NBA Grind Down: Friday, May 19th

Welcome to the RotoGrinders NBA Grind Down. In this all-encompassing preview of today’s NBA action, every game will be broken down statistically, with several key elements highlighted in our charts.

Vegas lines are broken down to show projected team totals, to give you an idea of who is favored to win, and often more importantly, how many points they’re expected to score. We also provide pace numbers, so you can spot a game that might have a few extra possessions and more opportunities for fantasy points.

We also provide position-by-position matchup rankings for every team, to give you an idea of the players who will be in better situations to succeed. Using Defense versus Position data, every projected starter is listed along with his opponent’s rank in points allowed to players of his position. These color-coded charts will help you spot the best matchups of the night at a glance.

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Legend & FAQ

Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics – 8:30 PM ET

Cleveland Cavaliers Boston Celtics
Vegas Total 219.0 Vegas Total 219.0
Vegas Spread -5.0 Vegas Spread 5.0
Team Total 112.0 Team Total 107.0
Pace +/- 0.6 Pace +/- -0.3
Proj. Starter Kyrie Irving J.R. Smith LeBron James Kevin Love Tristan Thompson Proj. Starter Isaiah Thomas Avery Bradley Jae Crowder Amir Johnson Al Horford
Opponent Rank PG SG SF PF C Opponent Rank PG SG SF PF C
Adj. DvP 18 11 13 24 21 Adj. DvP 23 29 26 9 17
DRPM -4.21 -1.13 1.37 3.79 1.59 DRPM -2.16 -0.77 1.57 1.93 0.95

Cleveland Cavaliers

It’s funny, everyone that doesn’t play DFS wants to fast-forward to the start of the NBA Finals. Whether you listen to podcasts, watch sports on television, or listen to the radio (old school, I can respect that), no one seems interested in this series. For those of us grinding out NBA DFS, we want these to both go seven games. The Cavaliers look like an unstoppable freight train right now. Game 1 was basically over by halftime and LeBron James said that he wasn’t feeling well after the game. I thought we would see a higher line for Game 2, but I’m glad that it is only set at five points, because it backs up what I was thinking. I expect a much better game from the Celtics, which would be great for the fantasy appeal of this game as a whole.

I usually start with the point guard, but I can’t bury the lead. LeBron James seemed to be toying with the Celtics in Game 1. In fact, at one point he turned his back to Kelly Olynyk, dribbled through his legs for a few seconds, then finally turned back around and drove right by him for one of his many easy finishes at the rim. Regardless of your feelings toward James, you have to respect the insane numbers he has put up this postseason. I viewed him as a must play in the first two slates and I view him as a must play again tonight. He is considerably more expensive than the other superstars, but he’s worth it. He is basically a lock for 55+ fantasy points every single game.

Once we lock in LeBron, the question is whether we want to pair him with Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love. You can make the case to play all three, but it’s tough to make it work and you are somewhat capping your lineup’s upside. Love had a monster Game 1, finishing with 32 points and 12 rebounds in 34 minutes of action. The Celtics are the worst rebounding team left in the playoffs and we should continue to see big rebounding numbers from Love. I expect him to be the most popular power forward in the slate, but for good reason. Irving struggled a bit in Game 1, but he only took 11 shot attempts. In his previous five games, he averaged 21 shot attempts, so look for him to be more aggressive in Game 2. Irving isn’t priced at a discount, but this is a good time to buy low in terms of ownership. Pairing James with Irving instead of Love will be unique in tournaments.

Tristan Thompson scored a career playoff high 20 points in Game 1. He also added nine rebounds, two assists, and two steals. We can’t count on the points or assists, but we can certainly expect him to have success on the glass. He is one of the best offensive rebounders in the NBA and the Celtics had the fourth worst rebounding differential of any team in the NBA this season. Thompson will be the mega chalk at center, but it’s hard to fade him at this price point, especially on FanDuel. With so many unknowns in the Warriors/Spurs game, we might want to load up on Cavaliers and Celtics once again and hope that this game is a bit more competitive.

  • Notable Injuries:
  • Cleveland Cavaliers Offense
    Points Per Game: 110.3 (4 of 30)
    Implied Team Total: 112.0 (1 of 4)
    Projected Point Differential: 1.7 (1 of 4)
    Pace of Play: 98.4 (16 of 30)
    Projected Pace Differential: 0.6 (2 of 4)
  • Boston Celtics Defense
    Points Allowed Per Game: 105.4 (15 of 30)
    Defensive Efficiency: 105.5 (12 of 30)
    Rebounding Differential: -2.5 (27 of 30)
    Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game: 204.4 (15 of 30)

Notable Fantasy Players

Player FD Salary DK Salary FP/Min Minutes L5 +/- FP/Game L5 +/- True Usage L5 +/- DvP DRPM
Kyrie Irving $8,800 $8,500 1.09 35.1 -0.8 38.2 -0.5 32.0% 2.7% 18 -4.21
J.R. Smith $3,300 $3,400 0.56 29.0 -3.1 16.2 -5.2 14.4% -3.6% 11 -1.13
LeBron James $12,500 $12,200 1.30 37.8 4.6 49.3 9.4 32.9% 1.1% 13 1.37
Kevin Love $7,500 $7,000 1.14 31.4 -0.1 35.8 -9.2 25.2% -5.8% 24 3.79
Tristan Thompson $5,100 $5,000 0.77 30.0 2.7 23.0 0.8 11.0% -0.4% 21 1.59
Kyle Korver $3,500 $3,200 0.63 26.2 -6.7 16.5 -3.0 15.1% -1.5% 11 N/A
Channing Frye $3,500 $3,300 0.83 18.9 -4.6 15.8 -1.7 18.1% -1.6% 24 N/A
Deron Williams $2,500 $3,000 0.82 25.9 -9.9 21.2 -9.0 24.7% -3.4% 18 N/A

Elite Plays – LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving (GPP)

Secondary Plays – Kyrie Irving (Cash), J.R. Smith (FD)

Boston Celtics

It looked the Celtics were a little shell shocked in the first two quarters of Game 1. They had the home-court advantage, everyone was fired up, and then the Cavaliers came out on fire. By the time the Celtics woke up (they arguably never did), it was too late. I still expect the Cavaliers to roll through this series and potentially even sweep the Celtics, but I’m expecting a close game tonight. The line is set at only five points and this is basically a must-win game for Boston.

Isaiah Thomas didn’t shoot the ball well in Game 1 and finished with four turnovers, but he still managed to score 17 points and dish out ten assists. He and Al Horford (who we will get to in a bit) are the Celtics’ best chances of pulling off the upset tonight. The Cavaliers don’t have anyone that can defend Thomas, especially in the pick and roll. He just needs to hit a few threes and then we’ll see the Celtics get a lot of easy looks at the rim. This could be a hot take, but I prefer Thomas over both Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving, even if we take price out of the equation. He had success against Cleveland during the regular season and will be forced to carry the Celtics’ offense tonight.

The Celtics basically threw four different defenders at LeBron James in Game 1. Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown all logged big minutes and we can expect more of the same tonight. Boston played big at times, but seem content rolling out Thomas and Horford (or Olynyk) with three wing players. With Cleveland staying big, this is even more reason to load up on Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. Anyway, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley should both push for 35+ minutes tonight and are both viable targets at their respective positions. Bradley is the better buy on DraftKings ($5,800), while Crowder is similarly priced on both sites. Smart got into foul trouble and only played 21 minutes in the opener. He was effective on both ends though, and should push for 30 minutes off the bench tonight. Brown logged a few extra minutes in Game 1 thanks to Smart’s foul trouble, but he should see 15+ minutes a game in this series if you are looking for a cheap small forward with decent upside.

The Celtics run a lot of their offense through Al Horford, both in pick and rolls and giving him the ball at the top of the key. His peripheral statistics in Game 1 were solid, as he finished with eight rebounds and six assists. We can expect more of the same tonight, but hopefully he can add a little more with his scoring and with blocks and steals. He is still too expensive to use in cash games on FanDuel ($8,000), but I love starting my DraftKings’ lineups with both Thompson and Horford, as they are both underpriced. Kelly Olynyk was absent in Game 1 and most of his statistics came in the last few minutes of garbage time. I don’t mind going to him here, but know heading into it that his range of outcomes is very wide. He could realistically finish with five or 35 fantasy points.

  • Notable Injuries:
  • Boston Celtics Offense
    Points Per Game: 108.0 (7 of 30)
    Implied Team Total: 107.0 (3 of 4)
    Projected Point Differential: -1.0 (2 of 4)
    Pace of Play: 99.3 (12 of 30)
    Projected Pace Differential: -0.3 (3 of 4)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers Defense
    Points Allowed Per Game: 107.2 (20 of 30)
    Defensive Efficiency: 108.0 (22 of 30)
    Rebounding Differential: -0.4 (19 of 30)
    Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game: 208.2 (22 of 30)

Notable Fantasy Players

Player FD Salary DK Salary FP/Min Minutes L5 +/- FP/Game L5 +/- True Usage L5 +/- DvP DRPM
Isaiah Thomas $9,200 $8,700 1.19 33.8 2.0 40.4 -2.6 34.9% -2.7% 23 -2.16
Avery Bradley $6,500 $5,800 0.84 33.4 2.0 28.1 -2.2 21.5% -1.8% 29 -0.77
Jae Crowder $6,300 $6,000 0.79 32.4 0.7 25.7 0.9 16.9% 0.2% 26 1.57
Amir Johnson $2,500 $2,600 0.82 20.1 -9.1 16.5 -9.5 14.3% 1.3% 9 1.93
Al Horford $8,000 $6,900 1.00 32.3 1.9 32.2 3.6 21.6% -3.3% 17 0.95
Marcus Smart $5,100 $5,100 0.80 30.4 -0.8 24.2 0.0 20.7% -3.2% 29 N/A
Kelly Olynyk $4,800 $4,400 0.90 20.5 -0.9 18.5 0.1 19.5% 0.7% 17 N/A
Jaylen Brown $2,100 $2,400 0.67 17.2 -6.4 11.5 -4.5 17.4% -0.3% 26 N/A

Elite Plays – Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley (DK), Jae Crowder (FD), Al Horford (DK), Marcus Smart

Secondary Plays – Avery Bradley (FD), Jae Crowder (DK), Al Horford (FD), Jaylen Brown, Kelly Olynyk (DK)

Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs – 9:00 PM ET

Golden State Warriors San Antonio Spurs
Vegas Total 212.0 Vegas Total 212.0
Vegas Spread -6.5 Vegas Spread 6.5
Team Total 109.3 Team Total 102.8
Pace +/- -2.3 Pace +/- 3.5
Proj. Starter Stephen Curry Klay Thompson Kevin Durant Draymond Green Zaza Pachulia Proj. Starter Patty Mills Danny Green Kawhi Leonard LaMarcus Aldridge Pau Gasol
Opponent Rank PG SG SF PF C Opponent Rank PG SG SF PF C
Adj. DvP 8 12 2 2 2 Adj. DvP 3 14 5 21 12
DRPM -1.07 2.10 0.85 1.25 1.43 DRPM 0.24 -0.91 1.35 5.08 3.61

Golden State Warriors

Game 2 of this series couldn’t have played out any better for yours truly. I recommended fading LaMarcus Aldridge (which was big in tournaments) and I said to load up on players from the Cavaliers/Celtics game. Hopefully everyone took the advice and is sitting pretty in their leagues heading into Wednesday night’s game. The Spurs will catch somewhat of a break here, as Game 3 of this series won’t be played until Saturday, which will give Kawhi Leonard some extra time to heal up from his ankle injury. Leonard is currently considered questionable and we likely won’t get an update until Saturday. The Warriors are listed as 6.5-point favorites with an implied point total of 109.3 points, which is the second highest in the slate.

Stephen Curry has been unstoppable in the first two games of this series, scoring 56 and 52 fantasy points. The Spurs don’t have an answer for him defensively. Even if Kawhi Leonard is able to return for Game 3, he is going to be tasked with defending Kevin Durant, which will leave Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray on Curry. His price on FanDuel is still a little expensive, but he’s sitting at a very playable $9,100 on DraftKings. It’s great to see Curry back in form, especially when we have him in our DraftKings’ lineups and get the half-point bonus for every three pointer that he makes. Dating back to the regular season, Klay Thompson has only scored 30+ fantasy points in two of his last 12 games. We typically see him score 30 actual points in two games during that long of a stretch. At this point, he is a tough sell in DFS and I will continue to avoid him in all formats.

Kevin Durant was a bit unlucky in Game 2 against the Spurs. He obviously had a much better matchup with Kawhi Leonard out, but Curry caught fire and the Warriors didn’t really need a lot from Durant in the second half. While I like Durant to bounce back in Game 3, LeBron James is the preferred play at small forward. When it comes to the Warriors, there are four players that can potentially take over a game at any time, while we know LeBron is going to get his in every single playoff game. This makes the Durant fade a little easier, especially now that his price has crept up over $10,000 on both FanDuel and DraftKings. If you can find a way to play both LeBron and Durant, go for it, but this pesky thing called the salary cap will likely get in the way.

Draymond Green has done nothing but produce in the postseason. He has scored at least 39 fantasy points in six of his last eight games. He tweaked his back and left Game 2 a little early, but is fully expected to play in Game 3 on Saturday. Power forward is likely going to end up deciding this slate, as we have three options that are all great plays and that are all at similar price points. The three are very comparable plays, but if I had to rank them with price factored in, I would go Love, Aldridge, Green on FanDuel and then Love, Green, Aldridge on DraftKings.

There are two injuries we need to keep an eye on heading into Saturday – Andre Iguodala and Zaza Pachulia are both listed as questionable. If Iguodala is unable to suit up, Shaun Livingston and Patrick McCaw would both see a boost in minutes off the bench and would both become viable punts at their respective positions. If Pachulia is ruled out, we could see even more small ball from the Warriors. In Game 2, they started Matt Barnes at the four in the second half and moved Green to the five. It could also open up minutes in the mid to high teens for David West.

  • Notable Injuries:
    Zaza Pachulia (Questionable)
    Andre Iguodala (Questionable)
  • Golden State Warriors Offense
    Points Per Game: 115.9 (1 of 30)
    Implied Team Total: 109.3 (2 of 4)
    Projected Point Differential: -6.7 (4 of 4)
    Pace of Play: 102.2 (4 of 30)
    Projected Pace Differential: -2.3 (4 of 4)
  • San Antonio Spurs Defense
    Points Allowed Per Game: 98.1 (2 of 30)
    Defensive Efficiency: 100.9 (1 of 30)
    Rebounding Differential: + 2.4 (6 of 30)
    Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game: 188.8 (2 of 30)

Notable Fantasy Players

Player FD Salary DK Salary FP/Min Minutes L5 +/- FP/Game L5 +/- True Usage L5 +/- DvP DRPM
Stephen Curry $10,000 $9,100 1.25 33.4 1.1 41.6 3.8 31.3% -0.2% 8 -1.07
Klay Thompson $7,100 $6,000 0.91 34.0 0.3 30.9 -8.3 24.6% -4.2% 12 2.10
Kevin Durant $10,000 $10,100 1.36 33.4 -1.1 45.5 -6.0 28.0% -0.3% 2 0.85
Draymond Green $8,600 $7,900 1.06 32.5 2.3 34.6 7.6 19.3% -0.7% 2 1.25
Zaza Pachulia $4,000 $3,000 0.96 18.1 -2.7 17.4 -2.6 15.7% 2.0% 2 1.43
Andre Iguodala $4,700 $4,600 0.75 26.3 0.0 19.7 -1.7 13.2% 1.9% 2 N/A
Matt Barnes $1,500 $2,200 0.74 24.0 -16.8 17.8 -14.4 15.8% 0.8% 2 N/A
Shaun Livingston $1,500 $2,500 0.62 17.7 -0.6 11.0 -0.9 14.4% -2.0% 8 N/A

Elite Plays – Stephen Curry (DK), Draymond Green (DK), Shaun Livingston (if Iguodala is out)

Secondary Plays – Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry (FD), Draymond Green (FD), Klay Thompson, David West, Matt Barnes

San Antonio Spurs

If you like to play DFS in the playoffs, you should be rooting for a miraculous recovery by Kawhi Leonard. If he is unable to play in Game 3 and potentially in Game 4, this series could end up being a sweep. Once either series ends, it will be the last of NBA DFS until October. Spurs fans are also hoping for a quick recovery by Leonard, but Vegas doesn’t seem to be optimistic. The Spurs are listed as 6.5-point underdogs at home. To put that into perspective, the Spurs were only 8-point underdogs in Game 1 on the road against the Warriors. Leonard is currently listed as questionable, but based on the line, Vegas seems to think that he is closer to doubtful.

As for the fantasy options on the Spurs, it’s hard to recommend players without knowing the status of Kawhi Leonard, so I will do my best to cover both scenarios. Let’s assume that Leonard is active and not expected to be limited. If that’s the case, he immediately becomes an intriguing tournament option. He has been terrific in the postseason and we saw him get off to a great start in Game 1. He ended up scoring 41 fantasy points, despite missing most of the second half. If Leonard is active, he is far too risky to use in cash games, especially if Zaza Pachulia is lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce on ankles. Leonard being active would obviously hurt the fantasy appeal of Jonathon Simmons, who is having a breakout campaign here in the postseason. Simmons would still be a nice tournament option if Leonard plays, as there is a chance he could be limited or aggravate the ankle injury. Simmons has also earned himself extra time on the floor, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play 25-30 minutes even with Leonard active.

If Leonard is ruled out (which we obviously won’t know in time for the lineup lock of this slate), Simmons would become a must play in all formats. His price has come up on DraftKings, but it actually went down on FanDuel. In case you missed it, FanDuel is now offering late swap for their NBA contests, so if you can work out a potential move where you can swap Simmons in on Saturday if Leonard ends up being out, I would highly recommend it. With that said, make sure to have a backup plan if you don’t want to use Simmons with Leonard active. Kyle Anderson could also see 15-20 minutes off the bench if Leonard is out and he has been the king of garbage time in the playoffs. Danny Green and Manu Ginobili burned a lot of people in Game 2, but their minutes were limited because of the blowout. I don’t mind going right back to the well on both of them, especially now that the series has shifted to San Antonio.

Surprisingly enough, I don’t see Leonard’s availability having a huge fantasy impact on LaMarcus Aldridge. If he plays, that will take some of the pressure off of Aldridge and it will also take away Golden State’s ability to constantly throw double teams his way. If Leonard sits, Aldridge will have a higher usage rate but slightly less efficient offensively. Either way, Aldridge is in a good bounce-back spot at home in what amounts to a must-win game for San Antonio. His price is more than reasonable and he is in a much better spot than he was in Game 2. This isn’t the series to employ old man Pau Gasol. In the first two games combined, he has played 32 minutes and has scored 29 fantasy points. We need that on a per-game basis at his price point. Last, but not least, we have Patty Mills, who has looked lost on both ends of the floor in this series. Anyone that was burned by him in Games 1 or 2 is going to quickly jump ship. People are going to pay up at point guard or go all the way down to Shaun Livingston. This is the time to buy low on Mills, especially in tournaments. If this game stays close, he could play upward of 40 minutes and he should obviously benefit from playing at home.

  • San Antonio Spurs Offense
    Points Per Game: 105.3 (14 of 30)
    Implied Team Total: 102.8 (4 of 4)
    Projected Point Differential: -2.6 (3 of 4)
    Pace of Play: 96.4 (27 of 30)
    Projected Pace Differential: 3.5 (1 of 4)
  • Golden State Warriors Defense
    Points Allowed Per Game: 104.3 (11 of 30)
    Defensive Efficiency: 101.1 (2 of 30)
    Rebounding Differential: + 0.9 (10 of 30)
    Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game: 200.3 (10 of 30)

Notable Fantasy Players

Player FD Salary DK Salary FP/Min Minutes L5 +/- FP/Game L5 +/- True Usage L5 +/- DvP DRPM
Patty Mills $5,200 $5,500 0.79 21.9 3.7 17.2 0.0 21.8% -2.0% 3 0.24
Danny Green $4,200 $4,400 0.62 26.6 1.4 16.5 -0.3 13.8% -0.7% 14 -0.91
Kawhi Leonard $11,000 $9,400 1.22 33.4 2.4 40.6 5.6 30.9% -2.3% 5 1.35
LaMarcus Aldridge $8,000 $7,600 0.96 32.4 2.4 31.1 -1.4 24.0% -0.6% 21 5.08
Pau Gasol $6,100 $5,000 1.06 25.4 -1.9 26.9 -6.6 21.5% -4.3% 12 3.61
Manu Ginobili $3,000 $3,900 0.84 18.7 -1.1 15.7 -2.5 22.0% -2.7% 14 N/A
Kyle Anderson $2,500 $3,100 0.74 14.2 -4.0 10.5 -1.8 13.0% 4.4% 5 N/A
Jonathon Simmons $4,300 $5,200 0.67 17.9 0.5 11.9 1.8 18.9% 3.4% 5 N/A

Elite Plays (if Leonard is out) – Jonathon Simmons, LaMarcus Aldridge, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Patty Mills (GPP)

Secondary Plays (if Leonard is out) – Patty Mills (Cash), Kyle Anderson

Elite Plays (if Leonard is active) – LaMarcus Aldridge, Danny Green, Patty Mills (GPP)

Secondary Plays (if Leonard is active) – Kawhi Leonard (GPP), Patty Mills (Cash), Jonathon Simmons, Manu Ginobili

About the Author

  • Derek Farnsworth (Notorious)

  • Derek Farnsworth, aka Notorious, is one of the most recognizable names and faces in all of DFS, thanks in large part to the great advice he gives on a daily basis in’s Grind Down for NBA and MLB as well as the First Look column that gives a preview of the day’s games from a DFS perspective. Before joining the RotoGrinders team, Derek received a Masters Degree from the University of Utah. When he’s not busy providing content, he’s dominating the industry as evidenced by his consistent top rankings in multiple sports. Farnsworth provides expert analysis for RotoGrinders Incentives members on a daily basis during the NBA season with daily videos for the Court Report and has also been nominated for five different Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association (FSWA) awards..


    Interview after $100,000 Win

    January 5th, 2012 Daily Fantasy Fix

    February 14th, 2013 Daily Fantasy Fix Interview


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