This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
The NBA finally returns to play meaningful games 141 days after the last slate of contests back on March 11. Some players from the remaining field of 22 teams have naturally opted out, while others are sidelined due to longer-term injuries that will keep them off the floor until next season. The league seems to have put together a solid plan with its Orlando bubble, and scrimmage games have served as a reasonable facsimile of preseason in getting players ready to return to the rigors of the court. The initial set of seeding games for each team should be particularly interesting, given everyone has had a chance to heal up from nagging injuries (unless they've been stricken with one during the restart scrimmages) and should certainly have refreshed legs.
Everything will start back up with Thursday's two-game slate, which will bring the usual challenges from a DFS perspective that compact ledgers do. 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 two games on Thursday's slate:
Utah Jazz vs. New Orleans Pelicans (Projected total: 222.0 points)
The Pelicans have everything to play for during the eight seeding games, as they have 3.5 games of ground to make up on the Grizzlies to have a shot at the eighth seed in the Western Conference. New Orleans was averaging 116.2 points per game prior to the pause in the season while allowing 117.0 per contest, so the elevated total here isn't surprising. Zion Williamson's availability will naturally be a factor to an extent in how many points New Orleans musters. However, the Pels' shoddy defense and fast pace should help facilitate plenty for the Jazz, who average a relatively modest 107.9 points per game but have averaged 129.7 points in three prior meetings with Alvin Gentry's squad.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers (Projected total: 216.5 points)
The two teams have a bit of a mish-mash going personnel-wise as the seeding games begin. For the Lakers, Rajon Rondo (thumb) is out, Avery Bradley has opted out due to COVID concerns and Dwight Howard is nursing a knee issue. Anthony Davis is now expected to play after having gotten poked in the right eye in last Saturday's scrimmage versus the Magic. For the Clippers, Patrick Beverley is a game-time call while Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams (quarantine) are unavailable. The combination of potential absences and each squad's formidable defense leads to the relatively modest total, as does the fact the three previous meetings between the teams this season have finished with totals of 214, 217 and 215 points, respectively.
PG: We have a very shallow pool of viable candidates at point guard, especially if Patrick Beverley is forced to sit out. Lonzo Ball and Mike Conley are the two "sure things" at the position if there is a Beverley absence, although Reggie Jackson would become a highly popular value play in that event.
SG: The shooting guard position is in fairly solid shape even with Lou Williams out of action, as Jrue Holiday, Paul George and Donovan Mitchell form a fine trio up top. There are plenty of eye-catching values below the $5K range as well, with Josh Hart, Jordan Clarkson, JJ Redick, J.R. Smith, Landry Shamet and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope all intriguing to a varying degree.
SF: Small forward has a "Big Three" up top, as LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Brandon Ingram head up the field. Leonard ($9.5K) may be a nice pivot off James after averaging 30.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.0 steal over his first three games against the Lakers. Meanwhile, Joe Ingles ($5.5K) is the best value play at the position with Bojan Bogdanovic (wrist) out for the Jazz the rest of the way.
PF: The viability of the power forward player pool naturally hinges on the availability of Zion Williamson. If he's out, things go downhill in a hurry, and Kyle Kuzma could be one of the higher-upside options at the position. Williamson sitting would give a nice boost to the value of Nicolo Melli, who's thrived in the starting five on occasion this season.
C: Absences on the part of both Montrezl Harrell and Dwight Howard would naturally be significant given each's robust role off the bench, and JaVale McGee could certainly see a bump in playing time if Howard sits. Joakim Noah should be the primary beneficiary of Harrell's now-confirmed absence. Those looking to avoid all uncertainty do have Rudy Gobert at the top of the pool, while the Pels' Derrick Favors has come within one point of a pair of double-doubles in as many games against his old Jazz teammates this year and would see a bump in usage if Zion Williamson is unavailable.
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.
Anthony Davis, LAL (eye)
Davis is expected to play in Thursday's game after getting poked in the eye during last Saturday's scrimmage versus the Magic. Were he to unexpectedly sit, LeBron James' usage rate and popularity should ratchet up accordingly, while the likes of Markieff Morris and Kyle Kuzma both stand to benefit.
Zion Williamson, NOP (coach's decision)
Williamson is a game-time decision against the Jazz. The standout rookie had previously left the Orlando bubble to tend to a family matter but returned several days ago and has completed mandatory re-entry quarantine. Williamson was able to do individual drills in Tuesday's practice but did not participate in 5-on-5 sessions.
Dwight Howard, LAL (knee)
Howard is likely to be considered questionable with the knee soreness that kept him out of Monday's scrimmage finale and Tuesday's practice. JaVale McGee would likely be in for extra minutes as a starter should Howard miss.
Patrick Beverley, LAC (illness)
Beverley is considered a "maybe" by coach Doc Rivers for Thursday's game. Beverley had previously left the Orlando bubble for a family matter and returned Tuesday, so his availability may come down to whether he's quarantined a sufficient amount of time.
Montrezl Harrell, LAC (personal)
Harrell has been ruled out for Thursday's game, as he's yet to return to the Orlando bubble from the family matter he left to attend to. He'll be subject to a quarantining period when he does return, leaving his availability for the Clippers' second game Saturday in question as well.
Landry Shamet, LAC (illness)
Shamet just arrived in the Orlando bubble Saturday after overcoming COVID-19, but he is considered "on track" to play Thursday. The young guard has apparently already quarantined a mandatory 48 hours and coach Doc Rivers appears to feel Shamet will be available to help shore up the shooting guard rotation that's missing Lou Williams (quarantine).
Lou Williams, LAC (quarantine)
Williams will not play Thursday, as he's in the midst of a mandatory 10-day quarantine following his return to the Orlando bubble over this past weekend.
Kawhi Leonard ($9.5K) is certainly capable of offering elite-level production as well, and as detailed earlier, has thrived versus the Lakers this season. Jrue Holiday ($8.2K) could also prove to be a bargain if Zion Williamson is unavailable, considering the veteran guard boasts a 26.7 percent usage rate and averages 1.13 FD points per minute with his teammate off the floor this season.
And as far as underpriced players capable of production on par with the highest-salaried selections, there's no better one Thursday than Paul George ($7.4K), who won't have to contend with Avery Bradley's defense and comes in averaging 42.6 FD points over his first two games against the Lakers this season.
With just four teams in action, it goes without saying that you should expect to see elevated popularity for essentially every starter.
Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Jrue Holiday would see a big bump in popularity should Zion Williamson sit out. The other confirmed or potential absences of note will produce value-level chalk if they come to pass, and as customary, I've also put together a specific list of sub-$6K value plays – some because of injury – that should find themselves in plenty of lineups as well.
JaMychal Green, LAC vs. LAL ($3,600)
We'll have to have some flexibility with the concept of "under the radar" with only two games on the docket, but Green certainly shouldn't be overly popular, even with Montrezl Harrell (personal) out. Green has been a steady force in the frontcourt rotation all season for coach Doc Rivers, averaging 6.5 points and 6.3 rebounds across 20.5 minutes. He'd contributed over 20 FD points in two of the last three games before the shutdown, and with Harrell now confirmed out Thursday, Green could see the workload north of 20 minutes that helped facilitate both of those tallies. The positional matchup against the Lakers is a tough one down low, but you're looking for 17-20 FD points from Green to justify his rostering, a range he's hit in 24 of 55 games this season.
Alex Caruso LAL at LAC ($3,500)
The Lakers have several new secondary pieces in play the rest of the way, but Caruso is a holdover that showed some flashes in the weeks leading up to the NBA's shutdown and now has a clear path to what should be fairly solid playing time with Rajon Rondo (thumb) out of action. Caruso provided 17.5 FD points (5x his current salary) or more in nine of 27 games between Jan. 1 and the Lakers' last contest March 10, and he logged single-digit minutes in seven of the 18 contests in which he didn't hit the mark. Caruso will have to contend with Quinn Cook for backup minutes at point guard, but he made a good case for a solid role in the rotation with 17 points and six assists over 24 minutes against the Wizards in the Lakers' final scrimmage Monday. His solid three-point shooting also gives him a chance to make good use of his minutes when he does hit the floor.
Other likely more popular value plays to consider: Mike Conley, UTA ($5,700); Joe Ingles, UTA ($5,500); Kyle Kuzma, LAL ($4,700); JaVale McGee, LAL ($4,400); Jordan Clarkson, UTA ($4,300); Marcus Morris, LAC ($4,200); JJ Redick ($4,000); Nicolo Melli, NOP ($4,100); Joakim Noah, LAC ($3,800); Markieff Morris, LAL ($3,600); Quinn Cook ($3,500); Landry Shamet ($3,500)