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 three-game slate starting at 7:00 p.m. ET.
It’s a light slate tonight, but it’s loaded with a handful of high-priced studs surrounded by bargain role players. That means it’s a studs and duds night almost by default, and it means you’ve got to pick your studs carefully.
Luka Doncic continues to be a far better play on FanDuel. He has a -3.09 Projected Plus/Minus at DraftKings and looks like a name to avoid at his salary there.
But he has a 98% Bargain Rating and 10 Pro Trends at FanDuel along with a +3.04 Projected Plus/Minus, making him one of the better options on the board. Portland is a very favorable matchup, which should help to make up the deficit Doncic is facing after seeing his fantasy points per minute drop from 1.79 for the season to just 1.55 over the past month.
With so many big names available at point guard tonight, Collin Sexton could be a sneaky pivot play. You’re going to see a lot of Cavs recommendations today against the Wizards’ defense (or lack thereof) and +4.7 pace differential. Sexton has been money at FanDuel over the past month, exceeding expectations in 14 of his last 15, and he has a +6.1 Projected Plus/Minus tonight. He’s a strong play at both sites.
Damian Lillard will be a popular play after setting a Portland franchise record on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Our models are fading him at DraftKings but playing him at FanDuel in a positive matchup with a showdown against Doncic and a +3.78 Projected Plus/Minus.
Ish Smith looks like your top point guard bargain tonight. He’s over +3.1 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites and continues to get the majority of the PG minutes for the Wizards.
Bradley Beal looks like a stud to build around tonight. His price tag has yet to bounce back after his injury, and his production has barely fallen off, still 1.18 fantasy points per minute over the last month. Beal gets a tasty matchup against Cleveland’s young guards in a high-scoring game. He looks like one of the top plays on the slate at over +4.7 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites.
C.J. McCollum comes at a similar price so we’ll mention him here, but he’s not recommended. McCollum is questionable so we don’t know what to expect, and he’s a neutral or negative play, especially with Beal available at a similar price.
If you’re not playing Beal tonight, maybe you’d prefer Jordan McRae as an obvious fade. McRae’s salary is up now and his numbers are down some since Beal’s return, but our models have him at over +4.8 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites. McRae can get points up in a hurry, and if you don’t think Beal does much tonight, someone’s going to have to produce for Washington.
A pair of Nets also look like good shooting guard options. Spencer Dinwiddie represents a nice way to sneak a point guard into your lineup at a less valuable position, even if his production has slipped since Kyrie Irving’s return. Dinwiddie is a positive play at both sites but better at FanDuel with a 94% Bargain Rating and an impressive 12 Pro Trends.
Kyrie isn’t the only Net to return healthy lately. Caris LeVert is back too, though he’s averaging only 20.8 fantasy points since his return, short of expectations in five of eight games. LeVert is a better FanDuel option at +2.98 Projected Plus/Minus, though you’d be better off finding $1,900 more and grabbing Dinwiddie.
LeBron James has a strong matchup tonight against the Nets, who offer a whopping +3.96 Opponent Plus/Minus at the position. Even so, our models are relatively tepid on James tonight, though his projections literally just went up as I typed this section. Bron is under 2 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad play.
On such a difficult slate like tonight, even just meeting his salary is valuable for James when that means such a high floor. Typically you’re looking for upside from studs, but tonight, just a strong floor for LeBron makes him a good option. There’s only even one other small forward option above $5,500 tonight, so sometimes, you just gotta pay for basic production.
LeBron’s old teammate Cedi Osman is one of the best bargains on the slate tonight at $4,440. Osman is projected to play 33 minutes, and anyone playing 33 minutes against the Wizards is worth your cash, even though Osman only produces 0.71 fantasy points per minute. He has the top Projected Plus/Minus among small forwards at both sites at over +5.5.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is a great bargain option at DraftKings. His +5.44 Projected Plus/Minus there rates almost as well as Osman’s and gives him a 91% Bargain Rating. It’s a strong matchup for THJ against a porous Blazers defense, and he has intriguing tournament-changing upside if it turns out to be one of his big scoring nights.
If you’re looking for stability instead, Hardaway’s teammate Dorian Finney-Smith is the safer play. You don’t get the scoring upside here, but the game is literally called DFS after all, and this DFS has exceeded expectations in 71% of his games this month. He’s a safe option on both slates at over +2.1 Projected Plus/Minus.
Anthony Davis is the only power forward stud of note, and he’s probably not your play tonight. Davis has been downgraded to questionable (hence the LeBron boost above) as he returns from that, uhh, butt injury. He was on a minute limit the last two games and is on the second night of a back-to-back, so don’t be surprised if he’s a late scratch. Our model rates him as a negative play even at a projected 29.8 minutes, so he’s a stay away.
Remember how you want Cavs in your lineup tonight? That’s gotta mean Kevin Love at the heart of the team. Love has a whopping +7.68 Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel, along with a 98% Bargain Rating. You already know it’s a great matchup against the Wizards, so get Love in your lineup. He’s a strong play at DraftKings too at +3.1 Projected Plus/Minus.
With DeAndre Jordan now officially out, Jarrett Allen becomes one of the top bargains on the slate. Allen is over +6.8 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites and should get the bulk of the center minutes against a Lakers team that may likely be without Anthony Davis. He suddenly looks like a possible tournament winner as a guy many will have avoided thanks to the “negative” matchup and the late-ish Jordan scratch.
Maxi Kleber should see an uptick in playing time and role with Dwight Powell out for the year. Tonight is a chance for a breakout game against a Portland team offering a +5.89 Opponent Plus/Minus at the position. Kleber hasn’t shown the upside to put up a big game, but maybe tonight could be it in a great spot.
It’s a bleak slate of big men tonight, and Hassan Whiteside is the only center option over $6,000 at FanDuel and just one of seven options overall. Whiteside has had some monster games recently, and he can rack up blocks and rebounds in a hurry. But he’s also playing through a groin injury and in a bad spot against a Dallas team that has been tough on centers. Still, our models rate Whiteside at least +2.2 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites, so he’s a solid play with not many other options.
One great alternate is Tristan Thompson — as long as you’re at FanDuel. At $5,900 and a 99% Bargain Rating, Thompson is one last Cavs option. The Wizards have been especially kind to big men, and Thompson has a +7.69 Projected Plus/Minus that makes him a near must-play at FanDuel given the options. He’s only a neutral play at DraftKings.
There aren’t many other options at center, but you could do worse than playing one of the Lakers centers. I give a slight preference to JaVale McGee, who is still averaging 1.53 fantasy points per minute on the season, even though that number has fallen lately.
Your other Lakers option here is Dwight Howard. Both guys are over +1.8 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites and both are in a great spot against a Nets team that’s been awful against centers all year and that’s missing DeAndre Jordan tonight. McGee is more volatile but I slightly prefer him for his upside and slightly cheaper salary.