NBA Playoffs: Round 1 DFS Preview

NBA Playoffs: Round 1 DFS Preview

This article is part of our Category Strategy series.

We made it. The last few days, if not weeks, of the NBA regular season can be a joke interesting. Shoutout to Anfernee Simons, Tim Frazier, Gary Trent and Jake Layman for playing 48 minutes in their respective regular-season finales.

Round 1 kicks off Saturday. Here are the matchups:

  • (1) Milwaukee vs. (8) Detroit
  • (1) Golden State vs. (8) LA Clippers
  • (2) Toronto vs. (7) Orlando
  • (2) Denver vs. (7) San Antonio
  • (3) Philadelphia vs. (6) Brooklyn
  • (3) Portland vs. (6) Oklahoma City
  • (4) Boston vs. (5) Indiana
  • (4) Houston vs. (5) Utah

Let's break things down from a DFS perspective and see where we might be able to find some value:

Bucks vs. Pistons

Regular-season series: MIL sweeps DET, +59 total points

Milwaukee's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. Detroit

  1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, 47.5 FP
  2. Eric Bledsoe, 40.3 FP
  3. Brook Lopez, 31.0 FP
  4. Khris Middleton, 29.2 FP
  5. Malcolm Brogdon (OUT), 24.8

Detroit's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. Milwaukee

  1. Blake Griffin, 40.7 FP
  2. Andre Drummond, 33.2 FP
  3. Reggie Jackson, 28.0 FP
  4. Stanley Johnson (NO LONGER WITH TEAM), 26.7 FP
  5. Reggie Bullock (NO LONGER WITH TEAM), 22.2 FP


Yikes. This should be everyone's pick for first-round sweep. Most of the players' fantasy-point averages are actually deflated due to blowouts. Only Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe played more than 30 minutes per game for the Bucks in this regular-season series. And we should probably be concerned that two of Detroit's best performers against the Bucks are now on different teams. Plus, Blake Griffin has been dealing with knee soreness. If you're playing an entire day's slate, this matchup might be one to avoid. If you're in a one-game showdown with utility spots, I'd hesitate to pay up. You might be better off taking some high-end role players.

Warriors vs. Clippers

Regular-season series: GSW 3-1, +42 total points

Golden State's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. LA

  1. Kevin Durant, 54.3 FP
  2. Stephen Curry, 48.4 FP
  3. Draymond Green, 42.2 FP
  4. DeMarcus Cousins, 30.8 FP
  5. Klay Thompson, 26.9 FP

LA's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. Golden State

  1. Tobias Harris (NO LONGER WITH TEAM), 39.9 FP
  2. Lou Williams, 38.3 FP
  3. Montrezl Harrell, 28.0 FP
  4. Landry Shamet, 26.6 FP
  5. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 25.8 FP


This is another matchup that could be best to avoid for full-day slates, though it's interesting that Draymond Green has performed better than usual against the Clippers while Klay Thompson has performed worse. For LA, it's troubling that Danilo Gallinari (23.7 FP vs. GS) has struggled, as he's the team's main offensive force next to Lou Williams. Aside from Williams, I'm not sure who else to trust for the Clippers. 

Raptors vs. Magic

Regular-season series: 2-2, ORL +30

Toronto's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. Orlando

  1. Kyle Lowry, 37.3 FP
  2. Kawhi Leonard, 31.6 FP
  3. Serge Ibaka, 28.7 FP
  4. Marc Gasol, 26.2 FP
  5. Danny Green, 25.5 FP

Orlando's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. Toronto

  1. Nikola Vucevic, 48.7 FP
  2. Jonathan Isaac, 26.9 FP
  3. Aaron Gordon, 26.5 FP
  4. Michael Carter-Williams, 26.0 FP
  5. Evan Fournier, 25.4 FP


Toronto was missing one of Kawhi Leonard or Kyle Lowry during their two losses to Orlando, though it's still impressive that the Magic have the upper hand in the season series. The Raptors' fantasy numbers are deflated, however, as only Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry averaged 30-plus minutes in the series. Overall, we should expect things to go Toronto's way in this matchup, and it would be surprising to see this go past five games. My main concern from a DFS standpoint is Nikola Vucevic being guarded by Marc Gasol. I'm not sure how much I trust the Magic's role players to pick things up if Vucevic gets shut down.

Nuggets vs. Spurs

Regular-season series: 2-2, DEN +22

Denver's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. San Antonio

  1. Nikola Jokic, 36.5 FP
  2. Jamal Murray, 35.0 FP
  3. Malik Beasley, 28.6 FP
  4. Monte Morris, 23.3 FP
  5. Mason Plumlee, 21.0 FP

San Antonio's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. Denver

  1. DeMar DeRozan, 39.0 FP
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge, 37.1 FP
  3. Derrick White, 28.5 FP
  4. Rudy Gay, 26.1 FP
  5. Jakob Poeltl, 19.1 FP


Denver being up in this series by 22 points is deceiving, as the first three games were decided by eight or fewer points, and the fourth game featured San Antonio traveling to Denver on the second half of a back-to-back. The Nuggets blew out the Spurs then, but that's not too surprising. The Spurs' top performers are about what you'd expect. Denver's top performers are not. Paul Millsap, Will Barton and Gary Harris played just two games against the Spurs, but each saw at least 25 minutes per game and couldn't crack the Top 5. That workload should change in the playoffs, but the lack of successful experience against this year's Spurs squad is not encouraging.

76ers vs. Nets

Regular-season series: 2-2, BKN +13

Philadelphia's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. Brooklyn

  1. Joel Embiid, 57.1 FP
  2. Jimmy Butler, 47.7 FP
  3. Ben Simmons, 45.1 FP
  4. Tobias Harris (one game), 26.0 FP
  5. J.J. Redick, 22.1 FP

Brooklyn's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. Philadelphia

  1. Caris LeVert, 35.7 FP
  2. D'Angelo Russell, 35.3 FP
  3. Spencer Dinwiddie, 33.4 FP
  4. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, 27.4 FP
  5. Jarrett Allen, 21.8 FP


These two teams have only played once since the trade deadline, so it's tough to gauge how much information to take into account. At the very least, we know Joel Embiid hasn't had any trouble dominating the Nets' front line, as he's heads and shoulders above everyone else in terms of production. However, he's dealing with knee soreness, and it's still unclear if he'll play in Game 1. If he's out, the Sixers will have to rely more on the likes of Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris. I would also hesitate to assume Caris LeVert will lead the Nets in fantasy production in the postseason. D'Angelo Russell seems like a much more likely candidate.

Trail Blazers vs. Thunder

Regular-season series: OKC 4-0, +28 total points

Portland's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. Oklahoma City

  1. Damian Lillard, 57.2 FP
  2. Jusuf Nurkic (OUT), 41.4 FP
  3. CJ McCollum, 29.7 FP
  4. Al-Farouq Aminu, 27.6 FP
  5. Enes Kanter, 15.2 FP

Oklahoma City's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. Portland

  1. Paul George, 65.1 FP
  2. Russell Westbrook, 52.9 FP
  3. Steven Adams, 29.7 FP
  4. Deonte Burton (one game), 27.0 FP
  5. Jerami Grant, 23.9 FP


Considering the Blazers were swept in the regular season, only being down 28 total points isn't too bad. But things aren't looking great Portland overall, as they've lost Jusuf Nurkic for the year and C.J. McCollum is coming off a knee injury. This is maybe the easiest upset pick on the playoffs, even with Paul George less than 100 percent due to a sore shoulder. Enes Kanter should be the one who benefits the most in Nurkic's absence, and he could be motivated going up against his former team. That said, contributions from role players are spotty for both teams, as Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Paul George and Russell Westbrook do all the heavy lifting for their respective squads.

Celtics vs. Pacers

Regular-season series: BOS 3-1, +48 total points

Boston's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. Indiana

  1. Kyrie Irving, 31.2 FP
  2. Jayson Tatum, 29.3 FP
  3. Al Horford, 29.2 FP
  4. Jaylen Brown, 28.5 FP
  5. Marcus Morris, 27.2 FP

Indiana's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. Boston

  1. Victor Oladipo (OUT), 35.3 FP
  2. Domantas Sabonis, 29.5 FP
  3. Myles Turner, 27.1 FP
  4. Bojan Bogdanovic, 22.5 FP
  5. Tyreke Evans, 21.5 FP


We're seeing some stat deflation here, as Boston, from a total points perspective, has dominated this matchup. Things seem to be relatively in order for both teams, however, in terms of who ranks where. I imagine Al Horford, Myles Turner and Darren Collison will jump up in the ranks during this series, as they each have 40-FP upside if given at least 35 minutes. Ultimately, I don't think the Pacers have the personnel to check Kyrie Irving, and I'm expecting a big series out of him.

Rockets vs. Jazz

Regular-season series: 2-2, UTA +6

Houston's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. Utah

  1. James Harden, 55.3 FP
  2. Carmelo Anthony (NOT WITH TEAM, one game), 39.4 FP
  3. Clint Capela, 35.1 FP
  4. Austin Rivers, 34.3 FP
  5. Kenneth Faried, 30.4 FP

Utah's Top 5 Fantasy Performers vs. Houston

  1. Donovan Mitchell, 38.9 FP
  2. Rudy Gobert, 32.0 FP
  3. Jae Crowder, 25.9 FP
  4. Derrick Favors, 25.9 FP
  5. Joe Ingles, 21.3 FP


This series is intriguing given how close these squads played each other during the year. For Houston, I expect Chris Paul to make his way into the Top 5 performers list during the playoffs. He had a rough first half of the year, but CP3 averaged 15.7 points, 8.3 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.9 steals once the calendar turned to 2019. The driving force for the Jazz is Donovan Mitchell, and I think the Jazz only stand a chance if he can play above his averages. Utah's role players haven't fared particularly well against the Rockets.

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Alex Barutha
Alex is RotoWire's Chief NBA Editor. He writes articles about daily fantasy, year-long fantasy and sports betting. You can hear him on the RotoWire NBA Podcast, Sirius XM, VSiN and other platforms. He firmly believes Robert Covington is the most underrated fantasy player of the past decade.
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