Friday features Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, starting at 9 p.m. ET.
New NFL DFS Trial Offer: Try our new football subscription for $4.95 and get access to our industry-leading tools and projections.
The Lakers’ offense is centered around the dynamic duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Those two have dominated all playoffs, and nothing has changed vs. the Heat.
Let’s start with James, who is the most consistent player in fantasy because of his ability to contribute in every statistical category across the board. He’s coming off 56.5 DraftKings points in his last contest, and he’s scored at least 51.5 DraftKings points in six of his past seven games. He didn’t even play that well in the first half of Game 4 – he logged just eight points and five turnovers before halftime – so he could be looking at an even bigger performance today. LeBron knows what’s at stake in a potential series-clinching game, so expect him to be even more aggressive than usual on the offensive end.
Davis dominated in the first two games of this series, but his production has fallen off a bit over the past two games. He was dreadful in Game 3, finishing with just 27.75 DraftKings points, and his 49.25 DraftKings points in Game 4 were also a bit disappointing. He scored just 22 points in that contest but was able to salvage his fantasy night with five combined blocks and steals.
The Heat have had no answer for Davis defensively, so the fact that his usage rate has declined recently is a bit concerning. Bam Adebayo‘s return to the Heat lineup is another potential roadblock. Adebayo finished second in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus/Minus at power forward, so he’s a significant upgrade defensively compared to the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard.
Speaking of Butler, expect him to try to put the Heat on his shoulders once again with Goran Dragic likely out of the lineup. Dragic is currently listed as doubtful after trying to give it a go in Game 4, but the pain from his plantar fasciitis was ultimately too much to play through.
Butler had a heroic performance in Game 3, finishing with 83.25 DraftKings points in one of the best performances in NBA Finals history, and he followed that up with 56.0 DraftKings points in Game 4.
That said, Butler looked much more deferential in his last contest. The Lakers went under on close to every screen that was set for Butler and dared him to shoot from the perimeter, but he was not willing to oblige. Butler was content trying to get into the paint and giving the ball up if he did not succeed.
I would expect the Lakers to employ a similar strategy with Butler in Game 5. That may mean less scoring, but Butler has shown a LeBron-like ability to stuff the stat sheet recently. He’s a tough fade in a must-win game for the Heat and is a strong choice for the Captain spot.
Finally, Adebayo is an interesting play in Game 5. He probably won’t garner much ownership coming off an injury and just 25.75 DraftKings in Game 4, but he did play roughly 33.4 minutes in that contest. He could see a few additional minutes today, and Adebayo was an elite producer on a per-minute basis this season. If you’re looking to go contrarian in a large field tournament, Adebayo makes a lot of sense.
This area has been a dumpster fire for most of the series, with stars-and-scrubs serving as the optimal approach. However, I’m not so sure that’s as viable tonight.
Not only have the studs become more expensive, but the scrub options look a lot thinner than usual. Some of the values we’ve been targeting for the Lakers have become more expensive, and the Heat aren’t offering as much value with Adebayo back in the lineup. The fact that they’re playing in an elimination contest should also result in a tighter rotation for Miami.
With that in mind, I think a balanced approach might make the most sense. That means you likely can’t roster LeBron, Davis, and Butler – particularly if you want to stick one at Captain – but sacrificing one of those three players could give you a stronger lineup overall.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has emerged as the Lakers’ most reliable role player, but he’s gotten to be pretty expensive. He’s coming off 27.25 DraftKings points in Game 4, but that’s probably pretty close to his ceiling. I think he’s an excellent fade candidate coming off his best game in more than a month.
Rajon Rondo makes much more sense if you’re looking to target a Lakers player in this price range. He wasn’t nearly as productive as KCP in Game 4, but Rondo has been a far superior producer on a points-per-minute basis over the course of the season. He’s logged at least 28 minutes in back-to-back games, so this could be a nice time to buy low on him.
Buying low on Tyler Herro is no longer an option since his salary keeps increasing, but he has stud-like upside at a slight discount in Game 5. He actually led the Heat in usage in Game 4 at 30.0%, which is pretty astounding considering that he’s a 20-year-old rookie. If Butler takes a similar approach in Game 5 and refuses to force his offense, Herro figures to be one of the biggest beneficiaries.
Jae Crowder and Duncan Robinson should also see a solid chunk of minutes today, and both players are trending in opposing directions. Robinson has been red-hot recently – he’s scored at least 27.75 DraftKings points in back-to-back games – while Crowder has been ice cold, having seemingly lost his ability to shoot the ball halfway through the series against the Celtics, which has put a serious damper on his fantasy output.
Values & Punts
These are the players who typically decide showdown contests. It may not feel comfortable to roster someone who isn’t projected for a ton of minutes, but history suggests it’s the easiest way to find yourself at the top of the leaderboard. These plays typically command lower ownership than the mid-tier players, so they allow you to differentiate your lineup without sacrificing the high-end stud production.
Let’s break down some of the top options in this range, rapid-fire style:
- Kendrick Nunn: $4,000 on DraftKings, $9,000 on FanDuel – Nunn has seen a solid handful of minutes without Dragic, but he has yet to fully realize his fantasy value. He finished with just 12.0 DraftKings points in Game 4 thanks to a 2 for 11 shooting performance over 26 minutes. If Nunn can shoot the ball a bit better in this contest, he has the potential to be one of the best pure values on the slate.
- Markieff Morris: $3,600 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel – Morris has seen a nice spike in playing time recently and is coming off more than 30 minutes in his last contest. He isn’t the most productive player on a per-minute basis, but it’s hard to ignore someone with that much playing time potential at such a minimal price tag.
- Alex Caruso: $3,400 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel – Caruso has struggled recently but continues to see a solid handful of minutes. He should garner minimal ownership and has shown a ceiling of nearly 30 DraftKings points during the postseason.
- Dwight Howard: $3,200 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel – Howard remains the nominal starter for the Lakers, but Morris’ boost in playing time has come at the expense of Howard. Still, he’s currently projected for 13.0 minutes in our NBA Models, and Howard has the ability of producing more than 1.00 DraftKings points per minute.
- Kelly Olynyk: $3,000 on DraftKings, $11,500 on FanDuel – Olynyk is obviously unplayable on FanDuel with Adebayo back in the rotation, but he could be a sneaky buy-low option on DraftKings. He burned a lot of people in Game 4, finishing with 12.4 minutes. Olynyk is similar to Howard in that he doesn’t need a ton of playing time to potentially pay off his salary.
- Andre Iguodala: $2,400 on DraftKings, $8,500 on FanDuel – Iggy is as cheap as I’m willing to go tonight, but he stands out as a solid option. He has loads of big-game experience, so Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra could lean on him a bit more than usual in an elimination game.
Pictured above: Anthony Davis #3 and Rajon Rondo #9 of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Photo credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images.