April 11, 2017, 2:02 pm
The NBA Playoffs are almost here. The playoff picture is coming into focus and very few teams are left with something to play for. While the bigger picture can be ignored for most of the season, playoff scenarios hold massive importance to DFS as we near the end. Here is a look at the Tuesday’s games and what they mean for each team along with a general look at the playoff races.
Charlotte Hornets (36-45) at Atlanta Hawks (42-38)
The Celtics eliminated the Hornets from playoff contention on April 8th. Kemba Walker will sit out this one with a sore left knee. In Charlotte’s last game, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played 31 minutes with no other starter eclipsing 30 minutes. We can expect similarly reduced minutes in Tuesday’s contest.
The Hawks are very likely to get the 5th seed but have not wrapped it up just yet. They need one win in their last two games to clinch the 5th seed and a date with the Wizards in round one. Should they lose both games, they risk finishing as the 7th seed and facing a brutal first round matchup with Cleveland, a team that has beaten them in eight straight playoff games over the past two years. Expect full minutes from the starters in this one.
Oklahoma City Thunder (46-34) at Minnesota Timberwolves (31-49)
Oklahoma City is locked into the 6th seed and a MVP collision between Harden and Westbrook in the first round. Somewhat surprisingly, Russell Westbrook will rest for this one. It was thought that he’d still be gunning for another massive line to add to his MVP resume but the Thunder will give him the night off. Subtracting a minute or 2 from starter’s season averages should give a good median minutes projection for the non-resting Thunder players tonight.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been eliminated from playoff contention since April 2nd. Nobody told Coach Thibs about that, though. The Wolves starters have regularly been seeing close to 40 minutes even after elimination. With very few teams providing safety at this point in the season, the Wolves safe minutes will be very valuable in DFS on both of the final two days of regular season play.
Denver Nuggets (38-42) at Dallas Mavericks (32-48)
Russell Westbrook eliminated the Nuggets on April 9th on a buzzer beater, breaking the hearts of Nikola Jokic fans. The Nuggets are a young, up and coming team. We expect everybody besides their true veterans to suit up for the final game of the season though they will not be playing the same playoff style rotations they deployed in recent weeks. Developing players Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, and Gary Harris represent the best bets to play full minutes in the season finale.
The Dallas Mavericks have been eliminated from playoff contention since April 1st. Tuesday is Dallas’ home season finale before finishing off the season in Memphis on Wednesday. Dallas has been giving their bench a lot more run since that time. Dallas may take pride in winning their home finale, giving their veterans upside to play a few more minutes, but for cash games, it is safer to assume the youth movement continues with players such as Yogi Ferrell, Nicolas Brussino, and Dorian Finney-Smith cutting into the minutes of the older Mavericks. Tony Romo is also not an option.
New Orleans Pelicans (33-47) at Los Angeles Lakers (25-55)
The Nuggets eliminated the Pelicans from playoff contention on April 4th. Their draft pick is expected to go to Sacramento. DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are both expected to sit this game out. Alvin Gentry is reported to be giving the starters less minutes as the season winds down. Jrue Holiday will play, but could see as little as 25 minutes making him an extremely risky option even with the increased usage from DMC and AD sitting. Quinn Cook and Cheick Diallo should see an increase in minutes with Jordan Crawford seeing 28 to 30 minutes and the highest usage rate.
The Los Angeles Lakers entered the tank-a-thon way back at the trade deadline. Should the Lakers fall out of the top three in the Draft Lottery, they will lose their pick to Philadelphia. They currently hold 3rd worst record with a recent four game win streak hurting their chances of catching Phoenix for the 2nd worst record in the league. This gives them a 46.5 percent chance keeping their draft pick. They will need to lose both their final games while hoping for a Phoenix win to tie Phoenix with 57 losses. We can expect the Lakers to not rest anybody except the veterans who have already been shut down for the season and D’Angelo Russell who is currently away from the team for personal matters. Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. should play 28 to 30 minutes while Tyler Ennis and Jordan Clarkson both could see 34 to to 38 minutes.
Phoenix Suns (24-57) at Sacramento Kings (31-49)
Similar to the Lakers, Phoenix has been competing in the tank-a-thon for a while now. They are currently locked into the 2nd worst record in the league and a 20 percet chance of the number 1 draft pick. We expect them to finish the season with the same rotations they have had since Eric Bledsoe got shut down on March 16th. Tyler Ulis, T.J. Warren, and Devin Booker should all see well over 30 minutes. Rookie Dragon Bender has been seeing an uptick in minutes recently which should continue if fellow rookie Marquese Chriss misses the game with a knee contusion.
Sacramento has been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention since march 31st, though the youth movement began with the trade of DeMarcus Cousins at the deadline. See here for a more comprehensive look at the Kings’ final week. Sacramento has massive incentive to lose their last two games. They currently have the 8th worst record with the teams in 6th through 10th all within two games. Sacramento has been one of the worst in terms of reporting actives and inactives this season. With a 10:30 start time and massive incentive to tank, all players on the Kings carry big risk. Expect extra risk on Wednesday’s game with the Clippers as the back to back situation means no shootaround for Sacramento beat writers to have early access to the team.
Overall Playoff Picture
The West is pretty much set. We know our playoff matchups will be Golden State (66-15) vs. Portland (41-40), San Antonio (61-20) vs. Memphis (43-38), Houston (54-27) vs. Oklahoma City (46-34), and Los Angeles Clippers (50-31) vs. Utah (50-31). Whether the Clippers or the Jazz receive home court advantage is the only playoff seeding in the West yet to be determined. Both are tied with 50 wins currently and one game left to play. The Clippers hold the tie breaker, so Utah will need a win vs the Spurs at 9pm Wednesday followed by a Clippers loss at 10pm to pass Los Angeles for the 4th seed.
Top 4 seeds in the East
The East is much less clear. Boston (52-29) is currently in the driver’s seat to finish ahead of Cleveland (51-30) for the top seed with a win over Milwaukee Thursday or a loss by Cleveland to the Raptors enough to do the trick. Both games start at 8pm. Both the Raptors (50-31) and the Wizards (49-32) are locked into the 3rd and 4th seeds respectively.
5 and 6 in the East
The 5th through 8th seeds are where it gets very complicated. Atlanta (42-38) locks up the 5th seed with one win in their final two games. Should they lose both games, they need a Bucks (42-39) loss to hold on to the 5th seed. Should they lose both games and the Bucks win, the Wednesday loss to the Pacers will push them down to the 7th seed.
The Bucks will be locked into the 6th seed should the Hawks win on Tuesday. If the Hawks lose on Tuesday, they will need a win vs the Celtics along with a Atlanta loss to earn the five spot. Both games tip-off at 8pm on Wednesday
The Pacers (41-40) have not clinched a playoff spot as of yet but can finish as high as 6th. They will need to win their game on Wedneday and get some help to get the 6th seed. If the Hawks lose both games and the Bucks win, they get the 6th seed. Should the Hawks win Tuesday while losing their Wednesday matchup with Indiana, they will finish with the 7th seed. If the Hawks lose both games and the Bucks lose their final game the Hawks finish as the 7th seed in a 3-way tie.
Final Eastern Playoff Spots
The teams still fighting for a playoff spot are Indiana (41-40), Chicago (40-41), and Miami (40-41). All three teams play at 8pm on Wednesday. The Bulls hold the tiebreaker over both the Heat and the Pacers. The Heat hold the tiebreaker over the Pacers. Should a three-way tie occur, the Pacers are out. Here are the scenarios.
- If the Pacers lose while the Bulls and the Heat win, the Pacers are out, Bulls get seven, and the Heat get eight. This is the only scenario where the Pacers miss the playoffs.
- If the Pacers win, the Bulls lose, and the Heat win, the Bulls are out with the Heat getting the 8th seed.
- If the Pacers lose, the Bulls lose, and the Heat win, the Bulls are out with the Heat getting the 7th and the Pacers getting the 8th spot.
- In any other situation, the Heat miss the playoffs. The Bulls have the 8th seed in any of these other situations except when the Pacers lose and the Bulls win.
Below are the current NBA standings before the Tuesday April 11th games start. Happy Playoffs and good luck in your final regular season DFS contests.