The NBA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each day’s slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable players.
Thursday features a five-game slate starting at 7 p.m. ET.
Get ready for a whole bunch of Chicago Bulls bargain options today. Chicago gets a +4.2 pace boost against a terrible Pelicans defense, and they’re also on four days rest and missing Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, and Daniel Gafford. That means lots of cheap playing time in a high-scoring game, and it means a great opportunity for a studs and duds lineup with Bulls filling in the gaps around expensive studs elsewhere. Let’s see what that might look like…
Damian Lillard finally fell back to earth Tuesday night with a mere 21 points and nine assists, but he had been scorching hot in the couple weeks before that game. Dame had exceeded expectations in 10 straight games, and he’s still averaging a +18.71 over the last 10 games. Again, that’s his average nightly outcome, not a total.
Lillard’s price tag has faded after peaking Tuesday night, so it’s a smart idea to continue to ride the hot hand against a Spurs defense that shouldn’t slow him down much. Our models are all over Dame, giving him over a +10.0 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites. He’s a great place to start your lineup tonight.
Our system also likes Russell Westbrook for now, but I’m not buying it. Russ costs slightly more than Dame and I far prefer Lillard, plus Westbrook is questionable with a sprained thumb anyway so I’m not even sure he plays, and we may not know until the late tip. Russ has played well of late and does rate over a +4.7 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites if you’d like to roll him out.
Our first Bulls bargain is Ryan Arcidiacano. Yes, the dude from the Villanova championship. Yes, he’s in the NBA. Yes, he does more than cheer for guys at the end of the bench. We’re projecting Arch at 25.5 minutes tonight for the short-handed Bulls, and he’s basically playing for the minimum at both sites. That gives him a Projected Plus/Minus of over +4.9 at each site, and it’s a good reminder that value is value no matter where it’s at.
You can also grab Coby White or Tomas Satoransky if you prefer another Bull. Satoransky has exceeded expectations in four of the last five games with 30 minutes played in four of them and over 30 fantasy points in three. He’s a strong steady option, while White is more volatile but is cheaper with upside. Both are strong options at either site, and you’ll be in great shape if you can pick the right one of these three Bulls.
Ben Simmons is averaging a +7.9 over the past month, though much of that was without Joel Embiid, of course. Milwaukee is actually a very positive matchup for opposing point guard with a +3.06 Opponent Plus/Minus and a great pace differential, so he should be a good option again.
James Harden is rolling again, with over 67 fantasy points in three straight games but his salary has quickly leapt as well and this could be a very difficult matchup against a terrific Lakers defense that should key on Harden. Our model is fading Harden in a huge way tonight, especially at DraftKings where Harden has a -5.53 Projected Plus/Minus at his $12,400 salary. He’s more of a neutral play at FanDuel, but it’s clear our models would prefer to spend elsewhere today.
One note of caution, though: Westbrook is questionable. If he sits out and Harden has to do everything, he’ll surely be more valuable — it’s just a question of how much. If Russ is sitting, be sure to check our models late before you submit your lineup and see where Harden stands.
The Bulls have only one real fantasy star to play, but if you’re in on the Bulls strategy tonight, then Zach LaVine is a nice place to start. This is LaVine’s first home game since being snubbed out of representing his hometown Bulls in the All Star Game, so he could be extra motivated. At over a +6.8 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites, LaVine rates as the top shooting guard option on the board. He stands out among a lot of good SG options.
If you’re out on the Bulls strategy, maybe you prefer some of their opponents instead. Jrue Holiday will certainly benefit from the matchup, though he’ll probably expend most of his energy guarding LaVine tonight. He can always have a good fantasy night even without scoring a ton, and he projects at very positive value again tonight.
Evan Fournier plays the Knicks, so you probably don’t need much more of a sell. Fournier has quietly been Orlando’s best player much of this season, leading the team in scoring. He’s over a +4.3 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites and comes at a value moderate price.
Tonight’s marquee TNT games feature the top fantasy names on the slate too, so do you go with Giannis Antetokounmpo or LeBron James? Our models slightly prefer Giannis, and I’m inclined to agree. The Bucks play the 76ers, a top defense that has been only neutral to opposing forwards, and what defense has slowed down the Greek Freak this year anyway? Giannis is over a +4.4 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites and looks like a strong play in a big spot.
LeBron is never really a poor fantasy choice, but I’m less excited about him tonight. It’s not that the Houston matchup is bad, but Giannis has been the better fantasy producer by a shockingly wide margin this season, and I think James is still drained from an exhausting couple of weeks for the Lakers. This also feels like a night for James’s talented teammate — but we’ll get to him in a minute.
Back to the Bulls. Chandler Hutchison has the top Projected Plus/Minus among all small forwards with over +6.9 at both sites. Hutchison might be the surest Bull to provide value. He’s exceeded expectations in seven of 10 games with a +5.79 average and should continue to see quality minutes and usage with Valentine out.
Tobias Harris is a strong option tonight, especially at FanDuel, where he has an 89% Bargain Rating. Harris has a tough matchup against the Bucks but that’s offset by a huge +6.1 pace differential, and he’s benefiting from increased usage with the Sixers injuries. He has a +6.61 Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel.
If you need a DraftKings option instead, Brandon Ingram has been old faithful there all season. DraftKings has never caught up to Ingram this season, and he’s still exceeding expectations in 75% of his games at their weirdly low salary for him, an average of +5.23 all season. That’s not far from where our model has him tonight in an easy matchup.
I’m all over Anthony Davis tonight against the Rockets. Houston has gone full small ball, and while that’s intriguing and may work against some teams, the Lakers sure don’t seem like one of those teams. The Rockets have no defender with any chance of stopping Davis, so this is a monster spot for him in a national TV game. Every now and then, Anthony Davis has a ginormous fantasy game, and this feels like it could be one of those nights. He’s got a whopping +8.22 Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel.
The only reason I might skip Davis in some spots tonight is because LaMarcus Aldridge looks like an even better play against his old team in Portland. The Blazers have bled points to big men all year, so LMA gets a +5.72 Opponent Plus/Minus tonight and could put on a show in a key playoff battle. Aldridge has the top power forward Projected Plus/Minus with over +7.2 at both sites.
Al Horford hasn’t found his niche with Philadelphia, but he is playing at a crazy bargain price now for a player with his talent. Milwaukee is a positive matchup for his position, so this could be a sneaky spot to play Horford if you need a value play at power forward.
I’m still happy to ride Zion Williamson every night until his salary catches up to his production (though he’s questionable with a toe sprain tonight). Zion has exceeded expectations in all but one NBA game, and he’s scored 20 points in three straight. He should run right through the Bulls, and his minutes limit is slowly increasing too.
Joel Embiid has 12 Pro Trends tonight and he’ll need a big night if Philly has any chance to go into Milwaukee and steal a win. The 76ers have struggled mightily on the road, but this looks like a great fantasy matchup for Embiid as Milwaukee offers a +3.86 Opponent Plus/Minus at the position. Our models really like Embiid with over a +5.6 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites, but there are other studs on the slate I prefer tonight.
I also prefer Hassan Whiteside at center, probably even straight up against Embiid, let alone being cheaper too. Whiteside can struggle against more modern teams that put him in space, but that won’t be the case against the Spurs. Whiteside is an especially good value at just $8,000 on DraftKings, but he’s over a +8.2 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites, the top center option across the board.
Nikola Vucevic is another strong option against the Knicks. That’s obviously a positive matchup for Vooch, though he has gone under expectations in five of his last six games. This looks like a strong bounce back opportunity.
Can we shoehorn one more Bull in here? How about former Bull, Bobby Portis? Portis has a +4.49 Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel, and that value could increase further if the Knicks trade one or more of Bobby’s big man teammates this afternoon. Portis is a great bargain if you’re skimping at center.