The NBA continues a busy week with four games on tap for Thursday night. The Pistons, Pelicans, Raptors and Jazz are on the second night of back-to-back games but none of these eight teams are running it back on Friday.
Let’s dive into some of the top plays on the slate using the FantasyLabs tools and projections.
Note: Projections and Leverages Scores/Ratings may change throughout the day after this article is posted. The NBA DFS landscape changes quickly.
Consult the NBA Player Models directly for any updates as we get closer to lock.
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NBA DFS Point Guard Picks
The Pelicans got a win on the road in OKC on Wednesday and come home to finish their back-to-back with a nice matchup against the Pistons. C.J. McCollum has been carrying the team while it has been without Brandon Ingram (knee soreness) the past two games, and he’s lined up to be a good play in this favorable matchup on Tuesday. McCollum’s Pels have the second-highest implied team total on the Vegas Dashboard.
McCollum has exceeded salary-based expectations in all four of his games this season and is coming off a season-high 55.75 DraftKings points in 37 minutes on Wednesday. McCollum had his first double-double of the season and poured in a season-high 29 points on just 17 shot attempts. So far on the season, McCollum has produced 1.27 DraftKings points and 1.24 FanDuel points per minute.
He brings the second-highest ceiling and median projection of all point guards on Thursday’s slate, along with the highest floor projection. He also has the highest Projected Plus/Minus and Pts/Sal of all the expensive point guard options on both DraftKings and FanDuel. McCollum will be an even better play if Ingram stays sidelined, but he’s a good option either way since he keeps out-performing his salary-based expectations in every circumstance.
The Magic continue their trek to the West with a stop in Salt Lake City on Thursday night, and Markelle Fultz projects to be one of the best values on the board as he continues to run the point for Orlando. Fultz has the highest Projected Plus/Minus of all point guards and the second-highest on the entire slate on FanDuel. On DraftKings, Fults has the second-highest Projected Plus/Minus at the position, behind only Talen Horton-Tucker (discussed below).
Fultz has had an inconsistent start to the season, with a ceiling game against the Lakers on Monday followed by a letdown against the Clippers on Tuesday. Overall, he’s posted 0.79 DraftKings points and 0.81 FanDuel points per minute.
He has reached double-digit points in three of his four games, but the big variable has been his assist numbers. If the team is firing on all cylinders and this game gets high-scoring, Fultz could end up being a bargain under $6K on both sites. The game has the second-highest total on the board at 224.5, so it should be a positive environment for Fultz to put up fantasy points.
The Jazz have been using Talen Horton-Tucker as their starting point guard, which is why he brings the highest Projected Plus/Minus and the most Pts/Sal at the position on DraftKings. He also looks like he’ll be a good value on FanDuel, but he’s eligible as a shooting guard and small forward on that site. He’s had two good games and two disappointing games so far this season, but his 21.9% projected usage gives him a good ceiling opposite Fultz in this matchup in Utah.
The 76ers have gotten strong showings in the early part of the season from Tyrese Maxey, who has averaged 1.37 DraftKings points and 1.30 FanDuel points per minute. He has outperformed salary-based expectations in each of his three games, but his salary has climbed quite a bit, and this matchup against Toronto is expected to be fairly low-scoring. Maxey did tear up the Raps for 57 DraftKings points and 53.7 FanDuel points in their previous matchup this season, so he brings a high ceiling if you have the salary to go with him over McCollum. Maxey has a higher ceiling, but McCollum projects better on a per-dollar basis.
On the other side of that matchup, the Raptors have gotten good production from offseason acquisition Dennis Schroder. He has an Average Plus/Minus of 7.70 DraftKings points and 6.32 FanDuel points. He has three double-doubles in his last four games, including in his previous matchup with the 76ers, in which he finished with 42 DraftKings points and 39.8 FanDuel points. After helping the Raptors knock off the Bucks on Wednesday, there’s definitely potential for a letdown against Philly, but Schroder also brings a high enough ceiling to be a solid mid-range option at point guard.
Cade Cunningham had 30 points on Wednesday in the Pistons loss and has shown a high ceiling as well. I prefer both McCollum and Maxey at their salaries, but Cunningham is off to a good start.
If you have to go ultra-cheap at the position, Tre Jones is an option under $5K on DraftKings who is getting plenty of playing time. His results have varied for the young Spurs, but he’s getting opportunities. Killian Hayes is getting run with the Pistons’ second unit and also logging plenty of minutes, and you could even look to Keyonte George of the Jazz if you’re looking for more of a punt play who can put up points if things go his way.
NBA DFS Shooting Guard Picks
The Spurs’ Devin Vassell has the second-highest ceiling of all shooting guards in the projections and comes almost $2K cheaper than Cunningham on DraftKings. The price gap between the two young stars is significant enough to make Vassell the stronger play.
Vassell poured in 18 points in a well-balanced line against the Suns on Tuesday, finishing with 39 DraftKings points and 38.7 FanDuel points. He exceeded salary-based expectations for the second time in his four games this season with that performance. He has played a team-high 138 minutes in those four games and produced 0.91 DraftKings points and 0.89 FanDuel points per minute.
If the Suns are shorthanded without Booker again, or even if Booker returns, they should remain a good matchup for Vassell to attack. When he’s at his best, he contributes across all the categories, which gives him a very high ceiling as long as he’s playing such heavy minutes. In this game, he’s projected for a 20.7% usage rate in 34.0 minutes.
The highest Projected Plus/Minus on the whole slate on DraftKings belongs to Jordan Clarkson, who is just $5,400 and brings a 64% Bargain Rating on that site. He’s priced up to $6K on FanDuel but still ranks in the top six in Projected Plus/Minus and Pts/Sal at the position.
Clarkson was mired in a bit of a shooting slump to start the season but seemed to break out of it Wednesday against the Grizzlies, scoring 20 points in 26 minutes while adding good non-scoring numbers to total 39.5 DraftKings points and 37.7 FanDuel points.
Against the Magic, the Jazz should be able to put up good points, and Clarkson will look to build on his breakout performance from Wednesday.
If Brandon Ingram or Devin Booker can return from injury, they could be boom-or-bust plays with high ceilings. In the mid-range, Schroder is a strong play since he has shooting guard eligibility on both DraftKings and FanDuel as well.
Jalen Suggs has outperformed salary-based expectations in each of his last three games for the Magic with an Average Plus/Minus of 7.5 DraftKings points and 12.7 FanDuel points. He has the second-highest Projected Plus/Minus at the position on both FanDuel and DraftKings and is a very strong play at his price since he has produced 0.96 DraftKings points and 0.96 FanDuel points per minute this season.
Depending on Booker’s availability, Eric Gordon could be a good play again for the Suns. He has stepped into a more active role while starting in place of Bradley Beal (back) and will be a good midrange option once again as he takes on the Spurs.
For the Sixers, De’Anthony Melton will continue to start in the backcourt alongside Maxey now that the Harden drama has come to a close (at least for now). With mostly forward returning in the deal, Melton should have pretty secure playing time and role for a while. OG Anunoby is also locked into his role on the other side of this matchup. Both do bring upside, but since the matchup is expected to be slower-paced, they don’t project especially well on Thursday.
If you have to go ultra-cheap at shooting guard, Gary Harris is an option at just $3,500 on DraftKings, and Gary Trent Jr. stands out at just $4,500 on FanDuel.
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NBA DFS Small Forward Picks
The Raptors had dropped three straight before getting a huge win at home against the Bucks on Wednesday night. Throughout their first five games, Scottie Barnes has been stepping into a larger role for the team following the departure of Fred VanVleet as a free agent this offseason. Barnes has exceeded salary-based expectations in each of his five games this season with an Average Plus/Minus of 10.45 DraftKings points and 9.16 FanDuel points.
Barnes leads the team with 1.37 DraftKings points and 1.33 FanDuel points per minute and has played 178 minutes. He only played 29 minutes on Wednesday, though, so he should be ready to carry the load again in this rematch with the Sixers. When he faced them earlier this season, he had 46 DraftKings points and 46.1 FanDuel points in 37 minutes.
Using the Trends tool, Barnes matches 11 Pro Trends on FanDuel, tied for the second-most on the slate. On DraftKings, he matches 11 Pro Trends as well, more than any other player on the slate.
Franz Wagner has the highest Projected Plus/Minus and the highest projected Pts/Sal at small forward on FanDuel, and the second-highest on DraftKings. He is looking to bounce back from a down game in a tough matchup against the Clippers, but the projections really like his matchup against the Jazz on Thursday night.
Wagner played slightly fewer minutes against the Clippers in a blowout loss, but he had outperformed his salary-based expectations in the two prior games against the Trail Blazers and Lakers, which were more competitive. He is averaging 1.03 DraftKings points and 0.99 FanDuel points per minute and has played a team-high 112 minutes in his four games this season.
Given their salary and matchup, you could build a mini-stack around Wagner, Suggs, and Fultz. If Orlando can keep the game close, those three players should all end up returning good value.
On the other side of that matchup in Utah, Lauri Markkanen has a very high ceiling, although he has been “boom-or-bust” in the early going this season with some great games and some big letdowns. He does have four double-doubles in his five games this season, though, and is worth a look if you’re going for pure upside and don’t mind the risk.
Keldon Johnson had gotten off to a slow start before coming alive to lead Tuesday’s huge comeback win for the Spurs over the Suns. He had 27 points and a season-high 42.75 DraftKings points in that game after struggling to just five points and 15.25 DraftKings points in his previous game against the Clippers. Like Markkanen, he comes with a high ceiling but also an even lower floor.
On the cheaper side of things, Josh Okogie has the highest Projected Plus/Minus at the position on DraftKings and the fourth-highest on FanDuel. He has exceeded salary-based expectations on DraftKings in three of his four games and is definitely a value to consider on that site. On FanDuel, Talen Horton-Tucker projects as one of the better value options, along with Herbert Jones of the Pelicans and Kelly Oubre Jr. of the 76ers.
Oubre will be moving into the starting lineup in place of the traded P.J. Tucker, and he could end up being a great option if he continues his early-season form. In his three games with the Sixers, Oubre has averaged 1.03 DraftKings points and 1.05 FanDuel points per minute. He can flex to shooting guard on FanDuel and power forward on DraftKings but is eligible at small forward on both sites.
NBA DFS Power Forward Picks
There’s definitely a chance that Kevin Durant goes nuclear after losing to the Spurs and fully carries the Suns without Booker. However, there’s also a scenario where Booker returns and cuts into his usage, or Durant just doesn’t put up enough non-scoring numbers to make him worth his salary. He has only exceeded salary-based expectations once in four games this season. There’s no arguing about his sky-high ceiling, but there is a strong argument to be made for going in another direction on this slate.
Zion Williamson has been the clear focus of the Pelicans’ offense in the absence of Brandon Ingram, and the big man has stepped up in a big way with strong showings against the Warriors and Thunder. On Wednesday, he had his best game of the season, posting 20 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists to carry the team to a road win.
On this slate, in a good matchup against the Pistons, Zion has a much better Pts/Sal and Projected Plus/Minus than Durant. In fact, he has the highest Projected Plus/Minus of all players on the entire slate on FanDuel, where he comes with a 95% Bargain Rating and matches a slate-high 12 Pro Trends.
You can build your lineups to include both KD and Zion if you get creative in other spots, especially since Durant is eligible at small forward on FanDuel and Zion can slide to center on DraftKings. If you can choose just one, though, for this slate, I’m going with Zion, especially if Ingram remains sidelined.
The value at power forward comes from the Jazz. John Collins has the highest Projected Plus/Minus on DraftKings and the most Pts/Sal at the position. On DraftKings, Collins has exceeded salary-based expectations in each of his five games with Utah, producing an Average Plus/Minus of +4.05 DraftKings points. On FanDuel, Collins has been higher priced and remains so on this slate, but he has still exceeded salary-based expectations four times with an Average Plus/Minus of +2.82 FanDuel points.
On FanDuel, it’s Collins’ teammate Kelly Olynyk who takes the second spot (behind Zion) in Projected Plus/Minus and Pts/Sal. He has been able to outproduce salary-based expectations on FanDuel for four straight, while on DraftKings, his salary is a little higher.
Collins projects to stay the better play on DraftKings, while Olynyk projects to be the better value play on FanDuel. Both should produce good numbers against Orlando; it just depends on what player is cheaper and fits your lineup better.
Despite his slow start to the season, Paolo Banchero projects as a good value against the Jazz. He hasn’t been able to reach his salary-based expectations yet this season, but he has the third-highest Projected Plus/Minus on DrafKings at the position and the fourth-highest on FanDuel.
Ausar Thompson has gotten off to a strong start with the Pistons. He has produced 1.1 DraftKings points and 1.12 FanDuel points per minute and played just under 30 minutes per game. In each of his past four games, he has exceeded salary-based expectations, and the only thing keeping him out of my top value spot is his tough matchup against the Pelicans.
Oubre Jr. is also a good mid-range option at this spot on DraftKings. Another mid-range option to consider is Jeremy Sochan, who is a point guard/small forward on DraftKings and a point guard/power forward on FanDuel. He should be a solid play for the Spurs against the Suns.
If you opt to go cheap at power forward, Cedi Osman and Yuta Watanabe are both still extremely cheap on DraftKings. On FanDuel, Chris Boucher has power forward eligibility at just $4K, and Drew Eubanks can flex over to power forward at $4,600 (more on Eubanks below).
NBA DFS Center Picks
On both FanDuel and DraftKings, Joel Embiid brings the top ceiling projection on the slate. He’s great and can go off for a huge number. End of analysis…
However… he’s also crazy expensive and actually doesn’t represent the best value of the studs available. If you have the salary, go for it, but the projections say you’d be better off building around Jusuf Nurkic in his rematch with the Spurs. If you opt to go with Nurk, you can use that savings to pay up in other spots since he’s significantly cheaper than Embiid on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
Nurkic has the highest Projected Plus/Minus and Pts/Sal at center on DraftKings and is third at the position on FanDuel behind Olynyk and Jakob Poeltl. Nurkic has exceeded salary-based expectations in three of his four games this season, and he just smashed the Spurs for a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double that resulted in 41.5 DraftKings points and 41.4 FanDuel points.
Given the matchup against the Spurs and how productive he has been, Nurkic is a strong alternative to Embiid and actually allows for much better lineup construction on the whole on Thursday.
Collins and Olynyk make sense in this spot on DraftKings and FanDuel, respectively, as discussed above. The other value to consider is Jakob Poeltl, who has posted very strong outings in each of his two most recent games. He had exactly 14 points and a double-double against the Trail Blazers and the Bucks, producing 1.18 DraftKings points and 1.14 FanDuel points per minute in those two games.
Poetl has the highest Projected Plus/Minus of all centers on FanDuel, where he has an 82% Bargain Rating. He didn’t have a great game in his first matchup with the 76ers, but his salary has dropped since then, and he may be able to continue to deliver good value at this lower salary.
Jalen Duren was off to a strong start to the season for the Pistons. He was sidelined Wednesday but could be back in action on Thursday. If he returns, he’ll be high-risk but does come with a high ceiling.
Victor Wembanyama is tons of fun to watch and going to be a star. He’s just not living up to his elevated salary on most slates and isn’t projected to on this one, either.
Jonas Valaciunas has been steady to start the season and projects to be a solid midrange play, especially on FanDuel, where he’s a little under-priced.
Suns backup Drew Eubanks has put up back-to-back strong performances off the Suns bench, with an Average Plus/Minus in those two games of 8.6 DraftKings points and 11.1 FanDuel points. He’ll get another revenge narrative game against the Spurs after a good showing on Tuesday.
If you have to go cheap at center, Marvin Bagley III will be a good option if Duren is out again. Robert Covington could also be an intriguing cheap flier depending on his new role in the 76ers’ rotation.