Wednesday features Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat at 8:30 p.m. ET. The Nuggets are listed as 2.5-point road favorites, while the total sits at 214.5.
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
It’s safe to say that Nikola Jokic has officially put the “playoff disappointment” narrative to bed. The two-time MVP has been as dominant as ever in the postseason, averaging 30.4 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 10.1 assists in 17 contests this season. He tried to drag the Nuggets across the finish line in Game 2, scoring 28 points in the second half while shooting 10-15 from the field. If Jokic was going to do any more, he’d have to start selling jerseys at the team shop during halftime.
Jokic is basically the perfect fantasy player, capable of contributing in every category across the board. He’s averaging a triple-double for the postseason, and he’s capable of going off as a scorer, distributor, or rebounder. Overall, he’s averaged 1.70 DraftKings points per minute during the playoffs, and he’s playing more than 40 minutes a night.
The only real issue with Jokic is his salary. He clearly has the highest ceiling on this slate, but can you justify paying $22,800 for one player? That’s what he’s going to cost you in the Captain slot, and if you do go that route, it leaves you less than $5,500 per player to round out your lineup. That’s going to make it extremely tough to fit in some of the other high-priced options. Jokic has ultimately been a utility in the optimal lineup in each of the first two games of this series despite being the highest-scoring player in both contests.
Still, if Jokic hits his ceiling – he can break 80 DraftKings points in his sleep – it might not matter who you pair him with. I’m probably leaning toward using him as a utility, but Jokic is simply too good not to consider for the top spot.
Jimmy Butler is next on the pricing spectrum, but the drop-off from Jokic to Butler is massive. Butler has had some big games during the playoffs, but his production has been a bit hit-or-miss recently. He’s posted a negative Plus/Minus in three of his past five games on DraftKings, and he’s scored 40.0 DraftKings points or fewer in his first two games of this series.
Still, Butler has a well-rounded fantasy skill set, so he has the potential for better production in Game 3. Excluding Jokic, he has a pretty sizable lead over the rest of the field in terms of ceiling projection, and he ranks fourth on the slate in projected Plus/Minus. Butler does feel a smidge overpriced, but he still has plenty of appeal in Game 3.
One of the harder choices for me in this matchup is Butler vs. Jamal Murray. Butler has been the superior fantasy producer for the year, but Murray has been better over the past month. He’s averaged 1.25 DraftKings points per minute during the postseason, and he’s outscored Butler in the first two games of this series. Our projections aren’t as bullish on Murray in Game 3, but I think Murray outscoring Butler is a very realistic scenario.
Murray has also shown a bit more assist upside than usual of late. He’s handed out double-digit assists in back-to-back games, which has made up for his lackluster scoring production. The bulk of Murray’s fantasy value comes from his scoring ability, but it’s nice to know that he has other paths to potentially return value.
Bam Adebayo checks some of the same boxes as Jokic. He’s obviously not the same dominant force, but he’s capable of doing a little bit of everything. He averaged a career-high 20.4 points per game during the regular season, and he’s had years with as many as 5.4 assists per game.
Adebayo has also been aggressive offensively to start this series, scoring at least 21 points in both contests. He’s responded with 50.75 DraftKings points in Game 1 and 40.75 in Game 2, and he’s going to need to continue to produce at that level for the Heat to have a chance in this series.
Adebayo has been in the optimal lineup through each of the first two games, and he’s arguably the best Captain choice in this tier. He’s nearly $10,000 cheaper than Jokic as a Captain, so he’s not going to cripple the rest of your lineup. Pairing Adebayo at Captain with Jokic and Murray or Butler at utility is doable, but the same trio with Jokic at Captain is significantly tougher. Adebayo also ranks second on the slate in projected Plus/Minus, so he stands out as one of the best per-dollar options.
Adebayo also stands out using the PrizePicks and Underdog Fantasy simulations table:
NBA DFS Midrange Picks
Michael Porter Jr. headlines the midrange section, and he’s had some strong showings during the postseason. His scoring numbers are down, but he’s made up for it with increased production on the glass. He has double-digit rebounds in four of his past six games, and he’s unsurprisingly double-doubled in each contest.
However, MPJ saw a massive reduction in playing time in Game 2, finishing with just 12.5 DKFP in 26.4 minutes. It wasn’t due to foul trouble either, but rather a lack of effort on the defensive end. He routinely lost his man behind the 3-point line, and you simply can’t do that against the Heat.
That makes Porter a high-risk, high-reward option in Game 3. There’s a chance he finds himself on the pine again, but there’s also a chance that he’s learned his lesson. If he competes more on defense, his playing time should return to normal on Wednesday. MPJ had at least 33.5 DraftKings points in four of five games before Sunday’s disaster, so he’s an interesting buy-low target. He should also command reduced ownership.
It’s much harder to make a case for Caleb Martin. Martin was phenomenal in the series vs. the Celtics, averaging nearly 20 points per game while shooting better than 60% from the field. The Heat would not be playing in the Finals without him.
However, Martin isn’t going to have nearly the same impact in this series. The Nuggets exploited him defensively in Game 1, with the much larger Aaron Gordon taking advantage of the Heat’s small starting unit. Miami countered by moving Kevin Love back into the starting lineup in Game 2, relegating Martin to just 21.4 minutes off the bench. Unfortunately, Martin wasn’t very effective in his minutes either, finishing with 14.25 DraftKings points and a negative Net Rating.
Martin was someone who seemed due for some shooting regression to begin with, and now that he’s coming off the bench, it’s very easy to write him off at his current salary.
Speaking of Gordon, he stands out as one of the strongest plays in this price range in our projections. He ranks sixth in projected DraftKings Plus/Minus, trailing only the four stud options and Love in the value tier. Gordon has racked up at least 26.75 DraftKings points in back-to-back contests, and he had 42.5 DraftKings points in the closeout game vs. the Lakers.
Gordon has been a disappointing fantasy producer for most of the playoffs, but his salary has reached a point that puts him back on the radar. His ceiling isn’t great for his salary, but he stands out as an excellent value on DraftKings given his 95% Bargain Rating.
Gabe Vincent was the optimal Captain in Game 2, and he’s scored 33.0 DraftKings points in each of his first two games. Vincent dealt with an injury towards the tail end of the Eastern Conference Finals, but he appears to be ready to roll vs. the Nuggets. He doesn’t provide much in the peripheral categories, but he’s capable of getting hot from the perimeter. He’s knocked down nine 3-pointers in the first two games of this series, and he ranks third on the Heat in minutes and fourth in usage during the Finals. That’s a solid combination for his price tag.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is another solid source of minutes for his price tag, but he doesn’t have the same upside. He ranks dead last on the Nuggets in usage during the Finals, and he’s not particularly good on the glass or as a distributor either. I’d much rather find the extra $200 to get to Vincent.
If you’re fading MPJ, pivoting to Bruce Brown makes sense. He saw just 20.7 minutes in Game 1, but that figure increased to 27.3 with Porter sitting more in Game 2. Brown is a strong per-minute producer, so more minutes can led to excellent fantasy production.
NBA DFS Value & Punt Picks
- Kyle Lowry ($4,800 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel): Lowry has taken over as the Heat’s clear backup point guard, serving as one of the leaders of their bench unit. He didn’t play great in Game 2, but he had at least 20.5 DraftKings points in each of his three previous contests.
- Max Strus ($4,400 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel): Strus had a big game for the Heat in Game 2, scoring 29.5 DraftKings points in 29.2 minutes. That said, he posted a negative Plus/Minus in six of his previous seven games. That makes him a sell-high candidate.
- Duncan Robinson ($3,400 DraftKings, $7,000 FanDuel): The same case can be made for Robinson. He had a big fourth quarter in Game 2, but he still finished with just 12.5 DraftKings points in 17.4 minutes. He stands out as one of the worst options in this price range according to projected Plus/Minus.
- Haywood Highsmith ($2,800 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): Highsmith was the optimal Captain in Game 1, but he played just six minutes in Game 2. With Love returning to the rotation, Highsmith isn’t going to have much of a role moving forward.
- Kevin Love ($2,400 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel): Love moved back into the starting lineup in Game 2 and responded with 25.0 DraftKings points in 22.2 minutes. I wouldn’t necessarily expect a repeat performance, but Love has always been a very good per-minute producer. He also shot just 2-9 from the field in that contest, so he arguably has upside for an even better performance if he sees a comparable workload in Game 3.
- Jeff Green ($1,800 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): Green doesn’t stand out like some of the other options in this tier, but he is locked into a pretty safe workload. He should see somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes, which is plenty for a player in this price range.
- Christian Braun ($1,200 DraftKings, $7,000 FanDuel): Braun is another strong punt play on this slate. He was another beneficiary of MPJ’s poor play in Game 2. He gave the team quality production off the bench, scoring 17.25 DKFP across 15.4 minutes. If MPJ does recommit himself to the defensive end in Game 3, Braun could be looking at another expanded workload. He doesn’t need to do much to potentially pay off his minimal price tag.
- Cody Zeller ($1,000 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): The Zeller minutes were nothing short of a disaster in Game 2, with Jokic absolutely eviscerating him. It wouldn’t shock me if he doesn’t play at all in Game 3, so he’s not someone I’m really considering. Still, he’s projected for six minutes in our NBA Models, which is theoretically enough for him to provide value.