We only have a three game slate for Thursday NBA DFS action and the totals are pointing us in the direction of some obvious plays. The Charlotte/Toronto game is the lowest expected total on the day at only 196 with the matchup between Cleveland and Oklahoma City at 203 and the game between the Rockets and Lakers the high total of 213. All three games are expected to be competitive with 6 points in the nightcap being the largest spread on the day. Let’s take a look at some of the best targets for Thursday’s action.
Russell Westbrook ($10300) – I only really see two high priced players I would pay up for tonight and Westbrook is one of them. This should be a close game and he has the better matchup of the two stars on the Thunder. Durant will likely be guarding by Lebron and Westbrook will see some combination of Mo Williams and Matthew Dellavedova defense. Cleveland is a good defensive unit as a whole, but their point guard defense has never been a strength. Westbrook is an athletic freak who is a blur with the ball in his hands. He is also a threat for a triple double everytime he steps out on the floor. If this game stays close, I expect to see a lot of minutes and a high usage rate out of him here. All those things rolled together make him an excellent play. The Kemba and Lowry matchup is not one I want either side of, so if you spend up at PG on Thursday, Westy is the option to look at.
D’Angelo Russell ($5400) – Russell has really started to up his game lately. He has gone 5.5 times value in 5 of his last 8 and reached 7X twice and 9X once during that stretch. His shot attempts have almost doubled in his recent starts and the steals and assist numbers have begun to climb as well. The threat of Patrick Beverley defense will scare some away, but that has not been a problem for as many others as you would think. Beverley is indeed a great defensive player, but the pace the Rockets play at has still allowed opposing point guards to shine. We already said we do not like Kemba, Lowry, or the pair of Cleveland point men, so that only leaves the Lakers backcourt guys and Beverley to consider here on a small slate. All three have seen the price rise and Beverley is the only one that has not put up the 30 fantasy points he would need in order to make value.
Lou Williams ($5200) – The other guy who will see some Beverley and Harden D is Lou Williams. Williams is a gunner and has the ability to heat up and put up numbers. Williams is playing 30+ minutes and has put up 4.5X or better in eight straight games. Many of those have seen him reach the 5 and 6X plateau as well, so he has been a sneaky god value that is often overlooked. Jordan Clarkson is back from his injury now, but Williams minutes were unaffected last time out anyway. His price is creeping up, but there is still a good chance he can go for 5X and be a useful piece of a winning team on a slate with limited options.
James Harden ($10800) – Harden plays in the highest total game and is the highest usage player on the team favored to win it. That alone makes him a viable option to pay up for. He should easily be the top scorer at the position and by a pretty wide margin. The Real question you have to ask yourself on a small slate like this is whether or not you HAVE to pay up for him. We have Westbrrok, Harden, Durant, and Lebron as the top options to pay up for and since they play different positions, we need to look deeper into the analysis. It’s not only about which of those stars we like best, but which group of alternative options beneath them we like the least. If you are comfortable with some of the cheap PG options, then you can successfully fade Westbrook for one or two of the other three. If you hate Harden and like some of the cheaper options, then it would not make sense to pay up for him. Doing these comparisons is something I usually save until the end of lineup construction when I like both guys a little bit. The real question though should be which one can you pair with a better option in order to maximize your total points.
Kobe Bryant ($6100) – Kobe is one of the better plays on the night at any position. I was a big Kobe fan, but definitely not lately. Just when people were ready to dig his grave, he comes back and has 5.5X or better in 6 of his last nine games. He has done it by doing the little things and playing a more all around game. His shots are down, but his points are not. His rebounding and assist numbers have ticked up too. He has played a few less minutes, but produced more with what he has. At $6100, he makes a lot of sense to use in your lineups and might even be the best value on the day at the shooting guard spot.
J.R. Smith ($4900) – JR smith is just a little too cheap for a guy who sees huge minutes. He has been fighting through an illness and it has taken a toll on his production despite not really changing his minutes played. His price has dropped due to the lack of production lately and now he seems like one of the best buy low candidates we have on the slate. You will need to save somewhere in order to fit in the studs. You can do worse then taking a gunner who plays 35 minutes a game if you are looking for a cheap option with upside.
Jordan Clarkson ($5300) – Another guy who missed a few games and saw his price drop is Jordan Clarkson.The price drop is what really has me interested in him here. At $5300, we need about 26 points to make value and 30 to be a solid play in any game type. Clarkson definitely has the ability to do that and more in this one. He will likely see some James Harden defense which we all know is not going to scare anybody here. Clarkson can easily get to 30 fantasy points in this high paced matchup and that would make him another option to be the top value play on this slate.
Nicolas Batum ($7500) – Batum is one of the better options at one of the weakest positions on this slate. It’s not that I do not like Durant and Lebron, but I do not like the matchup against each other at the price. That leaves only two options that I would even think to consider here. Batum is coming off one of his worst games of the season last night. He was in foul trouble, played under 20 minutes and never really got anything going. I think that will only help keep more people off of him here today. He has raised his assist and rebounding numbers with Al Jefferson out. He is scoring less real life points, but is doing a much better job of scoring fantasy points over the last week or so.
Editor’s Note: Batum is now listed as ‘Questionable’ for tonight’s game. Be sure to check the updated injury news prior to tonight’s games.
Trevor Ariza ($5700) – I have never been a huge fan of the revenge game narrative, but Ariza is in that spot here. The real reason I like him today is the fact he will see a lot of Kobe Bryant defense in this one. In the last few high paced games that stayed close we have seen him put up an average of 6X or better. At a price tag of $5700, he gives you the best bang for your bucks of the top options at the position. I do not really see anyone below him I would feel comfortable telling anyone to use for daily fantasy purposes on Thursday and we already discussed the drawbacks of using some of the players above him. Ariza is in the salary sweet spot where he can get you the best value number at the price and still allow you to pay up for guys like Westbrook and Harden who profile as better options on the high end to pay up for.
Julius Randle ($6000) – As tough as it was to find small forwards to play, we at least have some big names there that can put up some nice fantasy scores. At power forward, the top scorer on the day is likely to be Kevin Love, but his price is not friendly enough to fit into a roster and expect a huge score out of. Therefore it makes sense to pay up at the guard spots and try to go cheap at forward on this slate. Julius Randle is the guy who may allow us to do that. He has double doubles in 7 of his last 10 games, despite the fact Byron Scott is using him for only about 25 minutes a game. I do not understand the reasoning for the Larry Nance Jr. experience we are seeing, but I do not understand many of the moves coach Byron Scott is making right now. The point of this is that Randle is the most likely top value play of the non puntish type players we have available. Many shy away from him because he is not the starter, but he can produce big numbers when he gets the minutes he deserves. At only $6000, there is really no reason not to take a chance on the youngster with upside on such a small slate. He could be the key to victory tomorrow as long as coach Scott let’s him get some run.
Donatas Motiejunas ($3800) – Motiejunas started over Capela Tuesday and put up 25 fantasy points. Now I realize that is not a huge number, but it’s big enough to make him a 7X value at the price they were asking. He started that game and played a tad over 20 minutes. He will have a solid matchup with Larry Nance Jr. if he gets the start here again. It’s a risky play and the upside is capped, but for $3800 I am willing to take that risk and hope for the best with him. It beats trying to figure out which of the Toronto big guys between Scola and Pat Pat are going to see the minutes today.
Roy Hibbert ($4700) – Now I agree with people who think that Dwight Howard is going to be the highest scoring player at the position on the day, but I can not feel good about him doubling up the group of cheaper options we mention here. If you can afford to pay up then definitely do it, but if not then I like Hibbert for the safest 25-30 points of the available options left. Hibbert is seeing about 25-30 minutes in most games, but I think he will be needed to play more towards the high end of that number in this one with the size that the Rockets throw out at the PF and C spots. Hibbert can get a few blocks and close to a double double if he sees the extra minutes. I would not expect a 40 fantasy point outburst from him, but if he gets 30, Howard would need over 46 in order to be a better value. I think Hibbert for 30 is more likely than Howard for 40+ with his role and minutes diminishing.
Steven Adams ($3900) – Adams is coming off a double double game the night before. He is not a big scorer, but does have the ability to rebound like this and get some defensive stats on a nightly basis. They need a big body and rim protector inside against the Cavs, so I can see him getting more minutes in this one. Adams splits time with Kanter at the center spot. Kanter is the more offensively polished of the two, but with Durant and Westbrook, the bigger need is for that rebounder and defensive player they get with Adams. He should see 25-28 minutes in this one and put up over 20 fantasy points. If he does that for under $4K you will be really happy with the value and cost savings he provides.
Frank Kaminsky ($3700) – I debated the big men from the Hornets and Kaminsky is just a much better value at $1000 discount to Cody Zeller. The first round pick has seen his minutes increase to the 25 minute range and that has coincided with him reaching value a little more often. I do not think or expect a 30 fantasy point effort out of him, but a score in the low to mid 20s would be enough to make him a solid cost saver. Beggers can not be choosers and on such a small slate you have to take the value that is available. I’m more confident in Kaminsky getting me 20-25 fantasy points than I am in guys like Zeller or Biyombo going for 25-30, so that is why I like the cheaper option much better. Plus using the guys like Kaminsky and Zeller may even make it possible to fit a third stud in and that could be the key to a big cash on the day.