While MLB season is officially in full-swing (lol I hope Sean appreciates my attempted Dad joke), we have an extremely exciting NBA slate tonight with a ton of playoff implications on the line, especially in the Eastern Conference. The Heat, Bulls, and Pacers are in a three-way tie for the final two playoff spots with the Bulls taking on the 76ers tonight, and the Pacers taking on the Bucks. Obviously one matchup is nicer than the other, but I don’t see any blowouts happening tonight.
With that being said, here is my NBA Starting Five for tonight’s competitive 6-game NBA slate:
Elfrid Payton ($7,400)
We’ve seen Payton’s ceiling numerous times this season, especially lately. Over his last five games, Payton has averaged 15.4 points, 9.8 assists and 6.2 rebounds over 32 minutes per game while shooting 48.3 percent from the field. Over the last week, Payton has dazzled with his 43.6% assist rate, 20.1% usage rate and 11.8% rebounding rate (extremely impressive for a point guard). In his last meeting against the Nets on April 1st he posted a 20-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist triple-double en route to 49.7 Fanduel points. He’s topped 39 Fanduel points in four of his last six games and the Nets are still brutal against the point guard, allowing an average of 52.5 FDP per game on the season. For $7,400 in the situation Payton finds himself, he’s an excellent play in all formats.
Other options: Damian Lillard ($9,100), Ricky Rubio ($7,900), Dennis Schroder ($7,300), Jeremy Lin ($6,000), TJ McConnell ($5,600), Ron Baker ($3,600), Michael Carter-Williams ($3,500)
Giannis Antetokounmpo ($10,000)
It’s been a talking point all season, but Fanduel is STILL slacking with their pricing, as evident in Giannis being priced at $10k flat. Yes, he put up a dud last game against the Thunder in a blowout loss, but his numbers since Brogdon went down are fantastic. He’s posted 60+ FDP in two of his last three games and has also seen at least 40 minutes of playing time in two of his last three. Over that stretch, he’s averaged 23.3 points, 13 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 2.3 blocks and 1.7 steals. This is including a 11-point, 10-rebound “dud” against the Thunder in 24 minutes. He’s been flat out dominant and with the Pacers ranking in the bottom half of the league in wing defense and playoff implications on the line for both teams, I expect to see prime-time Giannis tonight.
Other options: CJ McCollum ($7,100), Avery Bradley ($6,200), Evan Fournier ($5,600), Timothy Luwawe-Cabarrot ($4,800), Monta Ellis ($4,500)
Jimmy Butler ($9,900)
If Butler isn’t the lock of the century and the chalkiest play on the slate tonight I’ll be extremely surprised. Obviously we won’t see Dwyane Wade in action, and we also got word that starting point guard Rajon Rondo will be out of commission tonight (MCW anyone?!). This reduces some of the blowout risk, heightening the chances that Butler plays a full allotment of minutes. In his three games against the 76ers this season, Butler has posted averages of 30 points, 7 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals per contest. With Rondo off of the court, we can expect to see a significant boost in assists and even a slight bump in rebounding. With both Rondo and Wade off of the court, Butler sees his usage jump to 34.3% while holding a 38.2% assist rate and 10.7% rebounding rate. The Bulls are currently locked in a three-way tie for the final two playoff spots, so I fully expect Jimmy Butler to put the Bulls on his back tonight. Don’t be surprised if we have another 60-bomb incoming.
Other options: Paul George ($9,100), Andrew Wiggins ($7,400), Khris Middleton ($6,000), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ($4,700), Taurean Prince ($4,200) – if Bazemore is out
Aaron Gordon ($5,700)
As frustrating as he can be to roster, Aaron Gordon has come alive as of late. Over his last three games, Gordon has averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal per game over 34.7 minutes. The most encouraging number in that stat line? 34.7 minutes per game. Earlier this season, Gordon was struggling to crack 25 minutes, let alone 30. With Orlando clearly out of the playoff picture, Frank Vogel has figured out it’s finally time to unleash the athletic forward and Gordon has repaid him generously. Last week against the same Brooklyn Nets, Gordon posted a beautiful stat line of 22 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists and two steals on 50% shooting from the field while draining four shots from beyond the arc. The Nets are the second worst team in the NBA in terms of DvP against power forwards (47.6 FDP per game) and this game carries a tight 2-point spread with a 224 O/U. Load up on the Magic and make sure Aaron Gordon is a centerpiece.
Other options: Richaun Holmes ($6,100), Nikola Mirotic ($5,700), Gorgui Dieng ($5,600), Al-Farouq Aminu ($4,800), Bobby Portis ($3,700)
Robin Lopez ($4,700)
It pains me to not write up my main man Nikola Vucevic, but I can’t deny the value that Robin Lopez brings to the table tonight. While his production has been rather erratic all season, he’s seen at least 34 minutes of playing time in three of his last five games. Without Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo on the court, Lopez receives the third highest usage bump on the Bulls, carrying a 22.7% usage rate with a 13.6% rebounding rate. He gets the privilege of facing off with the Philadelphia 76ers tonight and their frontcourt has been an absolute mess since Embiid went down. One the season, they rank dead last in the NBA in terms of DvP against opposing centers, allowing an average of 54.4 FDP per game on the season. Lock him in as I fully expect him to shatter value.
Other options: Karl-Anthony Towns ($10,200), Nikola Vucevic ($8,200), Brook Lopez ($7,100), Myles Turner ($6,200), Greg Monroe ($5,700)