(Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters/Cary Edmondson)
Point Guard – Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers
Lowry was a feast-or-famine type player in the two games he did play against Cleveland in the regular season. He had 24 points and seven assists while hitting six of nine from 3-point range in one contest and had only five points and three assists in the other while shooting two of 11 overall and one of seven from beyond the arc.
With the Cavaliers coming off a grueling seven-game series and Lowry coming off a solid first-round series against Washington in which he averaged 17.2 points and 8.3 assists while making 17 of 39 (43.6 percent) from deep, the Raptors point guard is an ideal choice to slot in at that position.
Alternate selection – Rajon Rondo, New Orleans Pelicans @ Golden State Warriors
#PlayoffRondo nearly struck for a triple-double in New Orleans’ Game 1 loss as he totaled nine points, eight rebounds and 11 assists. He has recorded at least nine assists in all five of his postseason games and had double-doubles in all five contests while averaging 10.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 12.8 assists with a 4.00 assists-to-turnover ratio.
Rondo may not give you the high point total or 3-pointers Lowry can, but he is almost certain to have more assists and rebounds as the Pelicans look to return to the Bayou with a split of their first two games.
Low-cost option – Delon Wright, Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers
Wright was arguably Toronto’s best option off the bench in their three wins at home, averaging 15.7 points while shooting 16 of 29 overall and six of ten from 3-point range. During the regular season, he averaged one-half point above his season average of 8.0 and shot 40.3 percent from 3-point range, an uptick from his season mark of 36.6 percent.
He averaged 8.3 points and 3.7 assists in the three games against the Cavaliers this season, and while Fred VanVleet may take some of his shots, Wright’s strong play at the Air Canada Centre makes him a viable pick to spread the wealth at other positions.
Shooting guard - Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors vs New Orleans Pelicans
Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson serves a dual purpose here as the top option because he is noticeably cheaper than both DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday and also because he has been Golden State's offensive bellwether. Thompson has shot 45 percent or better in five of the champs' six playoff games, and the Warriors are unsurprisingly 5-0 in those games.
He had 27 points and six rebounds in Golden State's Game 1 romp and has shot well both from 3-point range (50 percent) and overall (51.4 percent) while averaging 23.3 points. Thompson has given the Pelicans fits all season, averaging 24.8 points while draining 22 of 40 from deep, and that trend should continue in Game 2.
Alternate selection - DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers
Like Lowry, DeRozan is coming off a solid series in which he averaged 26.7 points and 4.8 rebounds. Some of that came due to Washington's defensive scheme to turn DeRozan into a volume shooter as his 133 attempts in that six-game series were 57 more than the next-highest Raptor (Lowry), but he turned that into a positive by hitting 38.5 percent of his 3-pointers (ten for 26), which was well above his season marksmanship of 31.0 percent.
DeRozan averaged 17.7 points and 6.7 assists in the regular season versus Cleveland but shot 42.9 percent. The other positive to his play was his decision-making as he finished with 20 assists and just one turnover in nearly 98 minutes. He totaled 59 points in Toronto's two losses in last year's conference semifinals to Cleveland, and expect that 29.5 points per game to be closer to his mark for this series than his regular-season numbers.
Low-cost option: Kyle Korver, Cleveland Cavaliers @ Toronto Raptors
More than Kevin Love, Korver should emerge as the best perimeter threat in this series for the Cavaliers because he is the team's best shooter coming off screens. Toronto likely will follow players through screens rather than switch in this series, and that tendency plays right into Korver's strength since Cleveland will run set plays for Korver in such instances.
Korver was a non-factor in two games against the Raptors this season, going two for eight from 3-point range and finishing with just nine points, but he is a career 42.3 percent 3-point shooter against Toronto while averaging 9.6 points and went 11 of 20 from beyond the arc in last year's second-round sweep.
Small Forward - LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers @ Toronto Raptors
After dragging the Cavaliers into the second round following a series in which he had three 40-point games, a triple-double, five double-doubles and averages of 34.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists while shooting 55.3 percent, not playing LeBron James is pure folly and being too cute by one-half.
Even if there is fatigue from playing 40 or more minutes in six of the seven first-round games, James is still a nightmare matchup for the Raptors. Recall the 35-point, 17-assist, zero-turnover game against them earlier this season. Or perhaps harken back to last year's four-game sweep of the Raptors in which he scored at least 35 points in every game and shot 48.1 percent from 3-point range (13 for 27) and 57.3 percent overall.
Or lastly, consider his numbers in his last two playoff series versus Toronto in which he has totaled 30.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.1 assists while hitting 20 of 48 from deep and shooting 60.1 percent overall. That's SIXTY point one, not fifty point one. Enough already, just put him in.
Alternate option: Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors vs New Orleans Pelicans
There is a sacrifice to be made in that DFS players will have to forego one player among James, Durant and Anthony Davis when building a lineup. If the choice is to drop James (Note: this space does not condone such a decision based on the evidence above), then the better option is to make the decision at small forward to slot in Durant and use Davis at power forward.
Much like Thompson, Durant continues to be the driving force of Golden State's offense and has put up solid numbers with 27.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. He has scored at least 24 points in every playoff game and has notched double-doubles in two of his last three contests after a 26-point, 13-rebound effort in the Warriors' Game 1 victory.
Durant has totaled 67 points and 23 rebounds in his last two home games versus New Orleans and also has made seven of 14 from beyond the arc in those contets.
Low-cost option: E'Twaun Moore, New Orleans Pelicans @ Golden State Warriors
On the surface, it is counterintuitive to turn to a starter who is averaging 9.0 points in the postseason, but defensive schemes sometimes create DFS heroes. Moore is one of those players because the Warriors have opted for a smaller lineup to counter New Orleans' space-based halfcourt offense and decided they can live with Moore taking as many shots as his heart desires.
He was effective in Game 1 with a playoff career-high of 15 points on seven-of-11 shooting, which bettered his mark of 14 set in New Orleans' Game 4 victory. So to recap, Moore has scored 29 of his 55 career postseason points in his last two games on 12-of-21 shooting after going seven of 19 in his first three playoff games in 2018.
Power Forward - Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans @ Golden State Warriors
Perhaps the most surprising stat that came out of New Orleans' Game 1 defeat was that the 21-point, ten-rebound effort from All-Star center Anthony Davis was his second-worst effort in his last ten games and yet he still recorded his ninth double-double in that span.
Davis has averaged 29.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 2.1 steals in that stretch while shooting 52.9 percent. While the Pelicans are going to have to make some adjustments to Golden State's small-ball methods, Davis did score 12 of his 21 points when matched up against Warriors counterpart Draymond Green, which was the matchup they wanted versus Davis.
Even with those "sub-par" numbers, Davis still has recorded four double-doubles in as many games this season versus Golden State while averaging 30.0 points and 13.0 rebounds while hitting 56.3 percent of his shots.
Alternate option: Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers @ Toronto Raptors
Choosing between Love and Pelicans forward Nikola Mirotic is like choosing six of one and half-dozen of another; they will take around half of their shots from 3-point range and grab a handful of rebounds while being chased by seven-footers. The challenge is deciphering which player will get more shots and find space to take them.
That would appear to favor Love, who has the luxury of James, who can find the forward for spot-up 3-pointers if he chooses to drive and kick into the lane with Serge Ibaka trying to chase him off the line. Love only averaged 11.4 points against the Pacers but did shoot 41.2 percent from 3-point range and grabbed 9.3 rebounds per contest over the seven-game series.
Mirotic has a tougher bid to find shots with Durant his primary defender and went three of nine Saturday and one of four from beyond the arc. It was a stark contrast to his two games against the Warriors from the regular season in which he racked up 52 points while hitting ten of 18 from beyond the arc.
Low-cost option: Jakob Poeltl, Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers
Poeltl has made steady contributions as part of Toronto's second unit all season, and that continued in the playoffs with 6.2 points and 4.3 rebounds on 63.6 percent shooting in the first round and totaled 26 points and 17 boards in the last three games versus Washington. He has the size and the speed to combat Tristan Thompson in the paint, and if Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas winds up in foul trouble, Poeltl could see his minutes increase in this second-round series.
Center - Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors vs New Orleans Pelicans
Much like #PlayoffRondo, there is apparently a #PlayoffDraymond as the Warriors' Swiss army knife recorded his fourth career postseason triple-double with 16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists in Saturday's Game 1 win while guarding both Davis and Rondo at various points.
The more responsibilities Green takes on, the better he seems to play, and his playmaking this postseason has been spectacular. He has averaged 12.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists in six games, with his only blemish a 38.5 percent shooting percentage. Green has hovered around a triple-double average in his last three games against New Orleans with 15.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 9.0 assists per game in those contests and likely will be there once more in Game 2.
Alternate option: Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers
Valanciunas could emerge as the potential swing vote of Toronto's second-round series if he continues to be a steady third scoring option. Facing a fellow seven-footer in the first round versus Washington, Valanciunas averaged 13.5 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 57.9 percent.
This time, he gets a pair of undersized big men in Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr as his matchups in the paint, which means Valanciunas should be able to establish himself deep in the low post to maintain that high shooting percentage. The lone worry is the active nature of both Thompson and Nance on the offensive glass could create some foul trouble for the Raptors pivot.
Low-cost option: David West, Golden State Warriors vs New Orleans Pelicans
It is strongly tempting to possibly ride Tristan Thompson for a second straight game after his unexpectedly spectacular 15-point, ten-rebound effort in Game 7 against Indiana, but the vibe of the Cavaliers coming off that series coupled with an amped-up Raptors crowd at home also makes it easy to shy away from that option.
In his place is the ageless Warriors veteran, who had eight points and four rebounds in a 13-minute cameo Saturday night. West has scored eight or more points in three of Golden State's six games and also has averaged 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He also provides a little more cap flexibility and can round out a DFS lineup.
Who is in your lineup tonight? Comment below!
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