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Yahoo DFS Basketball: Thursday Picks

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.

After the circus that was Wednesday’s 14-game slate, Thursday eases us into the All-Star break with just two games. With so few choices available, this could be one of the lowest scoring fantasy nights of the season.

The Celtics have struggled defensively for most of the season, but they have moved into the top six in defensive rating over the past 10 games. That’s not as good as the Wizards, who rank second in that time, but it is still very high. The Celtics' improved defense creates significant fantasy opportunity – managers who do not follow the short-term trends may still consider the Celtics a bad defense worth targeting, while savvy managers are attuned to their recent success and will make more of an effort to avoid them. The Celtics' rebounding is also significantly improved, and while their rebound percentage is still below 50, it is now very close to league average. None of the four defenses in action have been terrible recently, though the Bulls have been the worst among the small cohort.

GUARDS

Isaiah Thomas, BOS at CHI ($48):
Four healthy guards cost more than $20, so there are not many pricey options to choose from. I’m avoiding Jeff Teague, but any of Bradley Beal, John Wall or Thomas are good options. Beal is a better value play than the other two, but with so few games and so few players to spend money on, cost is less of a concern. The Pacers are a tougher opponent than the reeling Bulls, who might be without Dwyane Wade. It’s pretty rare that either Wall or Thomas score fewer than 40 fantasy points, and that high floor is perfect for a tiny slate of games.

Marcus Smart, BOS at CHI ($16): Even before he put up 21 points, five rebounds, five assists, and eight steals in 34 minutes against the 76ers on Wednesday, Smart was on a roll. In the eight games before Wednesday, he was averaging 12.8 points, 4.8 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.6 threes in 33.1 minutes for 28.3 fantasy points per game. Again, that was *before* he scored 48 fantasy points, including the ridiculous eight steals. As mentioned above, the Bulls are the most fantasy-friendly defense in action Thursday, and they are undermanned in the backcourt.

Other suggestions: John Wall, WAS at IND ($51); Rajon Rondo, CHI vs. BOS ($11); Michael Carter-Williams, CHI vs. BOS ($13)

Guard to Avoid

Jeff Teague, IND vs. WAS ($34):
Not only are the Wizards the most efficient defense in action Thursday, but they are also the toughest matchup for a guard. They allow fewer fantasy points per game to guards than anyone other than the Jazz or Mavericks. On top of that, Teague has the lowest floor of the four healthy guards – in the last three weeks, he’s the only one to score fewer than 20 fantasy points, and he did it twice. He also has more games above 40 fantasy points than Beal in that span, so he’s not a terrible play, but he’s the worst option of four.

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FORWARDS

Jimmy Butler, CHI vs. BOS ($46):
Despite the Celtics’ recent defensive surge, Butler remains the most promising option amongst a really weak field of forwards. Their surge has not helped them against small forwards, where they are actually allowing more fantasy points per game over their last five than they have over the course of the season. Butler has missed four of the past six games, but he has been productive when he has taken the floor. He is averaging 23.8 points and 7.5 assists in 34.3 minutes per game over his last four, exceeding 43 fantasy points thrice over that span.

Markief Morris, WAS at IND ($27): There only two healthy non-minimum salary power forwards Thursday. Morris is consistent with a high floor, which is good for a short slate. It’s been a month and a half since he failed to reach 20 fantasy points, and he has five games with at least 30 in his last seven. His double-digit scoring streak extends back before Christmas, and he has three double-doubles in his last six games. The Pacers are already a favorable opponent for a power forward, and they may need to turn to their backup Thursday, as starter Thaddeus Young (wrist) missed Wednesday’s game. Morris scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds en route to 46 fantasy points against the Pacers during their meeting last week.

Other suggestions: Jae Crowder, BOS at CHI ($23); Doug McDermott*, CHI vs. BOS ($10)

* If Dwyane Wade is out.

Forward to Avoid

Players who cost $10 and are not Bulls:
Because of the pricing algorithm, there are almost always minimum salary players worth using; not Thursday. Doug McDermott and Denzel Valentine are minimum salary guys who should see extra work because the Bulls are shorthanded at the wing. That makes them reasonable options. Outside of Wizard Jason Smith, all the minimum players have at least one game of single-digit fantasy points in their last four games, and most have more than one such game. None of them, Smith and the two Bulls included, have reliable workloads.

CENTERS

Marcin Gortat, WAS at IND ($23):
When these teams met last week, Gortat scored 14 points and added 14 rebounds on his way to 35.7 fantasy points. It was his eighth consecutive game with more than 33 fantasy points, a span that included seven double-doubles. He cooled down slightly Monday against the Thunder, but he still managed a productive and profitable 27 fantasy points. Meanwhile, the Pacers allow the third-most rebounds to centers this season.

Kelly Olynyk, BOS at CHI ($10): Olynyk has scored at least 23 fantasy points in six straight games. Meanwhile, Bulls’ opponents rank in the top third of the league in three-point shooting percentage, and Olynyk is averaging 50.0 percent from behind the arc over his past six games. Bulls’ opponents also rank in the top third for field goal percentage, and Olynyk is hitting 61.8 percent from the field during that same stretch.

Other suggestions: Robin Lopez, CHI vs. BOS ($13)

Center to Avoid

Al Horford, BOS at CHI ($27):
Considering that only nine centers are available, there are a surprisingly large number of appealing options. Horford is far from a bad choice, but there is no need to spring for the most expensive option when there are so many attractive discounts available. Horford only has one game in his past nine with more than 35 fantasy points, scoring between 20 and 26 five times in that span. That’s $17 extra for production that, most nights, has been no better than what Olynyk has provided.
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.