The NBA playoffs continue with arguably the biggest game yet. The Celtics and Heat will square off in a crucial Game 5 Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET. The series is currently tied at two games apiece, and history suggests that whoever wins tonight’s contest has a greater than 82% chance of reaching the NBA Finals. The Heat will have the benefit of homecourt, but the Celtics are listed as two-point favorites.
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
Jimmy Butler is the most expensive player on DraftKings, and it’s hard to get excited about using him at that price tag. He’s been worse than Jayson Tatum on a per-minute basis this season – 1.23 DraftKings points per minute vs. 1.29 – and he also doesn’t possess the same playing time upside. Tatum is projected for three additional minutes in our NBA Models, which makes a massive difference when splitting hairs. Overall, Tatum has played at least 40 minutes in seven of his past 10 games, while Butler has cracked that threshold just three times this postseason.
Additionally, Butler suffered a right knee injury in Game 3, and he put up a massive clunker in Game 4. He’s not currently listed on the injury report, and Butler said his knee wasn’t to blame for his poor showing in his last outing. Still, it’s at least possible that Butler is operating at less than 100%. I imagine I will be way underweight compared to the field on DraftKings, where Butler should eclipse 50% ownership.
Tatum is the more appealing stud target. He put together arguably his worst performance of the postseason in Game 3 of this series, finishing with just 21.0 DraftKings points over 40.7 minutes. He was just 3-14 from the field with seven turnovers, and he actually had more turnovers than points in the second half.
Still, Tatum has been able to bounce back from down performances all playoffs, and he did it once again in Game 4. Despite playing just 33.9 minutes in the blowout win, he still finished with 51.5 DraftKings points. Overall, Tatum has now scored at least 51.5 DraftKings points in five of his past eight games, and he’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in seven of them.
Tatum ultimately owns the top median and ceiling projections in our Models by approximately seven points, and he ranks first in projected Plus/Minus as well. He’ll be very chalky, but he’s tough to avoid.
Jaylen Brown is the 1B to Tatum’s 1A, and he’s had some huge games in this series. He scored at least 40.0 DraftKings points in each of the first three games vs. the Heat before finishing with just 23.75 DraftKings points over 29.2 minutes in Game 4. Brown has also posted a usage rate of at least 34.7% in each of his past two contests, which represents a sizable increase from his regular season average (30.5%). If he’s going to continue to post a comparable number, he has excellent upside at his current salary.
Brown has a very comparable projection to Butler in our Models, making him the clear preferred choice given the sizable price gap.
NBA DFS Midrange Picks
Bam Adebayo is priced in the midrange, but his performances have been extremely volatile of late. He erupted for 63.5 DraftKings points in the Heat’s massive Game 3 win, but he’s scored 25.5 DraftKings points or fewer in five of his past six games.
His clunker in Game 4 was a bit discouraging, but there were still some positive takeaways. His usage rate wasn’t nearly as low as it was in some of his other poor recent performances, but his minutes were limited in a blowout loss. That provides some optimism that his fantasy scoring will return to form as his minutes do in Game 5. Ultimately, he stands out as a nice buy-low target at his current price tag.
Marcus Smart missed the Celtics’ last contest, and they were ultimately forced to use their fourth different starting lineup through the first four games. Smart is currently considered a game-time decision, so it’s very possible that he’s out of the lineup once again. However, he is known for being a bulldog, so expect him to get in the lineup if humanly possible.
Smart has been fantastic when on the floor recently. He’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in six straight games, including a massive 64.75 DraftKings points in Game 2 vs. the Heat. His price has increased since the start of the postseason, but he remains a viable target if he’s in the lineup.
If Smart is unable to suit up, Tatum and Brown become even stronger options than usual, while some of the other Celtics’ guards benefit from a playing time perspective.
In my last write-up of this series, I wondered if Al Horford was out of gas. It seemed like a perfectly reasonable question for someone who is nearly 36-years-old and was asked to do so much vs. the Bucks.
Turns out, he’s still got something left in the tank. He’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in back-to-back games, and he’s capable of impacting a game in multiple ways. His activity on the boards, as a distributor, and on defense makes up for his lower scoring numbers, evidenced by his 34.25 DKFP on a 4.0% usage rate in Game 4. On nights where he does provide a bit of scoring, he has the potential to provide massive value.
Kyle Lowry is another one of the many questionable players for the Heat on Wednesday, but he’s fully expected to play. He’s suited up in the past two games, so there’s no reason to expect anything different in essentially a must-win contest.
However, Lowry has been limited in his return to action. He played just 29.0 minutes in Game 3 – despite Butler missing the entire second half – and he logged just 21.4 minutes in the Game 4 blowout. He could see a step forward in his third game back, but it’s hard to get too excited about him at $6,800.
Still, Lowry is undoubtedly a stronger option than Max Strus at $6,600. Strus took a bagel as a scorer in Game 4, finishing 0-7 from the field and 0-4 from 3-point range.
Normally, a poor shooting performance wouldn’t be enough to turn me off to a player in DFS. In fact, it can often make that player a strong buy-low option. However, there are some additional factors to consider with Strus. Namely, Victor Oladipo and Duncan Robinson have both played much better recently, so they could start to cut into his playing time. Both players were largely non-factors at the beginning of the postseason, but they’re realistic threats to steal some minutes in Game 5. Strus hasn’t displayed the ability to pay off this price tag even as an unquestioned starter, so he’s an easy fade.
Robert Williams is also in this price range, and he’s also a game-time decision. He’s been operating at less than full strength recently, limiting him to under 20 minutes in back-to-back games.
Still, Williams is an excellent per-minute producer, so that’s not necessarily a death knell for his fantasy value. He has some upside if he’s active.
Finally, Tyler Herro is also questionable heading into this contest. While most of the Heat’s injuries are BS – they’ve listed basically their entire roster as questionable all season – Herro’s injury is legit. Comparable injuries typically take 2-4 weeks to heal, but Herro will reportedly try to give it a go.
Unfortunately, it would be very tough to trust Herro if he’s active. He hasn’t been a great fantasy producer of late to begin with, posting a negative Plus/Minus in five of his past seven games, so he’s not really in consideration while injured.
NBA DFS Values & Punts
- Victor Oladipo ($5,600 on DraftKings, $8,500 on FanDuel): Oladipo saw 30 minutes in the Heat’s last contest. Some of that came in garbage time, but some of that was due to the injury to Herro. He’s given the Heat a boost in each of his past two contests, so it’s very possible that he’s earned a few additional minutes. He’s likely too expensive if Herro is active, but he’d be an intriguing option if Herro is ruled out.
- Payton Pritchard ($5,400 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel): Pritchard saw a nice boost in playing time off the bench with Smart out of the lineup in Game 4. He’s been an excellent scoring threat in that role of late, and he would have plenty of value on FanDuel if Smart is out again.
- Grant Williams ($5,200 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel): Minutes aren’t an issue for Williams, but he is one of the weaker per-minute producers in this series. Excluding a fluky performance in Game 7 vs. the Bucks, Williams has scored 20.75 DraftKings points or fewer in six of his past seven games.
- Derrick White ($5,000 on DraftKings, $9,000 on FanDuel): White started the past game in place of Smart, and he would likely earn that designation again if Smart is out on Wednesday. That would make him a strong option, especially on DraftKings where he’s cheaper than Pritchard. White managed 39.0 DraftKings points in Game 4 despite shooting just 4-14 from the field.
- P.J. Tucker ($4,600 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel): Tucker is the Heat’s version of Grant Williams, and he’s actually been the better per-minute producer recently. It feels weird to say that about Tucker – one of the worst per-minute producers in the league – but the numbers back it up. He’s scored at least 28.75 DraftKings points in three of his past six games and is one of the safest options in this price range.
- Gabe Vincent ($4,400 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel): Vincent got some extra run in Game 4, but he’s not viable at these prices if Lowry is active.
- Duncan Robinson ($3,000 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel): Robinson has been banished to the bench for most of the postseason, but he’s shown the ability to knock down the 3-pointer recently. That could get him on the court more consistently in Game 5, giving him a puncher’s chance at returning value.
- Caleb Martin ($1,800 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel): Martin has cracked double-digits in three straight games, and he could see a few additional minutes if Herro is sidelined.
- Dewayne Dedmon ($1,000 on DraftKings, $6,500 on FanDuel): Dedmon has operated as the Heat’s backup center during the postseason, and he should see a couple of minutes in Game 5. There’s a scenario where pairing Dedmon with all the top studs is the optimal lineup construction.