Each week I’ll be bringing you my favorite Thursday FanDuel NBA Picks.
Today, we have a solid four-game slate: San Antonio at Chicago (+6, 198), Utah at Milwaukee (-8, 186.5), Boston at Portland (-7.5, 204), and Brooklyn at L.A. Clippers (-11.5, 201.5). As far as injuries go, Joakim Noah has been ruled out, and LaMarcus Aldridge is expected to be out as well. Also, the Spurs are on the frontend of a back to back. They play the Lakers tomorrow, so I’d expect any rest for Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to come tomorrow, but you always need to at least monitor these situations.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers, $9,000 – With LaMarcus Aldridge out last night, Lillard was a very popular play, but he had a disappointing game with only 33 FD points. Hopefully, that will cause a few people to look elsewhere, because I’m expecting a big bounce-back game. Lillard gets a huge usage bump when LaMarcus Aldridge is out, and the most important takeaway from last night was the fact he played 41 minutes and got up 22 shot attempts. He had a very rough shooting night (6-22), but should shoot it better at home against a poor defense. Lillard draws the best PG matchup on tonight’s board, as the Celtics are 27th in DVP against PGs on the season and are ranked 24th over the last three weeks. Also, the Blazers are projected to score a healthy 105 points, which is the second-highest of the night.
Brandon Knight, Milwaukee Bucks, $7,500 – For cash games, I’ll pair up Lillard with Chris Paul or Tony Parker. However, for tournaments, I think Brandon Knight makes for a quality low-owned option. Utah has been solid against the PG position this year, as they are ninth in DVP on the season, however overall they are not a great defensive team, as they are 26th in defensive efficiency. It’s tough to trust Jason Kidd’s rotations, but with Kendall Marshall out for the year, Knight’s minutes have become much more secure. The only other PG on the roster is Jerryd Bayless, and he is more of a combo guard. In the two games since Marshall was injured, Knight has played 35 and 41 minutes and put up 39.5 and 44 FD points.
Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers, $5,700 – You’re going to see a lot of Trail Blazers here, as they are projected to score the second-most points on the night, and they are missing their top scorer, LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge averages 20 shot attempts per game, so there is a lot extra usage to go around, and the prices of Matthews, Batum, and Kaman are still very low. With Aldridge injured, Matthews has attempted 37 field goals over his past two games and has averaged 30 FD points. He draws a tough matchup with Avery Bradley, who is a very good on-ball defender, and the Celtics are 12th in DVP against SGs. However, Matthews’ low price and increased shot volume should allow him to hit value here. Also, he has a solid past game for a guard, and will have a big size advantage over Bradley, so I expect Portland to get him looks in the post with LMA out.
Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets, $6,300 - The SG position is the weakest position on tonight’s slate. The highest-priced option, Jimmy Butler, has a very tough matchup with the Spurs, who are sixth in DVP against SGs this year. Butler should see lots of Danny Green and even Kawhi Leonard at times. Meanwhile, Joe Johnson draws a quality matchup with the Clippers, who lack quality wing defenders and are 14th in DVP against SGs. With Deron Williams out, he is playing a ton of minutes, having played at least 37 minutes in each of his past four games. Johnson has also topped 30 FD points in each of his last two games.
Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz, $7,400 – Milwaukee has been very a solid defensive team this year, but they have struggled to defend SFs, as they are 28th in DVP against the position. Hayward is typically a GPP-only play for me, as he tends to put up a 50-FD-point game, followed up by a 20-FD-point game. However, with a short slate and him having the top SF matchup on the board, he is a great target in all formats. Hayward also brings high upside at a fairly thin position.
Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers, $5,300 – Batum will be one of the most popular plays of the night, as he is coming off of a monstrous line of 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists (46.5 FD points). With LaMarcus Aldridge out, the Blazers will play small at times with Dorell Wright and Batum as the forwards, so his rebounding numbers get a big boost. Batum draws a very nice matchup with a Boston team that plays up in pace and allows the fifth-most points per game – the Celtics are also 21st in DVP against SFs. Batum has shot the ball very poorly due to an ailing wrist, but surprisingly looked great last night, as he was 6-of-8 from three-point land. I wouldn’t expect another shooting performance like that, but with LaMarcus Aldridge out and what should be a high-pace game, Batum should be able to hit 5x or 6x value.
Also Consider – Kawhi Leonard
Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls, $5,500 – Joakim Noah has been ruled out for tonight’s game, so Taj will draw another start. Although he hasn’t played to the high expectations he set last year, he has been very solid in his starts. Over his last three games, he is averaging almost 40 MPG and 27.8 FD points, which is the 5x value that you want on FD. Due to his heavy minute volume and low price, he’s a tremendous value play for your cash games. He draws a quality matchup with the Spurs, who have been below average against PFs, as they are 22nd on the season and 20th in DVP over the last three weeks.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers, $10,000 – Griffin is playing really well over his last three games, as he has scored at least 43.8 FD points in each contest, including one 52.5-FD-point game. He draws a terrific matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, who are 24th in DVP against PFs, and who have no one to match up with him. He’ll either by guarded by an aging Kevin Garnett, or if Garnett sits, then either Mason Plumlee or Brook Lopez, who cannot handle his quickness. Also, the Clippers are projected to score the most points on the night according to the NBA odds, so Blake should continue his quality play. The only concern is whether the Nets can keep this one close enough for the star power forward to see fourth quarter minutes.
Chris Kaman, Portland Trail Blazers, $4,600 – The big question with Kaman: how many minutes will he play? Kaman drew the start last night against the Suns, but only played 19 minutes. However, he has been very productive in the minutes he is on the floor, and put up 21 FD points in those 19 minutes. He needs around 23 FD points to hit 5x value tonight, so as he long as he plays at least 20 minutes, I would expect him to be right around value. The Celtics play at a quick pace and are very weak on the interior. They are 23rd in DVP against the center position on the season, 26th over the last three weeks, and 18th in rebounding differential, so it’s a quality matchup on paper. I do have some concern that the Celtics’ pace, as well as a potential matchup with Kelly Olynyk, could limit his minutes once again. However, due to his matchup and price, Kaman’s a solid bet to pay off his cheap tag on a short slate, and allows you to spend for a Chris Paul or Blake Griffin.
Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets, $6,200 - This pick somewhat hinges on the status of Kevin Garnett. Lopez is coming off one of his best games of the season, as he put up 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 blocks in 38 minutes en route to 44.7 FD points. This is the second night of a back to back for the Nets, so there is a decent chance that Kevin Garnett will rest. If KG is out, Brook Lopez should draw the start alongside Mason Plumlee. The Clippers’ defense is their biggest weakness and they have had a tendency to play down to their opponents this year. What’s more, they have particularly struggled against opposing centers, as they are 22nd in DVP.
Also Consider – DeAndre Jordan