Tuesday night features Game 6 of the NBA Finals starting at 9 p.m. ET, with the Milwaukee Bucks looking to closeout the Phoenix Suns at home.
The finals have been a tale of two series. The Suns dominated the first two games, but the Bucks have stormed back to win each of the past three. Game 5 was an instant classic, highlighted by an elite defensive play by Jrue Holiday:
— NBA (@NBA) July 18, 2021
With their win in Game 5, the Bucks now have a chance to close this series out on their home court. They’re currently listed as five-point favorites in Game 6, and they’ve moved to approximately -425 to win the title. If they can close things out, it would be their first NBA championship since 1971.
One more win would also cement Giannis Antetokounmpo’s legacy. He has averaged 29.2 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game during the postseason, and he’s increased those figures to 32.2 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game during the finals.
He’s moved to -400 to win the Finals MVP, and adding that to his resume would give him a serious trophy case for a 26-year-old. Only one other player in league history has won two regular-season MVPs, one Finals MVP, and one Defensive Player of the Year award, and his name is Michael Jordan.
Giannis is coming off a subpar game by his standards in Game 5, finishing with just 52.25 DraftKings points. The optimal lineup on DraftKings actually didn’t have Giannis in it for the first time all series, but it took a lot of factors for that to happen. Not only did Giannis have to post a mortal stat line, but a handful of other players in that contest also had to go off.
With that in mind, I’m going right back to the well with Giannis in Game 6. He will command massive ownership, but he’s simply the safest investment in fantasy. He’s posted a positive Plus/Minus on DraftKings in 13 of his past 14 games, and the only exception was the game where he got injured vs. the Hawks. He leads all players in projected median, ceiling, and floor in our NBA Models – which is not surprising – but he also ranks first in projected Plus/Minus.
Devin Booker has had some breathtaking moments in the past two games. He’s caught some flak for not getting his teammates involved enough early in games, but he has displayed some of the best shot-making that we’ve seen in the NBA in years. Some of the tough midrange twos he’s been making have been extremely impressive.
Overall, he’s posted a usage rate of at least 43.1% in back-to-back games, and his 55.5 DraftKings points in Game 5 was his top mark of the series. He’s just the sixth-most expensive option in this contest on FanDuel, resulting in a Bargain Rating of 97%.
Khris Middleton has also taken a step forward in the postseason. He has emerged as the Bucks’ closer, and he has been phenomenal in that role. He started Game 5 just 1-of-7 in the first quarter, but he was 11-of-16 over the final three.
Middleton doesn’t possess quite as much scoring upside as Booker, but he’s much better in the peripheral categories. He’s averaged 6.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists during the Finals, which makes him the preferred target of the two.
Jrue Holiday is coming off his best game of the series in Game 5. He’s been phenomenal on the defensive end of the court all postseason, but he’s been hit-or-miss offensively. He finished with 61.5 DraftKings points on Saturday thanks to 27 points and 13 assists, so I would definitely classify that as a “hit”.
He owns similar projections to Booker and Middleton in our NBA Models, but he’s cheaper than both players on DraftKings.
Chris Paul rounds out this price range, and the Bucks have done a great job of neutralizing him over the past three games. Some have speculated that he’s injured, but I don’t think that’s giving enough credit to what Holiday has been doing defensively. The combination of big minutes during the playoffs and Holiday in your chest for 90 feet on every possession is enough to wear down anyone, especially a 36-year-old.
The Bucks’ coaching staff also deserves some credit. They’ve made the decision that they’re going to let Booker beat them and focus on taking away the rest of the offense. That has capped Paul’s fantasy upside.
He did finish with 44.0 DraftKings points in Game 5, but he shot 60% from the field and a perfect 100% from 3-point range. That makes him a regression candidate in Game 6.
Deandre Ayton could very easily be considered a stud. He’s coming off a 20-point, 10-rebound performance in Game 5, resulting in 40.5 DraftKings points. He’s delivered performances like that all postseason, so there’s no reason to think he can’t do it again on Tuesday. His projected Plus/Minus trails only Antetokounmpo’s in our NBA Models, and he leads all players in points-per-dollar projection.
Jae Crowder came out of the gates red-hot on Saturday. He was 3-of-3 with eight points in the first quarter, and the Suns as a team shot a ridiculous 73.7%. Unfortunately, Crowder only made one additional shot over the final three quarters, and he finished with just seven shot attempts overall.
Still, he has established himself as the clear No. 4 option for the Suns in this series. He’s coming off 40.1 minutes in his last game, and Crowder has excellent upside with that much playing time. He finished with just 25.75 DraftKings points in Game 5, but he tallied at least 32.0 DraftKings points in each of his three previous games.
Mikal Bridges was hyper-efficient in Game 5. He shot 5-of-6 from the field and a perfect 3-of-3 from 3-point range, but he still finished with just 26.0 DraftKings points. His minutes were also slightly up, so the fact that he couldn’t put together a better performance when everything broke right for him is concerning. He’s a bit expensive given his current role.
Brook Lopez is a very interesting buy-low option on Tuesday. He played just 21.2 and 19.2 minutes in Games 3 and 4, but that figure increased to 28.7 in Game 5. It didn’t lead to a good fantasy outing – he finished with just 15.5 DraftKings points – but Lopez is capable of averaging over 1.00 DraftKings points per minute. There’s no guarantee he sees that much playing time again on Tuesday, but he’s a good bet to return value if he does.
Pat Connaughton has been one of the unsung heroes for the Bucks. No one in this series has made more 3-pointers, and Connaughton has scored at least 23.5 DraftKings points in three of his past four games. That said, his price has crept up to $5,200 on DraftKings, and he’s tough to justify at that price tag. His ceiling has been capped at around 25 DraftKings points, so he provides very little upside at that salary. He’s a much stronger target at just $8,500 on FanDuel.
Bobby Portis rounds out this tier, and he’s played at least 18.3 minutes in three straight games. His salary has also decreased by -$600 following Game 5, which gives him some added appeal.
Values & Punts
- Cameron Johnson ($4,400 on DraftKings, $9,000 on FanDuel): Johnson’s role with the Suns was increasing throughout this series, but don’t be surprised if he takes a step backward on Tuesday. He was absolutely dreadful in Game 5, with the Suns getting outscored by -19 points over his 21.9 minutes.
- Cameron Payne ($4,000 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel): Payne has had some moments for the Suns during the postseason, but there just isn’t much work available for him with Paul and Booker healthy. He still has some upside at this price tag – he finished with 21.0 DraftKings points over 14.6 minutes in Game 5 – but his ownership could be a bit inflated following that performance.
- P.J. Tucker ($3,400 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel): Tucker’s workload is on the decline for the Bucks, which makes sense in this series. His value comes from his defensive ability against scoring forwards like Kevin Durant, and the Suns don’t really have some like that on their roster. Tucker is one of the worst fantasy producers in the league on a per-minute basis, so he needs to play close to 40 minutes to have relevance. He likely won’t do that on Tuesday.
- Torrey Craig ($2,600 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel): Craig has seen a handful of minutes off the bench for the Suns in this series, but he has yet to crack 7.75 DraftKings points. However, he did finish with 6.0 DraftKings points in Game 5 on 1-of-4 shooting, so he has the potential for a slightly better performance tonight.
- Jeff Teague ($2,000 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel): Teague was a whopping -11 over 7.5 minutes in Game 5, and the Bucks would honestly be better just not playing him at this point. Still, he’s projected for around seven minutes in our NBA Models, which does give him an outside shot at returning value.
Pictured above: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Photo Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images.