ORL at CLE: These two defenses are struggling, allowing the third and fifth most points per possession over their past 10 games. Las Vegas’ projected score for this game is a whopping 118.5-107.5 – there should be a lot of scoring.
PHI at BOS: Though both of these teams play at a very fast pace, over the last 10 games, their defenses rank first and fourth in points allowed per possession. Most of the other teams in action Thursday are generally favorable opponents.
Jimmy Butler, MIN at HOU ($8,800): Butler has scored more than 50 DKFP in three of his last five games, and he will face off against a severely undermanned Rockets squad Thursday. The Rockets are especially weak on the wing, after Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green got suspended for their roles in Monday’s shenanigans with the Clippers. Their combined absence means that the Rockets will be going deep into their bench to make up for the lost 62.9 minutes – All-Star Butler will have a lot of time to feast on the Rockets’ scrubs.
Eric Gordon, HOU vs. MIN ($6,300): The Rockets lead the league in three-pointers attempted per game by a massive margin. They attempt 43.6 per game, while second place attempts only 34.2, and 20 teams attempt fewer than 30. When the Rockets lose key shooters from their rotation, Gordon’s attempts tend to rise. During Chris Paul’s 14-game absence at the beginning of the season, Gordon attempted 4.0 more field goals and 3.3 more threes than he did in the 14 games following Paul’s return. Well, Ariza and Green average a combined 21.8 field goal attempts and 15.5 three-point attempts. Those two are suspended Thursday, and the options to replace them are all worse from behind the arc than any of Ariza, Green, or Gordon. Gordon is unlikely to pick up all of the field goal attempts left behind by the suspended players, but he will probably see a significant boost in three-point attempts – which probably also means an increase over the 19.9 points he’s averaged since Chris Paul’s most recent missed game.
Cory Joseph, IND at POR ($4,000): Joseph has played more minutes than starting point guard Darren Collison in each of the past two games. Over the last eight games, Joseph has matched or exceeded Collison’s workload six times. He appears to be taking over the primary point guard role, and the promotion is coming with extra fantasy appeal – he has scored at least 21 DKFP in eight of his last 10 games.
LeBron James, CLE vs. ORL ($11,300): We have to spend our money somewhere, and there are several appealing cheap players available. James is the only forward who costs above $8,000. Only four healthy players cost above $9,000 at any position, and I have some concerns about the positional matchups for both Joel Embiid ($9,400) and Karl-Anthony Towns ($9,100). His ceiling is high – James has three 60 DKFP games since New Years – and he hasn’t scored fewer than 30 DKFP since October. He’s having one of the best offensive seasons of his career, and he’s going against one of the worst defenses in the league.
Bismack Biyombo, ORL at CLE ($6,200): In the 10 games since Nikola Vucevic (hand) was injured, Biyombo has averaged 10.1 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks in 28.0 minutes per game. He’s put together two streaks of three-straight games of at least 30 DKFP, and only has two games with fewer than 27 DKFP. He was unaffected by Khem Birch’s breakout Tuesday, as Biyombo compiled his fifth double-double in those last 10 games. Defending the center position and rebounding are particularly weak areas for the Cavaliers, making this a particularly good matchup for Biyombo.
P.J. Tucker, HOU vs. MIN ($3,500): Tucker already averages 24.1 minutes over the last 10 games, so there isn’t a ton of room for that to increase. Nonetheless, his workload should see a significant boost with Ariza and Green suspended for the next two games. He has more than 15 DKFP in three of his last four games, so any increase there would likely make him profitable at this salary.
Clint Capela, HOU vs. MIN ($6,700): Clint Capela has a tough matchup Thursday, facing off against Karl-Anthony Towns, but the matchup is likely to lead to extra minutes for the Rockets’ only healthy true center. Capela is averaging 29.7 minutes over the last six games, during which Nene Hilario (knee) has been out. Capela has fared well against the league’s best centers, posting 14 and 11 against Andre Drummond, 19 and 10 against Steven Adams, and 28 and 8 against the Pelicans’ twin towers. He scored at least 40 DKFP in two of his last four, and at least 30 DKFP in five of his last seven.
Khem Birch, ORL at CLE ($3,300): There is a very narrow line between chasing yesterday’s points and properly reacting to a breakout. In the case of Birch, there is so little data available on him that it’s hard to know for sure which side is correct. But the coaching staff is saying everything a fantasy manager would want to hear following Birch’s 12-point, 10-rebound double-double Tuesday. The Magic are without Vucevic (hand), Marreese Speights (personal) and Jonathan Issac (ankle), so there are certainly minutes available for Birch. Coach Frank Vogel said Wednesday that Birch didn’t “give me any choice or make my decisions difficult… He has earned another opportunity.” Between his discounted price and how many other Magic bigs are unavailable, this feels like much more than just chasing old results.