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Fantasy Basketball Picks: Top DraftKings NBA DFS Lineup Strategy for Lakers vs. Nuggets Showdown on September 26

Matt LaMarca preps you for Saturday’s 9 p.m. ET contest for Game 5 between the Lakers and Nuggets with game-script analysis and Captain’s Picks.

NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday’s NBA slate features Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and Nuggets at 9 p.m. ET. The Lakers are just one win away from a trip to the NBA Finals and they’ll have three opportunities to secure that victory. The Lakers are looking to make their 32nd appearance in the finals since 1947 – by far the most in the league – while LeBron will be looking to make his 10th trip with his third different team.

That said, the Nuggets have the Lakers right where they want them if their previous two series are any indication. Denver overcame 3-1 series deficits in each of the first two rounds and the Nuggets will try to make it three in a row. They’ve already become the first team in NBA history to overcome two 3-1 deficits, so they have already made some history in that department.

Let’s take a look at some of the showdown options for Game 5 to get your lineup started.

(NOTE: All salaries are in the utility spot unless otherwise indicated.)

Set your DraftKings lineup here: NBA Showdown $600K Shootaround [$150K to 1st] (DEN vs LAL)


Showdown Strategy

Los Angeles Lakers (109.75 implied points)

Any analysis of the Lakers has to start with their dynamic duo of LeBron James ($12,200) and Anthony Davis ($11,800). The two players combined for 60 points in Game 4 and have generally been excellent fantasy assets during the postseason.

Let’s start with James. He recorded a triple-double in Game 3 of this series and fell just one rebound and two assists shy of duplicating that performance in Game 4. That said, he still finished with a very respectable 49.75 DKFP.

What makes that performance even more impressive is that he didn’t even score the ball particularly well in that contest. He shot just 7-of-18 from the field, which is well below his usual field goal percentage. He shot 55.6% over his first three games vs. the Nuggets in this series, so he could be due for some positive regression in that category today.

As for Davis, scoring the ball is basically all that he’s been able to do recently. He’s averaged just 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists over his past two games, which is crazy low for him. Davis had averaged 10.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in the playoffs prior to those two contests, so there’s no reason to expect him to continue to struggle on the boards in particular.

If he can pick up his production in the peripheral categories, he could be looking at a monster fantasy day. The Nuggets have simply not been able to stop him from scoring and he was 10-of-15 from the field and 13-of-14 from the free-throw line in Game 4. You could argue that his ceiling is actually slightly higher than LeBron’s despite the fact that he’s a little bit cheaper.

Both players were in the optimal showdown lineup for Game 4 despite relatively pedestrian performances, so both players obviously deserve heavy consideration today.

After James and Davis, things get a bit questionable for the Lakers. Rajon Rondo ($8,000) is L.A.’s only other player priced above $5,400 and he simply doesn’t play enough to have a ton of relevance at his current price tag. He’s been a solid fantasy producer during the playoffs – he has scored at least 26.25 DKFP in six of his past eight games – but we need more production now that he’s been priced up. I’m fine with fading him in Game 5.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($5,400) has been playing the most minutes on the Lakers outside of Davis and James but he doesn’t exactly possess the biggest ceiling. He has scored between 15.0 and 22.0 DKFP in six of his past seven games, but that’s not exactly what we’re looking for at $5,400. He’s a bit too expensive for me.

Dwight Howard ($4,200) and Alex Caruso ($3,600) stand out as the preferred value options for the Lakers. Howard is coming off a monster performance in Game 4, finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds over 22.6 minutes. It resulted in 30.75 DKFP, which made him easily the best pure value on the slate. The Nuggets’ big men have struggled with his size and physicality, so expect him to continue to play a solid handful of minutes.

Caruso is coming off back-to-back subpar games but he remains an important part of the Lakers’ rotation. He should play somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-24 minutes and Caruso is one of the better producers on a per-minute basis in this price range.


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Denver Nuggets (104.75 implied points)

The Nuggets have their own “big two” of Nikola Jokic ($11,600) and Jamal Murray ($10,000) and both players should carry massive workloads in a potential elimination game.

Jokic has not been at his best in this series. He has struggled vs. guys like Davis and Howard, resulting in 45.5 DKFP or fewer in three of his first four games. That’s simply not going to get the job done at his current salary.

That said, Jokic is obviously capable of going off in any matchup. He’s one of the best passing big men in the history of basketball and he’s capable of pulling down big rebound totals as well. He’s my least favorite target among the four studs in this contest, but he’s by no means an easy fade.

With Jokic struggling, Murray has been asked to carry the load offensively. He’s done an admirable job, averaging 26.5 points per game on 54.4% shooting from the field. Murray is known as a dead-eye three-point shooter, but he’s actually struggled a bit in that department. He’s making just 36.0 of his three-point attempts in this series, so he has even more scoring upside if he can make a few additional threes in Game 5.

One big development from Game 4 was that the Lakers chose to put LeBron on Murray defensively at the end of the game. LeBron has, unsurprisingly, put the clamps on Murray, limiting him to just 1-of-6 shooting while serving as his primary defender. If the Lakers choose to employ that matchup a bit more in Game 5, it could spell some trouble for Murray from a fantasy perspective.

In the midrange, Jerami Grant ($6,600) is tough to ignore given his sheer volume of playing time. He’s coming off 42.8 minutes in Game 4 and he’s scored at least 22.0 DKFP in back-to-back games. He’s shown a ceiling of more than 35 DKFP in this series, which gives him a solid ceiling at his current salary.

Monte Morris ($3,800), Gary Harris ($3,400), and Torrey Craig ($2,800) round out the Nuggets’ rotation. Harris is the safest bet for minutes, but he’s posted 11.5 DKFP or fewer in each of the first four games of this series. Morris and Craig have been in the optimal Showdown lineup in each of the past two games, so they obviously have the potential to do it again today.


The Outcome

Stars-and-scrubs seems like the preferred strategy for Game 5, as it has been for most of this series. I like the idea of locking three of the big four studs in this contest into your lineup, possibly with one at the captain spot. After that, it’s simply surrounding those players with the correct cheap players. Howard stands out as the clear preferred option in that department, but there are plenty of options to choose from.

The Verdict: Lakers 111, Nuggets 102

Set your DraftKings lineup here: NBA Showdown $600K Shootaround [$150K to 1st] (DEN vs LAL)


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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is mlamarca) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.

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