Check out a quick breakdown of every game on Thursday’s NBA slate. We’ll take a look at the Vegas lines and totals, recent trends, and a few players you can be targeting for tonight’s action.
Toronto Raptors @ Charlotte Hornets
Line: Hornets -1.5
The lowest-scoring game on the board according to Vegas, there should still be some useful fantasy production here if you know where to look. You’ve got a bunch of guys missing time here to keep in mind: Al Jefferson is suspended, Valanciunas is still dealing with his hand injury, DeMarre Carroll is still sidelined with his banged up knee, and now Nicolas Batum is looking like he could miss after leaving last night’s game early with some kind of illness.
The injuries to the big men means that players like Bismarck Biyombo and Frank Kaminsky are getting more run, and therefore could have value, maybe. But be warned, for these guys, the fantasy points don’t happen automatically just because they’re out there. I like a good box-out as much as the next guy, but it doesn’t help your fantasy team’s bottom line much.
If Batum definitely misses again, the biggest beneficiary looks to be Jeremy Lamb. He’s already having a nice season, and when Batum left last night, he saw a bump in minutes that gave him as much PT as he’s had all month. Other than that, the missing production will fall in large part to the usual suspects: Kyle Lowry and Kemba Walker. Already two of the most productive players in this matchup, they are shouldering even more of the load than usual right now. Lowry had 29 fantasy points against the Pacers a few days ago, but that was his only game under 30 fantasy points since mid-November. Walker is getting double-digit shot attempts every night, averaging a career-high 18 points per game, and has only had fewer than 30 fantasy points once in December. I expect more of the same from both of these players tonight.
– Kyle Lowry ($8,500)
– Kemba Walker ($7,200)
– Jeremy Lamb ($4,300)
– Jeremy Lin ($4,200)
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Cleveland Cavaliers
Line: Cavs -3
For a minute, it looked like the story of the week was coming in the game of the night on Thursday, but Kyrie negated it, confirming that he is not yet set to make his return to action. But this remains the game of the night, with three of the four highest-priced players on the board facing off against each other. For OKC, Durant and Westbrook have both been playing extremely well lately, which really means Durant has been a little more effective than usual, and Westbrook, a little less. For the past two weeks, you’re getting right around 50 fantasy points per game from each of them.
For Cleveland, we’ve got some more time with cheap options who can help us fill out our rosters – guys like Dellavedova and J.R. Smith. As a fantasy player, I am not sure whether I’d prefer the one expensive option or the two cheap ones – because when Kyrie does finally return, he will eat up all the upside in the Cleveland backcourt. But I think we know which one Cavs fans would prefer.
– Kevin Durant ($10,100)
– LeBron James ($9,900)
– J.R. Smith ($4,900)
– Tristan Thompson ($4,800)
Houston Rockets @ Los Angeles Lakers
Line: Rockets -6
Even if the Sixers have been reasserting their hold on worst team in the league status, you know the Lakers are in rough shape themselves when it’s a sign of improvement that they have two wins in December so far.
As for fantasy options in LA, it’s really just Kobe and Julius Randle, although D’Angelo Russell showed something with Jordan Clarkson missing some time. Russell has 40+ fantasy points in two of their last three games, making Lakers fans wish they were seeing more usage out of him than, generally speaking, they have all season. But all the shots he wants are heading Kobe’s way, and recently, he has demonstrated that his upside still exists as well, with 35 or more fantasy points in three of five (including 50 against Houston just five days ago). Sometimes the shots can still fall, I guess.
In Houston, there has been a bunch of drama, or at least perceived drama, around Dwight Howard potentially getting traded because of his feelings, but for anyone who just likes watching hoops, the real story has been Harden. Ever since he scored only ten points (all his team needed) in a win over Brooklyn, he has been averaging over 30 per game on better than 50% shooting. It’s news when Kobe shoots 50% from the floor once.
– James Harden ($10,800)
– Dwight Howard ($7,000)
– Kobe Bryant ($6,100)
– Julius Randle ($6,000)