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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.

There are six games on Thursday’s slate – high for a Thursday, but still a relatively quiet night. Fantasy scores are likely to be on the lower side, but they may get driven up by the mounting injuries and rests as the season nears its end. Lots of games feature teams whose playoff standing is still uncertain, and that increases the likelihood that those teams will behave predictably.

The Timberwolves are the worst defense in action, ranking second to last in per-possession defense over the past 10 games. The next-worst defense, according to recent performance, belongs to the Wizards. On the opposite end are the Nets – yes, really, those Nets – whose defense ranks second-best over the last 10 games. Despite their recent success, the Nets' defense still ranks in the bottom third - less diligent managers may not realize the gravity of the change try to target the Nets, but we won’t let you fall into that trap.

GUARDS

Bradley Beal, WAS at NY ($32):
With the Celtics’ loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday, the Wizards (and the Raptors) look like they may still have a chance at the two-seed in the Eastern conference. In order to keep those hopes alive, the Wizards will need to win against a bad Knicks team. New York's defense has been close to league average lately, but due to the random quirks of scheduling, they are still one of the worst defenses active Thursday. Beal is riding a four-game streak with at least 31 fantasy points, including games against the Warriors and Jazz, two of the toughest fantasy opponents.

Matthew Dellavedova, MIL at IND ($10): Malcolm Brogdon (back) has missed three games and will be out again Thursday. After excellent performances in the first two games, averaging 22.6 fantasy points in 34.5 minutes per outing, Dellavedova disappeared Tuesday, scoring only 8.2 fantasy points in 17 minutes. While that performance will deter many daily gamers, it should not – the game was out of reach before halftime, so head coach Jason Kidd rested the veteran and gave extended run to recently signed Gary Payton II. Payton was ineffective, and in a more competitive game he is unlikely to play such a large role.

Other suggestions: Courtney Lee, NY vs. WAS ($13); Jeremy Lin, BKN at ORL ($19)

Guard to Avoid

Damian Lillard, POR vs. MIN ($48):
The matchup is great, and the "Blazers are in a tight battle to make the playoffs” storyline is compelling. However, Lillard's price is too high, and the playoff battle is not as close as it appears. Regarding the playoff picture, the Blazers are a game up on the Nuggets and control the tiebreaker. That means their magic number is down to three – meaning the Blazers clinch with three Blazers wins or Nuggets losses; both teams have four games remaining. Lillard has only broken 50 fantasy points once in the past two weeks, and just four times since the All-Star break. He provides a strong floor, failing to score fewer than 40.0 fantasy points just once since March 14 (it came against the Jazz), but he rarely profits.

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FORWARDS

Paul George, IND vs. MIL ($42):
The Pacers lost six of seven, but as their slide worsened, George’s play improved. Over the past eight games, he is averaging 31.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, both well above his season averages. During that span, he has five games of at least 50 fantasy points, and one more of 44.3. The Bucks defense is one spot removed from the bottom third in per-possession defense over the past 10 games, and they have the second-lowest rebound percentage during the period.

Taurean Prince, ATL vs. BOS ($15): The Hawks are another team with an uncertain playoff position. They could realistically earn the fifth seed, or fail to qualify entirely. Prince’s role has increased lately, and he has played at least 35 minutes in four of his past five games. In that span, he has scored at least nine points in every game, while averaging 5.0 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 0.8 blocks. Meanwhile, the Celtics are on the second night of a back-to-back after losing badly to the Cavaliers on Wednesday.

Other suggestions: Kelly Oubre Jr, WAS at NY ($10); Mindaugas Kuzminskas*, NY vs. WAS ($10); Kelly Olynyk, BOS at ATL ($11)

* If Carmelo Anthony (poor management) is inactive

Forward to Avoid

Dario Saric, PHI vs. CHI ($34):
Saric was fantastic in March, averaging 18.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 31.7 minutes per game. However, he is averaging only 21.5 minutes per game in April due to “left heel soreness” – and some reports are calling the injury plantar fasciitis, a painful condition exacerbated by exercise and that only heals with lengthy rest. He will play the rest of the season under a 24 minutes per game cap, and as head coach Brett Brown has shown earlier this season with the caps applied to Joel Embiid and others, players are much more likely to come in below the cap than at it. With the new restrictions, Saric will be unlikely to recreate his March production.

CENTERS

Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN at POR ($51):
Towns is overpriced, so he is unlikely to post a big profit – on a busier night, he probably wouldn’t be worth the risk. However, on a slow night, a player who costs around $50 and can break even is often a strong move. The Trail Blazers are without Jusuf Nurkic (leg), and their replacements at center are poor. On Tuesday, Rudy Gobert scored 20 points against them (he averages 14.0 per game). On Monday, Towns himself scored 34 on his way to 47.4 fantasy points – compare that to the 16 points and 22.0 fantasy points that Nurkic held Towns to in the previous Timberwolves-Trail Blazers matchup.

Robin Lopez, CHI at PHI ($11): The 76ers are running out of big men. Richaun Holmes is their only healthy power forward or center who is obviously talented enough to have an NBA career that lasts beyond the end of this season (Dario Saric is active, but not healthy). When Holmes is on the floor, the Bulls are only one switch away from a major mismatch – and if Lopez is on the floor without Holmes, then the 76ers can provide little more than token defense. Lopez is not a major piece of the Bulls' offense, but at this low price, he only needs a few shots to fall to earn a big profit. Lopez is averaging 11.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game over his last five.

Other suggestions: Willy Hernangomez, NY vs. WAS ($16); Brook Lopez, BKN at ORL ($27)

Center to Avoid

Myles Turner, IND vs. MIL ($22):
Turner has entered a slump, going four games without scoring in double-digits. Due to his difficulty scoring, he has posted fewer than 20 fantasy points in three of those games. Additionally, over the last five, the Bucks have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to centers. There are a lot of good center options Thursday, so there is little reason to take the risk on Turner.
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.