The NBA’s three-game exhibition season is in the books and the real games will start on Thursday. We’ll get a tasty doubleheader that night, featuring the Jazz @ the Pelicans followed by the Clippers @ the Lakers. The Clippers are going to be shorthanded and Doc Rivers sounds a little worried about the state of his club, as they’ll go to battle against LeBron James and company without Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams, while Patrick Beverley remains iffy for Thursday.
Here are some news and notes about every bubble team as we get ready for real basketball games that will actually count in the standings. Follow me on Twitter by clicking here!
Jazz @ Pelicans Thursday 6:30 p.m.
The Jazz will be without Bojan Bogdanovic (wrist) for the remainder of the season and Royce O’Neale and Joe Ingles will need to step up. Ingles still can’t seem to play alongside Mike Conley, while Jordan Clarkson has taken on a bigger role. I think Conley is well rested and ready to roll, and I’m not opposed to tapping him for a DFS spot on Thursday. I also think Clarkson is an interesting, low-dollar option, as well. Obviously, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are your guys here.
Zion Williamson is back and went through some 5-0 work in Tuesday’s practice and will try to do more on Wednesday. The Pelicans are saying they’ll play it safe with Zion, but I’ll be stunned if he doesn’t play on Thursday. The Pelicans need all-hands-on-deck if they’re going to make the playoffs, and Zion’s hands are perhaps the biggest of all. Lonzo Ball’s shot looks great, as does his entire game and I’m probably going to roll with him on Thursday. Ball, Zion, Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram are the studs here, while Derrick Favors will try to pick up where he left off before the break.
Clippers @ Lakers Thursday 9:00 p.m.
With Montrezl Harrell still out for personal reasons and Lou Williams still quarantined, the Clippers will be without two key pieces. Patrick Beverley is questionable, but my guess is he’ll play. Either way, with Lou-Will out for the first two games, Reggie Jackson and Landry Shamet are going to be worth a look in DFS in the short term. Ivica Zubac returned to action on Monday and will help Joakim Noah man the middle for the Harrell-less Clippers. I would be comfortable using either big man on Thursday, while JaMychal Green might be worth a look as well. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are obviously the big guns here and the Clippers will need them to go off against the Lakers.
The Lakers are pretty healthy, but there is concern about a vision problem for Anthony Davis due to an eye injury. He’ll have all day Wednesday to rest and get ready and I’ll be shocked if AD isn’t ready to go on Thursday. Rajon Rondo is out for a few more weeks so Alex Caruso is in play, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope should start, J.R. Smith, Dion Waiters and Danny Green will all be bombing 3-pointers, while LeBron James and Davis should do the heavy lifting. I don’t love JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard at center, but both of them will have their moments.
Magic @ Nets Friday 2:30 p.m.
Aaron Gordon is dealing with a sore groin, leaving his status in doubt for Friday, although my guess is that he’ll play. He was killing it before the stoppage, but the groin injury and layoff could hurt him. Jonathan Isaac crushed it in his return from a knee injury on Monday in just seven minutes of action. And that’s the problem. We just don’t know how many minutes he’ll be limited to on Friday or going forward. I’m intrigued, but probably won’t roll with him early in the restart. Markelle Fultz also returned on Monday but played just eight minutes, and he’s not a guy I trust right now, either. D.J. Augustin should get some big minutes with Fultz limited. Gary Clark started for Gordon on Monday and had 17 points, four 3-pointers, two steals and a block and could be a guy that could step up if Gordon and Isaac are limited. James Ennis is another sleeper after scoring 15 on Monday. Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic should be solid fantasy options in the restart.
Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen have both looked good for the Nets and are going to be popular DFS plays on Friday. I’m all in on both of them, as LeVert is clearly the best player on their depleted roster, while Allen gets a big boost from the absence of DeAndre Jordan in the bubble. Feel free to take fliers on Chris Chiozza, Tyler Johnson, Joe Harris and Rodions Kurucs, but they are simply low-money fliers.
Editor’s Note: Whether you want to win a 50/50 or take down a GPP, use our DFS Optimizer, customizable projections and more to create the smartest lineups. Subscribe to all four major sports for as low as $7.99/month!
Grizzlies @ Blazers Friday 4:00 p.m.
The Grizzlies should get big games from guys like Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas on Friday. Kyle Anderson, Justin Jackson and Brandon Clarke are all worth a flier and Jonas Valanciunas should have plenty of opportunities against the Blazers.
The Blazers are expected to be at full strength for this one after Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum rested in the final exhibition game. Rodney Hood is still iffy with his achilles injury, while I’m kind of excited to see what Gary Trent Jr. can do with Trevor Ariza opting out of the bubble. Jusuf Nurkic looks fantastic and will likely start over Hassan Whiteside, although the two should also play together some. I like Trent Jr. as a sleeper, Nurkic as a DFS center option and, of course, Lillard and CJM should both be good to go. And if you want to play Carmelo Anthony, he could do some damage.
Suns @ Wizards Friday 4:00 p.m.
Ricky Rubio (COVID), Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Frank Kaminsky and Deandre Ayton should all be good to go on Friday. Dario Saric will start over Kaminsky if his sprained ankle from Sunday allows him to go. My guess is Saric will play. Aron Baynes still hasn’t cleared COVID protocols, so make sure you don’t use him. Kelly Oubre still hasn’t made an appearance as he recovers from a knee injury, which is good news for Bridges, who has looked good in exhibition games. Rubio hasn’t looked great lately, but Booker, Bridges and Ayton are all guys I’d consider using right now.
The Wizards will be missing John Wall, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans, while Thomas Bryant has been limited after arriving late to the bubble. We should get plenty of Ish Smith, Shabazz Napier, Troy Brown Jr., Isaac Bonga, Rui Hachimura, Bryant, Moe Wagner and Ian Mahinmi. Brown Jr. has looked good in exhibition and I like the idea of rolling the dice on him, and possibly using Smith, Napier and Bonga in a pinch. Hachimura should be able to get loose and produce in the bubble, but I need to see Bryant get a heavy dose of minutes before I’m messing with him. I don’t imagine a ton of people will be watching this game.
Celtics @ Bucks Friday 6:30 p.m.
The Celtics rested everyone in Tuesday’s finale, but you should be able to count on most of the regulars. Kemba Walker’s been dealing with a sore left knee so I’m not racing out to plug him into lineups, but it sounds like he’s going to play. We also haven’t seen much of Jaylen Brown (right hamstring), so I’m not loading up on him, either. However, I do think he’ll play in this game. Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter should all be reasonable options on Friday and I’m guessing Tatum is going to go off.
Eric Bledsoe is recovering from COVID and I’m guessing he plays, but his lack of action in the exhibitions makes me nervous. Donte DiVincenzo might be a better option for now. Wesley Matthews is a very low-end fantasy option for the restart, while Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo are about as safe as it gets. Brook Lopez is also a decent center option for the restart.
Kings @ Spurs Friday 8:00 p.m.
De’Aaron Fox (ankle), Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica and Richaun Holmes look like your Kings starters. I actually trust Fox and Hield right now and Bjelica will be an interesting option with Marvin Bagley done for the year with a foot injury. I’m going to wait to see Bogdanovic and Holmes do something in games that matter, while I don’t trust Harry Barnes much at all. If Bjelica struggles, keep an eye on Jabari Parker.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles are both out for the Spurs so they’re going to be playing a lot of small ball. Dejounte Murray, Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes, Derrick White, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and Jakob Poeltl are the Spurs options for the restart, but I’m not really feeling any of them. Murray and White are the most intriguing to me.
Rockets @ Mavericks Friday 9:00 p.m.
Eric Gordon, who was going to start for the Rockets the rest of the way, is likely going to miss a couple weeks after suffering an ankle injury that required X-rays on Tuesday. Tough blow for the Rockets and I don’t think we’ll see him until Round 2 of the playoffs. That opens up a starting job for Ben McLemore, while Danuel House and Austin Rivers will both see a boost in his absence. Russell Westbrook and James Harden (35 points on Tuesday) are good to go and Robert Covington is going to be another popular DFS play. I’m not messing with “center” P.J. Tucker, but I do think House is going to have some fun lines over the final eight games of the season without Gordon.
The Mavericks are mostly healthy, and Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and Seth Curry all look like very safe plays in the bubble. Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber and Boban Marjanovic are also guys who will put up some fun numbers throughout the restart but will also likely be inconsistent. Yes, I’m rolling with Luka every night. The Mavs will be thin at center with both Dwight Powell and Willie Cauley-Stein out for the rest of the season, so we’re going to see a lot of Boban and Maxi the rest of the way. And in my opinion, you can never have too much Boban.
Heat @ Nuggets Saturday 1:00 p.m.
The Heat are quietly healthy and looking to make some noise in the bubble. Kendrick Nunn and Goran Dragic are going to likely split minutes at point guard, while Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson, Bam Adebayo, Meyers Leonard and Kelly Olynyk should all see a big role. Butler and Bam are going to be the reliable fantasy plays here.
We don’t have much info on Gary Harris, who was late arriving to the bubble and is dealing with a hip injury. He wasn’t great before the stoppage, so stay away from him if you can help it. Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic are your guys, while a fun exhibition from Bol Bol deserves attention, and the suddenly (and controversially) outspoken Michael Porter Jr. are both potential fliers if you’re looking to hit an unlikely home run in DFS.
Jazz @ Thunder Saturday 3:30 p.m.
No one is talking about the Thunder, but Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams should all be ready to roll. I’m comfortable with four of them, while Bazley had a nice exhibition run and might be a fun sleeper. And don’t forget about Dennis Schroder, who quietly had a very nice season before the stoppage.
Pelicans @ Clippers Saturday 6:00 p.m. – See above
Sixers @ Pacers Saturday 7:00 p.m.
Joel Embiid is dealing with a sore calf, but it sounds like he should be good to go on Saturday. The fact the Sixers don’t have to play until Saturday is great for them, and the guys who sat out on Tuesday night (Embiid, Glenn Robinson, Raul Neto) should all be ready to go after three full days of rest. Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris (who was great on Tuesday), Josh Richardson, Al Horford and Shake Milton are all worth a look. Milton should start at point guard, pushing Simmons to power forward, and will be an intriguing sleeper pick in DFS. I don’t think I’m messing with Horford as long as Embiid and Simmons are healthy, but I’ll roll the dice on Shake occasionally.
The Pacers won’t have Jeremy Lamb or Domantas Sabonis in the restart, and Victor Oladipo hasn’t looked all that great since his return from a knee injury. I’m staying away from Dipo, but Malcolm Brogdon, R.J. Warren and Myles Turner are all worth a look. The Pacers don’t look like a team that can really make a dent without Sabonis, but Aaron Holiday is a sleeper to keep an eye on.
Lakers @ Raptors Saturday 8:30 p.m.
Finally, the Raptors are ready for the restart and Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka should all be solid fantasy options. Norman Powell is another guy to keep an eye on in Toronto and I don’t think anyone is going to see this team, if healthy, in the playoffs.
I can’t wait for Thursday night and to get my DFS on again. Let’s Go!