We’ve got a manageable six-game NBA slate on Thursday night, but I assure you, there are going to be some fireworks. At least that’s what I would anticipate with four of the league’s worst five teams by defensive rating taking the hardcourt this evening.
With some All-Stars at the top of the board and some huge implied totals over at the DraftKings Sportsbook, let’s break down everything you’ll need to know for tonight’s DFS action position-by-position.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans, $11,000 - Lillard has been taking advantage of his opportunities so far in March, as the Blazers have been opposed by several awful defensive teams within the past two weeks. He dropped 44 points and 61.75 DKFP against the Kings, followed that up with 38 points and 55.25 DKFP against the Timberwolves, then, on Tuesday versus these very same Pelicans, Lillard went for 50 points and 75.0 DKFP. He’s sure to be a popular play and it’s unlikely he goes 18-for-18 from the free throw line in consecutive starts, but Lillard’s done more than enough to show he should be trusted in these cushy matchups.
Editor’s Note: Knicks PG/SG Immanuel Quickley (ankle) and PG Elfrid Payton (hamstring) have both been ruled out tonight vs. the Magic.
Frank Ntilikina, New York Knicks vs. Orlando Magic, $3,000 - This is an interesting spot for the former lottery pick. Derrick Rose (health protocols) and Austin Rivers (personal) have already been ruled out for tonight’s game versus the Magic, while Elfrid Payton ($5,200; hamstring) is doubtful and Immanuel Quickley ($6,300; ankle) is questionable. In the scenario that all four Knicks guards are out of service, Ntilikina would be the last man standing and likely in line for upwards of 25-30 minutes. I wouldn’t start getting delusions of grandeur — Julius Randle ($10,000) and RJ Barrett ($6,400) would be picking up most of the facilitating responsibilities — but that’s a lot of time on the court for an asset priced at the bare minimum.
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns vs. Minnesota Timberwolves, $7,900 - Considering the Timberwolves have surrendered 119.2 points per 100 possessions across their past five games, you’re going to want some exposure to the Suns on this slate. Who better than Booker? Not only is it rare to see the All-Star priced below $8K, but the last time he faced Minnesota, Booker scored 43 points and 58.25 DKFP — his highest fantasy output of the season. Granted, Booker hasn’t always been the most consistent DFS asset, yet he’s still averaging 1.12 DKFP per minute with a 32.1% usage rate. There’s ceiling in those figures.
Kenrich Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder at Atlanta Hawks, $3,900 - Williams has logged at least 20 minutes of action in seven of the Thunder’s past 10 games, but the real key to his viability is the status of both Luguentz Dort ($5,400; toe) and Theo Maledon ($4,900; thumb). If those men remain out on Thursday — specifically Dort — there will be plenty of opportunity for Williams against the Hawks to continue his recently solid play. The veteran is averaging 25.4 DKFP over his last three contests and he’s exceeded 26.0 DKFP in each of the past two games that Dort has missed.
RJ Barrett, New York Knicks vs. Orlando Magic, $6,400 - As mentioned above and demonstrated in college, Barrett has the ability to be a playmaker and lead guard, which is something that he might have to do out of necessity this evening. Still, to just reach value on this slate, Barrett doesn’t need to do anything new, he simply needs to keep performing at the same level he has been for the past three weeks. Since Feb. 27, the Canadian is averaging 21.9 points per contest and a respectable 1.04 DKFP per minute. It’s an eight-game run where Barrett’s also only failed to reach the 30.0 DKFP plateau one time. The sophomore is clearly coming into his own.
Aleksej Pokusevski, Oklahoma City Thunder at Atlanta Hawks, $4,700 - Let’s go back to the well with Pokusevski in hopes that his ownership will be much, much lower than it was on Tuesday’s slate. Why would it be lower? Well, the rookie laid an egg against the Bulls, registering just four points and 15.0 DKFP in 29.3 minutes of work. His price has also gone up $300 in the last 48 hours. Still, Pokusevski is now averaging a robust 32.0 minutes per contests as a starter and he’s twice flashed 30.0 DKFP upside. Let’s hope we all don’t get burned again.
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers, $8,900 - This game has the highest implied total on the slate and that should translate to solid production from Williamson. Heck, no team is allowing more opponent points per 100 possessions across its past five contests than Portland (122.0), with a lot of that damage coming in the paint. The Blazers have surrendered an average of 22.4 made field goals inside the restricted area in that same five-game span — the exact quadrant of the floor where Zion does a majority of his scoring. The fact he dished out a season-high eight assists when these two squads met on Tuesday doesn’t hurt, either.
Jae Crowder, Phoenix Suns vs. Minnesota Timberwolves, $4,600 - I’m not exactly thrilled with the “value” options at the power forward position, but if you need to save some money, you could do much worse than Crowder. The veteran has seen his minutes go up with Cameron Johnson (health protocols) sidelined and that’s led to Crowder scoring at least 24.0 DKFP in four of his last five games. With Minnesota conceding the fourth-most DKFP to opposing PFs, Crowder is about as viable tonight as he’s been in months.
Editor’s Note: Magic PG/SF Aaron Gordon (injury management) and SG Evan Fournier (groin) will start tonight’s game vs. the Knicks.
Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic at New York Knicks, $10,100 - There’s just no one left on this Orlando roster aside from the team’s All-Star center. There’s certainly a chance that one or two of Terrence Ross ($6,700; knee), Aaron Gordon ($6,600; ankle) and Evan Fournier ($6,300; groin) return and play through a questionable tag this evening, but if not, Vucevic is almost a must-play asset. The big man has a 34.4% usage rate with the trio off the floor in 2020-21, a span of 357 possessions where Vucevic is averaging an eye-popping 1.55 DKFP per minute. Heck, he registered 64.5 DKFP and took 27 shots with all three out of the lineup on Sunday. Get him in your lineups.
Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards vs. Utah Jazz, $5,600 - Washington’s been searching for a third player to step up and carry some of the offensive load, and it appears that Hachimura is going to be that guy. The sophomore — who recently picked up center eligibility — has been incredible over the Wizards’ past three games, averaging 22.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 41.8 DKFP. Most importantly, he’s logged at least 36 minutes in each of those starts. Will the sophomore be able to carry that same load on the second night of a back-to-back? I’m willing to take the risk.
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