This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
Our Saturday slate kicks off early with a 1:00 p.m. tip-off, and we are going to approach the five-game offering a bit differently today due to the massive variance involved with a majority of the teams. It will be much more beneficial to take on the teams on a game-by-game basis because playoff implications dictate the eventual starting lineups in play. If you are short on time and want the highlights, I will place all the endorsements aside from the injured players in BOLD.
Bulls @ Nets (Nets -11.5, O/U: 234)
CHI Daniel Theis (hip) - OUT
BKN Joe Harris (hip) - QUESTIONABLE
The Nets have something to play for. All three of Brooklyn's stud elites are free of injury designations, and I expect all three of them to play. It is a tough spot because the Nets need to fend off the Bucks to hold the third seed. Of the three All-Stars, Kevin Durant ($10,500) is the best candidate to see the most minutes. James Harden ($10,000) will likely remain limited and will have a tough time matching value relative to his salary. Due to the immense value at guard, I also think Kyrie Irving is a guy you can reasonably fade tonight. Brooklyn value will flow from the guard positions, and I like Landry Shamet ($4,200) out of the group.
Conversely, the Bulls are eliminated, and what they decide to do tonight is anyone's guess. They may play their standard guys, or they may burn us with all backups. For this reason, I will pivot to players who usually play standard minutes regardless of the matchup, and Thaddeus Young ($5,000) is an excellent example of a middling guy that the team employs often. I feel similarly about Lauri Markkanen ($3,800), who has come alive of late and is almost certainly playing for a contract. If we hear that guys like Nikola Vucevic, Coby White and Zach LaVine are in for a full load, they all should carry a low rostership and have contrarian potential.
Lakers @ Pacers (Lakers -6.5, O/U: 227.5)
LAL Kyle Kuzma -PROBABLE
The Pacers are locked in for the playoffs, but there's a massive difference between the eighth and tenth seed in the play-in tournament, and the three final seeds are all within a half-game of each other. If Domantas Sabonis ($10,500) and Caris LeVert ($9,000) are in the starting lineup, they are definitely in play in a pivotal game. If they are out or limited, Goga Bitadze ($4,500) becomes the critical pivot for Sabonis, and T.J. McConnell ($6,500) becomes a backcourt lock for Indiana. Justin Holiday ($5,300) and Oshae Brissett's ($5,600) value would also increase in a dual absence.
The Lakers can play their way out of the play-in games, but they need two wins and some help from Portland. In a way, the play-in tournament might actually help the Lakers, as they'd only need one win to get in, and they'd end up advancing to play the Jazz, Suns, or Nuggets either way. So, what happens against the Pacers tonight is a giant question mark. I would be shocked if James or Davis play more than 35 minutes and see their usage somewhere close to 30 minutes. Schroder will almost certainly sit, so for LA, it's best to look at value and spend up elsewhere on the slate. Kyle Kuzma's ($5,800) probable tag makes him a viable call, and Talen Horton-Tucker ($5,100) could be headed for his third-straight double-double in the matchup. Again, the Lakers are a team to check up on, and if either Davis or James is in and unlimited, they become decent spend-up plays.
Hornets @ Knicks (Knicks -5.5, O/U: 213)
NYK Derrick Rose - QUESTIONABLE
This is my favorite game on the slate because both teams have an incentive to win. The Hornets are in thanks to Chicago's elimination, so seeding now becomes their primary concern. They'll need a win and some help from the Pacers to stay on the easy end of the playoff bracket. The Knicks are in a dead heat with the Heat and would much rather play the Hawks as the fifth seed instead of the Bucks as the sixth seed, so they need a win as well.
For the above reasons, Julius Randle ($9,000) is one of my favorite spend-up players of the night and a perfect core to build around. He's coming off games of 49 and 45 FP, and he's playing an Atlanta team that allowed him over 60 FP with 40 points and 11 rebounds three weeks ago. If Derrick Rose doesn't play, Alec Burks ($5,000) appears to be a standout value call after a huge 46 FP game in his return to action.
The Hornets also have some boom potential. Although LaMelo Ball ($7,500) is still experiencing some wrist trouble, his salary is too low when considering his 40-plus FP potential in this game. Devonte' Graham ($6,600) is a bit expensive, but the contrarian potential for him over Terry Rozier and P.J. Washington makes him a more solid call for Charlotte.
Suns @ Spurs (Suns -10.5, O/U: 223)
PHO Deandre Ayton (knee) - QUESTIONABLE
The Suns have an outside shot at overtaking the Jazz, thanks to a controversial call that allowed Devin Booker to win the game with two free throws. They would need help from Utah and two wins. Conversely. The Spurs are locked into the tenth seed with no hope for advancement, so they will be sporting a rag-tag lineup as indicated above.
Let's begin with the Spurs, who arguably hold the best value calls on the slate. Drew Eubanks ($3,500) will start for Poeltl, but a sneaky tournament play could be Gorgui Dieng ($3,500), who will split time with Eubanks and should be far less popular. I don't expect Murray to play, so Keldon Johnson ($4,800), Lonnie Walker ($4,600), Patty Mills ($3,700) and Devin Vassell ($3,500) are all in play tonight. If I had to pick one, it would be Johnson, who will play maximum minutes without DeRozan on the floor.
If Deandre Ayton misses again, Dario Saric ($4,300) emerges as one of the best value centers available. He put together 21 FP in Thursday's spot start. We should see Phoenix's elites like Chris Paul ($7,900) and Devin Booker ($7,300) play a full complement of minutes if the game stays close, but you run the risk of losing production if the game goes the way Vegas expects. Booker is at an exceedingly low salary, but Paul and Booker are more contrarian plays in my MME builds.
Celtics @ Timberwolves (Timberwolves -3.5, O/U: 229.5)
BOS Jayson Tatum - QUESTIONABLE
BOS Evan Fournier- PROBABLE
The Celtics are locked into the seventh seed, so there's little reason to win, and they need the rest. Brad Stevens is on the hot seat after an underwhelming campaign, so I doubt he will risk putting Tatum on the floor. If he plays, he probably won't play for very long. Evan Fournier ($7,100) is probable and could use some additional playing time in preparation for an expanded role in the playoffs. Things get a little tricky beyond that, especially if Tatum and Fournier sit. You'll need to monitor this game closely, but Payton Pritchard ($3,900), Aaron Nesmith ($4,300) and Tremont Waters ($3,800) are sure to see minute boosts. The tricky part comes at center. Based on the matchup, it makes the most sense to give Luke Kornet ($3,500) the keys, but Stevens could burn us with a small-ball approach that could result in more minutes for Grant Williams ($3,500). Regardless of how it shakes down, I think Williams is worth taking a risk on in tournaments.
It's purely an instinct, but I think the Timberwolves will usher out their usual starters tonight. If that comes to pass, Karl-Anthony Towns ($9,700) would be in a great spot to smash value against a short-handed frontcourt, and there would be ample reason to roster Anthony Edwards ($8,500) as well. You should check for any variables, but that's about as far as I'd go with exposure to Minnesota.