FanDuel NBA: Thursday Value Plays

FanDuel NBA: Thursday Value Plays

This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.

We have just a two-game slate on tap Thursday night. This naturally presents us with a notably narrow pool of players to choose from. Moreover, one of the biggest names on the slate, Damian Lillard, is already ruled out. However, with the Pelicans and Suns dealing with a number of injuries, there is actually a range of value options that would be comparable in size to a much larger slate. 

As usual, we'll 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!

Slate Overview

Here's a closer look at the two games on Thursday's slate: 

Portland Trail Blazers at Milwaukee Bucks (Spread: Bucks -13.5/ Projected total: 228.5) 

The Trail Blazers are confirmed to be without Damian Lillard (back) and potentially without Anfernee Simons (ankle) and Hassan Whiteside (hip), who are both questionable. Lillard's injury already sets the likes of C.J. McCollum, Carmelo Anthony and Rodney Hood for a bump in usage, and an absence by Simons and/or Whiteside would up their opportunities another notch. Then, with the Bucks such large favorites, there's a chance Giannis Antetokounmpo sees a bit less time than usual on this second night of a back-to-back if the game indeed goes according to how the oddsmakers project. 

New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns (Spread: Suns -4.5/ Projected total: 233.0) 

There are multiple players sporting questionable tags for this one, and the Suns' Ricky Rubio carries a doubtful designation. The scoring may be down just a tad here if he sits, but this game could still offer more DFS opportunities overall than the Trail Blazers-Bucks if it remains as close as projected. The aforementioned health-related scenarios will open up multiple value opportunities, which we'll explore later in the article.

Positional Breakdown

Any slate that only features four teams is already going to have some sparse choices overall, but injuries are wreaking havoc in a couple of spots in particular. Point guard is one, with Damian Lillard's absence and the likely one for Ricky Rubio creating a vacuum up top. Lonzo Ball could also miss yet another game with his hip injury, possibly leaving Eric Bledsoe as the only PG to pay up for. Shooting guard is in much better shape, with a healthy trio of Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and C.J. McCollum up top and some value below $5K as well. 

Small forward essentially enjoys a clean bill of health and even features Carmelo Anthony at a salary of just $3,800, but power forward will have Dario Saric ($5,100) at its top choice with Derrick Favors out due to a back issue. It's arguably the position with least depth and certainty overall, which should drive a ton of ownership to Saric, Nicolo Melli and Frank Kaminsky. And finally, center already is missing Aron Baynes (hip) and could be down Hassan Whiteside (hip) as well, with an absence by the latter leaving only Brook Lopez ($6,800) as an option before we drop down to Jaxson Hayes at the $5K level.

Notable Injury Situations to Monitor

Damian Lillard, POR 

Lillard has already been ruled out for Thursday's game due to the back injury that cost him Tuesday's contest. Anfernee Simons (ankle) would get the start at point guard if he's able to suit up himself. 

Anfernee Simons, POR 

Simons is considered questionable for Thursday's game due to a left ankle injury. Simons logged 36 minutes in a start for Damian Lillard (back) on Tuesday and would be in line for another turn with the first unit Thursday with Lillard already ruled out. 

Hassan Whiteside, POR 

Whiteside is considered questionable for Thursday's game due to a hip injury. Skal Labissiere would likely be in for a spot start at center should Whiteside sit. 

Derrick Favors, NOP 

Favors has already been ruled out for a third straight game due to his back injury. Either Jahlil Okafor (ankle) or Jaxson Hayes will draw the start at center in his stead. 

Lonzo Ball, NOP 

Ball is considered questionable for Thursday's game with the hip injury that's already cost him six games. Frank Jackson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker would be in for plenty of run at point guard should Ball miss. 

Jahlil Okafor, NOP 

Okafor is considered questionable for Thursday's game with the ankle injury that's already cost him four games. With Derrick Favors (back) already confirmed out, Jaxson Hayes would be in line for another start at center should Okafor also miss the contest. 

Josh Hart, NOP 

Hart will miss Thursday's game with the knee injury that's already caused him to miss four contests. E'Twaun Moore and J.J. Redick should continue to be in for plenty of extra run in Hart's stead. 

Ricky Rubio, PHO 

Rubio is considered doubtful for Thursday's game with a back issue. Jevon Carter would be the likely starter in his Rubio's expected absence. 

Dario Saric, PHO 

Saric is considered probable for Thursday's game with a knee issue. 

Frank Kaminsky, PHO 

Kaminsky is considered probable for Thursday's game with a left hip contusion.

Aron Baynes, PHO 

Baynes has already been ruled out for Thursday's game with a hip injury that already cost him Tuesday's contest against the Kings. Frank Kaminsky (hip) is in line for another start if he suits up. 

Cameron Johnson, PHO

Johnson is considered probable for Thursday's game due to a knee injury.

Notable Long-Term Injuries/Absences: Jusuf Nurkic, POR; Zach Collins, POR; Khris Middleton, MIL; Zion Williamson, NOP; Deandre Ayton, PHO

Elite Players

As already alluded to, there's little in the way of truly elite players Thursday with Damian Lillard already ruled out. Giannis Antetokounmpo ($12,600) is the only healthy option that fits the description, although there's an excellent trio in the $8K range in the form of Brandon Ingram ($8,900), Jrue Holiday ($8,700) and Devin Booker ($8,500). Those three players are affordable and priced enticingly for the upside they offer, making them particularly important pieces to try and fit into lineups on such as small slate. And while not elite in the truest sense of the word, Eric Bledsoe ($7,700) has enhanced value Thursday with a dearth of viable point guards. 

Expected Chalk

There will be plenty of chalk across the board Thursday given that it's a two-game slate that significantly impacted by injury. I've enumerated some of the many sub-$6k options that should see elevated ownership below the following section, but as just alluded to in our rundown of elite players, some of the higher-priced selections will be very popular as well. The good news is that only Giannis Antetokounmpo is priced at five figures and there's an abundance of viable value, so fitting in multiple $7K-$9K options that you'll likely need to have to enjoy success is very feasible.

Key and Likely Underowned Values

Cameron Johnson, PHO vs. NOP ($4,400): 

Johnson has seen a nice swath of playing time recently, logging 20 more or more minutes in five straight games and scoring 20.3 to 33.2 FanDuel points in three of those contests. The 11th overall pick in last June's draft comes off the bench behind Saric, and with the latter typically not seeing over 30 minutes, Johnson has a solid, locked-in role. Both players are probable for Thursday's game with knee issues, so the usual set-up between the two should apply. Furthermore, the Pelicans check in allowing the ninth-highest offensive efficiency rating (58.5) in the paint and eighth highest (28.3) to power forwards specifically, along with 44.0 FanDuel points per game to the position. 

Sterling Brown, MIL vs. POR ($4,100): 

Brown is seeing a bump in opportunity with Khris Middleton (quadriceps) on the shelf, and he checks in having scored over 20 FanDuel points in four of the last six contests. Brown is still coming off the bench, but he's seeing an average of a solid 22.2 minutes over that aforementioned six-game span at the wing spots and will face a Trail Blazers squad yielding the fifth-most FanDuel points per game to shooting guards (63.5), including 4.1 made threes per contest. Brown has taken between five and nine attempts in five of his last six contests, so he's staying relatively aggressive relative to playing time when he's out there. 

Cheick Diallo, PHO vs. NOP ($3,500): 

Diallo has gotten precious little opportunity thus far in Phoenix, but Aron Baynes' confirmed absence with a hip injury is going to give Diallo a double-digit minutes load off the bench behind Frank Kaminsky on Thursday, and it will come against Diallo's injury-hampered former squad. Diallo logged a season-high 15 minutes Tuesday against the Kings on Tuesday with Baynes out, posting 12.8 FanDuel points over that span. We've seen Diallo put together impressive lines in relatively modest minutes in past seasons, and he'll also be taking on a Pelicans squad allowing 41.4 FanDuel points per game to centers over their last five, with Derrick Favors' absence down low due to a back injury certainly hurting their defense. Diallo is obviously just a large-field tournament punt if you need to save salary, but with few options at the position and what should be very low ownership, he could certainly pay off at bare minimum price.

Other likely much higher-owned value plays to consider: Kenrich Williams ($5,600), J.J. Redick ($5,400); Dario Saric ($5,100); Jaxson Hayes ($5,000); Donte DiVincenzo ($5,000); Anfernee Simons ($4,800); Nicolo Melli ($4,700); Frank Kaminsky ($4,600); Rodney Hood ($4,300); Nickeil Alexander-Walker ($4,200); Frank Jackson ($4,200); Kent Bazemore ($4,200); E'Twaun Moore ($4,200), Nassir Little ($4,100); Mikal Bridges ($3,900); Carmelo Anthony ($3,800); Wesley Matthews ($3,500)

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Juan Carlos Blanco plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: jcblanco22, FanDuel: jc_blanco22, DraftPot: jc_blanco22, FantasyDraft: jc_blanco22, OwnThePlay: jcblanco22.
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Juan Carlos Blanco
Winner of the FSWA 2016 Newcomer of the Year Award, Juan Carlos Blanco has been playing fantasy sports for over 20 years and covers NBA, MLB, NFL, CFL and Arena Football for, including serving as the beat writer for teams in multiple sports. He has previously written for and remains an avid season-long and daily fantasy player in multiple sports as well.
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