This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
Saturday's slate features a pair of Conference Semifinal games. The Milwaukee Bucks hope that a change of scenery can turn things around against the Brooklyn Nets, who hold a 2-0 lead and are firing all cylinders without James Harden (hamstring).
Meanwhile, the Jazz convincingly beat the Clippers in a more secure win than was indicated by the final score. Utah also played without Mike Conley's (back) services in the win, and he is a game-time call for Thursday as the Jazz try to take a 2-0 lead. The best angle for this small slate is to tackle each position in FanDuel's format (2 PG, 2 SG, 2 SF, 2 PF and 1 C) and identify the best calls for each spot.
Brooklyn Nets @ Milwaukee Bucks (+3) – O/U: 234
LA Clippers @ Utah Jazz (-3.5) – O/U: 221.5
We are again presented with the quandary of choosing a backcourt-based spend-up or an expensive frontcourt. Due to the massive talents at the top, a hybrid approach might be the best way to go on this slate.
Kyrie Irving, BKN ($9.700) @ MIL
Although Irving stepped back a bit with a 39 FDFP outing in Game 2, his 48 FDFPs in Game 1 helped to establish an excellent postseason floor for the All-Star in this series. His numbers bounced around a bit against the Celtics, but this Conference Semifinal matchup is an entirely different scenario without James Harden in the fold. It will be tough for Irving to beat 5x value at this salary, which leads me to limit his exposure, somewhat. He's only hit the number necessary for value twice in six playoff games.
Jordan Clarkson, UTA ($5,800) vs. LAC
We should place an asterisk next to Clarkson and load up him only if Mike Conley ($7,500) sits again. Clarkson is an exceptional sixth man for the Jazz and is most at home in that role, but he'll be called upon to do a bit more without Conley a the point. Donovan Mitchell is sliding to the point more often than not, making Clarkson a viable off-the-ball slashing and shooting threat. Even if we see Conley tonight, there are many ways to keep Clarkson in, especially if you've been light on Utah in your builds.
Mike James, BKN ($4,800) @ MIL
James was already a potential lock with James Harden (hamstring) out, but he's swiftly become a prevalent figure due to the blowout scenarios against the Bucks. He's been especially potent in the second and fourth quarter when the team swings out Bruce Brown and Joe Harris. The Nets are also giving him ample time in a cleanup role. Though the Bucks will be tougher at home, James will still see enough time to remain relevant.
Shooting guard is a far more difficult position tonight. Aside from two obvious chalk plays, a value shot here is much less evident than the options at point guard. Although many people will move on Paul George ($9,200), I will be under the field here. If he were priced more appropriately (like $8,500), I'd have a stronger inclination to go there, but his floor is nowhere near that expensive. You're hoping for an upside explosion from George if you go this route.
Donovan Mitchell, UTA ($9,700) vs. LAC
Let's not be fooled – Donovan Mitchell will be highly rostered, with maybe half of all rosters placing him in at shooting guard. And for good reason. The numbers show that Mitchell has taken a giant leap forward with every game as his injury gets further away in the rear-view mirror. Mitchell torched the Clippers in Game 1 with 45 points. He hurled up 30 shot attempts in the game, with 15 of them coming from beyond the arc. It's hard to argue with that kind of usage. The Clippers will need to find a way to contain him if they want to stay competitive.
Bruce Brown, BKN ($5,900) @ MIL
Although the Nets will switch up the rotation often, Brown has settled into a predictable usage pattern in the postseason that is only bolstered by James Harden's absence. Other role players took a front seat in Game 1 against the Bucks, but Brown bounced back with 13 points, six rebounds and four assists over 26 minutes in Game 2. The primary concern for Brown is his tendency to fade in a blowout, as the Nets switch to a host of benchwarmers that don't do enough to meet value if the game is well in hand in the fourth quarter.
The position is incredibly thin tonight, but it's easy to focus on one of two prime targets and hunt for value at the other slot.
Don't get me wrong – I'd love to have both of them, but going that route leaves you a little under $5,500 per player remaining, so I think it's more of an either/or proposition tonight. It's feasible to load up on Kawhi and Durant in a stars-and-scrubs edition in your MME builds, however.
The X-factor between these two All-Stars is motivation. It's possible for the Nets to dip in intensity in Game 3, but Kawhi and company need to right their ship and quickly. Leonard faced a similar calamity during his tenure with the Raptors, where he brought the team back from the brink, again and again, to eventually claim the NBA title.
Although Kawhi set a playoff-low with only 38.9 FanDuel points in Game 1, it would be foolish to go with recency bias and take a pass on Leonard right now. This is not to discount Durant, who has averaged 50 FDFP in two games against the Bucks and an average of 52.8 FDFP in the playoffs.
On paper, Durant is the safer call, but on a night where most players will only go with one of these elites, it's sensible to split your exposure evenly across multiple lineups.
Bojan Bogdanovic, UTA ($5,400) vs. LAC
Bogdanovic was a life-saver while Mitchell was out near the end of the regular season. His sharpshooting skills rarely failed him down the stretch, and although Mitchell's return was supposed to put a dent in his production, it hasn't hit him too hard. He's underperformed only once in the playoffs (a 17.4 FDFP score against Memphis), and his steady floor will undoubtedly grab attention from many owners. Despite his potential popularity, his rostership percentage will be much less than Mitchell and Clarkson.
Joe Harris, BKN ($5,200) @ MIL
Harris is a funny call because the guy is on the court all the time but has little to show for it. Like me, you're probably surprised when you look at his stat lines and see what he's actually done, from a fantasy perspective. For Harris, it comes down to critical plays at key moments. By no means should you group Harris with Mike James AND Bruce Brown because the correlation is incredibly poor, and the game flow charts show that James is the main culprit behind any downtick for Harris. I would pivot to Nicolas Batum ($5,600) instead if you happen to have a lot of exposure on James already, but having Brown as well isn't nearly as bad.
It's a thin position, and you can only count on five guys in this spot.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL ($11,300) vs. BKN
Can Giannis turn things around for his team at home? I am willing to bet on a resurgence, but I don't know about this price here. With the way that this series is going, a 60 FDFP night from Giannis is a pretty big ask. He's proven worthy of this salary in four of six playoff games so far, so it's certainly feasible that he could be the best five-digit option on the slate. He'll be the key to a bounce-back for Milwaukee, but you'll be put in a similar spot if you pair Giannis with someone like Durant or Leonard.
Blake Griffin, BKN ($5,500) @ MIL
Love him or hate him, you have to consider Blake at this salary once again. Although his services weren't needed against the Celtics, he has posted two excellent numbers against the Bucks and has provided some highlight reel-worthy plays in the process. Along with some thunderous dunks, he's given the Nets a solid presence in the paint who can also stretch the floor with apt mid-range shooting. It would be great to see Griffin be a bit less selfish with the ball, as he's missed the open man to dish out to in the post a few times, but overall he's a very solid call at power forward.
Marcus Morris, LAC ($5,300) @ UTA
This may be a contrarian belief, but I think Morris' success is the biggest key to LA's prospects moving forward. Outstanding games from Leonard and George are certainly necessary, but consistent play from the supporting cast is what separates the Clippers from a team like the Lakers, who relied too much on their elites at their own peril. Morris can beat this price point every evening, but his rebound count was meager against Utah in Game 1. He'll need to get more involved in the paint this time around.
Center is also a tricky position tonight. It's a night when I will say no to Rudy Gobert ($8,800). He will likely be the top performer at the position, but his efficacy on offense isn't where we'd like it to be right now. His third Defensive Player of the Year award is much deserved, but based on the potential upside of other elites, I am lowering my exposure to Gobert and opting for cheaper options.
Ivica Zubac, LAC ($5,000) @ UTA
Although Zubac has been a non-factor at times, it looked like the Clippers needed his size to fend off Rudy Gobert inside, and he fared well with 32 FDFP in Game 1. At a 1k discount from Brook Lopez, Zubac has the potential to outpace the Milwaukee center and post a decent number if he gets enough court time.
Nicolas Claxton, BKN ($3,900) @ MIL
If you think Brooklyn will continue to dominate in this series, Claxton is a nice low-cost alternative at center. He's a great candidate to reach 5x value at his low price, and he'll make fielding two or three elite players a whole lot easier. He would be a clear target for garbage time in a blowout, but he'll rotate in often enough in any scenario.
I found that by utilizing Claxton, I could get to a fairly reasonable lineup with Mitchell, Durant and Leonard. There would also be a way to switch out one of them for Giannis. For single-entry contests, this would be a solid avenue to take.