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We have just four games on the ledger Thursday night, but all have some sort of postseason relevancy for at least one of the teams involved. Additionally, the injury report is refreshingly light on short-term maladies, which keeps an already abbreviated player pool from shrinking further.
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Additional optimism about Thursday's compact slate can be gleaned from the fact there are three games with spreads of four points or less as of early Thursday. Projected totals are a bit lower than what we've recently seen, however, as all but one game has a figure of under 230 points.
Injury Situations to Monitor
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Paul George, LAC (leg): OUT
In George's absence, Eric Gordon should be set for a starting shooting guard spot, while the usage of Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard should be especially elevated.
Other notable injuries:
Zion Williamson, NOP (hamstring): OUT
Ben Simmons, BKN (knee): OUT
Jalen Suggs, ORL (concussion): OUT
Mark Williams, CHA (thumb): OUT
We have three players with five-figure salaries on Thursday's slate – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($10,600), Julius Randle ($10,300) and Kawhi Leonard ($10,000).
Gilgeous-Alexander hasn't scored under 40.1 FD points since Feb. 6, and he should be in line for an easier path with Paul George out of action.
Randle saw a big downturn Wednesday night against the Heat after his career-best 57-point outing against the Timberwolves on Monday, scoring a modest 34.7 FD points. He'll also be on his third game in four nights Thursday, which could also play a part in stopping him from offering enough of a return on his salary.
Leonard has scored under 40 FD points in two straight, but he should be in line for a significant bump in usage with Paul George out – Kawhi boasts a 31.2 percent usage rate and averages 46.5 FD points per 36 minutes with his teammate off the floor.
Other likely chalk plays include:
Donovan Mitchell, CLE ($9,700)
Mitchell hasn't been at the high end of his ceiling recently, with 40.7 FD points or fewer in three straight, but he naturally carries plenty of upside and should be especially popular on the small slate.
Jalen Brunson, NYK ($9,000)
Brunson has scored 44.4 and 39.2 FD points in his last two games and 39.9 in 39 minutes against Orlando in his most recent encounter with the Magic.
Brandon Ingram, NOP ($8,700)
Ingram has scored 43.2 FD points or more in three of the last four games, which should help keep him in plenty of lineups at his salary.
Jonas Valanciunas, NOP ($8,000)
Valanciunas has scored 39.5 to 54.4 FD points in three straight games and draws a highly appealing positional matchup versus the Hornets.
Russell Westbrook, LAC ($7,700)
Westbrook has scored 30.5 to 42.3 FD points in four straight games and sports a 29.7 percent usage rate, averaging 39 FD points per 36 minutes with George off the floor since arriving in Los Angeles.
Josh Hart, NYK at ORL ($6,300)
Since arriving via trade, Hart has been a virtually seamless fit on the Knicks bench. He averaged 29.1 FD points over his first 16 games in New York before Wednesday's matchup versus the Heat when he scored 29.3 in 29 minutes. Hart had tallied 30 to 45.8 FD points in the three contests prior as well, and the Magic check in ranked No. 17 in offensive efficiency surrendered to small forwards (22.7). Orlando has also yielded 38.0 percent three-point shooting on threes and the fifth-most FD points per game to the position in the last 15 games (42.7). Moreover, the Magic is giving up the sixth-highest offensive efficiency rating to second-unit players (43.4), a split in which they also surrender 47.8 percent shooting.
Nick Richards, CHA at NOP ($5,700)
Richards should be in for a sixth straight start at center with Mark Williams (thumb) still sidelined Thursday, and he'll face a Pelicans squad that's allowed the eighth-highest offensive efficiency rating to centers (33.4). Richards has run into foul trouble in a couple of his games during his current starting stint, but he's also shown significant upside by scoring 36.6 to 42.4 FD points in three contests. New Orleans is surrendering the sixth-most FD points per game to centers in the last 30 games (57.8), furthering Richards' case.
Royce O'Neale, BKN vs. CLE ($5,500)
O'Neale is averaging a solid 24.6 FD points in the last 10 games, a stretch where he's scored 26.6 or more on three occasions. That figure came in Tuesday's game against these same Cavaliers, and O'Neale, therefore, lines up as an intriguing value play once again despite Cleveland's strong across-the-board numbers on defense. O'Neale's bench role and minutes allotment in the mid-20s at minimum most nights makes him a safe option at his salary that can round out his production by contributing across the stat sheet.
ALSO CONSIDER: Eric Gordon, LAC vs. OKC ($5,800)