We only have a small 6 game slate for NBA DFS on Thursday, but we have quite a few interesting storylines we need to discuss before getting into individual players. We have some teams fighting for their playoff lives with Houston and Chicago both right on the cut line as the 8th and 9th seeds in their respective conferences. Indiana is also in need of wins to lock up their seed. They will be motivated to beat Orlando today with Orlando really having nothing to play for.
We also have some injury situations to note. The Pelicans whole team is the walking wounded right now, only dressing 7 guys and all of them are pretty cheap, so we should see some value from them. We also have the rest day for the Clipper’s starters tonight. Paul, Reddick, and DeAndre are all OUT, so that will also open up a ton of cheap options for us to look at. Every game on the slate has a total over 200 with many in the 210+ range, so it is likely to be a very interesting and high scoring night. Let’s take a look at some top plays from each position.
Russell Westbrook – Thunder v. Clippers – ($10,500) – Westbrook gets to face a Clippers team that is sitting most of it’s stars. That is both good and bad for him. It is good that he gets to contend with Rivers defense instead of Chris Paul defense. It is bad that without Paul, JJ Reddick, and DeAndre Jordan the Thunder may blow them out. I can honestly see it going that way. I still like Westbrook for tournaments, because he will have a monster game with a soft matchup if it stays close enough for him to play big minutes. I mean the guy has an absurd 8 triple doubles in his last 16 games. The only thing that seems to slow him down lately is a lopsided scoreboard.
Isaiah Thomas – Celtics v. Trailblazers – ($7,700) – IT2 has been solid lately, although his upside has been zapped by the rising price. He draws a fast paced Trailblazer team today in a high scoring affair. The Blazers, specifically Damian Lillard, are not good at stopping opposing point guards. IT2 now has 13 straight games where he has scored 21+ real life points. He will add in a few assists and other categories and that has been how he consistently reaches around 40 fantasy points per game. With Crowder still out, the rotation of Evan Turner, Bradley, Smart, and IT2 all see a few extra minutes as the Celtics play three of them at the same time more often. That should be the case again here and I expect IT2 to put up a nice stat line.
Elfrid Payton – Magic v. Pacers – ($5,900) – Elf is still a good value option at his friendly price point. The Magic PG has had no fewer than 31 fantasy points in any of his last 4 games (6X Value). He has even flashed upside with 53 point triple double performance and two other games of near 40. It’s not the easiest matchup ever and Oladipo is back which will tick him down some, but he still managed to put up 40 fantasy points in their last game with everyone healthy. He can give you the same 40 IT2 can at a discount of $2400, so he is definitely worth a shot in both GPPs and cash games today.
Shane Larkin – Nets v. Cavaliers – ($4,100) – Larkin is an intriguing value option on the day. In his last four games he has seen 30 minutes and come away with at least 26 fantasy points in each. He gets a solid matchup today against Kyrie Irving defense for the Cavs. For all the offensive gifts Kyrie has, his defense has always been lacking. Larkin is seeing the lion’s share of time at the point for the Nets recently and I’m taking a chance on a guy who is cheap and playing big minutes.
James Harden – Rockets v. Bulls – ($10,600) – The Rockets are clinging to the eighth spot in the Western conference playoff picture. They need to win games as bad as anyone to ensure they stay there. With this in mind, we have seen them give the starters a few extra minutes. Harden has been one of those guys as he played 40+ minutes in five straight games. He has always been a high per minute producer, so the more minutes he plays, the more fantasy points he scores. Harden’s recent floor is somewhere around 50 points with his average touching into the 60s as he has returned 60ish in 5 of his last 7. He is likely to be the high scorer at the position and also likely to be the top overall fantasy producer on the day. That means we desperately need to have some exposure to him on a smaller slate.
Jamal Crawford – Clippers v. Thunder – ($4,300) – There is no reason to pay up for anyone but Harden today when you have value options in this good of a spot. With No Paul and no Reddick tonight, Jamal Crawford is going to see big minutes. He is also going to be asked to shoulder more of the scoring load, so I would not be shocked if he hoists up 16-20 shots here. With a short bench and the main scorers resting, someone needs to take over on offense and Crawford is the guy most likely to do so.
Austin Rivers – clippers v. Thunder – ($3,100) – Rivers is in the same boat as Crawford. No Paul will likely boost his minutes up big time here. Rivers is going to play near 30 minutes today and much of it with the ball in his hands. I have never been a huge fan, but he has produced some nice games recently. For only $3100, it is very tough to ignore a guy stepping into a bigger role in a game that is likely to be high paced and high scoring. With such a short bench, the scoreboard means little as Rivers will see minutes regardless of how this one turns out.
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LeBron James – Cavaliers v. Nets – ($9,800) – I really like LeBron here today. The Cavs lost an embarrassing game to the Nets a few weeks ago and they are itching for revenge. Many consider the Cavs a lock to blow out the Nets, but the Cavs team I am watching does not look like they are ready to blow out anybody. I think this game has a better chance than Vegas is giving it to stay close. LeBron has two 60s, a 50, and a floor game of 45 in his last 4. That makes him a solid bet for 5X at the price with upside that reaches above 6X. We have enough value to fit in two studs today, so pairing him and Harden is not as tough as it has been at other points during the season.
“That would be a return of around 6X or better and make him [Ariza] a very solid option at likely low ownership”
Trevor Ariza – Rckets v. Bulls – ($5,000) – Ariza is an interesting GPP play for me. He is not consistent enough to be a cash game play, but I really like his spot here. In many of these recent must win games, he has seen 35+ minutes of court time. Ariza has flashed upside into the 40s at various points this season. When his shot drops, he can really fill it up. I expect this to be a high scoring game vs. Chicago. If he is going to see a lot of court time, he should be able to provide us with a nice 25+ point floor and upside into the mid 30s. That would be a return of around 6X or better and make him a very solid option at likely low ownership.
Al-Farouq Aminu – Trailblazers v. Celtics – ($4,400) – With Jae Crowder out, the Celtics SF defense has been lacking. I think the main reason is the guards defend so well. The Celtics guards are very solid defensively and tend to shut down other teams backcourts, so the frontcourt winds up picking up much of the slack. That is good news here as Aminu has been upping his production lately. in 4 of his most recent five, we have seen him in the 27-35 fantasy point range which is good enough for 6-9X value each time. His minutes are up closer to 30 again and his production has risen along side of it. Aminu is never highly owned, but he should be based off his recent game logs.
Jeff Green – Clippers v. Thunder – ($3,900) – The Clippers will need scoring without JJ, Paul, and DeAndre today. Jeff Green can score when he is given the green light to do so. We have seen him disappear many times, but we have also seen him go off for 20+ points and put up 40 fantasy points in a day too. He should get a bump in minutes with the short bench today and a bump in production with a lack of options elsewhere. The matchup with Durant is not ideal, but he too will play minutes regardless of the scoreboard. At only $3900, very few guys this cheap have shown the ability to put up 40 fantasy points. Jeff Green is one of them, which makes him a decent GPP play at worst.
Kevin Love – Cavs v. Nets – ($7,100) – I apologize in advance for the weak case I am going to make for Kevin Love here, but I really do not want to pay up for a PF at all. In fact if you do want to pay up, you really only have four options. Thad Young is coming off a rest game, but he was bad against the Cavs last time in a game the Nets won. He is almost as pricey as love and I do not trust his upside. Plus his team is a 15 point dog with one of the lower projected team totals. After that, you drop down to Myles Turner and Aaron Gordon who face each other. Gordon has been hovering right around 5X most games, so maybe he makes some sense for cash, but really has not shown any upside. Turner has flashed upside more, but he has also been really bad in a few of the most recent games, so that means at best he is a GPP flyer. At low ownership I can see taking a chance, but he will not be that low owned on a small slate. That really only eaves Love. His team has one of the higher projected totals and they want revenge after losing to Brooklyn last week. That’s not much of case for him to be honest, but at least it’s better than the ones I can make for the other three.
Nikola Mirotic – Bulls v. Rockets – ($4,900) – Part of the reason I do not want to pay up is that we have a few solid cheap options here. Mirotic is one of my favorite if the chips fall correctly. Taj Gibson was injured about 10 minutes into the last game, which allowed Mirotic to play a recent high of 36 minutes. He put up 28 points and finished with 48 fantasy points on the back of a double double. If Taj misses here again, Mirotic will need to fill that void. His minutes, shots, and rebounds would all go up and that would give him huge potential upside for a pretty friendly price below $5K.
Ed Davis – Trailblazers v. Celtics – ($4,500) – You are not going to get more than 20-24 minutes out of Ed Davis, but that might not matter. He has not gone for under 23 fantasy points in any of his last 7 while doing so, and that is good enough for 5X value. In four of those seven games he has reached 30+ fantasy points and that would be a return of 6.5X or better and make him one of the better value options on any slate. Davis has upside at his price and is safe enough not to kill you on a bad game. I still prefer to use him GPPs, but we have seen him steal some of the minutes Plumlee was playing, so he is a viable option until the point where the injured Myers Leonard gets added back into the mix.
Pau Gasol – Bulls v. Rockets – ($7,300) – It feels like a fire sale on the center position today with Howard, Lopez, and Pau all cheaper than we have seen them in awhile. Those three make up the top tier and I can not see why anyone would shy away from Pau. Howard has been uninterested lately and his minutes and fantasy points have suffered. He had been solid in the 5-6X range, so I guess he would be the GPP swerve from Pau if you needed one. Pau though is way too cheap for the overall skill set he brings to the table. Plus his Bulls team is desperate for wins to crawl back into the playoffs. Pau has just over 40 in back to back games which is a tad below par for him. Yet with his price now in the low $7K range instead of the low $8K range it is enough. That translated into returns in the 5.5X vicinity the last two games and that is a nice floor for him. Houston also plays fast and is bad on defense, so the spot is soft too. Pau is also picking up a few more minutes as he recovers from his injury, so a lot of the arrows are pointing up. If I am paying $7K for a cash game center today, Pau is the consistent option I am rolling into my lineup.
Ian Mahinmi – Pacers @ Magic – ($5,200) – Mahinmi has been really consistent recently for this Pacers team. He has three straight games of 6.5X or better. That’s at least 31 fantasy points in each and that would again be a 6X return here. Pace wise, it is not much of a change for him here. He does face a Magic team though that is without Nikola Vucevic, their starting center. Mahinmi will draw a more favorable matchup with Jason Smith and Dedmon down low, neither of which is a defensive stopper. His scoring has been the thing that has really bumped up his fantasy scores. I expect that to continue in a soft matchup for him here.
Cole Aldrich – Clippers v. Thunder – ($3,000) – It is very rare when I think a $3000 guy is a must play, but Aldrich is that guy here today. When he sees 25 minutes, he gets 25+ fantasy points. With DeAndre Jordan out today, he should see at least that many. He has flashed upside into the 30s this year with only 25ish minutes and he was a guy scoring 40 fantasy points for the Knicks late last season with a ton of playing time. I think he can easily get us 30-35 fantasy points if we get 30 minutes out of him, which may even be a conservative estimate. Guys that are solid for 8X with an easy path to 10X and 15X upside are the ones you really can not ignore. Anything under 90% ownership in cash games here is wrong. I would not even be afraid of putting 75%+ exposure to him in tournaments as the likelihood of him hurting you with a bad game is much smaller than the likelihood of cashing without him if he plays decently. If he plays well, you can forget about any entries you had without him, because the ownership will be extremely high and rightly so.