FanDuel Single-Game Basketball Helper: Nuggets at Lakers (9/26/20)

In a traditional FanDuel NBA lineup, you have a $60,000 salary cap to roster nine players. In the single-game setup, the salary cap is the same, but the lineup requirements are different.

You select five players of any position. One of your players will be your MVP, whose FanDuel points are multiplied by two. You also select a STAR player (whose production is multiplied by 1.5) and a PRO (multiplied by 1.2). Two UTIL players round out the roster, and they don't receive a multiplier to their production.

This makes the five players you select important in more than one way, as you need to focus on slotting in the best plays in the multiplier slots rather than just nailing the best overall plays of the game.

Nuggets at Lakers Overview

Can the Denver Nuggets do it again? The Nuggets have overcome a 3-1 series deficit in each of their two playoff series against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers and find themselves in the exact same deficit against the Los Angeles Lakers as they face elimination on Saturday. Los Angeles is one win away from their first NBA Finals appearance since 2009, and LeBron James is just one win away from a ridiculous ninth Finals appearance in 10 years.

FanDuel Sportsbook would not be the first to mistakenly count out Denver, but they are placing the Lakers as 5.0-point favorites to win the Western Conference on Saturday. The total is just 214.0 for Game 5, which is interesting given how that total was comfortably exceeded in three of the four games thus far.

Injuries and What-Ifs

There is actually a bit of injury controversy entering this game, as Anthony Davis is surprisingly questionable for this game with the ankle injury he suffered in Game 4. Davis missing would be a huge blow to the Lakers, but it would open up time for Kyle Kuzma at his more natural power forward position.

There are no injuries on the Denver side, but Michael Malone ran with their more-effective bench unit at the end of Game 4, making minutes a little tougher to project than normal. As the power forward platoon between the defensive Paul Millsap and the young scorer Michael Porter Jr. continues for the Nuggets, it is worth noting Millsap did play a series-high 31 minutes in their only win in Game 3.

Player Breakdowns

At The Top

LeBron James ($16,000): James has taken back control of the offense, as he has a team-high usage rate of 30.5% in the last two games. At 1.50 FanDuel points per minute in those contests, he is the clear top option for MVP in cash. With the Boston Celtics putting up a fight in the East, James has the slightest bit of motivation for extra rest should Los Angeles close it out Saturday.

Anthony Davis ($15,500): As mentioned, Davis is not even a lock to play, which would be detrimental to the Lakers' chances against such a high-caliber opponent. But if he plays, AD represents an interesting MVP pivot in tournaments, as while LeBron has been red hot, Davis still has eclipsed 50 FanDuel points in three of four games this series. His injury tag also likely makes him a less popular MVP pick.

Nikola Jokic ($15,000): This series is playing out exactly like the first two did for Denver. They fell behind in the series 3-1, and then Jamal Murray takes over. Murray has been outstanding, but that means poor things for Nikola Jokic when he is second in command. Jokic has dipped to a 22.6% usage rate in the last two contests with Murray dominating the ball, and he has failed to eclipse 45 FanDuel points in three of the four games thus far as a result. Jokic is a tournament-only MVP consideration if he remains the second option.

Jamal Murray ($13,500): As mentioned, Jamal Murray is good at basketball. He has led the Nuggets in usage (26.7%) and FanDuel points per minute (1.17) over the last two. Murray is once again hyper efficient for a point guard at 54.8% shooting for the series, and he will need to continue to be. The Nuggets are just 2-6 this postseason when Murray shoots below 47%, so even a slightly below-average game for Murray scoring the ball could spell trouble.

In The Middle

Jerami Grant ($11,000): For some reason, in a game that most Nuggets starters were benched, Jerami Grant was the exception and saw 43 minutes alongside Murray and Jokic. That part is not new for Grant -- he averaging 34.8 minutes for the series -- but that kind of production is. Grant has posted a rate of 0.73 FanDuel points per minute in the last two games, which explains his heavy increase in salary from Thursday's slate. That is closer to his season-long average, but it is worth noting that Grant had a clip of just 0.55 FanDuel points per minute in the nine games prior to those contests, so he may not sustain his recent output.

Rajon Rondo ($10,000): Rondo is somewhat the opposite of Grant, as he reflects an outstanding rate of production even with questionable minutes. Rondo has exceeded 25 FanDuel points in three of five games and is second on the team -- in front of Davis -- at 1.09 FanDuel points per minute in the last two contests. Rondo has been great at getting his teammates involved in the series, with no fewer than 7 assists in each game.

Michael Porter Jr. ($9,500): The second-year player is always a threat in tournaments because of his ability to score the basketball, and his 21.2% usage is third among qualifying Nuggets. The continued issue with Porter -- which keeps him out of cash consideration -- is his defensive woes that continue to limit his court time, as he has exceeded 27 minutes in only two of the last seven games for Denver.

At The Bottom

Gary Harris ($8,500): The strange trend with minutes with most Denver starters from last game impacted Harris, who was limited to just 19. Harris has really struggled throughout this series, as he has yet to eclipse 11 FanDuel points in any of the four games against the Lakers. However, Harris was a key player for Denver in their three-game winning streak that ended the Clippers, as Harris averaged 23.8 FanDuel points per game and 35 minutes per game in that stretch. To make a series comeback, the Nuggets will likely need closer to that production again from Harris.

Paul Millsap ($8,500): If I could offer Michael Malone advice, it would be to play Paul Millsap. In the last four contests Millsap has seen at least 28 minutes, Denver is 3-1, and Millsap is averaging 8.75 points and 6.25 rebounds in those contests. Millsap will likely be overlooked in this salary area because of his low floor in the platoon with MPJ, but he does have significant double-double upside for tournaments.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($8,500): With so many fluctuating parts in this salary tier, KCP is actually fairly stable. Caldwell-Pope will start, see roughly 30 minutes, and can be volatile given 59% of his FanDuel production comes from scoring the basketball. He has actually done that fairly well so far in this series -- thanks in large part thanks to his stellar 42.7% shooting from three-point territory through four games. Even with his volatility, he has scored at least 18 FanDuel points in each game this series and is worth cash-game consideration.

Key Takeaways

-- There seems to be a seismic shift in the Lakers' duo. LeBron has firmly taken command of the offense with a high usage rate in the last two games, and Davis' status is up in the air due to injury.

-- The Nuggets' duo is also reverting back to a postseason trend. Denver is 6-2 when Murray leads the team in usage, and he has done so each of the last two games behind lights-out shooting.

-- Jerami Grant is playing a ton of minutes but is due for regression given his total playoff production thus far. Rajon Rondo is not playing many minutes, but he is currently producing at a very high rate per minute.

-- The bottom salary tier includes many fliers, but there are three options at $8,500 who are starters with potentially large roles if their production is solid early in the contest.

Austin Swaim is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Austin Swaim also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username ASwaim3. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.