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DraftKings NBA: Thursday Cheat Sheet

Adam Wolf

Adam serves as RotoWire's NBA editor. He began writing for RotoWire in the spring of 2012 as an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and previously headed the site's NHL coverage.

Alex Rikleen

Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living in Delaware.

Note: This article was written and submitted more than 15 hours before the NBA trade deadline. The deadline typically creates massive opportunities for daily gamers, as bench players are often thrust into unusually large roles -- teams have traded away an old player, but the new player hasnít yet arrived with his new team. Pay close attention to deadline moves and follow the RotoWire breaking news page, as many opportunities will open up after this article goes live, but before your contests begin.

If possible, Iíll highlight players in the comments section this evening.


TEAM ANALYSIS

Defenses to Avoid
Utah Jazz at Washington Wizards
Both of these teams have been mentioned in numerous trade rumors, so it is entirely possible that this whole paragraph will have to be thrown out the window sometime around 3:00 p.m. EST. What follows is based on the assumption, therefore, that these teams either stay put or only tinker on the fringes.

It took a few months but the Jazz have finally rediscovered their defensive mojo. It was almost exactly at this point last season that the Jazz discovered their shot-blocking stalwart, Rudy Gobert Ė with his promotion to the starting lineup, the Jazz instantly became one of the best defenses in the league. But they struggled early, even before Gobertís injury, and they were an absolute disaster with him on the bench. During December, without Gobert, the Jazz ranked in the bottom five in defensive efficiency, and bottom six for opponent three-point percentage. With Gobert now healthy, and Derrick Favorsí continued improvement, that Jazz have returned to the top of the league Ė sitting at second in opponent points per possession over their last 10 games. The Wizards, on the other hand, are floundering, winning only three of their past 10 games and their offensive efficiency has fallen into the bottom third of the league during that span.

Offenses to Use
Players whose matchups were traded away
Of the six teams in action Thursday, the Wizards are the only below-average defense, either in the last 10 games or over the season.

With only one exception (the Spurs), all of Thursdayís teams have been mentioned in numerous trade rumors leading up to Thursdayís deadline. It seems highly probable, therefore, that at least one or two of them will undergo some roster turnover. Any time a player is sent away, it creates a hole in the rotation. For example, many rumors have discussed the possibility of the Bulls trading Taj Gibson (or, somewhat less plausibly, Pau Gasol). If the Bulls do end up moving one of their primary big men, that creates major opportunities for two types of players: 1) Gibsonís (or Gasolís) backup on the depth chart, and 2) the Cavaliersí power forwards who will spend much more time against a much easier opponent. Fantasy players at large, and especially daily gamers, are likely to overlook the significance of the players in that second category. But while there will be no specific alert for Tristan Thompson after this hypothetical Gibson trade, it remains true that DraftKings set Thompsonís salary with the assumption that he would face Gibson, not some combination of Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis.

An incomplete list of players who would become more desirable if their opponent makes a trade:


Teams on Back-to-Backs
First game: Bulls, Jazz, Spurs, Wizards
Second game: None

DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS

Point Guard
Kyrie Irving, CLE vs. CHI ($8,000): Irving was generally worth avoiding in DFS contests initially upon returning from a fractured kneecap in late December, as the Cavaliers restricted his minutes and even sat him out of two games in an effort to ease him back in. However, the reins have been fully loosened since the beginning of February, as Irving has exploded by averaging 27.7 points, 6.7 assists, 2.8 rebounds and just two turnovers in 37.2 minutes per game. Heís played at least 35 minutes in all of those contests, including fairly comfortable wins over the Pelicans and Kings. The Bulls no longer look like one of the stronger teams in the Eastern Conference given the injuries to Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic, and Irving shouldnít face much resistance against a Chicago backcourt that has conceded an average of 55.8 fantasy points to point guards over the last five games, good for the sixth-most in the league.

Other suggestions: Derrick Rose, CHI at CLE ($7,300); Raul Neto, UTA at WAS ($4,000)

Shooting Guard
Danny Green, SAS at LAC ($4,700): E'Twaun Moore will likely be the most popular play at shooting guard given that heíll likely be in line for 30-plus minutes regardless of whether or not the Bulls make a move, but Green has started playing his best ball of the season following a miserable start. While heís rarely a source of eye-popping production, Green has still averaged 12.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, one steal and 1.4 turnovers in 32.2 minutes per game over his last five. The key to Greenís success has been his renewed prowess from three-point range, as heís hitting treys at a 41.9 percent clip during that span. Heíll offer a nice floor for those looking to avoid taking a total loss from a shooting guard crop that leaves a lot to be desired Thursday.

Other suggestions: Rodney Hood, UTA at WAS ($6,300); E'Twaun Moore, CHI at CLE ($5,400)

Small Forward
Gordon Hayward, UTA at WSH ($7,100): As was teased in the team analysis section, the Wizards have been a below-average defensive unit throughout the season, and thatís almost always made them an exploitable target in DFS. The Wizards have been especially vulnerable at guarding small forwards, with only the Kings surrendering more fantasy points over their last five games to players at that position. It should result in an efficient night for Hayward, who has scored fewer than 15 points just once in his last 12 games, and is averaging 22.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, five assists, 2.8 turnovers and one steal per game over that span.

Other suggestions: Kawhi Leonard, SAS at LAC ($7,500); Otto Porter, WAS vs. UTA ($5,700); Doug McDermott, CHI at CLE ($3,300)

Power Forward
Tristan Thompson, CLE vs. CHI ($5,200): Thompson probably isnít a trustworthy play in cash games given his propensity to deliver bagels in the scoring column, but those entering lineups in tournaments could do worse than gambling on the 24-year-old, who typically doesnít see high ownership rates on DraftKings. Heís gone off for double-digit boards in five of his last six games, and should have no trouble doing his usual work on the glass against a battered Bulls squad that has lost the battle on the glass in six of its past seven games. Thompsonís path to 10-plus boards will grow even easier if the Bulls do end up moving Gibson or Gasol before Thursdayís trade deadline. Thompson has routinely been seeing 30-plus minutes while the Cavaliers have been phasing out Timofey Mozgov, so regardless of who he matches up against, the opportunity should be there for him to do what he does best. And if he actually comes through with some elevated offensive production, it would just be icing on the cake for those who decided to roster him.

Other suggestions: LaMarcus Aldridge, SAS at LAC ($6,900); Bobby Portis, CHI at CLE ($4,400)

Center
Rudy Gobert, UTA at WAS ($6,700): Itís difficult to justify deploying anybody other than one of the four highest-priced centers (Pau Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Gobert and Marcin Gortat) on Thursday, as Tim Duncanís court time has been too spotty to use him with much confidence and the remaining center options are all low-usage backups. Iíll take my chances with Gobert, who is priced well behind Gasol and Jordan and brings arguably just as much upside now that heís begun to show more involvement on offense while also reclaiming his title as one of the gameís premier rim protectors. Gobert has gone off for double-digit points in all but one of his last 13 games, and is averaging 11.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game over that stretch. The Wizardsí floundering offense and undersized frontcourt that will often feature Jared Dudley and Otto Porter at power forward should create plenty of chances for Gobert to assert his will on the defensive end.

Other suggestions: Pau Gasol, CHI at CLE ($8,700); DeAndre Jordan, LAC vs. SA ($7,600)

INJURY REPORT

Out
Matt Bonner, F, SA (calf)
Alec Burks, G, UTA (ankle)
Jimmy Butler, G, CHI (knee)
Dante Exum, G, UTA (knee)
Manu Ginobili, G, SA (groin)
Blake Griffin, F, LAC (hand)
Nikola Mirotic, F, CHI (appendectomy)
Joakim Noah, C, CHI (shoulder)
Austin Rivers, G, LAC (hand)

Game-Time Decision
Alan Anderson, F, WAS (ankle)
Trey Burke, G, UTA (illness)
Matthew Dellavedova, G, CLE (hamstring)
Kris Humphries, F, WAS (illness)
Chris Johnson, F, UTA (toe)
Kevin Love, F, CLE (shoulder)
Gary Neal, G, WAS (leg)
Tony Parker, G, SA (ankle)
Lance Stephenson, G, LAC (hip)
The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire.