After a wild Wednesday, the NBA quiets down with Thursday’s triplet of games. Contest winning scores will probably be down slightly from Wednesday, due to the decreased games count.
LAC at LAL: The game with the highest Vegas Over/Under (220.5) is also the game with the smallest spread (5). Close games are frequently preferable for NBA DFS, since rotations can get wacky in blowouts.
CHI at TOR: The inverse of the Los Angeles face-off, the Bulls-Raptors has the lowest over/under and the highest spread. The Raptors defense is good, and the both teams are likely to play slowly.
Kyle Lowry, TOR vs CHI ($7,900): There are only four guards who cost more than $6,000, and Lowry takes the “best option” title by process of elimination. Russell Westbrook ($11,000) is priced such that he would need to continue his historic 2016-17 pace in order to profit. The very definition of “historic” tells us that is an unlikely scenario, especially after adding two high-usage stars this offseason. The Bulls look like a terrible team, but DeMar DeRozan’s ($8,300) primary strength, interior scoring, targets the one area where the Bulls are actually good – Robin Lopez’s paint defense. Finally, I strongly advise against using a rookie in their first NBA game, as is the case for Lonzo Ball ($6,800). For every great rookie splash you miss, you’ll save yourself dozens of disappointments. So, Lowry it is. I did mention the Bulls are terrible, right?
Patrick Beverley, LAC at LAL ($4,800): Patrick Beverley is the most complete player in the Clippers’ backcourt. Assuming that translates to starter-level minutes – which is not necessarily a safe assumption – he should have plenty of opportunities to compile fantasy value. In 2016-17, averaging 30.7 minutes per game, he averaged 26.8 fantasy points, a profitable total at this price. He is now on a notably less-talented backcourt, but still a team with postseason aspirations. The Lakers’ defense was the worst in the NBA last season on a per-possession basis.
Courtney Lee, NY at OKC ($4,000): Not much is known about the Knicks’ rotation for 2017-18, but if anything can be considered a relatively “safe” assumption, it’s that Lee will start and play roughly 30 minutes, possibly more. Lee started 74 of his 77 games for the Knicks in 2016-17, and he averaged 31.9 minutes per night. The Thunder are a solid defensive team, especially against wings, but Lee’s price is enticing. For managers looking to save salary without taking big risks, Lee is a strong option.
Paul George, OKC vs NY ($8,100): The Knicks were the sixth-worst per-possession defense in 2016-17, and it appears they got worse this offseason. While there may be some difficulties figuring out how to cooperate alongside fellow high-usage stars Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, there should be enough offense in this one to keep everyone satisfied. George is fairly priced considering his production last season as a member of the Pacers, and as a 27-year old he’s unlikely to be losing any of his rebounding or defensive abilities. In a small slate like this, a fair price and a good matchup is plenty to make someone a desirable addition to one’s roster.
Kristaps Porzingis, NY at OKC ($7,700): Last season, Porzingis averaged 18.4 points off of 14.9 shot attempts per game, while operating with a 24.4 usage rate. Carmelo Anthony averaged 18.8 attempts and a 29.0 usage rate. In light of the Knicks offseason, when they lost Anthony and their biggest add was Tim Hardaway Jr, we’re left with little choice but to project Porzingis for a large increase in shot attempts and usage. The Thunder are, generally speaking, a tough defense, but they don’t have anyone who can defend Porzingis’ combination of size and range.
Cristiano Felicio, CHI at TOR ($4,000): This is a risky play, but the potential payoff could be significant. With both Bobby Portis (suspension) and Nikola Mirotic (face) out, Felicio is one of only three active Bulls’ big men. Robin Lopez rarely plays more than 30 minutes – only once in his career did he average more than 28, and last year as the Bulls starter he averaged exactly 28.0. Lauri Markkanen can be spelled occasionally by Paul Zipser, but he’s much smaller and is unlikely to last long in the frontcourt. That could lead to a ton of minutes for Felicio. If Felicio’s maintains his 2016-17 fantasy points-per-minute pace and logs just 28 minutes (18 as backup center, 10 as backup power forward), then he would finish Thursday with 22.9 fantasy points, a profitable total. That’s not a firm projection of his Thursday night output, but it does serve as an instructive guideline of what is a realistic expectation.
DeAndre Jordan, LAC at LAL ($7,500): Jordan was my favorite player to use in DFS last season, and I’m excited to work him back into the fold. The Lakers addition of Brook Lopez makes them a much tougher defensive matchup than they were last season, but Lopez is also a poor rebounder. In two games against Lopez’s Nets in 2016-17, Jordan averaged 18.0 rebounds and 14.0 points. Especially since Lopez began shooting more threes, his already low rebound totals shrunk even further. With Chris Paul gone, Jordan could be in line for an increased offensive role.
Serge Ibaka TOR vs CHI ($5,400): The 26-year-old Ibaka is coming off a down year, in which he set his four-season low for points, his five-season low for blocks, and his six-season low for rebounds. Yet, at his age, Ibaka should still have a lot left in the tank. He starts 2017-18 in a much better situation than 2016-17, as he is now a clear starter for a likely playoff team. For understandable reasons, however, his salary is more reflective of the player he was last season, than of the player he showed us he could be in the several years before. That’s a ripe opportunity to take advantage of, especially in this soft matchup. The Bulls will have all of their power forward minutes filled by either a rookie, and out-of-position small forward, or the relatively unathletic Christiano Felicio. Ibaka should be much better than all three.