This article is part of our DraftKings NBA series.
DraftKings has elected to combine the Wednesday and Thursday playoff games in their Classic format, so rather than hit a POR/DEN Showdown column, we will tackle the two-game format on the slate today. Portland will look to bounce back from a loss to the Nuggets in Game 1, while Toronto will attempt to go to 2-1 on the road against the Sixers. Here are the Vegas lines for both games.
POR/DEN – O/U: 219.5, Denver -4
TOR/PHI – O/U: 214.5, Toronto -1
So, both games figure to be very similar in terms of pace and production, but in my opinion, the volatility rests on the TOR/PHI matchup, as the see-saw totals have indicated over the past two contests. You often see these back-to-back blowout games in the playoffs, especially as we go further into the bracket, but the most significant question mark heading into Game 3 is the overall impact of Joel Embiid ($9,000). As his stat line showed in Game 2, the injury/illness combination had a considerable effect on his output, as he committed the same number of turnovers as rebounds – an overall anemic showing for the Philly headliner. Without Embiid, Philly's outlook in this series is bleak, as Kawhi Leonard ($9,200) and Pascal Siakam ($7,900) are leading a blistering Toronto offense that has kicked into high gear.
Since we are discussing the elites, I am a fan of both Kawhi and Siakam tonight, and Siakam's price is still a chalk play given his DKFP floor in the high 30s. Leonard is on a superb four-game stretch where he's averaging 55 DKFP, and as long as he's below 10k, he's hard to fade. Damian Lillard ($9,400) also continues his streak of superlative games, as does Nikola Jokic ($10,300). After these players, dependability gets a bit murky. The fun thing about these playoff salaries is that I could roster Kawhi, Siakam, Lillard and Jokic and still have $3,300 per player left for my remaining four slots. There are actually guys at that level who could reap some benefit, and when you consider that this quartet could get you to 200 fairly easily, it isn't a bad way to go for your cash builds. This kind of lineups won't earn you a top finish in GPP's, but you can bet I'll be fashioning some combos with 2-3 of the top four with some low-cost value plays in the large-field contests. To satisfy the urge to go for all four, I'll provide one player per position that sits in that $3k range.
Jimmy Butler, PHI vs. TOR ($7,100): When Butler's rebound and assist totals crank up, the scoring machine adds another dimension to his potential, and his 11 rebounds in Game 2 resulted in it the kind of value-crushing stat line you want at this price. In his post-game interview, Butler praised his teammates for giving him the right amount of opportunities, so from his point of view, big numbers will come if they can get him the ball. You have to assume that if Embiid looks like his usual self, Butler's numbers could take a hit, but even a number in the 40 DKFP range would be favorable at this salary.
Jamal Murray, DEN vs. POR ($6,400): Murray comes at a slightly better price than C.J. McCollum, and after watching McCollum post his worst scoring total since returning to full health in April, I can't see rostering him when Murray is available at this price. Murray's 23-point, eight assist outing in Game 1 is a shift in the right direction for Denver's floor general, as his numbers against San Antonio in the first round were more volatile than a David Fizdale starting five. An evening at high altitude should give Denver the upper hand again, and the Murray-Jokic connection should continue.
Rodney Hood, POR at DEN ($3,100): As promised, Hood is my guard option at the lower price. It appears the Blazers have gradually recognized the value of Hood when he's hot, and he indeed demonstrated some pop in Game 1, going 3-for-4 from long range. I think it's a bit of a toss-up here between Hood and Evan Turner ($3,100) as to who will yield the higher total, but Hood has the edge in minutes, and if you're gunning for the four elites mentioned above, I think he's one of the safer bets at this level.
Paul Millsap, DEN vs. POR ($5,200): I don't often give Millsap his due, but I think Enes Kanter's shoulder struggles and a ho-hum night from Portland's frontcourt offered Millsap some additional opportunity inside in Game 1, and I don't see that injury going away anytime soon. It's miraculous that Kanter is even suiting up with a separated shoulder, and while it's unfortunate that Portland can't field a healthy center outside of Zach Collins, it's good news for Denver's frontcourt. Jokic is the unquestioned star of the team inside, but Millsap is a high-percentage shooter who could yield value-beating totals in the 5k range.
Mason Plumlee, DEN vs. POR ($3,600): In relief, Plumlee also took advantage of Portland's struggles inside and returned to more customary in-season totals. Plumlee was pretty much an afterthought in the series against San Antonio, and there are certainly no guarantees that he'll replicate his 26.5 DKFP outing in Game 1, but his 24 minutes of court time was his best total yet in the postseason. There's little question that he matches up better with Portland, so I think he'll be implemented into the offense with more frequency in this series.
James Ennis III, PHI vs. TOR ($3,400): Ennis has filled in admirably for Mike Scott, and he hasn't been shy. He was game to heave the ball up from just about anywhere in Game 1, and if he can get more of them to fall, he will destroy value at this low price. It's a foregone conclusion that a healthy Embiid will likely steal some rebounds away, but Ennis has shown that he can make a swift impact, especially in transition.
As I said, Joel Embiid is a bit of a mystery at this point. Those who choose to roster him in GPPs will be rewarded if he returns to form, but there's no way I'm going to trust him in a cash lineup. I believe we'll see a glimmer of the old Embiid in Game 2, as the Sixers have little choice but to give him whatever he can handle. With Greg Monroe (ankle) likely out, Boban Marjanovic and Jonah Bolden are all they have under the basket, so he'll get his usual opportunities if he can stay on the court.
I'm not going to endorse anyone beyond Jokic in this section, as guys like Millsap, Plumlee and Siakam have eligibility at this position and are arguably better options than Enes Kanter ($6,000). While he mustered 26 points with that separated shoulder, it's a situation that I can only trust in a GPP format, and I have some trepidation in even doing that for $6k.