This article is part of our NBA DFS Breakdown series.
With coach Nick Nurse not-so-subtly stating that Marc Gasol will see "heavy minutes" in Serge Ibaka's absence, DFS users everywhere made a mental note to lock in Gasol on Thursday. Fade him at your own risk in what should be a cakewalk matchup against the Lakers – the game that also has the highest over/under (231.5)
Meanwhile, the game that most people will probably avoid is Cavaliers at Magic, as the matchup has an over/under of 210.5, which is 10 points lower than the second-to-lowest expected total.
Let's dive into a breakdown of each contest:
Thunder at Pacers
Spread: IND (-1.0)
This will be the first time these two franchises face off this season. The Thunder (3-1 over the past four games) are on the second half of a back-to-back, and they secured a victory over the Nets on Wednesday. The Pacers are slumping, claiming a 3-5 record over the past eight, which includes blowout losses to Philadelphia and Milwaukee. OKC's third-ranked pace will speed up the 23rd-ranked Pacers, so some value should be available on Indiana's side purely based on extra possessions.
Following a five-game absence, Domantas Sabonis has played the past two contests for the Pacers, and he's totaled 44.6 FP. Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young both had subpar outings during Sabonis' return, but the pair managed to bounce back the following outing. Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison have shown consistency as of late and have been strong cash game targets. Over the past six games, Bogdanovic has fallen below 30 FP just once, while Collison has fallen below that mark only twice.
Since Paul George made his return five games ago, Russell Westbrook has topped 60 FP twice and has dipped under 50 FP just once. George himself has looked comfortable lately, totaling 90.5 FP across the past pair of games. Everyone else on the Thunder have been fringe DFS options as of late and don't seem to provide much upside for the price.
Cavaliers at Magic
Spread: ORL (7.5)
|J.R. Smith||G||Not Injury Related||OFS||6/15/2019|
|Mo Bamba||C||Lower Leg||Out||3/27/2019|
This will be the final matchup between these teams, and the season series is split 1-1. During the most recent contest, Cleveland ended up the victors by a margin of 14 points. Nikola Vucevic had a standout performance, posting 28 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals in 36 minutes.
Cleveland has actually been making things happen lately, going 5-5 since the All-Star break, including a blowout win over the Raptors. The Magic are going in the opposite direction, losing four of the past five games – a stretch that began with a loss to the Cavaliers. Both of these squads are bottom seven in pace, so on paper, it's a matchup you'll want little of in DFS.
Kevin Love sat out the Cavaliers' most recent game, but he'll be back in action Thursday. He's been playing well, posting at least 30 FP in each of the past seven contests, including one performance of 51.2 FP against the Nets. The only other players that have posted 30-plus FP in at least one game over the past three are Cedi Osman and Collin Sexton. Brandon Knight has also shown some consistency, going for at least 25 FP in each of the past three contests.
From a DFS standpoint, the Magic feel mundane. I never feel like I can extract meaningful value from anyone on the team, especially for GPPs. Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon are fine cash plays, but even gambling on the upside of Terrence Ross or D.J. Augustin doesn't ever feel like it'll pay off enough. Aside from Vucevic, no one on Orlando has hit 40 FP since Feb. 28 (Aaron Gordon).
Kings at Celtics
Spread: BOS (-8.0)
Kings have no injuries
Thursday marks the second and final time these two teams face off, and the Celtics secured a victory in the first game, winning 111-109. Kyrie Irving sat the game out, and in his absence, Al Horford had a field day. The veteran popped off for 21 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block in 31 minutes.
The Kings, looking for one last playoff push, will be getting Mavin Bagley back Thursday. He's been out since March 1, and Sacramento has gone 2-3 in his absence. The Celtics have looked good since March rolled around, posting a 4-2 record, including a blowout victory over the Warriors, but also a blowout loss to the Clippers. In terms of pace, the Kings check in as the fastest team in the league, and they'll be pacing up the Celtics, who rank just below average.
Marvin Bagley's return means that Nemanja Bjelica will probably be regulated to the bench once again, where he had become irrelevant in Fantasy in the wake of Bagley's improvement. There's a chance Bagley will play limited minutes in his return, so deploying him in DFS does incur a bit of risk. Aside from that situation, Buddy Hield and De'Aaron Fox have been struggling a bit over the past three games, racking up three total performances between them with fewer than 30 FP. It's possible Bagley's return will re-charge the team.
Jayson Tatum is expected to return for the Celtics following a one-game absence due to a shoulder injury, but the team might be short Marcus Smart (illness) in this matchup. Kyrie Irving plays especially well with Smart off the court, posting 51.0 FP per 36 minutes. Al Horford (41.7 FP/per 36) and Jaylen Brown (33.5 FP/per 36) also makes for enticing DFS options in the event Smart sits out Thursday.
Lakers at Raptors
Spread: TOR (-10.0)
Thursday marks the second and final meeting between these two teams. The Raptors secured a 121-107 victory during the first matchup, which was way back on Nov. 4. Kawhi Leonard sat that game out and, in his absence, Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka had fantastic games, posting a combined 55 points, 17 assists, 16 rebounds, four steals and a block with just two turnovers. Ibaka will sit this one out due to a suspension, however.
The Raptors have been a mixed bag lately, winning five of the past nine games. This stretch includes blowout wins over Boston, New Orleans and Miami, but a blowout loss to the Cavaliers. Meanwhile, the Lakers broke a five-game losing streak by beating the Bulls on Tuesday. The Lakers check in as the fourth fastest team in the NBA, and they'll be pacing up the 13th-ranked Raptors.
Despite a minutes restriction, LeBron James continues to get his numbers, posting 50-plus FP in each of the past five contests. Kyle Kuzma made his return against the Bulls following a two-game absence, and he posted 36.0 FP in 34 minutes. Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope represent the other significant fantasy options on the Lakers, though my confidence level in them exceeding value is relatively low.
For the Raptors, the main storyline is the absence of Serge Ibaka. Marc Gasol is expected to play "heavy minutes", which is music to any DFS player's ears. Kyle Lowry and Danny Green are questionable, so there's certainly a worst-case scenario where all three players are out. Just to cover out bases, with that trio of players off the court this season (plus other players who are no longer on the team post-deadline), Pascal Siakam's production increases dramatically. Despite the small sample size of 24.6 total minutes of the aforementioned scenario, Siakam averages 1.7 FP/min, which equates to over 60 FP per 36 minutes.
Timberwolves at Jazz
Spread: UTA (-8.0)
The Jazz are up in this season series 2-1, winning the most recent matchup 125-111. Despite the loss, Andrew Wiggins had one of his best games of the year, racking up 35 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals in 38 minutes.
The Jazz are 2-3 over the past five games, hitting a little bit of a slump. The Timberwolves are hit-or-miss since the All-Star break, going 5-6. Both of these teams are middle-of-the-road in terms of pace, so there shouldn't be any inherent advantages there.
Karl-Anthony Towns has shredded opposing defenses over his past eight appearances, averaging 35.0 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.4 blocks (59.4 FP) in 33.8 minutes. With the possibility of Derrick Rose, Jeff Teague and Andrew Wiggins all being out again, value could show up for the Wolves. With all three players out during Minnesota's most recent game, Tyus Jones posted 27.9 FP, while C.J. Williams, Keita Bates-Diop and Cameron Reynolds all posted at least 20 FP.
Ricky Rubio will be playing his second game back from a two-game absence, so now might be the time to buy low on the point guard. Ultimately, the standout perfomances on the Jazz lately have come via Derrick Favors and Joe Ingles, who have seven combined 30-plus FP performances since March. My guess is that both players will hold relatively low ownership on this slate and could be worth GPP fliers.
Mavericks at Nuggets
Spread: DEN (-11.0)
|Michael Porter Jr.||F||Back||Out||3/25/2019|
The Nuggets have won both games in this season series, and took the most recent game 114-104, though Luka Doncic was unavailable. Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic worked very well as a tandem, combining for 36 points, 26 rebounds, 10 assists, four steals and one block.
Denver has hit a bit of a wall, winning just two of the past six games. Dallas has performed much worse, however, winning just one game since Feb. 11. Both of these teams are bottom 10 in terms of pace, so there might not be much inherent value here based on extra possessions.
Luka Doncic is dealing with a sore knee, so in the event he sits out, we should consider Jalen Brunson, who dropped 48.0 FP during the Mavs' most recent contest despite Doncic being available. Dwight Powell has also been a steady source of production for Dallas, posting at least 25 FP in every game since Feb. 22. Trying to find other fantasy value on this team is tough and, frankly, I usually avoid the exercise entirely.
Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap and Jamal Murray continue to be the hub of DFS production for the Nuggets. However, we've seen Monte Morris emerge once again, posting 30-plus FP in back-to-back contests. Despite those games being blowouts, coach Michael Malone noted recently that he's cutting his rotation down to about eight players. As a result, we could see Morris' role make a permanent leap. DFS users looking for a player who should be wildly low-owned despite upside of 30 FP should consider Mason Plumlee here.