This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
Thursday's small, four-game slate kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET, and I have to say it's a bit of a head-scratcher. I'll explain when we touch on the elites.
BOS (-1.5) @ NYK O/U: 210.5
MEM (-12.5) vs. DET O/U: 219.5
GSW (-3.5) @ NOP O/U: 217
PHO (-11.5) vs. LAC O/U: 219.5
NYK Kemba Walker (knee) - OUT
NYK Nerlens Noel (conditioning) - QUESTIONABLE
These injuries don't produce a viable pivot.
DET Jerami Grant (thumb) - OUT
DET Kelly Olynyk (knee) - OUT
DET Cory Joseph (conditioning) - QUESTIONABLE
DET Frank Jackson (ankle) - QUESTIONABLE
DET Isaiah Stewart (conditioning ) - QUESTIONABLE
MEM Desmond Bane (quad) - DOUBTFUL
MEM Dillon Brooks (COVID-19 Protocols) - - QUESTIONABLE
MEM Kyle Anderson (COVID-19 Protocols) - DOUBTFUL
MEM De'Anthony Melton (COVID-19 Protocols - QUESTIONABLE
GSW Stephen Curry (quad) - QUESTIONABLE
GSW Otto Porter (foot) - OUT
LAC Paul George (elbow) - OUT
LAC Ivica Zubac (COVID-19 Protocols) - OUT
LAC Luke Kennard (COVID 19 Protocols) - OUT
We'll discuss the best plays for the Clippers later on.
PHO Deandre Ayton (COVID-19 Protocols) - OUT
PHO JaVale McGee (COVID-19 Protocols) - OUT
PHO Jae Crowder (COVID-19 Protocols) - OUT
PHO Landry Shamet (COVID-19 Protocols) - OUT
The frontcourt absences will prompt a possible start for Bismack Biyombo ($5,500), who just signed with the Suns for the rest of the season.
This is one of the oddest FanDuel slates in recent memory, as the value of most players falls almost identically across the board. You usually want a few standouts for max exposure, but my crunches aren't revealing very many unquestionable smash spots.
That being said, we can pinpoint a few elites here, starting with Jayson Tatum ($9,800), who can beat value with heavy shot volume against the Knicks, Julius Randle ($9,000) is at a favorable salary for $800 less on the other side of this matchup.
Also consider: Brandon Ingram, NOP ($7,900) vs. GSW
EXPECTED CHALK AND VALUE PLAYS
Cade Cunningham, DET ($6,800) @ MEM
Cunningham is an upside guy who can provide some value-beating pop at this salary. His first two performances since his return to action were fine but not spectacular. Still, I expect that to change Thursday against the Grizzlies, when he'll likely find his court time exceed 35 minutes again after only 26 minutes in his last contest. Say what you will about the rookie's variance, but as long as Jerami Grant is out of the lineup, Cunningham has the potential to lead the Pistons in scoring on any given evening.
Jaren Jackson, MEM ($6,600) vs. DET
I also like Jackson on the other side of this matchup. Although his rebound numbers have regressed over the past two games, he has double-double upside in the right scenario. The Pistons may still be without Isaiah Stewart, leaving the Pistons exposed in the interior. We need around 35 FP from Jackson to pay off this salary.
Jonas Valanciunas, NOP ($7,900) vs. GSW
Despite their excellent record, it's usually a good idea to consider the opposing center when the Warriors are on the slate. Valanciunas fits the bill, as the Pelicans standout leaves Golden state at a significant height advantage inside The Warriors won't achieve their full potential until they get frontcourt support with James Wiseman's return. While the backcourt can beat you on its own, a floor-stretching presence like Valanciunas can make things difficult for every skill position.
RJ Barrett, NYK ($5,900) vs. BOS
Barrett is coming off a season-high 32 points against the short-handed Pacers, and his overall performance over his past four games has been exemplary. He's averaged 20 points, 5,8 rebounds and 2.3 assists over the past five games, which yields a fantasy-point total that crushes 5x value at this salary.
The prolonged absence of Paul George and Luke Kennard's recent COVID case puta a lot of pressure on the remaining Clippers, especially Jackson and Mann, who have to carry the backcourt and provide the lion's share of the team's output. I don't mind Marcus Morris ($5,900) in this scenario, either.
While we already mentioned Biyombo, we also need to account for Jae Crowder's absence, which is where both of these role players come in. Not only can Johnson and Smith platoon at the four, but they can also provide rebounding support amid Deandre Ayton's absence, especially if Biyombo struggles opposite Serge Ibaka.