This article is part of our NBA DFS Breakdown series.
On this Valentine's Day, which also marks the final day before the All-Star break, there are just three games on the slate. As a result, DFS owners looking to cash in through GPPs will need to stand out from the crowd. So don't be afraid to take some risks on players you might normally avoid.
Hornets at MagicOver/Under: 214.5
Spread: ORL (-3.0)
CHA: Bismack Biyombo (rest) - Out; Tony Parker (back) - Doubtful; Devonte' Graham (illness) - Questionable
ORL: Khem Birch (eye) - Questionable; Markelle Fultz (shoulder) - Out; Mo Bamba (lower leg) - Out
This matchup has the lowest expected total of the night, though the absence of both Bismack Biyombo and Tony Parker could open up some value on the side of Charlotte. However, the Magic stand out as having the ninth-best defensive efficiency in the league, making it a less-than-ideal scenario. On the other hand, the Hornets have the 20th-ranked defense, which opens up the possibility for players on the Magic to find some seams. All things considered, one might normally avoid this game. But with just three games on the slate, DFS owners looking to take down a GPP might want to take a good look at this matchup.
Kemba Walker has been sensational lately, averaging 34.0 points, 7.0 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals (55.6 fantasy points) across the past five games. He hasn't been doing it by himself, however, as four other players – Cody Zeller, Jeremy Lamb, Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams – have gone for at least 30 FP once in the past five. Lamb had the biggest standout performance, going for 55.7 FP against the Hawks on the back of 24 points, seven assists, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Potential absences to both Tony Parker and Devonte' Graham open up some minutes for Malik Monk, who averages 20.6 FP when seeing between 20-29 minutes. With Bismack Biyombo getting the game off for rest, Willy Hernangomez figures to step in as backup center and could be worth a GPP flier.
The Magic are coming off a blowout 118-88 win over the Pelicans, and five players – Nikola Vucevic, Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier and Isaiah Briscoe – popped for 30-plus FP. Briscoe's 31.2 FP (three points, eight assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block in 28 minutes) marked a career high for the rookie, who went undrafted out of Kentucky in the 2017 Draft. Considering it marked just his third game over 20 FP, deploying him in your lineup Thursday is certainly a big risk. Aside from him, it's worth bringing up the strong improvement from Jonathan Isaac, who is averaging 34.1 FP over the past nine games, and he's doing so in just 28.6 minutes per night.
Knicks at HawksOver/Under: 225.5
Spread: ATL (-8.5)
NY: Emmanuel Mudiay (shoulder) - Doubtful; Frank Ntilikina (groin) - Out
ATL: Kevin Huerter (ankle) - Probable; Jaylen Adams (ankle) - Questionable; Miles Plumlee (knee) - Out
With the second-highest over/under on the slate, this DFS environment looks solid on paper. However, with few new, relevant injuries, finding value won't be simple, especially with a volatile Knicks rotation. Both of these squads are bottom four in defensive efficiency, opening up the possibility for tons of scoring. That said, while the Hawks rank first in pace, the Knicks are 15th. As a result, Hawks players will theoretically be slowed down and could be hurt from a fantasy perspective. On the other hand, if you're bold enough to roster some Knicks players, it could pay off, as the team will be running up and down more than usual.
The Knicks' rotation remains frustrating for DFS owners. For example, during New York's most recent contest, Damyean Dotson led the team with 31 minutes, while Luke Kornet has seen 40 minutes across the past two despite seeing four total minutes in the three games from Feb. 5 through Feb. 9. However, some production trends have emerged. Over the past three contests, Mitchell Robinson hasn't dipped below 30 FP, and he popped for 49.1 FP on Wednesday. DeAndre Jordan has also been solid, having not dipped below 28 FP over the past four games. Kadeem Allen has emerged, averaging 33.7 FP over the past three. Finally, Dennis Smith Jr. has upped his production since being dealt to New York, averaging 35.1 FP since his second game with the team. There's undoubtedly value to be had with the Knicks in DFS, but it almost always comes with significant risk.
High-level fantasy production has been hard to come by on Atlanta. Only Trae Young and John Collins have gone for 30-plus FP at least once in the past four games, with Young averaging 37.0 FP over that stretch and Collins averaging 29.2 FP. On such a small three-game slate, DFS owners looking to get a hold of lower-ownership options could take a stab at Kevin Huerter (23-plus FP twice in the past four) and Taurean Prince (26-plus FP in two of the past four).
Thunder at PelicansOver/Under: 236.0
Spread: OKC (-5.0)
OKC: Dennis Schroder (personal) - Out; Jerami Grant (ankle) - Out; Andre Roberson (kneecap) - Out
NOP: Elfrid Payton (ankle) - Questionable
My opinion is that spread is way off for this game. The Pelicans have scored 90 or fewer points in each of the past two games and have lost by a combined 39 points to the Magic and Grizzlies. You could convince me that the Thunder win this game by 30, with the Pelicans scoring 106 points to reach the over/under. But I'm not sure I'd buy a five-point game. OKC has the third-best defense in the league and will be going up against a borderline-dysfunctional Pelicans squad that has the 25-ranked defense. The potential issue with this contest is getting just three quarters out of Russell Westbrook and Paul George in the case of a blowout. That could open up time for the backups, however, which is a game script certainly worth exploring for DFS.
The first thing worth mentioning for OKC is Paul George and his MVP bid. He dropped 80.4 FP during the Thunder's most recent game against Portland and, over the past 10 games, he's averaging 37.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.5 steals (60.0 FP). Aside from George's dominance, the main storyline for OKC in this game is the absences of Dennis Schroder and Jerami Grant for the second straight game. During Monday's game, Deonte Burton (26 minutes, 27.0 FP) and Raymond Felton (21 minutes, 23.7 FP) stepped up. Both players are worth considering as low-cost options.
The Pelicans are a tough team to read right now for DFS, rivaling the Knicks. New Orleans suffered a 118-88 blowout loss to Orlando on Tuesday, which marked the Pels' second straight loss and second straight time scoring 90 or fewer points. It's difficult to recommend any player in good faith, but it's worth noting that Kenrich Williams was the only player to see 30-plus minutes in each of the past two games, making him arguably the safest option the team despite a lowly effort of 11.4 FP against the Magic.