This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
We'll get another shot at a Bucks/Nets game on Monday's slate. Many of us were out of contention Saturday when James Harden (hamstring) left the game after one minute. We'll now get to use the Classic format for Game 2, thanks to the Game 1 of the Nuggets/Suns series. We will break down the best plays at every position and offer additional budget candidates at the end of the article.
I'll allow for the two best picks here, but I'm almost convinced that this may not be the smartest place to spend up. After the two top selections, I'll offer an alternate way to approach the position.
Kyrie Irving, BKN ($9,700) vs. MIL
It's hard to bet against Kyrie in Game 2. While his roster rate may end up north of 50 percent, he's a very solid cash candidate who will experience a substantial production boost as long as Harden is out. I will be under the field for Irving, however. His 48 FDFP in Game 1 is his second-best playoff total thus far, and unless he can muster a double-double, it's an open question whether he can meet value at the adjusted salary. I feel obligated to mention him, but my cash will go to other elites in single-entry matchups.
Jrue Holiday, MIL ($8,400) @ BKN
Pivoting to Holiday as your top point guard makes a lot of sense. While he hasn't popped in the playoffs, he's provided a solid floor for those who roster him. His totals have ranged from 33 to 41 FDFP over six playoff contests, a very tight margin. The one knock on Holiday is that at $8,400, we would need to see over 40 FDFP from him.
Mike James, BKN ($4,800) vs. MIL
James will be no secret on the slate this time around, as it seems that he's the anointed one to replace Harden moving forward. He'll be a vital part of the game plan and should see somewhere north of his Game 1 total. We can get unique at PG with a tandem of James and Facundo Campazzo ($5,000), or we could bet on a resurgent game from Chris Paul ($7,300) to go with James.
Shooting guard is another lean position that offers even less wiggle room than point guard. Beyond the top two selections, it's slim pickings.
Devin Booker, PHO ($8,700) vs. DEN
Booker is a little too expensive for my taste, but if you want a solid floor at shooting guard, he is as good as you'll get. With the meager offering at this position, you almost have to throw value multipliers out the window because the roster rates will be so high. I wouldn't be surprised to see Booker come out at 70 percent, an incredibly high number and not one ideally suited for tournaments.
Bruce Brown, BKN ($5,900) vs. MIL
It's reasonable to expect a solid dose of minutes from Brown as the Nets fills the gap left by Harden. I was surprised to see only 21 minutes out of him Saturday, and that was partly due to streaky performances at small forward that kept him from his typical hybrid duties. Still, he's almost always a solid contributor in ancillary categories, and if he can boost his shot volume to eight or 10 attempts, we should see a number that will get close to 30 FDFP.
Bryn Forbes, MIL ($3,900) @ BKN
I'm not entirely sure why Forbes disappeared in Game 1. A look at the game flow shows that he couldn't find his shot in the first quarter in relief of Holiday, and his inability to generate production created some bleak sequences in the game whenever Holiday was off the floor. I am somewhat confident in going back here over someone like Pat Connaughton at $4,000, who is perfectly fine but not someone I'm ever confident in rostering. The only person I would consider at the bottom besides Forbes is Austin Rivers ($4,900), who might make the most sense on paper as the Nuggets look for answers against the Suns.
We have five very reasonable candidates for this position, and it's where I will gather a lot of cash to fill up the two spots.
Kevin Durant, BKN ($10,700) vs. MIL
Durant is one of three places where I am confident in spending up. The battle inside between Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo was as good as advertised, and although Giannis clung to Durant like glue, the Bucks offered little resistance overall. Milwaukee shifted to double-team Durant and Irving early and often, but the duo would catch them flat-footed in the pick-and-roll. While the Bucks will undoubtedly adjust as they try to contain Durant, the resurgent play of his supporting cast takes a lot of pressure off the All-Star. He may not meet 5x value, but he'll carry one of the highest PF totals tonight.
Michael Porter, DEN ($7,800) @ PHO
Porter seems to be back to his usual self after a mediocre effort to begin the series against Portland. He offered up 43 and 40 FDFP to end the first round and was crucial in disposing of the Trail Blazers. Porter was just returning to the court the last time the Nuggets faced Phoenix, and despite posting one of his weakest totals of the season in the first game of the two-game tilt, he responded the following evening with a 14/11 double-double against them. His skill set is an excellent fit against the Suns and he's one of my favorite selections on the slate.
I bunch this duo together because it was probably the most challenging call on the docket. Harris' seven three-pointers are not something you'll see every day, but if you watched the last game, his impact was incredibly significant. Bridges brings a more solid floor to the table, and I think he'll enjoy continued success at the wing against Denver. He enjoyed two productive games against the Nuggets earlier this season, and if you have enough room in your wallet to go for him, he earns a solid yes from me. If not, I think Harris is an obvious upside play who can save you $600 at the position. Placing these two together is also viable if you want to go for three elites in the frontcourt.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL ($11,300) @ BKN
Of course, I don't care for the elevated salary, but loading up in the frontcourt is the way to go tonight. Unless I elect to push the envelope at center, Giannis is a lock. The Greek Freak is itching to make a statement to the league, and there's no better way to do it than by upending the Nets, and he will have to play his best basketball of the season to make it happen. Giannis can stand under the basket and collect rebounds, and he's almost assured of his fifth postseason double-double. He could also find a way to his second triple-double of the playoffs, but that will largely depend on how effective the Bucks can be on the perimeter. They'll need to vastly improve their game beyond the arc if Giannis hopes to collect more dimes.
Blake Griffin, BKN ($5,100) vs. MIL
Griffin turned back the clock with a superb 42.3 FDFP performance in Game 1. He looked his best in the third quarter, where he and KD took over the game with a special kind of synergy that we haven't seen enough of in Brooklyn. A healthy dose of minutes is key to his success, and if he can start with some respectable numbers in the first quarter, he should loom large in the fourth, when he managed a three-pointer and a slew of rebounds in Game 1.
JaMychal Green, DEN ($4,200) @ PHO
I guess you could call me a Green apologist because he makes his way into many of my endorsements, but I like his chances against the Suns in this series. This is a position that has historically been difficult to fill for Phoenix, and although I don't mind Jae Crowder, the team sees a dip when they switch to Frank Kaminsky or Dario Saric. It's this second-unit matchup that I like for Green, who will spell Aaron Gordon and see anywhere from 25 to 30 minutes.
Nikola Jokic, DEN ($10,800) @ PHO
This endorsement should be no surprise. I think both Jokic and Deandre Ayton ($7,600) are decent options as they square off against each other, but Jokic is by far the superior selection. As we said previously, you'll have to make some significant sacrifices if you want to get Durant, Giannis and Jokic in the same lineup, severely compromising your remaining slots. To stay relevant, you may have to split your MME plays with a mix-and-match of Durant and Jokic while keeping Giannis as your core. Antetokounmpo is the one player I don't want to part with, but Jokic comes in a close second.
Brook Lopez, MIL ($6,000) @ BKN
Lopez should have a hefty roster rate because he's a way to get multiple elites into your lineups without too much of a sacrifice. Opting for Jokic allows for an additional spend-up outside of Durant and Giannis, and I found suitable avenues for Porter, Booker, and even Holiday by going in this direction. While he didn't perform as well as we hoped in Game 1, Lopez still has the right skill set to take advantage of some of Brooklyn's frontcourt deficiencies.
To conclude, it seems that a frontcourt load is the way to go tonight, with an Irving/Holiday backcourt load being the less desirable option. According to projections, taking on Durant, Giannis AND Jokic will cost you too much elsewhere, but opting for two of the three elites will allow for better production at other positions and a higher overall total.