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NBA Playoffs: 4 Teams Battle for One Spot in Western Conference

NBA Playoffs: 4 Teams Battle for One Spot in Western Conference
Steven Toroni March 23, 2018 9:34PM EDT
There are approximately 10 games (give or take) remaining in the NBA season and it is an all-out war for the eighth seed in the NBA playoffs in the Western Conference.  The Timberwolves, Jazz, Clippers, and Nuggets are all within 2.5 games of each other with only two of them making the postseason.

Minnesota is currently at the seventh spot and Utah is at eight as both teams entered Friday’s play with a record of 41-31. The Timberwolves have been fighting for their playoff lives ever since Jimmy Butler went down with a torn meniscus and have dropped from the fourth to seventh seed since his injury. With the recent dominant play by the Trail Blazers, Pelicans and Spurs, the Timberwolves are in danger of missing the NBA playoffs.

Ownership of the players on the four teams jostling for the one position in the NBA playoffs should be noted for both season-long and for DFS participants. Minutes for the premier players on these teams will not be restricted as teams make their final push.

Minnesota Timberwolves

A huge win against the Clippers on Tuesday allowed the Timberwolves to clinch their first .500 season since 2004-2005. Karl Anthony-Towns played 40 minutes on Tuesday and scored 30 points to go along with nine rebounds, two steals, and a block. He has been dominant all season, averaging 46.4 Fantasy Points Per Game in Yahoo leagues, good enough for 11th overall. Towns is a value on DraftKings at $9,800 but is a little pricier on FanDuel at $10,600. If he is playing 40 minutes a night, he should be played in all DFS formats. Be aware of the matchup as Tom Thibodeau will be more likely to use his star sparingly if the Timberwolves get up to a big lead against a non-playoff team.

While Fantasy players were clamoring for Andrew Wiggins production to improve with Butler out, his role has stayed the same. Wiggins’ role is to score as he is averaging 18.1 PPG for the season and 21 PPG in the last 30 days. Unfortunately, scoring is where Wiggins’ contributions end for Fantasy owners.  
Jeff Teague, on the other hand, has stepped up tremendously. While his play was disappointing leading up to the All-Star break, Teague has been reliable for owners since Butler’s injury. In the past month, Teague has averaged 18 points, 4.2 rebounds, 7.2 assists, two steals, and 1.4 3-pointers made per game while averaging 33 minutes per night. During this last push, Teague should be put into starting lineups and he presents value on DFS as he is only $7,300 on DraftKings and $7,400 on FanDuel.

Jamal Crawford is also an interesting piece. His minutes have gone up to over 26 per game over the last two weeks, including 33 minutes played against the Clippers where he scored 20 points. He is worth a look in DFS as he is a playable asset at $4,000 on both FanDuel and DraftKings. Crawford handles the ball a lot, which adds to his value for Fantasy. Now that the Timberwolves are in a must-win mentality, Crawford could continue to see his playing time increase.

Utah Jazz

The Jazz are 9-1 in their last 10 games. Rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell probably is not receiving as much credit as he deserves for leading the Jazz to this point in the season. He would be the clear runaway for Rookie of the Year if not for the season that Ben Simmons has put together in Philadelphia. However, Mitchell has put his team in a position to make it to the postseason in the brutal Western Conference.  His 28.5 percent Usage Rate is 21st in the NBA and is second among rookies (Dennis Smith Jr of the Mavericks is at 28.6 percent). Mitchell provides Fantasy value in all categories and is averaging 2.4 3’s made in the last month. He is a must-start in season-long formats and is cheap in DFS at only $7,000 on DraftKings and $7,500 on FanDuel.

Joe Ingles is repeating his trend of last season in which he started out as irrelevant in terms of Fantasy before working his way into lineups and providing great value in DFS. This season is no different for Ingles as he has averaged 36.6 FPPG in the last month, which is good enough for 42nd overall in Yahoo leagues. He is only owned in 68 percent of said leagues and is certainly worth an add if he is still available. Ingles is playing 33 MPG and providing 14 points, five rebounds, and six assists per contest while adding 2.6 three-pointers made. One of the intricate parts of the Jazz recent success- look for Utah to keep Ingles minutes up as they try and keep their playoff chances alive.

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets are sixth in the league with 109.8 points per game, scoring a combined 276 points in their last two games. More points equal more Fantasy points, so Nuggets players should be put into lineups in all formats. Paul Millsap is now back to be paired up with Nikola Jokic who is peaking at a crucial time in the season for Denver. This frontcourt, combined with Wilson Chandler, Will Barton, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris. cannot be glossed over when analyzing the most talented teams in the NBA.

Unfortunately for Denver, Gary Harris has been hurt but could return as early as Monday against the 76ers (according to Gina Mizell of the Denver Post). This would be the best-case scenario, but it is worth noting that Denver will play at the Raptors on Tuesday, which may sway the Nuggets to wait until then to ease Harris back in the lineup. Since Harris’ absence, Devin Harris has had sneaky-good Fantasy production. In 26 minutes against the Heat on Monday, he posted 13 points and nine assists and followed that with 14 points and five assists against Chicago on Wednesday. At only $4,000 on DraftKings and $4,300 on FanDuel. he is the perfect cheap play that can be relied on while Gary Harris is out.

The rest of the Nuggets mentioned above are must-plays in season-long for the rest of the season, but Millsap provides the best DFS value as he is only $7,000 on FanDuel and $6,600 on DraftKings. His price will only go up, making the former All-Star viable asset to DFS lineups.

Los Angeles Clippers

Like the other teams vying for the seventh and eighth spots, the Clippers have condensed their rotation to about seven guys on a nightly basis. This squad has overachieved since trading former franchise player Blake Griffin as they have gone 13-9 during that time. DeAndre Jordan has returned to All-Star form and is averaging 14 points, 17 rebounds, one steal, and over one block per game over the past month. These numbers have transitioned to 42.6 FPPG in Yahoo leagues which checks out to 20th overall during that span.

It has been apparent that the new-look Clippers will live and die by Austin Rivers and his Papa Doc is giving him the opportunity to help decide LA’s fate. In the last month, Rivers is averaging over 35 MPG and has been able to provide owners with 31.2 FPPG. He is only 62 percent owned in Yahoo season leagues and is certainly worth adding with the increased playing time. $6,000 on DraftKings and $6,100 on FanDuel give Rivers the chance to return value as he has 50-plus point upside in his current role.

Karl-Anthony Towns Photo Credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

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