The conference finals of the NBA playoffs are underway with the Heat hosting the Celtics tonight for Game 1 starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Let’s dive into some of the top plays on the slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics.
Also, don’t forget that for large-field tournaments, you can utilize our Lineup Optimizer to effortlessly create up to 150 lineups, or use our Lineup Builder if you like to hand-build your lineups. Also, make sure to check out my article if you’re looking for a refresher on the single-game format.
Note: Projections and Leverages Scores/Ratings may change throughout the day after this article is posted. The NBA DFS landscape changes quickly. Consult the Player Models directly for any updates as we get closer to lock.
NBA DFS Stud Picks
Jayson Tatum has increased his scoring in every season since entering the league. Tatum has stepped up his play in this postseason as well, averaging 28.3 points per game, which ranks fifth in the league. He is also playing over 41 minutes per game which only boosts his ceiling. Tatum is the highest-priced player on the slate, and for a good reason. He has a 31.1% usage rate, which is the highest in this game.
Tatum has the highest ceiling and median projection in our NBA Models for both DraftKings and FanDuel. With the total for this game being at only 204 points, raw points are going to matter, and Tatum is the best bet to put up the highest fantasy output tonight. The Heat present a difficult matchup as they have the second-best defensive rating during the postseason allowing only 97.5 points per game, which is ridiculous.
Right behind Tatum is Heat stud Jimmy Butler who has also taken his game to a new level during this postseason run. Butler comes at a much stronger value on DraftKings, where he is over $1,000 cheaper than Tatum. Butler was adequate in the first two games against the Hawks, but he is averaging 29.6 points and 53.7 DraftKings points per game while shooting 51.9% from the field over his last nine games.
Similar to Tatum, Butler is likely going to play 40 or more minutes if this game is competitive. He may draw higher ownership mainly due to how consistent he has been playing lately. Being a slight home favorite may also give the lean to Butler over Tatum. Butler has had very pedestrian Game 1s in both the Hawks and 76ers series and doesn’t have a good track record against the Celtics this season, which may draw concern.
Pairing Tatum and Butler in a lineup is the ideal approach on this showdown slate. There are enough value plays to make it work, especially if you have them both at the utility spot on DraftKings. Butler may get the slight lean due to his discounted price tag, but both are fantastic options as they will be the main options for both teams in this game. If I had to fade one, I would fade Tatum, but it is a very difficult decision.
NBA DFS Midrange Picks
If a Tatum fade is on the table, then Jaylen Brown will more than likely have to be in that lineup. Brown can get hot in a hurry and has averaged 24.7 points per game against the Heat this season. We may as well bring up Marcus Smart right now, as he is questionable to play with a mid-foot sprain. Smart has been injured in what seems like every game, so we’ll need to monitor his status closely for tonight’s action.
Using our On/Off Tool, Brown has averaged a team-high +10.7 DraftKings Plus/Minus and a +2.7% usage rate in the playoffs when Smart is out of the lineup. The sample size is only 103 minutes, but those are some staggering numbers! Brown has an effective field goal percentage of 71.2%, which is absurd. Regardless if Smart is in the lineup or not, Brown needs to be considered in this spot at a reasonable salary.
If Smart is able to go without any restrictions, he should definitely be a strong value option. Smart has recorded a positive Plus/Minus in four-straight playoff games as he is coming off of a double-double in the closeout Game 7. Smart was actually three rebounds shy of a triple-double and may have gotten there if the game stayed more competitive. Despite all of the ailments, Smart is projected to play 39 minutes tonight.
Bam Adebayo comes in as the highest projected Plus/Minus on DraftKings, where he has an 86% Bargain Rating. After some very strong games in the Hawks series as well as early in the 76ers series, everything changed when Joel Embiid came back. Adebayo really struggled to get anything going guarding one of the league’s best offensive weapons. The Celtics don’t have nearly the firepower in their frontcourt.
It isn’t easy to last four games due to the matchup with Embiid. For reference, Adebayo averaged 13 points and six rebounds per game when Embiid was in the lineup compared to 23.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game when he was out. We may even get some assist numbers back as well. Adebayo is a fantastic value and is back in a spot where he can fully utilize his complete game. Expect a bounceback series for him.
One of those Celtics frontcourt pieces is veteran Al Horford. After a playoff career-high 30 points in Game 4, helping the Celtics to a road victory, Horford shot only 35% from the field and 0-for-8 from behind the arc in the last three games. Horford still rebounded the ball very well, but Robert Williams is believed to be back from his injury and will not be on a minutes restriction. That will really change Horford’s outlook.
In 51 games during the regular season when Horford and Williams played together, there was a significant drop-off in Horford’s performance. He has been playing really high minutes, and his production has been promising, but there is a concern going back when Williams is healthy. The salary is still very reasonable, but it may be best to keep Horford in tournament lineups only tonight. Take the savings with Williams instead.
Max Strus and Tyler Herro are priced very similarly on both DraftKings and FanDuel. Both are not shy of getting their field goal attempts up. Strus has been the better of the two as he has rebounded the ball incredibly well in his last two games. Strus is averaging a double-double with 19.5 points and 10 rebounds per game. In his 120 field-goal attempts during the postseason, 81% of those have come from behind the arc.
Herro has had double-digit points in each of his last seven games but hasn’t done much other than score from a fantasy perspective. The matchup against the 76ers was tough for him to get going, but this matchup against the Celtics won’t be any easier. The nod is going to Strus right now over Herro and Duncan Robinson, which is weird to say. Both are viable, with Kyle Lowry missing his seventh game in the playoffs already.
NBA DFS Values & Punts
- Victor Oladipo ($6,200 on DraftKings, $9,500 on FanDuel): He is a player who can catch lightning in a bottle and had several strong performances against the 76ers. Oladipo will benefit with Lowry continuing to be out. The salary on FanDuel is much more appealing but still not great — a piece to get different.
- P.J. Tucker ($5,400 on DraftKings, $10,000 on FanDuel): He will continue to start and play heavy minutes if he can play. Our model has Tucker projected for 32 minutes, which is low given how much his defense will play a factor. Tucker is a low-usage play who will need to stuff the stat sheet to be viable.
- Derrick White ($5,200 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel): Abysmal Game 7, but White played 30 or more minutes in his previous three games averaging 24.7 DraftKings points per game. He is the second-best value on FanDuel as he could move into the starting lineup and be even better if Smart is unable to play.
- Grant Williams ($5,000 on DraftKings, $9,000 on FanDuel): Coming off of 18 3-point attempts in Game 7 as he was left wide open on several possessions. He scored 41.5 DraftKings points as he made seven of those 18 attempts. Don’t feel the need to chase his last game, but Williams isn’t afraid to let it fly.
- Robert Williams ($4,800 on DraftKings, $8,500 on FanDuel): After sitting out the last four games against the Bucks due to knee irritation, Williams is back and supposedly not on a minutes limit. If those reports are true, Williams could be the slate-breaker at this price tag. So much upside with his salary.
- Gabe Vincent ($4,200 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel): Vincent will serve as the starting point guard for the Heat if he is able to play. He has the highest projected Plus/Minus on FanDuel and a great value option on DraftKings as well. He will be a key piece in lineups that pay up for the top two studs tonight.
- Payton Pritchard ($3,600 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel): Looking to shoot better than the last series as Pritchard shot 28.1% from the field and 20.2% from behind the arc. That includes Game 7, where he had his best game, scoring 26.75 DraftKings points. He will get minutes regardless and has upside.
- Dewayne Dedmon ($2,000 on DraftKings, $6,500 on FanDuel): Dedmon is the safest option when really dumpster diving on this slate. He played double-digit minutes in each of the past four games, and he could help guard Joel Embiid, but Dedmon seems to be firmly in the rotation as the backup to Adebayo.
- Daniel Theis ($1,800 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel): Minutes are not as secure as Dedmon’s but could very easily play double digits in this matchup. Theis will serve as Horford and Williams’ backup and could get more minutes if either get into foul trouble. It’s a dart throw, but he does have a little bit of upside.
- Caleb Martin ($1,000 on DraftKings, $6,500 on FanDuel): Another Heat player who is questionable with an injury. Martin could get some more minutes with Lowry being out. He has the potential to randomly get 20 minutes but can also end a game with single digits. Risky, but worth a low-owned flier.
- Duncan Robinson ($1,000 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel): Could this be the series that will get Robinson off the bench and back into a normal rotation? During the regular season, Robinson led the Heat in 3-pointers made, attempted, and percentage. He may be worth a flier more on DraftKings at the stone minimum and with the 3-point bonus, but he is still a very risky play given the lack of playoff playing time thus far.