This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
Thursday's NBA slate consists of only five games. Slates like these usually favor a cash-game approach due to the higher probability of split prize pools. I also prefer H2H contests with slates of this size. Let's dig in.
CHI (-1.5) @ NYK O/U: 213.5
MIL (-4) @ TOR O/U: 213.5
MEM (-9.5) vs. OKC O/U: 215
PHO (-12.5) vs. DET O/U: 210.5
POR (-3.5) vs. SAS O/U: 221.5
The numbers seem to indicate that the final game of the slate where we should focus our attention, and due to some injury concerns on both sides of that coin, we can find some excellent value on both rosters.
NYK RJ Barrett (illness) - QUESTIONABLE
TOR OG Anunoby (hip) - OUT
TOR Gary Trent (calf) - QUESTIONABLE
TOR Khem Birch (knee) - OUT
Svi Mykhailiuk ($4,800) started for Trent over the past two games, and that should remain the case if Trent is out again. Scottie Barnes ($7,300) will remain in for Anunoby, and Chris Boucher ($4,400) should earn some second-unit action with Birch out.
OKC Josh Giddey (illness) - OUT
I'm not particularly high on the Thunder against the Grizzlies tonight, but Tre Mann ($4,600) got the start in Giddey's place and could be a viable punt play again Thursday.
MEM Ja Morant (knee) - OUT
Morant's injury is a massive loss for the Grizzlies, and the team is only beginning to figure out their rotation shift in the wake of his extended absence. Tyus Jones ($4,600) was effective as a ball distributor over his first two contests in the starting job, but so far, he doesn't come close to absorbing Morant's scoring production. Dillon Brooks ($5,800) and De'Anthony Melton ($6.500) seem to be handling the gap.
SAS Devin Vassell (quad) - OUT
SAS Doug McDermott (knee) - OUT
PHO Devin Booker (hamstring) - OUT
A variety of things could happen in Booker's absence. While Landry Shamet ($3,800) is listed second on the depth chart, the Suns might also slide Mikal Bridges ($5,900) over, allowing increased time for Cameron Johnson ($3,900) on the wing.
POR Damian Lillard (abdomen) - OUT
POR Norman Powell (quad) - QUESTIONABLE
POR Nassir Little (ankle) - OUT
It looks like Lillard will be out for a couple weeks. Anfernee Simons ($5,200) drew the start for Lillard in the last game, but Ben McLemore ($3,500) and Dennis Smith ($3,500) also inflicted damage in the rotation against Detroit.
Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,000) is the only player above $10K on this small slate. We chose to limit his exposure Wednesday, and he made me regret it with a massive 40-point effort. We were still able to absorb that output with less-expensive options, but he's immediately more viable due to the shortage of options.
We'll extend the elite category down to $8,000 with only five games available. As usual, Dejounte Murray ($9,800) holds a lot of value, especially against the Trailblazers, who will be without Damian Lillard. Julius Randle ($8,500) is also in play against Chicago due to a slight discount in salary, but my favorite play at this level is Fred VanVleet ($8,000). He's due to spin the output back up after a mediocre game against Memphis. Finally, Chris Paul ($8,400) has to be a contender with Booker out of the lineup. The All-Star has a soft matchup against Detroit, and we should see him do a little bit of everything in the backcourt.
EXPECTED CHALK + VALUE PLAYS
We will condense this section due to the small slate size. It's imperative to dig into the injury section to find the best values on the slate. Dillon Brooks, Tre Mann and Anfernee Simons lead the group for me in the category.
Cade Cunningham, DET ($7,900) @ PHO
With Devin Booker off the floor, this could be an opportunity for Cunningham to show his worth against an elite team. After a rocky start, the rookie's floor has settled in the 30-FP range. His upside is still fairly high, though, as he's already demonstrated the ability to take over a game and post 50 or more fantasy points with ease. You're making a bet on one of those nights when you pay for Cunningham at this price – this injury scenario might be worth the trouble.
Deandre Ayton, PHO ($7,800) vs. DET
Thursday will showcase a battle between Ayton and Isaiah Stewart ($5,000), and Phoenix's franchise center should have no problem putting up a good stat line. After a poor game against the Nets, he lit it up with 48 FP against the Warriors two days ago. The Pistons rank 29th in total rebounding percentage, which should be an encouraging sign for Ayton's continued success in the paint.
Jusuf Nurkic, POR ($6,700) vs. SAN
It's a tough call between Nurkic and Jakob Poeltl ($6,000) on both sides of the matchup, but I'm reasonably confident that a center around FanDuel's median price is a sound way to go on Thursday's slate. Both big men are affordable and reliable, but I think Nurkic has the slight edge against the Sours, who have had their share of troubles against opposing centers. The numbers are close, but the Spurs have allowed just a bit more with an average of 22.5 FP allowed to opposing big men. We'll let the stats break the tie.
Luguentz Dort, OKC ($5,600) @ MEM
Although Dort's usage remains steady when Josh Giddey is off the court, he still has one of the highest usage percentages on the team and should be a good source of production. The Grizzlies have played strong defense against Dort's position, but Dort isn't a traditional small forward and can often be found alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the backcourt.