Thursday’s NBA slate features seven games, and the action on DraftKings gets underway at 7:30 p.m. ET. Let’s dive into some of the top plays, strategies and injuries to monitor heading into lineup lock.
Editor’s Note: Mavericks PF/C Kristaps Porzingis is not listed on the injury report for tonight’s game vs. the Bucks.
Worth Paying Up For: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks vs. Milwaukee Bucks ($10,900)
Doncic has not been playing his best basketball recently, scoring 47.5 DKFP or fewer in five of his past seven games. That said, his usage rate has actually been way up over his past four contests, posting a mark of at least 39.8% in each game.
There’s a chance that he could be looking at another monster usage rate Thursday vs. the Bucks. The Mavericks are playing on the second leg of a back-to-back, and it’s very possible that they decide to give Kristaps Porzingis ($8,700) the night off. He’s missed some time recently, so expect them to exercise caution with their star big man.
Best Bang For Your Buck: Malachi Flynn, Toronto Raptors vs. Chicago Bulls ($4,700)
Things have gone from bad to worse for the Raptors. Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet remain out of the lineup, and DeAndre’ Bembry has been suspended for one game following an on-court altercation in their last contest. That doesn’t leave the Raptors with a ton of options in the backcourt.
Flynn is someone who should be asked to play big minutes vs. the Bulls. He’s already played at least 30.6 minutes in each of his past three contests, and he’s responded with at least 33.25 DKFP in all three games.
Worth Paying Up For: Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz vs. Portland Trail Blazers ($8,600)
The Jazz are playing on the second leg of a back-to-back, which means Mike Conley ($7,300) will likely get the night off for rest. Mitchell has seen a huge boost in value in games without Conley this season, increasing his production to 1.40 DKFP per minute. He can do some serious damage if Conley is out vs. the Blazers, who rank 29th in the league in defensive efficiency. The Jazz are currently implied for 119.0 points, which is the top mark on the slate.
Best Bang For Your Buck: Josh Jackson, Detroit Pistons at Sacramento Kings ($4,700)
The Pistons have plenty of shot attempts available on Thursday vs. the Kings. Jerami Grant has been ruled out with a knee injury, and he leads the team with a 27.5% usage rate. Jackson is someone who should be expected to pick up the slack. He’s averaged 0.98 DKFP per minute this season, and he could also see a few additional minutes sans Grant.
Worth Paying Up For: Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks at Dallas Mavericks ($7,800)
One of the biggest storylines on today’s slate involves the Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo ($10,700; knee) is currently listed as doubtful, and his absence obviously opens up a bunch of opportunities for the rest of the roster.
Middleton is one of the players who could benefit the most. He’s increased his usage rate by 6.8% with Antetokounmpo off the court this season, resulting in an average of 1.29 DKFP per minute. This game should also be one of the best of the day from a fantasy perspective: The 227.0 total is the second-highest mark on the slate.
Best Bang For Your Buck: Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons at Sacramento Kings ($4,300)
Let’s go right back to the well with the Pistons. Not only does the Grant injury open up some additional minutes and shot attempts, but they also have arguably the best matchup of the day. The Kings rank dead-last in terms of defensive efficiency this season, and they’ve also played at an above-average pace. This a great combination for fantasy purposes.
Bey has been hit-or-miss in his rookie season, but he’s averaged a respectable 0.81 DKFP per minute. He could approach 30 minutes with Grant out of the lineup, so he’s too cheap at $4.3K.
Worth Paying Up For: Richaun Holmes, Sacramento Kings vs. Detroit Pistons ($7,600)
Power forward is easily the weakest position to pay up at on today’s slate. However, Holmes does have some appeal at $7.6K. He’s failed to return value in three-straight games, but he’s coming off 34.8 minutes in his last contest. Holmes has averaged 1.18 DKFP per minute over the past month, so he should be able to bounce back vs. the Pistons with that much playing time. Detroit is also a great matchup for big men, allowing the second-most DKFP to the position.
Best Bang For Your Buck: Taurean Prince, Cleveland Cavaliers at Oklahoma City Thunder ($4,100)
There is plenty of value available on today’s slate, but Prince is one of my favorite options. He’s logged heavy minutes for the shorthanded Cavaliers recently, and he should be looking at another large workload vs. the Thunder. Jarrett Allen and Larry Nance Jr. remain out of the lineup, which leaves Prince, Kevin Love ($5,800) and Dean Wade ($4,600) to handle the majority of the frontcourt minutes. Prince has averaged 0.85 DKFP per minute this season, so he can take advantage of additional playing time.
Worth Paying Up For: Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls at Toronto Raptors ($9,100)
Vucevic is coming off his best game as a member of the Bulls, racking up 64.25 DKFP over 35.2 minutes Tuesday vs. the Pacers. However, it’s hard to call that game an outlier. Vucevic has evolved into one of the best fantasy centers in the game, averaging 1.46 DKFP per minute this season. He’s priced at just $9.1K for today’s matchup vs. the Raptors, which is simply too cheap for a player of his caliber.
Best Bang For Your Buck: Mason Plumlee, Detroit Pistons at Sacramento Kings ($5,900)
Plumlee isn’t a free square at $5.9K, but he still stands out as one of the better values on the slate. Plumlee has lost some minutes recently, but he’s made up for it by increasing his production to 1.16 DKFP per minute. He should be able to rack up fantasy points quickly vs. the Kings, who have allowed the second-most DKFP per game to opposing centers.
Overall Lineup Strategy
This is an interesting slate. We have plenty of value options to choose from, but there aren’t a ton of studs. Doncic is the only player on the slate priced above $9.5K, and he hasn’t even played that well recently. That said, I think we need to lock him into our lineups. No one on this slate can match his ceiling, particularly if Porzingis is out of the lineup.
After that, I’d love to jam in Mitchell, Middleton and possibly Jrue Holiday ($8,100). Throwing in all four players leaves you with an average of just $3,650 for your final four lineup spots. That might not be doable at the moment, but there could be some value that opens up throughout the day. If I can only use three of those players, I’m fine with cutting Holiday. He’s played some excellent basketball recently, but $8.1K is an expensive price tag for him.
From a value perspective, Flynn, Bey and Killian Hayes ($3,200) are my favorite options. Hayes is still working his way back from a long-term injury, but I have high expectations for him down the stretch. He’s a talented offensive player who was selected No. 7 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, and he should have a chance to carry a large workload for the Pistons over their final games.
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