The rival No. 6-seed Philadelphia 76ers and No. 3-seed Boston Celtics will meet in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, with Game 1 in the bubble on Monday evening. Here’s a look at some potential targets for the showdown slate, which will last the entire series!
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The 76ers limp into this series, not only without Ben Simmons (knee) but with Joel Embiid ($10,600) suffering hand and ankle injuries over his past three appearances in the bubble. Embiid has played just 43 total minutes since Aug. 7, which is the game in which Simmons got injured. There’s only one way Philly can have a chance to win this series and it’s to get dominant performances out on their big man. Embiid put up one monster 38-13-6 line against Boston this season, so we know he has it in him. He also scored 15 and nine points in the other two matchups, so there’s bust potential. But as the team with a clear go-to-guy, Embiid has an element of safety on this showdown slate and is fairly priced.
Tobias Harris ($9,000) is a crucial piece to the 76ers in this series, having to pick up some of the slack left by Simmons. He’s done so recently in limited minutes — 41.5 DKFP in 25 minutes against the Raptors and 35.75 DKFP in 24 minutes against the Rockets. Of course, neither of those games mattered, so take those stats with a grain of salt. I’d still prefer to play similarly priced Celtics over Harris but he did average over 37 DKFP against Boston in four regular season games. He could be a solid pivot play off the Boston side and will be heavily relied on.
No Simmons, who was a PF in the rotation when he was injured, means more Al Horford ($8,200), going against the team he left last summer in free agency. I actually think Horford is the better play compared to Harris here. Harris’ scoring upside is great but Boston’s weakness is size on the interior. With the bigs focused on limiting Embiid, it could open up some extra production for the former Celtic. Horford averaged 31 DKFP in 30 minutes per game against the C’s this season.
Josh Richardson ($6,600) and Shake Milton ($5,800) are both fine options if you want or need a mid-priced play on the Philly side. But neither benefit too much from the Simmons injury and are a bit more expensive than I’d prefer.
Three value plays jump out on the 76ers’ side of this slate. Alec Burks ($4,600) has taken on a significantly larger role since Simmons went out of the lineup. He’s scored at least 29 DKFP in each of the past four games, which includes the outing in which Simmons got injured. He’s averaging over 35 DKFP in his past two contests, playing 25 minutes per game.
Matisse Thybulle ($3,800) is a prospect the 76ers love, and he slots in well for Simmons in this specific matchup. Thybulle’s strength is perimeter defense, which Philly will be in desperate need of against all of Boston’s talented wings. That means more minutes for the rookie, which generally translates to more production. In the three games Thybulle was featured since Simmons’ injury, he played 33, 29 and 30 minutes.
Finally, Furkan Korkmaz ($1,400) is probably the more egregiously underpriced Sixer. Korkmaz will pick up some of those minutes on the wing and spaces the floor with his shooting. He dropped 38.75 DKFP against the Raptors two games ago and you can’t really lose when rostering him for this cheap.
The Celtics’ side of the picture has a few different paths you can take. The most popular should be Jayson Tatum ($9,400), who is Boston’s best overall player. Tatum finished the seeding round playing fantastic, with 53.25 DKFP against the Magic and 41 DKFP in just 29 minutes against the Grizzlies. He averaged 37.4 DKFP against the 76ers this season and is the most stable option of Boston’s trio of wings.
However, don’t sleep on Jaylen Brown ($8,600) or Gordon Hayward ($8,400) — both of whom have stepped up in the bubble. Brown clearly worked on his shooting during his time off, leaving him a much more dangerous weapon off the ball. He struggled against the 76ers’ size in the regular season, averaging just 25.1 DKFP but those numbers don’t concern me. I think the adjustments to his game leave the potential for a high ceiling.
Hayward also played poorly against Philly this season, averaging 25.5 DKFP. My only concern with rostering him is that Kemba Walker ($7,600) will finally be unrestricted, which takes away some of Hayward’s time on the ball to become a playmaker. But then you look at Hayward’s game log and realize he’s playing his best basketball since becoming a member of the Celtics and recovering from his gruesome leg injury. This began before the shutdown, averaging 50 DKFP in his final two games and he continued his strong play in the bubble — four games with 35-plus DKFP, including 52.25 DKFP against Orlando.
You’re going to be playing at least one Boston wing and potentially a second depending on how heavily you roster the Philly side. But I’m not willing to fade Walker as Boston’s fourth-most expensive option. Kemba was limited when bubble play began, slowly ramping up his minutes in preparation for this postseason run. Kemba has yet to go off in the bubble but never played the minutes he needed to. He averaged over 33 DKFP against the 76ers this season and should be back in his featured role.
The C’s will be tightening up the rotation, which means a lot of minutes for someone like Marcus Smart ($7,000) when one of the wings needs a breather but no real options beyond him. Smart isn’t cheap, so it’s tough to justify rostering him at this point, although the upside can be there.
Daniel Theis ($6,200) has a big role in this series covering Embiid but that doesn’t mean great things for his fantasy value. He only averaged 16.6 DKFP against the 76ers this season, so at his price he’ll be a fade. But I think Boston will throw different bodies at Embiid and go to other talented bigs that we can roster for much cheaper.
This could turn into a series we actually see some minutes from The Time Lord, who’s the only minimum-priced play on the Celtics. Robert Williams ($1,000) finally saw some minutes in the bubble and earned at least 15 DKFP in all the games in which he played 11 or more minutes. That includes 35 DKFP in 19 minutes against the Nets. While I don’t expect that kind of output again, he could see time covering Embiid. And when the C’s need offense from the paint, Enes Kanter ($2,000) is their guy. Kanter can be an extremely efficient scorer and rebounder in limited minutes off the bench, which his salary incorporates.
I don’t see the 76ers stealing this series, with so much more talent on the perimeter for Boston, along with the clear coaching advantage. The only nod I can give to the 76ers is that Joel Embiid ($15,900 CP) makes for a solid captain play, as he should be the offensive focal point for 40 minutes per game, which nobody else in the game can claim.
Final Series Score: Philadephia 1, Boston 4
Favorite Prop Bet For Game 1
Gordon Hayward OVER 26.5 Points, Rebounds, Assists (-110)
My only hesitation is that a few extra minutes for Kemba takes away a couple chances for Hayward to get some assists but given the way Gordon is playing in the bubble, I think the number here is fair. He went over this number in five of his seven games in the bubble and had 25 in one of the misses, plus in the other miss he didn’t play late in a blowout over the Raptors.
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