Monday features Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat at 8:30 p.m. ET. The Nuggets are looking to wrap up their first championship in franchise history, and they’re listed as nine-point home favorites in the potential series-clincher.
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 out my 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
There is nothing left to say about Nikola Jokic at this point. He’s the best player in the league at the absolute peak of his powers. He’s leading the playoffs in points, rebounds, and assists, and he’s been completely unflappable on the game’s biggest stage. With a ring and an NBA Finals MVP in his pocket, he would solidify his case as one of the best players of his generation.
As always, the big question with Jokic is can you afford his price tag? He’s almost impossible to fade entirely – his median and ceiling outcomes are so much higher than everyone else’s – but can you afford to spend $24,000 on just one player? That’s nearly 50% of your salary cap, and it leaves an average of just $5,200 for your five utility spots.
So far in this series, the answer has been no. Jokic has been an optimal utility in all four games, and he’s been the highest-scoring player in all four contests. Still, that hasn’t been enough to pop as the optimal Captain. Even in Game 3, when he went off for a 30-20-10 triple-double and finished with 80.75 DraftKings points, it still wasn’t enough to land him in the Captain spot.
That probably makes Jokic best-suited for a utility spot in Game 5, but I’m still going to have exposure to him at Captain. He didn’t even play particularly well in Game 4, struggling with both efficiency and foul trouble, and he still finished with 57.5 DraftKings points. He can crack 60 without even breaking a sweat. There have been enough contributions from cheap sources in this series – Kevin Love, Christian Braun, and Duncan Robinson have all had big games – that you can continue paying up for Jokic in Game 5.
Jokic hasn’t done it all his own in this series. Jamal Murray has also been outstanding, racking up a double-double in all four games. He’s the first player in NBA history to have at least 10 assists in his first four finals game, which is pretty ironic since Murray is known as a score-first point guard.
His increased production as a distributor has been a nice wrinkle for his fantasy stock. He’s scored at least 41.25 DraftKings points in all four games of this series, even though he’s scored just 15 and 18 points in two of his past three contests. Previously, a poor scoring game from Murray would be a death blow to his fantasy stock, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case in this series.
Only Jokic has averaged more fantasy points per minute over the past month than Murray, and he can continue to be relied upon for fantasy purposes. However, Murray does stand out as slightly overpriced compared to some of the other top options. He owns the worst projected Plus/Minus in the stud tier in our NBA Models, largely due to his increased price tag. He’s up to $12,000 on DraftKings after starting the postseason at just $8,000.
Choosing between Jimmy Butler and Murray is one of the hardest choices on this slate. As good as Murray has been, our Models give a slight edge to Butler. He owns a higher median and ceiling projection at a cheaper price tag, giving him the clear edge in projected Plus/Minus. Butler was also the better fantasy producer between the two during the regular season, and he has a more well-rounded fantasy skill set.
With the Heat facing elimination and two days off before a potential Game 6, Butler also figures to play as much as humanly possible. He logged 45.4 minutes in Game 4, and it wouldn’t shock me if he played even more in Game 5. He’s yet to have a huge game in this series, but he’s gone off for more than 50 DraftKings points plenty of times during the playoffs.
Butler’s fantasy prospects also stand out using our PrizePicks and Underdog Fantasy simulations table:
Bam Adebayo is arguably the best Captain choice for his price tag. He’s nearly $10,000 less than Jokic, and those savings are very helpful. It allows you to pair Jokic with another top-end option like Butler or Murray at utility without sacrificing a ton of upside.
Adebayo has had an up-and-down postseason, but he’s been at his best in this matchup. He’s scored at least 40.25 DraftKings points in all four games, and he’s been aggressive early and often on offense. Getting Jokic into foul trouble and on the bench is probably the Heat’s best chance of pulling off the upset, so expect Adebayo to stay aggressive in Game 5.
Overall, Adebayo has scored at least 21 points in all four games of this series, and he’s added double-digit boards in three of them. He’s also a solid passer for a big man, so he’s capable of racking up fantasy points in a number of ways.
NBA DFS Midrange Picks
Aaron Gordon is coming off arguably the best game of his career in Game 4. He finished with 27 points, seven boards, and six assists on the largest stage possible, resulting in 47.25 DraftKings. Gordon was the optimal Captain in Game 4 as well, so he delivered massive value for his price tag.
Gordon has been a vital part of the Nuggets’ lineup during the playoffs, but it seems unlikely he reaches the same heights for fantasy purposes in Game 5. Prior to erupting for at least 34.5 DraftKings points in both games in Miami, he had eclipsed 27.0 DraftKings points just twice in his previous 11 games.
His salary has also increased to $7,200, and while that’s not egregious, it’s still too high for his median outcome. Stars-and-scrubs lineup builds are typically the preferred strategy during the playoffs, so fading Gordon at an elevated price tag and focusing on the premium DFS assets makes a lot of sense.
Michael Porter Jr. is a clear wildcard at the moment. He has not shot the ball well at all during the Finals, knocking down just 29.3% of his shots from the field and 13.6% of his shots from 3-point range. Porter is only on the floor due to his shooting ability, so it’s not surprising that his minutes have declined over the past few games.
MPJ has played 26.4 minutes or fewer in three straight games, including 22.6 or less in both games in Miami. There’s always a chance that his shot starts to fall, and if that happens, he could very easily return value at his current price tag. However, there’s also a good chance that he sees another reduced workload. I don’t hate the idea of buying low at him at minuscule projected ownership, but the most likely scenario is another disappointing performance.
The big news for the Heat is that Tyler Herro is expected to suit up for the first time since Game 1 of the first round. That said, it remains to be seen how much of a factor he’ll be after missing nearly two full months.
The most likely scenario is that Herro comes off the bench, and he’s currently projected for around 16 minutes in our NBA Models. That doesn’t make him a great target, but it’s going to have a big impact on the Heat’s rotation. All their undrafted role players who have thrived during the postseason could see reduced minutes, making most of them tough to trust at their current salaries. That includes Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent, who are both projected for a negative Plus/Minus on DraftKings.
With MPJ seemingly lost at the moment, Bruce Brown entered the Nuggets’ closing lineup in Game 4. He finished the game with a series-high 29.6 minutes, and he responded with 21 points and 34.5 DraftKings points.
He’s likely headed for some shooting regression after knocking down eight of 11 shots on Friday, but he can afford some regression at his current price tag. Brown has always been a strong per-minute producer, and his playing time is clearly trending in the right direction. Overall, he stands out as one of the better values on the slate outside of the top tier of players.
Kyle Lowry is the one Heat player who grades out well in this price range. His role has increased over the past two games, culminating in 32.8 minutes in Game 4. Lowry is a proven performer, and the team could lean on his veteran knowledge even more in a do-or-die NBA Finals contest. Lowry has scored at least 24.25 DraftKings points in three of his past four games, and that kind of production is more than acceptable at $5,000.
NBA DFS Value & Punt Picks
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($4,800 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel): KCP has not shot the ball well in this series, but his minutes did return to normal in Game 4. He played more than 36 minutes in that contest, and he responded with 26.0 DraftKings points. KCP is projected for a similar workload on Monday, and he’s due for some positive regression as a shooter. He’s a very solid option at a sub-$5k price tag.
- Max Strus ($4,000 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel): Strus is arguably the hardest member of the Heat to trust on this slate. His minutes have fallen drastically of late, and he logged less than 19 minutes in Game 4. With Herro now expected to re-enter the rotation, Strus could play even less in Game 5.
- Kevin Love ($3,600 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel): Love had a quality performance in Game 4, finishing with 18.5 DraftKings points in 18.3 minutes. The Heat need his size to try to combat Gordon on the interior, so he should continue to see around 20 minutes. His salary has come up slightly, making him a bit less appealing than previously, but he still has appeal at $3,600.
- Duncan Robinson ($3,000 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel): Robinson is another potential casualty of Herro’s return, but he has played extremely well of late. He was a clear bright spot for the team in Game 4, and if not for Herro, I would think he’s a candidate to play more in Game 5. There’s a bit of risk with Robinson, but I think there’s some upside as well.
- Christian Braun ($2,800 DraftKings, $7,000 FanDuel): Braun is locked into around 15 minutes off the bench, and his role should be safe with MPJ struggling. However, he wasn’t particularly productive with his minutes in Game 4. His price tag also continues to rise, so he doesn’t fare well in our projections.
- Jeff Green ($1,600 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): Uncle Jeff took just one shot in Game 4, but it was a big one. He knocked down a 3-pointer when Jokic was sitting with five fouls, extending the Nuggets’ lead to nine points with 6:21 remaining. He’s not the most productive per-minute contributor at this point, but it’s very tough to find a player with the upside for around 20 minutes in this price range. We need salary savers if we’re going to roster guys like Jokic and Butler, and Green stands out as one of the best of the bunch.
- Cody Zeller ($1,000 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): Zeller has maintained a small role in this series, but it hasn’t been enough to really matter. He had 4.75 DraftKings points over 4.4 minutes in Game 4, and with the Heat facing elimination, it wouldn’t shock me if he fell out of the rotation entirely.