This article is part of our DraftKings NBA series.
As the playoffs continue, the available contests reduce to single-game showdowns on DraftKings, and Thursday marks the first Showdown-only slate. Rather than run down all of the various strategies associated with these contests, I recently published an article that provides general strategies and advice for these single-game contests. You can read it via this link. I suggest reading it first as it will make my methodology easier to understand.
HOU vs. LAL (-5), O/U: 220.5
(odds subject to change)
The Rockets have a 2-1 advantage in the series, and the Lakers are faltering against Houston's small-ball lineup. While James Harden and Anthony Davis are the offensive engines, the Rockets are getting help from a resurgent supporting cast, and they will play a part in our showdown build.
Showdown contests are vastly different from our traditional Classic contests. To field a successful lineup, it's necessary to locate where the value positions are, and in most cases, you're going to need two or three players that fall below the $8,333 median per-player salary. I'm going to tackle those spots first. It is also possible that one of these value players could work for your CPTN slot, which awards a multiplier of 1.5x to their original score. The CPTN spot also increases a player's salary with the same multiplier. As stated in my article, it's uncommon for the best player on the slate to man the CPTN spot due to the prohibitive salary. The goal is to get as much production from our UTIL spots as possible, and we need to make sure that the extra money added to the CPTN spot justifies the pick. Put simply, we need to assign a projection to our players and get a dollar-per-point number from all of them, so we can determine whether a particular player's elevated CPTN salary can be justified or not. If the eventual number can be absorbed elsewhere, then it probably isn't the wisest option. I feel like I'm repeating myself, so just read the article and it will explain this philosophy further! We'll begin by identifying the best values
FINDING THE VALUE
Rajon Rondo, LAL (CPTN $7,800, UTIL $5,200) vs. HOU
Rondo jumps right to the forefront as a UTIL guy and a possible CPTN candidate. The purpose of these value picks is to allow for our true elite producers, but an ancillary reason is to keep the inflated CPTN salary to a reasonable level. Even at the CPTN price, Rondo's recent production gets very close to 5x value, and he actually exceeded that in Game 3. He crushes value at his UTIL price, but I will experiment with him in the CPTN spot because the inflated salary aligns with his production.
Jeff Green, HOU (CPTN $6,900, UTIL$4,600) vs. LAL
Danuel House (personal) is listed as out for Thursday, and Green appeared to benefit from his absence in Game 3. A look at on/off court data shows that Green sees the biggest usage boost among regular contributors with House off the floor. P.J. Tucker mysteriously disappeared on Tuesday, which only encourages my belief that Green will continue to excel relative to his UTIL price. I still like Rondo as my favorite at CPTN, but Green can help keep the general build costs down.
Eric Gordon, HOU (CPTN $10,200, UTIL $6,800) vs, LAL
I wouldn't place Gordon at CPTN, but his UTIL price fits in nicely with most builds. Even with Russell Westbrook on the court, Gordon thrives at the wing and is averaging 19 points over three games against the Lakers. That total would've been much higher if he had found his shot in Game 3, but I think that line was an aberration and not a sign of a continuing trend.
By utilizing these values, we should be able to fill the remaining UTIL spots with our top guys. Interestingly enough, finding our budget picks proves to be far easier than deciding on the stars for this slate. Believe it or not, I think that based on the UTIL prices, James Harden ($12,400) might be the guy to exclude. I base this thought on Russell Westbrook's ($10,000) price, and the potential for identical production between these two players is definitely in play. I'm much more inclined to couple Westbrook with LeBron James ($12,800) or Anthony Davis ($11,600), although I would give the edge to Davis here. For James to beat value, he'd need 65 DKFP, a total he's breached only four times in his past 10 games. Davis has beaten value at about the same clip, but he leaves us sufficient room to plug in my ultimate wildcard on the slate, Robert Covington ($7,400). You can get Covington by going with James or Davis, but this leads us to another key strategy that can make the difference in your builds. LEAVE MONEY ON THE TABLE. Most players will try to squeeze every bit of value from their allotted salary, and the only way that you're going to be unique in a GPP (or a cash game, for that matter), is going in a direction that contradicts most of the field. So, don't be concerned if you leave a few thousand out there. If you're happy with your picks with extra cash available, it's a good sign that you've built a decent contrarian lineup.
To conclude, I think your most challenging choice comes down to James or Davis. Either guy will fit with the recommendations I've made, so I'm mixing and matching them with a virtually identical core.