This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
We have a compact four-game slate on tap Thursday night, giving us that rather tight eight-team core to work with in terms of our lineup selections. While four games do naturally restrict our player pool to at least a slightly uncomfortable degree, we do have enough to work with at each position and price point with proper due diligence. Additionally, we're fortunate in that three of the four contests on tap have elevated projected totals of at least 230 points, certainly fertile ground for DFS production.
As usual, we'll proceed to break down the positional outlook below, along with possible chalk plays and some likely under-owned bargains that could help you round out your lineups with a couple of superstars.
Before delving into the slate, a reminder that FanDuel has reverted to its previous format of NOT dropping the lowest scoring in lineups after a one-year experiment with that feature. Therefore, it will be important to be prudent with each selection, as each player's total will count toward your final score.
Without further ado, let's take a more comprehensive look at Thursday's slate!
Here's a closer look at the three games with the highest elevated totals on Thursday's slate:
Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans (Projected total: 235.5 points)
Two teams ranked in the bottom-10 in points per game allowed and in the top half of the league in possessions per contest unsurprisingly serve as the participants in what's projected to be the highest scoring game of the short slate. Although multiple names from both sides are in play in this spot, it's worth noting the Pelicans' defense is the weaker of the two, as New Orleans is allowing 116.2 points per home game. Meanwhile the Suns are actually a bit stingier on the road, surrendering nearly four points fewer per game when traveling (111.1) than at home (114.7).
Philadelphia 76ers at Washington Wizards (Projected total: 234.5 points)
Speaking of defensively challenged teams, the Wizards have essentially been the Eastern Conference version of the Pelicans. Washington is allowing the most points per game (122.9), including 124.0 per contest on its home court. Like New Orleans, the Wizards also play at a particularly accelerated pace, averaging 108.4 possessions per game, fourth most in the league. They'll thus represent a nice bump in that department for Philadelphia, which is averaging 103.7 possessions per contest. Washington is also down Thomas Bryant (foot) down low, which could make things even easier for Joel Embiid and Al Horford.
Houston Rockets at Toronto Raptors (Projected total: 230.0 points)
The Rockets have been the top spot in scoring with the Bucks throughout the season thus far and currently check in second overall with a Western Conference-high 120.9 points per game. While not quite as prolific overall, the Raptors have been much more successful lighting up the scoreboard at home (119.5), and key pieces such as Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam stand to benefit from going up against the fastest-paced (109.5 possessions per game) and fourth-most generous road team (118.7 points per game allowed) in the NBA.
PG: With Kyle Lowry's return to health, we have a fully stocked point guard position Thursday with the exception of a pair of Knicks (Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina) sporting injury designations. Elite choices included Russell Westbrook and Ben Simmons, while there's value to be had into the low $4K range with the likes of Ish Smith ($4,300).
SG: James Harden and Bradley Beal head up this pool of players, with Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker fine upper-mid-tier selections that will be locked in a game against each other. What's more, there's viable bargains here all the way down to near minimum, making it one of the solid spots to choose from Thursday.
SF: Brandon Ingram and a somewhat priced-down Pascal Siakam (at $9K) are heading up the small forward spot, but there's a strong mid-tier trio in Tobias Harris, Kelly Oubre and Will Barton if you want/need to pay down some. The iffy health situations for Marcus Morris (neck) and Danuel House (illness) dilute our choices a bit as we work down, but we still have some value we can consider all the way down to the $3.6K point with a starting small forward (Isaac Bonga) sporting that price.
PF: There's no elite option at power forward Thursday, with Al Horford and Julius Randle representing the most expensive choices at $7.5K and $7.2K, respectively. However, you can go bargain shopping into the sub-$4K range, and Serge Ibaka's recent return to health plus another potential start for Frank Kaminsky make the value section particularly interesting.
C: Joel Embiid, Clint Capela and Nikola Jokic are about as high-upside a trio as you could ask for at the top, put the position kind of falls off a cliff after that point with Thomas Bryant (foot) out and Aron Baynes (calf) headed for a game-time call. Moritz Wagner ($4.8K) will be an interesting and highly value option if he's ruled in despite his ankle sprain, and there are some other viable names in the $4K range as well, but the mid-tier really suffers if Baynes is ultimately ruled out.
Notable Injury Situations to Monitor
Josh Richardson, PHI
Moritz Wagner, WAS
Wagner is officially questionable for Thursday's game due to an ankle sprain. If he's able to take the floor, he'll draw a start for Thomas Bryant (foot). However, Wagner himself is ruled out, a combination of Ian Mahinmi (Achilles) and Rui Hachimura would be projected to handle center duties.
Ian Mahinmi, WAS
Mahinmi is considered questionable for Thursday's game due to his Achilles injury. Mahinmi has yet to play this season, so even if he does take the floor and Moritz Wagner (ankle) is out, he'd project to be a on a notable minutes restriction.
Elfrid Payton, NYK
Payton is considered questionable for Thursday's game due to his hamstring injury. The veteran hasn't played since Oct. 28, so even if he does take the floor, he could be on some type of minutes limit while potentially working behind either Dennis Smith, Jr. or Frank Ntilikina (back).
Frank Ntilikina, NYK
Marcus Morris, NYK
Aron Baynes, PHO
Danuel House, HOU
House is considered questionable for Thursday's game due to illness. If he misses a third straight game, Ben McLemore projects to continue manning the starting small forward role.
Derrick Favors, NOP
Kenrich Williams, NOP
Williams is questionable for Thursday's game with an ankle injury/personal reasons. A number of players, including Josh Hart and J.J. Redick, could stand to benefit with some extra playing time if Williams misses.
Notable Long-Term Injuries/Absences: DeAndre Ayton, PHO; Thomas Bryant, WAS; C.J. Miles, WAS; Reggie Bullock, NYK; Eric Gordon, HOU; Gerald Green, HOU; Stanley Johnson, TOR; Patrick McCaw, TOR; Zion Williamson, NOP
We have just two five-figure salaries on the four-game slate in the form of James Harden ($12.2K) and Joel Embiid ($10.7K), although the quartet of Bradley Beal, Brandon Ingram, Clint Capela and Russell Westbrook are all capable of elite-level production while residing in the $9K range.
With respect to "must-haves" from the top-shelf group of players, Embiid, Capela and Nikola Jokic ($8,9000) take on extra importance because of the dearth of choices below them at center. All of the other pricey selections are more luxury than necessity due to more depth at their respective positions.
We should see some concentrated ownership Thursday with the compact four-game slate, with elite choices such as James Harden, Joel Embiid, Bradley Beal and Clint Capela potentially the four highest-owned players on the slate. We'll have the usual value-centered chalk, and I'll include a list of names that fit that category under the next section, as customary. And finally, both the Suns' Frank Kaminsky and the Wizards' Moritz Wagner should be very popular injury-related value chalk at their respective $4.8K prices if Aron Baynes misses for Phoenix and Wagner overcomes his ankle injury.
Key and Likely Underowned Values
Cameron Johnson, PHO at NO ($3,700):
Johnson has gotten some more run in the frontcourt recently with Aron Baynes missing time, and it's likely the latter misses another game Thursday due to his calf injury. Even if Baynes plays, however, Johnson has a firm role behind Dario Saric at power forward. The rookie has flashed a ceiling north of 30 FanDuel points on multiple occasions already this season, and he put up 28.3 four games ago versus a similarly vulnerable Wizards frontcourt. Like Washington, the Pelicans rank in the bottom half of the league in rebounding rate (49.2 percent) and they also slot in the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency rating allowed to power forwards (29.0) and opposing second units (46.8). What's more, Johnson has proven to be an aggressive and highly efficient three-point shooter thus far (41.0 percent success rate on 4.6 three-point attempts per contest), while the Pels allow the fourth-highest three-point percentage (37.8) of any team on its home floor.
Matisse Thybulle, PHI at WAS ($3,700):
Furkan Korkmaz has been drawing the starts at shooting guard in place of Josh Richardson (hamstring), but Thybulle has shown some serious upside relative to price with tallies of 36.1 and 21.2 FanDuel points in two of his last four games while coming off the bench. While his volatility makes him a large-field tournament play, he's worthy of consideration while facing a Wizards squad that's allowed the third-highest offensive efficiency rating to opposing benches (47.9), along with an Eastern Conference-high 48.2 percent success rate from the field. Moreover, Washington is allowing the second-highest shooting percentage (47.1) and highest offensive efficiency rating (26.9) to shooting guards specifically, along with 57.2 FanDuel points per game to the position.
Ty Jerome, PHO at NO ($3,600):
An ankle sprain delayed his NBA debut until two games ago, but Jerome has mustered solid tallies of 22.6 and 17.7 FanDuel points over his first two games, respectively. The 2019 first-round pick worked up to 18 minutes in Wednesday's game against the Magic and is averaging 5.5 assists and 2.5 steals across his first pair of contests. The Pelicans come in allowing 46.3 FanDuel points per game to point guards over the last five, along with the third-highest offensive efficiency rating (29.8) to the position, in addition to their poor rating against opposing benches overall already cited in Johnson's entry above. Much like his Suns teammate, Jerome is much more of a large-field tournament punt play due to the small sample size we have on him thus far, but the fact he'll be involved in the game with the highest projected total and that he could see another slight minutes bump doesn't hurt his cause.
Other likely higher-owned value plays to consider: Davis Bertans ($6,000); Rui Hachimura ($5,800); Norman Powell ($5,700); Serge Ibaka ($5,400); Frank Kaminsky ($4,800); Moritz Wagner ($4,800); Josh Hart ($4,700); Jordan McRae ($4,000); Terence Davis ($3,800); James Ennis ($3,700)