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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.

Following their two-day contests for the Tuesday-Wednesday games, DraftKings has went back to one-day contests for Thursday's games. This article is only concerned with Thursday's NBA games.


Defenses to Avoid
Brooklyn Nets at Miami Heat: The Nets' strategy in this series is to slow the pace of play, and it's a strategy they implemented effectively in Game 1 (sure, they lost, but that doesn't impact our fantasy players directly). The Raptors-Nets series was the second slowest of all the first round series, and that decreased pace left the Raptors towards the bottom among playoff teams in points and three-point field goals attempted (both 11th). Since the Rudy Gay trade, the Raptors were eighth among eventual playoff teams in both categories. True, the Nets defense should have a much tougher time against a more talented and well-rested Heat squad, but the Nets should be able to limit the effectiveness of everyone outside of Miami's Big Three.

Offenses to Use
Portland Trail Blazers at San Antonio Spurs: You come to RotoWire for the analysis you can't get elsewhere, and after the Heat's and Spurs' Game 1 blowouts, you can find plenty of writers hyping up their offenses around the the internets. So I'll use this space to focus on why I'm still loading up my lineup with Portland starters Thursday. Even in an embarrassing Game 1 loss that looked over at halftime, the Blazers managed to put up 92 points. Their 82 field goal attempts averaged out to seventh among playoff teams (or third of the eight teams remaining). They brought down 14 offensive rebounds and 47 total rebounds, which would rank second and third, respectively, among playoff teams. The Blazers were doomed by their dreadful shooting, going only 38 percent from the field and 25 percent from deep. The Spurs may be an above-average team at forcing opponent misses they ranked 10th in opponent field goal shooting and eighth in opponent three-point efficiency during the regular season but that strength alone is not enough to account for Tuesday's performance.

Perhaps the best reason, however, to target a Blazer Thursday night? Even amidst crushing defeat, their rotation remained steady. Out of their six-man rotation, only one player, Robin Lopez, played fewer minutes Tuesday than his regular season average.

Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: None
Second game of a back-to-back: None DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS

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Point Guard
Patty Mills, SA (vs POR), PG, ($3,100): Last Friday, I wrote the following to recommend Mills at, coincidentally, the exact same price:

"In order to win a DraftKings 50-50 contest most nights, a roster needs to earn slightly more than 4.8 points for every $1,000 spent in salary cap. When you can find a palatable player for just $3,100, that means they need to score only a measly 15 fantasy points in order to earn you a profit. During March and April, looking only at games when Mills played fewer than 25 minutes, he exceeded 15 fantasy points more than two-thirds of the time. He's been underwhelming for much of [the Spurs-Mavs] series, but his workload and field goal attempts have been steady. And don't forget the most important reason why you're drafting Mills because of the financial flexibility a player this cheap gives you."

So what has changed since then? First, Mills has posted 17.5, 16.75, and 12.0 fantasy points in the three games, making him look more consistent and reliable. Second, during the playoffs, the points per $1,000 needed to win in a 50-50 league has fallen steadily. During the first round, it was hovering around 4.6, and it was all the way down to almost 3.6 for the two-night Tuesday-Wednesday contests. If that 3.6 points per grand holds true again for Thursday's contests, then Mills needs only 11 fantasy points to net a profit.

Damian Lillard, POR (at SA), PG, ($8,500): Lillard had an off night Tuesday and still managed to score 17 points and 23.5 fantasy points. That was on a night when the entire Blazers squad, especially Nicolas Batum and Mo Williams, couldn't make a shot. Lillard averaged nearly six assists per game during the regular season, but those fantasy points are lost if his teammates are missing their shots (not to mention the added defensive attention paid to Lillard while his teammates were cold). Lillard has earned a reputation for quality play in high-pressure situations, and he should be eager to erase the memory of Game 1. He's not necessarily the best value right now, as his price is still elevated thanks to his performance at the end of the Houston series, but it is reasonable to project a bounce-back game on Thursday.

Other suggestions: Tony Parker, SA (vs POR), PG, ($7,200); Mario Chalmers, MIA (vs BKN), PG, ($4,900)

Shooting Guard
Manu Ginobili, SA (vs POR), SG/SF, ($4,900): Manu has a history of playoff slumps and hot streaks, and if the Mavericks series looked like a hot streak, then Tuesday looked like the start of a slump. But Ginobili's price fell so far after Game 1, that the potential reward looks to totally overwhelm the risks. For basically the same price as Shaun Livingston, you can have a player who has scored 35 fantasy points or more in five of his eight playoff appearances.

Other suggestions: Kawhi Leonard, SA (vs POR), SG/SF, ($6,000)

Small Forward
LeBron James, MIA (vs BKN), SF/PF, ($10,400): Typically speaking, I avoid players whose salary cap figure runs into five digits. They need to do too much in order to provide an appropriate return on investment. But there is an unusual amount of value available for $6,000 and below Thursday, and the players available in the $7-8,000 range are either too pricey (Tony Parker and Joe Johnson are on the high end of their price curves) or come with consistency concerns (Dwyane Wade and Nicolas Batum). This is the perfect opportunity to spring for the most expensive player on the board. Don't be scared off by Tuesday's light load. The Heat were comfortably in control by the middle of the third quarter Tuesday, and James has a history of taking a smaller role when the result of the game is already in hand. Don't count on another blowout taking place in Game 2.

Other suggestions: Paul Pierce, BKN (at MIA), SF/PF, ($6,000)

Power Forward
Chris Bosh, MIA (vs BKN), PF/C, ($6,000): Brooklyn had no answer for Bosh in Game 1. While I do not expect the Heat to destroy the Nets in every game of this series, Bosh will pose a consistent matchup problem for the Nets. Brooklyn lacks a player with both the size and athleticism to keep up with Bosh. For only $6,000, Bosh is an absolute steal.

Other suggestions: LaMarcus Aldridge, POR (at SA), PF/C, ($9,600)

Robin Lopez, POR (at SA), PF/C, ($5,400): Lopez has now scored 30 or more fantasy points in three consecutive games, yet he still costs below $6,000. Lopez got more rest than the other starters during Game 1's blowout, but he still managed 10 points and 11 rebounds. He'll get plenty of opportunities for rebounds and blocks his bread and butter against a Spurs team that is decidedly average in both rebound percentage and opponent blocks per game.

Other suggestions: Tim Duncan, SA (vs POR), PF/C, ($7,400)


Game-Time Decision
Chris Andersen (knee) is likely to play Thursday. He participated in practice Wednesday, and says he is "one thousand percent" going play.
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.