Check out a quick breakdown of all four games 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 from each of them. Good luck!
Atlanta Hawks @ Toronto Raptors
Line: Raptors -4
Despite being without one of their best players in DeMarre Carroll since January, the Raptors are in 2nd place in the East, only two games behind Cleveland, and a solid 7 games in front of the fifth place Hawks. They’re doing it partly because of their depth with guys like Cory Joseph and Terrence Ross stepping up off the bench. But mainly they’re doing it because of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan is a scorer at heart, and always has been, but at this point in his career, he is doing it with a purpose. He is getting to the line more than ten times a game lately, shooting almost 50% from the floor, and… he’s not even usually the best guy on the floor. Lowry is averaging over 21 points, six assists and two steals per night, with almost five rebounds thrown in for good measure. Both of these guys can be great options in any format contest, with high floors and high ceilings.
For Atlanta, the problem with this game is that their strengths on offense are Toronto’s strengths on defense. And their defense is strong, giving up the fifth fewest points per game in the league. Millsap and Horford are the engine that makes this offense work, and the Raptors have the personnel to counter. These two teams have three games left this season and it looks like Toronto is a bad matchup on paper for the Hawks. These final three matchups could make moving up the standings a significant challenge for Atlanta.
- DeMar DeRozan ($7,500)
- Al Horford ($6,800)
- Jonas Valanciunas ($5,300)
- Kent Bazemore ($5,000)
Chicago Bulls @ San Antonio Spurs
Line: Spurs -14.5
Two of the better defensive teams in the league facing off against each other doesn’t usually lend itself to very many fantasy points. On Chicago’s side of the ball, you’ve had two developments recently that have impacted the decisions you’ve been making for your fantasy lineups. First, the injuries: most notably Jimmy Butler, but also Joakim Noah – both have created opportunities for lesser bench players. All of a sudden you had a cheaper option or two available to you, and while the upside wasn’t there, sometimes a cheap option is more valuable than a pricier upside play. Then, you have had Derrick Rose, stepping up his game in a big way since Butler went down, but continuing to deal with all kinds of injury concerns to the point that he’s been as much a frustration as a bonus.
Even though Rose is playing again (and has been playing well), and guys like E’Twaun Moore and Taj Gibson are still seeing elevated minutes, does any of that really matter against San Antonio? If you wouldn’t be likely to trust Jimmy Butler and Noah, there is no reason to trust their replacements, even if they are a lot cheaper. Gasol will be facing one of the tougher defenses out there, and he is probably still the best option – at least you know he’ll get fed.
“For San Antonio, as usual, it’s pick your poison.”
For San Antonio, as usual, it’s pick your poison. The points are going to come from somewhere, the defense and the ball movement are going to be the real story, and you are likely to realize once again that it is the team where their actual ability has the smallest possible correlation to their collective fantasy value. They are so efficient that there is basically a straight-line correlation between minutes and production. Tony Parker is supposed to play tonight after missing Tuesday – so do you trust him or Patty Mills more? Tim Duncan has a great matchup on paper, but his shot attempts over the past two weeks have ranged from 2 to 11. Basically, there is no one on this team you can trust in a cash game, and Leonard and Aldridge are always upside plays, no matter who the matchup is. If forced to choose one of them for tonight, for the money, it would be Kawhi, who could have his way with the depleted Bulls backcourt without having to focus too much on defense.
- Kawhi Leonard ($8,400)
- Pau Gasol ($8,300)
- LaMarcus Aldridge ($7,100)
- Derrick Rose ($6,300)
Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets
Line: Denver -7.5
You have to love it when the highest total on the board doesn’t have a single player who costs even as much as $7,000 (unless Knight is actually back on the floor). There was some talk that Knight would be back last night, but he wasn’t. He might be back tonight – who knows? One way or the other, it will be soon, and it will be impossible to trust him right away.
If you decide to run out a few less expensive Phoenix options, your hope, really, is that if he turns up on the court, he doesn’t take away all the production from the guys who have been carrying the team for the past several weeks. One guy who could definitely benefit in the short-term though, is Devin Booker, who went off for 32 points last night. As long as he is keeping the starting job, his potential might actually increase falling from the first to the second option, because even if his opportunities drop some, the defensive attention on him will drop more.
“It is the perfect matchup for the Nuggets…”
Denver is getting a team that just got throttled by the Knicks on the second night of a back-to-back, who might be without their starting point guard (so they’ll either be depleted or in transition). It is the perfect matchup for the Nuggets, squaring off against a team that will let them push the pace and take shots they like. I love Denver’s perimeter players in this matchup – guys like Mudiay, Will Barton and Gary Harris each have a chance to be a contributor to your fantasy team at the right price. And in the middle, Faried should have his way; Phoenix certainly doesn’t have the kind of size or athleticism up front they would need to keep him off the boards, and at his price, an obvious chance at a double-double is enough to make a good value.
- Kenneth Faried ($6,700)
- Emmanuel Mudiay ($6,500)
- Devin Booker ($5,600)
- P.J. Tucker ($4,200)
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Los Angeles Lakers
Line: Cavs -9.5
This combination of the line and total is expecting both teams to go well over their season averages in scoring. The Cavs, you look at their players for obvious reasons, namely that the Lakers can’t play any defense at all. But the Lakers? Why would they exceed their season average by 3 or 4 points against the team that has given up the third fewest in the league for the season? Well, let me just tell you. They are averaging 97.9 ppg for the year. However, they averaged 106.1 in February and are at 102 so far in March. And remember, the season total INCLUDES those numbers, so imagine how bad they were before (actually, don’t imagine: they averaged fewer than 95 ppg in November, for example).
What has changed? Mainly, it’s the play of Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell. While that might not be enough to tip the scales in this game, it’s got to be encouraging for Lakers fans. Since the All-Star Game, Russell is averaging almost 20-5-3, not too shabby for a rookie. Combine that with the 15 points and 11 rebounds from Randle over the same time frame and you’ve got yourself a nice core.
There have been rumors of some drama surrounding the Cavs lately, but they’re still in first in the East. And for good reason – they are the most talented team in the East. A team led by Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, OR LeBron James would be able to take out the Lakers right now. Future potential aside, they are the three best players involved in this game, so they will definitely be tough to fade. Based on the matchup, it probably makes more sense to trust LeBron than anyone, especially in a cash contest, but I can certainly see Kyrie wanting to put the rookie in his place a time or two – either one of them could be the piece that puts you over the top in a bigger tourney.
- LeBron James ($9,800)
- Kyrie Irving ($7,700)
- D’Angelo Russell ($7,200)
- Julius Randle ($6,400)