For the first time since 2010, the NBA Finals will not have household names such as Stephen Curry or LeBron James competing for the Larry O’Brien trophy. The NBA is hungry to place a superstar on a pedestal so it should come as no surprise that much media emphasis will be placed on Chris Paul tonight who is playing in his first NBA Finals after 16 seasons in the league, 11 of which he has been an NBA All-Star. His ownership could be through the roof, especially in the champion spot. That is why Khris Middleton is the guy we must build our lineups around, with Giannis Antetokounmpo listed as questionable for Game 1 this evening.
Low-Multiplier Building Block
Khris Middleton (1.1x // 1.65x) –
Middleton has been nothing short of superb during Giannis Antetokounmpo’s recent two-game absence when the Bucks finished off the Hawks en route to its first Eastern Conference Finals (ECF) Championship in 47 years. When Giannis was off the floor during the 2020 – 2021 regular season, Middleton’s usage rate increased from 25.1% to 32%. That usage rate experienced a similar boost for the 2018 – 2019 and 2019 – 2020 regular seasons (an increase from 25.8% to 32.8%).
The result is at least a 15% increase in fantasy points per minute (FPM). This season, Middelton’s FPM jumped from 1.13 to 1.30 when Giannis was off the floor and the FPM boost was similar for the previous two seasons (increase from 1.10 FPM to 1.27 FPM). When you consider the fact that Middleton played at least 40 minutes and attempted at least 20 field goals when Giannis missed Games 5 and 6 in the ECF, we should expect another great game from Middleton with Giannis most likely being inactive for a 3rd straight contest. Needless to say, the Bucks lean heavily on Middleton when Giannis is not playing and there is no reason why the Bucks won’t do the same tonight in Phoenix.
P.J. Tucker (2.6x // 3.9x) –
There are three reasons why we need to play Tucker tonight: (1) High multiplier/minutes, (2) Correlation with Middleton, and (3) Expectation of a close game. No other probable starter for Game 1 has a multiplier even remotely close to Tucker with Mikal Bridges being the closest at 1.65x.
Starters for most playoff teams have been playing at least 35 minutes per game during this year’s NBA postseason and that has been true for Tucker, especially during the ECF. None of the other high multiplier options have come close to cracking 20 minutes for any game during the playoffs.
Furthermore, if we are expecting a strong showing from Middleton, then we should grab players who have a positive correlation with him when comparing SuperDraft fantasy points. For every game this postseason, Tucker’s correlation coefficient with Middleton is 0.31 and it improved 0.35 during the ECF.
Lastly, Tucker’s SuperDraft fantasy points improve by at least 200% when the Bucks stay competitive (loss of no more than 10 points or any margin of victory). No one else for both the Suns and Bucks have experienced such a boost based on point differential and tonight’s NBA Finals is expected to be close based on the Vegas spread.
DeAndre Ayton (1.25x // 1.9x) –
Ayton had a great series against the Clippers but the games where Ayton shined were when the Clippers missed a high number of field goals and three-pointers. Ayton’s best game in the WCF was Game 4 when the Clippers converted just 32.5% of its field-goal attempts and missed 26 out of 31 three-point attempts. Ayton had 22 rebounds in that game and of course, those boards add up when the opposition can’t make its buckets.
There were two games in the Western Conference Finals (WCF) when Ayton failed to reach double digits in rebounds: Game 1 when the Clippers shot 45.5% from the field and 42.6% from behind the arc and Game 3 when the Suns lost by 14 points due to 45.1% field goal accuracy from the Clippers. The Bucks have shot the ball well lately so if the shots keep falling for Middleton and company, there won’t be many fantasy scoring opportunities for Ayton.
Keep a close eye on Giannis’s status for Game 1 since he has been upgraded from doubtful to questionable. Nonetheless, Middleton has thrived even when Giannis plays and the Bucks supporting cast will step up for their injured star.
This article expresses the personal views of the writer and does not reflect the view(s) of SuperDraft in any way.