While there are only four games on the main slate for Thursday, there’s still plenty of things to keep in mind, including who's filling in for some key injured rotation players. The following list of players should give DFS owners a guideline for who to potentially build around:
Chris Paul, HOU vs MIN ($10,400): While a lot of DFS owners are likely going to shift away from Paul due to James Harden’s return, I’m not doing so here. Harden is going to be on a 25-minute restriction and the Rockets are going to be without both Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green due to suspensions, so I only see a very small drop in Paul’s overall usage. If anything, Harden’s return should take off some of the defensive pressure that Paul has seen and could open the floor up a bit for some drives to the hoop. Paul has also averaged 51.8 FanDuel points over the last four games and is facing off against a Minnesota defense that hasn’t necessarily excelled at keeping opposing point guards in check.
Eric Gordon, HOU vs MIN ($6,800): Like mentioned above, the Rockets are going to be without some key players on the wing. Despite Gordon’s expected return to a bench role with Harden back, both Ariza and Green are set to be sidelined on suspension, so Gordon should get all the minutes he can handle and will likely also see an uptick in field goal attempts and three-point attempts. So far this season, Gordon has averaged 15.6 field goal attempts and 9.6 three-point attempts. That sort of output for a $6,800 player should be very intriguing.
T.J. McConnell, PHI at BOS ($5,100): The Sixers will be without starting shooting guard J.J. Redick over the next two weeks or so. While Jerryd Bayless is expected to start in his place, McConnell is the better fantasy option and he should also see big minutes on the wing. Even before Redick’s injury, McConnell posted 47.2 and 32.3 FanDuel points over his last two games, which is already hitting value for a $5,100 price tag. With added playing time and usage heading into Thursday’s contest, McConnell will be one of the better lower mid-tier options.
LeBron James, CLE vs ORL ($12,500): James is extremely pricey for Thursday’s slate, but there’s a handful of near minimum priced players (Khem Birch, P.J. Tucker, Luc Mbah a Moute) that should allow you the salary break needed to fit him in your lineup. James draws a fantastic matchup against a Magic defense that has given up the third most FanDuel points to small forwards on the season. Adding on to that, this game is expected to have the highest over/under on the night, so look for an uptempo contest with plenty of scoring, which is always beneficial for fantasy purposes. James has also posted back-to-back 60-plus FanDuel-point showings in a row and looks primed to do so once again.
Aaron Gordon, ORL at CLE ($7,500): The Cavaliers have been surprisingly poor at defending the power forward position this year, giving up the ninth most points to the position on the season. However, they’ve been especially bad of late, giving up the fourth most FanDuel points over the last five games. That should give Gordon plenty of opportunities at success and like mentioned above, the over/under on this game is very high, so it should be an up-and-down game with a ton of statistics available. Gordon has had a couple of poor showings of late, but he’s logged 39 and 38 minutes, respectively, over the last two games, so he’s getting all the run he can handle.
Khem Birch, ORL and CLE ($3,900): Birch was a nice surprise for the Magic on Tuesday, playing extended minutes for the first time this season after previously seeing action in a total of just seven games. In 19 minutes of action, Birch had 12 points, 10 rebounds, one assist and four blocks. That was certainly impressive and with coach Frank Vogel reporting the Birch will remain in the regular rotation for Thursday’s contest, he’ll have plenty of intrigue while profiling as a near minimum salary. Of course, there’s still plenty of risk here considering his lack of previous production, so likely only a tournament play for those in need of a break.
Honorable Mention: Luc Mbah a Moute ($3,500) and P.J. Tucker ($3,700)
Both Mbah a Moute and Tucker are set for big minutes on the wing with Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green suspended, so if you’re in need of a hefty salary break, both guys should be an option, with Tucker being the slightly more intriguing play of the two despite coming off the bench.
Bismack Biyombo, ORL at CLE ($7,500): Despite the emergence of Birch during Tuesday’s contest, Biyombo himself still put up some big numbers, tallying 48.2 FanDuel points. He posted 51.6 FanDuel points a game prior, which shows the sort of upside Biyombo has. At a price of $7,500, he would easily surpass value if he were to near those numbers once again Thursday.
Al Horford, BOS vs PHI ($7,400): The 76ers have been pretty poor at defending opposing frontcourts, giving up the fifth most FanDuel points to centers on the season and the sixth most to power forwards. For that reason, Horford should have success no matter where he slots in Thursday, making him one of my favorite center options for the slate. Horford has played in just one game over the last week, so he should be well rested and ready to put up some numbers.