Friday night brings us Game 4 of this year’s NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat at 8:30 p.m. ET. The Nuggets have a 2-1 series lead and are three-point road favorites after winning Game 3 by 15 points on Wednesday. The total sits at 211.
Let’s dive into some of the top plays on the slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics.
Also, don’t forget that for large-field tournaments, you can utilize our Lineup Optimizer to effortlessly create up to 150 lineups, or use our Lineup Builder if you like to hand-build your lineups. Also, make sure to check this article if you’re looking for a refresher on the single-game format.
Note: Projections and Leverages Scores/Ratings may change throughout the day after this article is posted. The NBA DFS landscape changes quickly. Consult the Player Models directly for any updates as we get closer to lock.
NBA DFS Stud Picks
After such a long and successful run from both teams this postseason, we all know who the studs are.
The biggest stud and best performer throughout the playoffs has clearly been Nikola Jokic.
The Joker has been outstanding all year long but has taken his game to another level in the playoffs. In the regular season, he averaged 59.1 DraftKings points and 55.7 FanDuel points in 33.6 minutes per game. In the postseason, he has played 39.7 minutes per game and produced 67.9 DraftKings points and 63.5 FanDuel points per game. He’s been even better in the NBA Finals with 70 DraftKings points and 64.8 FanDuel points per game in his three games against Miami.
Jokic posted a triple-double in Game 1, scored 41 points in Game 2, and then delivered his best fantasy performance in Game 3. He dominated with 32 points, 21 rebounds, and 10 assists. That eye-popping stat line resulted in over 80 DraftKings points and was the first ever 30-20-10 game in NBA Finals history. He also has seven triple-doubles over his last nine playoff outings and has firmly made his mark on this Finals run. If the Nuggets end up winning it all, it will definitely be remembered as Jokic who carried them there.
That’s not to say that Jokic has done it alone, though, since Jamal Murray has proven to be a very solid second option. Murray even contributed a triple-double of his own in Game 3 with 34 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds for 66 DraftKings points. So far in the series, Murray has been the second-best fantasy player in the series with 53.3 DraftKings points and 48.3 FanDuel points.
While no one can quite challenge the Joker’s production and consistency, Murray has been close with 10 assists in each of the first three games in the series. He also brings a high ceiling and can score over 30 points quickly if his shot is dropping.
The third-best fantasy player in the series so far is a little bit of a surprise. Bam Adebayo has actually been better than Jimmy Butler to this point, although Butler has proven he can go off and have a monster game if he goes into takeover mode. He hasn’t actually done that in the Finals, though, producing 40 DraftKings points or fewer in each of the first three games of the series. He had a series-high 28 points in Game 3 but only four assists and two rebounds, which limits his production compared to the monster non-scoring numbers from the Nuggets’ stars.
While Butler’s fantasy production has ticked down, Bam has been outstanding. He had double-doubles in Game 1 and Game 3 and fell just one rebound short in Game 2. He’s had over 40 DraftKings points in each of the first three games of the series, outproducing Butler in every contest against Denver so far. His best fantasy game of the series was on Wednesday at home, when he had 22 points and 17 rebounds. He is the only member of the team who has any chance of slowing down Jokic and has been able to put up good numbers of his own while playing 40 minutes or more in each game.
There’s definitely a chance that Butler has a monster game and goes off with a “Playoff Jimmy” game. However, since Adebayo is almost $3K cheaper on DraftKings, I think he’s a better play in this contest. If you do decide to pivot off the Joker as a Captain’s pick, Bam would be my second option since he offers the most savings to fill other spots. You can even build a decent roster while carrying both Nuggets stars in flex spots with Bam as Captain, but that’s virtually impossible if Butler is your Captain’s Pick.
Butler does have the second-highest ceiling, median and floor projection behind only Jokic and ahead of Murray and Adebayo. However, Adebayo has a better Projected Plus/Minus and a better projection on a Points per Salary basis.
The four superstars are all projected to play over 40 minutes, and Butler is projected for the highest usage, but his shortage of non-scoring numbers makes him slightly overpriced, given his struggles so far in this series. With how much of the workload he has carried, it’s worth asking whether the fatigue is catching up with him in the Finals. He may have one more last-gasp monster performance, but I prefer backing Bam in Game 4.
Butler is popping in our PrizePicks and Underdog Fantasy simulations:
NBA DFS Midrange Picks
The Nuggets won Game 3 behind the two triple-doubles from their superstars, but their peripheral players also produced good numbers. Aaron Gordon has been very good in the series so far and had a double-double of his own in Game 3. He has outperformed salary-based expectations in each of the first three games in this series with an Average Plus/Minus of 6.56.
Surprisingly, Gordon is still priced below Michael Porter Jr. on DraftKings, where he brings a 62% Bargain Rating. Gordon does have slightly lower ceiling projections than MPJ, but Porter has been held mostly in check to this point in the series.
In Game 3, Porter played 21 minutes but only had two points to go with seven rebounds. He hasn’t shown his best in this series to this point, but he still brings upside since he’s getting so much playing time.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is also getting plenty of minutes for Denver, but he hasn’t been a great fantasy option. He hasn’t scored in double-digits in any of the three games in this series despite averaging 33.4 minutes per game. He contributes a few non-scoring stats per game but is only an option as a punt play.
The better guard option for Denver in this series has been Bruce Brown, who actually comes cheaper than KCP on DraftKings as well. Brown had 11 points in Game 2 for his best showing of the series but played 29 minutes and had a surprising three blocks in Game 3. He’s projected to outproduce KCP again in this game and also has a higher median and floor projection than Kyle Lowry, who is similarly priced on the other side of this matchup.
On the Miami side of things, Gabe Vincent has been the big wild card. He was huge in Game 2 with 23 points but struggled in Game 3, making just 2-of-10 shots from the field and only managing seven points, 11.5 DraftKings points, and 13 FanDuel points in 32 minutes. Vincent has proven he can put up big point totals but has also proven to be very volatile from game to game, depending on his streaky shooting.
While Vincent has shown his upside, Miami is still waiting for Caleb Martin to show up in the finals. Martin was outstanding against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals but hasn’t done much in the Finals. He did have his first game with 10 points in Game 3 and made more than one shot for the first time all series as well. He comes with boom-or-bust upside like Vincent, but both players are high-risk given their salaries. Both players come with negative projected Plus/Minus on DraftKings, but they have the potential to get hot.
The best value from the non-stars on DraftKings is Kevin Love, who didn’t even play in Game 6 or Game 7 against the Celtics and also sat out Game 1 of the Finals. He jumped back into the starting lineup for Game 2 and had six points and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes. He only played 16 minutes in Game 3 and wasn’t quite productive but he still exceeded salary-based expectations on DraftKings with 9.5 DraftKings points. He’s still very cheap on DraftKings and a value that can fit in almost any lineup configuration.
The best value on the FanDuel side of things is projected to be Heat guard Kyle Lowry. With Tyler Herro (hand) still out, Lowry will have to step up once again. He has scored at least nine points in each of the three games in this series and added five assists, three rebounds, and two steals for 25.1 FanDuel points.
Max Strus is the other value option on the Heat that always brings a high ceiling but comes with high risk. He did have 14 points in Miami’s only win in the series but has scored a total of only three points in over 45 minutes in the team’s losses in Game 1 and Game 3. In those two losses, he has shot a brutal 1-for-17 from the field. Strus has shown the potential to break out and pour in points, but he hasn’t been able to get anything going recently, scoring 10 points or fewer in seven of his past eight games, with Game 2 the only exception.
Given his shooting struggles, Strus isn’t likely to get much attention and can be a lineup differentiator if he breaks out. Duncan Robinson has outperformed him and is cheaper so far in this series, but I still think Strus has more potential in Game 4.
NBA DFS Value & Punt Picks
- Christian Braun ($2,200 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel): Braun has averaged 14.2 minutes per game so far this series and popped in the past two games. In Game 2, Braun had six points, three assists, three steals, 17.25 DraftKings points, and 19.7 FanDuel points in 15 minutes, mostly in the second quarter. In Game 3, Braun played a big role in the third and fourth quarters as the Nuggets expanded their lead. He finished with 15 points, four rebounds, one assist, and one steal for 23.0 DraftKings points and 23.3 FanDuel points. He shot 7-of-8 from the field, showing his high ceiling in his role off the bench. Braun is my favorite play as a punt option and comes with more upside than the other plays listed here. If you stack up stars, Braun is a nice way to balance salary and still get some upside.
- Jeff Green ($1,800 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): Green has actually played just a little bit more than Braun in the series, averaging 14.8 minutes per game. He hasn’t scored 10 points in any of the Nuggets playoff games, though, and is usually just a play that grabs a few non-scoring stats and chips in a few points. He doesn’t have the upside of Braun or the other options in this section, but he does at least get minutes in Denver’s reduced rotation.
- Haywood Highsmith ($1,400 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): Highsmith has averaged 10.5 minutes per game, 9.4 DraftKings points, and 9.9 FanDuel points in the three games in this series. He hasn’t scored in Games 2 or 3 but did drop 18 points in Game 1. He has been in a reduced role, though, with Kevin Love back in the rotation, so he’s a high-risk play in Game 4.
- Cody Zeller ($1,200 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): Zeller could get more work if Adebayo struggles or gets in foul trouble, but so far, he has only played 7.2 minutes in the first three games of the series. Zeller has totaled four points and three rebounds in the three games. Unless something changes in Miami’s rotation, Zeller is only a punt play that isn’t much more than a dart throw.