Thursday features a nine-game main slate starting at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Let’s dive into some of the top plays on the slate using the FantasyLabs tools and metrics.
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Note: Projections and Leverages Scores/Ratings may change throughout the day after this article is posted. The NBA DFS landscape changes quickly.
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NBA DFS Point Guard Picks
The Mavericks are the biggest favorites on the entire slate as they host the Spurs, who went into the All-Star Break on a 14-game losing streak. Luka Doncic is the highest-priced player on both DraftKings and FanDuel, which is deserving even with Kyrie Irving on the team. This dynamic guard duo has only played two games together thus far, but Doncic has remained the alpha, scoring 30 points per game with a 35% usage rate in those contests.
Doncic went into the break with the league scoring lead, averaging 33.3 points per game while shooting a career-high 50.5% from the field. He hasn’t shot under 50% in each of his last six games. The large spread may deter some DFS players, but the Spurs are also the best matchup in the league. They rank last in Defensive Rating (119.8), allowing a league-high 122.6 points per game.
Killian Hayes has played over 75% of his games without Cade Cunningham this season, which has resulted in career highs in basically every category across the board. Hayes has seen his minutes fluctuate recently but is projected to play 30 tonight. He has the highest projected Plus/Minus at the point guard position on DraftKings. In 43 games without Cunningham, Hayes has averaged 11.1 points, 6.6 assists, and 28 DraftKings points per game.
Hayes has two double-doubles this season but has come close on several occasions. That type of upside is hard to find at his cheap salary of $4,700 on DraftKings and $5,500 on FanDuel. Despite being 6.5-point road underdogs against the Magic, Hayes is worth getting exposure to in this matchup. He has averaged 11.4 field goal attempts per game in his last five, combined with a 21% usage rate. Hayes is a great value play in all formats.
After winning the 3-Point Contest and pouring in another eight 3-pointers in the All-Star game, Damian Lillard is poised for a strong finish this season. He is averaging a career-high 31.4 points per game and was playing superbly before the break. In his last 12 games, Lillard has averaged 35 points per game with several 40+ scoring performances. The Kings rank in the top 10 in Pace and the bottom 10 in Defensive Rating, making this a matchup where Lillard can feast. He remains very favorably priced at $10,500 on FanDuel, resulting in a 98% Bargain Rating.
The point guard position is absolutely loaded, as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is another player averaging over 30 points per game this season. This matchup against the Jazz features the highest total on the slate at 240 points. The Thunder rank third in Pace, while the Jazz rank 26th in Defensive Rating. Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging a very impressive 49.7 DraftKings points per game, and he has more upside than usual in this spot.
NBA DFS Shooting Guard Picks
It was interesting to see Jaylen Brown return for the All-Star game after missing four-straight games due to a facial fracture. The All-Star game is not basketball — as Brown said himself — but he looked healthy, scoring 35 points in 25 minutes. Brown has shooting guard and small forward eligibility, which makes him easy to fit into lineups. However, Brown is usually one of the lower-owned studs, especially on bigger slates like tonight’s nine-gamer.
Brown had a double-double in his first meeting against the Pacers this season with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He shot an uncharacteristic 8-23 from the field, but achieving a double-double is possible again on Thursday. The Pacers rank 28th in Rebounding Percentage and 23rd in Defensive Rating. This is a prime spot to roll the dice on Brown, who is averaging a career-high in points, rebounds, and field goal percentage this season.
Like Brown, Talen Horton-Tucker has shooting guard and small forward eligibility. He also stands out as an elite value play, as the Jazz will be without Collin Sexton for at least the next two games. Horton-Tucker has exploded after getting back in the Jazz rotation. Over the last five games, Horton-Tucker is averaging 13.8 points and seven assists per game. During that span, he leads the Jazz with 10.6 potential assists per game despite playing off the bench.
As previously mentioned, this Jazz and Thunder game will be fireworks from a DFS perspective. The Thunder play extremely fast while allowing 116.2 points per game, which ranks 20th in the league. Not only is Sexton out, but Mike Conley was recently traded to the Timberwolves. With both off the floor, Horton-Tucker has played the most minutes on the team. He leads the entire DraftKings slate in terms of projected Plus/Minus.
Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson look like strong shooting guard options in an up-tempo matchup against the Lakers. The Warriors and Lakers rank in the top two in Pace this season, and this game has a total of 238.0. Poole gets the nod over Thompson, as he has a team-high +4.8% usage rate differential with Stephen Curry off the floor this season. Andrew Wiggins is also out, making this an excellent spot for both Poole and Thompson against a Lakers team lacking a defensive presence on the wing without Patrick Beverley.
NBA DFS Small Forward Picks
With the scoring record behind him, LeBron James can focus on getting the Lakers into the playoffs. The addition of D’Angelo Russell provides another ball handler and shooter to help assist James, but this is still the King’s team. James is averaging 30+ points per game for the second consecutive season while shooting over 50% from the field. However, his salary continues to dip on FanDuel, where his $10,100 price tag results in a 96% Bargain Rating.
The Lakers have a 121.75 implied team total and have scored at least 120 points in five of their last six games with James in the lineup. Even with Anthony Davis healthy, James has played to his ceiling several times. The Warriors are a great matchup this season, as their average of 118.5 points per game allowed is the fourth-highest mark in the league. James has 11 Pro Trends on FanDuel, proving how strong of a play he is in this spot.
Priced near the stone minimum on both DraftKings and FanDuel, Matisse Thybulle has been a very strong addition to the Trail Blazers. Thybulle has played 26 and 30 minutes in his first two games with his new team. Over that span, he has done most of his damage on the defensive end with three blocks and five steals. Thybulle is inconsistent offensively, but playing without Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons will open the door for more shooting opportunities.
The Kings rank 10th in Pace and 22nd in Defensive Rating, so there should be plenty of opportunities for Thybulle in this matchup. Over 65% of Thybulle’s field goal attempts come from behind the arc, providing an avenue for upside if his shot is falling. Besides Horton-Tucker, Thybulle has the second-highest projected Plus/Minus at the small forward position on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
Keldon Johnson has scored over 20 points in five consecutive games as he is one of the last healthy Spurs available. Devin Vassell remains out, while Tre Jones is doubtful and Jeremy Sochan is questionable. Make sure to monitor our news dashboard the closer we get to lock to determine who is playing for the Spurs, but regardless, Johnson is a strong play. He leads the team in scoring while averaging a career-high 21.8 points per game. Johnson has a 27.7% usage rate, and even in a tough matchup, he has proven he can score against anyone.
NBA DFS Power Forward Picks
Jayson Tatum is coming off an All-Star MVP award where he posted a record 55 points. Like Brown, Tatum is averaging a career-high in points, rebounds, and assists per game this season as he gets better every year. His minutes, scoring, and field goal percentage have increased in each of his first six seasons.
Tatum didn’t have as many rebounds as he could’ve had against the Pacers in their first meeting, but he did score 41 points while shooting 13 of 25 from the field. Despite Robert Williams being healthy, Tatum has proven he can still achieve double-doubles, and tonight is another excellent opportunity for one. This game is very intriguing, and Tatum is undervalued at these ownership projections.
It’s a great night to find some value with the big men. Among the five players with the highest projected Plus/Minus on DraftKings, four of them are centers. That includes Warriors big man Kevon Looney, who also has power forward eligibility on FanDuel. Priced at $4,400 on DraftKings, Looney has a 98% Bargain Rating and is one of the best values on the slate. Before the All-Star Break, Looney posted back-to-back double-doubles, averaging 12 points and 13.5 rebounds per game while shooting 11 of 14 from the field.
Anthony Davis being healthy will solidify Looney’s playing time, who is projected to play 26 minutes. That is more than enough time for Looney to be effective, as the Lakers are allowing 52.3 points per game in the paint this season, which ranks as the seventh-most in the league. Looney is a great salary saver with upside in this matchup. Prioritize him on DraftKings, but Looney should be given more opportunities without Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins.
First-time All-Star Lauri Markkanen has exploded onto the scene in his first season with the Jazz. He is averaging a career-high 24.9 points per game while shooting 51.3% from the field and 41.3% from behind the arc. Markkanen has been the best player on the Jazz and finds himself in a juicy matchup against the Thunder’s weak frontcourt. They are allowing 51.6 points per game in the paint and rank 26th in Rebounding Percentage (48.7%) entering tonight’s games. He’s an elite option on FanDuel, where he has a 98% Bargain Rating with 12 Pro Trends.
NBA DFS Center Picks
Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid are two of the highest-ceiling players in our NBA Models. However, both have difficult matchups against the Cavaliers and Grizzlies, who each rank in the top three in Defensive Rating. Embiid gets the slight nod as the cheaper of the two. Embiid sits right behind Luka Doncic in scoring, averaging a career-high 33.1 points per game and shooting 53.7% from the field.
The Grizzlies’ interior defense does take a significant hit without Steven Adams, despite Jaren Jackson Jr. leading the league with 3.3 blocks per game. Embiid faced the Grizzlies earlier this season with Adams and Jackson Jr. healthy and put up a massive double-double with 35 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists. The edge goes to Embiid over Jokic as the best pay-up center option on the slate, so act accordingly.
Walker Kessler is arguably the best value center on Thursday’s slate. Kessler has played 30+ minutes in four of his last five games, averaging a double-double with 10 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. He has the highest projected Plus/Minus on DraftKings and the second-highest on FanDuel at the center position.
Kessler’s minutes have fluctuated in his rookie season, but he is averaging 1.12 DraftKings points per minute. Kessler has excelled as a rim protector, and the Thunder are allowing 5.5 blocks per game, which ranks tied for the third-highest in the league. Kessler’s $5,700 on DraftKings comes with a 98% Bargain Rating, so he’s particularly appealing on that site.
Mr. Triple-Double Nikola Jokic has a projected ownership under five percent on both DraftKings and FanDuel in this difficult matchup against the Cavaliers’ twin towers of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Even against the Cavaliers, it is tough to deny the upside for Jokic, who has recorded a triple-double in 10 of his last 13 games. The Nuggets will also be playing without Aaron Gordon, and Jokic has seen his production and usage rate rise without him in the lineup. As the second-most expensive option on both DraftKings and FanDuel, Jokic is a great contrarian pay-up option.
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