Welcome to the NBA Playoff Targets post. Here's a preview of each matchup and my thoughts on the top picks, other value picks to consider, and some players to avoid for tonight.
CLE @ CHI over/under 194.5, Bulls -2
The Cavaliers looked much better in Game 2 and now get JR Smith back tonight. Iman Shumpert, who has been great in Game 1 and 2, looks iffy at best for Game 3 and that would make Smith an intriguing value play as he’d likely see heavy minutes with Shumpert out and have Mike Dunleavy guarding him most of the game. LeBron James is the obvious elite play here as he’s a nightly triple-double threat and continues to talk about being more aggressive. He feels like 50 fantasy points in the bag. Kyrie Irving is an elite scoring threat, but he’s been disappearing too often in the peripheral categories for me. He remains a high upside guy thanks to his steals and assists, but I prefer Rose tonight. The rest of the Cavaliers are a mess. Tristan Thompson is playing more minutes than Timofey Mozgov now, but Thompson is one of the worst per minute players in the league, even with Kevin Love off the floor. Mozgov is the better player, but after just an 18 minute Game 2, he’s hard to stomach. The price on both of these guys remains low though and they both have some decent upside in the minutes they are expected to play.
The Bulls are favored on their home floor tonight after losing Game 2 quite handily to the reinvigorated Cavaliers. Derrick Rose has been much better when on rest and he’s in that situation again tonight at the United Center. He’s the elite point guard play here for cheaper than the just as volatile Irving. Jimmy Butler is expending a ton of energy guarding LeBron James in this series, so I expect his offense to continue to suffer as the series goes on, but he makes a solid play due to the heavy minutes he logs at a weak position. Mike Dunleavy is going to continue to be up and down, but he’s the mostly likely guy for the Cavaliers to leave open on the perimeter and he’s excellent at making open shots. He’s a strong small forward value play thanks to his solid minutes in the playoffs. Joakim Noah is a guy I’m trying to avoid today despite the cheap price tag. He simply doesn’t look healthy and offers only decent upside when he’s playing less than 30 minutes a game. I’d prefer to take the value with Taj Gibson if I’m going after a cheap Bulls big man, as he’s playing nearly 30 minutes and costs much less than even Noah. Pau Gasol’s price came down as well following his rough Game 2, but he should bounce back tonight as the Bulls desperately need his offense with both Noah and Gibson struggling inside.
HOU @ LAC over/under 215.5, Clippers -4.5
The Clippers continue to play James Harden very aggressively, trying to force the ball out of his hands. This makes him tougher to play than usual, but his price has come down substantially lately. He’s still a high-upside play, but hard to recommend over some of the other expensive options on this slate. Trevor Ariza has been the main beneficiary with that scheme as he’s racked up back-to-back 30 fantasy point games. He’s a solid play at small forward. Corey Brewer can be avoided right now with Ariza playing well. At power forward, it continues to be a power struggle between Josh Smith and Terrance Jones. I greatly prefer Jones at a much cheaper price after he outplayed him last game and remains the starter. Dwight Howard is the elite center play and I’d do everything I can to play him right now. He’s looked as good as he has in years and despite the Clippers big name big men, they are vulnerable inside. Jason Terry is the only value point guard on the board with Chris Paul now expected to play, and he’s been playing a much more solid 28 or so minutes.
The Clippers are much easier to figure out with Chris Paul back. He’s a great tournament play, but a bit risky given that we don’t know how healthy he is. However, it severely limits the playable players. Matt Barnes takes a major hit and isn’t the preferred small forward value anymore, as he’ll likely be just under 30 minutes tonight if Paul stays healthy. Austin Rivers is now a non-factor. Hopefully, the extra usage got Jamal Crawford going and he can be useful still, because JJ Redick has been a black hole in the playoffs in terms of fantasy value despite playing heavy minutes. Blake Griffin has scored at least 50 fantasy points in six straight games in these playoffs and is the best play on the board at any position. I’d do everything I can to get him in all my lineups tonight as his upside is massive with Paul still less than 100%. DeAndre Jordan is a solid play, but I greatly prefer Howard in most cases. His biggest advantage will be his lower ownership tonight and ability to produce a similar line to Howard.
Value: Jamal Crawford, JJ Redick, Terrance Jones