Saturday features Game 5 of the NBA Finals starting at 9 p.m. ET.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a series! The Bucks put themselves in a big hole by dropping the first two games in Phoenix, but they were able to crawl out of it. They won Games 3 and 4 back in Milwaukee, which tied the series at two games apiece.
That said, the sportsbooks still give the Suns the edge in the series. They’re listed as approximately -145 favorites to win the title, and they’re 3.5-point favorites in Game 5.
Historically, whoever wins this game will have a big edge in this series. The team that wins Game 5 of a 2-2 series has historically won the Finals around 73% of the time.
Overall, expect both teams to treat this like a must-win game.
Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t even a certainty to play in this series, but he has been absolutely breathtaking. He was a bit quieter on the offensive end in Game 4, but he still racked up 66.5 DraftKings points. He was able to supplement his 26 points with 14 rebounds, eight assists, three steals, and two blocked shots, one of which will go down as one of the great blocks in NBA history:
CLUTCH BLOCK BY GIANNIS 😱 pic.twitter.com/jwB0b75o65
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 15, 2021
Overall, he’s scored at least 66.5 DraftKings points in each of his past three games, and I see no reason why he can’t do it again in Game 5. He deserves 100% ownership and heavy consideration for the Captain spot.
Khris Middleton picked up the slack on the offensive end in Game 4. He finished with 40 points, and he carried the Bucks’ offense down the stretch. He racked up 58.5 DraftKings points, which was his highest output of the series.
Unfortunately, that makes him a clear fade candidate on Saturday. Not only has he gotten more expensive, but his production looks like a major outlier. His usage rate jumped up to 36.5% in Game 4, and he totaled more shot attempts than he did in Games 2 and 3 combined. He’s likely due for some regression in that department, which is going to make it tough for him to pay off his elevated salary.
As good as Middleton was in Game 4, Devin Booker was arguably even better. He finished with 42 points despite dealing with foul trouble for most of the fourth quarter. He was just 2-6 over the game’s final 12 minutes, so he had the potential for an all-time performance if not for his five fouls.
That said, his fantasy output in Game 4 was pretty pedestrian considering his massive scoring total. He finished with just 46.25 DraftKings points, so he provided virtually zero contributions in any of the peripheral categories. Booker hasn’t cracked 48.25 DraftKings points in each of his past nine games, so his upside does seem a bit capped. He’s a viable option at his current salary, but I think there are stronger options.
Booker and Middleton stand out as better plays on FanDuel, where both own a Bargain Rating of at least 97%.
There were plenty of storylines after Game 4, but the play of Chris Paul was one of the biggest. He’s struggled over the past two games, leading some to wonder if he’s playing through an injury. It’s certainly possible, but Jrue Holiday has also done everything possible to make his life miserable.
Still, this seems like an excellent buy-low opportunity on DraftKings. Paul has seen a price decrease of -$1,600 since Game 2, and his projections remain optimistic in our NBA Models. His median and ceiling projections are comparable to Middleton’s despite a massive difference in price.
Speaking of Holiday, his effort on the defensive end appears to be hurting him on offense. He was miserable in Game 4, shooting just 4-of-20 from the field, but he managed to post a positive Plus/Minus. That’s a good sign for him moving forward. If he can return value while shooting just 20% from the field, he obviously has the potential for a much bigger performance when his shot is falling.
Deandre Ayton stands out as one of the best values on the slate at just $8,000 on DraftKings. He lacked his trademark efficiency in Game 4, shooting just 3-of-9 from the field, but he still finished with 39.75 DraftKings points. He has been an absolute terror on the boards during the postseason, and he should continue to feast in that department in this series. Ayton should be able to crack double-digits in scoring in Game 5, which makes him a good bet for fantasy points. Overall, he owns the third-highest ceiling projection in our NBA Models despite being the sixth-most expensive option on DraftKings. That’s a nice combo.
After Ayton, there’s a big drop-off. Jae Crowder is the next priciest option, but he doesn’t provide nearly the same safety or upside. He’s played extremely well recently, scoring at least 32.0 DraftKings points in three straight games, but his production in Game 4 was definitely a bit fluky. He finished with three steals and three blocks despite totaling two steals and three blocks in his previous nine games combined. He could shoot the ball better in Game 5 – he finished just 3-of-9 from 3-point range in his last game – but expect a decrease in production on Saturday.
Mikal Bridges has been a key contributor for the Suns all season, but he’s started to lose some playing time in this series. He’s finished with 27.4 minutes or less in back-to-back games, and he’s projected for just 28.6 minutes in Game 5. Bridges isn’t a particularly high-usage player when on the court, so he’s a clear fade.
Brook Lopez is another player who has seen a massive reduction in minutes. He played just 19.2 minutes in Game 2, and it’s going to be hard for him to return value with such minimal playing time. Still, there’s a stronger buy-low case for Lopez than there is for Bridges. Not only is he a much better producer on a per-minute basis, but his $6,000 salary on DraftKings also comes with a Bargain Rating of 96%. He should also carry minimal ownership, which makes him at least somewhat interesting for large tournaments.
Bobby Portis is probably the stronger option. He’s projected for roughly the same number of minutes as Lopez, and he’s also been slightly better on a per-minute basis over the past month. He’s also slightly cheaper than Lopez, which gives him the edge in our Models.
The Bucks have played smaller in this series, and Pat Connaughton has been one of the primary beneficiaries. He’s logged at least 30 minutes in each of the past three games, and he’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in each of them. His price tag has risen, but he remains a reasonable option.
It’s hard to make a case for Cameron Payne. He’s developed into an important bench player for the Suns, but that just doesn’t carry a ton of value in the NBA Finals. Paul and Booker are going to handle most of the backcourt minutes, which doesn’t leave much for Payne. He’s scored 13.25 DraftKings points or fewer in three of four games in this series, and the only exception was the blowout loss in Game 3. He’s simply too expensive.
Values & Punts
- Cameron Johnson ($4,000 on DraftKings, $9,000 on FanDuel): There is not a ton of obvious value on this slate, but Johnson is a clear exception. He played 28.6 minutes in Game 4, and his role on the team is clearly growing. He’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in four of his past five games, yet his salary has stayed pretty stagnant. He’ll be in nearly all of my lineups.
- P.J. Tucker ($3,600 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel): If there were fantasy points for complaining after getting called for a foul, Tucker would be a monster. Until DraftKings and FanDuel make that change, he’s pretty unappealing. His playing time was down to just 29.3 minutes in Game 5, and Tucker needs to play closer to 40 minutes to pay off his current price tag.
- Torrey Craig ($2,400 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel): Craig should play around 15 minutes on Saturday, which does give him a chance for relevance. He finished with 7.75 DraftKings points in Game 4 despite taking just one shot, so he has the potential for a slightly better performance in Game 5.
- Jeff Teague ($1,800 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel): I never thought I’d be writing about Jeff Teague during this series, but here we are. He’s jumped Bryn Forbes in the pecking order, and he’s played at least 11 minutes in three straight games. That’s enough to make him viable at $1,800.