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DraftKings DFS NBA Strategy Advice: Thursday (1/7)

Jan 7, 2021

Welcome to another Thursday of NBA action! We’ve got five games on tonight’s slate, which is headlined by a matchup between young superstars Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic. We’ve also got what’s already the third matchup between the Lakers and Spurs and what’s projected to be a high-scoring affair between the Timberwolves and Trail Blazers.

Three of the five games don’t tip off until 10:00 PM EST, so make sure to maximize roster flexibility by using the G, F, and UTIL spots for those that play in the late games. As always, I’ll run through some value plays, studs you should build around, and notable players you might consider fading based on the situation. Let’s roll!

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Point Guard

Name (TEAM) OPPONENT PRICE MATCHUP RISK
Jalen Brunson (DAL) @ DEN $3,300 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ LOW
Dejounte Murray (SAS) @ LAL $6,900 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ LOW

Trey Burke (illness) has already been ruled out Thursday, which leaves Brunson as the lone backup point guard to Luka Doncic. In six games off the bench, Brunson has averaged 16.2 fantasy points in 16 minutes per game. With Burke out, Brunson is likely to see at least 20 minutes off the bench, which should give him at least 20 fantasy points for the game if he can average 1.0 point per minute like he has this season. At just $3,300, Brunson should hit 6x value with relative ease against the Nuggets.

Murray has been really impressive to begin the season, as he’s produced producing 38-plus fantasy points in four of seven games. In one of his other games, he shot just 1-of-13 from the field, and in another one, Derrick White (toe) played 23 minutes, which capped Murray’s upside. With White now out indefinitely, Murray remains the primary ball-handler and should see 30-plus minutes per game for the foreseeable future. In five games he’s played 30-plus minutes, Murray is averaging 40.6 fantasy points. He’s also played the Lakers twice already, and he scored 49.3 points in the one game White didn’t play. Murray’s salary is at its peak for the season, but that shouldn’t keep you from getting him in your lineup in a solid matchup against a Lakers team on the front end of a back-to-back. 

Shooting Guard

Name (TEAM) OPPONENT PRICE MATCHUP RISK
Dennis Schroder (LAL) vs. SAS $6,100 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ LOW
De’Anthony Melton (MEM) vs. CLE $3,300 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ MEDIUM

The Lakers are on the front end of a back-to-back for their first game against the Spurs. Tomorrow, they’ll get the Bulls Friday. Both LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (adductor) are listed as questionable to play Thursday, which could mean one of them takes the night off Thursday, and the other takes off Friday night. With that in mind, Schroder becomes very appealing at his $6,100 price point. He hasn’t shot the ball particularly well in his previous two games (just 9-of-28 from the field), which has dropped his salary from $6,800 to $6,100. What’s more, Schroder has a very favorable matchup against the Spurs, who are giving up the third-most fantasy points to the shooting guard position.

Melton (COVID-19 protocols) was priced at $3,600 on Tuesday in his first game back since December 23rd. He put up 18.5 fantasy points in 16 minutes off the bench against the Lakers. He was also a +12 in that game. When given the opportunity, Melton has shown a keen ability to rack up stats in many ways. He makes for a solid option at just $3,300 against a short-handed Cavaliers backcourt (without Darius Garland and Dante Exum) on the back-end of a back-to-back set.

Small Forward

Name (TEAM) OPPONENT PRICE MATCHUP RISK
Danny Green (PHI) @ BKN $3,700 ⭐⭐⭐ MEDIUM
Michael Porter Jr. (DEN) vs. DAL $7,100 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ HIGH

The Green play comes with a bit of risk, as the 33-year old is on the wrong side of a back-to-back, but he played both games in the first back-to-back set the Sixers had earlier in the season. If he plays, he makes for a tremendous value at just $3,700. Including Wednesday night’s game against the Wizards, Green has averaged 27.6 fantasy points in his last three games. He’s become a key piece of the Sixers’ rotation this season and puts up almost five three-pointers in 23 minutes per game as a starter. Give him a look if you need some salary relief. 

After missing the last three games, Porter Jr. (COVID-19 protocols) will make his return to the Nuggets’ lineup on Thursday. In four games this season, MPJ is averaging 19.5 points, 2.8 three-pointers, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.5 blocks in almost 30 minutes per game as a starter. Because of his low floor (21.8 fantasy points against the Clippers), Porter is a high-risk play. However, his incredibly high ceiling (51.5 fantasy points against the Kings) makes him an appealing play in what’s likely to be a close game with a projected point total of 225.5. 

Power Forward

Name (TEAM) OPPONENT PRICE MATCHUP RISK
Jarred Vanderbilt (MIN) @ POR $3,800 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ HIGH
Robert Covington (POR) vs. MIN $5,300 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ MEDIUM

Vanderbilt looked fantastic in 23 minutes off the bench in the Timberwolves’ last game against the Nuggets. He led the team in +/- with a +9 in their seven-point loss. No other player was more than +4 (Jarrett Culver) for the game. Given what Vanderbilt has done on the court, head coach Ryan Saunders would be smart to give Vanderbilt some good run on Thursday against the Trail Blazers. In the three games that he’s played 15-plus minutes this season, Vanderbilt is averaging 26.5 fantasy points per game. Even though he’s a fantastic value at just $3,800, he’s labeled as a high risk because he could be scripted out of the game and play just one minute, as he did in Minnesota’s first matchup against the Nuggets on January 3rd. 

Covington found his shooting stroke on Tuesday after struggling with his shot to begin the season. He’s averaging just 4.9 three-point attempts on the season, but he was able to get up nine attempts last game against the Bulls. Next up for RoCo and the Trail Blazers is a matchup against one of his former teams, the Timberwolves, so maybe a little revenge is on tap. He’s still playing 32 minutes per game to start the season, and he’s always a good bet to pick up a few steals and blocks on any given night. Covington seems like a relatively safe bet at $5,300 in what should be a fast-paced game against a struggling Minnesota squad.

Center

Name (TEAM) OPPONENT PRICE MATCHUP RISK
Jusuf Nurkic (POR) vs. MIN $6,200 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ MEDIUM
Gorgui Dieng (MEM) vs. CLE $4,100 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ MEDIUM

Simply put, the Timberwolves struggle to defend opposing centers. Nikola Jokic went for 35 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, three steals, and one block against them on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, Nurkic is starting to heat up, increasing his fantasy output in each of his last four games, yet for some reason, his salary is now at the lowest it’s been all season ($6,200). If he can stay out of foul trouble, which shouldn’t be too difficult with Karl-Anthony Towns still sidelined, Nurkic should be a lock for at least 5x value on Thursday night.

Dieng is very quietly averaging 25.8 fantasy points in 23 minutes in his last four games. On Thursday, he’ll face off against Andre Drummond, JaVale McGee, and the Cavaliers, who rank dead last in fantasy points allowed to the center position. Dieng should once again have no problem delivering a solid performance off the bench in this one. If he stays the course and produces his average over the last four games, he’ll hit just over 6x value. 

4 Studs Worth Their Salary

  • Luka Doncic (DAL) $10,500: In his last two games, Doncic showed us why so many people were picking him to be the MVP this season. He helped the Mavericks score key wins against the Heat and the Rockets. In the process, Doncic averaged 65 fantasy points after averaging just 41.5 in his first four games. Ride Doncic while he’s hot, especially in a game against the Nuggets, who don’t have a lockdown defender to put on the young superstar. In his last two games against Denver, Doncic has averaged 27.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 9.5 assists. This game should be close, and the Mavericks have had two full days off since their last game. Building around Luka tonight seems like the right move.
  • Kyrie Irving (BKN) $9,600: I’m paying up for Irving until his salary surpasses $10,000 while Kevin Durant (COVID-19 protocols) is out — especially in what should be a close game against the Sixers. Irving poured in 29 points with six rebounds, five assists, and three steals against the Jazz on Tuesday. He managed to produce 51.5 fantasy points in just 29 minutes in a blowout. Irving is putting up almost 1.5 fantasy points per minute this season, and that’s mostly with Durant in the lineup. With KD out once again Thursday, expect Irving’s usage to remain sky-high. If he plays 35-plus minutes, we could be looking at another 50-plus fantasy points from Irving. 
  • Damian Lillard (POR) $9,300: The Trail Blazers are projected to score 121 points against the Timberwolves on Thursday. They’re averaging 114 points through seven games this season. The high projected point total is because Minnesota, like Portland, is top-10 in pace of play this season. Lillard is coming off a poor shooting night, where he shot just 6-of-17 from the field and went 3-of-11 from deep. He’s now shot under 30% from three-point range in three games this season. He followed the first two up with 53.8 and 55.5 fantasy points, respectively. Great players bounce back, and I expect Lillard to do the same on Thursday against a Minnesota team that has given up 126 points per game through its last five. 
  • D’Angelo Russell (MIN) $7,700: Russell is another guy who started slow but is starting to heat up. In his first five games, he averaged just 28.32 fantasy points per game, but he’s averaging 49.7 fantasy points in his last two. Now he’ll get a very favorable matchup against a Portland team that gives up the fourth-most fantasy points to the point guard position. This game should feature a fast pace with little resistance from both teams, allowing for lots of fantasy goodness from a number of guys. 

4 Notable Players to Fade

  • Anthony Davis (LAL) $9,800: Davis (adductor) was nicked up a bit coming out of Tuesday’s win against the Grizzlies. Given the injury, the Lakers are listing him as questionable for Thursday night’s game against the Spurs. They could opt to rest either Davis or LeBron James (ankle), as it’s the first night of a back-to-back set. On Friday night, they’ll take on the lowly Bulls, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Davis and James each take a night off. If, for some reason, they both play both games, expect lighter workloads for the two Laker superstars. 
  • Joel Embiid (PHI) $9,500: The Sixers are on the second night of a back-to-back Thursday after defeating the Wizards on Wednesday night. Embiid was extremely active last night, as he scored 38 points on 11-of-20 shooting from the floor in 37 minutes. Embiid was held out on the second night of a back-to-back earlier in the season, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see something similar happen this go-round. Even if Embiid plays, it’s unlikely that head coach Doc Rivers will give him a full set of minutes against a Nets team playing without Kevin Durant. 
  • Andre Drummond (CLE) $8,400: Drummond’s price-tag is enticing, but I won’t personally be taking the bait. Thursday night’s game against Memphis has the lowest projected point total on the slate at just 211.5. In his last four games, Drummond has averaged 35.6 fantasy points per game, which would only put him at 4.2x value at $8,400. Add in the fact that he faces an above-average defender in Jonas Valanciunas, and it could be tough sledding for Drummond on Thursday.
  • DeMar DeRozan (SAS) $7,900: DeRozan now hasn’t played more than 29 minutes in each of his last two games. With LaMarcus Aldridge back in the lineup Tuesday against the Clippers, DeRozan scored just six points on nine shots. He managed to produce just 22.3 fantasy points. It’s hard to trust a guy at $7,900 whose minutes don’t seem to be safe in head coach Gregg Popovich’s rotation.

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Adam Koffler is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Adam, check out his archive and follow him @AdamKoffler.

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