Thursday’s NBA slate features six games, and the action on DraftKings gets underway at 7:00 p.m. ET. Let’s dive into some of the top plays, strategies and injuries to monitor heading into lineup lock.
Worth Paying Up For: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans ($11,000)
I’m slightly conflicted on Lillard tonight. He’s been priced up to $11K, which is basically his highest salary ever on DraftKings. He’s going to struggle to pay that salary off in the long term with C.J. McCollum ($7,400) back in the lineup.
That said, McCollum is still working his way back into the rotation. He was limited to just 26 minutes in his first game back, which puts him on track to see somewhere around 30 minutes tonight. That still leaves plenty of opportunities for Lillard to dominate from a usage perspective.
The matchup vs. the Pelicans is also simply too good to pass up. New Orleans has been a disaster defensively, and the total on this game is the highest on the slate. Lillard absolutely shredded the Pelicans on Tuesday, finishing with 75.0 DKFP over 40.6 minutes. Lillard will probably be a fade in the very near future, but he might have one final big game in-store for us tonight.
Best Bang For Your Buck: Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz at Washington Wizards ($6,100)
The Jazz are the easy top team to target on today’s slate. They’re in an elite spot vs. the Wizards, who have been arguably the best matchup in fantasy this season. They rank first in pace and 27th in defensive efficiency, which is a juicy combination.
They will also be without starting point guard Mike Conley (rest), which opens up some opportunities for the rest of the roster. Clarkson figures to be one of the biggest beneficiaries. He’s averaged nearly 30 minutes per game in seven games without Conley this season, resulting in an average of 32.0 DKFP per game.
Worth Paying Up For: Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz at Washington Wizards ($8,700)
Mitchell is my favorite stud to target on today’s slate. He benefits from the same elite matchup as Clarkson, and Conley being out of the lineup gives Mitchell more upside than usual as a distributor. He’s increased his assist rate by 5.4% in games without Conley this season, and adding that with his scoring ability is a dangerous combination. Overall, he’s averaged nearly 46.0 DKFP per game with Conley out of the lineup, and he has the potential for an even bigger performance vs. the Wizards.
Best Bang For Your Buck: Reggie Bullock, New York Knicks vs. Orlando Magic ($4,200)
The Knicks are going to be without multiple members of their backcourt again on Thursday. Derrick Rose (health protocols), Elfrid Payton (hamstring) and Immanuel Quickley (ankle) have all been ruled out.
That should result in another healthy workload for Bullock. He’s played at least 29.1 minutes in three-straight games, and he’s played 37 minutes or more in two of them. Bullock isn’t great on a per-minute basis, but that’s a ton of playing time for someone with such a minimal salary.
Worth Paying Up For: R.J. Barrett, New York Knicks vs. Orlando Magic ($6,400)
You can certainly consider paying up for LeBron James ($10,700) on Thursday, who has racked up triple-doubles in back-to-back games, but I prefer saving a bit with Barrett. He’s carried a monster workload recently given the Knicks’ injuries, and he’s racked up at least 30.75 DKFP in five-straight games. This doesn’t figure to be the best game environment – the total on this game is just 207.5 on the DraftKings Sportsbook – but Barrett provides a safe floor and a solid ceiling for his price tag.
Best Bang For Your Buck: Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz at Washington Wizards ($5,200)
Ingles should move into the starting lineup in place of Conley, and that makes him one of the best values on the entire slate. He’s averaged over 30.0 DKFP per game with Conley out of the lineup this season, and he should be able to hit that mark pretty easily against the Wizards.
Worth Paying Up For: Julius Randle, New York Knicks vs. Orlando Magic ($10,000)
Randle has been an absolute monster for the Knicks this season. He’s on-pace to average new career-highs in points, rebounds and assists per game, and he’s been playing some of his best basketball recently. He’s increased his production to 1.34 DKFP per minute over the past month, and he’s been forced to operate more as a playmaker with Rose and Payton out of the lineup. He’s a triple-double threat Thursday, even in a subpar matchup.
Best Bang For Your Buck: Jae Crowder, Phoenix Suns vs. Minnesota Timberwolves ($4,600)
Crowder has provided solid value recently, scoring at least 24.25 DKFP in four of his past five games, which is not surprising since Cam Johnson (health protocols) has been out of the lineup. Johnson will miss his fifth-straight game this evening, so Crowder should be locked in for around 30 minutes in a great matchup vs. the Timberwolves. They’ve struggled defensively this season, ranking just 26th in defensive efficiency.
Worth Paying Up For: Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns vs. Minnesota Timberwolves ($6,200)
There are plenty of different directions you can go at center on Thursday. Karl-Anthony Towns ($9,400), Rudy Gobert ($8,200) and Montrezl Harrell ($6,400) all have merit, but I’m opting for Ayton as my preferred target. His playing time has been down a bit, but that hasn’t stopped him from scoring at least 35.25 DKFP in back-to-back games. Ayton has averaged 1.18 DKFP per minute over the past month, so he doesn’t need to hit 30 minutes to pay off his salary vs. the Timberwolves.
Best Bang For Your Buck: Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers ($3,200)
If you’re going to go with a pure punt play on Thursday, Hayes seems like your best bet. He’s averaged a solid 0.97 DKFP per minute over the past month, and his playing time has been on the rise recently. He struggled a bit in his last matchup, but he scored at least 20.0 DKFP in three of his previous four games. You can live with 20.0 DKFP at just $3.2K.
Overall Lineup Strategy
Finding value is the hardest thing to do on today’s slate. There doesn’t appear to be a slam-dunk value option at the moment, which is going to make it difficult to go with a stars-and-scrubs approach. That could always change as the day progresses, but I think a balanced lineup makes the most sense as things currently stand.
The Jazz are an excellent starting point for your lineups. I like the idea of locking in at least two of Mitchell, Ingles and Clarkson, and there’s nothing wrong with playing all three together. Locking in all three players leaves you with an average of $6K for your five remaining roster spots, which is very doable.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is mlamarca) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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