With the NBA set to begin on Thursday, Collin Hulbert gives you his expert DFS picks and analysis as you prepare to set your lineups this week.
The Conference Finals have come and gone. The only interesting part of the Golden State series was the fact the Blazers led each of the last three games by at least 17 points in each game and still managed to get swept. Also, I suppose it’s worth noting Kevin Durant sat out the entire series and Iguodala missed a few games as well. The Raptors bounced back from an 0-2 hole to take the final four games against the Bucks to set up an interesting final.
The Finals are here
It is still not known how injured Kevin Durant actually is. Many speculate he will remain questionable until somewhere around the third or fourth game of the series. As for DeMarcus Cousins, he is questionable to make his postseason debut and is doubtful for the initial trip to Toronto. Regardless of their health situations, a question of chemistry looms as the Warriors were able to control and close-out games, rather easily in their absence.
Unbeaten since the departure of Durant, the urgency to rush him back doesn’t seem to be a hot topic right now. As of now, the question is, how will a team of overachievers and a hot Kawhi Leonard slow down the fast-paced, sharp-shooting stars of Golden State? The initial suspicion is that Leonard will defend Steph Curry, Siakam or Green will guard Klay Thompson, and Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol will defend Draymond Green. On paper, this seems a bit similar to the Spurs vs Warriors of 2015-2016, as many of the personnel from those old clashes will re-kindle the fire. I like the Raptors to take one of the two home games, but ultimately fall in five games.
The Finals has a few different game types, but there’s one I’m focusing on for this final article, NBA Showdown Captain Mode (DraftKings). For this format, we choose a Captain (1.5 X Points), and five utility players. I recommend a heads-up format with the limited slate. Good luck in the final series of the year.
Captain (1.5 X Fantasy Points)
Kawhi Leonard (DK-$17,700)
He is expensive. There’s no denying it. Kawhi is also the primary weapon for Toronto and their only real hope for a title. On the defensive end, Kawhi should be guarding either Klay or Steph. I’m assuming Klay because Curry’s odometer is going to force anyone defending him to wear down as the game goes on. On offense, I don’t think anyone is really going to be able to slow him down.
As we have seen all postseason, Kawhi has been dynamic on offense and shouldered much of the responsibility for scoring, often going ISO when the offensive movement slows. Though the ball movement improved against the Bucks, the Sixers series showed us Kawhi can put the team on his back and carry them offensively. If they are going to have a chance in this series, some of the weight must be distributed elsewhere, but I fully expect in crunch time, it’ll be Leonard.
Steph Curry (DK-$11,400)
Curry was in MVP-like form in the Western Conference Finals and in the final two games against Houston. The absence of Durant has unlocked the Curry of old and we are seeing the old tricks and magic more and more as the playoffs have progressed. Though I would expect Kawhi to match up on Steph at some point in the series, I think Steph’s mileage on the offensive side might suck a little too much energy out of Kawhi over the course of the series, so I expect these battles to occur less frequently than it’s currently being billed.
Steph has been nearly impossible to stop as of late and I anticipate a plethora of defenders rotating on him throughout the finals, which should serve him well on the offensive end. Even Vegas is sold on Steph to win Finals MVP. You should be too.
Andre Iguodala (DK-$6,600)
I’m doing the math on matchups and I see all kinds of good offensive matchups for Iggy in the series. With Kawhi and Siakam likely focusing on the Splash brothers, the oft-utilized strategy of letting Iggy and Draymond take the open shots tend to work one of two ways. Either Iggy will have a big game, or he will struggle with shot efficiency. Either way, Iggy will get more time on the ball and opportunities to score. Unless Durant or Cousins return and the Warriors decide to shake things up, Iggy will have some strong matchups and good looks in the series.
Marc Gasol (DK-$6,000)
Gasol has a distinct advantage in this series. He’s the only true big man in the starting rotation and features passing skills like no other big in the league. With Leonard being the focal point of the offense and the Warriors rolling with an undersized starting five, I can see Gasol lingering around the paint more in this series, gathering rebounds consistently and serving as a pivot point (aiding the likelihood of assists). I expect his floor, like Ibaka, will be very high.
Serge Ibaka (DK-$4,200)
Ibaka has some potentially interesting value going into the series. Serge should be working down low, possibly playing off Draymond, giving him an open perimeter. If Gasol takes Draymond, expect Serge to pair with the likes of Iggy, Looney, or Bell. The presence of Gasol and his efficiency on the offensive end (outside the paint as well) should free up space for Ibaka against a Golden State team who will struggle rebounding against the Raptors, and most notably, Ibaka. Ibaka’s plus rebounding ability should give him a high floor for the price.
Norman Powell (DK-$3,600)
Norman Powell came out of nowhere in the Eastern Conference Finals and put together some strong stat lines in the process. With the Warriors being very shorthanded, that second unit is going to have issues covering Powell. Keep in mind, the Bucks had the depth advantage going into the ECF, but the superb play of Van Fleet and Powell catapulted the Raptors over the Bucks when the rotations were in full swing. Powell is a discount play and should have every advantage over a shallow Warriors rotation.
Collin is a former Army Intelligence and Logistics officer who will watch any sport and gamble with anyone willing. This is his second year writing for dailyfantasysports.codes.
Follow Collin on Twitter @CollinHulbert