We only have a small 4 game slate on tap for Thursday NBA DFS action. The Toronto/Atlanta game and the Chicago/San Antonio games should have low totals, so those would be the two to shy away from. I think most of the action and ownership will be on the higher total games like the Cavs/Lakers and the Suns/Nuggets matchups, which should both feature a lot more points. We have a good mix of stars and a few mid-range value options to consider. Let’s take a look at some of the those players at each position.
Kyrie Irving – Cavs vs. Lakers – $7,700 – Kyrie has been playing pretty consistent basketball lately. He has returned between 4.5-6X value in each of the last 6 games and 8 of his last 9. Kyrie will give you a few stats in each category, but his main attribute is his ability to score. He has put up at least 20 points in 8 of his last 9 games and flashed 30 point upside in two of those as well. He faces one of the worst defenses in the league that has really struggled guarding the point guard spot. The only thing that keeps Kyrie from reaching value today would be a blowout, but he could still put up 40+ fantasy points in three quarters of work against this horrific Lakers defense.
“He has an excellent matchup against a fast paced Phoenix team that has struggled defensively all season.”
Emannuel Mudiay – Suns vs. Nuggets – $6,500 – It is tough to let your biases go in daily fantasy, and those of us who watched Mudiay play earlier in the year are definitely biased. That is a mistake though. His price has risen by $1000 in the last week, and it is definitely justified by his play. He has now gone 5 games in a row with a return of 5X or better and is averaging 31 fantasy points over that span. He has an excellent matchup against a fast paced Phoenix team that has struggled defensively all season. Many will be scared off by the news that Jameer Nelson is returning to the lineup today, but it looks like Mudiay has solidified his role as the starter and should continue to see big minutes and produce nice stat lines.
Tony Parker – Spurs vs. Bulls – $4,500 – I do not love the low end of the point guard spectrum on this small slate, but Parker is a guy who feels a tad too cheap for his skill set. Parker sat out last game and has played fewer minutes in most of the games leading up to that, so his price has dropped all the way down to $4500. He is returning in this game and has a great matchup with the Chicago Bulls who struggle to keep point guards in check. I would not expect a huge performance from Parker, but he really only needs 26-27 DraftKings Fantasy Points (DKFP) for upside and 22-23 DKFP for value. That is not asking a lot of him here.
DeMar DeRozan- Raptors vs. Hawks – $7,500 – DeRozan gets the top spot here, due in part to a very thin group of shooting guard options on Thursday. The Hawks do struggle to defend the shooting guard spot, so the matchup is good. DeRozan doesn’t have an extremely high ceiling, as he’s only scored 50+ DK points on three occasions this season. He is a safe option, however, as he has at least 35 points in 38 of his 63 games played this season.
Devin Booker- Suns vs. Nuggets – $5,600 – Booker does have the upside today that DeRozan is lacking. In fact, he may even be able to match or outscore DeRozan based off his recent game logs. Booker has averaged 38 minutes over his last 4 games and put up an average of 37 fantasy points while doing so. He is scoring more, assisting more, and taking a ton of shots. He had 28 shot attempts in the last game and is averaging about 18 of them over the last four games. Anyone taking that many shots, playing that many minutes, with a price tag below $6K is worth roster spot in any matchup. Toss in that this is a good matchup and you can see why so many are so high on him today.
Gary Harris – Nuggets vs. Suns – $5,000 – When Gallo went down, we all rushed to roster Will Barton, but that has not worked out well. The main reason is because Gary Harris has been the one to step it up. Harris is consistently playing 40 minutes a game now. That has helped create a very consistent floor for him. He has returned 4.5X or better in 11 of his last 12 games. He does not do anything spectacular, but he plays just shy of 40 minutes, takes double digit shots, adds in a few rebounds, assists, 3-point bonuses, and defensive stats to wind up with 25-35 fantasy points a game. At $5K, that’s a 5-7X return on a daily basis at this point. With that kind of consistency, he deserves a look in your cash games.
LeBron James- Cavs vs. Lakers – $9,800 – We do not have a ton of studs worth paying up for on this slate, so LeBron is going to be one of the higher owned players people choose to spend on. You really can’t fault them in a top notch matchup against the Lakers. If Kobe Plays, he might guard LeBron a bit, and that’s a dangerous matchup for the aging Bryant. The Cavs still need to win in order to lock up playoff seeding, so I would expect them to want this game. The only concern here is if they rest him a bit more in a game that should be easy to win. That does not mean he will sit out, but he will not play big minutes here unless he is needed to. He had 59 fantasy points against them a few weeks back, so he has shown the ability to produce in this matchup already. The game is in LA, which could help keep it close. If so, we will see a few big stat lines from some of the Cavaliers, LeBron included.
Kawhi Leonard – Spurs vs. Bulls – $8,400 – On paper this should be a great matchup for Kawhi. He will see some Mirotic, Dunleavy and/or McDermott defense from the Bulls in this one. He was rested late in the last game with the Spurs up big and had a tough time the game before in a matchup with Paul George on both ends of the floor. The six games preceding that, though, he went for no worse than a 5.3X value and scored 40-50 fantasy points in each of them. If this one stays close, it is probably a good spot for Kawhi to see big minutes and score a ton of fantasy points. Bu with no Butler for the Bulls, that is a big if. He offers a nice discount from LeBron which definitely is needed today when building rosters, so I think he winds up as the chalkiest small forward on the day.
Kent Bazemore – Hawks vs. Raptors – $5,000 – The matchup is tough, but the price is very enticing on Bazemore here. He had a rough game last time out, but had returned 26-32 fantasy points in each of the five games before that one. That was good enough for a 5-6X return at his current price. Toronto plays slow and is solid on defense, but this game should stay competitive throughout, and Bazemore should get the minutes to support taking him on Thursday. When Bazemore sees 30+ minutes this season he’s averaging 29.18 DraftKings points, and I like him to get that much playing time tonight.
Mirza Teletovic – Suns vs. Nuggets – $4,600 – Mirza had some big games and his price skyrocketed to a point where he became unplayable. He then lost a few minutes per game as Alex Len emerged for the Suns. He is now back down into a range where he starts to become interesting again. Mirza is a bench player, so it’s tough to justify paying over $5K for a guy who will rarely see 30 minutes of court time, but he does perform efficiently in his time on the court, averaging 0.96 fantasy points per minute played this season. In a fast-paced, high scoring matchup with the Nuggets, he could produce at a slightly higher rate than that and contribute close to 25 DK points.
LaMarcus Aldridge – Spurs vs. Bulls – $7,100 – It took awhile for him to find his niche with this team, but lately it has been very nice to watch. Aldridge has 40+ fantasy points in his last 5 games and hit the 50+ point mark twice during this stretch. At his price of only $7Kish, that is an amazing return. He faces a Bulls team that has struggled to stop big men all season, so it looks like a very solid spot for him to continue his dominance. Aldridge is playing so consistently well that he is in a good spot to produce a safe cash floor and to give you GPP upside. He is scoring 20+ points and adding in about 10 rebounds per contest. When taken together, those two stats have been what has carried his recent fantasy production.
Kenneth Faried – Nuggets vs. Suns – $6,700 – Faried is a tough guy to figure out, but what I know is that you ride him when he gets hot. The “Manimal” is a beast on the boards and finishes well in transition. His minutes are somewhat erratic, as they’ve ranged from 17 on the downside to 36 on the upside recently. The production has been pretty steady either way though. He has reached a floor of 33 fantasy points in 6 of his last 7 games, with a 57 DKFP outing two games back. He has returned 5X or better in those 6, which is why we’ve seen his price jump up. He plays in one of the highest total games on the day and is the most logical swerve off of Aldridge if you want to save a few dollars in salary.
“The price play of the day for me is going to be Gibson.”
Taj Gibson – Bulls vs. Spurs – $4,600 – The price play of the day for me is going to be Gibson. He is not as strong a play now with Mirotic back stealing a few minutes, but $4600 seems a tad too cheap. He has played 37 minutes in each game since he came back from missing one, so you have to like the amount of run he is getting. He had only 21 points in one of those games and 37 in another, so he is inconsistent. $4600 is so cheap that he does not need to do a ton to pay it off. In fact, if he gets to 30 fantasy points he even offers you upside over 6X value. He has scored 30 fantasy points in about a dozen of his games this year, so it’s not a stretch to expect him to do it once more.
Pau Gasol – Bulls vs. Spurs – $8,300 – I know the matchup is not ideal, but Pau has been a monster lately. With Butler out, Pau and Rose have been asked to do a lot more. Pau has 64 or more fantasy points in three of his last five games. Those are insanely good numbers that have yielded 7-8X returns. If the Bulls are going to keep this game close, Pau will have to have a big game. He is still scoring and rebounding, like he does in most games, but he also has two recent triple doubles due to the 13 and 14 assist games he put up. With more of the offense running through Pau, I think his assist numbers stay high. I would not expect 13 of them a game to continue, but adding 5-6 to a double double is going to really help his fantasy scores. On a short slate, it is tough to fade the likely high scorers at each position, and Pau looks to be clearly the top option on the day.
“He has 3 straight games of 38+ fantasy points, and the Suns defense has not been good at stopping opposing bigs”
Nikola Jokic – Nuggets vs. Suns – $6,100 – I debated Len vs. Jokic pretty hard here and would not argue with anyone who wanted to go either way. With the $800 discount, and the Suns on a back-to-back, I will be opting for Jokic tonight. Both guys have played well recently and seen their prices rise. Jokic’s not as much, though, and he is the more reasonably priced of the two. He has 3 straight games of 38+ fantasy points, and the Suns defense has not been good at stopping opposing bigs this year. Jokic can score, rebound, and pass pretty well for a big man. With Gallo out, they have needed him to step up offensively. At $6100, we need 30 DKFP for a floor and 36.5 DKFP for his ceiling. With three straight games over that ceiling, I am just a tad more comfortable with his floor and potential upside. I can not knock the games Len has put up recently, but I wanted to make a stand one way or the other and this is how I see it.
Tim Duncan – Spurs vs. Bulls – $4,400 – We have reached the point in the season where Duncan takes a lot of games off. That is also the point where his price drops, though. When he does play, he tends to produce, and I think the Spurs need him to check Pau Gasol in this game. Duncan has 35+ fantasy points in three of his last eight. He has a bunch of other games in the low 20s, so he has produced when given the minutes. He should see big minutes here and is one of the guys that can really outperform his salary. Of course if the game gets out of hand he is also the likeliest to miss a rotation or two late, so that is why it leaves me only using him in tournaments.