It might only be a four-game slate on Thursday, but what we’re lacking in overall NBA action, we’re making up for in narrative. Russell Westbrook will be making his long-awaited return to Oklahoma City this evening, with former Thunder great James Harden ($12,200) coming with him. The duo both have exceedingly high ceilings with Houston possessing the night’s highest implied team total, but which guard is the right one to trust?
Let’s run through your top plays at each position.
Russell Westbrook, HOU @ OKC, $8,400 - Obviously the small schedule is somewhat to blame for any weird pricing quirks, but it feels weird to be talking about Westbrook’s salary being super low in a “revenge” spot this publicized. In fact, the All-Star hasn’t seen his price tag this tiny since all the way back on Nov. 22, meaning there’s even more reason for Westbrook to get chalky this evening. I don’t mind it, though. Despite not generally being the most consistent player in the world, Westbrook’s collected 20-plus points in 12 consecutive starts, a span where’s he’s also recorded five double-doubles. I suspect he keeps that streak going against his old team.
Other Option: Kemba Walker, BOS @ PHI, $6,500
Andrew Wiggins, MIN vs. POR, $7,000 - Wiggins has been disappointing since returning from a four-game absence due to injury, but if Karl-Anthony Towns ($11,100) continues to sit with a knee injury, I’m not opposed to going back to the well with the former first-overall pick. Wiggins sports a massive 29.5% usage rate without Towns on the court in 2019-20 and he’s generally taken advantage of his salary being this low. Coming into Thursday’s tilt, Wiggins has actually hit 5x value six of the eight times he’s been priced at or below $7K this season. Portland conceding 113.4 points per 100 possessions over its past 10 games doesn’t hurt, either.
Other Option: James Harden, HOU @ OKC, $12,200
Ben Simmons, PHI vs. BOS, $9,000 - While Simmons’ usage rate and DKFP production hasn’t tended to be all that effected by whether or not Joel Embiid (finger) is playing, the Australian is in a very nice spot tonight against Boston. Over his past seven starts, Simmons is averaging a triple-double, with 17.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.1 assists per game in 38.6 minutes of action. This is a direct result of the ball being in Simmons’ hands, as the 23-year-old is also seeing a league-leading 101.6 touches per contest within that same span of time. That’s a level of volume that’s tough to ignore on a slate this condensed.
Other Option: Robert Covington, MIN vs. POR, $5,700
Al Horford, PHI vs. BOS, $6,000 - If Simmons isn’t all that impacted by Embiid’s comings and goings, Horford certainly is. For the season, the veteran has averaged 1.13 DKFP per minute played without the All-Star center on the court, a number which falls all the way to 0.63 when the two share the floor. Still, despite that non-ideal conditions, Horford has managed to average 30.0 DKFP per game in 2019-20 - the exact amount of points he’ll need on Thursday to hit 5x value. I think he gets there easily with Embiid sitting on the bench.
Other Option: Carmelo Anthony, POR @ MIN, $6,600
Andre Drummond, DET vs. CLE, $10,200 - It’s quite possible everyone and their mother will have a piece of Drummond on this slate, but he honestly seems like the safest path to 50.0 DKFP of any big man playing tonight. Cleveland just can’t defend the rim. The Cavaliers have actually surrendered a whopping 20.9 made field goals in the restricted area per game in 2019-20 - the most of any team in the NBA. That weakness has reared its ugly head in both matchups Cleveland’s had with Drummond so far this season, as the veteran has collected 58.5 DKFP and 61.5 DKFP in those two opportunities.
Other Option: Gorgui Dieng, MIN vs. POR, $6,300