We’re now into Round 2 of the playoffs, and although two-game slates are never fun, we do at least have two quality games on tap tonight, with Toronto at Cleveland (-6.5, 208.5 total on the NBA odds board) and Houston at San Antonio (-5.5, 213). Both games are expected to remain relatively close, and both have nice totals as well.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors, $8,600 on FanDuel – Lowry had a tough Round 1, but it came in a tough matchup with a Milwaukee team that likes to trap opposing PG. I think this is a nice bounce-back round for him to put up improved numbers, as he’ll face a Cleveland team that allowed just over 108 PPG in the first round to Indiana, not to mention the poor defense of Kyrie Irving. These two teams met in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, and after a slow to that series, Lowry exploded for 35 points in two of the last three games in their playoff loss. If they’re going to have a shot this year, Lowry is going to have to be outstanding starting in Game 1, and the matchup offensively is there against a Cleveland team that was 22nd in DVP against PG in the regular season.
I’m avoiding Kyrie Irving, as I prefer the matchups for LeBron James and Kevin Love this series, so I’d look to pair Lowry with one of the cheaper options in the Houston/San Antonio game. For GPPs, don’t forget about Patty Mills, as he did average 24 MPG against Houston in the regular season and the Rockets’ propensity to go small could result in more two PG lineups for San Antonio. He was already seeing a few minutes alongside Parker in Round 1.
Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs, $3,900 – It’s weird to highlight a low usage player like Danny Green, but it’s a two-game slate and we’re desperate for value. I think this series sets up well for him, as the Spurs need his wing defense to deal with the likes of Harden, Gordon and Williams. He averaged just 26.6 MPG in the regular season, but 30 MPG in the four meetings with Houston, so I like his minutes to get a boost here. He’s a low usage player, but Houston plays fast so there will be more opportunities to rack up some open 3s, blocks and steals. I’m not expecting the type of series Roberson had against Houston, but I’m expecting him to grind out around 5x value.
I’m looking to spend up at SF and then have some interest in Lowry and one of the top tier PFs, so this is a spot where I don’t have the salary cap for Harden. He did put up his typical big lines against San Antonio in the regular season, but I prefer LeBron and I’ll trust Green/Kawhi to not let him go crazy tonight. There are other solid options as well, including DeMar DeRozan against a Cleveland defense that has struggled all year, Lou Williams and Eric Gordon, who have both played well this postseason, and Norman Powell, who has forced his way into minutes with his great play.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers, $12,800 – It’s a touch choice at the top between Harden, LeBron and Kawhi, but in the playoffs my default option is LeBron. If you love your lineup when saving the extra $1,800 with Kawhi, I think that’s a fine way to go. However, I love targeting LeBron in the playoffs, as this is the time that he always reminds us that he’s still the best player on earth. He was great in every game in the opening round and played at least 42 minutes in each of those contests. He averaged 27.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 9.7 assists against Toronto this season, and I think he’s in store for another big series.
If you’re willing to roster only one player in that $7,000 to $9,000 range, you can actually plug both LeBron and Kawhi into your lineups and move on down the road. However, if you want a Lowry/DeRozan and one of Love or Aldridge, you’ll need to save at the other SF. My choice would be Trevor Ariza. He was brutal offensively in the first round, but he’s going to play a ton of minutes this series, as Houston lacks any other wings to combat Kawhi. He’s going to push for 40 minutes and hopefully he used the extra rest between Rounds 1 and 2 to find his shot; he was just 4-for-16 from three point land in Round 1.
Also Consider – Kawhi Leonard
LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs, $7,200 – I think most people will look to David Lee for value as the first Spurs’ big man, but I feel safer with Aldridge in this series. Houston likes to play small and I’m curious to see Lee’s minutes this series, as Houston is the exact opposite of Memphis in style. Aldridge played almost 35 MPG against Houston in the regular season, which is a high number for a Spurs player, and I think we continue to see him spend lots of time at center. Houston struggled defensively on the interior this year, and although Aldridge is not the same player he was in Portland, as a Houston fan I still have nightmares about his 2014 playoffs against the Rockets.
David Lee currently grades out as the top PF value according to the RotoGrinders’ projections at 5.31 points per dollar. At just $3,400, I wouldn’t recommend a fade in cash games or small field tournaments, but if you’re playing a large field GPP, I like the fade because he will likely be popular. I think his minutes are less secure in this series, as San Antonio could play less two big man lineups and Houston will attack Lee in the pick and roll. I like Aldridge and I also like Love, so I think a solid contrarian approach would be to pay up at both PF spots, or even take a gamble that Ryan Anderson remembered how to shoot the ball in his break between Round 1 and 2.
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers, $5,500 – Center is straight up ugly on this slate, as the minute volume just isn’t there overall. The Raptors and Spurs have been downsizing and playing their centers low minutes, while Houston is splitting minutes between Capela and Nene. If you’re still playing cash games, I’d look to Thompson because he has the safest minute volume and is the only center on this slate that we can expect to push for 30 minutes. Even then it’s not a perfect spot, as Cleveland could slide Kevin Love to center to match up with Serge Ibaka. Thompson averaged 10.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in the regular season and is from Canada, so I think he offers the highest floor on this slate.
For GPPs, I’d be most willing to take a shot on Pau Gasol, as I like the upside for him if the minutes are there (which is the big question for him).