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.
DAL @ HOU over/under 221.5, Rockets -7
This series continues to post higher and higher projected point totals from Vegas and yet they keep exceeding them. This is another must-win for Dallas and I expect them to start both JJ Barea and Al-Farouq Aminu once again. They each become top value plays on this short slate after playing heavy minutes in Game 4. Barea played 36 minutes and is averaging 11 assists over the past two games, he’s basically a lock-and-load play on this slate. Aminu finally got a start at small forward after 85 games and made the most of it, playing 38 minutes and racking up a 16 point, 12 rebound double-double. Assuming he does start for Richard Jefferson once again, I see no reason for him not to play heavy minutes in a game the Mavericks have to win. Dirk Nowitzki has three games around 30 fantasy points and one massive 50 point barrage, he’s a rock solid cash game play at his still depressed price and he’s played at least 34 minutes in each game this series, giving him serious upside as well. The biggest winner in the Rondo saga from a fantasy perspective may have been Monta Ellis, who has now posted back-to-back 31+ point games since Rondo disappeared. Ellis is an elite shooting guard play at his price. Tyson Chandler will continue to play all the minutes he can handle at center, but the problem is that’s right around 30 for Chandler at this point and it’s simply not enough to trust when you can play Dwight Howard for just a little more. Devin Harris has been an afterthought with Raymond Felton in the rotation and Barea playing so well.
The Rockets hold all the power in this series and they sure played like they knew that in the last game, letting the Mavericks do whatever they wanted on the offensive end for long stretches. Look for them to tighten up a bit last night as their point guard situation is worse than the Mavericks at this point, with both Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni offering nothing in this series thus far. James Harden has looked solid, but his peripherals have been a bit down and he’s scoring “just” 24 point per game outside of his 42 point outburst in Game 3. He can explode at any time, but it’s awfully hard to pay his price for only 40 fantasy points most of the time right now. Josh Smith outplayed Terrence Jones for the second game in a row, leading to a few extra minutes, but he played some awful defense in the fourth quarter of that game. He’s a higher upside play than Jones, but Jones feels a little bit safer at a much cheaper price tonight. Trevor Ariza has been the forgotten man on offense lately and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, I prefer Corey Brewer as a price play if you need a value small forward from the Rockets. Dwight Howard, despite his sluggish Game 4, is the elite center play on this slate and will be heavily owned.
SAS @ LAC over/under 203.5, Clippers -2
With an impressive win over the the Spurs on the road in Game 4, the Clippers have again taken control of this series as they play Game 5 at home tonight. Chris Paul was brilliant last time out, racking up 34 points by using pick and rolls to force the Spurs to switch Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green off of him as much as possible. Paul made just 2-of-7 shots against that duo, but absolutely dismantled Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan and the many others that took a turn on him. I’d expect the Spurs to approach him differently tonight, so he’s not a player I’m active forcing into my lineup unless he fits. Blake Griffin, on the other hand, is a guy I’d love to force into my lineup at his price. With a lot of the focus being put on Paul tonight, I’d expect Griffin to get more good looks than usual and his peripheral numbers have been insane during this series, averaging more than 14 rebounds, 7 assists, a block and steal, all well up from his regular season numbers. The rest of the Clippers, I’ll be doing my best to avoid outside of DeAndre Jordan in tournaments, as he can rack up rebounds, as well as points if the Spurs hack him and should play heavy minutes if he can stay out of foul trouble. The Clippers wing rotation remains a fantasy wasteland.
The Spurs really need more out of Tony Parker, but he’s obviously not healthy and based on his usage so far in this series, Manu Ginobili isn’t going to be saving them with a 38-minute, high-volume game either. They are both solid GPP options at low prices, since they can both explode if the minutes are there and the situation is right, but I’m not counting on anything from either. The offensive load has fallen on Kawhi Leonard, and he hasn’t disappointed. He needs to be locked in at small forward at any price at this point, as he’s now scored at least 23 points and 40 fantasy points in three straight games. He’ll play 40 minutes or so again if the game is close and it’s nearly impossible to fade him. Tim Duncan continues to look ageless in close games, which I expect tonight’s to be, he’s been producing similarly to Blake Griffin for quite a price discount and makes a great salary saving pivot from Griffin if you can’t afford to pair them. Tiago Splitter hasn’t been able to play enough to be a viable value option at center, leaving Boris Diaw as a solid one at a crowded power forward position.