FanDuel Single-Game Daily Fantasy Basketball: First-Round Preview

Which players deserve your attention when building single-game FanDuel lineups for the NBA playoffs?

Just because the NBA playoffs are here doesn't mean that the daily fantasy basketball fun is over for the season. We'll still have some short slates to focus on, but we now also have the chance to get in on the fun with FanDuel's single-game offerings.

The new format is unique from the standard FanDuel NBA game, but it's easy to learn and will help add a lot of fun to the NBA playoffs. Especially if your team is eliminated.

You simply fill out a five-man roster with your $60,000 salary cap. You need a guard, a forward/center flex, two utility players, and an MVP. The scoring for your positions is the same as usual, except for the MVP. Your MVP choice will have his production multiplied by 1.5. So, for example, blocks and steals go from 3 FanDuel points to 4.5 for your MVP and assists jump from 1.5 points to 2.25. Nailing your MVP pick will be vital.

With all that said, let's preview the eight first-round matchups to see who stands out in each.

Eastern Conference

(1) Toronto Raptors vs. (8) Washington Wizards
Head to Head: Series tied 2-2

Since All-Star Break ORtg DRtg NetRtg Reb% Pace
Toronto 111.5 (4) 105.1 (11) 6.4 (4) 51.8 (4) 98.2 (26)
Washington 106.4 (20) 108.3 (18) -1.9 (20) 51.6 (6) 97.5 (29)

Matchup Overview

This season, these two teams played to a 2-2 tie, which can be misleading. In this case, it's not. The Raptors owned a net rating of just 0.5 against Washington, implying this series could stay tight. Of course, that's kind of on Washington, as they've played to the level of their competition quite a bit this season. They're just 20th in net rating since the All-Star break, so they could struggle to keep games close. These teams also are both bottom-five in pace since the break, not a good recipe for daily fantasy goodness.

MVP Watch

Only three players in this series averaged more than 30 FanDuel points against their first-round opponent: DeMar DeRozan (44.9), Bradley Beal (43.2), and Otto Porter (34.2). DeRozan did pour in 58.6 fantasy points against Washington back in November, and Kyle Lowry notched 52.5 against them on February 1st. Beal scored at least 31.3 in all four matchups, including games with 53.2, 49.0, and 39.4 FanDuel points.

John Wall didn't play in any of their four matchups, however, and that's kind of a big deal. In his four games since returning from injury, he has averaged 1.32 FanDuel points per minute, a pretty elite rate.

All in all, DeRozan looks to be the best bet to plug into your MVP slot in this series until Washington proves they can shut him down (or if his playoff woes continue).

Value Plays to Monitor

The Raptors own one of the best and deepest benches in the NBA (league-best 7.2 bench net rating since the break), so they'll have some value options depending on the rotation that head coach Dwane Casey relies on. Jonas Valanciunas (1.34 FanDuel points per minute over the past 15 games), Lucas Nogueira (1.11), Delon Wright (0.93), Jakob Poeltl (0.92), Serge Ibaka (0.91), and Fred VanVleet (0.91) all have had efficient fantasy production when given time on the court of late. Of note, VanVleet averaged 0.96 FanDuel points per minute against Washington in their series this season.

(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Milwaukee Bucks
Head to Head: Series tied 2-2

Since All-Star Break ORtg DRtg NetRtg Reb% Pace
Boston 107.4 (15) 103.3 (7) 4.1 (8) 51.1 (7) 98.21 (25)
Milwaukee 108.9 (9) 109.5 (22) -0.6 (19) 48.2 (26) 100.16 (14)

Matchup Overview

Boston and Milwaukee played just once since the calendar flipped to 2018. In fact, they played twice in October and once on December 4th. So the matchup on April 3rd carries a little extra weight when digging into how these two teams faced one another. On top of the date, that game was played without Kyrie Irving, which will be the case for the first-round matchup. Milwaukee won that game 106-102, behind a 29-point, 11-rebound, 6-assist, 1-steal, 2-block showing from Giannis Antetokounmpo (55.2 FanDuel points). Khris Middleton also flirted with a triple-double: 20 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 49.1 FanDuel points.

With Irving on the court after the All-Star break, the Celtics scored 119.2 points per 100 possessions and allowed 106.8, for a net rating of 12.4. Without him, their offense has plummeted (104.8 points per 100). The defense improves by 4.3 points per 100 (to 102.5), but the net rating dips from that stellar 12.4 to just 2.3. Additionally, the Celtics lost Daniel Theis for the year and will be without Marcus Smart until roughly April 27th.

MVP Watch

Only one player (LeBron James (88.6)) has averaged more MVP FanDuel points than Antetokounmpo has (86.2) against a player's first-round opponent. Overall, Antetokounmpo has averaged 57.2 FanDuel points against Boston and has scored at least 52.8 in all four contests. With the injuries to Boston, it's going to be hard to avoid Giannis in your MVP slot. If you want to differentiate, you can consider Middleton, though. He's scored 49.1, 44.1, 35.8, and 23.4 FanDuel points against Boston this season, good for 57.8 MVP FanDuel points per game. Both can rack up steals and even blocks from the wing position, which really adds up in this format.

If you want to roster a Celtic in your MVP slot, Al Horford is likely your guy. He averaged 1.17 FanDuel points per minute (40.6 per game) against Milwaukee this season, which translates to 1.77 and 61.5, respectively. With Horford on the court against Milwaukee this season, the Celtics owned a net rating of 8.7. With him on the bench? That was -24.3. He's going to be vital in this series.

Value Plays to Monitor

These teams don't generally lend themselves to value plays, but Boston's injuries put a few players on the radar. While they don't necessarily classify as traditional value plays, both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum scored at least 34.4 FanDuel points in the most recent matchup with Milwaukee while playing at least 33 minutes apiece. Greg Monroe chipped in 27.0 FanDuel points, thanks to 9 points and 10 rebounds in that game against his former team. And Marcus Morris took a team-high 16 shots. Expect Boston's secondary pieces behind Horford to have their moments. Predicting them may not be the easiest, though.

(3) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (6) Miami Heat
Head to Head: Series tied 2-2

Since All-Star Break ORtg DRtg NetRtg Reb% Pace
Philadelphia 111.5 (4) 100.8 (2) 10.7 (2) 53.1 (2) 103.35 (3)
Miami 107.7 (12) 103 (5) 4.7 (6) 49.9 (16) 99.58 (16)

Matchup Overview

All four of the matchups between these two teams have come after February began. The Heat own the better net rating in those games (0.5). We can hone in on how well Philly has played since the break (second in net rating), but the Heat are still top-six by that measure. The pace-up nature of this matchup for Miami should give their players a boost from a fantasy perspective, while the Heat have played at a roughly league-average pace.

Here's where things get tricky. In these four, pretty recent matchups, no player has scored even 28 actual points, and only a Ben Simmons triple-double on Valentine's Day resulted in more than 50 FanDuel points.

Joel Embiid's injury could really turn the series on its head, but it's possible that he's ready for Game 1. Their defense with and without him has been strong since the break, but the offensive rating gets a 5.4-point boost with him on the court.

MVP Watch

Simmons has averaged 46.6 FanDuel points per game over the past 15 outings, eighth-most in the NBA. In his four contests against the Heat, he produced 62.9 MVP FanDuel points per game, thanks to 14.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 2.3 steals, and 1.0 blocks. His ability to get those peripheral stats can go a long way. Embiid himself averaged 52.3 MVP points in three games against Miami, with 19.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.3 steals, and 1.0 blocks.

Hassan Whiteside has had some nice fantasy outings against the 76ers when given the chance, including a 15-point, 11-rebound, 3-assist, 3-steal, 3-block game on February 27th (74.6 MVP points). In his four matchups against Philly, he played 29 or more minutes three times. In those, he scored at least 38.5 FanDuel points (and at least 57.8 MVP points).

Value Plays to Monitor

Dwyane Wade played the 76ers three times while donning a Heat jersey this year, and he was efficient in those (1.12 FanDuel points per minute). He's played in 9 of the past 15 games for Miami but has been limited to 21.9 minutes per game (22.9 FanDuel points). If Goran Dragic is limited with his knee injury, Wade could be forced into bigger minutes if playoff rotations shorten. But Miami may not take that route, as they're fourth in bench net rating since the break. Josh Richardson did average 27.9 minutes per game against Philly in the regular season but struggled to generate offense, maxing out at 13 points and earning no free throws.

The 76ers have a strong bench of their own (sixth in net rating). In all, 12 players have averaged at least 14.6 minutes per game over the past 15 for Philadelphia. Markelle Fultz (1.21 FanDuel points per minute in the past 15 games), Robert Covington (1.09), Richaun Holmes (1.06), Amir Johnson (1.02), and Ersan Ilyasova (1.01) can all produce efficiently, even if their minutes are limited.

(4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Indiana Pacers
Head to Head: Pacers lead 3-1

Since All-Star Break ORtg DRtg NetRtg Reb% Pace
Cleveland 111.6 (3) 109.0 (21) 2.7 (11) 50.5 (11) 100.72 (11)
Indiana 104.1 (23) 103.7 (8) 0.5 (18) 50.1 (14) 97.6 (28)

Matchup Overview

This is the only series that wasn't a 2-2 tie in the East. But it's been the Pacers with the better performance both by record and net rating (4.1). This is despite the fact that the Cavaliers earned better marks in free throw rate and three-point attempt rate in three of the four games. Yet the Pacers won the battle in true shooting percentage in their three wins, which is always on the table with Cleveland's suspect defense (21st since the break).

Indiana might have the reputation of being a fast team with weak defense, but that hasn't been the case for much of the second half, and they're 8th in defensive rating and 28th in pace since the break.

MVP Watch

For the Pacers, Victor Oladipo makes the cut as an MVP candidate. Over the final 10 games for the Pacers, Oladipo averaged 45.1 FanDuel points per game while averaging 3.2 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. At 4.5 points apiece, that can really add up if you roll with Oladipo in the MVP slot. He also scored 50.1, 41.7, 35.9, and 29.1 FanDuel points against Cleveland this year (59.0 MVP FanDuel points per game).

Then, of course, there's LeBron James, who produced 57.7 or more FanDuel points in all four games (86.6 or more MVP FanDuel points) against the Pacers, thanks to averages of 28.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 10.3 assists, 2.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks in 39.3 minutes per contest. Again, he owns the highest MVP FanDuel point per game average of any player against his first-round opponent.

Value Plays to Monitor

Darren Collison twice produced at least 45.0 FanDuel points against the Cavaliers, but all four contests came before George Hill joined the Cavs. Hill is actually just 78th in defensive real plus/minus among point guards, and Cleveland's overall weak team defense will allow opportunities for Collison. Additionally, Thaddeus Young (30.6), Bojan Bogdanovic (30.4), and Myles Turner (27.5) have been getting useful minutes over the past 15 games for the Pacers.

Kevin Love won't be cheap, but the Pacers are the second-worst playoff team at defending the three-point line in terms of three-point attempt rate and the worst since the All-Star break. Love has averaged a team-high 6.4 three-point attempts per game over the past 15 contests for the Cavs. Kyle Korver has averaged 4.3 (and LeBron has averaged 5.2, if you needed more incentive to play him).

Western Conference

(1) Houston Rockets vs. (8) Minnesota Timberwolves
Head to Head: Rockets lead 4-0

Since All-Star Break ORtg DRtg NetRtg Reb% Pace
Houston 109.8 (6) 101.7 (3) 8.2 (3) 49.8 (17) 98.31 (24)
Minnesota 109.2 (7) 108.6 (19) 0.7 (17) 49.8 (17) 99.36 (18)

Matchup Overview

The Rockets' defense is probably a lot better than you'd expect, given their reputation. But they've been a strong defense and a fairly slow team overall since the All-Star break. They swept the Timberwolves this season and outscored them by 63 points in those games.

Now, the Rockets will likely be without Luc Mbah a Moute for the full first round because of a shoulder injury. Mbah a Moute ranks seventh in defensive real plus-minus among power forwards, yet since the All-Star break, the Rockets own a 97.7 defensive rating with him off the court, compared to 107.2 with him on the court.

That combined with Minnesota's splits with and without Jimmy Butler could make this a little more interesting than the regular season series implies. Since the break, the Timberwolves' offense has been 10.6 points per 100 possessions better with Butler, while the defense has been just 1.9 points per 100 worse. That adds up to a 12.5-point differential with and without Butler over 100 possessions.

MVP Watch

Simply, it has to be Harden, whose 1.44 FanDuel points per minute ranks seventh among all players since the All-Star break. That's translated to 50.1 FanDuel points per game, with 8.8 assists and 6.5 rebounds to go along with 27.7 points. His ability to fill up the stat sheet puts him in pretty elite fantasy territory even without the MVP multiplier.

Karl-Anthony Towns has averaged 48.9 FanDuel points per game in his past 15, with 25.5 points, 13.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game. Further, he posted some huge lines against the Rockets this season, with at least 39.1 FanDuel points in all four and at least 64.9 in two. Towns averaged 23.8 points, 14.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 2.5 blocks, and 54.2 FanDuel points against Houston this season. He has two of the six highest MVP FanDuel games against a player's first-round opponent (100.1 and 97.4).

Value Plays to Monitor

Clint Capela averaged 1.34 FanDuel points per minute against Minnesota's leaky defense and has averaged 1.24 over his past 15 games. Without Mbah a Moute, P.J. Tucker should draw the bulk of the defensive assignment to cover Butler. Tucker has averaged just 18.6 FanDuel points per game over the past 15, but trying to jam in Harden, Towns, Butler, and Chris Paul will require some value darts.

Tom Thibodeau's tight rotation doesn't lend itself to much leeway for value plays for the Timberwolves, but Taj Gibson (31.8) and Nemanja Bjelica (29.6) have had solid minutes over the past 15 games. Neither had much success against Houston in the regular season, though, particularly Gibson, who averaged just 0.49 FanDuel points per minute in 30.9 minutes per game. Jamal Crawford has averaged 10.1 field goal attempts per game over the past 15 contests, so he'd be worth a dice roll, assuming Minnesota will be in catch-up mode.

(2) Golden State Warriors vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs
Head to Head: Warriors lead 3-1

Since All-Star Break ORtg DRtg NetRtg Reb% Pace
Golden State 108.7 (10) 105.6 (14) 3.1 (9) 48.9 (23) 100.17 (13)
San Antonio 106.7 (19) 103.9 (9) 2.8 (10) 50 (15) 98.35 (23)

Matchup Overview

The Warriors do have a 3-1 edge on the Spurs in the regular season, including a 6.7 net rating in those. Just one game has been decided by fewer than 14 points. The Spurs won by 14 on March 19th, a game in which Stephen Curry missed. We still can't be sure how long Curry is out, but his absence really does make a difference. The offense is 18.2 points per 100 possessions better with Curry since the break than it is without him, and the defense is also 5.4 points better. In total, Golden State is 23.5 points per 100 possessions better with Curry than without him since mid-February.

Both teams are close in net rating since the break, but Golden State's non-Curry net rating is -1.5 in that split. This may not be as cut-and-dried as it first looks. For what it's worth, the Spurs are the fourth-best team at limiting three-point attempts since the break.

MVP Watch

LaMarcus Aldridge has scored 20-plus points in all four games against Golden State, while averaging 49.6 FanDuel points and 74.7 MVP FanDuel points in those (thanks to 26.8 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.5 blocks per contest). As for the other Spurs, only Kyle Anderson also hit 20 points against the Warriors this season. Aldridge is the clear MVP candidate for the Spurs.

Since the start of the new year, Kevin Durant has a 36.3% usage rate without Curry on the floor, per NBAWowy. He also averages 1.54 FanDuel points per minute in that split. Durant has averaged 48.2 FanDuel points (72.2 MVP points) against San Antonio this season. With the elite usage without Curry, Durant stands out as a prime MVP candidate fully worth his price.

Value Plays to Monitor

Remember the fact that Kyle Anderson once scored 20 points against the Warriors this year? Well, his other outings have been pretty nice, too. Anderson has notched 20, 16, 12, and...0 points (on 2 field goal attempts in 23 minutes) against the Warriors this season. The donut came in the big win on March 19th. Anderson actually averaged 43.6 FanDuel points in his first three meetings.

Quinn Cook has averaged 0.78 FanDuel points per minute without Curry in 2018 and should remain the starting point guard for the Warriors while Curry remains sidelined.

(3) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (6) New Orleans Pelicans
Head to Head: Series tied 2-2

Since All-Star Break ORtg DRtg NetRtg Reb% Pace
Portland 107.7 (12) 102.2 (4) 5.5 (5) 52.2 (3) 99.04 (20)
New Orleans 107.7 (12) 103.0 (5) 4.7 (6) 49.6 (19) 104.23 (2)

Matchup Overview

Now this was a tight series. Portland won the point differential battle by a single point this season, and these teams look very similar in the post-break splits -- until you factor in rebounding and pace.

But we can't get too far into the analysis before mentioning that three of the games featured DeMarcus Cousins, who is out for the season. In 109 minutes with Boogie on the court, the Pels outscored the Blazers by 7.4 points per 100 possessions. Without him for 83 minutes, they were outscored by 9.8 per 100. That's a 17.2-point net shift in the sample. Cousins dominated Portland this year: 33.7 points, 13.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 2.0 blocks.

MVP Watch

As we saw in their March 27th meeting (a 107-103 Portland win over the Cousins-less Pelicans), the MVPs for these teams are Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis. In that game, Davis produced 36 points, 14 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 6 blocks (118.2 MVP points and 78.8 FanDuel points).

Lillard was close: 41 points, 9 boards, 6 assists, 4 steals (109.2 MVP FanDuel Points and 72.8 FanDuel points). Lillard actually averaged 72.6 MVP FanDuel points in his four meetings with New Orleans this season. Davis averaged 69.6, with three games alongside Cousins.

Value Plays to Monitor

Without Cousins to deal with, Jusuf Nurkic was freed up to net 46.0 FanDuel points in the March 27 meeting. He had 21 points and 10 boards to go along with 4 blocks. Over the past 15 games, Al-Farouq Aminu has averaged 31.4 minutes and 29.5 FanDuel points. With Maurice Harkless out, Evan Turner has averaged 29.9 minutes per game over the past nine contests.

For New Orleans, E'Twaun Moore has played 30.5 minutes per game in the past 15, with 10.4 shot attempts and 24.5 fantasy points per game. His hot shooting (46.4% from three-point range) will be needed, as the Blazers limit the three-point shot like few other teams in the league.

(4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (5) Utah Jazz
Head to Head: Thunder lead 3-1

Since All-Star Break ORtg DRtg NetRtg Reb% Pace
Oklahoma City 108.7 (10) 106.3 (15) 2.4 (12) 50.8 (9) 100.81 (10)
Utah 106.9 (18) 96.0 (1) 10.8 (1) 53.4 (1) 98.75 (21)

Matchup Overview

We haven't seen a Thunder-Jazz game in 2018. They played once in October and thrice in December. OKC outscored the Jazz by 39 points in their four meetings. Rudy Gobert played in just two of those games, including the win in October. Thabo Sefolosha played in all four for the Jazz, and Andre Roberson played in all four for the the Thunder. So, with so much having changed since December, we can probably throw these matchups out for the most part.

No team has had a better net rating or defensive rating than the Jazz since the break. Since the break, the Jazz also are the best playoff team at limiting three-point attempts, while the Thunder are second-worst at defending the arc.

MVP Watch

Russell Westbrook. We probably don't need much more than that, but Russ averaged a triple-double for the second straight season, which is going to become a pretty insane stat looking back a few years from now. He averaged 57.0 per game over the past 15, while taking 20.1 shot attempts. That ranks him first and third, respectively, in the NBA in that span. Even in the tough matchup against Utah, no player in this series quite has the fantasy potential that Westbrook has.

That's not to downplay Donovan Mitchell's brilliance, of course. Mitchell's 19.7 field goal attempts per game over the past 15 rank him sixth in the NBA, behind LeBron James (20.7), Damian Lillard (20.2), Westbrook (20.1), Anthony Davis (19.9), and LaMarcus Aldridge (19.9). But Mitchell just doesn't chip in the peripherals quite enough to take advantage of the multipliers. Over the past 15 games, he's averaged 4.5 boards, 4.1 assists. 1.7 steals, and 0.2 blocks.

Rudy Gobert and Ricky Rubio could be sneaky plays in the MVP slot with Westbrook being such an obvious plug-and-play. Gobert has averaged 36.6 FanDuel points in his past 15 games, including 11.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game, while Rubio has added 4.8 boards, 5.4 assists, and 1.9 steals to his 15.9 points per game. Gobert's block upside and Rubio's steal upside could add up quickly at 4.5 fantasy points apiece.

Value Plays to Monitor

Joe Ingles is about as steady as they come, and he's averaged 32.3 minutes per game over the past 15, including 31.2 FanDuel points per contest. Derrick Favors (28.0) and Jae Crowder (26.2) have played big minutes down the stretch, and each have held opponents to shooting percentages at least 5.0 points worse than their average since the break. Between Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, they could see extra minutes trying to cause problems for the Thunder's go-to options.

Corey Brewer got nicked up in the Thunder's Wednesday win but isn't expected to miss time. The Thunder have kept a tight rotation of late, so it's hard to target anyone outside their starting five.