This article is part of our NBA DFS Breakdown series.
There are some big absences on the board Thursday, which should function as the main storylines on this slate. Paul George (shoulder), Joel Embiid (knee), Kevin Durant (rest) and Hassan Whiteside (hip) are all out, and a potential absence to Ricky Rubio (hamstring) could open things up on the Jazz.
Let's dive into each game:
Timberwolves at PacersOver/Under: 221.5
Spread: IND (-3.5)
MIN: Jeff Teague (knee) - Questionable; Robert Covington (knee) - Out; Luol Deng (Achilles) - Questionable
IND: Tyreke Evans (illness) - Questionable; Domantas Sabonis (ankle) - Out
Both the Timberwolves (9-22 away) and the Pacers (23-8 home) have lost two of their past three games, so this cross-conference matchup represents a chance to get back on track. From a DFS perspective, this game may be most affected by the availability of Jeff Teague.
With Jeff Teague out over the past two games, Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones have stepped up. Towns has posted 68 FP in both games, while Jones has averaged 34.6 FP. Derrick Rose and Andrew Wiggins also both have 30-plus FP efforts across the past two contests. They are all viable options Thursday if Teague is sidelined, but they become less enticing if Teague is there to suck up usage.
Domantas Sabonis will be out for a second straight game Thursday, so let's take a look at what happened during Wednesday's nine-point loss to the Mavericks. It was an egalitarian effort from the Pacers, as Myles Turner leading the way with 33.5 FP, while Cory Joseph, Bojan Bogdanovic and Wesley Matthews went for 25-plus FP. Considering the modest production across the board, DFS owners have the right to be nervous about deploying any Pacers for Thursday's matchup.
Warriors at MagicOver/Under: 226.5
Spread: GS (-6.5)
GSW: Jonas Jerebko (quad) - Probable; Kevin Durant (rest) - Out; Andre Iguodala (illness) - Out
ORL: Isaiah Briscoe (concussion) - Doubtful; Mo Bamba (lower leg) - Out; Markelle Fultz (shoulder) - Out
The Warriors (20-10 away) will look to put aside their loss to the Heat on Wednesday to defeat the Magic (16-16 home). Each of these squads have won seven of the past ten games, and a hot Orlando team at home has oddsmakers convinced this game could end relatively close, especially with Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala on the sideline.
A last-second Dwyane Wade three-pointer buried the Warriors in Miami on Wednesday night, and Golden State will look to get redemption against the Magic on Thursday. DeMarcus Cousins will be available after resting Wednesday, and it's possible we see him play 30-plus minutes again. He posted his first 20-and-10 game of the season last time out. In addition, coach Steve Kerr will opt to give Kevin Durant the night off, and Andre Iguodala will miss the game due to an illness. When both are off the court, Klay Thompson is by far the biggest beneficiary, seeing his production increase by 0.28 FP/min. Per 36 minutes, he averages 46.6 FP in that scenario.
The Magic have come out of the All-Star break with losses to New York and Chicago, while securing a win over Toronto. Despite the obvious up-and-down play associated with that, Nikola Vucevic continues to be a model of consistency, and he's posted no fewer than 52.4 FP over this stretch. Five other players – Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Terrence Ross, Evan Fournier and D.J. Augustin – have each posted at least one game of 30-plus FP over the past three. Their contributions have been less steady, however.
Cavaliers at KnicksOver/Under: 218.5
Spread: NY (-3.0)
CLE: Tristan Thompson (foot) - Out
NYK: Mario Hezonja (leg) - Out; DeAndre Jordan (ankle) - Out; Frank Ntilikina (groin) - Out
Somehow, both the Cavaliers (5-24 away) and Knicks (6-24 home) have won three of their past five games. It appears home-court advantage is the only thing giving New York the edge in this matchup.
The Cavaliers have gotten contributions across the board since the All-Star break ended, with seven players going for 30-plus FP at least once. Notably, Kevin Love continues to progress, and he appears to be on the verge of cracking 30 minutes. Only he and Cedi Osman have cracked the 40 FP threshold over the past three games, with the former going for 49.4 against the Grizzlies and the latter going for 41.9 FP against the Trail Blazers. Only Osman and Collin Sexton have seen at least 30 minutes in the past three games, though Sexton has averaged just 23.6 FP.
On a 10-day deal, Henry Ellenson saw 40 minutes for the Knicks on Wednesday, racking up 13 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals (36.3 FP). Why and how? I'm not sure. But according to Basketball Reference's GameScore, it was Ellenson's best game of his career. Meanwhile, Noah Vonleh, who was a DFS staple for about a month straight at one point, played 11 minutes. I love a good tank, but it can create chaos for DFS users in the latter portion of the NBA season, and we're seeing a perfect example in New York right now. There is not a scenario that would surprise me. Maybe Luke Kornet will start this game. Maybe Ellenson gets a DNP. I only trust one player on this team, and it's Mitchell Robinson. The rookie has established himself as one of the best shot blockers in the league, and posted 60.8 FP on Tuesday by way of 17 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks and three steals. With DeAndre Jordan set to miss another game Wednesday, it seems safe to invest in Robinson's upside.
Heat at RocketsOver/Under: 220.5
Spread: HOU (-9.5)
MIA: James Johnson (shoulder) - Out; Hassan Whiteside (hip) - Out
HOU: Kenneth Faried (hip) - Doubtful; Iman Shumpert (calf) - Out
The Heat (15-15 away) and the Rockets (21-9 home) are dealing with significant injuries, and a pace-up matchup for Miami makes this game enticing from a DFS perspective, though Miami is on the second night of a back-to-back after a thrilling win over Golden State on Wednesday. In general, however, these teams are trending in different directions, with the Heat winning three of the past 10 and the Rockets winning seven of the past 10.
Hassan Whiteside, who is out again Thursday, was a late scratch ahead Wednesday's tilt against Golden State. As a result, Bam Adebayo took over his role, posting 34.0 FP across 32 minutes, and he makes for an enticing DFS play against Houston. Dwyane Wade stole the show, however, hitting the game-winner and dropping 42.9 FP in just 26 minutes. Josh Richardson, Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow all did their part, each going for 30-plus FP.
Clint Capela played his best game Wednesday since returning from injury, posting 23 points (10-16 FG, 3-4 FT), 17 rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block (52.4 FP) in 40 minutes. James Harden joined him by also eclipsing the 50-FP threshold. The final piece of the Rockets' Big Three, Chris Paul, dropped 36.8 FP across 32 minutes. The trio will attempt to grab a fourth-straight win Thursday.
76ers at ThunderOver/Under: 240.5
Spread: OKC (-7.0)
PHI: Joel Embiid (knee) - Out; Boban Marjanovic (knee) - Out; Furkan Korkmaz (knee) - Out
OKC: Paul George (shoulder) - Out
The 76ers (15-14 away) have a solid road record but are dealing with significant absences in their frontline, leading to the Thunder (21-8 home) being favored by seven points. That said, the Thunder missing Paul George will certainly make things interesting. As a whole, however, these teams have been equally successful over the past 10 games, winning six.
Joel Embiid is set to miss a fourth straight contest Wednesday, and with Boban Marjanovic out as well, coach Brett Brown will have to dig deep into his bench to find center minutes. Jonah Bolden and Amir Johnson figure to see the bulk of the minutes at the position, while Justin Patton could scrape together some minutes too. Mike Scott has also joined the rotation lately, totaling 61 minutes and 35.2 FP across the past two games. Despite Embiid's usage disappearing, the core of the Sixers (Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, J.J. Redick) hasn't seen their production increase significantly. It seems like we might only be able to garner top-shelf value from the fringe bench options.
The main story for the Thunder in this matchup is the absence of Paul George, who has only missed one prior game this season. Last time he was out, Abdel Nader posted 28 FP in 33 minutes, although he might not see as much run this time around with Markieff Morris in the fold. Dennis Schroder also saw 11 more minutes than usual, posting 40.8 FP. Russell Westbrook went for 66.4 FP. Making up for George's absence will probably be a team effort, but there's clearly plenty of fantasy points that need to be made up for.
Jazz at NuggetsOver/Under: 224.5
Spread: DEN (-7.0)
UTA: Ricky Rubio (hamstring) - Questionable; Dante Exum (ankle) - Out
DEN: Trey Lyles (hamstring) - Questionable
This potential playoff preview has the Jazz (14-16), who are on the second half of a back-to-back set and could be missing Ricky Rubio, set to face the Nuggets (27-4 home), who have won five straight games.
The Jazz secured an important six-point victory over the Clippers on Wednesday, but Ricky Rubio sustained a hamstring injury along the way. Rubio has missed seven previous games this season, and there have been some notable beneficiaries. In order of average increase in fantasy points: Royce O'Neale (16.2), Rudy Gobert (10.3), Kyle Korver (9.8) and Donovan Mitchell (9.5). Korver and O'Neale represent DFS fliers, while Mitchell and Gobert are safer prospects. Aside from the Rubio situation, we should recognize the production of three players over the past two games. Derrick Favors has totaled 64.4 FP, Joe Ingles has racked up 69 FP and Jae Crowder has tallied 57.9 FP.
A huge development for the Nuggets has been the play of Paul Millsap. Over the past four games, the veteran is averaging 18.8 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 1.8 assists and 1.3 blocks (46.7 FP) across 30.5 minutes. Prior to this stretch, he was averaging only 27.4 FP across 25.7 minutes. Aside from Millsap, three other players – Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Will Barton – have posted at least 30 FP in one or more of the past three games. Barton did so in Denver's most recent game against the Thunder, dropping 33.1 FP across 33 minutes. He's been dealing with inconsistency since returning from his long-term injury, but things appear to be trending in the right direction.