• By: Aaron Asmus (@AsmusSports)

    Slate Overview:

    This Friday slate gets far more complicated than what we had yesterday with very little quality cheap value and four expensive studs where it will be more than likely we’re playing one of these studs in cash games. Giannis ($11,500), Harden ($11,200), LeBron ($11,000), Davis ($10,600) all have a case to be an anchor for our lineups and hitting on the right expensive spend is going to decide whether we cash or not. Let’s go through them: 


    Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,500) 

    Something has to give with Budenholzer and him holding back Giannis and Middleton into the mid-30’s in minutes. There was some foul trouble this game, but his refusal to extend this guys into the 40’s to avoid a 0-2 hole was absolutely mind-boggling to watch. If there was ever a time for Giannis to finally get into the 40 minute range, it’ll be in this game to avoid the 0-3 hole. He’s been predictably great so far in the playoffs through 7 games: 

    33 MPG–28.6 PPG–14.9RPG–6.0 APG–0.6SPG–0.7BPG–33.9% USG–63.1% TS

    There’s more upside here, amazingly, as he hasn’t had a major blocks or steals game yet in the playoffs. It’s a playing time issue at this point and one we have to hope Budenholzer gets over and just lets him run. If he gets 38+ minutes, he’s the best spend on the slate by a decent margin. If he stays in this 33-35 range, we have to look elsewhere. 


    James Harden ($11,200) 

    Harden was fairly disappointing in the OKC series, only accessing the upside we’re used to with him in 1 of the 7 games. He wasn’t playing close to the minutes we thought either, only eclipsing 40 minutes once (the game he scored 74 DKP). My best guess is D’Antoni was trying not to repeat the same mistake he’s made in the past and running Harden into the ground and then he’s gassed in later series. Here’s his production so far in the playoffs: 

    36.4 MPG–29.7 PPG–6.3RPG–8.0APG–1.6SPG–0.7BPG–61.7% TS–32.6% USG–54.79 DKFP

    It’s certainly not what we’re used to seeing, even with Westbrook on the court (38.2% USG, 1.72 FPPM, 1323 minutes) leading me to being in a similar spot with Harden as I am Giannis. Harden has an obvious unrealized upside if he starts playing 40+ minutes, which is likely to happen in this series with the Lakers. I’d rather play Giannis in cash games, but I want to keep firing on Harden in tournaments, especially since he’ll likely be the lowest owned of the three studs. 


    LeBron James PG/SF ($11,000) 

    LeBron was superb in the series against Portland and is coming into this new series fresh with 5 days off between games. He actively looked to increase his playmaking role and there were very few possessions when he was on the floor where the offense did not go through him first. With PG/SF eligibility, he gives us excellent positional flexibility,which will be important on a slate where the pricing is incredibly tight. He also comes at a discount off Giannis and Harden. His numbers in the first 5 playoff games: 

    32.8 MPG–27.4 PPG–10.2 RPG-10.2 APG–1.2 SPG–0.4 BPG–30.7% USG–70.8% TS–59.85 DKFP

    LeBron is my initial lean to build around in cash games for this slate. The Lakers gets the best defensive match-up against the Rockets along with an excellent pace increase. The floor is tough to pass up with so much of the team’s offensive control running through LeBron it’s hard to see him fail in this spot in a competitive game. 


    Anthony Davis ($10,600) 

    Davis has been a tough play for me in the playoffs as he’s always so closely priced to LeBron and the playmaking element that Bron gives just creates a much more secure floor for cash games. I think there was one slate I played Davis over LeBron because the little bit of extra money mattered, but that’s generally the only reason I would consider him as a better cash building block. 

    The upside is immense and he should absolutely be a staple in your tournament builds. He’s cheaper than the other 3 studs by a decent margin and he gets a full playoff series where everyone guarding him is at least 4 inches shorter than he is. 

    32.6 MPG–29.8 PPG–9.4 RPG–4.2 APG–1.4 SPG–1.6BPG–30.2% USG–65.6% TS–54.85 DKFP

    For cash games I’d rank the studs in this order, barring any news opening up: 

    LeBron James

    Giannis Antetokounmpo

    Anthony Davis

    James Harden


    I’m perfectly fine playing Giannis if you think Budenholzer finally wakes up and runs him 38+ minutes. If he doesn’t make that adjustment, I’d lean LeBron.



    Khris Middleton ($8,200) 

    In a similar fashion to Giannis. Budenholzer for some reason decided to keep Middleton at 33 minutes, despite being a +18 in +/- for the game. Doesn’t make sense, but hey I suppose I’m not an NBA coach in the playoffs. I want to be invested here in Middleton if he can get bumped to a proper 38+ minutes as he’s gotten out of his Magic series playoff slump the past 2 games:

    35.1 MPG–25.5 PPG–6.0 RPG–6.5APG–1.0 SPG–31.6% USG–57.6% TS–44 DKFP

    Middleton is my lean over Butler or Bam as a second spend in cash game builds. There’s just too much upside here if Budenholzer finally wakes up. He’s come with significantly less ownership than Butler or Bam in all formats, making him an excellent tournament play as well. 


    Eric Bledsoe ($5,700) 

    It’s the recurring theme of this article as Bledsoe is one of the better values on the slate at $5,700. That’s how dire this slate is for value and this is as good a time as any to tell you to be careful with your bankroll on this slate. When pricing is this tight, there are very few viable roster constructions in cash games especially, leading to mostly 1v1 and 2v2 for cash. 

    Bledsoe actually got up to 31 minutes in the last game, which is on the higher end for him. I think I want to approach this slate where Bud is going to extend his best players and not fall into a 0-3 hole. I’m not expecting 38+ minutes like I am for Middleton and Giannis, but the 33-34 range is possible which is more than enough for me to get him in lineups. 



    Russell Westbrook ($8,600) 

    This might not be a fun roster for some of you, but if we get anywhere close to normal workload Russ, this is a price-tag we have to lock in for him. He got up to 34 minutes in the last game, despite still being on his minutes limit. If he gets up to 36-37, he’s likely the best value on the slate and it’s probably not all that close. It’s a tough defensive match-up against the Lakers and he hasn’t been consistent at all in his 3 playoff bubble games, but you have to attack the upside of Russ being this cheap. 


    Alex Caruso ($3,600) 

    He was heavily carried by 4 steals and 1 block in the last game against Portland for only 22.25 DKP. This is the state of the slate though as Caruso seemingly locked himself into a consistent minutes role (29, 17, 27, 21, 25) in the 5 playoff bubble games and the Lakers have been really good when he’s on the floor. Even with Rondo coming back, I anticipate he’s going to eat into the other guards minutes while Caruso will maintain his role. It’s not pretty, but he’s my favorite of the under $4k plays that will have to be in lineups on this slate. 


    Markieff Morris ($3,400) 

    Again, it’s not pretty, but we have to play these guys on this slate if we want to play any of the studs at all. I think there’s a case to be made that Morris could see a bit of extended run while McGee and Howard get played off the floor by the small-ball Rockets. Howard and McGee had centers to match up with against Portland and nothing close to that exists on the Rockets. He’s already carved out a decent minutes role so far (19, 19, 15, 18, 16) with Howard and McGee getting their normal run. 


    It’s very important to keep in mind if playing this slate that you’ll have to be comfortable playing guys like Wes Matthews, Alex Caruso and Markieff Morris in order to make rosters work. Be cautious with your bankroll and I would focus strongly on a few rosters, rather than over-extending with a bunch of lineups. Please reach out to me on twitter @AsmusSports if you have any questions about the slate. Best of luck!


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