This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
We begin the post-All-Star-break phase of the season with a solid six-game slate Thursday night, one that unsurprisingly features a light injury report. The first game for teams coming out of the extended layoff is always interesting, as everyone naturally has fresh legs and there is consequently a good chance for a bump in scoring across the league. There's also a solid amount of superstars in action despite the fact a relatively modest 12 teams are taking the floor, and enough value to fit multiple higher-priced options in.
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 total on Thursday's slate:
Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors (Projected total: 234.0 points)
The Rockets and Warriors have combined for 241 and 220 points in their first two meetings, and Golden State is ranked in the bottom 10 in defensive efficiency rating (1.096). Meanwhile, Houston is playing at the fifth-highest pace in the league (107.4 possessions per game) and scoring the second-most points per game (118.2). Then, both squads are in the bottom 10 in terms of points allowed per game (HOU-114.5 PPG/ GSW-114.7 PPG), further cementing the case for this being the most prolific game of the night.
Memphis Grizzlies at Sacramento Kings (Projected total: 230.0 points)
Unsurprisingly, a game involving the Grizzlies checks in with the second-highest projected total of the slate. Memphis is playing at the seventh-fastest pace (106.5 possessions per game) and also allowing an elevated 114.4 points per contest. Sacramento is actually ranked in the bottom 10 in points scored per game (107.9) and allow a respectable 110.8 per contest, but both of those figures seem to go out the window when they hook up with the Grizzlies – the two teams have combined for 234 and 251 points in their first two meetings this season.
Miami Heat at Atlanta Hawks (Projected total: 229.0 points)
The Heat and Hawks have actually engaged in just one shootout over three prior meetings this season, putting up a combined 256 points in an overtime Miami victory Dec. 10. That's likely part of the reason for a game involving on the Hawks only checking in with the third-highest projected total of the night. Nevertheless, these are still the fast-paced, defensively deficient Hawks, which allow the second-most points per game (118.9), including the most (132.3) over the last three games before the All-Star break. Atlanta is also averaging the fourth-most possessions per game (107.6), and while Miami has been a much less potent offensive team on the road, the Hawks certainly have a way of facilitating plenty of breakout offensive performances.
With one of the lighter injury reports of the season in the wake of the extended layoff afforded by the All-Star break, there are no positions in any dire straits in terms of depth Thursday. In terms of a position with the cleanest bill of health, shooting guard would qualify as such, and it's in fine shape with the trio of James Harden, Zach LaVine and Jimmy Butler up top.
As far as the position with the biggest missing game, both point guard and center earn that distinction, as Kyrie Irving (knee) and Clint Capela (heel) remain out indefinitely with their respective injuries despite the extra healing time.
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.
De'Andre Hunter, ATL
Hunter is questionable due to an ankle injury.
Eric Gordon, HOU
Gordon is questionable with a leg injury.
Bruno Caboclo, HOU
Caboclo is probable due to a knee injury.
Kyle Korver, MIL
Korver is out with a back injury.
Tyler Herro, MIA
Herro will not play due to a foot injury.
Meyers Leonard, MIA
Leonard is doubtful to play due to an ankle injury.
Chandler Hutchison, CHI
Hutchison will be out due to a shoulder injury.
Denzel Valentine, CHI
Valentine will not play due to a hamstring injury.
Notable Longer-Term Injuries/Absences: Kyrie Irving, BKN; Stephen Curry, GSW; Klay Thompson, GSW; Clint Capela, ATL; Skal Labissiere, ATL; Lauri Markkanen, CHI; Wendell Carter, CHI; Otto Porter, CHI; Kris Dunn, CHI; Justise Winslow, MEM; Grayson Allen, MEM; Alex Len, SAC; Marvin Bagley, SAC; Richaun Holmes, SAC; Luke Kennard, DET; Khyri Thomas, DET
There's a quartet of five-figure salaries on Thursday's slate, with Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11.2K), James Harden ($11K), Russell Westbrook ($10.6K) and Trae Young ($10K) fitting the bill. Naturally, all will be as well-rested as they've been at any point this season, but with a relatively light injury report, none particularly stand out solely based on positional scarcity. In terms of blowout risk, Antetokounmpo may carry the most, as the Bucks have beaten the Pistons by double digits in each of their first two meetings this season.
Meanwhile, the $9K range has only two occupants, Joel Embiid ($9.6K) and Zach LaVine ($9.2K). Both are in particularly advantageous matchups and could therefore outpace their cost. The same could well apply to the pair of Heat players – Bam Adebayo ($8.5K) and Jimmy Butler ($8.1K) – that reside in the tier just below. Given their matchup against a Hawks team they've each averaged over 45 FanDuel points against this season, the duo could also prove to be bargains on Thursday's slate.
The six-game slate and relatively light injury report should help prevent unexpected chalk for the most part Thursday. All of the players just mentioned in the Elite Players section could certainly see elevated levels of ownership based on their popularity and matchups, and lower-priced members of the Heat, Hawks, Rockets and Warriors may also see some extra clicks due their respective game environments.
As customary, I've also put together a specific list of sub-$6K value plays that should find themselves in plenty of lineups – some due to injury situations on their respective teams – and have included those below the next section.
Key and Likely Underowned Values
Cody Zeller, CHA at CHI ($4,800)
Zeller didn't exactly endear himself to the DFS community in the last few games before the All-Star break, scoring just 10.6 to 23.0 FanDuel points in the last three contests before the layoff. That range doesn't exactly constitute a good return on his current price, but his matchup Thursday and the fact he'll be well-rested both work in Zeller's favor. The Bulls check in with the third-lowest rebounding rate (48.1 percent) in the league, and they're also surrendering the fifth-highest shooting percentage (56.4) and second-highest offensive efficiency rating (33.6) to centers. Moreover, Zeller has averaged 28.2 FanDuel points over his first three meetings against Chicago this season, furthering his case.
Tyus Jones, MEM at SAC ($3,900)
Jones has exceeded 20 FanDuel points on 20 occasions already this season, a sample that includes four contests with more than 30. Those are solid-to-outstanding returns on his current price, and it's worth noting Jones compiled one of those strong returns – 27.9 FanDuel points – versus this same Kings squad across just 18 minutes back on Dec. 21. Sacramento comes into Thursday's contest ranked in the bottom half of the league in shooting percentage allowed to opposing second units (45.6 percent), as well as in assists (8.9), steals (2.0) and offensive efficiency rating (25.9) surrendered to point guards. The fact Jones slumped to four points over just 16 minutes versus the Blazers in his last game before the All-Star break will likely help keep his ownership suppressed to an extent, but it's worth noting that game snapped a six-game streak of double-digit scoring tallies for the fifth-year veteran.
Bruce Brown, DET vs. MIL ($3,800)
Much like Jones, Brown had a hiccup in last game before the All-Star break, posting just 14.0 FanDuel points in a game against the Magic during which he put up just two shot attempts. However, Brown still pulled down 10 rebounds in that contest and also scored 24.1 to 43.0 FanDuel points in the six games prior. Brown logged over 30 minutes in each of those contests as well, so his playing time should remain locked in Thursday. Brown accumulated 24.9 FanDuel points across 23 minutes in his one prior encounter with the Bucks this season back on Nov. 23, and his price is one that's proven amply capable of blowing out of the water on multiple occasions this season (10 games with more than 30 FanDuel points).
Other likely higher-owned value plays to consider: Buddy Hield, SAC ($5,700); Goran Dragic, MIA ($5,100); Damion Lee, GSW ($4,900); Bogdan Bogdanovic, SAC ($4,600); Jae Crowder, MIA ($4,500); Kyle Anderson, MEM ($4,500); Jordan Poole, GSW ($4,400); P.J. Tucker, HOU ($4,300); Luke Kornet, CHI ($4,300): Duncan Robinson, MIA ($4,200); Cam Reddish, ATL ($4,000); Bismack Biyombo ($3,800); Sterling Brown, MIL ($3,800)