This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
We have a typically compact four-game slate on tap Thursday night, which always requires us to sharpen our focus in our lineup construction. Luckily, the injury report is exceedingly light, which therefore still affords us a solid amount of choices to work with across all positions. Ownership is also naturally much more of a concern on an abbreviated slate such as this, a factor we'll examine further. There's also a lack of true projected shootouts, and if the four games go according to oddsmakers' expectations, there may be less cumulative DFS scoring than in the majority of slates this season.
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 two games with the highest elevated totals on Thursday's slate:
Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs (Projected total: 220.5 points)
This qualifies as the highest-scoring game of the slate due to the presence of two defensively questionable teams. The Cavaliers have allowed 113.2 points per game and are on the second night of a back-to-back set, while the Spurs are yielding 115.4 per contest, including 123.0 over the last three games.
Dallas Mavericks at Detroit Pistons (Projected total: 219.5 points)
This Mexico City showdown checks in with a fairly elevated total as well, with both teams checking right next to each other in the middle of the pack in points per game allowed (Dallas-108.3/Detroit-108.2). Each squad is also at full health with respect to front-line players and relatively well-rested, so the usual main pieces for the two teams – Luka Doncic, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond among them – should be primed for their usual levels of success.
PG: With Jamal Murray publicly stating he'll play with his abdomen injury Thursday, we essentially have a clean bill of health at point guard. Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard and Ben Simmons are a solid trio up top, while there's value to be had into the sub-$4k range with the likes of Jalen Brunson.
SG: This may be the thinnest spot in terms of overall depth with Delon Wright (thigh) and Marcus Smart (eye) out. The highest-priced option is also DeMar DeRozan, a rock-solid selection that's nevertheless a couple of notches below truly elite level.
SF: Small forward also lacks a truly upper-echelon player at the head of the pool, with Tobias Harris the highest-priced option at the position. There's a strong mid-tier with the likes of Jaylen Brown, Will Barton and Carmelo Anthony, as well as some value plays into the $4K range.
PF: Like point guard, power forward is looking almost pristine on the health front, with Paul Millsap the only question mark injury-wise due to a foot issue. The top duo of LaMarcus Aldridge and Jayson Tatum are very good options for both tournaments and cash games, and there are viable considerations all the way into the low-$4K range, with Jerami Grant ($4,300) due for a potential start if Millsap misses.
POSITIONAL UPDATE: The 76ers' Al Horford is now considered questionable for Thursday's game with knee and hamstring injuries.
C: Center is another position of strength Thursday, with two of the slate's five-figure players in Andre Drummond and Joel Embiid heading up the position. Hassan Whiteside ($8,900), Nikola Jokic ($8,800) and Tristan Thompson ($6,700) are all arguably underpriced for their overall upside as well.
Notable Injury Situations to Monitor
Gordon Hayward, BOS
Hayward is probable Thursday for a hard hit to the nose he sustained during Wednesday's loss to the Pacers.
Marcus Smart, BOS
Robert Williams III, BOS
Delon Wright DAL
Jamal Murray, DEN
Murray is listed as questionable for Thursday's game with an abdomen injury that forced him from Tuesday's game against the 76ers, but he's announced that he plans to play.
Paul Millsap, DEN
Millsap is questionable for Thursday's game with foot soreness. Jerami Grant would be in for a start at power forward if Millsap misses, while Michael Porter, Jr. would likely see additional minutes as well.
We have a trio of five-figure salaries on the short slate – Luka Doncic ($11,800), Andre Drummond ($10,600) and Joel Embiid ($10,000). All are arguably worth the investment in what should be a pair of competitive tilts in Mavericks-Pistons and Celtics-76ers. Then, as alluded to earlier, Hassan Whiteside ($8,900) and Nikola Jokic ($8,800) have both outpaced their respective salaries on multiple occasions this season, making them potential "bargain" elite plays.
None of these players see an enhanced degree of scarcity at their positions Thursday, but due to the abbreviated number of games on the schedule, they all carry a bit of extra importance Thursday. In terms of positional matchups that could serve as tie-breakers when choosing between them, Doncic is in an excellent situation against a Pistons team allowing the fifth-most FanDuel points per game (52.2), while Drummond's matchup against the Mavs is at the other end of the spectrum – Dallas is surrendering the sixth-fewest FanDuel points per game to centers (33.6) while also generating the fourth-highest rebounding rate (51.6 percent).
Embiid is somewhere in the middle, as the Celtics are also ranked in the top half of the NBA with 35.6 FanDuel points per game surrendered to centers but rank in the bottom 10 in rebounding rate (49.0 percent). He would also stand to see a bump in usage if Al Horford (knee/hamstring) misses
The elite options already discussed should see plenty of clicks on their respective names based on their reputation and upside, including Hassan Whiteside and Nikola Jokic at their aforementioned sub-$9K prices. In terms of potentially underpriced mid-tier options, Kemba Walker ($7,700) and Tristan Thompson ($6,700) particularly stand out, with Walker carrying more appeal since Smart is sidelined.
And, as customary, I've also highlighted a number of potentially popular value plays under $6K below the next section that are worthy of consideration.
Key and Likely Underowned Values
Derrick White, SA vs. CLE ($4,500):
Our pool of plays legitimately likely to be lower-owned naturally is a lot shallower on a four-game ledger, but White could certainly qualify. The young point guard has seen his FanDuel points tally drop in three straight games, bottoming out at just 3.7 over 21 scoreless minutes against the Kings in the Spurs' most recent contest last Friday night. That decline should keep the masses off White on Thursday, but he'll be very well rested and draws an excellent matchup against a Cavaliers team that's allowed the highest offensive efficiency rating to backcourts (55.4). What's more, Cleveland is also allowing the highest shooting percentage (51.0), including the second-highest three-point percentage (41.0), to point guards, along with the most FanDuel points per game (61.2) to the position on the season.
Monte Morris, DEN vs. POR ($3,700):
Morris has seen his numbers drop this season due to a notable reduction in efficiency, but he's still seeing a solid allotment of minutes most nights as Jamal Murray's primary backup at point guard. Moreover, with Murray nursing an abdomen issue he's vowed to play through Thursday, Morris could see a slight bump in opportunity if coach Mike Malone opts to pace Murray's playing time more than usual throughout the game. Morris has scored 17.0 to 38.6 FanDuel points in three of his last four games as well, and he's eclipsed the 20-mark on seven occasions overall this season. Therefore, the upside is there at his minuscule salary, especially against a Trail Blazers squad allowing solid 45.0 percent shooting to opposing benches, and the third-most FanDuel points per game to point guards (52.9) on the season.
Other Likely Underowned Value Play to Consider: Bryn Forbes, SA vs. CLE ($4,000)
Other likely higher-owned value plays to consider: Collin Sexton ($5,700); Tim Hardaway $5,000); Kent Bazemore ($4,900); Jordan Clarkson ($4,500); Josh Richardson ($4,400); Jerami Grant ($4,300); Kevin Porter ($4,000); Bruce Brown ($3,800); J.J. Barea ($3,700); Mike Scott ($3,600)