Thursday night continues a great opening week with another two-game slate that tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET with our first look at the 76ers and the Bucks. The Suns and Lakers wrap things up in the late game in each teams’ second contest of the week.
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.
NBA DFS Point Guard Picks
In the first game of the night, Damian Lillard will make his Bucks debut after being acquired from the Trail Blazers this past offseason. He’ll have to figure out the best way to mesh his game with his new squad, but he has been so productive throughout his career that it shouldn’t be a problem.
He’s projected for a 29.22% usage rate against the Sixers, which is the highest of any point guard. He averaged an impressive 1.44 DraftKings points and 1.35 FanDuel points per game last year in Portland and averaged a career-high 32.2 points per game to go with 7.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game. If he’s anywhere close to that productive in his new home, the Bucks will be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
As with many of the superstars in their first game of the season, he’s actually pretty affordable, well under $10K on both DraftKings and FanDuel. He doesn’t offer the same Pts/Sal or Projected Plus/Minus as the cheap plays, but if you choose to spend up at point guard, there’s no question he’s the play with the highest ceiling on this small slate. He’s also in the slightly better game environment since this game has a higher total, and the Bucks have the highest implied team total, per our Vegas Dashboard.
The big news coming into this mini-slate is that both Devin Booker (foot) and Bradley Beal (back) are doubtful for the Suns in their matchup with the Lakers. That should open up a ton of value in Phoenix, especially in the backcourt. Jordan Goodwin looks to be one of the biggest beneficiaries and brings the highest Projected Plus/Minus on the entire slate by a wide margin on both FanDuel and DraftKings. He’s priced well under $4K on both sites, so qualifies as a punt play but is projected for a 20.8% usage rate in his 25 minutes.
Goodwin played 14 minutes off the bench in the first game of the season and had a quick two points, four rebounds, three assists, and a steal. His 12.5 DraftKings points don’t blow you away, but his balanced production makes him a good value with more work expected to come his way. Last year with the Wizards, Goodwin had a few big games when called upon to step into the starting lineup.
He had a career-high 22 points in the season finale of last year while chipping in five rebounds, five assists, and a steal. He joined the Suns along with Beal, and without Beal and Booker, he should get a chance to shine on Thursday.
D’Angelo Russell is expected to get the start against Goodwin and the Suns. He had a solid season opener with 11 points and seven assists in 36 minutes against the Nuggets on Tuesday. He is obviously ready for a full workload, and if he can get a few more shots to drop, he could end up a nice mid-range target at the position if you need to avoid the two extremes listed above.
Besides Goodwin, the Suns also have Saben Lee, who could be in the mix at point guard. Goodwin is expected to be the stronger play with a higher ceiling, though, and their salaries are almost identical.
There are a few interesting options for the 76ers as well, but we’ll discuss that below.
NBA DFS Shooting Guard Picks
With James Harden (personal) away from the team and in the midst of, yes, another saga, Tyrese Maxey should be the primary point guard for the 76ers. He is coming off a career-high 24.6% usage rate from last season and produced 31.7 DraftKings points and 30.5 FanDuel points per game during the regular season.
With Harden off the floor, he becomes the Sixers’ second option on offense. Last year, his usage rate jumped 5.8 percentage points with Harden off the floor, and he produced 1.19 DraftKings points and 1.14 FanDuel points per minute.
Maxey has the highest ceiling projection of all shooting guards on both DraftKings and FanDuel, and he brings solid value. Like Lillard, he can’t quite measure up to the Pts/Sal or Projected Plus/Minus of the uber-cheap Suns but should return value if you pay up for him.
Due to his expected increase in workload, Eric Gordon has the highest Pts/Sal and Projected Plus/Minus at shooting guard. Gordon is a little more expensive than Goodwin and doesn’t have quite the same ceiling and return on investment, but he’s still a very strong option to consider under $5K.
In his first game of the season, Gordon played 32 minutes and had a healthy 21.2% usage rate. Unfortunately, he shot just 4-of-16 for 10 points to go with four rebounds and 21 DraftKings points. If he can get more of his shots to drop, he brings a high ceiling and looks like he’ll be one of the first Suns coming off the bench.
Along with Gordon and Goodwin, Grayson Allen should be in for more work. I like the upside of the other two options a little more than Allen, but he has been known to go off for big games at times in the past.
The Lakers got 14 points, eight rebounds, and 33.5 DraftKings points from Austin Reaves in the opener against the Nuggets, as he continues to be a solid multi-category contributor. His salary dipped under $6K on DraftKings, where he has a 74% Bargain Rating. He makes a strong midrange option at either wing spot since he is so involved and contributes across the board.
For the Sixers, De’Anthony Melton and Kelly Oubre Jr. will likely share time on the wing. Both have the potential to produce, with Melton rating slightly higher in our projections. Oubre does bring a good ceiling, but it isn’t exactly clear what his role will be with his new team. If there’s any way to go with Maxey, he’s the best play of the Sixers’ backcourt. If you can’t, though, Oubre’s addition is intriguing, and Melton has shown that he can stuff the stat sheet when Harden is out. Especially with the two of them possibly taking time and usage from each other, Reaves is a better play than both, in my opinion.
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NBA DFS Small Forward Picks
LeBron James had “only” 41 DraftKings points on 21 points in the Lakers’ season opener, but he should be in a bounce-back spot against the short-handed Suns. LeBron did have eight boards and five assists in 29 minutes, so he’s still ramping up to his full workload. The Lakers are going to try to keep him fresh, so he may log fewer minutes during the regular season, but there is still no other small forward on this slate that comes close to matching his ceiling.
On FanDuel, there’s a little more flexibility at the position with some of the other stars discussed below bringing small forward eligibility. I like them a little more than LeBron if you have to choose, but James is a solid stud small forward and clearly leads the way at the position on DraftKings.
Taurean Prince started for the Lakers in their first game of the season and had a strong showing with 18 points and 26.75 DraftKings points in his 30 minutes. In fact, only LeBron had more points than Prince in his Lakers’ debut. He’s not expected to be quite this much of a scorer moving forward, but it’s clear he has a nice spot in the rotation to start the season for L.A.
With Jarred Vanderbilt (heel) already ruled out for this contest, Prince should stay in a prominent role. Prince has a low floor projection but a high ceiling projection, and is a good way to get some variety into your lineup if you want to avoid stacking too many Suns value plays.
Gordon and Allen are the top options at the position in terms of Pts/Sal and Projected Plus/Minus, but it’s also worth taking a look at Josh Okogie. Okogie started the first game of the season for the Suns and finished with 17 points, five rebounds, three assists, and 26.25 DraftKings points.
His salary is still very affordable at $5,000 on FanDuel and just below that on DraftKings. He is a great fit for the Suns when they have their starters, but the defense-first wing has also shown the ability to score points when he gets the chance to step into a larger role.
Khris Middleton is expected to have his minutes limited in this contest, so be careful counting on him for too much. If he plays less, that could open more time and usage for Pat Connaughton and Marjon Beauchamp as bargain plays, but they still aren’t quite as highly projected as the Suns’ options.
Another cheap play for the Lakers, who got some extra run in Game 1 without Vanderbilt, was Cam Reddish, who is a punt play you could consider in this contest as well.
NBA DFS Power Forward Picks
Without the other two-thirds of the Suns’ “Big Three,” Kevin Durant is going to have to do all the heavy lifting tonight for Phoenix. He has the second-highest ceiling projection on the entire slate and the highest at power forward on both DraftKings and FanDuel. He also has the second-highest Usage projection. Even though he’s so expensive, he has the second-highest Projected Plus/Minus on DraftKings and the third-highest on FanDuel.
He matches nine Pro Trends on DraftKings and 11 on FanDuel using the Trends tool, which is more than any other player at any position on Thursday’s slate. He’s not cheap, for sure, but he’s also significantly cheaper than some of the other superstar options on both sites.
Durant didn’t exactly set the world on fire in his first game of the season, shooting only 7-of-22 from the field for 18 points. He did add 11 boards, three assists, and a block to still produce 39.25 DraftKings points. He’ll need to find his offensive rhythm in this contest and should get all the usage he needs to post a monster game.
He typically likes showing out against the Lakers and has averaged 27.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.7 assists in 43 games against them in his career. He had 31 points, nine boards, and seven assists the last time he faced the Lakers in L.A., which was in November of 2022.
On FanDuel, Drew Eubanks has the second-highest Projected Plus/Minus at power forward, and on DraftKings, he has the third-highest Projected Plus/Minus at center. Eubanks played 19 minutes off the bench on Tuesday and finished with four points, seven rebounds, and 20.25 DraftKings points.
Last year Eubanks had a strong season in Portland, averaging 0.92 DraftKings points and 0.97 FanDuel points per minute in sporadic playing time. If he regularly logs around 20 minutes off the Phoenix bench, he’ll be a solid value play this season.
If you have to go cheap at either of your big-man spots on Thursday, Eubanks is a solid option to consider.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the most expensive player on FanDuel and the second-most expensive player on DraftKings. There is no arguing with his upside and his potential for a smash game. Everyone knows how outstanding the Greek Freak can be, and he’ll be fired up to get his first regular-season action next to his new running mate, Lillard.
It’s hard to fade Antetokounmpo on any slate, especially one that has only four teams. However, with Durant at power forward and my top center listed below, Gianniis isn’t my favorite play given his situation and his salary. On the flip side of that, though, he could end up bringing low ownership since so much attention will be focused elsewhere.
Many of the same things could be said about Anthony Davis. Davis also brings undeniable upside and will likely be a contrarian play since the narrative points in other directions. Davis struggled on Tuesday with just 36.5 DraftKings points on 17 points and eight rebounds against the Nuggets. He should have a softer matchup against the Suns and definitely brings enough ceiling to be a pivot if you want to avoid the Durant chalk.
On the cheaper end of things on DraftKings, power forward is a tricky spot. Yuta Watanabe and Paul Reed are punts you can consider off the bench, or you could slide Prince (discussed above) over to this spot. Rui Hachimura also brings potential instant offense, although he started the season slowly on Tuesday.
NBA DFS Center Picks
Without James Harden, it will be unquestionably the Joel Embiid show for the 76ers to start the season. Embiid has the highest usage projection on the slate–even higher than Durant’s. He also has the highest median, ceiling, and floor projection on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
Last season, Embiid produced 56.6 DraftKings points and 56.2 FanDuel points per game at the pace of 1.64 DraftKings points and 1.62 FanDuel points per minute. With Harden off the floor, those numbers got significantly better. In the 15 games that he played without Harden, he produced 1.8 DraftKings points and 1.8 FanDuel points per minute for just under 59 fantasy points per game.
Embiid is a total fantasy beast, and without Harden, he’ll be extremely busy carrying the load against the Bucks. If you can find a way to make his salary work, he makes sense to start with as a building block.
If you pass on Embiid or want to go with the dual-center alignment using your UTIL spot on DraftKings, Jusuf Nurkic had a very strong debut and is projected for the highest Projected Plus/Minus at the position on DraftKings. He has an 87% Bargain Rating on DraftKings and is a very good option at just over $6K.
Nurkic had 14 points, 14 rebounds, and 39.5 DraftKings points in 28 minutes on Tuesday, and he could be asked to carry more scoring without Booker and Beal.
With so much value in the backcourt thanks to the Suns, it seems like playing Nurkic and Embiid can work in a twin towers configuration on DraftKings.
The Sixers waived Montrezl Harrell and paid up to keep Paul Reed, so look for him to play important minutes for the team this season. Coach Nick Nurse has raved about “B-Ball Paul” throughout the offseason and preseason, but it isn’t exactly clear if he’ll be anything more than just a backup for Embiid. He’ll definitely have big games when Embiid is out but is risky for now.
Eubanks (highlighted above) can also work well as a cheap option at center.
For the Lakers, Christian Wood and Jaxson Hayes both failed to impress on Tuesday, but Wood does have some flier upside worth watching.
Brook Lopez is over-priced on DraftKings and especially on FanDuel, according to our projections, and there are better ways to go at center, especially as he tries to tangle with Embiid.