This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
DFS action for Monday's two-game semifinal slate tips off at 7:30 p.m. EDT, and although the big injury question in the player pool seems to be answered, you may want to keep a close eye on Joel Embiid's status, especially if you take some of our pivot advice. My Sunday column reaped huge benefits by singling out Stephen Curry -- let's see if we can hit paydirt again tonight.
The projected total for PHO/DEN far outpaces the other game with a 227.5 o/u, which is no surprise considering the syrupy-slow pace of the Sixers this season.
PHI Joel Embiid (knee) - DOUBTFUL
It's looking less likely that Embiid will make it for Game 1. Paul Reed ($6,000) will start but is a little expensive for this spot, and I'm more likely to look at other Philly scorers as pivots if this injury holds. Reed will still be immensely popular, however.
Barring any major injuries, we typically reach a tipping point in the playoffs where the best players are almost prohibitively expensive and progressively less likely to match value as the postseason wears on. At a certain point, you have to throw value determinations out the window and take minute edges where you can find them. We are at or near that threshold now. One edge that is a little more defined is the Embiid issue, which is why I favor James Harden ($9,000) and Tyrese Maxey ($7,500) tonight. Even with an active Embiid, there's a massive differential between these two players and the five-digit behemoths at the top, but it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that these two need to produce for Philly to succeed.
The lack of center talent available puts Nikola Jokic ($11,500) more in play than his other counterparts at the top, especially given how Devin Booker ($10,200) and Kevin Durant ($10,100) fared against Denver in Game 1. I would still take Durant's salary for Game 2 of this series. Jamal Murray ($9,200) is a bit expensive but he was brilliant in the Game 1 win, and he's shown the ability to pop above 50 FDFPs consistently enough to warrant some exposure.
Finally, Jaylen Brown ($8,400) is at his usual undervalued salary and is just as valuable as he's been all season. He's a less expensive, Tatum-less way to get involved in Boston's offense.
EXPECTED CHALK AND VALUE PLAYS
Aaron Gordon, DEN ($6,300) vs. PHO
Guys like Michael Porter ($6,800) and Deandre Ayton ($6,700) played so far below 5x value in Game 1 that I can barely stomach using them, but Gordon is certainly at a salary I can handle. While his ceiling is a little underwhelming, he has a very steady floor that won't hurt. So far, the Suns have not accounted for him and he got less attention than Porter did from Phoenix's defense.
Al Horford, PHI ($6,100) @ BOS
You usually have a judgment call between Horford and Robert Williams, but the decision has been a bit easier in the postseason. Horford's dual eligibility and solid floor have been the way to go, and although Williams could torpedo you, he's limited by his center-only designation. Granted, the field is going to pound on Paul Reed tonight, and you could use Horford or Williams at center to get unique, but I think Horford is a bit more valuable at power forward.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, DEN ($4,200) vs. PHO
Even though KCP could struggle to hit 5x value even at this low salary, I think there's cause to include him in our endorsements as a cash-saving alternative. I wish FanDuel would add SF to his eligibility, and he's somewhat capped by an SG-only designation, but he was able to beat 5x value at this salary throughout the playoffs. We only need 17 FDFPs for him to be viable, and he has the shot to bring his result well north of that.
Everyone has their eyes on Reed, but what about McDaniels and Niang? They are both super cheap and are bound to see some increase if Embiid sits as expected. Montrezl Harrell is too risky for me, but I will probably experiment and swap the other two in and out throughout my builds. It's important to understand the reason to take this route beyond Embiid's absence, which is the ability to get a third elite in your lineup.