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DraftKings NBA: Thursday Cheat Sheet

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.

Thursday is the last day of games before the All-Star break, and it’s a tiny two-game slate. The combination of those two factors makes Thursday a truly unique DFS experience, unlike any other night of the season. I find that fun and exciting – just make sure you’re prepared for it.

Especially on the last day before the All-Star break, there is always the possibility of some late scratches, which would unearth unexpected values. With so few players available, it’s extra important to check the news before lineups lock to make sure you aren’t missing out.

DraftKings rules require that you use players from multiple teams, so remember: the “avoid” and “target” sections should be used more as a tiebreaker. There are good values on every team, and that’s more important than the zoomed out avoid/target guidelines. Preferably you’ll have more players from the “target” game than the “avoid” game, but even that can be fudged a little.

TARGET

LAL at MIN: Of the four teams in action, these two play at the fastest paces over the last 10 games. The Timberwolves’ defense is the third-worst per-possession in the league over that period, while the Lakers rank in the bottom half of the league.

AVOID

DEN at MIL: This is all about avoiding the team playing the Bucks. The Bucks defense is by far the best per possession in the league over the last 10 days. They are also the slowest team over that span, though not by as wide a margin.

GUARDS

Eric Bledsoe, MIL vs. DEN ($7,100): Since returning from an ankle injury that cost him most of two games and limited him in a third, Bledsoe has been hot. He’s averaging 20.4 points and 7.4 assists while shooting 54.3 percent from the field over the last five games. That’s amounted to 40.6 DKFP per game, with all five games above 35 DKFP. Against the Nuggets’ struggling defense, lean into this streak.

Isaiah Thomas, LAL at MIN ($5,800): Thomas is fairly priced – but on such a small slate, what usually amounts to a fair price can usually be treated as a discount. Thomas has only played one ejection-free game in LA, but he put up 22 points, six assists and 33.25 DKFP in that game. The Timberwolves defense should be targeted as much as possible Thursday, and Thomas is a solid mid-priced lineup filler.

Josh Hart, LAL at MIN ($4,600): Hart has seen a ton of action over the last six games, in part because of the absence of Lonzo Ball (knee), who will again sit out Thursday. Hart has played at least 29 minutes in each of those six games, posting three double-doubles and averaging 13.0 points and 8.7 rebounds. Isaiah Thomas joining the team could interfere with Hart’s role, but that hasn’t happened yet. In Thomas’ first game, Thomas played 31 minutes to Hart’s 29. Thomas was ejected early in his second game, so the workload breakdown from that game is not instructive.


FORWARD

Jimmy Butler, MIN vs. LAL ($9,500): There are only two high-priced forward options Thursday. Giannis Antetokounmpo has the better matchup, but he costs $1,200 more, and I don’t think he’s worth that much more. Butler has been outplaying Antetokounmpo over the last few games, and while the Nuggets’ defense has been worse, the Lakers play at a much faster pace. Butler has only scored 31.75 and 32.75 DKFP in his last two games, but he put together a three-game streak with at least 30 points and 54 DKFP in each. If you can’t fit all three of Bledsoe, Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns, Butler is the one I am least interested in.

Brandon Ingram, LAL at MIN ($6,300): I’m loading up on Lakers to try to take advantage of this anemic Timberwolves’ defense. Lately, Ingram has been getting most of his value from scoring and assists, two areas where the Timberwolves are notably bad. I mentioned their poor points per-possession ranking above, and they are also among the league leaders in opponent assists per game – they rank seventh over the past 10 games. Though Ingram has had at least as many assists as rebounds in each of his past six games, throughout his career he’s usually averaged more rebounds. Not to worry, the Timberwolves are bad there, too, with a rebound percentage securely below 50 percent.

Wilson Chandler, DEN at MIL ($4,900): There aren’t a lot of cheap players who provide good value, so we may have to settle for either Chandler or his teammate Trey Lyles ($4,400). Chandler has averaged 21.5 points in 37.0 minutes over the last two games. His emergence has came in part at the expense of Lyles, whose workload fell to 19.0 minutes from 25.3 over the previous three games. The Nuggets have played well these past two games, which is why I’m pegging Chandler as likely to maintain his role, and therefore his high DFS value. Chandler scored at least 37 DKFP in each of the last two games.

CENTERS

Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN vs. LAL ($9,300): Even though three players cost more than Towns Thursday, it is Towns who averages the most DKFP over the past five games. On tiny slates, it is often difficult to spend all of the available salary.

Julius Randle, LAL at MIN ($6,700): Randle offers a solid floor – over his last 10 games, his worst game still managed 14 points, six rebounds and 27.5 DKFP. He’s averaging 19.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 30.1 minutes over his last 11 games. If the break-even target at this salary is roughly 33 DKFP, then Randle has exceeded that in eight of those last 11. Randle’s frontcourt teammate, Brook Lopez ($4,500), is also a decent option here, though he has been far less consistent than Randle over the past few weeks.

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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.