This article is part of our DraftKings NBA series.
I usually take a moment to highlight the best fantasy environment of the day in the introduction. There is no shortage of high-scoring tilts on this slate, but I'm more inclined to pick my spots with a diverse lineup than stack any particular game. Two bad defenses will square off in the Phoenix-Cleveland matchup, while Golden State will have the luxury of playing up in pace against a bottom ten team in defensive efficiency.
Those are the initial situational spots that jump off the screen, but we'll obviously add all-around context in the following player write-ups.
Per usual, we have several injuries to monitor with potential for more while moving closer to tip-off. You'll want to stay in the loop with RotoWire's NBA News Feed before setting your final lineups. As of Thursday morning, these are the situations we are looking at:
Joel Embiid is out. The entire starting lineup receives a boost, including Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler, in particular. Boban Marjanovic could see more playing time.
These notable players will continue to miss time: T.J. Warren, Tristan Thompson, Spencer Dinwiddie, Aron Baynes, Lonzo Ball
With that, I'll be breaking down the best fantasy choices on DraftKings for Thursday. The following write-ups contain a blend of cash game staples, bargain fillers, and tournament pivots.
Devin Booker – PHX at CLE ($7,700): Booker checks in as one of my favorite overall plays of the day. His upside is unquestioned while realistically hoping for 50-60 fantasy points with a massive usage rate to boot. Facing a Cleveland team that ranks 28th in defensive efficiency to opposing backcourts could help him get there. Making matters even better, the Cavaliers have allowed the second-highest shooting percentage from beyond the arc this season at 37.1%. Booker should see plenty of opportunities to take full advantage with some gaudy fantasy numbers.
Damian Lillard – POR at BKN ($8,600): Lillard was initially listed as questionable, and while he admitted he's still a bit bothered by his ankle, he'll be in the lineup tonight. Lillard finds himself in a beautiful matchup and non-imposing price point despite averaging a healthy 49 FPPG mark over his past four. His opponent, Brooklyn, ranks 25th in defensive efficiency to backcourts over their past ten games. The Nets also rank top ten in pace and 18th in overall team defensive efficiency, adding even more confidence to Lillard's DFS profile.
Tobias Harris – PHI vs. MIA ($6,600): Harris is starting to find his way as a member of the 76ers while posting 40-plus fantasy points in two of his past three games. He'll undoubtedly see more opportunities in the Philadelphia frontcourt with Embiid out of the lineup. That has me confident in Harris' ability to post at least 40 fantasy points with upside for much more. The matchup helps, as well, given that Miami ranks 26th in defensive efficiency against opposing power forwards. Add it all up, and Harris makes for a confidence mid-range DFS commodity through all formats.
Caris LeVert – BKN vs. POR ($5,100): Keep an eye on the Nets' starting lineup. LeVert returned to the top unit in the final game before the All-Star break and notched 36 fantasy points in 30 minutes. I would be confident in his ability to post an adequate fantasy return if he's in the starting lineup yet again. The matchup looks pretty good against a Portland team that ranks dead last in defensive efficiency to the small forward spot.
Al-Farouq Aminu – POR at BKN ($4,100): Aminu is nothing more than a value filler, but I believe he can be serviceable for DFS purposes this evening. His playing time has been somewhat shaky – around the 22-minute level – but Aminu has posted 25+ fantasy points in three of his past four, despite that downtick in playing time. That would represent an adequate return on this cheap price tag. There's a decent chance Aminu could get there against a Brooklyn squad that ranks ninth in pace, 25th in defensive efficiency to frontcourts and 26th in rebound rate. There's additional upside if Aminu's minutes ascend closer to the 30 minute level.
Jusuf Nurkic – POR at BKN ($7,400): Nurkic is the answer at center tonight. Brooklyn ranks 26th in defensive efficiency against opposing big men while coincidentally ranking 26th in rebound rate this season. That creates an outstanding opportunity for Nurkic to do his thing, and he has some beautiful fantasy upside when the stars align. I understand that his recent game log doesn't look particularly impressive, but tonight's draw makes for an excellent buy-low opportunity, though it remains to be seen how the Blazers will utilize buyout addition, Enes Kanter.
DeMarcus Cousins – GS vs. SAC ($6,100): I'm not afraid to target Nukic and Cousins in the same lineup tonight. The latter also finds himself in a comforting matchup against a Sacramento team that ranks fourth in pace, 24th in defensive efficiency vs. centers and 27th in rebound rate. Cousins recently had his minutes-restriction lifted, so that's another encouraging note to consider. We aren't really sure what the playing time will look like, but it's nice to see that Cousins is feeling good with potential for 30 or more minutes on fresh legs.