After a huge night of fantasy basketball on Wednesday, the NBA is back in action with a solid three-game slate this Thursday. The Bulls, Wizards, Lakers and Blazers are playing their first game of the season, while the 76ers are playing their second game after losing to Boston on Tuesday and the Heat are finishing a back-to-back.
As you search through those six teams for the best fantasy plays tonight, take a good look at these studs and values that appear primed for success.
StudDamian Lillard, POR vs. LAL, $8,600 — Lillard and the Blazers host LeBron’s team debut to tip off both team’s season. Lillard always seems to rise to these kinds of big games and always seems to torment the Lakers. Last season, he averaged over 50 DKFP against Los Angeles, and he is expected to be the focus of the Blazers’ offense again this year. The plan is for Lillard to play off the ball more, and the early returns have been positive that the switch could boost his scoring even more.
Other Options — John Wall ($8,200), Goran Dragic ($6,000)
ValueLonzo Ball, LAL at POR, $5,400 — Ball and Rajon Rondo ($5,800) will share time at PG this season, and Rondo is expected to open the year in the starting lineup while Ball finishes recovering from offseason knee surgery. Ball looked good in the preseason and should get plenty of work with the starting unit. It will be fascinating to see his role with LeBron James ($10,800) and Rondo now in the rotation, but the Lakers still know that Ball is their PG of the future, meaning he should still get plenty of minutes and opportunities.
Other Options — Lance Stephenson ($4,000), Cameron Payne ($3,600)
StudBradley Beal, WAS vs. MIA, $6,800 — Beal has looked sharp all preseason and is ready to partner with John Wall ($8,200) to form one of the best backcourts in the NBA. While Wall battled injury last season, Beal played all 82 games for the Wizards, setting career-highs with 36.3 minutes and 4.5 assists and averaging 22.7 points. The Heat are banged up and playing for the second night in a row, so Beal and the Wizards should be more energized than Miami in this matchup.
Other Options — Kris Dunn ($6,600), Josh Richardson ($6,200)
ValueJosh Hart, LAL at POR, $4,300 — Hart had a great offseason, winning the MVP of the Summer League (for what that’s worth) and excelling throughout the preseason. Hart could get the start over Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($4,800), but he should get enough run to return value at this cheap salary even if he’s coming off the bench.
Other Options — Austin Rivers ($4,400), Rodney McGruder ($3,900)
StudBen Simmons, PHI vs. CHI, $9,500 — Simmons started the season with a huge game on Tuesday, leading all players with 61.75 DKFP on 19 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals and a pair of blocks. Last season, he faced the Bulls three times and averaged 62.4 DKFP. He’s definitely not assured to reach 60, but it’s also definitely within the realm of possibility. Simmons looked great in the opener, and he will be a player to consider every time he’s on a short slate like this due to his multi-faceted production.
Other Option — Brandon Ingram ($6,500)
ValueJustin Holiday, CHI at PHI, $4,300 — Holiday is expected to start for the Bulls in Philadelphia after the team decided to bring Jabari Parker ($5,200) off the bench as part of their second unit. Holiday could also be lined up for extra run, depending on the availability of Denzel Valentine ($4,300), who is dealing with a knee injury. He had an odd year last year, sitting out a lot of games, but he was effective when he played, producing 24 DKFP on 12.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 31.5 minutes per game.
Other Options — Dario Saric ($5,500), Jabari Parker ($5,200)
StudLeBron James, LAL at POR, $10,800 — James will make his Lakers debut at the Moda Center against the Blazers, who he averaged 61.3 DKFP against in two meetings last season. James will try to go big in his first game with his new team and produces across every stat when he’s at his best. He’s actually affordable under $11K, so try to work his salary into your lineup if you can.
ValueMarkieff Morris, WAS vs. MIA, $5,000 — With Dwight Howard ($5,900) dealing with a lower-back issue and uncertain to play and possibly limited if he is active, Morris could slide over to play center as part of a small-ball look for the Wizards. He excelled in the role this preseason collecting good boards and also attempting plenty of three-pointers. He usually is a boom-or-bust play, but he should be a solid option to start the season.
Other Options — Kyle Kuzma ($5,500), Zach Collins ($3,600)
StudJoel Embiid, PHI vs. CHI, $9,700 — Embiid had 44 DKFP in the season opener with a solid 23-point, 10-rebound double-double against the Celtics. In the best news, he played 36 minutes and looked fully healthy. He’s a great option in another outstanding matchup against the Bulls, and definitely someone to build your lineup around.
Other Option — Hassan Whiteside ($7,000)
ValueWendell Carter Jr., CHI at PHI, $4,200 — Carter is expected to start opposite Embiid as he makes his NBA debut after the Bulls made him the No. 7 overall pick in the draft. Carter is only 19, but he has gotten rave reviews from coach Fred Hoiberg for both his defense and his ability to run the floor. Carter is a nice cheap option to help you afford some of the bigger salaries on the board.
Other Options — JaVale McGee ($4,500), Amir Johnson ($3,400)
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Z.Thompson) 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.