This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
We have a typically compact four-game slate Thursday, and the narrowing of the player pool calls for even sharper player selection than usual. Luckily, injuries don't project to be a major factor, and Kawhi Leonard is slated to return from his load management day Wednesday as well. We should therefore have close to a full selection of options at our disposal. Additionally, two of the four games have appealingly high projected totals.
Before delving into the slate, a reminder that FanDuel has reverted to its previous format of NOT dropping the lowest scoring in lineups after a one-year experiment with that feature. Therefore, it will be important to be prudent with each selection, as each player's total will count toward your final score.
Without further ado, let's take a more comprehensive look at Thursday's slate!
Here's a closer look at the games with the two most elevated projected totals on Thursday's slate:
Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Clippers (Projected total: 229.0 points)
This contest unsurprisingly paces the four-game field in terms of projected total by a comfortable margin. Both teams will have all their key players available, and while the Clippers have been a stingy defensive unit at home (103.6 PPG allowed), the Trail Blazers are scoring 114.0 points per road contest, and the Clippers have put up 111.0 per home tilt.
Miami Heat at Phoenix Suns (Projected total: 218.5 points)
The Heat check in with a top-10 pace (110.3 possessions per game) and scoring average (113.7 PPG). The Suns are just below them in pace (108.7 possessions per game) and above them in points (115.0, including 115.8 per home contest), setting up a potential shootout between two teams that won't be dealing with any major injuries.
As mentioned earlier, the small number of games does tighten things up for us in terms of player options, but for there being just eight teams in action, there's a pretty solid supply across the board Thursday. Center may shape up as the thinnest position overall, with Hassan Whiteside ($7,500) as the highest-priced option and the position fraught with some inconsistency below Steven Adams ($6,000). Elsewhere, there are viable value options as low as the mid-$4K range in addition to strong top-shelf and mid-tier considerations.
Injury Situations to Monitor
Returning from load management day: Kawhi Leonard, LAC
Jaylen Brown, BOS
Brown, who was dealing with an infection, will return after a three-game absence.
Daniel Theis, BOS
Theis is considered probable for Thursday's game with an ankle injury, while Robert Williams carries the same designation due to his hip injury.
Enes Kanter, BOS
Kanter carries a questionable designation for Thursday's game due to the knee bruise that has already cost him the last five games. If he's able to return Thursday, Daniel Theis and Robert Williams would likely both see at least a slight drop in their minutes.
PJ Washington, CHA
Washington is probable for Thursday's game against the Celtics with a lower leg injury.
Mike Muscala, OKC
Muscala is considered questionable for Thursday's game with a hand injury. Darius Bazley would be in for a slight bump in minutes if Muscala misses.
Derrick White, SA
White is questionable for Thursday's game versus the Thunder with a lower-body injury. Patty Mills would be in line for extra minutes if White were to sit.
Derrick Jones Jr., MIA
Jones is questionable for Thursday's game against the Suns with a left groin strain. Rookie Duncan Robinson would be in for some extra minutes in the small forward rotation if Jones misses.
As mentioned earlier, center is arguably the position in scarcest supply Thursday if you're looking for certainty. Therefore, investing in the reasonably priced Hassan Whiteside ($7,500) or Montrezl Harrell ($7,000) below him could well be worth your while Thursday, although Aron Baynes ($6,800) is also a fine option if you need to save a bit more. The risk grows exponentially from that point downward, as even Cody Zeller ($6,500) and Steven Adams ($6,000) have underwhelmed on occasion in the early going.
Elsewhere, Damian Lillard ($10,300) and Kemba Walker ($9,500) are fine choices up top at PG, while Terry Rozier ($7,600) represents some potentially solid fantasy-point-per-dollar value off the top two. Shooting guard and small forward have enough solid mid-tier assets that make the likes of Jimmy Butler ($9,300), Devin Booker ($8,700) and a priced-up Kawhi Leonard ($10,800) more luxuries than must-haves.
Power forward is right below center in terms of thinner selections, but assuming PJ Washington ($6,400) overcomes his probable designation and suits up for the Hornets, there are at least three solid options in Washington, LaMarcus Aldridge ($8,000) and Jayson Tatum ($8,000) if you don't want to spend for Bam Adebayo ($8,400), and one solid value choice in Dario Saric ($5,100) as well.
With no major injuries on the docket, the chalk Thursday will primarily stem from the big names on the slate and the mid-tier/value plays that have eye-catching game logs. The likes of Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Devin Booker, Damian Lillard and Kemba Walker will undoubtedly be popular, with Leonard and Lillard likely to especially see their ownership skyrocket considering their matchup's high projected total and the likelihood the game will be highly competitive.
However, with the mid-tier shelf very well-stocked as well, the likes of Jayson Tatum, Chris Paul, Gordon Hayward, Dejounte Murray and C.J. McCollum are set to be in plenty of lineups. Then, you'll also likely have plenty of company if you gravitate toward Marcus Smart, Patrick Beverley, Rudy Gay, Meyers Leonard and Dario Saric to save some cash.
Key and Likely Underowned Values
Goran Dragic, MIA at PHO ($5,200):
A week ago, Dragic would have been far from a "likely underowned" value play, but his outlook has shifted a bit due to a couple of less productive games. The veteran has tallies of 6.7 and 20.7 FanDuel points in two of his last three games, respectively, after scoring 26.1 to 45.2 in three of his first four contests of the season. His price has come down some in response to his slight downturn, and although he carries some risk and is therefore likely best suited for GPPs, he'll project for minutes in the mid-20s in the game with the second-highest projected total on the slate. Additionally, Dragic is shooting an efficient 46.4 percent thus far this season, including 41.0 percent from three-point range.
Hamidou Diallo, OKC at SA ($4,800):
Diallo has logged over 20 minutes in each of his last two games and has scored 20.7 to 31.5 FanDuel points in his last four overall. He's provided a bit of everything across the stat sheet, even supplementing his fantasy production with five blocks over his last trio of contests. Diallo is a beneficiary of the ongoing absence of Andre Roberson (knee), and he'll also be facing a Spurs team that's allowed 54.9 FanDuel points per game to small forwards, along with 51.0 percent shooting and the second-highest offensive efficiency rating (27.3) to the position.
Darius Bazley, OKC at SA ($3,800):
Diallo's teammate, Bazley, has been on a bit of a surge of his own. The 2019 first-round pick has scored 26.3 and 24.0 FanDuel points over his last two games, respectively, and he could be in for a second consecutive allotment of more than 20 minutes if Mike Muscala (hand) sits Thursday's contest out. Bazley has been seeing minutes in the teens at minimum even when Muscala has been healthy, however, and he could benefit from facing a Spurs squad allowing the third-most rebounds (14.4) per game to power forwards.
Anfernee Simons, POR at LAC ($3,600):
With several likely much more popular value plays available despite just eight teams in action, Simons could go a bit overlooked at near-minimum price. The second-year guard is averaging a solid 16.9 minutes per game off the bench and shooting an efficient 53.1 percent, including 40.9 percent from three-point range. He's encouragingly averaging 7.0 shot attempts during his modest time on the court, and he's scored 19.5 FanDuel points or more in three of seven contests, including the last two. Simons is strictly a GPP play for larger-field tournaments due to the fluctuation of his production, but he's likely to come in at low ownership and carries minimal risk at his price.