Check out a quick breakdown of all five 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.
Note: Be sure to follow injury news throughout the day for the latest updates.
|Probable||Jimmy Butler (CHI), Jordan Hill (IND)|
|Doubtful||Ryan Anderson (NO), Kyle Singler (OKC)|
|Out||Anthony Davis (NO), Norris Cole (NO), E'Twaun Moore (CHI), Meyers Leonard (POR), Jrue Holiday (NO), Pau Gasol (CHI)|
Editor’s Note (6:25 PM ET): Jrue Holiday is OUT tonight. The Pelicans will be without their five best players (Holiday, Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson) and there are some huge question marks here. Toney Douglas ($5,100) gets a boost and should be the primary ball handler tonight. Tim Frazier ($3,700) and Luke Babbitt ($4,000) will also stand to benefit and both have been putting up quality fantasy numbers over the past week or so.
*Editor’s Note (6:30 PM ET):*Cristiano Felicio will get the start tonight in place of Pau Gasol. It’s unclear how many minutes he will see, but at $3,000, he’s a great value. Look for Nikola Mirotic to see an increased usage rate as well, as he tries to build on his 49.0 DKFP performance last night. Taj Gibson will likely see an increase role as well. Without Pau Gasol in the lineup, Gibson averages 4 more fantasy points per game.
New Orleans Pelicans @ Indiana Pacers
Line: Pacers -13
With the news that Davis was shutting it down for the rest of the season and beyond (no Olympics this summer, and a 5 month total recovery time from two different surgeries), the Pelicans’ chances on any given night took a dramatic turn for the worse. And when you combine that with Ryan Anderson working on his third straight missed game tonight, all of a sudden the entire composition of their lineups has to change, putting the focus on entirely new pieces in the system. They have so many injuries, you have to search to find the guys actually getting the minutes, but on the bright side, they’re cheap. A player like Toney Douglas, averaging just 18 minutes per game on the year, suddenly finds himself averaging 30 over the past week, an opportunity he has turned into a 31 DKFP per game scoring overage over the same stretch.
For the Pacers, try not to overthink it: there is no one to guard Paul George. That means two things: a big game for Paul George and great opportunities for the Pacers’ shooters (think George Hill and Monta Ellis). George is exactly the kind of player to use his size and penetration ability to collapse a defense and then find the open man, exactly the kind of play that gets shooters like these two the handful of wide open looks they need to boost their confidence (and fantasy totals!).
- Paul George ($8,500)
- Monta Ellis ($6,100)
- Toney Douglas ($5,100)
- Ian Mahinmi ($4,800)
- Luke Babbitt ($4,000)
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Brooklyn Nets
Line: Cavs -8
The Nets have been playing better during the second half than anyone really expected of them, but despite their total of 19 wins on the year so far, they are on a three game losing streak at the moment, with the #1 team in the East coming to town. Eight points is low enough that it seems like they are getting some kind of Twitter drama discount. I mean, we are talking about the Cavs, who are the 9th highest scoring team in the league, and also give up the third fewest. They have a six-point point differential against the average of all teams, so it is hard to imagine why they would only be favored by two points more than that against Brooklyn.
“Over their last five games, he is averaging just over 35 DKFP per game, producing in all categories”
This is especially true with the strength of Cleveland’s defense being up front, perfectly poised to seriously diminish the effectiveness of the Nets’ best weapons, Lopez and Young. But the real story of the Nets over the last few weeks, though, is Bojan Bogdanovic. When the Nets parted ways with Joe Johnson, a few more opportunities became available, and Bojan jumped all over them. Over their last five games, he is averaging just over 35 DKFP per game, producing in all categories. And while Cleveland’s defense against the SG spot is good on paper, that’s partly because of pacing, and that pace is already built into Bogdanovic’s price (because Brooklyn is already every bit as slow as Cleveland). Bogdanovic is a big guy, fully capable of getting his shot against all of Cleveland’s defenders, short of LeBron, and with James often playing as the second biggest guy out there for Cleveland, his attention might be focused on Thaddeus Young instead.
Offensively, this could set up as a Kyrie game, as Brooklyn’s backcourt is simply not equipped to deal with someone with his level of explosive athleticism. We have seen Kyrie carry the team in spurts when they don’t necessarily need a coordinated effort to win, and that’s exactly the case with this Nets team. With the Cavs defense, a game plan that simply allows Kyrie to abuse the mismatches he will naturally create in the backcourt could be simple to execute and highly effective.
- LeBron James ($9,200)
- Brook Lopez ($7,300)
- Kyrie Irving ($6,800)
- Bojan Bogdanovic ($5,500)
Chicago Bulls @ New York Knicks
Line: Bulls -4.5
This game will be night two of a home-and-home series that saw the Knicks break serve with a win in Chicago last night, 115-107. In order for that to work out, Kristaps Porzingis had the best game of an already-stellar rookie season, going off for 29 points and 10 boards. He was 3-for-6 from downtown, 4-for-6 from the stripe, and, in general, was a huge pain for the Bulls defense. He opened up the floor for everyone around him, and allowed the Knicks to go for 17 points over their season average against a team that’s in the top half of the league in terms of limiting their opponents’ scoring.
Suffice it to say, though, that if Porzingis played like this every night, this team would be averaging at least a half-dozen more PPG than they are now. And, for practical purposes, what this all means is that while the matchup hasn’t changed, and you can expect Porzingis to play well again, anticipating another performance like this one would be foolish. And if his production goes down, it doesn’t mean someone else is going to step up to replace it, it means the Knicks just aren’t putting up another 115 points. You can still expect a solid scoring night from Carmelo, who chipped in with 24 points last night. Melo will have no issue getting to his spots against defenders like McDermott, and he is still big enough to get his shot off over someone like Butler.
The best performances for the Bulls last night were from Derrick Rose, and then a totally unexpected 35 point outburst from Mirotic. But as great as that performance was, it still led to a pretty lopsided loss, so you can expect the Bulls to want the production mix shaken up a bit for tonight’s game. Gasol, basically as a direct result of Mirotic’s performance, had only 4 points in 25 minutes, and his presence around the rim might have been more of a deterrent to Porzingis, had he been out there and playing more effectively. I would expect the Bulls to try to make that happen this time around.
- Carmelo Anthony ($8,000)
- Pau Gasol ($7,600)
- Jimmy Butler ($7,200)
- Kristaps Porzingis ($5,400)
Utah Jazz @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Line: OKC -9.5
The Thunder did not take part in last night’s big evening of NBA action, but the Jazz did, barely coming away with a two point win over the Rockets, 89-87. The Thunder might be the second-highest scoring team in the league, but the Rockets come in only a little bit worse, at #4. If the Jazz had this total every night, they wouldn’t have gone over in any of their last five games, and in their three games against OKC this year, the totals were exactly 200, only 184, and then 202 (and that one took OT). The regulation game that got to exactly 200 was a 111-89 Thunder win, and that’s exactly how you would except this game to go, too – with big nights from Durant and Westbrook.
With the Thunder’s ability to throw Kanter and Ibaka out there to counter Utah’s size (and Favors in particular – no more than 14 points in those three meetings), it’s not likely that the Jazz would ever be able to put up a big number on offense here – so they’re either going to keep it close and the game will go stay low scoring, or they’ll lose by double-digits. Hayward has been their top performer in each of the three games they’ve faced the Thunder so far this year, and he is only averaging exactly 20 PPG over that set of games. In the game in which they forced OT, they needed Burks and Hood to each contribute more than 20 points.
“Westbrook is almost averaging a triple-double, with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists over those same 3 contests”
Either way, the guys doing the damage on the OKC side will be the usual suspects. In some matchups you can predict reasonably well which one of the two Thunder stars are more likely to have the really big night. In some other matchups, it’s harder to tell, and then there are the matchups with the teams like the Jazz, where the expectation is that they will both do well. In their three meetings this year, almost all of OKC’s production has been consolidated in these two guys, a good remedy for the slower pace Utah helps create: Durant is averaging just over 26 points per game in their three games against each other, and Westbrook is almost averaging a triple-double, with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists over those same 3 contests.
- Russell Westbrook ($10,300)
- Kevin Durant ($9,900)
- Gordon Hayward ($6,700)
- Rodney Hood ($5,100)
Portland Trailblazers @ Los Angeles Clippers
Line: Clippers -5
Both of these teams went at it last night, with the Blazers earning a tough 109-103 win over Dallas and with the Clippers falling once again to the Warriors, 114-98. DeAndre Jordan had a monster night, finishing with 19 points and 20 boards, and there is no reason to think he won’t follow that up with an equally dominant performance in this one. Jordan’s issues have always been usage-related – can he make enough free throws to stay on the floor, how badly did he annoy his coach this week, that sort of thing.
But right now, the Clippers don’t have anyone else, so he is staying out of the floor, and to his credit, he is putting up the huge numbers to go along with the bigger role. That’s certainly going to be the case against Portland, whose only effective strategy here would be to try to get Jordan off the floor by using small-ball to make him a defensive liability – with the Clippers roster construction the way it is now, though, they won’t care – they will just keep putting him out there and counter the mismatches being created by L.A. with mismatches of their own on the other end. When you look at his efficiency rating you can see why that role isn’t always there, but for now, you just ride the production and stop overthinking it.
In the Portland win last night, Lillard – you guessed it – led the way with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. As good as Chris Paul is, he doesn’t have the combination of size and quickness anymore that you need to be able to fight through screens and contest every shot from these elite shooters. Now, Redick does – so if you’re expecting Redick on McCollum (which I am), McCollum might not be the best play. But that only means even more looks for Lillard, making him one of my favorite plays on the board tonight.
- Chris Paul ($9,500)
- Damian Lillard ($9,000)
- DeAndre Jordan ($7,700)
- J.J. Redick ($4,900)