This Thursday’s NBA slate contains five games, largely free from trade deadline drama. We have some great defensive-minded teams taking the court tonight (Philadelphia, Milwaukee, LA Lakers, Orlando) and some of the most fantasy-friendly teams as well (Houston, New Orleans, Portland, New York). There isn’t much injury news to watch for; Russell Westbrook and R.J. Barrett are questionable, while Josh Richardson and Kris Dunn will remain out tonight. In this column, I generally set $6000 FD/$5000 DK as the bargain threshold, and I try to indicate when I think a position is particularly well-suited--or not--to using the cheap plays given the landscape of the particular slate. Tonight’s slate tips at 7:35 pm EST.
Michael Carter-Williams, Orlando Magic at New York ($4100 FD, $3900 DK)
Markelle Fultz will probably be a popular play in the mid-range tonight, despite struggling last night against the Celtics. MCW shined in that game, with 12 points, 6 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks, but it’s not a total fluke. He’s played an average of about 22 minutes per game in his last five games. In that span, he’s had two 30-plus fantasy point games (including last night), two 18-20 fantasy point games, and one 13 fantasy point dud. For the price, in the positive matchup, I’m betting MCW goes over 20 fantasy points tonight.
Shake Milton, Philadelphia 76ers at Milwaukee ($4300 FD, $4700 DK)
In a roughly two-week sample, we’ve seen Milton play no less than 23 minutes per game, while averaging 24.2 fantasy points per game. He’s scored in the double-digits in his last four games, and has shown off multi-steal, rebound, and assist upside. He’s held his own in other difficult matchups, like Miami and Toronto, though his output in those has been closer to 20 fantasy points. It’s a big prime-time Eastern conference showdown here, and Milton is a fairly safe, and cheap way to get some access.
Danny Green, LA Lakers vs. Houston ($4100 FD, $3800 DK(SF))
The other big televised game tonight following the All-Star draft is this Western conference rivalry. The Lakers are decent favorites in a game with a 232-point total. You know that draws me to the shooters, and Green gets the league’s fourth-best SG matchup with the Rockets. The addition of Robert Covington should help this team that definitely struggles defensively, but his attention surely won’t be focused on someone like Green. A few weeks ago, Green put up 20 real points with four steals against the Rockets, for nearly 40 fantasy points. I won’t bet on a repeat of that performance, but do think he pays off this low salary tonight.
Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic at New York ($5200 FD, $5600 DK)
The Magic couldn’t pull out a victory in Boston last night, but Fournier was another guy who had a great night in the tough matchup, and again, things should be easier tonight. On a slate with some uncertainty due to the trade deadline looming as I write this, Fournier makes the cut for me thanks to his high floor and high ceiling. He’s a safe play in any format.
Chandler Hutchison, Chicago Bulls vs. New Orleans ($4500 FD, $4300 DK)
New Orleans plays at the third-fastest pace in the league, while ranking seventh in overall fantasy points allowed (10th to SF). I love Zach LaVine tonight, but in the bargain range, I think you could do worse than Hutchison. In games where he plays at least 20 minutes – which is a regular occurrence with Kris Dunn out – he generally reaches 4-6X value.
Trevor Ariza, Portland Trail Blazers vs. San Antonio ($4400 FD, $4300 DK)
The Spurs are fringe one of the best fantasy matchups for forwards (around 10th-11th in fantasy points allowed), but neither Ariza nor Carmelo Anthony is playing particularly well right now. The Trail Blazers have had a difficult three-game stretch, but Melo’s salary actually went up after his 4.5 fantasy point performance! If I’m taking a Blazers wing, I’m not spending up for Anthony ($5300 FD, $5700 DK) but rather saving around $1K on Ariza and his similar range of outcomes.
Kyle Kuzma, LA Lakers vs. Houston ($4500 FD, $5000 DK)
Kuzma’s had his name thrown around all the trade rumors lately, but if he’s a Laker at the deadline, I like him tonight. Again with the great matchup, yes, and his 24ish MPG don’t hurt either at this price. He put up a 25-point, 8-rebound effort vs. Houston in January. His wider range of outcomes makes him more of a GPP target for me.
Thaddeus Young, Chicago Bulls vs. New Orleans ($5700 FD, $5500 DK)
Zion Williamson is the player I want in this game, given that Chicago is the best frontcourt matchup on the slate, but the Pelicans aren’t too far behind. Young has stepped up with key forwards Otto Porter and Lauri Markkanen out, with double-digit scoring night in and night out in addition to a reasonably full peripheral stat sheet. For more savings or to differentiate a bit, consider Luke Kornet ($4300 FD, $3900 DK), who has been playing at least 20 MPG albeit with wildly variable outcomes (e.g. 11-32 fantasy points per game).
Dwight Howard, LA Lakers vs. Houston ($4400 FD, $4800 DK)
I’m definitely inclined to spend at center tonight, but Howard is coming off a nice game and performed well vs. Houston back in January. In that game he filled the stat sheet with six points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks. He and JaVale McGee are splitting time and tending to produce similar lines most nights, so I wouldn’t mind hedging a bit if you’re entering multiple GPP lineups.