NBA DFS Breakdown: Kawhi Is Back
NBA DFS Breakdown: Kawhi Is Back

This article is part of our NBA DFS Breakdown series.

There are two marquee games Thursday, with Kawhi Leonard returning to San Antonio for the first time since his trade and the red-hot Rockets looking to re-establish themselves amongst the top of the West by taking down the Warriors.

As always, considering there are only three games, fantasy owners looking to take down GPPs will have to make some non-traditional risks that are bound to have low ownership. That could mean fading Harden, fading Kawhi, playing Marco Belinelli – a myriad of things.

Let's dive into each game:

Raptors at Spurs

Over/Under: 216.5
Spread: SA (-2.5)
Cash Plays: Kawhi Leonard ($10,300); Pascal Siakam ($7,000); Fred VanVleet ($5,700); Bryn Forbes ($4,400)
GPP Plays: Kawhi Leonard ($10,300); LaMarcus Aldridge ($9,000); DeMar DeRozan ($8,800); Pascal Siakam ($7,000); Serge Ibaka ($6,600); Derrick White ($6,100); Davis Bertans ($4,000); Marco Belinelli ($3,700); OG Anunoby ($3,600)
Notable Injuries
Raptors: Kyle Lowry (Back) - Questionable; Jonas Valanciunas (Thumb) - Out
Spurs: Rudy Gay (Wrist) - Doubtful

In what might be just as big of a matchup as Warriors/Rockets, at least from a player narrative perspective, the Raptors are in San Antonio for the first time since the Kawhi Leonard trade. While the organization may put on a good-spirited tribute video, as is tradition in the NBA, the crowd is expected to be hostile. Normally, I prefer Kawhi for cash games considering he seems to always be in the 35-50 FP range, but these special circumstances change my view. He clearly has beef with the organization, and I'm expecting him to go full out in the revenge game. While I can't blame fantasy owners for fading nearly anybody in GPPs, it doesn't feel like a situation where I necessarily want to be contrarian.

Other GPP options from this game include the core of the Spurs – LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and Derrick White – who are generally too expensive for my taste relative to their floors, though Aldridge and DeRozan have upside of 50-plus FP that's hard to ignore. With there only being three games on Thursday's slate, fantasy owners in GPPs may have to take some risks to avoid moving solely with the rest of the pack. That's where Davis Bertans (increased minutes with Rudy Gay likely out), Marco Belinelli (14 games with 20-plus FP) and OG Anunoby (three games with 20-plus FP in the past eight) come into play.

Nuggets at Kings

Over/Under: 227.0
Spread: DEN (-3.5)
Cash Plays: De'Aaron Fox ($8,700); Mason Plumlee ($5,000)
GPP Plays: Nikola Jokic ($10,300); De'Aaron Fox ($8,700); Jamal Murray ($8,000); Buddy Hield ($7,000); Bogdan Bogdanovic ($6,700); Paul Millsap ($6,200); Malik Beasley ($4,900); Gary Harris ($4,800); Monte Morris ($4,600)
Notable Injuries
Nuggets: Will Barton (Groin) - Out
Kings: Marvin Bagley (Knee) - Out

I'd be straying away from this matchup in cash. Only De'Aaron Fox and Mason Plumlee seem to be priced appropriately for their floors. Both of these teams are difficult to read. That's essentially been the case for the Kings all year, with different players stepping up on a nightly basis to vault them to an unexpected 19-18 record in early January. The Nuggets have recently become tough to read, however, with Paul Millsap and Gary Harris back in the fold. They have yet to start, but it would be surprising if at least one of them wasn't moved back into the lineup Thursday.

For that reason, getting this game right in GPPs may be the key to winning your contest. The usual mid-to-high tier options are in play, but I'm especially interested in some lower-priced, probably lower-owned options on this three-game slate. Harris might be worth a flier, but I imagine most people shooting for pure upside will deploy him. If you're looking to separate yourself from the pack, looking toward Malik Beasley and Monte Morris may be your answer. Beasley still played 30 minutes Tuesday against the Knicks, racking up 40.7 FP. Morris saw a solid 23 minutes and, while he only put up 13.6 FP for the second straight outing, four of his five 30-plus FP outings came when he saw between 25-28 minutes.

Rockets at Warriors

Over/Under: 225.5
Spread: GS (-8.0)
Cash Plays: James Harden ($13,000); Clint Capela ($8,600); P.J. Tucker ($4,400); Kevon Looney ($4,300)
GPP Plays: James Harden ($13,000); Stephen Curry ($10,400); Kevin Durant ($10,000); Clint Capela ($8,600); Klay Thompson ($7,400); Draymond Green ($6,900); Andre Iguodala ($4,800); P.J. Tucker ($4,400); James Ennis ($4,000); Jordan Bell ($3,800); Austin Rivers ($3,800); Gerald Green ($3,700); Shaun Livingston ($3,600); Jonas Jerebko ($3,600)
Notable Injuries
Rockets: James Ennis (Hamstring) - Probable; Eric Gordon (Knee) - Out; Chris Paul (Hamstring) - Out
Warriors DeMarcus Cousins (Achilles) - Out

The Rockets have been on a tear, having lost just four games since the beginning of December. That's been in large part due to the play of James Harden. The MVP Candidate has been especially potent over the past 10 games, averaging 64.9 FP on the back of 40.8 points, 8.9 assists, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals. Clint Capela has been a stable presence over that timeframe as well, posting 41.2 FP per game, making him a solid cash or GPP option. With Eric Gordon (knee) out, plenty of potential value opens up on the Houston for close to minimum price. James Ennis will be making his return, Austin Rivers continues to see heavy minutes and Gerald Green can get hot at any point, and he's posted above 20 FP on six occasions this season.

The Warriors are 2-2 over the past four games and will look to make a statement in defeating the Rockets – their toughest challenger last season. As always, it's rare the Warriors' Big Four succeeds all at once, so you'll have to pick your poison in GPPs. From a narrative perspective, Kevin Durant is enticing due to him and Harden being former teammates. Like on Houston, there are cheap fliers worth exploring as well. Jordan Bell is a big risk but has gone above 20 FP seven times. Shaun Livingston is in a similar boat, eclipsing 20 FP twice over the past seven games. Jonas Jerebko has 15 games under his belt with at least 20 FP, including three outings with 30-plus FP.

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.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Barutha
Alex writes primarily about the NBA for RotoWire. His work has appeared on CBS Sports, Bleacher Report and other sites. He enjoys both year-long and daily fantasy. Vince Carter and Alex both first dunked during their respective sophomore years of high school.
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