Thursday features Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
The Nuggets have had nine days of rest after sweeping the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. They are 8.5-point home favorites in Game 1 against the Heat, who just finished their series against the Celtics on Monday night. However, the Heat have won Game 1 in each of their three playoff series, and we should know by now not to count this team out.
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 Matt LaMarca’s 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
Leading the way is the two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, who has by far the highest ceiling projection in our NBA Models for both DraftKings and FanDuel. Jokic has averaged a triple-double in the last two series and is even-money to average a triple-double against the Heat in the NBA Finals. He is the favorite to lead the entire series in points, rebounds, and assists.
Despite the high price tag, Jokic leads all players in projected ownership at the MVP and Captain spot. He has finished with over 70 DraftKings points in eight of his last nine games. Jokic has also had plenty of success in this matchup, averaging 23.8 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 9.8 assists per game while shooting 68.4% from the field vs. the Heat over the past two seasons. A well-rested Jokic is unfadeable.
Eastern Conference Finals MVP Jimmy Butler has been excellent throughout these playoffs. The Celtics gave him the most strenuous test with their plethora of defensive wings, but Butler still finished with over 50 DraftKings points in five of seven games. The Nuggets will also be a difficult matchup, but Butler is easily the best player to target from the Heat.
The last two postseasons have been the Butler show for Miami. He’s played 34 total games, averaging over 27 points and seven rebounds while shooting nearly 50% from the field. Butler is projected to play 42.8 minutes, the second-highest on the slate. He seems locked in and will be a contrarian pay-up option, especially at MVP and Captain.
Jamal Murray averaged 32.5 points per game against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, shooting 52.7% from the field and 40.5% from behind the arc. He also shot 95% from the charity stripe, making 19 of his 20 free-throw attempts. He is healthy and shooting the best of his career, knocking down four or more 3-pointers in four of his last five games.
The Heat will have a game plan for Murray and Jokic, but the Nuggets are 8.5-point home favorites in Game 1 for a reason. Murray’s salary isn’t all that appealing on either site, but he is still cheaper than Jokic with a high ceiling. Not only is Murray scoring at a high level, but he has averaged three steals in his last five games. He is another contrarian pay-up option.
Bam Adebayo will have his work cut out for him on the defensive end trying to guard Jokic, but he will likely be more freed up offensively. Adebayo struggled to score in the last two games against the Celtics, shooting 8-26 from the field, but still put up a double-double in both games averaging 11.5 rebounds and six assists while playing an absurd 44.5 minutes per game.
Adebayo has the highest projected Plus/Minus of all players at the Captain spot on DraftKings and leads the way among the studs for the MVP spot on FanDuel. If Adebayo can stay out of foul trouble, he will play as many minutes as he can handle. He is projected for a game-high 43.2 minutes, making him look like a great option on both sites.
NBA DFS Midrange Picks
In the midrange, Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. leads us off with a positive Plus/Minus on DraftKings in seven of his last eight games. Against the Lakers, Porter had three double-doubles while making at least three 3-pointers in each game. He should have no trouble finding perimeter looks against the Heat, especially when they go to their zone. The Heat have allowed 38 3-point attempts per game during the postseason, which would’ve been the second-highest mark in the league during the year.
Caleb Martin fell one vote short of beating out Butler for the Eastern Conference Finals MVP. He was the most consistent player on the Heat, averaging 19.3 points per game while shooting 60.2% from the field and 48.9% from behind the arc. Martin even pulled down double-digit rebounds in the last two games. Martin is one of the Heat’s go-to scorers with Tyler Herro still out. He will need another big game to keep the Heat competitive as nearly double-digit underdogs.
There is a big pricing dropoff, especially on FanDuel, from Porter and Martin down to Aaron Gordon. He is the fourth-leading scorer for the Nuggets in the playoffs and is coming off his best postseason game. In Game 4 against the Lakers, Gordon exploded for 22 points, six rebounds, five assists, and two blocks as he shot 9-14 from the field and 3-5 from downtown. Gordon is inconsistent, which makes for a great tournament play. He looks viable at this price on both sites.
Bruce Brown has averaged double-digit points per game in each series coming off the bench for the Nuggets. He has also shot over 50% from the field in each series while playing more than 25 minutes per game. Brown has played much better at home during the postseason, averaging 13.8 points per game compared to 10.4 on the road. He would also benefit more if this game got out of hand with a Nuggets blowout. Brown has a ceiling despite coming off the bench for the Nuggets.
Gabe Vincent‘s playing time has been inconsistent, but the extra days of rest gave him a chance to rest the ankle he injured in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Vincent has shown the ability to pop off for big games like he did in Game 3, scoring a team-high 29 points while shooting 11-14 from the field and 6-9 from behind the arc. His peripherals have been down, but Vincent has averaged 13.1 points per game during the playoffs.
Our PrizePicks and Underdog Fantasy simulations table is bullish on Vincent’s scoring prospects in Game 1:
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stands out as the best value on FanDuel. The Nuggets starting shooting guard has the highest projected Plus/Minus on FanDuel and has averaged double-digit points per game in each series. Most of Caldwell-Pope’s production comes from scoring the ball, and playing alongside Jokic and Murray gives him plenty of open looks. Prioritize him on FanDuel with his 93% Bargain Rating.
The leader of the Heat’s second unit, Kyle Lowry can stuff the stat sheet in a variety of ways. Despite failing to score double-digit points in his last five games, Lowry finished with over 20 DraftKings points in four of those five simply due to capturing peripherals. His shooting will always be a question mark, but Lowry has regularly displayed the upside to score double figures during these playoffs. Projected to play 25 minutes, Lowry can be a great value play at only 30% projected ownership.
Max Strus and Duncan Robinson are basically the same player, but one starts while the other comes off the bench. They are the same price on FanDuel, but Robinson is $600 cheaper on DraftKings. Avoid playing them together in a lineup since both players have been negatively correlated during the postseason. Whoever gets hot will likely get most of the minutes, while the other will be relegated to the bench. Robinson would be the lean between the two players as he has shot much better for the Heat as of late.
NBA DFS Values & Punts
- Kevin Love ($2,600 on DraftKings, $6,500 on FanDuel): Love sat out the last two games for the Heat but is expected to rejoin the lineup once against the Nuggets’ sizable frontcourt. Our NBA Models have Love projected for only three minutes tonight, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he played more than that. He’s risky but has some upside at a cheap price tag.
- Jeff Green ($2,200 on DraftKings, $6,500 on FanDuel): Green is the safest punt play of the bunch, as he is projected to play over 20 minutes in Game 1. He provides scoring and rebounding off the bench and has played double-digit minutes in each game this postseason. Green may not have a high ceiling, but he provides safety in cash games on this slate.
- Haywood Highsmith ($1,400 on DraftKings, $6,500 on FanDuel): With Vincent out in Game 5, Haysmith played 36 minutes off the bench and finished with 15 points on 6-9 shooting from the field and 3-4 from behind the arc. He even got nine minutes of action in Game 7, picking Jayson Tatum and scoring a transition bucket. Haysmith is projected to play eight minutes, but there’s also a chance he picks up a DNP-CD.
- Cody Zeller ($1,200 on DraftKings, $6,000 on FanDuel): Zeller is another Heat big man who didn’t play at all in Game 7 and saw his playing time decrease as the series progressed. However, Zeller is expected to rejoin the rotation to start their new series, and he could see a bunch of minutes if Adebayo gets into foul trouble. Like Green, Zeller is another value player who can provide scoring and rebounding off the bench. He’s a high-risk, high-reward play.
- Christian Braun ($1,000 on DraftKings, $6,000 on FanDuel): Braun is projected to play around six minutes off the bench for the Nuggets tonight. He saw 12 minutes in Game 1 against the Lakers but only seven in the final three games. Priced at the stone minimum on both sites, Braun can provide savings in a heavy stars and scrubs lineup build.