FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball Helper: Saturday 5/22/21

If you're new to daily fantasy basketball -- maybe you started your DFS journey during the MLB or NFL seasons, or maybe basketball is your sport and this will be your first year giving it a shot -- you're in for a treat. The NBA scene changes on a week-to-week, day-to-day, and -- depending on injury news -- even a minute-to-minute basis, making every slate a unique one that requires an ever-changing approach.

With so much changing so quickly, we're here with plenty of tools to help you out. We have daily projections, a matchup heat map, a lineup optimizer, and a bunch of other great resources to help give you an edge.

Daily fantasy NBA is very reliant on opportunity, so you'll need to make sure that you're up-to-date with key injuries. Our projections update up until tip-off to reflect current news, we have player news updates, and the FanDuel Scout app will send push notifications for pressing updates regarding your players.

We'll also be coming at you with this primer every day, breaking down a few of the day's top plays at each position.

Let's break down today's main slate on FanDuel.

The Slate

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On short, four-game playoff slates, it does not take much to clear each game from an injury perspective, and luckily, many squads taking off on Saturday are fairly healthy. The Milwaukee Bucks may be missing just a small piece in Jeff Teague, who was added to the injury report Friday with a knee injury. On the other side, the Miami Heat will be without Victor Oladipo for the remainder of the season following his quad surgery, but that is already accounted for in the salaries with Oladipo having been out of action since April 8th.

The Los Angeles Clippers -- despite facing criticism for their resting at the end of the season -- are totally clean entering the playoffs, but the Dallas Mavericks will be working without two ideal rotation pieces on the other side, as J.J. Redick has already been declared out with a heel injury, and Maxi Kleber is questionable with an Achilles' injury.

Obviously, the largest overall blow to any of these four squads is that the Boston Celtics will have to navigate the Brooklyn Nets without Jaylen Brown, who has been out since May 2nd with a wrist injury and is likely to miss the playoffs. They will at least have Robert Williams, who is expected to play in Game 1 despite his foot issue. On the Brooklyn side, the only questionable player is Landry Shamet, but he is expected to play through an ankle injury.

The most substantial rotation questions on the slate lie with the Denver Nuggets, who will be without P.J. Dozier for this series as he continues to battle a groin injury. Will Barton is expected to return at some point in this round but likely will not play in Game 1. The same could be said for Austin Rivers, who popped onto the injury report Friday with a non-COVID illness. Despite injuries for much of the season, the Portland Trail Blazers enter Game 1 in Denver with a clean report.

Point Guard

Kyrie Irving ($9,200): The fun part of the postseason is that most of these teams will be playing at full strength for the first time all year, and Brooklyn is a pronounced an example of that. The Nets have played only 201 minutes all season with Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant all healthy, and the hierarchy of the three leaves Irving as the most salary-efficient option among them. Irving is second on the Nets in usage (23.6%) and third in FanDuel points per minute (1.09), but he is not far behind the marks of Harden (1.15) and Durant (1.16) -- and it looks better when you compare salaries, with the latter pair both over $10,000. Add in the revenge narrative for Irving against Boston, and he is the standout top option at a point guard position where several face difficult matchups.

Facundo Campazzo ($5,400): In terms of injury presence, the Denver backcourt is the hotspot of the entire slate. With Austin Rivers perhaps missing Game 1 as well as Monte Morris yet to eclipse 20 minutes as he recovers from his hamstring injury, Campazzo has led the Nuggets' point guard spot. Campazzo is far from a star, so his 14.6% usage rate the past two weeks is likely not going through the roof any time soon, but he should be in a fine position to maintain his 0.83 FanDuel points per game in that same span. That would be more than enough in this spot, and numberFire project Campazzo to play 32.4 minutes on Saturday night.

Other Notable Plays: Jrue Holiday ($7,700), Goran Dragic ($4,900)

Shooting Guard

C.J. McCollum ($7,500): Portland and Denver are in a rematch of the 2019 Western Conference semifinals, where Portland bested Denver in seven games, and if a similar defensive route is taken on Damian Lillard by Nuggets' coach Michael Malone, then C.J. McCollum could be in for another monstrous series. McCollum scored more than 29 points four times and averaged 23.6 shot attempts per game in that seven-game series, and Lillard eclipsed 29 points just twice in that same span. McCollum provides very little from a fantasy perspective outside of scoring the ball, so it is great news that he has scored 24 or more points in five straight games leading into the postseason. If one wants to avoid stacking Harden and Irving, McCollum is an affordable pivot off of the Nets' two guard.

Marcus Smart ($5,700): Someone has to step up to help Jayson Tatum in Boston, and Smart can be that guy if he is healthy. Smart missed three of the four final regular season contests but returned to a 34-minute effort on Tuesday, so it seems he is healthy and ready to go. For the entire season, Smart sees a usage rate increase of 1.9 percentage points when Jaylen Brown has been off the floor, which trails only Kemba Walker (+4.4%) and Tatum (+3.6%), but unlike that pair through the play-in game, Smart had only one opportunity to elevate his salary with his new usage, and he scored just 20.4 FanDuel points in that game. That leaves him as one of the top budget options on a slate where value is hard to come by.

Other Notable Plays: Paul George ($8,400), Tim Hardaway Jr. ($5,100)

Small Forward

Jimmy Butler ($8,800): There will be tournaments won and lost on the decision between Butler and Kawhi Leonard -- who is the same salary -- for Saturday. I prefer Butler, and it is because of the overall boon Miami should see from their end-of-season salaries from a fantasy perspective. With all these teams likely to play together in the coming days, Miami is the one true pace-up spot in this set of eight teams, as Miami is the second-slowest team in the NBA in terms of pace (97.09) and gets vaulted straight to the top of the board with a Bucks squad that only trailed the Washington Wizards in pace for the entire season. That should provide a needed bump to Miami's starters in what should be a fairly tight rotation, and they will likely lean on Butler and his team-high 1.36 FanDuel points per minute in Game 1.

Khris Middleton ($7,300): There is a hint of McCollum's reasoning behind the "Robin" to Giannis Antetokounmpo's "Batman", as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra makes absolutely no secrets about his "wall defense" strategy to force the ball out of Antetokounmpo's hands and onto the rest of the Milwaukee supporting cast. In three games this year, Antetokounmpo's usage against Miami has plummeted to just 22.5% -- which is shockingly low compared to his 32.3% mark from the regular season as a whole. Middleton is the benefactor, with a team-high 24.2% in these games as well as a significant 1.12 FanDuel points per minute in the three contests. The increased role for Middleton makes his salary more efficient than it looks at first glance, even against a tough Miami defense. There are four small forwards who could all legitimately lead their team -- and the entire day -- in scoring, which makes using salary here a desirable option.

Other Notable Plays: Kawhi Leonard ($8,800), Michael Porter Jr. ($7,500)

Power Forward

Kristaps Porzingis ($6,900): Porzingis might be the most notable example on the slate of someone getting a significant boost just because these games count immensely more than regular season affairs. Porzingis averaged just 26.7 minutes in the final three regular season games returning from a knee injury, but with this additional time off, the expectation is that Porzingis will be ready to go with a full workload in front of him, and numberFire concurs with a 32.3-minute projection for Game 1. That brings him immediately into the fray as a focal point of the power forward spot, as this salary reflects his end-of-season role -- playing limited minutes in 4 of the 15 games -- more so than his 1.21 FanDuel points per minute on the entire season. Unless you're projecting for a blowout, there are not many reasons to fade the Mavs' star.

Robert Covington ($4,600): Covington and Trevor Ariza both represent the normal playoff value option. With rotations shrinking and more players fighting through injury, there are less viable options and alternatives to save salary, and so a low-usage, low FanDuel-point-per-minute catch-and-shoot option is much more viable than in regular season DFS. Covington's role is more stable than Ariza's -- who could cede his spot to Tyler Herro or Andre Iguodala -- but Covington is the clear option for Portland at the four with Lillard and McCollum both healthy and needing less offense out of Carmelo Anthony. Covington averaged 31.8 minutes the final six games of the regular season and is projected with a healthy 25.6 FanDuel points by our model right on that minute mark.

Other Notable Plays: Jayson Tatum ($10,000), Trevor Ariza ($4,300)


Tristan Thompson ($4,400): If Boston is going to have any prayer of defeating the Nets without Jaylen Brown, it will have to be on the glass -- which is terrifying for Celtics fans still fuming over trading Daniel Theis -- and Thompson has historically been capable of that. Brooklyn has allowed the most second-chance points (15.3) in the NBA, and Thompson is 11th in the league in offensive rebounds per game despite anything but a regular role for most of the season . While Robert Williams will play plenty, the expectation is Thompson will still start and play significant against the Nets, which could position him for a potential double-double in this spot should he see his full minutes. Many will lock in Bam Adebayo in this spot, but Thompson is an interesting way to save salary at center.

Other Notable Plays: Bam Adebayo ($7,900)

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.