With only two games on the docket before the NBA officially goes on its annual All-Star sabbatical, our options are naturally limited Thursday. However, the mini-slate is partly offset by two interesting matchups, including what should be an up-tempo showdown between the T-Wolves and Lakers. There’s more to like here than what one might initially assume, so let’s dive right in to examine where the best value may lie:
Eric Bledsoe, MIL vs. DEN ($14,500): Bledsoe sits alone at the top tier at guard, but he’s worth the investment given the limited options, recent production and matchup. The veteran has scored 35.25 to 44.00 fantasy points in the last five games, a stretch during which he’s sporting a 27.7 percent usage rate and 62.1 percent effective field-goal percentage while averaging 1.22 fantasy points per minute. The Nuggets have also laid out the welcome mat for point guards recently, allowing the most fantasy points to the position over the last five (59.8), along with the most rebounds (8.3) and assists (12.2). In what should be a competitive matchup for all four quarters, Bledsoe stands a solid chance of continuing to churn out the solid returns he’s proven capable of lately.
Jamal Murray, DEN at MIL ($12,800): That said, Murray is in a favorable spot in the Nuggets-Bucks tilt himself at a price that remains reasonable given his upside. The second-year guard had a couple of outlier performances recently in which he scored under 20 fantasy points, but he’s tallied 28.75 to 46.25 in five of the last eight contests and should be a bit further along in his recovery from a chest injury that he’s been playing through over the last several games. The Bucks have also allowed 38.8 fantasy points to point guards over the last five games, while Murray has posted a 52.1 percent success rate from the field – including 41.9 percent from distance – over the last six contests.
Josh Hart, LAL at MIN ($10,200): The long-term impact of Isaiah Thomas’ arrival in Los Angeles on Hart’s opportunities remains to be seen, as the latter got an early hook against the Pelicans on Wednesday due to a scuffle. Hart went on to log 31 minutes and produce 32.00 fantasy points, but he’d also notably seen 29 minutes against the Mavericks on Saturday in a game that Thomas played 31. Despite Thomas returning to action Thursday, Hart should be in line for the start again Thursday versus a Timberwolves squad that’s allowed the highest shooting percentage (45.0) to point guards on the campaign. What’s more, Hart had scored 31.00 to 40.50 fantasy points in four of the five games prior to Wednesday’s as well, and he’s shooting a red-hot 62.8 percent – including 59.3 from behind the arc – over the last six contests overall.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL vs. DEN ($21,200): Antetokounmpo has scored 42.50 to 78.25 fantasy points in 11 of the last 12 games, a stretch that’s seen him generate a 33.5 percent usage rate and average 1.47 fantasy points per minute. The Nuggets are ill-equipped to limit him down low, as they’ve allowed the seventh-most points in the paint (46.4), including the third most over the last three (51.3). Antetokounmpo has generated 58.9 percent of his scoring in that area of the floor, and he’s boasting averages of 25.4 points (on 50.3 percent shooting), 11.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steal across the last 10 games.
Jimmy Butler, MIN vs. LAL ($18,000): Butler has somewhat underwhelmed while barely clearing 30 fantasy points in his last two contests, but those totals have come while he’s taken a modest combined amount of 22 shot attempts. He should be in for a bump in usage Thursday, considering the Lakers’ league-high pace of play (105.2 possessions per game). Los Angeles has also allowed 42.2 fantasy points per contest to two-guards, along with a robust 3.2 made three-pointers per contest. Meanwhile, Butler has been particularly sharp lately, posting a 51.1 percent success rate from the field during the last five contests, including 45.5 percent from behind the arc. He’s also averaged 25.5 points, 8.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals across 39.0 minutes in two games versus the Lakers, furthering his case.
Brook Lopez, LAL at MIN ($8,400): Lopez played a scant 18 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the Pelicans, but he’d scored 25.25 to 36.75 fantasy points in four of the prior five games while seeing no fewer than 24 minutes in those contests. The veteran big man has upped his shot attempts to 12.2 over the last six contests overall, and he’ll have multiple paths through which to offer a strong return on his modest price Thursday. The Timberwolves have given up the fourth-most points (15.4), fifth-most rebounds (10.2) and third-highest shooting percentage (57.0) to centers, all areas in which Lopez could thrive in during what should be a fast-paced, high-scoring affair.
Andrew Wiggins, MIN vs. LAL ($13,400): Wiggins has confounded those who’ve rostered him at times this season with some downturns in production, including a 14.25 fantasy-point outing against the Rockets on Tuesday serving as the most recent example. However, his upside for tournaments remains solid, with the 33.00 fantasy points he’d compiled against the Kings just one game prior helping bear that out. He’ll be in position for one of his more productive outings Thursday versus a Lakers squad that’s been unable to slow down small forwards throughout the season, allowing the most fantasy points on the campaign (40.6) to the position, including 64.6 over the last five. Wiggins is averaging a solid 18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.0 steal across 34.5 minutes in two games against the Lakers this season as well, and Los Angeles’ league-high pace of play should also be conducive to a strong return on his modest price.
Will Barton, DEN at MIL ($12,200): Isaiah Thomas ($12,900) should be raring to go Thursday after a first-quarter ejection Wednesday, so he’s also under consideration for those that can foot the bill. However, Barton comes at a discount and has been significantly outpacing his current price frequently, scoring 33.50 to 43.25 fantasy points in five of the last six. The veteran is draining an impressive 54.4 percent of his 13.2 shot attempts per contest during that span, with both numbers representing improvements over his seasonal figures. Milwaukee has been fairly effective versus small forwards (32.0 fantasy points allowed per contest), but Barton’s price and recent production are such that he makes for a very appealing combination of savings and solid tournament upside on the small slate.