Sunday features Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers at 7:30 p.m. ET. If you’re unfamiliar with the single-game format, check out my primers on DraftKings or FanDuel before building your lineups.
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This series is loaded with star power. Each team has their own “big two,” headlined by the Lakers combo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers are currently favored by 7.5 points, which gives them a pretty significant edge in terms of implied team total.
LeBron was pretty quiet in Game 1 of this series, scoring just 40.5 DraftKings points. That said, the Lakers really didn’t need him. They had this game on cruise control early, so they were able to limit LeBron to just 30.9 minutes. He will obviously play more today if Game 2 is more competitive and that extra rest could benefit him down the line.
LeBron leads all players on this slate with an average of 1.66 DraftKings points per minute over the past month, meaning he should thrive in this series against the Nuggets. They have struggled to defend the rim all postseason, which is an area LeBron can do a lot of damage in. The Lakers launched a whopping 43% of their total shots at the rim in Game 1, so expect the barrage to continue in this Game 2 meeting.
Of course, Davis is more than capable of doing some damage of his own at that location, highlighted by the fact he carried the Lakers’ offense in Game 1. He posted a usage rate of 40.6% and finished with 37 points, leading all players with 56.0 DraftKings points in that contest. Davis has had cupcake matchups all playoffs – the Blazers and Rockets had no one who could guard him – and the Nuggets are another team who should struggle dealing with his combination of size and athleticism. They tried a few different options against him in Game 1, but Davis had his way with all of them: He shot a combined 7-14 vs. Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic, and Mason Plumlee.
The Nuggets have advanced this postseason in spite of their defense, so expect both Davis and LeBron to keep rolling in this series. Both players are excellent choices for the captain spot on DraftKings and almost mandatory for one of the premium spots on FanDuel.
Things are a little more complicated for the Nuggets’ combo of Jokic and Jamal Murray. These guys have taken turns carrying the Nuggets offense through the first two rounds. Murray torched the Jazz in the first round, while Jokic struggled with Rudy Gobert. Then, Jokic lit up the Clippers as Murray dealt with their excellent perimeter defense.
Unfortunately, the Lakers’ really don’t have an exploitable weakness on the defensive end. Jokic figures to struggle with the Lakers’ big men, and Murray should have issues finding open three-pointers. The Lakers’ rank seventh in opponent three-point accuracy in the playoffs, which is impressive considering their matchups in the first two rounds.
Of the two, Murray stands out as a slightly better option. The Lakers are missing Avery Bradley on the perimeter. Bradley spent more time on Murray than any other player on the Lakers’ roster during the regular season. Murray also shot the ball well in Game 1 – he was 7-12 from the field and 3-5 from 3-point range – and he’s roughly $2,000 cheaper than Jokic across the industry. That matters if you’re trying to fit LeBron and AD in your lineup.
All of the stud options in this matchup means the midrange is a bit weaker than usual. The results from Game 1 didn’t necessarily reflect that – two players priced between $5,400 and $8,400 were in the optimal lineup – but most of the stars played reduced minutes in a blowout. Stars-and-scrubs is still the preferred strategy in the single-game format, so I would prioritize getting three of the big four into your lineup for Game 2.
If you do want to dip into some midrange options, Rajon Rondo stands out as one of the best. He’s been priced up across the industry, but he still seems underpriced at $6,800 on DraftKings. That makes him just the seventh-most expensive option in this contest, but he’s priced as the fifth-most expensive option on FanDuel.
Rondo has played extremely well since rejoining the Lakers’ rotation following an injury. He’s scored at least 26.25 DraftKings points in four of his past five games, and he’s gone for at least 37.25 DraftKings points in three of them. He’s emerged as the clear-cut No. 3 option for the Lakers from a fantasy perspective.
Michael Porter Jr. went off for 35.5 DraftKings points in Game 1, but a lot of his production came in garbage time. He played the entire fourth quarter and tallied 10 points, six rebounds, three assists, and one steal during the final period. That doesn’t bode well for his prospects today – he will almost certainly play fewer minutes if this game stays competitive – but he still deserves some consideration on FanDuel. He’s priced at just $9,700, resulting in a Bargain Rating of 98 percent.
Porter is also just the eighth-priciest option on today’s slate. MPJ is capable of racking up fantasy points quickly, so that is simply too cheap for him.
Values & Punts
These are the players who typically decide these 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 guys, 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:
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: $4,400 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel – KCP put together an excellent performance in Game 1, which was good enough to put himself in the optimal lineup. He’s likely due for some regression – he shot 60% from the field and 3-point range in Game 1 – but he still figures to play more minutes than anyone in this price range.
- Alex Caruso: $3,400 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel – Caruso might not be able to be included in this category for much longer. He has become an important part of the Lakers’ rotation, and he’s logged at least 22.3 minutes in each of their past five games. Caruso is one of the best producers in this price range on a per-minute basis, so he’s very appealing at his current price tag.
- Monte Morris: $3,000 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel – Morris is a similar option to Caruso today, but he should check in with much lower ownership. He’s currently projected for 17.0 minutes in our NBA Models, and Morris has averaged a respectable 0.86 DraftKings points per minute this season.
- Dwight Howard: $2,800 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel – Expect Howard to be very chalky today following his performance in Game 1. He finished with 23.75 DraftKings points over 16.4 minutes, and Jokic struggled with his physicality on the interior. He’s currently projected for 22 minutes today compared to just 7.5 for JaVale McGee, so it’s tough to avoid Howard at his current salary.