Thursday features Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers starting at 9 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 features a ton of star power, and those players have not disappointed so far.
The Nuggets were able to secure Game 3 – and probably should have a 2-1 series lead at this point – thanks in large part to the play of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
Jokic is one of the most talented big men in the league and is capable of making your jaw drop every single time he touches the basketball.
He didn’t really explode offensively in his last game but was able to provide his typical steady contributions across the board. He finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists, resulting in 45.5 DraftKings points. Picking between all the stud options in this series is tough, but Jokic owns the second-highest median and ceiling projections in our NBA Models.
Murray is a slightly cheaper option, but don’t sleep on his ability to rack up fantasy points. He isn’t as well balanced as Jokic, but he’s one of the top scorers in the league. He put his scoring prowess on display in Game 3, finishing with 28 points on 10-17 shooting.
That said, I wouldn’t expect a repeat in the peripheral categories today. He finished with 12 assists and eight rebounds in his last contest, and those are clear outliers for Murray. He averaged just 6.1 assists and 4.8 rebounds through his first 16 playoff games.
On the Lakers’ side, virtually everything they do offensively flows through their dynamic duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Both guys are capable of producing in a variety of manners, and both players match up extremely well vs. the Nuggets. They’ve struggled all season on the defensive end, particularly when it comes to protecting the rim. That is where both of these guys do a lot of damage.
LeBron was brilliant for the Lakers in Game 3, and he did everything possible to try and bring them back late in that contest. He finished with 30 points scored and a triple-double, and he led all players in that contest with 69.0 DraftKings points. He remains one of the best players in the league in his 17th NBA season, and his skill set translates perfectly to DFS as well.
LeBron is the most expensive player on the slate, but he owns the highest ceiling projection as well.
Davis could be an interesting buy-low candidate. He may not see the same ownership that he usually does since he’s coming off a poor performance in his last outing. He finished with just 31.5 DraftKings points, which was his lowest output of the entire postseason. He still managed to score the ball well in that contest – he finished with 27 points on 9-17 shooting – but he racked up just two rebounds, one assist, and one steal. That is very unlike Davis, so expect a bounce back today.
Stars-and-scrubs is typically the go-to strategy in the single-game format, and that has been especially true during this series. You need to capture the high-end stud production that those top four guys provide, and the only way to do it is by sacrificing the players in the mid-range. The fact that no one in this price range really stands out from a fantasy perspective also helps.
The optimal lineup for the Game 3 showdown featured Murray at captain, LeBron and Jokic as utilities, and then three players priced at $6,600 or less. Two of the players were priced at no more than $3,200, so I’m limiting my exposure to these options.
Jerami Grant was the lone mid-range player to make the optimal lineup in Game 3, so he’ll likely see increased ownership today. That makes him an appealing fade candidate, but he’s hard to completely ignore given his projected workload. His scoring output from Game 3 is definitely not repeatable, but Grant is currently projected for 32.4 minutes at just $5,600 on DraftKings. It’s hard to find a comparable workload at such a cheap price.
Rajon Rondo also played well in Game 3, finishing with 27.5 DraftKings points over 29.6 minutes. He’s someone that is always capable for a big game given his ability to stuff the stat sheet, but his pedestrian minute count does limit his upside. He’s also priced as the fifth-most expensive player on both DraftKings and FanDuel, which makes him tough to fit in your lineups.
I’m not really considering anyone else in this price range. Michael Porter Jr., Paul Millsap, and Kyle Kuzma have all displayed some upside in the past, but none of those players possess the right combination of minutes and usage rate at this point in the playoffs.
These are the players who typically decide these 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 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: $4,600 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel – KCP has been playing well in this series, scoring at least 19.5 DraftKings points in all three games. He doesn’t possess a ton of upside at his current salary, but he has a pretty solid floor.
- Alex Caruso: $4,400 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel – Caruso has been playing around 24 minutes in this series, which is more than enough for him to potentially find himself in the winning lineup. He’s one of the more productive players in this price range on a per-minute basis, so he has a slightly higher ceiling if everything breaks right for him.
- Gary Harris: $4,200 on DraftKings, $10,500 on FanDuel – Harris has one of the widest pricing discrepancies between the two sites today, which makes him an appealing option on DraftKings. He’s similar to KCP, only he’s playing more minutes and hasn’t been as productive on a per-minute basis. Still, getting on the court is the first step towards scoring fantasy points, and Harris is on the floor a lot for someone who costs just $4,200.
- Dwight Howard: $3,600 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel – Howard has been slightly quiet after exploding for 23.75 DraftKings points in Game 1 of this series. That said, he’s still playing around 14 minutes per game, and his combination of size and athleticism can give Jokic some trouble.
- Monte Morris: $2,800 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel – Morris was one of the winning punt plays in Game 3 after scoring 17.75 DraftKings points over just under 20 minutes. Morris’ salary has actually decreased by -$400 on DraftKings following that performance, and he’s scored at least 17.25 DraftKings points in four of his past six games. He should be a popular option in this price range.
- Torrey Craig: $2,000 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel – Craig was the other winning punt play in Game 3 despite scoring just 11.0 DraftKings points. On nights where the studs go off and you want one in the captain and two as utilities, that kind of production from a punt play won’t kill you.