Check out a quick breakdown of the six 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 for tonight’s action. Good luck!
Brooklyn Nets @ Cleveland Cavaliers
Line: Cavs -14
With Brook Lopez out for the Nets tonight, Brooklyn will have to take on the East’s best team without their best offensive weapon. This game could get ugly but at the very least, Thaddeus Young has a 26% usage rate with Lopez off the court this season (up from a 21% average with Lopez playing alongside him). The other guy who might see additional playing time with Lopez sidelined is Henry Sims. Sims doesn’t offer much on the offensive side of the ball but at $3K he doesn’t need to do much to reach value on Thursday night.
For the Cavs, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James typically carry the workload on the offensive side of the ball. With LeBron out last game, Kyrie had a 31-point performance in a loss to Houston. Tonight it looks like Kyrie might sit (questionable) and LeBron will see more opportunities if Irving is sidelined. Meanwhile, you have what should be a well-rested LeBron playing against a Brooklyn lineup that has no one who can stop him from getting his shots when he wants to. The fact that Thaddeus Young is out there could limit his rebound totals, which might make his third triple-double in five games harder to come by. However, he’s a reliable option on a nightly basis, so he should be easy to trust in cash games.
- LeBron James ($9,800)
- Henry Sims ($3,000)
- Thaddeus Young ($6,900)
- Kyrie Irving ($7,200)
- Kevin Love ($7,100)
Orlando Magic @ Indiana Pacers
Line: Indiana -7
Both of these teams average 101 points per game and allow somewhere right in that range to opposing offenses. Throughout the month of March the Magic’s scoring average is up to 103, and if you look at the last two weeks of March, the average is 106.
The last time these two teams played the Pacers won – 105 to 102. I think the Magic are the better offensive team here and if this game goes over 207 points, the Magic should win by a wide margin and benefit fantasy-wise as well.
The Magic put up 139 points against the Nets Tuesday night. That total might not be repeatable, but the really interesting thing is that the Magic did it with eight players scoring in double-digits, and one of them was NOT Victor Oladipo. The bench guys all got a little more run than usual with it being such a lopsided outcome, so some of the starters actually lost out on even bigger fantasy performances. Aaron Gordon only ended up with 27.5 DraftKings fantasy points (DKFP) because he only played 26 minutes, but the 9-for-11 he went from the floor really showed a lot about the kind of player he could be going forward. He can rebound and defend, fill the lane on a break, and keep the ball moving. One or two go-to moves in the post could make him legitimately terrifying to opposing coaches, a Blake Griffin 2.0.
- Paul George ($8,500)
- Victor Oladipo ($7,400)
- Aaron Gordon ($5,500)
- George Hill ($4,500)
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Chicago Bulls @ Houston Rockets
Line: Rockets -6.5
Houston, Utah and Dallas are all now in a dead heat for the last two playoff spots in the West. Houston has plenty to play for, as evidenced by their huge come-from-behind win in Cleveland on Tuesday night. James Harden is one of the most dynamic scorers in the league when he wants to be and he needs to be that guy right now. With no fewer than 48 DKFP since March 14 against Memphis, Harden has been doing whatever the Rockets need him to do to win. He’s had at least 24 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds in every game during that period. He even has 20 steals over that eight-game period, including a ridiculous 8-steal game against Utah. Clearly, he’s invested on that end of the court as well. Too bad it didn’t happen at the start of the season.
The Bulls, for their part, have gotten some pieces back and frankly, it hasn’t helped. Butler, Rose and Gasol are a very talented trio, but nevertheless, they have still lost four of their last five games, including back-to-back games dropped to the Knicks last week. In terms of fantasy production, Gasol is still the most consistent, and finds himself with a nice matchup here. He’s a walking double-double, making him a solid cash game option on any given night.
- James Harden ($10,600)
- Pau Gasol ($7,300)
- Jimmy Butler ($7,000)
- Trevor Ariza ($5,000)
Denver Nuggets @ New Orleans Pelicans
Line: Denver -6
Denver is coming off a win in Memphis last night. Tonight in New Orleans, they are continuing the road trip to another city with a basketball team ravaged by injuries. With all of the injuries the Pelicans have sustained this seaosn, they’re certainly not focused on picking up W’s but instead are looking at picking up ping-pong balls for the NBA lottery. They’ve reached a point where Dante Cunningham, a lifetime NBA bench warmer, is consistently playing 36+ minutes per game. That means you have some REALLY cheap options you can use, and although they might have limited upside, they still offer significant value on a nightly basis.
“…this could be an important game to fantasy players tonight.”
For Denver, they should be able to pick up a win against the backups of New Orleans. Most of the consistent Denver options, specifically their big men, should be in play tonight. Kenneth Faried and Nikola Jokic both are in consideration for Denver. In the backcourt, Will Barton and Emmanuel Mudiay can both be considered as high upside plays. Between those two and the cheap options on the Pelicans, this could be an important game to fantasy players tonight.
- Kenneth Faried ($5,800)
- Emmanuel Mudiay ($5,700)
- Alexis Ajinca ($3,700)
- Dante Cunningham ($3,500)
Los Angeles Clippers @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Line: OKC -8.5
The Clippers dispatched the Timberwolves last night, 99-79, and now will use Thursday night as an evening of rest. Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and JJ Redick will all sit out tonight against the Thunder. Typically, resting a team’s three best players would lead to a slew of value options but that may not be the case with the Clippers. They’re a team with one of the worst benches in all of basketball, making finding replacement value a challenge. Austin Rivers should take on most of the point guard duties and has had some upside in the past when given big playing time. Jamal Crawford has averaged 37.9 DKFP in four games with JJ Redick sidelined as well. To replace DeAndre Jordan and his 33 minutes per game, look for Cole Aldrich to see somewhere in the 25-30 minute range tonight as well.
For Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook blew up with a 25 point, 19 assist, 11 rebound performance the last time out against LAC. Durant also exploded in that game but both are risky tonight given how heavily OKC will be favored with Los Angeles benching their best players. This game could get out of hand in a hurry and while I still expect Durant and Westbrook to fill the stat sheet, their minutes might be reduced a bit which would hamper their overall production.
- Russell Westbrook ($10,500)
- Kevin Durant ($10,100)
- Jamal Crawford ($4,300)
- Cole Aldrich ($3,000)
- Austin Rivers ($3,100)
Boston Celtics @ Portland Trailblazers
Line: Portland -3
Portland is completely reliant on guards play for wins, and the Celtics are one of the best teams in the league at defending guards. Their defense has definitely dropped off somewhat without Crowder, but the Smart/Bradley combination can still just bring with it some truly devastating results for opposing point guards.
Portland’s problem here is that their greatest strength, their guards, do not fit well with the Celtics best defensive strength. Anything can happen, of course, but the last time these two teams played, Portland lost 116-93, scoring 11 points under their season average. The reliance on Lillard and McCollum is baked into their current price, so any inefficiency at all makes them a bad value proposition, no matter how much volume remains for them to work with.
The Celtics’ fourth guard who never gets mentioned as often as Thomas, Smart and Bradley – Evan Turner – should have a nice role in tonight’s action. With Crowder out, Turner’s height allows Stevens to orchestrate his usual small-ball lineups, even if in a slightly different form. He has played no fewer than 31 minutes in almost two weeks. Crowder is questionable to return tonight but if he continues to sit, Turner is a viable option.
- Isaiah Thomas ($7,700)
- C.J. McCollum ($6,900)
- Evan Turner ($5,600)
- Amir Johnson ($4,500)