This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
The key to success on Thursday's nine-game slate is determining who is incentivized to win. Before we even think about endorsements, let's take a brief look at the playoff picture for teams involved in tonight's slate. There are fewer teams with little to play for, so we will identify them first.
DISINCENTIVIZED TEAMS: Sixers, Magic, Raptors, Bulls, Timberwolves
These teams are either eliminated or are pretty much locked into their seeds. The remaining teams have at least seeding concerns to achieve, so they should be playing at full strength. News will drop throughout the day, so it is more important than ever to keep your ear to the ground, especially with the aforementioned teams. The value will most likely flow from these squads.
LAC @ CHA (+8.5) O/U: 223.5
MIL @ IND (+8.5) O/U: 240.5
ORL @ ATL (-12.5) O/U: 227.5
PHI @ MIA (+1.5) O/U: 217.5
SAS @ NYK (-4.5) O/U: 216.5
SAC @ MEM (-7) O/U: 230.5
TOR @ CHI (-9) O/U: 218.5
DEN @ MIN (+6) O/U: 235.5
POR @ PHO (-5.5) O/U: 232.5
Odds and lines are best available USA numbers and are subject to change
Games to Target in BOLD
Games to Fade in ITALICS
CHA: Miles Bridges (COVID-19 Protocols) - OUT
CHA: Gordon Hayward (foot) - OUT
CHA: Cody Martin (ankle) - OUT
CHA: Caleb Martin (thumb) - QUESTIONABLE
The Hornets are virtually locked into the 8 or 9 seed, so there's not a ton on the line here, unless they have a preferred play-in matchup. For the moment, I'd place P.J. Washington ($7,600) as the most likely player to see his full complement of minutes, and although LaMelo Ball is off the injury report, he is still dealing with a wrist issue. Devonte' Graham's ($7,000) increased involvement is probable.
IND: Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring) - OUT
IND: Aaron Holiday (toe) - QUESTIONABLE
IND: Edmond Sumner (knee) - OUT
IND: Jeremy Lamb (knee) - OUT
We'll focus on elite choices from this game shortly, but Edmond Sumner's absence will lead to more time for Justin Holiday ($4,500), who was a popular late pivot Wednesday. Oshae Brissett ($5,100) and Doug McDermott ($3,700) should see a starting role and are reasonably priced.
ORL: Mo Bamba (illness) - QUESTIONABLE
ORL: Terrence Ross (back) - OUT
ORL: James Ennis (calf) - OUT
If Bamba is out, Wendell Carter ($5,800) will emerge as a budget center option. There is potential value all over this roster, so it's worthwhile to look at the starting lineup before this slate tips off. We will likely hit on one or two favorites in the value section.
PHI: Joel Embiid (illness)- QUESTIONABLE
With the one seed all but assured, it's highly unlikely that the Sixers will let Embiid take the floor against the Heat. Of the remaining starters, I see Tobias Harris ($7,000) as having the biggest benefit with Embiid out. We might see rest for Ben Simmons ($7,700), but he is always a net positive without Embiid and would be a solid option.
MIA: Jimmy Butler (eye) - QUESTIONABLE
The Heat are safely in the playoffs, but they are in a position to leapfrog the Hawks for the fourth seed, and the Knicks are breathing down their neck at the sixth seed. I imagine that they would much rather play the Hawks or the Knicks over the Bucks, so I would expect Butler to make a go of it tonight. If he doesn't play, a pivot to Tyler Herro ($6,000) would be a reliable call.
NYK: Derrick Rose (ankle) - QUESTIONABLE
NYK: Reggie Bullock (ankle) - QUESTIONABLE
NYK: Immanuel Quickley (ankle) - QUESTIONABLE
One of these guards will likely suit up. There are no worthwhile pivots below them at the moment, so it's a wait-and-see situation until we see a starting lineup.
SAC: De'Aaron Fox (COVID-19 protocols) - OUT
SAC: Harrison Barnes (groin) - DOUBTFUL
SAC: Tyrese Haliburton (knee) - OUT
SAC: Marvin Bagley (groin) - DOUBTFUL
We should expect to see Chimezie Metu ($4,200) take the court as Bagley's replacement after a decent spot starts two days ago. He's a solid value call but is limited due to his center designation. Delon Wright ($8,300) and Terence Davis ($6,300) should continue to excel at the guard positions.
MEM: Jonas Valanciunas (back) - QUESTIONABLE
The Grizzlies would obviously prefer to be the eighth seed, giving them two chances to win their way into the eight-team field. They are only a half-game behind the Warriors, so getting there is doable if they win out. Valanciunas will be a game-time call, but it's safe to go with Xavier Tillman ($4,000) or Brandon Clarke ($5,100) if Valanciunas sits. I prefer Clarke due to his PF designation.
TOR: Pascal Siakam (shoulder) - OUT
TOR: Fred VanVleet (rest) - OUT
TOR: Kyle Lowry (rest) - OUT
TOR: OG Anunoby (calf) - OUT
TOR: Chris Boucher (rest) - OUT
What a mess. For starters, it's interesting that Khem Birch ($6,000) and Gary Trent ($4,900) aren't resting, so one has to assume heavy involvement for the duo. Beyond that, things are a bit of a crapshoot since Malachi Flynn ($5,500) and Jalen Harris ($3,800) are splitting guard minutes. Birch will likely give way to Freddie Gillespie ($3,700) for around 25 minutes, and Stanley Johnson ($3,700) will also see time.
CHI: Daniel Theis (hip) - QUESTIONABLE
CHI: Tomas Satoransky (ankle) - QUESTIONABLE
To be perfectly honest, I have no clue what will happen with the Bulls tonight. They have zero to play for, even though they are technically in the mix, mathematically. Whether they still try to go for it or sit back is up in the air. I'm much more confident in pivots on the other side of this game, although the eventual starting lineup is worth a look.
DEN: PJ Dozier (groin) - OUT
DEN: Monte Morris (injury management) - QUESTIONABLE
We'll hit on some Nuggets players later on.
PHO Cameron Johnson (wrist) - OUT
All four of our 10k-plus players are big men with PF and C designations. I'm a bit skeptical of Giannis Antetokounmpo ($10,900) at the top. After tanking their playoff opportunity last year, the Bucks won't take any chances with Giannis, and even if he plays, I doubt it will be for a full complement of minutes.
Conversely, you can expect Domantas Sabonis ($10,500) to have a full load on the other end. The Pacers are highly motivated to win, making Sabonis my top pick in this range. Denver is also motivated to play for the three seed, so Nikola Jokic ($10,500) is certainly a worthwhile call against the Timberwolves, and it should be a fun battle between Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns ($10,000).
Giannis is the only player I would exclude out of this group. Based on the load at the top, you're either going to spend up here and try for value everywhere else or fade this group entirely. With Sabonis at a PF designation, pairing him with Jokic or Towns is as chalky as it gets.
There's a lot to like in the 9k range, and Caris LeVert ($9,000) leads the group. One should expect a lot of shot volume from LeVert with Brogdon still sidelined. He's on an insane run of stellar games.
Trae Young ($8,600) is also worth a look. The Hawks need to fend off the Knicks and the Heat to hold onto the fourth position, so expect Young to be gunning hard for a win against the Magic.
I'm less enthralled with the remaining options. Nikola Vucevic ($9,700) could play a full game, but I would only trust him in tournaments, and although there's a lot to like about Damian Lillard ($9,700), he's drawn a tough matchup against the Suns.
If Jimmy Butler ($9,300) plays, he's definitely worthwhile, and despite the low projected game total. Julius Randle's ($9,000) PF designation makes him a sound play as the Knicks jockey for position and try to avoid facing Milwaukee in Round 1.
To say that this duo is underpriced would be a gross understatement. Leonard's salary is almost laughable. While a blowout could definitely be in play, the Clippers really want a shot at the two seed, and a win would at least give them an outside chance to overtake the Suns, should Phoenix falter. They also need to pay heed to the Nuggets, who are only a game behind them for third. Both players could easily disappoint, but they are on this list because they will be very chalky tonight.
Michael Porter, DEN ($7,400) @ MIN
The Nuggets are trying to overtake the Clippers for the three seed, and Porter is as chalky as ever after three straight value-beating performances. It should be fun to watch Porter and Anthony Edwards ($8,500) exchange baskets, but at the lower price, Porter is the more valuable of the two.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, ATL ($7,300) vs. ORL
Bogdanovic continues to make our chalk list due to his extremely reliable floor and a price that rates well below what it should be currently. It can be risky to go with a player who is almost entirely shot-dependent, but few players come close to his shot volume and corresponding accuracy over the past month.
Norman Powell, POR ($6,800) @ PHO
I like Powell as the best Portland option over Lillard and McCollum tonight. The wing is where the Suns are the weakest, and as long as they play Powell the way they did Monday, I expect great results. CJ McCollum ($8,000) is by no means a bad call, but squaring off against Devin Booker ($7,500) is no one's idea of a good time. Since we mentioned three prices here, it goes without saying that when names are in bold type, they are officially endorsed, so count in Booker and McCollum.
As we said, lots of value will open up throughout the day, and we tried our best to give some value predictions in our injury sections. Since this article is long enough already, I'm just going to list more value options below. Instead of a detailed account, I will assign each a star rating, with four stars being the highest.
PG: Cole Anthony, ORL ($5,000) @ ATL ****
SG: Yuta Watanabe, TOR ($3,500) @ CHI **
SF: Maurice Harkless, SAC ($5,000) @ MEM **
PF: Aaron Gordon, DEN ($3,900) @ MIN ***
C: Deandre Ayton, PHO ($6,200) vs. POR ***