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NBA Playoff Best Ball Strategy (4/5)

NBA Fantasy

It’s officially NBA playoff best ball season. With season-long best ball contests in their finals (using this space to brag once again that I’ve got four entries of the 186 making up the “Small Ball” final, although none are looking too hot), it’s time to get back to drafting. In this weekly article leading up to the playoffs in mid-April, I will discuss any developing trends, ADP shifts and strategies that I’m using in my own drafts. Draft season is the best season, so saddle up at Underdog Fantasy and if you’re a first-time depositor you can get a deposit match bonus up to $100 with promo code FTN!


April 5 Update

Playoff Targets

In our first strategy article, we discussed some build strategies for the NBA playoff best ball contests. Today I want to talk about how playoff outlooks have shifted over the past week of games and any new targets we may have, especially relative to ADP. As I said last week, this season’s playoff drafts have been much tougher through the first few weeks of drafting compared to the same weeks last year. The unbelievable parity in the Western conference, where there is still just a four and a half game gap between the fifth seed and the 11th, has made it risky to be drafting with high volume. But now that we have just two or three games left for each team, and have some additional storylines that have emerged, it’s easier to take some strong stands heading into the final week of drafts.

Like last week’s update, there are a few notable changes to how we should be approaching these teams, and for the second week in a row I want to start by talking about the Lakers. LeBron James returned about 10 days ago and the Lakers have won four straight, vaulting themselves into the seventh seed and tied record-wise with their crosstown foes. In fact, Wednesday’s Lakers/Clippers matchup is likely the most important regular season game to date. It was reported late Tuesday night that the big names for the Lakers are uncertain to play Wednesday evening, and I just don’t see them sitting out. A win gets them into the top six, and they control their own destiny in doing so. Win out and you’re in. For our best ball purposes, we at least know now that the Lakers will not miss the play-in and are extremely close to securing a spot in the postseason without needing to compete in the play-in tournament at all. I would keep drafting them with confidence. LA has been a top five team defensively over the last fifteen games and are shaping up to be a nightmare matchup for whichever team is unlucky enough to draw them in the first round. Keep an eye on the game tonight, a Lakers win should mean a berth in the top six out West. 

On the other side of that game, we have the Clippers. While Paul George remains sidelined, the Clips did welcome back Norman Powell to the mix last week. If they’re able to pull off the win against the Lakers tonight it would go a long way to securing their spot in the top six considering their two remaining games are against Portland and a likely resting Phoenix on the final day of the season. If they win tonight, I will feel a lot better about my shares of Kawhi Leonard in drafts, and you should consider grabbing some Clipper values like Leonard, or even Paul George (who is questionable at best to return in the first round) if he falls to the last two rounds of your draft. A Clippers first round matchup against a team like Sacramento could provide tournament-winning value.


We did finally see some movement on the mysterious Andrew Wiggins situation, and the Warriors say they now expect him to be back for the playoffs. As my highest owned player in playoff best ball at the moment, I couldn’t be happier to hear this news (and of course on a real life note, glad to see he is nearing a return from his personal issues). You can still grab Wiggins in the final round of drafts and if you believe at all in the Warriors ability to get through multiple playoff rounds, he should be a priority target for you late. I’m fine to reach for him a few rounds earlier over the likes of Mikal Bridges, Bruce Brown and even “better” players who should be out earlier than Golden State like Anthony Edwards or Brandon Ingram.

We still haven’t spoken much about the Eastern Conference outside of my contender stack targets we discussed two weeks ago, and my Eastern Conference late-round one-offs from last week. For what it’s worth, all of those players are now at least guaranteed to make the play-in tournament after Orlando’s loss on Tuesday, so my thinking on that list of players has not changed.

Another note I would have on the playoffs drafts as a whole is to keep an eye on the matchups that are most likely to occur and try to avoid drafting players from both sides of that matchup. It’s a simple piece of advice that you probably didn’t need me to tell you, but things can get hectic when you’re on the clock in the draft room, so there’s no shame in keeping the standings up in a separate tab while you’re drafting! At the time of this writing, we’re pretty much locked into Cleveland and New York in the East for the four vs five matchup. In the West we don’t really have any matchups set in stone yet, but that will change quickly once we see the results of the 24 NBA games set to take place between now and the end of Friday. Keep a keen eye on the happenings in the standings as we roll towards the final day of the season on Sunday.

My Top 10 Most Drafted Players in Playoff Contests 

(As of April 5)

With each strategy article, I will give an update on who my top exposures are. I expect these to shift significantly by the next update as I continue to draft, especially with the nightly results so heavily impacting the playoff picture this season. As always, feel free to reach out to me in the FTN Discord or on Twitter @KawhisenbergDFS for questions on best ball.

Andrew Wiggins
Nikola Jokic
James Harden
Jamal Murray
Kawhi Leonard
LeBron James
Desmond Bane
Tobias Harris
Aaron Gordon
Bobby Portis

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