Check out a quick breakdown of every game on Thursday’s bigger-than-usual eight-game 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.
|Probable||Derrick Rose (CHI), CJ Miles (IND), Hassan Whiteside (MIA), Brandon Knight (PHI), Damian Lillard (POR), Marcin Gortat (WAS)|
|Questionable||Ty Lawson (IND), Vince Carter (MEM), Kenneth Faried (DEN), Kyle Lowry (TOR)|
|Doubtful||Pau Gasol (CHI), Taj Gibson (CHI), Zach Randolph (MEM), Jerami Grant (PHI), Richaun Holmes (PHI), Robert Covington (PHI), Meyers Leonard (POR), Gordon Hayward (UTA)|
|Out||PJ Hairston (MEM), Mike Conley (MEM), Chris Andersen (MEM), Brandan Wright (MEM), Jahlil Okafor (PHI), Kent Bazemore (ATL), Ian Mahinmi (IND), Bradley Beal (WAS), Alan Anderson (WAS), Jonas Valanciunas (TOR)|
Toronto Raptors @ Indiana Pacers
Line: Pacers -2
Depending on how you look at it, there are something like five teams within arm’s length of the third spot in the Eastern Conference right now, but the Raptors have a strong hold on #2. Just 2.5 games behind Cleveland, and 6.5 in front of the current #3 Miami, they just need to keep winning the games they’re supposed to and they will have a winnable path to the Eastern Conference Finals. They are downright scary if Carroll comes back healthy for the stretch run, mainly because Lowry and DeRozan are the kind of strong, long scoring guards that can give any team fits.
Paul George doesn’t really match up with either of them, so he can’t contribute much on defense, which will leave the strength of Indiana’s D on guys like Patrick Patterson and James Johnson. In other words, this is not a great matchup for the Pacers. On the bright side though, right now Toronto doesn’t have anyone really capable of stopping Paul George and since he won’t be needed so much on defense, he can concentrate on just trying to keep up with Lowry and DeRozan on offense. That won’t be easy but if he can, it’s certainly going to help your fantasy lineups.
- Paul George ($8,400)
- Kyle Lowry ($8,200)
- DeMar DeRozan ($7,800)
- Monta Ellis ($6,000)
Washington Wizards @ Philadelphia 76ers
Line: Wizards -9.5
With no Okafor, the 76ers are relying on Noel for their interior presence, and he doesn’t have the offensive skills to create the kind of inside-out game that can help create open looks. They also now don’t have the kind of finisher to really help a penetrating guard like Ish Smith pad his stats, as he makes repeated forays into the lane. Instead, you have seen more scoring from the starting PG, which is great for his fantasy value, but terrible for the efficiency of the team as a whole.
In Washington, there is no one to really take advantage of Okafor’s absence, as Gortat is also potentially out (he missed last nights’ game against Chicago). But with or without Gortat, I expect this offense tonight to really be driven by Wall, Beal and, to a lesser extent, Otto Porter. Wall can score on anyone but when he sees favorable matchups in the backcourt, he tends not to take over himself so much, instead preferring to take the opportunity to build his teammates’ confidence. If you want the Washington PG (coming off a triple-double in last night’s win over Chicago) in your lineup, the best thing to root for is a close game, because if Philly sticks around, eventually Wall will start to take over and against these defenders, he’s more than capable.
- John Wall ($9,800)
- Nerlens Noel ($6,700)
- Ish Smith ($6,400)
- Markieff Morris ($5,000)
Charlotte Hornets @ Miami Heat
Line: Heat -3.5
For most of the year, the Heat were the worst kind of team for fantasy purposes – they played slow, limiting their own fantasy production and their opponents’, plus, they spread what fantasy production they did have across a bunch of different players. And to top it all off, they played really strong defense, further impacting the opposition. Well they still play solid defense but there has been a noticeable shift in almost everything else on that list. They are still averaging only 98.9 points on the year, despite averaging over 101 for the entire month of February and putting up points at a ridiculous 113/game clip so far in March (6-2 record this month with no fewer than 103 points in any game and three games with 118 or more). Goran Dragic has been the biggest beneficiary of (or maybe the reason for) this surge in offensive production, with his fantasy scoring average up more than 6 points per game over the past six weeks compared to his season-long average.
“He has the post moves to get into a defender like Whiteside’s head”
For Charlotte, as usual, it’s all about Batum and Walker. Those two provide the offensive firepower for the team and with the way this Heat team can lock down guards on defense (2nd vs. PG and 5th vs. SG), I would not be surprised to see a Heat victory in this game and by more than 3 or 4 points. And while the prospects for those two against Miami might not be as bad as they were a month ago from a fantasy perspective, just because the Heat don’t slow the game down as much anymore, it would still be hard to imagine either of them dramatically outperforming their price against one of the best defenses in the league. I would like to see some of that pressure removed by featuring Big Al in the post here. He has the post moves to get into a defender like Whiteside’s head and if he could slow Whiteside’s help D just a second, he could help to open things up for everyone on the floor.
- Nicolas Batum ($7,200)
- Dwyane Wade ($7,000)
- Goran Dragic ($6,500)
- Al Jefferson ($4,500)
Denver Nuggets @ Atlanta Hawks
Line: Hawks -7.5
The Nuggets are 5-4 since losing Gallinari to an ankle injury at the end of February, but they have still put 110 or more points in every game. This line is expecting them to come in at more like 100 flat. Gallinari has been one of their primary offensive weapons all year long, so expecting a slow-down is natural but his absence has left a pretty big hole on the wing, one Denver has filled in part with some extra minutes for Will Barton and Gary Harris. Meaning, they are floating a much smaller lineup than they’re used to for portions of games. This seems to allow them to push the pace even more than they have all season long and I would be surprised to see this game ending up low-scoring.
For Atlanta, most obvious plays do make sense here, as Millsap has the size inside to be able to get clean looks all night long. He does have Faried to contend with on the boards, which could limit his ultimate upside, but if he gets you 20 or more real points here, which he should, he’ll make for a nice value at this price. He is someone I could easily trust in a cash game. For more of a flyer, you could go with a guy like Bazemore, who, with Gallinari out will be matched up with someone either a good bit bigger or smaller than he is, so he might be able to exploit those mismatches to get to double-digits in scoring. When that happens he provides a good value as well, because he always brings some stats from enough other categories to create value. The last time he scored in double digits, it was 13 points against Toronto last week, and he ended up with 31.5 DraftKings Fantasy Points (DKFP) – 13 points, 8 rebounds, an assist, two blocks and a steal.
- Paul Millsap ($7,700)
- Jeff Teague ($6,000)
- Will Barton ($5,300)
- Gary Harris ($5,200)
Brooklyn Nets @ Chicago Bulls
Line: Bulls -6
The Bulls managed a win against Toronto on Monday of this week and then lost by 20 to the Wizards last night. If you look at the win as a blueprint, it’s clear why they won: four starters in double-digits in terms of scoring, plus a monster 29-point effort out of Doug McDermott off the bench. Last night they had four in double-digits, including only two starters. But if you’re a Bulls fan and want some good news, here it is: Rose and Butler BOTH played last night, and played well, and McDermott followed up that monster game with another solid performance (20 points on 6-10 shooting, including 3-6 for three). If he is going to keep getting 30+ minutes a night (averaging 34 over the last two games), then his price tag represents a serious bargain. Rose and Butler should be able to penetrate at will again in this one, and that should leave a spot-up shooter with plenty of open looks yet again.
It should be an interesting matchup, if not all that exciting, in part due to the Nets’ backcourt being so heavily outmanned. Because, for their part, the Nets should have the obvious advantage down low with Gasol and Noah out. Lopez should be primed for a monster rebounding game – if he can score a little too, he could be one of the best plays of the night. The concern for both him and Young would be that the Nets may not be able to even manage to get the ball up the court and into their sets against Chicago’s on-the-ball defense, but Lopez is an obvious double-double candidate, even in the worst case scenario.
- Brook Lopez ($8,100)
- Jimmy Butler ($8,100)
- Thaddeus Young ($7,300)
- Doug McDermott ($3,800)
Memphis Grizzlies @ Milwaukee Bucks
Line: Bucks -10.5
The Grizzlies had nine players active last night and all of them played. Just in case you were curious how they even managed to get a complete team on the floor, here you go: JaMychal Green, Matt Barnes, Tony Allen, Lance Stephenson, and Briante Weber all played 30+ minutes. Ryan Hollins and Jarell Martin manned the interior, both logging over 20 minutes. And that is about it. They had all five starters and seven total players score in double-digits, as they spread the opportunities around but the best games by far were out of Stephenson (24-11-7) and Green (18-10-3). Weber ran point and finished with 12 points, 3 boards, 4 assists, a block, and a steal. Sometimes a team like this is a fantasy goldmine, with plenty of cheap options getting more chances than they probably deserve.
Sitting at ten games under .500, the Bucks have had a disappointing season. They have a bunch of players who might have fit more seamlessly into a gameplan 30 years ago than today, without enough shooting to compete on a night-to-night basis. With Carter-Williams out, Bayless has turned into a useful option for fantasy purposes, averaging just about 24 DKFP a night, with upside in the mid-30’s, not bad at his price. But if there is one real bright side for this team, it’s that Giannis is proving to be a building block-type piece, shooting woes aside, now averaging 20 points, ten boards, and 8 assists since the All-Star break.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo ($9,400)
- JaMychal Green ($5,900)
- Tony Allen ($5,000)
- Jerryd Bayless ($4,400)
Portland Trailblazers @ San Antonio Spurs
Line: Spurs -11.5
The combination of this line and total tells you that Vegas is expecting Portland to score something like 96 or 97 points, a good bit below their season average of 104. And why not? It’s not just that the Spurs are a good defensive team, it’s that they are the BEST defense against point guards and the second best against shooting guards in the entire league. They pressure ball handlers and get out on shooters and have the rim protectors they need if and when a guard gets penetration. And since the Blazers rely almost entirely on their guards for all of their offensive production, predicting a dramatically underwhelming performance makes perfect sense. If I was going to trust anyone here, it’s Lillard – he is talented enough to overcome the brilliant D. I might not expect his best game of the year, but the Blazers aren’t going to get shut out.
“If I was going to trust anyone here, it’s Lillard – he is talented enough to overcome the brilliant D”
For the Spurs, the most obvious play here is Aldridge. These two teams have played each other twice, over the course of three days back in November. The Spurs won both, led by Aldridge the first time (23 points) and by Kawhi the second time (19 points and nine boards). These are the guys who will need to step up again here, but against this frontcourt, there is no reason to expect that they wouldn’t.
- Damian Lillard ($8,900)
- Kawhi Leonard ($8,300)
- LaMarcus Aldridge ($7,200)
- Mason Plumlee ($3,800)
Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz
Line: Jazz -10
After losing 17 in a row, the Suns have now won four out of their last nine games. I mean, I know 4-5 over nine games is not overly impressive, but it’s certainly an improvement for this team right now. And they’ve gotten back Brandon Knight, who has immediately stepped into the role of primary option on offense and rightfully so. That being said, he did shoot 3-for-18 from the floor Monday against the Timberwolves, so apparently, it’s going to take a little bit of time for him to knock off all the rust. But tonight would be a good night for that to happen, as Devin Booker, the man who took over most of the scoring while Knight and Bledsoe were both out, is facing the #1 rated team against shooting guards in terms of fantasy points allowed.
Utah’s primary goal here is going to be to slow this game down. And since they are the better team and playing at home, I would expect them to be able to exert their will on this game in a big way. Offensively, this works for Utah, as they can feed Hayward (if he plays) and Favors and just let them get their own shots at will. But by forcing the Suns into half-court sets repeatedly, they will create a situation where there is nothing for Phoenix to do but run iso plays for their two guards and hope they can either score themselves or create an open shooter on the perimeter with penetration. That’s not a sustainable game plan and it’s not one that’s likely to help your fantasy team much either. But this game plan should help Alex Len, a guy who has shown serious improvement over the last few weeks. He is averaging 31 DKFP per game over the last ten days, up from 21 for the whole year, so a game flow that keeps these teams in half-court sets could make him a very popular pick.
- Derrick Favors ($7,400)
- Gordon Hayward ($6,900)
- Brandon Knight ($6,700)
- Alex Len ($6,500)