NBA Grind Down: Wednesday, May 17th

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 – Wednesday 8:30 PM ET

Cleveland Cavaliers Boston Celtics
Vegas Total 219.5 Vegas Total 219.5
Vegas Spread -4.0 Vegas Spread 4.0
Team Total 111.8 Team Total 107.8
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

We all get the feeling that it is going to be another Cavaliers/Warriors final, but Cleveland has their work cut out for them. They failed to secure home-court advantage during the regular season, which means they have to win at least one game on the road in this series. I certainly expect that to happen, but we can expect Boston to put up a solid fight. The Cavaliers won two of the three regular season meetings with the Celtics and come into Game 1 as 4-point favorites on the road. They slightly beat out the Warriors for the highest implied point total (111.8) in the slate.

When it comes to DFS and the Cavaliers, it’s basically the big three and the occasional role player thrown into the mix. This series will be no different. We obviously need to start with LeBron James, who has transformed into a superhero in the playoffs. In eight games (Cavaliers swept both of the first two series), James is averaging 34 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists, while shooting 47% from the three-point line and 56% from the field. He is playing 43 minutes a game and averaging nearly 60 fantasy points per contest. He is the premier play in this slate, and the next one, and the next one. James is extremely expensive on FanDuel and DraftKings, but deserves to be in all of your lineups. In his three meetings with the C’s this season, he averaged 54 fantasy points in only 37 minutes per game.

Kyrie Irving is looking to carry over his stellar play from the second round series against the Raptors. He scored at least 40 fantasy points in three of the four games and topped it off with a 55-fantasy point outing in Game 4. The Celtics will likely slide Avery Bradley over to Irving and put Isaiah Thomas on J.R. Smith, but Bradley’s defensive numbers weren’t as elite as they were in year’s past. In fact, he had a -1.13 DRPM during the regular season. Bradley Beal had some big games against the Celtics in the second round and I expect more of the same from Irving.

Kevin Love doesn’t play as many minutes as James or Irving, but we’ve seen him crack the 35-minute mark a few times this postseason. He should have a lot of success against a Celtics’ team that had the fourth worst rebounding differential in the NBA this season. For yesterday’s slate, I said to fade LaMarcus Aldridge and play Love over him due to the blowout concerns of Game 2 in that series. Hopefully everyone listened. With that series shifting back to San Antonio, the two are more comparable plays in the Wed-Thur slate. Tristan Thompson should also be able to take advantage of a favorable rebounding matchup. He is one of the best offensive rebounders in all of basketball and we’ve seen him play as many as 38 minutes in close games this postseason.

The big three from Cleveland and Thompson are all viable plays and with such a high implied point total, we should feel comfortable using three or four of them in the same lineup.

  • Notable Injuries:
  • Cleveland Cavaliers Offense
    Points Per Game: 110.3 (4 of 30)
    Implied Team Total: 111.8 (1 of 4)
    Projected Point Differential: 1.5 (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 $8,400 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 $12,000 1.30 37.8 4.6 49.3 9.4 32.9% 1.1% 13 1.37
Kevin Love $7,500 $6,900 1.14 31.4 -0.1 35.8 -9.2 25.2% -5.8% 24 3.79
Tristan Thompson $5,100 $5,100 0.77 30.0 2.7 23.0 0.8 11.0% -0.4% 21 1.59
Kyle Korver $3,500 $3,100 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 – Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson

Secondary Plays – Kyle Korver (DK)

Boston Celtics

The Celtics’ series against the Wizards was strange. It featured two of the best games in the entire playoffs and four of the worst ones. Game 7 wasn’t close at the end, but it was at least a competitive Game 7, which is really all we can ask for. Boston has been through a lot so far in the postseason and they will look to continue their run against the defending-champion Cavaliers. Even though they lost two of the three games to Cleveland in the regular season, they did enough to grab home-court advantage. The TD Garden is going to be rocking for Game 1, as the C’s are listed as only 4-point underdogs.

The key to stopping the Celtics this season has been containing Isaiah Thomas. When he plays well, the Celtics play well. When opponents are able to bottle him up, the Celtics’ offense can look stagnant at times. It will be interesting to see how the Cavaliers match up with Thomas in this series. He will likely see Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, and Iman Shumpert most of the time, but the Cavaliers may decide to put LeBron James on him in the fourth quarter. Thomas should push for 38-40 minutes a game in this series and he played well against Cleveland in their three meetings earlier this season, averaging 45 fantasy points per game. Deciding between the three star point guards is difficult, but dollar for dollar, I am going to give Thomas the small of edges over Irving and Curry.

I expect Thomas to get his numbers in this series, so it will likely come down to how well the Celtics’ role players perform. Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Marcus Smart will all take their turn defending LeBron James and should all average over 30 minutes per game. With so many viable shooting guard plays available, I see Bradley and Smart as more of secondary plays, although Bradley is more appealing on DraftKings ($5,800) and Smart is more appealing on FanDuel ($5,100). Small forward is also a loaded position with LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Jonathon Simmons (who could draw the start for the injured Kawhi Leonard). That leaves Crowder as more of a pivot play in tournaments. Jaylen Brown is a player to keep an eye on in this series. Coach Brad Stevens started giving him more minutes in Games 5, 6, and 7 against the Wizards.

Al Horford has had an up and down season with the Celtics. He came out of the gates firing, he disappeared for a couple of months, and now he is playing at a high level again. If the Celtics have any shot at pulling off the upset in this series, they are going to need Horford to be at his best. They have been running their offense through him at times this postseason, which is why we have seen a spike in his assist totals. He has developed more of an outside shot this season, which could be important in a matchup against Tristan Thompson, who is a much better low post defender than on the perimeter. Horford is a little pricey on FanDuel ($8,000), but my favorite play at center on DraftKings ($7,100). He has basically been a lock for 30+ fantasy points in the playoffs and has the ability to fill up all areas of the stat sheet. Kelly Olynyk will have his moments in this series. His ability to stretch the floor will be important against the Cavaliers. He has a boom or bust nature to his game, but is always in play for tournaments, especially on DraftKings where he is PF/C eligible.

  • Notable Injuries:
  • Boston Celtics Offense
    Points Per Game: 108.0 (7 of 30)
    Implied Team Total: 107.8 (3 of 4)
    Projected Point Differential: -0.3 (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 $8,800 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 -2.3 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 $7,100 1.00 32.3 1.9 32.2 3.6 21.6% -3.3% 17 0.95
Marcus Smart $5,100 $5,000 0.80 30.4 -0.8 24.2 0.0 20.7% -3.2% 29 N/A
Kelly Olynyk $4,800 $4,200 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, Al Horford, Avery Bradley (DK)

Secondary Plays – Avery Bradley (FD), Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk

Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs – Saturday 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

  • Notable Injuries:
    Andre Iguodala (Questionable)
    Zaza Pachulia (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)

Game 2 of this series couldn’t have played out any better in my eyes. 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 Friday or 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 great form, especially when we have him in our DFS lineups. 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 league 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. I said this yesterday and I’ll say it again today, if I’m paying up for a small forward, it is going to be LeBron James, who basically has a floor of 55 fantasy points. When it comes to the Warriors, there are four players that can potentially take over a game, which 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, you should go for it, but this pesky thing called a 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. If I had to rank them without factoring in salaries, I would go with Green, Love, and then Aldridge. Love and Aldridge are close, while I have Green a step above the other two.

There are two injuries we need to keep an eye on heading into Saturday – Andre Iguodala and Zaza Pachulia. They are currently 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. My plan with the Warriors is to keep riding the hot hands of Curry and Green.

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, Draymond Green

Secondary Plays – Kevin Durant, Matt Barnes, Shaun Livingston, David West, Patrick McCaw

San Antonio Spurs

  • 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)

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 a 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. The line tells me that Vegas thinks Leonard is closer to doubtful, but we can all hope. At least he has a few extra days to rest up before Game 3.

As for the Spurs, it’s really 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. Leonard being active would obviously hurt the fantasy appeal of Jonathon Simmons, who is having a breakout campaign here in the postseason. He would still be a nice tournament option that could benefit from Leonard being limited or from him aggravating the 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 if Leonard plays a full complement of minutes.

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. You want to make sure to have a back-up plan though. Kyle Anderson could also see 15-20 minutes off the bench if Leonard is out. People are going to be chasing his performance from Game 2, but keep in mind that most of his production came in garbage time. 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.

I don’t see a big fantasy impact on LaMarcus Aldridge whether or not Leonard plays or sits out again. 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 the Warriors’ defense will be more focused on him. 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 a bit higher than I’d like to pay, but he is in a much better spot than he was in Game 2. This isn’t the series to play 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. Now is the time to buy your Mills’ shares, especially in tournaments. If this game stays close, he could play upward of 40 minutes and he should obviously benefit from playing at home in front of a raucous crowd.

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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