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 7:00 p.m. ET.
Tonight’s slate is, in a word, weird. The over/under for Nuggets-Hornets is a meager 207, and falling. The 76ers are missing three starters against the Kings. Stephen Curry is back against the Raptors, but half of the other starters are questionable with a late start. And then there’s Clippers vs. Rockets, with an over/under of 237 points and healthy stars for days. That’s 30 more points available than in Charlotte!
Let’s just say you’re going to want to get some Clippers and Rockets in your lineup.
Russell Westbrook is one such Clippers-Rockets option, and he’s a good one. Westbrook has exceeded fantasy expectations in 70% of his games this month, averaging 1.41 fantasy points per minute. He has been a new man in Houston’s small-ball offense, attacking the rim with vigor all game long, and the Clippers don’t exactly protect the rim much anyway. Westbrook is over a +3.9 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites.
I’m sure you’re eager to get Steph Curry back into your lineup, especially at his bargain $8,000 salary in a national TV game against the team that stopped him from a three-peat last summer. I’m going to wait.
Curry will be without Kevon Looney and possibly Draymond Green, and he has literally never even played a game with most of these Warriors teammates. Will Curry be on a minutes limit? Will he be rusty? Will Nick Nurse throw a box-and-one at him? I’m going to let someone else use their money to find out.
Terry Rozier has gone over +6.4 Plus/Minus in three straight, not coincidentally in games with Devonte’ Graham sidelined. Graham is questionable again tonight. Our models already have Rozier over a +4.3 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites, and that’s with 33.5 minutes still projected for Graham. If The Apostrophe sits out, Rozier turns into a must play.
Jamal Murray has gone ice cold over the past five games, but he had been hot before that stretch and our models like him to bounce back, rating him over a +3.4 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites. He has a 33 Consistency Rating so that makes him dangerous, but that high variance also gives your team upside.
Shake Milton looks like the bets point guard bet at FanDuel tonight, where he has a 98% Bargain Rating. Milton has topped expectations in six straight, flourishing with all the extra usage with the Sixers missing both starting guards. He has a +7.55 Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel.
Shooting guard is an absolute mess tonight, so James Harden is going to be in a lot of lineups, even more than usual. Harden is your key decision tonight. If you fade him and you’re right, you could get a leg up on something like half of the lineups out there. If you stay away from Harden, it feels wise to play Westbrook instead. Someone’s gotta score for Houston after all.
Harden has been a neutral play, averaging a +0.30 Plus/Minus over his last 10, and he hasn’t topped 63 fantasy points anytime during that stretch. Be careful, though. Four of those games have been lineup killers at -9.96 Plus/Minus or worse, while five have been over +8.6.
What do you make of Harden against all those healthy Clippers defenders? He’s been all or nothing lately. Our models are in on him at over a +5.4 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites. I’m a bit queasy, but there just aren’t many other options at the position tonight.
One potential option is Fred VanVleet, but he’s questionable to return from a shoulder injury and will spend most of his game hounding Curry if he does play. FVV is over a +3 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites and lit up the Warriors in June, but you might be flying blind since VanVleet plays the late game. Be careful.
Devonte’ Graham is another option you may or may not be able to play. He’s questionable to return from that ankle injury, though in his case, you should know before setting your lineup. Graham has exceeded expectations in seven of nine games, and he’s over a +3.5 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites tonight — if he plays.
If FVV and Devonte’ sit and you’re out on Harden, now what? I’m rolling with Philadelphia’s Furkan Korkmaz or Alec Burks. Like Shake Milton, they’ll benefit from the Philly injuries and should get plenty of shots up. I prefer Korkmaz. He’s a little cheaper and has more upside if he hits, while Burks is the steadier option.
Pascal Siakam was a serious matchup problem for the Warriors in the Finals, so you know this is a plus matchup. Siakam has a +5.41 Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel, though he’s a name to avoid at DraftKings with a negative Projected Plus/Minus. Siakam’s numbers have faded this month at 1.09 fantasy points per minute, down from 1.21 on the season.
The decision here may come down to the injury report. Toronto has listed Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol as questionable. More players sitting out means more usage for Siakam, which means more upside.
Tobias Harris might be the first name in my lineup tonight. He’s averaging a +7.32 Plus/Minus over his past 10 games, eating up all those extra shots with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons out, finally back in a temporary alpha role. Harris’s assists are up too, and he leads all small forwards in Projected Plus/Minus at both sites, including a whopping +10.29 at FanDuel.
Paul George has been a big fantasy disappointment all season, but looks healthier the last few games, and this is a great matchup for him with Houston offering a +2.88 Opponent Plus/Minus and a +1.8 pace differential. He’s cheap enough now at only $6,900 on FanDuel that the upside is worth the swing. He’s a +5.07 Projected Plus/Minus there.
Ready to gamble? Glenn Robinson III hadn’t found his footing at all with the 76ers before breaking out with a 34-point fantasy game against the Lakers. GRIII is still barely above the minimum and he’s over a +3.5 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites. He’s a decent bargain option if you’re not already playing every other Sixers player.
Kawhi Leonard looks like a good option. Leonard gets the same lineup boost as George in a great spot against Houston, and he’s over a +3.1 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites. Note, though, that Leonard has an Upside Rating of only 31. He’s a solid bet to provide positive value, but he hasn’t been putting up any monster nights lately. He might be a better play in GPPs than tournaments.
I think Robert Covington has figured out this small-ball thing. Covington has outperformed fantasy expectations in seven straight games. During that stretch, he’s averaging 13.9 points and 9.4 rebounds a game with 22 blocks, an average +12.1 Plus/Minus. He’s been a monster and is an absolute must-play until proven otherwise.
Ready for more Philly names? Al Horford’s numbers are up without Joel Embiid, much to the surprise of no one. He’s exceeded fantasy expectations in five straight with at least a +5.3 in each game. He doesn’t have a huge ceiling but looks like a clear positive play while Embiid remains out.
If you can’t afford Horford, maybe Mike Scott is your guy. He’s suddenly a +29 combined over his last two games with 23 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 assists, enjoying the minutes boost with all the Philly injuries. He’s a great bargain option and leads all DraftKings power forwards with a +7.33 Projected Plus/Minus.
Even with the low line, this is a nice spot for Nikola Jokic. Charlotte offers a +3.46 Opponent Plus/Minus at the position, and Jokic has been more consistent of late with the occasional tournament-winning night thrown in. At over a +3.5 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites, Jokic is a lock to lead all centers in scoring. If you’re buying bargains elsewhere, he should be a positive value here.
Cody Zeller has the top Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel at +3.85, thanks mostly to a +4.44 Opponent Plus/Minus against Denver. Zeller has been really good of late, exceeding expectations in 78% of his games over the past month with an average +5.48 Plus/Minus. You’re not getting much upside here, but he looks like a clear positive play.
P.J. Tucker is doing yeoman’s work for Houston, but it hasn’t been paying off in fantasy. He’s under expectations in seven of 10 games and has seen his rebounds go down as he focuses on defense. Still, this is a plus matchup and his salary is so low that he’s a positive option at a light position. He leads all centers on DraftKings at +5.37 Projected Plus/Minus.
If you’re at FanDuel instead, Montrezl Harrell looks like a stronger option. He has a 97% Bargain Rating there, and this feels like an excellent spot for him against Houston’s small-ball lineup. I see a heavy minutes load for Harrell with no real spot for Ivica Zubac tonight, and he’s averaging a +7.12 Plus/Minus over his last 10 games.
Pictured: Kawhi Leonard (2), Paul George (13) of the LA Clippers and James Harden (13) of the Houston Rockets
Photo credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images