With the NBA wrapping up the regular season, it's time to turn our attention toward the postseason. But first, we await the final results of the play-in tournament, which concludes with two do-or-die battles for the eighth seed in each conference Friday night.
The following rankings are intended for leagues that allow for few, if any, transactions throughout the postseason – that is, the players you draft before the playoffs begin are who you're stuck with the rest of the way. With that in mind, projecting the number of games played, and series results, is a key factor.
These rankings don't aim to predict what will happen over the next two months, but they're tilted in favor of teams that project to progress further – especially those with favorable matchups in Round 1. There may be some inherent personal bias, but for the most part we're using DraftKings' series odds and Finals MVP odds as our guide.
With the way the brackets are shaping up, there may only be a handful of series in which one team is heavily favored, so projecting beyond Round 1 is a risky proposition. For the first time in years, the Eastern Conference is especially stacked, and with the Nets slotting in as the No. 7 seed, the No. 2-seed Celtics – much like the 2-seed Suns last season – are faced with a major challenge right off the bat.
Beyond the matchups, a pair of key injuries in the Western Conference further complicate matters. As of Thursday, neither Stephen Curry (foot) nor Luka Doncic (calf) have officially been cleared to play in their respective series. There's some level of optimism that both players will play – Curry went through a full practice on Wednesday; Doncic is expected to miss Game 1 – but whether that actually happens, and how they'll look if they do take the floor, will have a massive impact on both the Warriors-Nuggets and Mavericks-Jazz Round 1 series.
Rather than simply ranking each fantasy-relevant player, we opted to divide the pool into a series of tiers. Within each tier, players are sorted in order of value, but the difference between, say, the third and sixth player in a given tier is not overly significant.
The tiers can also be adapted to formats like Underdog playoff best balls, FantasyPostseason.com's leagues or the NFBKC's Postseason contest, which each entail their own unique set of rules.
Note: We've included players whose teams are currently participating in the play-in tournament.
TIER 1: SUPERSTARS ON TITLE CONTENDERS
Superstars whose teams have a reasonable chance to make the NBA Finals.
Devin Booker, Suns
The Suns are the clear-cut favorite to make the NBA Finals out West, and Booker is the most likely Finals MVP winner according to the odds. He'll unquestionably be the Suns' leading scorer in the playoffs while chipping in a handful of rebounds and assists every game.
Chris Paul, Suns
Paul will presumably finish the playoffs with the most assists and steals, and he routinely chips in 15-to-20 points per game. He's Phoenix's floor general and should see as many minutes as he can handle in the playoffs.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
Last year's Finals MVP, Antetokounmpo puts up some of the gaudiest two-way numbers in the NBA. It's obvious what he's capable of in the postseason at this point.
Jimmy Butler, Heat
Butler may not be quite on the same level as Antetokounmpo, but the Heat have a similarly advantageous first-round matchup and will be favored over Philadelphia or Toronto in the East Semifinals.
Bam Adebayo, Heat
The Heat have the easiest path to the Finals in the East, and center is a position of scarcity. Locking up a versatile one like Adebayo early in the draft could pay off, especially since he's at no risk of being benched for small-ball looks.
Stephen Curry, Warriors
After missing the final 12 games of the regular season with a foot injury, Curry is a massive question mark heading into Round 1. If he's back and looks like himself, the Warriors are a Finals threat. If not, they could be in for a tough Round 1 series against Denver.
Ja Morant, Grizzlies
How easy of a path the Grizzlies have could largely depend on Curry's health in the first round going up against the Nuggets, but Morant is reaching superstar status before our eyes. Teams will inevitably focus on making other players beat them, but Morant is a good enough passer and athlete to handle double-teams and traps.
Joel Embiid, 76ers
The Sixers are favorites to prevail over Toronto in Round 1, but no one would be surprised if the Raptors end up pushing Philly to the brink. While the Sixers have the talent to make the Conference Finals, a matchup against top-seeded Miami in the second round would be a 50-50, at best.
James Harden, 76ers
Harden's playoff failures are starting to define his career, but the 76ers still have Finals-level talent. Since his first season with the Rockets, he's shooting just 42.4 percent from the field and 32.7 percent from three in the postseason (94 games), but it's still resulted in 27.6 points, 7.2 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals.
Jayson Tatum, Celtics
Over the final three months of the season, Tatum was one of the five best players in the league. Matching up with the Nets in Round 1 is a brutal draw for Boston, but the Celtics are slight favorites to win the series.
Kevin Durant, Nets
In terms of pure talent, Durant belongs at the top of this list, but the 7-seed Nets are currently underdogs in their Round 1 series against Boston. Even if the Nets prevail, Milwaukee will likely await in Round 2. Durant is certainly capable of putting the Nets on his back, but he's too much of a risk to draft ahead of stars with easier first-round matchups.
Kyrie Irving, Nets
A true superstar on the team with the third-best odds to win the title, Irving is an offensive machine with huge upside as a scorer. The Nets drawing a tough matchup against Boston in the first round knocks him to the bottom of Tier 1.
TIER 2: ESTABLISHED STARS ON GREAT TEAMS
Players with high statistical upside and a decent chance to advance to at least the Conference Finals.
Deandre Ayton, Suns
Khris Middleton, Bucks
The Bucks should cruise through Round 1 before things get a bit more difficult against Boston or Brooklyn in the East Semis. If Milwaukee returns to the Conference Finals, Middleton's reliable contributions on both ends will be a major reason why.
Jrue Holiday, Bucks
Like Middleton, Holiday is a key secondary piece for a Bucks team with back-to-back title aspirations. Milwaukee isn't a lock to get past the Celtics or Nets, but it would likely be favored in that series.
Tyler Herro, Heat
Miami is the No. 1 seed in the East for a reason, and they'll be favored to make the Conference Finals from the top of the bracket. The presumptive Sixth Man of the Year set new career-highs virtually across the board this season.
Mikal Bridges, Suns
Jaylen Brown, Celtics
Tatum is up in Tier 1, and Brown could belong there as well, but Celtics-Nets is close to a toss-up. So while Brown could help carry Boston deep into the playoffs, he could also be out after Round 1.
Jaren Jackson, Grizzlies
Coming off of the best fantasy regular season of his career, Jackson and the Grizzlies are heavy favorites to vanquish the Timberwolves in Round 1. After that, however, it will be uncharted territory for the league's biggest surprise team.
Desmond Bane, Grizzlies
One of the best value picks in fantasy this season, Bane has emerged as an ultra-valuable, co-No. 2 option behind Ja Morant. The Grizzlies have Western Conference Finals upside, and that's especially true if Stephen Curry's foot proves to be an issue.
Klay Thompson, Warriors
As has been the case for most of his career, Thompson's fortunes are closely tied to Stephen Curry. If Curry isn't playing at 100 percent, the Warriors' hopes of reaching the Western Conference Finals – or even the NBA Finals – could quickly fade.
Draymond Green, Warriors
Jordan Poole, Warriors
Selecting any of Poole, Draymond Green or Klay Thompson is essentially a matter of personal preference. If you think Stephen Curry will be fine and the Warriors can cruise past Denver in Round 1 and beat Memphis in Round 2, then go ahead and pull the trigger. If you're more skeptical, consider dipping into some players from Tier 4.
Donovan Mitchell, Jazz
Mitchell's past three playoff series have been incredible – 33.9 points on 23.1 shots, 5.2 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals. He'll again be the driving source of Utah's offense but faith in the Jazz to advance far in the postseason is at an all-time low.
Rudy Gobert, Jazz
Utah's chances in the first round are tied to Luka Doncic's health, which is still murky, at best. Still, they have a fair shot to win the series even if Doncic is 100 percent, and Gobert is an elite source of blocks and field-goal percentage. Some teams may try to play him off the floor, but I don't believe coach Quin Snyder will budge.
TIER 3: ROLLING THE DICE
High-risk, high-reward players who could advance deep into the playoffs or lose in Round 1.
Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
The Nuggets' chances in the playoffs largely depend on Stephen Curry's health. Jokic should put up huge numbers in Round 1 regardless, but failing to make it to Round 2 obviously caps his utility in a playoff fantasy format.
Luka Doncic, Mavericks
Based on Dallas' odds to win their first round matchup against the Jazz (+230), it doesn't seem like there's much belief that Doncic will be 100 percent healthy in the series while recovering from a calf strain suffered in the last game of the regular season. He's expected to miss at least Game 1 and perhaps Game 2. When healthy, Doncic has immense statistical upside, but given the ill-timed injury he's an extremely risky pick.
Tyrese Maxey, 76ers
Philadelphia has enough talent to make the NBA Finals, but execution is another question, especially given James Harden's playoff struggles. The assumption is that Philly will win Round 1 against Toronto, which would at least make Maxey viable in postseason fantasy as a No. 3 option on a Round 2 team.
Pascal Siakam, Raptors
Siakam is the top option for Toronto, and he'll get some relief from a presumed assignment from Matisse Thybulle, since the latter can't play in Canada. Still, unless you're picking the Raptors to pull off a major upset, Siakam isn't a fantastic option in this format.
Fred VanVleet, Raptors
VanVleet rested the final three games of the regular season, which seemed needed given his struggles to properly recover from a knee injury. After a string of absences in late February and early March, VanVleet's last 13 games have seen him shoot just 34.7 FG% and 28.3 3P%. It seems unlikely Toronto stands a real chance if those sorts of numbers continue for the point guard.
OG Anunoby, Raptors
Finger and thigh injuries resulted in Anunoby appearing in just six of the past 25 games. That said, he played well in his recent games, posting 14.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals on 52/47/82 shooting. At this point, however, it seems like he might be fading into the fourth or fifth offensive option for the Raptors as Scottie Barnes emerges as a real playmaking threat.
Scottie Barnes, Raptors
Barnes is firmly within the Rookie of the Year race, as he's established himself as the most well-rounded, two-way player in the class. The playoffs are a different kind of intensity, and rookies often struggle, but Barnes is a good enough defender, passer and rebounder to power through his potential shooting woes.
Gary Trent, Raptors
Somewhat quietly, Trent has emerged as one of the league's best high-volume three-point threats. He closed the regular season averaging career-bests in points (18.3), rebounds (2.7), assists (2.0), steals (1.7), made threes (3.0) per game, as well as free throw percentage (85.3%).
Jalen Brunson, Mavericks
With Luka Doncic set to miss time to begin Round 1, Brunson will essentially be thrust into the top playmaking role for a Mavs team that's completely centered around Doncic. No Doncic would likely mean better numbers for Brunson, but it could also equate to an early exit for Dallas.
Marcus Smart, Celtics
The possible Defensive Player of the Year averaged 12.1 points, 5.9 assists (career-high), 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals during the regular season. He'll be tasked with slowing down Kyrie Irving in Round 1.
Robert Williams, Celtics
While there seems to be plenty of optimism around Williams' recovery from a torn meniscus, it's very much unclear if he'll be able to return at any point during Round 1. If Boston can't get past Brooklyn, then drafting Williams could mean taking a zero.
TIER 4: LOWER-RISK STARTERS
Players who are likely to offset their lower statistical output with a higher number of total games played. Their teams are reasonably heavy favorites to advance to Round 2.
Kyle Lowry, Heat
Lowry has looked old this season. His points per game (13.4) have taken a sharp downturn, though he's kept the rest of his stat profile up to par. He'll continue to rack up assists and threes for Miami, but he's clearly happy to defer to Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo.
Dillon Brooks, Grizzlies
Brooks was excellent in last season's playoffs against the Jazz, averaging 25.8 points on 52/40/81 shooting. Memphis has more help now with Desmond Bane's emergence, but Brooks figures to still be a go-to option and was extremely aggressive on offense last postseason.
Andrew Wiggins, Warriors
Despite making the All-Star Game, Wiggins is a forgettable aspect of the Warriors' offensive gameplan, partially because he failed to take on extra usage when other players suffered injuries, and it feels like he's just locked into his 17/5/2 averages. Still, those numbers are good enough to make an impact in postseason fantasy if the Warriors can at least get to Round 2.
Cameron Johnson, Suns
Johnson has gotten some buzz for his excellent three-point shooting (42.5%), but he's still only providing 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 26.2 minutes per game. That said, with Phoenix expected to make the finals, his totals will start to add up.
Bobby Portis, Bucks
Portis and Lopez often split minutes, though Portis was closing games for Milwaukee down the stretch. It remains to be seen if that will be the case during these playoffs, but he'll play a sizable role, regardless, given the energy he brings to the team, not to mention the tangible 14.6 points and 9.1 rebounds on 39.3 3P%.
Cameron Payne, Suns
Payne is Chris Paul's backup, but he can also play some shooting guard and will be left in the game if he catches fire. In last season's playoffs, he averaged 9.3 points, 3.2 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 19.0 minutes.
Steven Adams, Grizzlies
The Grizzlies should be able to get past Minnesota in Round 1, so Adams has a high enough floor that he's worth rostering. The big man averaged a career-best 10.0 rebounds per game during the regular season.
Jae Crowder, Suns
While Crowder is a good role player who can catch fire from three, he's typically not an overly appealing fantasy option. But given the Suns' path, he's likely to play enough games that he'll end up out-producing many bigger-name players.
Brook Lopez, Bucks
After returning from back surgery, Lopez closed the season strongly (14.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 34.9% 3Pt), but at this stage in his career he's a more valuable real-life player than fantasy option.
TIER 5: HIGH-UPSIDE LONGSHOTS
Star, or even superstar, players capable of elite production but likely to be eliminated early.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves
Towns was awful during the play-in game against the Clippers, which could be chalked up to nerves and lack of playoff experience. The same concerns need to exist against the Grizzlies, and the Wolves aren't expected to advance, but he's still going to be key in the series and has been a walking 20-and-10 for his career.
DeMar DeRozan, Bulls
DeRozan is the go-to option for Chicago, though Zach LaVine will also get his fair share of touches, and that won't change in the Round 1 series. However, Chicago might be lucky to win a game in this series, so it's tough to justify drafting DeRozan too early.
Zach LaVine, Bulls
LaVine is Chicago's high-level second option, but the Round 1 series against Milwaukee is expected to quickly come to an end. He could average 25 points, but for how many games?
Anthony Edwards, Timberwolves
When he's in the zone, Edwards is one of the most dangerous scorers in the entire league. He's capable of putting up gaudy numbers, but after emerging from the play-in the Wolves are underdogs in Round 1 against Memphis.
Nikola Vucevic, Bulls
Vucevic has averaged a double-double with at least 3.0 assists in each of the last four years, but the Bulls have been terrible against good teams all season and are running into a buzzsaw in Milwaukee.
TIER 6: ROLE PLAYERS WITH UPSIDE
Good-not-great players whose teams have a chance to advance past at least Round 1. At this point in your draft, it comes down to a matter of preference.
Mike Conley, Jazz
With Luka Doncic banged up, the Jazz are suddenly a good bet to make it Round 2, but that would likely mean a matchup with the Suns.
Tobias Harris, 76ers
Since the arrival of James Harden, Harris has settled in as the Sixers' fourth option. He's overqualified for his role, but since the All-Star break he averaged only 14.3 points per game.
Bojan Bogdanovic, Jazz
Expect Bogdanovic to log heavy minutes and launch plenty of threes as a solid complementary piece alongside Donovan Mitchell. Making it out of Round 2 will be a difficult task for Utah, however.
Spencer Dinwiddie, Mavericks
Dinwiddie tends to run hot or cold, so there's a pretty low floor here – especially if Luka Doncic isn't 100 percent and the Mavs bow out early.
Jordan Clarkson, Jazz
Clarkson didn't quite match last season's career-best numbers, but he's still one of the best sixth men in the league. The Jazz are an enigma, but facing a less-than-100-percent Luka Doncic would certainly help their cause.
Al Horford, Celtics
With Robert Williams sidelined, Boston will lean more heavily on Horford in Round 1 against the Nets. The veteran turned in a better-than-expected regular season at age 35.
Derrick White, Celtics
White is a low-usage player for Boston, but he'll likely see plenty of playoff minutes given his smart decision-making and nice two-way play. The main concern has to be his three-point shooting (31.2%), but the Celtics at least have a floor-spacing big in Al Horford often on the court.
Andre Drummond, Nets
Drummond and Nicolas Claxton may essentially split time at center. Even if Drummond sees only 15-20 minutes, he could still average a double-double since he's one of the best rebounders in the NBA. However, he's not a great athlete and can be foul-prone.
Bruce Brown, Nets
Brown acted as a No. 3 option during the play-in game, and he was in that role during much of the season. That shouldn't change in Round 1, as he's a release valve for Brooklyn's offense when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving get doubled. He's a stat-sheet stuffer.
Seth Curry, Nets
Curry was invisible during the play-in game, going 0-for-4 from the field, but he figures to average more attempts over the course of the series against the Celtics. Still, he's a one category (threes) fantasy option who could get eliminated in Round 1.
Ben Simmons, Nets
Perhaps the single biggest wild card on this entire list. We have no idea when – or if – we'll see Simmons during the postseason, but the chances he plays will increase dramatically the longer Brooklyn stays alive.
TIER 7: SHORT-TERM FLYERS
Draft with the assumption that they'll only last one round – anything beyond that is a major bonus.
D'Angelo Russell, Timberwolves
It wouldn't be a major surprise if the Wolves give Memphis a run for its money in Round 1, but Minnesota actually winning the series would be.
Will Barton, Nuggets
Barton has been the Nuggets' second-best player, at times, this season. But with Stephen Curry trending in the right direction, Denver will face a major uphill battle in Round 1.
Aaron Gordon, Nuggets
At age 26, Gordon has settled in as a nice complementary player. During the regular season, he averaged 15.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 threes on a career-best 52.0 percent shooting.
Alex Caruso, Bulls
Caruso is a good source of assists and steals, but how many will he rack up before Chicago is eliminated?
Ayo Dosunmu, Bulls
Dosunmu has been a staple in Chicago's offense, especially with Lonzo Ball missing much of the season and still out for the playoffs. But with essentially everyone else healthy, there's only so much usage available, and the Bulls are expected to be swiftly eliminated.
Contingent on play-in results: CJ McCollum, Pelicans; Jonas Valanciunas, Pelicans; Clint Capela, Hawks; Bogdan Bogdanovic, Hawks; Kevin Huerter, Hawks; Jarrett Allen, Cavaliers; Evan Mobley, Cavaliers; Lauri Markkanen, Cavaliers; Kevin Love, Cavaliers; Ivica Zubac, Clippers
TIER 8: THE REST
Players to consider drafting with one of your final picks in a postseason fantasy league.
Grayson Allen, Bucks
De'Anthony Melton, Grizzlies
Brandon Clarke, Grizzlies
Max Strus, Heat
Landry Shamet, Suns
Tyus Jones, Grizzlies
Matisse Thybulle, 76ers
Hassan Whiteside, Jazz
Duncan Robinson, Heat
Pat Connaughton, Bucks
P.J. Tucker, Heat
Monte Morris, Nuggets
Royce O'Neale, Jazz
Dorian Finney-Smith, Mavericks
Reggie Bullock, Mavericks
Nicolas Claxton, Nets
Victor Oladipo, Heat