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Daily Games Cheat Sheet: Thursday

Alex Rikleen

Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living in Delaware.


Defenses to Avoid
Brooklyn Nets at Chicago Bulls: With only two games on the slate for Thursday, you'll have a hard time completely avoiding any of the four teams in action. But the toughest defense playing Thursday belongs to the Bulls at home. Despite all their injuries and general tough luck this season, Chicago's defense has remained impressive. They have the third slowest pace in the league this season, and they have held opponents to the fourth worst field goal percentage in the league. Chicago is tied for fourth in rebound percentage and for eighth in blocks per game. While the Bulls are the toughest defense playing Thursday, the Nets and Thunder are no pushovers. Brooklyn operates the fifth slowest pace, while Oklahoma City holds opponents to the second lowest field goal percentage.

Offenses to Use
Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers: As mentioned above, Chicago, Brooklyn, and Oklahoma City all pose problems. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles has been arguably the second most desirable fantasy opponent this season. The Lakers sport the worst total rebound percentage in the league, while trailing only the 76ers in points allowed. They are third in the league in pace and assists allowed, and they are third to last in opponent turnovers. The Lakers also give up more opponent steals than anyone else. In case all that wasn't enough, Oklahoma City is in the top five in scoring and in team field goal percentage.

Blowout Potential
Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers: The only reason not to load up a roster full of Thunder Thursday is the risk that this game gets out of hand too early. This is the last NBA game, for any team, before the All-Star break. It has been a rough couple of months for the purple and gold, and their injury-plagued season has become even more injury-plagued-ier (yes, that's the official term) in the last few weeks. With only a few hours separating the hurting Lakers from six days of rest, and against such a high-quality opponent, this could get ugly in a hurry. The Lakers don't have enough healthy bodies for a blowout to drastically change their minutes allotments. The same cannot be said for the Thunder, however, so exercise caution when deciding whether to plug Kevin Durant or Serge Ibaka into your lineups.

Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: None
Second game of a back-to-back: Brooklyn Nets DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
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Point Guard
Kendall Marshall, LAL (vs OKC), PG, ($5,800): Steve Nash returns to the bench Thursday after a brief healthy spell, all but guaranteeing Kendall Marshall will continue to see significant court time. Earlier this season, fantasy players got an extended look at what Marshall is capable of with big minutes. Though Steve Blake is now healthy and active (and also a good play), Nick Young, Jodie Meeks, and Xavier Henry are all out. Expect Blake and Marshall to play alongside one another and both be good contributors Thursday.

Other suggestions: D.J. Augustin, CHI (vs BKN), PG, ($5,700)

Shooting Guard
Reggie Jackson, OKC (at LAL), PG/SG, ($6,300): Jackson is an energy guy (hence his natural fit for the sixth man role that he fills when Russell Westbrook is healthy), which makes him the starter most likely to see big minutes even if its a blowout. The Lakers are an uptempo defensive sieve, and their value as an opposing defense in fantasy was discussed in greater detail above. Jackson is always a capable scorer, and the extra possessions enabled by the coach Mike D'Antoni led Lakers should give Jackson a puncher's chance at a double-double.

Other suggestions: Steve Blake, LAL (vs OKC), PG/SG, ($6,600)

Small Forward
Jimmy Butler, CHI (vs BKN), SG/SF, ($6,000): The Nets are playing the second night of a back-to-back. The last thing Deron Williams wants to do is aggravate his ankle the night before the All-Star break, and Joe Johnson is no one's idea of a “plus defender". As under-the-radar impressive as Brooklyn's team defense has been in 2014, that strength is despite, not because of, their wing players. Butler has been hot lately, averaging more than 10 points and 10 rebounds over his last three games. He's playing well; he has an easy defensive matchup; and his salary comes in under the average-per-position allotment of $6,250.

Other suggestions: Mirza Teletovic, BKN (at CHI), SF/PF, ($3,800)

Power Forward
Joakim Noah, CHI (vs BKN), PF/C, ($8,600): After Kevin Durant, Noah is the most expensive player taking action Thursday, but at only $8,600, he's still a great value. If you're at all afraid of Oklahoma City blowing out Los Angeles and allowing Durant to take a seat early, then Noah is the best “glue guy" available. Noah is fresh off a triple-double, and he was three points away from another triple-double just two games prior. Excluding his early ejection from the Sacramento game last week, the last time Noah grabbed single digit rebounds was Christmas, making him a permanent double-double threat. Given Thursday's limited player pool, you might have a hard time spending your full $50,000 without Noah, and he comes with a high probability of return on investment.

Other suggestions: Serge Ibaka, OKC (at LAL), PF/C, ($7,700)

Steven Adams, OKC (at LAL), C, ($3,000): Adams is a classic high-risk, high-reward play here. Adams' minutes per night is pretty closely linked to the size of the Thunder's lead – in the past month, Adams has played more than 15 minutes in five games: three were double-digit Thunder wins; the Thunder were winning by 15 at halftime in the fourth. In 2014, Adams averages better than five points, six rebounds, and one block per 20 minutes, and he seems to play better on nights when he is given more court time.

Other suggestions: Mason Plumlee, BKN (at CHI), PF/C, ($5,700); Chris Kaman, LAL (vs OKC), PF/C, ($6,200)


Steve Nash (back) will not play Thursday.
Xavier Henry (knee) will not play Thursday, and is expected to miss up to four more weeks.
Pau Gasol (groin) is not expected play Thursday but is being evaluated, potentially accelerating the timeline for his return.
Jodie Meeks (ankle) will not play Thursday.
Jordan Farmar (hamstring) will not play Thursday.
Kobe Bryant (knee) will not play Thursday.
Nick Young (knee) will not play Thursday.
Reggie Evans (personal) will not play Thursday.
Russell Westbrook will not play Thursday.

Game-Time Decision
Kevin Garnett (head, rest) played limited minutes in a game-time decision Wednesday following a blow to the head suffered over the weekend, and is a game-time decision Thursday since it is the second night of a back-to-back.
Carlos Boozer (calf) expects to return Thursday after missing three games.
Tornike Shengelia (personal) is a game-time decision Thursday. He is not currently with the team, but since the game is at home, he remains classified as a game-time decision.
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.