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 four-game slate starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.
The Kemba Walker revenge game is here. Walker returns to Charlotte for the first time after playing the first eight years of his career there. It was not a sour ending, but it should be an emotional return either way, and it’s sure to be the big story Thursday night.
Walker has outperformed our model’s projections in five straight games, but his salary has caught up now, and he’s yet to have a dominant game as a Celtic. Walker has a -4.51 Projected Plus/Minus at DraftKings and a -3.51 at FanDuel, so our models suggest fading Walker unless you’re convinced he’s in for a monster revenge night.
Damian Lillard is the more expensive stud, and for good reason. Lillard is scoring 31.1 points per game and averaging career-highs with 5.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists, helped by a top-10 Blazers pace this fall.
Dame will have a tough matchup dealing with Patrick Beverley all night, but he’s one of the few Thursday studs with tournament-winning upside. Lillard is a much stronger play at DraftKings, where his $9,100 salary gives him an 88% Bargain Rating.
Undrafted Miami rookie Kendrick Nunn has been one of the great stories of the first two weeks. Nunn has come out of nowhere to start for the Heat, scoring 18.3 points a game. Nunn has a difficult matchup against Ricky Rubio and Phoenix, perhaps surprisingly offering a -3.39 Opponent Plus/Minus on FanDuel, worst for any point guard on the slate today. Nunn has dropped off the last two games, but that gives him a bargain salary. He has a top-three Projected Plus/Minus among point guard options at both FanDuel and DraftKings.
Terry Rozier is the other side of that Kemba Walker revenge game. Rozier is the player Kemba was signed to replace (well, him and that Kyrie Irving guy) in Boston, so you can bet he’ll be motivated for a big game against his former team. Rozier had a slow start in Charlotte but has scored 20 or more points in three straight. Our models don’t love Rozier, but models can’t always account for motive. If you do want to play Rozier, he’s a stronger play at DraftKings with a $6,800 salary and a 78% Bargain Rating.
Ricky Rubio has our highest point guard Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel today at +2.38. Rubio has outperformed projections in all six games this season, filling it up with 12.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 8.5 dimes a night. This is Rubio’s highest salary of the season, but he still looks like a solid play.
Jimmy Butler continues to be a mixed bag as a fantasy option. He’s only scoring 15 points a game and has posted really inconsistent numbers. That hasn’t brought Butler’s price tag down at all on FanDuel, where he’s still $9,300, but it’s a different story at DraftKings.
There Butler is down to a season-low $7,200, and that gives him an awesome 95% Bargain Rating with a +5.58 Projected Plus/Minus. Butler still has monster upside. He might be a rare chance to play a second stud at a bargain price without having to skimp everywhere else in your lineup.
By DraftKings prices, Devin Booker is the top stud in play at $8,400. Booker has a difficult matchup and is playing at an inflated salary after a 40-point night against the 76ers over the weekend. Booker has a -3.63 Projected Plus/Minus at DraftKings and an even worse -4.07 at FanDuel. He hasn’t been hitting the same fantasy highs as last season now that he’s sharing the ball with Rubio, so he looks like a name to fade.
Dennis Schroder had an absolutely miserable game last time out, and he certainly has a low floor, but the ceiling is there too. Schroder has the best matchup on the slate against the Spurs and is often benefiting from his teammates getting the more difficult matchup, as Dejounte Murray will be expected to take Chris Paul duties. Schroder has a top-three Projected Plus/Minus at both DraftKings and FanDuel and comes at a bit of a bargain price thanks to his last game dud.
Bryn Forbes has our highest shooting guard Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel, even despite a difficult matchup. Forbes has outperformed his projection in six of seven games, but his salary hasn’t budged. Forbes has been remarkably consistent and is a cheap, steady option.
If you’re looking for a cheap option with a bit more volatility, Dwayne Bacon could be your guy. Bacon scored 25 points Saturday before putting up a complete donut Tuesday, literally scoring negative fantasy points. Bacon has a very low floor but offers unusually high upside for a near minimum player.
Kawhi Leonard is the most expensive player on the slate, and you’re going to need a pretty good reason not to play him. Leonard was the talk of the NBA after sitting out for load management Wednesday, but that’s good news Thursday since it means he’s playing on three days rest with another three days off before his next game. Expect a full minutes load for Kawhi, and he’ll do it against a Portland team that hasn’t exactly been shutting down forwards.
Leonard is still scoring, but he’s also added a playmaking dynamic to his game that has made him more dangerous than ever, both in real life and in fantasy. That has given Kawhi an even higher ceiling, and on a light slate, he’s the one name out there capable of changing the DFS night all on his own.
Leonard has a monster +8.0 Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel and an even better +9.86 at DraftKings, both highest of every player on the slate. He’s tonight’s big decision, but our models suggest that if you do choose to fade him, you do so at your own peril.
Rodney Hood has been a major beneficiary of all the Portland injuries. He’s played over 30 minutes every game this season and outperformed projections in every game until the most recent one, when an injury limited his play. Hood is not on the injury report Thursday night, so he should be a full go, and we project him at 33.7 minutes. Hood can always get hot for a big scoring night, and he’s still just $3,800 at DraftKings.
Rudy Gay continues to be an underrated play. Gay is a double-double threat and has a +3.81 Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel, where his $5,000 salary gives him a 73% Bargain Rating.
Miles Bridges is another good moderately priced option. He has a plus matchup against Boston and has a top-five Projected Plus/Minus among small forwards at both FanDuel and DraftKings with an 80% Consistency rating.
As is often the case, stud is a relative term at power forward. Bam Adebayo is the top-priced option at FanDuel. Adebayo has had a huge start to the season but has seen his numbers fade over the last week as his minutes have fallen. We project Bam at 32.7 minutes but still give Adebayo just an 11% Bargain Rating at FanDuel at his $8,400 price tag.
It’s a different story altogether at DraftKings, where Bam’s $7,000 salary gives him a 90% Bargain Rating and makes him a top option with a +6.76 Projected Plus/Minus. There’s just one catch: he’s only eligible at center there. But as you’ll see below, that could be more of a blessing than a curse on a light centers slate.
LaMarcus Aldridge is the top stud power forward available at both sites. Aldridge has an excellent matchup against Oklahoma City, with a +2.95 Opponent Plus/Minus at FanDuel. He’s an even better play at DraftKings, where his salary is down to just $6,900. Aldridge’s rebounding numbers have dropped some this year, but he’s still playing a ton of minutes and scoring 16.1 points a game.
Frank Kaminsky looked like the big beneficiary from the Deandre Ayton suspension early, but his numbers have faded over the past week. Right after the Ayton suspension, Kaminsky averaged 15.7 points and 9.0 rebounds over a three-game stretch in which he played 31 minutes a game.
He’s dropped to around 20 minutes a game since and seen his numbers fade it, but so has his salary. Kaminsky has a tough matchup too, but he has a high ceiling if he gets going, and his +4.94 Projected Plus/Minus at DraftKings makes him a strong option.
JaMychal Green remains a quality, cheap option, though his minutes should drop back from the 32 he played last night. There’s not much upside here, but he’s a steady play.
Charlotte rookie P.J. Washington comes at a bargain salary thanks to a numbers dip last time out when he left the game injured. Washington is listed as probable, so check his injury status, but his salary is back more in line with the start of the season now before he had that huge game to begin his career. You might get some bargain value here if you feel confident Washington will play his full minutes load.
It’s a really rough day for centers, especially with FanDuel’s position limitations. Hassan Whiteside is the most expensive name on the slate at $7,500. He can be a bit volatile but saw a slight minutes uptick has last time out as Portland continues to lack options with Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic sidelined.
Whiteside always has a high ceiling with his propensity to rack up rebounds and blocks while on the court, and he has the top FanDuel Projected Plus/Minus among centers by far at +3.42. The Clippers don’t really have a matchup for Whiteside, so he’s got a high ceiling. With so few FanDuel options today, he’s almost an auto-play.
You’ve got more options at DraftKings, but Whiteside has an 87% Bargain Rating there at a meager $6,400 salary. That gives him an even stronger Projected Plus/Minus at +7.32.
If you’re not playing Whiteside, you should probably consider his opponent, Montrezl Harrell. Harrell is coming off a monster game Wednesday night against the Bucks with 34 points, 13 boards, and five assists in over 39 minutes. That’s both good and bad, since it also means Harrell is playing a second straight night and could see a much lighter load against the Blazers.
Our models project Harrell at 29.4 minutes, and Harrell has an excellent +2.96 Opponent Plus/Minus. Harrell is still reasonably priced even after his huge game, so he’s a good option if you trust him to play enough minutes. He and Whiteside are the only two centers with a positive Projected Plus/Minus on FanDuel.
Ivica Zubac is an intriguing swerve from the two guys above. If Harrell plays fewer minutes and Los Angeles needs a bigger body out there to match up with Whiteside, this could be a Zubac game. Zubac is scoring 1.31 FanDuel points per minute and has that same +2.96 Opponent Plus/Minus, so he’s a nice direct Harrell fade.
Phoenix’s Aron Baynes will be a popular option on a light slate after his big week, but his salary has skyrocketed and taken away most of the value, and he has an extremely difficult matchup against Miami. His Projected Plus/Minus is -4.13 at FanDuel and -1.13 at DraftKings, so if you want to take a swing on him, DraftKings is the place to do it.