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Daily Games Cheat Sheet: Thursday

Adam Wolf

Adam began writing for RotoWire in the spring of 2012 as an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He previously headed the site's NHL and NBA coverage and works primarily as an NFL and MLB editor these days.


Defenses to Avoid
Phoenix Suns at Indiana Pacers: In case you needed to be reminded again, the Pacers are the best team in the league on the defensive end; in fact, they may even possess one of the best defenses in league history. Per Basketball-Reference, the Pacers' 96.7 points per 100 possessions laps the second-ranked team in the league by a wide margin (Bulls, 100.7), and represents the top mark since the 2003-04 season, when the rough-and-tumble Spurs (94.1) and Pistons (95.4) teams routinely won games decided in the 80s. However, it should be noted that those teams benefitted from an era of more defense-friendly rules that put scoring on a steep decline. The league-wide scoring average was just 93.4 points per game in 2003-04, a full seven points less than this season (100.6). In an effort to open up scoring and create more interesting gameplay, the NBA would introduce new stipulations prior to the 2004-05 season designed to clarify blocking fouls, limit hand-checking on the perimeter, and call defensive three seconds. These rules remain in place today, which makes it all the more impressive that the Pacers can even come within sniffing range of those Spurs and Pistons defenses of 10 years ago. So, in other words, even with just three games on the schedule Thursday, it may not be especially wise to invest heavily in Suns players, given the truly special defense matching up with them.

Offenses to Use
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors: Both teams rank in the top-10 in terms of defensive efficiency and pace factor, and I think it's the latter statistic that will be the more important one at play for this particular matchup. The previous two games this season between the two teams produced scores of 126-115 and 105-103, and though both came when Chris Paul was in the lineup, the Clippers haven't exactly been slouching since he's been out. Since Darren Collison took over starting point guard duties, the Clippers are 9-3 and are averaging 109.3 points per game. Look for them to push the tempo against a Golden State team that has more than enough offensive firepower to return the favor.

Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: None
Second game of a back-to-back: Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS

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Point Guard
Darren Collison (at GS), PG/SG ($5,300): DraftKings lists Collison as averaging an unremarkable 19.9 fantasy points per game, but those numbers are reflective of the full season -- not for what he's done since replacing Paul in the lineup. In January, Collison is averaging 13.9 points, 6.2 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 steals. By my own calculations based on the DraftKings scoring standards, Collison is actually averaging 29.7 FPPG in January, an output typically priced around $6,000-$6,500. He remains a relative bargain.

Other suggestions: Stephen Curry (vs. LAC), PG/SG ($10,300), Kyrie Irving (at NY), PG/SG ($8,600), Jamal Crawford (at GS), PG/SG ($6,600), George Hill (vs. PHX), PG/SG ($5,800)

Shooting Guard
Lance Stephenson (vs. PHX), SG/SF ($6,800): Stephenson is priced at $2,100 less than teammate Paul George, but I'd argue there's a good chance Stephenson will outproduce George on Thursday given their recent trends in output. George is shooting just 10-for-39 over his last two games, and while he should settle back into a groove offensively sooner or later, Stephenson's recent upswing makes him the more interesting option for this particular game. Stephenson has really come into his own as a rebounder of late, racking up 10 or more boards in five of his last six games. He's done this while holding steady in assists and upping his scoring, with four of his nine 20-plus point efforts on the season coming in the last seven games. In addition, no player going Thursday offers a better chance at triggering the triple-double bonus than Stephenson, who has already turned the trick three times this season.

Other suggestions: Klay Thompson (vs. LAC), SG/SF ($6,100), Gerald Green (at IND), SG/SF ($5,900), Jordan Crawford (vs. LAC), PG/SG ($4,600), Tim Hardaway (vs. CLE), SG ($4,200)

Small Forward
Carmelo Anthony (vs. CLE), SF/PF ($10,600): With only three games on the docket Thursday, daily players are essentially forced to build their teams around two of the five stars priced above $8,500, and Anthony will be one of my top choices. Yes, he's the most expensive player on the board in the afterglow of his 62-point performance last Friday, but a quick browse of the injury report listed below shows as many as six Knicks players that could be at risk of missing Thursday's game, or at least seeing limited minutes because of their ailments. The Knicks' mounting injuries could require even more offensive responsibilities for Anthony, who put up 31 shots two days after the career-high scoring night and might have been headed for another heavy-usage game Tuesday if the Knicks hadn't blown out the Celtics after three quarters, thus limiting him to 28 minutes. Assuming Thursday's contest proves to be more competitive, Anthony has a higher ceiling for production than Stephen Curry in my estimation, which is why I'm choosing to cast my lot with him.

Other suggestions: Luol Deng (at NY), SF/PF ($6,500), J.R. Smith (vs. CLE), SG/SF ($5,500), P.J. Tucker (at IND), SG/SF ($4,500)

Power Forward
Blake Griffin (at GS), PF/C ($9,300): Griffin is one of the other two stars I'm constructing my lineup around, largely on the strength of his own increased numbers since the Paul injury. He's reached the 20-point plateau in six consecutive games and 10 of the last 11, while also showing more aptitude as a distributor, averaging 4.5 assists for January. Griffin's dependability as a scorer of late makes me willing to shell out the extra $1,000 instead of settling for David Lee, who is coming off an ugly 11-point, five-rebound outing Tuesday vs. Washington and struggled from the field the game before in Portland.

Other suggestions: David Lee (vs. LAC), PF/C ($8,300), Tristan Thompson (at NY), PF/C ($6,100), Channing Frye (at IND), PF/C ($5,000)

Tyson Chandler (vs. CLE), C ($5,700): The attrition in the frontcourt of Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani and the potential unavailability of Kenyon Martin on Thursday would leave Chandler as the only experienced center left standing on the Knicks roster, with Jeremy Tyler and Cole Aldrich still a bit green. The Knicks have tried their best to control Chandler's minutes given the injuries he's dealt with the past few seasons, but that might not be a possibility if Martin isn't made available. Chandler's performance has already been on the rise the last two weeks with double-doubles in four of his last six games, and any added minutes he receives should allow him to continue producing at that level.

Other suggestions: DeAndre Jordan (at GS), C ($7,000), Andrew Bogut (vs. LAC), C ($6,200), Miles Plumlee (at IND), PF/C ($5,000)


Andrea Bargnani (elbow) will not require surgery but remains without a return timetable.
Eric Bledsoe (knee) is uncertain if he'll be able to return this season.
Festus Ezeli (knee) is out indefinitely but expected back before the end of the season.
Carrick Felix (knee) will miss the next 6-to-8 weeks after suffering a left patellar stress fracture while playing in the NBDL.
Nemanja Nedovic (hamstring) has missed the last two weeks of action.
Emeka Okafor (neck) is due for a reevaluation of his herniated disk, but it's not certain when he might return.
Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) practiced fully Wednesday but still looks like he won't return until early February.
Chris Paul (shoulder) went through a workout before Monday's game but is not expected to return until around the All-Star break.
Amar'e Stoudemire (ankle) is dealing with a sprain and bone bruise and is without an update after being ruled out for two weeks on Jan. 17.

Game-Time Decision
Antawn Jamison (illness) missed Wednesday's game and is questionable to play Thursday.
Kenyon Martin (ankle) suffered a sprain in Tuesday's game and may not be available Thursday.
Beno Udrih (illness) was held out of Tuesday's game and could be at risk of missing Thursday's contest.
Iman Shumpert (shoulder) left Tuesday's game with the injury, putting his status in question for Thursday.
Anderson Varejao (knee) took part in portions of Wednesday's practice and is questionable to play Thursday.
Metta World Peace (knee) made a surprising return Tuesday night, seeing eight minutes of court time, but the Knicks could still opt to keep him out Thursday for recovery purposes.
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.