DFS contest by a mile. The Warriors-Lakers matchup will be the most watchable game, but aside from a couple of desirable targets, I have a lot less interest in this contest overall, especially on the Lakers' end.
Grizzlies vs. Spurs (Grizzlies -4, O/U: 222)
PG Dejounte Murray, SAS ($7.700)
SG DeMar DeRozan, SAS ($7,500)
C Jonas Valanciunas, MEM ($8,700)
As I said, the Sours prices are ridiculously low, and it makes total sense to fire up a reasonable amount from Pop's team. DeRozan and Murray are the offensive engines for the Spurs, and both players are practically locks for at least 30 minutes of action. DeRozan's history with the Grizzlies this season is a tale of opposites. He kicked off the season with a huge 57 FP thumping over Memphis, followed by his worst complete game of the season against them a month later. There was also a 30 FP mixed in there as well, so we've seen a combination of mixed results. Still, the Spurs are now as healthy as they'll get, and they are notorious for showing their best stuff come playoff time. Dejounte Murray will also find a way to a decent stat line, as his potential for 40 or more FP makes him way too cheap at $7,700. Over on the Memphis side, your best elite option is Valanciunas, who you can plug into FanDuel's single-center slot with impunity. He's on a torrid streak of five consecutive double-doubles, and although he missed two contests against the Spurs due to injury, he did begin the season with a double-double against them. Missing from our elite batch is Ja Morant, who is more inconsistent than other guards on the slate, and although the upside is there, my exposure to him will be shallow.
PF Jaren Jackson, MEM ($6,600)
C Jakob Poeltl, SAS ($6,300)
SF Keldon Johnson, SAS ($4,500)
SG Lonnie Walker, SAS ($3,900)
We could probably go even lower with sections like Patty Mills and Devin Vassell, but I think this trio of Spurs will have the most dependable floors. While an endorsement of Poeltl is immediately limited for FanDuel if you favor JoVal, he merits some pivot exposure in MME builds as a lower-cost option for the position. Johnson and Walker will also be candidates for maximum minutes. Although Walker hasn't been the figure of consistency, he will start alongside Murray and can ease salary pressure effectively. Although Memphis has some additional options, Jackson shows up with the best value out of the bunch over guys like Dillon Brooks and Kyle Anderson. You will always have to sweat foul trouble with Jackson, and Wednesday's game will be no exception. If he can keep his hands to himself, Jackson should reach 5x value where San Antonio is weakest.
Lakers vs. Warriors (Lakers -5.5, O/U: 219)
PG Stephen Curry, GSW ($10,400)
PF Draymond Green, GSW ($8,200)
SG Andrew Wiggins, GSW ($7,800)
Yes, you read that correctly. The Lakers have two chances to win, and I'm not entirely convinced that we will see more than 30 minutes from LeBron James and Anthony Davis. In fact, they'd probably prefer a game against Memphis or the Spurs to close things out and ultimately meet the Jazz, who may still have Donovan Mitchell out of the lineup. If I had to move to either elite, it would be to Davis at $11,000, but my exposure there would be low. Stephen Curry will be all over my builds, however. His shot volume probably won't go as high as his 36 attempts in his last game against the Grizzlies, but you can safely bet on plenty of shots from beyond the arc. He's also put up great secondary numbers over the past few weeks. We want 50 FP or more at this price. I think he'll get there and then some. While we run the risk of getting the slate completely wrong with a Davis and James fade, I'm inclined to give Green the nod over Davis at power forward at a $2,800 discount. He'll constantly be in line for triple-double numbers and should be able to cover the differential easily, especially if Davis plays fewer minutes than expected. I also don't mind Wiggins at all, although his price may be a little high. His rostership should be lower than most players in this price range, and we've seen him pop with some great lines this month with 53 FP against the Suns and 43 FP against the Pelicans. His history against the Lakers this season is tepid at best, but his expanded role with Kelly Oubre sidelined should make a big difference.
To sum up the elite end, I want to further my defense of fading Davis, James, or a James/Davis stack. A stack would eat $21,400 of your salary, which is DFS hari-kari on small slates. The diminutive player pool won't have enough value candidates to make that play worthwhile, and while you can make room for one five-figure player, I firmly feel Curry is that guy.
PG Dennis Schroder, LAL ($5,500)
SF Kent Bazemore, GSW ($5,300)
C Kevon Looney, GSW ($3,900)
SF Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, LAL ($4,900)
You could make an argument against Schroder due to James' return, but while LeBron was healthy, we saw time and time again how an upgrade at point guard allowed James more freedom to do what he does best. He was never an ideal fit at the point, and while James can play any position effectively, he's best when creating his own shots out in space. Assuming Schroder is fully healthy and ready to contribute 30 minutes, he's probably the best play for the salary on the Lakers' end. We're forced to slide past Kule Kuzma and instead pivot to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is very shot-dependent but should start and have enough shot volume to be relevant. The value picks of Bazemore and Looney are best suited for lineups that had a primary focus on the first game, so as you fiddle with our optimizer in bulk builds, be sure to not wholly stack the Warriors. Looney can reasonably be in your group of centers, and Bazemore is safe to plug in as a pivot for Keldon Johnson when you diversify further.
In summary, Curry is my core, and the fade of James and Davis is a risk I'm willing to take. On the few occasions I keep Curry out of a build, Davis will be the most likely pivot, however. Value with the Spurs will help to balance out my per-player salary allotment.