This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
We have a six-game slate on tap Thursday, and with many of the league's most elite players taking the court for Wednesday's Christmas Day extravaganza, we have the opportunity to build more balanced lineups than usual. There are a fair amount of injuries in play as well, and half of tonight's contests do have projected totals well over our desired 220-point threshold.
As usual, we'll proceed to break down the positional outlook below, along with possible chalk plays and some likely under-owned bargains that could help you round out your lineups with a couple of superstars.
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 three games with the highest projected totals on Thursday's slate:
Washington Wizards at Detroit Pistons (Projected total: 228.5 points)
Any time the Wizards take the floor, the offensive expectation of the opposition is certainly raised, and there's always a good chance they're part of the game with the highest projected total on the slate. Such is the case Thursday versus a Pistons team that's averaging 110.7 points per home game. That's a solid figure that they could well eclipse Thursday, given Washington's defensive deficiencies (121.0 PPG allowed on the road). Meanwhile, the Wizards bring plenty of offensive firepower themselves, in spite of their many injuries (116.1 PPG scored on the road).
San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks (Projected total: 226.5 points)
Luka Doncic (ankle) makes his return Thursday, and that naturally raises the Mavericks' offensive potency overall. Meanwhile, the Spurs come in averaging 113.5 points scored per road game while 116.2 per contest when traveling as well. The two teams combined for 227.0 points the first time they met this season Nov. 18, and Dallas is scoring 115.7 points per home contest as well, lending credence to the possibility of this total being met or exceeded.
Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder (Projected total: 225.0 points)
The Grizzlies just allowed 145 points to the Spurs on Monday night – a reminder of how vulnerable they can be defensively. Memphis is now surrendering the third-most points per game in the league (117.2), while the Thunder are putting up an impressive 114.7 per home contest. Chris Paul and Steven Adams have developed excellent chemistry the more they've played together, while Dennis Schroder has consistently offered starter-level production off the bench. Then, the Grizzlies will bring plenty of firepower themselves with Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas leading the charge.
PG: Luka Doncic's return from an ankle injury boosts this position up even more, but it's already in impressive shape with the likes of Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Spencer Dinwiddie, De'Aaron Fox and Ja Morant leading the way at the top. A strong mid-tier that tolerates the absences of Isaiah Thomas (suspension) and Mike Conley (hamstring) well gives way to a solid bargain section with multiple options.
SG: We have a clean bill of health at shooting guard all the way through the mid-tier level, with Bradley Beal the only player priced at an elite level ($9,600). That leaves plenty of attractive $7K-level options in the form of Donovan Mitchell, Andrew Wiggins and C.J. McCollum, and there's some potentially underpriced finds in DeMar DeRozan ($6,800), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($6,700) and Buddy Hield ($6,100). Then, even with some injury-related uncertainty in the sub-$5K range, there's still value to be had into the high-$3K level.
SF: It's a very interesting player pool at small forward Thursday, as we're treated to the rarity of the highest-priced player (Carmelo Anthony) checking in at just $6.2K. Anthony, Danilo Gallinari ($6,000), Bojan Bogdanovic ($5,700) and Joe Ingles ($5,300) are all arguably underpriced relative to upside, and there's a number of attractive value choices below $5K as well, including Harrison Barnes and Jae Crowder.
PF: Kristaps Porzingis is the one truly high-priced option at $9K, which could prove to be a bit exorbitant if Luka Doncic (ankle) makes his return Thursday. There are some injury-related concerns from that point downward in the form of the confirmed absences of Davis Bertans (quadriceps) and Rui Hachimura (groin), but Blake Griffin, priced at just $5.6K, is expected to make it back from his illness Thursday.
C: Karl-Anthony Towns' questionable status due to a knee injury is the biggest question here right at the top. There's still a very strong trio even if Towns misses in the form of Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside and Rudy Gobert, while Jonas Valanciunas and Steven Adams make for appealing mid-priced choices. A sub-$5K range that includes DeAndre Jordan and Gorgui Dieng – the latter possibly set for another start if Towns misses – rounds out a strong crop overall despite some injury-related absences.
Notable Injury Situations to Monitor
NOTE: Injury reporting is especially fluid in the NBA, where the status of multiple players can change during the course of a day. Therefore, although the following serves as a foundation for the latest injury report as of the time the article is written (usually late morning Eastern time), check back throughout the course of the day with RotoWire for the latest news regarding the status of all players on that night's slate.
Luka Doncic, DAL
Doncic was able to go through a full practice Tuesday, and he's been cleared for Thursday's matchup against the Spurs following a four-game absence. With his return, Jalen Brunson's playing time is expected to decrease.
Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN
Towns is considered questionable with the knee sprain that's cost him the last four games. Gorgui Dieng would be in line for another start should Towns miss again.
Isaiah Thomas, WAS
Thomas will serve the second game of his two-game suspension Thursday. Ish Smith will draw another start in his stead.
Blake Griffin, DET
Griffin is considered probable with an illness. Markieff Morris would draw another start at power forward if Griffin suffers a setback.
Bruce Brown, DET
Brown is considered questionable with the calf soreness that cost him Monday's game. Derrick Rose would draw a start at power forward should Brown miss another contest.
Christian Wood, DET
Wood is considered probable with a knee injury.
Marcus Morris, NYK
Morris is considered questionable with Achilles soreness. Kevin Knox would get the start at small forward if Morris sits.
Mitchell Robinson, NYK
Robinson is considered probable with an illness.
Dennis Smith Jr., NYK
Smith will miss Thursday's game with an oblique injury. Frank Ntilikina should log the majority of backup minutes at point guard.
Shabazz Napier, MIN
Napier is questionable with an illness. Jeff Teague would draw a start at point guard if Napier misses.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, SAC
Bogdanovic is considered questionable with an ankle injury. Yogi Ferrell would likely log most backup shooting guard minutes if Bogdanovic can't go.
Jordan Clarkson, UTA
Clarkson is considered questionable to make his Jazz debut after just being traded to the team Monday.
Notable Longer-Term Injuries/Absences: Kyrie Irving, BKN; Caris LeVert, BKN; Jusuf Nurkic, POR; Zach Collins, POR; Rodney Hood, POR; Davis Bertans, WAS; Rui Hachimura, WAS; Thomas Bryant, WAS; Moritz Wagner, WAS; Jordan McRae, WAS; Luke Kennard, DET; Reggie Jackson, DET; Wayne Ellington, NYK; Reggie Bullock, NYK; Nicholas Claxton, BKN; Andre Iguodala, MEM; Andre Roberson, OKC; Hamidou Diallo, OKC; Jake Layman, MIN; Mike Conley, UTA
As alluded to earlier, we have a general scarcity of the biggest-name players on Thursday's slate. Notably, Karl-Anthony Towns ($10,300) has an injury designation attached. There are four $9K players available, with that group consisting of Bradley Beal ($9,600), Andre Drummond ($9,500), Damian Lillard ($9,100) and Kristaps Porzingis ($9,000). As mentioned earlier, Porzingis could prove to be overpriced if Doncic makes his return, which looks to be a strong possibility.
Due to injuries on their squads and their already strong production, we could see a continued uptick in ownership for the likes of Bradley Beal and Andrew Wiggins. Meanwhile, there appear to be a number of players somewhat underpriced for their upside, matchup and/or current roles, including Jonas Valanciunas ($6,600), Buddy Hield ($6,100) and Danilo Gallinari ($6,000). All could therefore be a bit more popular than usual on the six-game slate.
As usual, I've also compiled a list of some sub-$6K value plays that should carry a fair share of ownership due to savings, enhanced roles due to injuries, or both, and placed them at the bottom of the next section.
Key and Likely Underowned Values
Trevor Ariza, SAC vs. MIN ($4,100)
Ariza has provided solid value relative to price on multiple occasions this season, with the most recent example the 34.6 and 23.2 FanDuel points he's accumulated over the last two games, respectively. The veteran is seeing minutes in the mid-to-high 20s on average and draws a premium matchup Thursday against a Timberwolves team that's allowed the fifth-highest offensive efficiency rating (25.4) to small forwards, along with the highest three-point percentage (44.9). In turn, Ariza is draining 35.4 percent of his 3.7 three-point attempts per game and will be in position to benefit from the 53.4 FanDuel points per game Minnesota allows to threes.
Emmanuel Mudiay, UTA vs. POR ($3,900)
Mudiay never seems to garner elevated ownership on even a medium-sized slate, yet he's offered some strong returns relative to his current salary on multiple occasions. That includes the last three games, when he's scored 19.3 to 23.9 FanDuel points. Mudiay has been over 20 FanDuel points on six other occasions this season as well and enjoys a steady role in the rotation, with his minutes even climbing over 20 the last two contests in Mike Conley's continued absence with a hamstring injury. The Trail Blazers make for solid targets as well, as they've allowed a bottom-10 figure in offensive efficiency rating (46.7) to backcourts and the fifth-most FanDuel points per game to point guards (52.4) for the season.
Langston Galloway, DET vs. WAS ($3,800)
Galloway should be in line for some extra minutes again at minimum with Luke Kennard (knee) still out, and he could even draw a start if Bruce Brown (calves) misses Thursday's game. What's more, some of Galloway's relatively underwhelming returns in recent games should keep his ownership low. However, he'll be locked into one of the best matchups in the league for DFS purposes, as the Wizards have allowed the fourth-most FanDuel points (57.9) per game to shooting guards, along with the highest offensive efficiency rating (26.2) to the position and the second-highest shooting percentage (48.2) to opposing backcourts. Galloway has eclipsed 20 FanDuel points on 12 occasions, including two tallies over 30, excellent returns on his current salary.
Other likely higher-owned value plays to consider: Steven Adams ($5,900); Derrick Rose ($5,800); Bojan Bogdanovic ($5,700); Elfrid Payton ($5,400); Joe Ingles ($5,300); Ish Smith ($5,000); Dillon Brooks ($5,000); DeAndre Jordan ($4,900); Gorgui Dieng ($4,900); Taurean Prince ($4,800); Harrison Barnes ($4,700)