On Tuesday, the first game of the NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns kicks off at 9 p.m. ET.
If you’re unfamiliar with slates for a single game / showdown, check out my primers for DraftKings and FanDuel before creating any rosters.
It has the potential to be an exciting series. The Suns are currently ranked as -195 favorites to win the series, and they are 5.5-point home favorites in Game 1.
The big scenario here involves the health of Giannis Antetokounmpo. He suffered a knee hyperextension in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals and missed the last two games of that series. It looks like he’s about to return to court. He was originally listed as Dubious for Game 1 on Tuesday, but was outscored as Doubtful. I still think the Bucks will end up being cautious with their star player, but don’t be surprised if he goes out of his way to try and get on the pitch. Make sure to monitor its status using the Labs Insiders tool.
Antetokounmpo is a back-to-back league MVP and was the Bucks’ best player during the regular season. The team increased their net score by +9.2 points per 100 possessions with Giannis on the pitch which was the team’s highest score. It has also placed him in the 93rd percentile for all qualifiers this season, so his impact cannot be underestimated.
The Suns don’t have the same big question mark from a health standpoint, but they’re a young team that hasn’t really been tested. Apart from Chris Paul and Jae Crowder, very few of the players on the list had even made the playoffs before this year, and now they’re playing on basketball’s biggest stage. They also managed to make it through the Western Conference playoffs without really being threatened, so it will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure.
If Antetokounmpo were at full power, he would obviously be the best stallion in this competition. He is arguably the best fantasy producer in basketball given his ability to rack up stats in all categories at all levels. No one on this list can match her by the minute.
Whether he is able to dress, whether or not you should register him will be an interesting decision. There’s a chance it might be limited from a minute’s point of view, and it might also have less impact than usual.
Still, I’m ready to roll the dice if he adapts. He’s about $ -1,000 cheaper on DraftKings than he was against the Hawks, and he could order scaled-down ownership as well. It’s a great combination.
If Giannis is unable to dress, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holidays become elite stud targets. Both players have been excellent in the last two games of the Eastern Conference final. Middleton racked up at least 52.0 DraftKings points in both contests, while Holiday scored at least 56.0. Middleton’s cap is a bit higher, but I prefer Holiday given the difference in salary.
Unfortunately, both players are a bit too expensive if Antetokounmpo is in the lineup.
On another side, Chris Paul and Devin Booker are both worthy of being considered stallions. Both players will have some tough clashes in this series, but both players have provided excellent value at times during the playoffs.
Of the two, Booker has the superior projections of our NBA models. Paul is a slightly more balanced fantastic option, but Booker can outdo him with his scoring ability. His price has also dropped significantly – he’s seen a price drop of $ -1,400 on DraftKings in his last two games – while Paul’s pay has gone in the opposite direction.
Deandre Ayton saw his stock skyrocket during the playoffs. He’s grown into a big, hyper-efficient offensive man who also plays elite defense. Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily turn into fantastic success. He only contributes in two categories – points and rebounds – so he has to dominate in both areas to reach his cap. He clearly can do it, as evidenced by his 61.0 DraftKings points in Game 4 against the Clippers, but that tends to limit his potential. He has scored over 44.0 DraftKings points in just two of 16 playoff games, and he has scored 37.0 DraftKings points or less in 10 of them. That makes it a bit overpriced compared to guys like Paul, Booker, and Holiday.
Crazy to say that, but I’m not sure the Bucks would be in the final without Brook lopez. He scored extremely effectively during the playoffs and he managed to keep up on the defensive end.
However, he’s another Bucks member whose price has been hiked without Giannis, and it would be hard to justify if Giannis returns in Game 1. He has posted an Over / Under negative in six of his last eight games on DraftKings with Giannis was active, and most of them were paid much less.
Bobby portisThe viability of the team is probably the most dependent on Giannis. He started the last two games instead of Antetokounmpo, and he provided fantastic excellent value in both. His playing time would be reduced if Antetokounmpo adjusts, but he would again be a solid option if Giannis is inactive.
Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder complete this level, and the two players are very similar. They are both expected to play around 32 minutes in this contest, and they have similar per minute averages over the past month. I would go for Crowder just because he’s a bit cheaper, but both players have the potential to pay their wages if their jump shots go down.
Values & Plates
- Pat connaughton ($ 4,800 on DraftKings, $ 8,000 on FanDuel): Connaughton saw a lot of playing time in the playoffs, and he finally delivered a big performance in Game 6 against the Hawks. He finished with 30.0 DraftKings points and shot 3 of 6 to 3 points, which almost doubled his salary. It is not as attractive at its current price.
- Cameron Payne ($ 4,600 on DraftKings, $ 10,000 on FanDuel): Payne is also distinguished by its excessive price. He was carrying a heavy workload for the Suns with CP3 out of roster, but his playing time has declined significantly since Paul returned to roster. He’s still very good per minute, but he’s only thrown for 14.5 minutes in our NBA models. It is probably not enough for it to restore value.
- PJ Tucker ($ 4,400 on DraftKings, $ 7,500 on FanDuel): Tucker is basically the anti-Payne. He should see every minute he can handle – I’d expect him to be Booker’s main defenseman in this series – but he’s one of the worst producers in the league on a per-minute basis. Still, he’s posted a plus / minus positive in seven of his last eight games.
- Torrey Craig ($ 3,800 on DraftKings, $ 7,000 on FanDuel): Craig is the ultimate winner of this series. He spent time with the Bucks earlier this season, so he gets a ring no matter who comes out victorious. Fantastically speaking, he played over 30 minutes in the Suns’ last game, but it came with Cameron Johnson out of roster. The Suns also won this game with almost 30 points, so I don’t think that indicates how much he will play on Tuesday.
- Cameron Johnson ($ 2,800 on DraftKings, $ 8,500 on FanDuel): Speaking of Johnson, he emerges as the best target in this price range. His role was increasing for the Suns before they missed their last game due to illness, and he’s currently screened for 20.2 minutes in our NBA models. This should be more than enough for it to restore value at its current price.
- Bryn Forbes ($ 2,400 on DraftKings, $ 6,500 on FanDuel): Forbes can shoot 3-ball just fine, but that’s basically all he can do on a basketball court. The Bucks have been drastically worse with Forbes on the court this season, so it wouldn’t shock me if he didn’t play in the final at all. He’s extremely risky in the first game, and he doesn’t offer a lot of benefits either.
- Dario Saric ($ 2,000 on DraftKings, $ 7,000 on FanDuel): I prefer to go with Saric if I’m looking to dive in the garbage. He should see about 10 minutes as the Suns’ save center, and he’s a much better producer than Forbes on a per-minute basis.
Photo credit: Harry How / Getty Images
Pictured: Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker