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NBA Playoffs DFS Breakdown (Sunday, Aug. 23): Kawhi is an Easy Buy

The NBA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each day’s slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable players.

Sunday features a four-game NBA DFS slate starting at 1 p.m. ET on DraftKings and FanDuel.

Point Guard

Stud

There isn’t a super-expensive option at the PG position today. The three highest guys are Jamal Murray ($7,300 on FanDuel), Kemba Walker ($7,500), and Kyle Lowry ($8,200).

Of those options, Lowry stands out the most in our NBA models, mostly because of his matchup against the Nets. The Raptors are implied to score 115.5 points right now, which is second on the slate only to the Clippers (119.5). And Lowry has been a good fantasy player of late, too. He’s actually had a somewhat low usage rate, but he’s buoyed his production by racking up rebounds and steals. That type of activity gives him a nice floor and ceiling in all formats.

Value

Monte Morris really busted last game, going for just 5.0 fantasy points across his nearly 25 minutes of action. Prior to that, though, he had hit value in three straight games, and he’s still quite underpriced relative to his role. At the near minimum across the industry, he’s a fine buy-low candidate if you’re looking to punt a bit and pay up for the studs on the slate.

Fast Break

If you can afford the salary, it might be better to bump up from Morris to either Shake Milton or Tyler Johnson, both of whom are in the mid-$4K range and have a little more minutes safety. The former got up to 37 minutes last game, while the latter has used a ton of possession for the shorthanded Nets. That gives them nice ceiling for GPPs at very cheap price tags.

Shooting Guard

Stud

There’s one looming shadow over this entire slate: the availability of Luka Doncic. The Dallas stud is questionable to suit up after injuring his ankle last game, and unfortunately, Clippers vs. Mavs isn’t the first game of the day, so you might have to make a decision on him before his status is made clear.

How I would play it: Don’t use him in cash games, but go overweight in tournaments. If he’s able to go, you’ll likely get him at low ownership because of the uncertainty, and this is one of the most prolific fantasy scorers in the league. Now down 2-1 to the Clippers, you can believe he’ll want to play and give it his all. But because we won’t know, it’s too risky for cash games.

Luka’s status also has an impact across the rest of the slate obviously. If he doesn’t play or is limited, that will really boost the value of pretty much all of the other Dallas guys, including Kristaps Porzingis, Seth Curry, and Trey Burke, all of whom will have to take a larger role in the offense (among others). If you make some lineups that try to take advantage of a Luka absence, make sure to build with the effects in mind.

Value

If you’re looking to lock in a ton of minutes at a cheap price tag, look no further than the Nets’ Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who is just $4,700 on FanDuel and projected to exceed 35 today. If his current role continues, it’s just really difficult to fail at this salary point. Think of it this way: Last game, he pretty much hit value at this number despite shooting 3-of-18 from the field. If that improves even slightly, he’s an easy value.

Fast Break

Norman Powell‘s minutes have fluctuated lately, but at $4,700 on DraftKings, he’s in a nice spot to hit value against a terrible Nets squad. He’s projected to play around 30 minutes and use a decent number of possessions.

There’s quite a bit of value at the position today, especially in the mid-to-high tier like Paul George, Caris LeVert, and Donovan Mitchell. I’d probably spread out ownership to get access to their ceilings: They’re all about similar in terms of ceiling projection, which makes it difficult to really take a stand on any of them.

Small Forward

Stud

Kawhi Leonard is probably the stud to really lock in today. He’s absolutely dominated value lately, going for at least 50 fantasy points in each of his first three games against the Mavs. Doc Rivers has had no problems putting a heavy load on him; we’re projecting him for over 40 minutes today. There’s a little downside if Luka doesn’t play and this game turns into a runaway blowout, but even in that situation, he’d probably still do well. Don’t overthink Kawhi today.

Value

OG Anunoby absolutely isn’t a high-usage player, which somewhat limits his ceiling. But his role is very solidified, and it’s difficult to find any players at his price point projected for over 35 minutes. He has shown the ability to rack up fantasy points across a variety of categories, including rebounds and stocks, which puts him in play today.

Fast Break

With Kawhi being such a lock and players likely paying down at the other spot on FanDuel for someone like Anunoby or Garrett Temple, it could be wise in tournaments to pivot to someone like Jaylen Brown or Pascal Siakam. The former is a particularly interesting GPP option: He’s had poor games the last two times out against the Sixers, mostly because of his shooting. The role is still there, so if a couple more go in, he can surprise in tournaments.

Power Forward

Stud

Two players today are in a tier of their own at the PF position: Porzingis and Jayson Tatum.

The former is a tough one: He’s not projecting as a great value, but that could obviously change if Luka is unable to play. Although it’s not quite that simple either. Doncic is so important to this offense; even if the Mavs’ other players get more usage, the efficiency dip might be so extreme as to overrate them.

Tatum is easier: He’s a fine play today in any format. He didn’t play well last game, scoring just 15 points, but the dude is too talented to have too many 6-of-19 shooting games. I’d expect a bounce back in a closeout game vs. Philly.

Value

What to do with Maxi Kleber … always a fun question in DFS. The role is there: He’s played in the mid-30s in minutes this series against the Clippers. But the usage has been low and the shooting poor. He’s cheap at $4,000, so I don’t mind taking the risk again, but it’s always tough to roster players who don’t have a huge ceiling because of usage but also have a low floor. Where exactly do you use that type of guy?

Fast Break

Another tough part of the Kleber equation is that the other options at the position aren’t exactly stud-like. Michael Porter Jr., Marcus Morris, Paul Millsap, Al Horford — all good values in a vacuum but definitely players who have shown boom-or-bust tendencies during the playoffs. At that point, I’d just play ownership in tournaments. Will Porter, for example, be overlooked after an awful showing in Game 3? If so, today is probably the time to buy.

Center

Stud

The two studs today are Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, both of whom are projecting as nice values in our models. I wouldn’t really overthink things too much today with these two: Embiid has been the much more stable player and has a really high floor given his role without Ben Simmons. Jokic, meanwhile, is boom-or-bust, which makes him more appealing for tournaments. It’s nice when it works out that way.

Value

If you want to pay down at the position, your options are likely Enes Kanter, Ivica Zubac, or Montrezl Harrell. None of those guys have particularly safe floors for cash games, which means I’d pretty much only prioritize ceiling. Kanter and Harrell are the higher-usage guys, although Trez has been slowly working back into shape. There is a little more upside today, perhaps if the game turns into a blowout and he gets some easy minutes at the end of the game.

Fast Break

That means the pivots today are Jarrett Allen and Rudy Gobert. Of the two, I prefer the latter: He’s actually had a pretty nice usage rate in this series against the Nuggets, and he obviously has huge block upside for tournaments.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Pictured: Kawhi Leonard