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NBA Playoffs: DFS By the Numbers, Part I

Juan Carlos Blanco

Winner of the FSWA 2016 Newcomer of the Year Award, Juan Carlos Blanco has been playing fantasy sports for close to 20 years and covers NBA, MLB, and the NFL for Rotowire.com, including serving as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' beat writer. He has previously written for KFFL.com and remains an avid season-long and daily fantasy player in multiple sports.

Postseason rotations tend to get a lot tighter, but thereís still value to be found on each team. Ideally, those plays will match up well with specific weaknesses on the opposition. The purpose of this two-part series will be to take a bit of a deeper dive into some typically useful DFS metrics and see where there may be exploitable spots that can be attacked with modestly priced players.
Weíll begin with the four Western Conference opening-round series in Part 1 and follow up with an analysis of the Eastern Conference in Part 2:

Houston (1) vs. Minnesota (8)


Season series results: Rockets 4, Timberwolves 0

Notable Rockets areas to exploit: Third-most points in the paint allowed (48.0) on the season, including the most at home (48.8)/ highest shooting percentage (50.0) allowed to power forwards on the season.

Timberwolves value play to consider: Taj Gibson, PF

Gibsonís season stats against the Rockets Ė 8.5 points per game (on 55.6 percent shooting), 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists across 31.0 minutes -- wonít make much of a case for him in a vacuum, but thereís a bit more than what meets the eye. The veteran forward put up only 6.8 shot attempts per game versus Houston, his third-lowest figure against any team. Moreover, he logged 71.7 percent of his scoring in the paint this season, the second-highest total of his career and a number that dovetails nicely with the Rocketsí weakness in that area of the floor. Gibson also finished the regular season on a strong note, averaging 11.5 points and 7.3 rebounds across his last 10 games, and figures to be a tick more aggressive in his postseason encounters against Houston.

Notable Timberwolves metrics/areas to exploit: 10th-highest percentage of scoring from three-pointers allowed (30.4)/ fourth-highest offensive efficiency rating allowed to opposing benches (44.4).

Rockets value play to consider: Gerald Green, SF

Green shot 57.1 percent in limited playing time (12.7 minutes) across three games versus the Timberwolves this season, including 45.5 percent from distance. He also enjoyed a more extensive role post-All-Star break and averaged 16.2 points 4.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists across 27.8 minutes in his last 10 games, taking a robust 12.5 shot attempts per contest. With a secure second-unit role that could even expand slightly with Luc Mbah a Moute (shoulder) set to miss the first round and an average of 7.3 tries from three-point range this season, Green is set to exploit two of the T-Wolvesí more notable weaknesses.

Oklahoma City (4) vs. Utah (5)


Season series results: Thunder 3, Jazz 1

Notable Thunder metrics/areas to exploit: Third-highest percentage of scoring from three-pointers allowed (32.2)/ sixth-most made threes per game to small forwards (2.1)
Jazz value play to consider: Joe Ingles, SF
Ideally, the Jazz would have a shooting guard behind Donovan Mitchell that could be counted on for steady minutes, as the Thunder have been susceptible to the position all season and as noted above, also give up plenty of scoring from distance. Unfortunately, Alec Burks doesnít project to see enough minutes to warrant taking a chance on him as anything more than a very deep tournament play, but Ingles is still a player that could be had at a reasonable mid-range cost on most sites and outpaced his price on many occasions this season. He set career highs across the board in his first season as a full-time starter, including in made three-pointers (2.5) and three-point attempts (5.7), which he drained at very impressive 44.0 percent clip. Also an above-average facilitator and solid rebounder, Inglesí stat lines arenít overly scoring-dependent.

Notable Jazz metric/area to exploit: Power forward defense post-All-Star-break

Thunder value play to consider: Jerami Grant, PF

Itís no picnic trying to find a soft spot to attack for DFS purposes in the Jazz defense, but there could be something there with targeting their defense down low when Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert are on the bench. The likes of Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko arenít anywhere near as formidable, and the perpetually bargain-priced Grant is one rare productive Thunder second-unit player thatís viable for tournaments. He finished the season with five double-digit scoring efforts over his last six and averaged a solid 19.3 minutes over his last 20 games. With not much else to lean on off the bench whenever their formidable first unit needs a breather, Grant should be in for a steady allotment of playing time and a fair share of scoring and rebounding opportunities during his time on the floor.

Portland (3) vs. New Orleans (6)


Season series result: Trail Blazers 2, Pelicans 2

Notable Trail Blazers metric/area to exploit: Small forward defense without Maurice Harkless

Pelicans value play to consider: EíTwaun Moore, SF

Moore shot an impressive 51.6 percent across 29.8 minutes in four games versus the Blazers this season, and he wrapped up the season draining a blistering 61.9 percent of his shots while averaging 16.3 points over his last six games. The seven-year veteran also shot a career-high 50.8 percent on the season while playing in all 82 games and setting personal bests across the stat sheet. With the Blazers playing pretty formidable defense everywhere else, Evan Turner could serve as a path to fantasy success for Moore at what will likely remain a modest price throughout the series. Portland was notably more vulnerable to small forwards over the last 10 games (nine of which Harkless missed with his knee injury), allowing 42.9 fantasy points over that span on FantasyDraft, 43.4 on FanDuel, 64.6 on DraftKings and 31.4 on Yahoo, all numbers that were markedly higher than their season figures.

Notable Pelicans metrics/areas to exploit: Eighth-highest offensive efficiency rating allowed to power forwards (26.2)/fifth-most points in the paint allowed on the season (47.7), including third most (56.7) over the last three/ eighth-highest offensive efficiency rating allowed to opposing benches (42.6).

Trail Blazers value plays to consider: Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis, PF

Aminu averaged a solid 11.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in four games against the Pelicans this season and remains a threat for a double-double any time he takes the floor. The Pelicans have been vulnerable to the power forward position all season as the above metrics suggest, whether itís been Anthony Davis or Nikola Mirotic manning the position. While the heavy usage is going to be logged elsewhere on the Trail Blazersí offense, Aminu is always an excellent bet for a strong effort on the glass and can pile up some points with his ability to space the floor (career-high 4.9 three-point attempts and 36.9 three-point shooting percentage this season).

Davis will make for a deep tournament play only during the postseason, but given his important presence on the second unit, he should see an allotment of playing time in line with the 18.9 minutes he logged during the regular season. The veteran posted the second-best rebound total of his career (7.4) this season, including 7.9 over the last 20 games. While his offensive contributions will be limited, his ability to pile up supplemental fantasy production through boards and occasional blocks could help him pay off what figures to be near-minimum prices.

Golden State (2) vs. San Antonio (7)


Season series result: Warriors 3, Spurs 1

Notable Warriors metric/area to exploit: Sixth-most points in the paint allowed on the season (47.4), including the most over the last three (58.7)/ Fifth-fastest pace of play (102.9 possessions per game)

Spurs value play to consider: Kyle Anderson, F

Anderson has the ability to check off every box on the stat sheet, something he already proved aptly capable of doing against the Warriors this season with averages of 12.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.3 blocks across 28.3 minutes in four games. He also logged well over half his scoring (60.5 percent) in the paint this season and currently projects to draw starts at power forward, a position the Warriors also proved vulnerable against during the regular seasonís stretch run -- Golden State allowed 60.6 fantasy points on FantasyDraft, 64.2 on FanDuel and 75.4 on DraftKings the position over the final 10 games.

Notable Spurs metrics/areas to exploit: Eighth-most points in the paint allowed over last three games (50.0)/ fourth-highest shooting percentage (56.0) allowed to centers on the season.

Warriors value plays to consider: JaVale McGee and Kevon Looney, C

There arenít typically many true value plays worth considering on the Warriors, and much like the Jazz, the Spurs donít have many areas on paper that are inviting to attack for fantasy purposes. However, McGee and Looney could see decent minutes and produce with them, especially considering theyíve shown some offensive upside this season. Moreover, if the Spurs continue to demonstrate the same vulnerability to scoring near the basket they demonstrated over the final three games, McGee (80.0 percent of scoring in the paint) and Looney (76.4 percent of scoring in the paint) could both be in a position to exploit it. Zaza Pachulia could also be worthy of consideration if he begins to see some playing time, as head coach Steve Kerrís plans for his center rotation could shift on a game-to-game basis.
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