After a very busy Wednesday night in the NBA following Tuesday’s off day, Thursday has a light two-game slate, allowing everyone to focus on a pair of matchups from the Eastern Conference. The first game gets underway when contests lock at 7:00 p.m. ET and features the Milwaukee Bucks visiting the Indiana Pacers. The later game will take place in Mexico City, where the Hawks and Magic meet in a matchup of teams with identical 4-3 records through seven games.
It should be a busy and fascinating night of contests. 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
I’ve been rolling with Tyrese Haliburton regularly this season, and so far, he has been delivering 1.56 DraftKings points and 1.48 FanDuel points per minute. He is coming off a pair of games in which he fell just below salary-based expectations, but he still posted a very solid 16-point, 13-assist performance on Wednesday for his sixth double-double in seven games.
Haliburton has the highest ceiling, median, and floor projection of all the point guards on Thursday’s slate and the second-highest projections in each of those categories across all positions. Since he is projected to out-produce his implied production, he also brings the sixth-highest Projected Plus/Minus of any player on the slate. He has the highest Projected Plus/Minus and Pts/Sal of all point guards on the slate on both DraftKings and FanDuel, with a much wider margin on DraftKings, where his $10K salary seems too affordable given his upside.
Of the two games, the Pacers-Bucks matchup looks to be slightly more fantasy-friendly, with the highest over/under and the top two implied team totals on our Vegas Dashboard. The Pacers and Bucks both like to play fast, and Indiana’s offense runs through Haliburton, making him a great stud to build around Thursday.
One key injury situation to monitor on this mini-slate is the availability of Markelle Fultz (knee, questionable), who has missed the last three games with knee swelling. If he can return, he’ll be an interesting play and reduce the role of Cole Anthony and Anthony Black.
The best point guard play from Orlando, regardless of Fultz’s availability, is Jalen Suggs, who can play either guard spot on both FanDuel and DraftKings. He has brought good value most of the season, averaging 0.96 DraftKings points and 1.01 FanDuel points per minute and averaging over 25 minutes per game.
Suggs has exceeded salary-based expectations on FanDuel in six straight games since a slow season opener. Over that span, he has an Average Plus/Minus of 7.97 FanDuel points. His defensive production makes him especially productive on FanDuel, but his consistent multi-category effort is enough to make him a solid value option on this slate against the Hawks’ offensive-focused backcourt.
Damian Lillard and Trae Young are both superstars and can go off for monster games. They each have more help than Haliburton, though, which is why their projections are a little lower. Either one can go off with a huge game and is a solid selection if you can’t spend quite all the way up to Haliburton. Of the two, Lillard projects slightly higher on a per-dollar basis on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
If Fultz is out, Cole Anthony is a boom-or-bust play with good upside. He has hit for a few ceiling games already this season and just had a very nice 19-point game on Monday against the Mavs in the Magic’s most recent game. If Fultz returns, his role is uncertain, but that could also result in low ownership if you’re looking for leverage.
If you have to go ultra-cheap at the position, Cameron Payne has out-produced salary-based expectations in each of his past two games for the Bucks and could get some extra minutes if Dame needs a break on the second night of Milwaukee’s back-to-back.
NBA DFS Shooting Guard Picks
On DraftKings, there’s really only one stud option at shooting guard on this slate, and he’s been one of my favorite players to watch all season. Dejounte Murray is the most expensive shooting guard option on both sites, and he comes with the highest projections across the board on DraftKings. On FanDuel, he’s just behind Franz Wagner, who is discussed below under small forwards.
Murray has outproduced salary-based expectations in four straight games and five of his last six. On the season, he is producing 1.09 DraftKings points and 1.08 FanDuel points per minute. He went off for a massive game of 41 points on Oct. 30 against the Timberwolves and has scored at least 20 points in each of his three games since then while also continuing to add strong assists, rebounds, and steals.
The backcourt duo of Young and Murray can sometimes drain each other’s production to some degree, but both have started the season playing well. If you’re spending up at shooting guard, Murray is the obvious choice on Thursday, but that doesn’t necessarily make him the wrong choice. His multi-category production gives him both a high floor and a high ceiling.
Pacers sophomore SG Bennedict Mathurin brings the second-highest Projected Plus/Minus at shooting guard on both FanDuel and DraftKings. Mathurin had been hovering right around salary-based expectations for much of the season but broke through on Wednesday with a 22-point performance to help the Pacers tune out the Jazz. He fell just one rebound short of a double-double as well and finished with over 40 fantasy points for the first time this season on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
Mathurin will look to build on that big game in a favorable matchup with Milwaukee. He should get the opportunity to be a good value option since he has a 22.8% Usage Rate on the season. Wednesday’s game wasn’t an outlier from a volume perspective. He just started converting his opportunities and ended up playing a season-high 38 minutes.
He is projected for 29 minutes in this contest, so he isn’t quite likely to match the totals from Wednesday. However, the breakthrough could be the start of him re-finding the rhythm that the Pacers were so impressed by in his rookie year.
Shooting guard is a little thin on this four-team slate, so Suggs and Anthony (on DraftKings) are worth a look in this spot too, especially if Fultz is out.
Bogdan Bogdanovic has the highest Projected Plus/Minus and the highest Pts/Sal at the position on DraftKings. He’s coming off back-to-back strong games on the Hawks’ current road trip and is still just $4,400 on DraftKings, where he brings a 73% Bargain Rating and matches six Pro Trends. On FanDuel, his projections are also strong, but he comes at a much steeper price.
For the Bucks, Pat Connaughton, Malik Beasley, and Marjon Beauchamp have been logging most of the minutes at shooting guard. Beauchamp, but there is very limited upside at the position since Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo carry most of the offense.
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NBA DFS Small Forward Picks
The Magic have been better this season than many people realize, and a big part of their growth has been the play of Franz Wagner. Wagner has the highest ceiling, median, and floor projection of all small forwards on DraftKings and of all shooting guards on FanDuel, where he can play either shooting guard or small forward. He has the second-highest Projected Plus/Minus at small forward on both sites and is tied for the highest Pts/Sal on DraftKings.
Wagner has averaged 1.02 DraftKings points and 1.00 FanDuel points per minute on the season with a 23.8% usage rate. He typically takes a more active play-making role when Fultz is out, and his usage rate increases by 5.16 percentage points to a team-high 30.2% when Fultz is off the floor.
Fultz had a disappointing game on Monday against Dallas, going just 5-of-13 from the field for 12 points, but he had exceeded salary-based expectations in four of his previous five games and should be poised to bounce back in Mexico City against the Hawks.
In his first full season with the Hawks, Saddiq Bey has made three starts in seven games and is averaging 27.9 minutes per game with a 15.9% usage rate. Whether he comes off the bench or is in the starting five, he’s getting enough opportunities to be a solid value option, especially on DraftKings, where he has a 78% Bargain Rating.
Bey has scored double-digit points in five straight games and exceeded salary-based expectations in each of those five contests. He has an Average Plus/Minus of 4.74 DraftKings points and 3.8 FanDuel points over that span and continues to find ways to contribute on the wing.
While his usage does limit his ceiling to a degree, he is still a very solid, cheap small forward option in his matchup with Wagner and the Magic.
For the Pacers, Bruce Brown and Buddy Hield both have high ceilings but are priced up over $6K on DraftKings. Both are much better bargains on FanDuel, and Brown especially deserves a look at his $5K salary. He has been producing across multiple categories but hasn’t really hit for a big game over the past week. He is a great fit for the Pacers’ second unit but doesn’t always produce eye-popping stats.
Khris Middleton (knee) sat out Wednesday for injury maintenance but is expected to return for this matchup vs. the Pacers. He is still only playing limited minutes, though, so he’s hard to justify paying up for.
On FanDuel, Jalen Johnson and Paolo Banchero have small forward eligibility, but they’re covered below since they only have power forward eligibility on DraftKings.
Bogdanovic has the highest Projected Plu/Minus of all small forwards on DraftKings and is a solid fit here as well at shooting guard.
NBA DFS Power Forward Picks
On Wednesday, Giannis Antetokounmpo drew two technical fouls against Detroit and only played 22 minutes as a result of his early departure. He was on his way to another monster game and still almost met salary-based expectations despite his lighter workload.
While he may have cost your lineups on Wednesday, he should be fresh and ready to go in this smash spot on Thursday. He has the highest ceiling, median, and floor projection of any player at any position on this slate. He has produced 1.44 DraftKings points and 1.41 FanDuel points per minute so far this season, and he was coming off his best game of the season before last night’s letdown. He started the week with 36 points and 12 rebounds against the Nets, and he will look for a similar performance on Thursday in what should be a high-scoring matchup with the Pacers.
He’s sure to be a popular play with so few superstars to choose from, but he is in the top four of Projected Plus/Minus and Pts/Sal of all the players on the slate on both DraftKings and FanDuel, showing he’s worth trying to squeeze under your salary cap.
After trading John Collins to the Jazz this past offseason, the Hawks have inserted Jalen Johnson into the starting lineup, and the second-year forward from Duke has been excellent. On FanDuel, Johnson has the highest Projected Plus/Minus at small forward and the second-highest at power forward, behind only Giannis. On DraftKings, he’s only eligible at power forward, but he has the highest Projected Plus/Minus at that position and on the entire slate.
Johnson has produced 1.1 DraftKings points and 1.1 FanDuel points per minute while logging 30.1 minutes per game. He has exceeded salary-based expectations in six of his seven games this season with an Average Plus/Minus of 9.90 DraftKings points and 8.95 FanDuel points over that span.
In each of his two most recent games, Johnson has posted a very nice double-double and is mixing in good defensive production in many matchups as well. He has been one of the best value options at forward all season, and he especially stands out on such a small slate.
The other power forward with a high ceiling on this limited slate is Paolo Banchero, who has scored at least 22 points in each of his last three games. He came close to a triple-double against the Lakers last Saturday but came back to earth a bit against the Mavs. Banchero’s ceiling isn’t quite as high as Giannis’s and his value isn’t quite as good as Johnson’s. He is a solid play, though, and like Wagner, he picks up more play-making responsibilities when Fultz is out. If Fultz returns, those two players will settle back into their more natural roles but have slightly lower fantasy ceilings.
After Giannis was ejected on Wednesday, Bobby Portis stepped up and helped the Bucks still get a win. He finished with a season-high 18 points, but with Giannis back in his usual role on Thursday, Portis will likely return to his smaller role off the bench.
If you need a cheap power forward play, Saddiq Bey (discussed above) is a good play in this spot as well. Jalen Smith is a good option on DraftKings also. On FanDuel, the options are a bit more limited, but Aaron NeSmith stands out as the best option after exceeding salary-based expectations on FanDuel in three of his past four games.
NBA DFS Center Picks
On DraftKings, Giannis is eligible at center, but the highest ceiling projection aside from him and the highest ceiling projection of all centers on FanDuel goes to Clint Capela. Capela has produced 1.18 DraftKings points and 1.19 FanDuel points per minute on the season and has exceeded salary-based expectations on FanDuel in five of his seven games, including each of the two games to start this road trip for the Hawks.
Capela has the second-highest Pts/Sal and Projected Plus/Minus at the position on DraftKings and the third-highest on FanDuel. On a slate that doesn’t have any of the elite centers in the NBA, Capela is a strong stud play in his matchup with the Magic, who are still without Wendell Carter Jr. (finger) and could be susceptible to giving up a big game down low.
Filling in for Carter, Goga Bitadze has the highest Projected Plus/Minus at center on FanDuel and the fourth-highest on DraftKings. Bitadze’s salary has spiked after his double-double with five blocks for 37 DraftKings points and 40 FanDuel points last Saturday. He was solid with seven points, six boards, and two steals in his follow-up on Monday.
He has produced 1.31 DraftKings points and 1.41 FanDuel points per minute in his limited time this season, and for as long as he’s stepping into a bigger role, he should continue to be a good midrange-priced option. He’s projected to play almost 28 minutes in Thursday’s game, which should make him one of the best values on the board.
On DraftKings, Capela’s teammate Onyeka Okongwu makes a great value play since he has exceeded salary-based expectations in five straight games and brings a massive 91% Bargain Rating.
Jalen Smith can work as a solid bargain play on DraftKings or FanDuel as part of the Pacers’ second unit. He is coming off a massive 16-point, 11-rebound double-double against the Jazz on Wednesday and may have earned more minutes as a result. He has produced 1.39 DraftKings points and 1.35 FanDuel points per minute in his playing time this season, but he can have quiet games depending on how much he ends up being called upon.
Part of Smith’s inconsistency has been the up-and-down play of Myles Turner. Turner brings a sky-high ceiling when he’s at his best and could easily be my stud pick on this slate. However, he also has some disappointing down games as well. On back-to-backs, he hasn’t had big second nights, and he’s in a tough matchup here against Brook Lopez, Giannis, and the Bucks’ interior defense. I’m not totally fading Turner, but he’s too boom-or-bust to be one of my core plays at this point.
Lopez himself makes some sense as a value play on FanDuel, where he has an 89% Bargain Rating and has averaged 0.93 FanDuel points per minute. With Dame, Giannis, and Middleton in action, Lopez doesn’t usually get a ton of usage, but if you need a midrange play who will get minutes and consistently solid production, Lopez can be a nice fit for that format.