This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
UPDATE: Kawhi Leonard has now officially been ruled out for load management Thursday.
We have a five-game main slate on tap Thursday, one that could finally see Paul George take the floor for the Clippers. The perennial All-Star remains officially questionable as of Thursday morning, and even if he does suit up, it's unknown whether he'll be joined by Kawhi Leonard, with the latter having played the first game of Los Angeles' back-to-back set versus the Rockets on Wednesday. Then, even with the modest selection of games, we're fortunate that three of them are projected to finish well over the 220-point threshold, even with multiple notable injuries at play.
As usual, we'll break down the positional outlook below, along with the games with the highest projected totals, possible chalk plays and some likely under-owned bargains that could help you round out your lineups with a couple of superstars.
Before delving into the slate, a reminder that FanDuel has reverted to its previous format of NOT dropping the lowest scoring in lineups after a one-year experiment with that feature. Therefore, it will be important to be prudent with each selection, as each player's total will count toward your final score.
Without further ado, let's take a more comprehensive look at Thursday's slate!
Here's a closer look at the games with the three most elevated projected totals on Thursday's slate:
Los Angeles Clippers at New Orleans Pelicans (Projected total: 235.5 points)
The number here easily ranks as the highest of the night, even with a multitude of big names sporting injury designations or already ruled out. On the Clippers' side, Paul George will play, while Kawhi Leonard's status is a bit more clouded. The Pelicans have already ruled out Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, with Brandon Ingram also very iffy with his knee injury. No matter how the chips ultimately fall, Jrue Holiday could serve as one of the most potentially rewarding fantasy-point-per-dollar plays on the slate while manning the point in Ball's absence.
Chicago Bulls at Milwaukee Bucks (Projected total: 229.5 points)
The fast-paced and defensively challenged Bucks are unsurprisingly part of the game with the second-highest projected point total of the night. Milwaukee is now down Khris Middleton (quadriceps) for multiple weeks, but they still naturally pack plenty of firepower elsewhere in the lineup. Middleton's absence also ups the already high appeal of Eric Bledsoe, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez, especially in a game versus a Bulls squad allowing 109.3 points per game.
Atlanta Hawks at Phoenix Suns (Projected total: 227.5 points)
Both teams should be at full health for this late-night matchup. The Hawks demonstrated plenty of defensive improvement in the early going of the season, but they've now allowed an average of 122.0 points per game over the last three contests. The Suns have surrendered 119.7 in their own right over their last three games, and 111.6 per home tilt as well. Both Trae Young and Devin Booker could find themselves in particularly advantageous matchups in what should be a fast-paced matchup.
We have a less-than-ideal combination of a relatively small slate and some big-name injuries Thursday, which could wreak a bit of havoc with our overall supply of viable players.
Point guard would take a sizable hit if Kyrie Irving were to be ruled out with a shoulder injury, as Lonzo Ball (hip) is already out as well. An Irving absence would leave just Luka Doncic and Trae Young at the elite level at the position, but the mid-tier does salvage things a bit with options such as Eric Bledsoe, Ricky Rubio and Jamal Murray.
Over at shooting guard, Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday, RJ Barrett and Zach LaVine are a fine foursome up top, while Spencer Dinwiddie, Gary Harris and J.J. Redick head up a solid mid-tier below a trio of sidelined options in Caris LeVert (thumb), Khris Middleton (quadriceps) and Josh Hart (knee).
The forward spots remain firmly up in the air right now with the uncertainty surrounding Kawhi Leonard, and Brandon Ingram. It's possible Giannis Antetokounmpo remains the only elite option at small forward by the time all's said and done, but there are viable values down into the mid-$4K range. Power forward looks to be in the best shape of any position, as names such as Porzingis, Randle, Markkanen, Favors and Millsap are available, among others, even if Leonard sits.
Finally, center doesn't really have any notable injuries before we get into the value area (Mitchell Robinson, Jahlil Okafor), while there's reasonable value selections all the way down to the sub-$4K range.
Notable Injury Situations to Monitor
Paul George, LAC
George will make his Clippers debut Thursday night after the team held him out of Wednesday's loss to Houston. It's unclear what kind of workload he'll be handed right away, but there's a good chance he'll be on a soft minutes restriction.
Kyrie Irving, BKN
Irving is considered questionable for Thursday's game against the Nuggets with a right shoulder impingement. Spencer Dinwiddie would presumably be in line for a start at point guard should Irving miss.
Zach LaVine, CHI
LaVine is considered probable for Thursday's game versus the Bucks after rolling his ankle in practice Wednesday. Rookie Coby White, who's coming off a career-best 27-point performance versus the Knicks, would be in line for a bump in opportunity should LaVine suffer a setback.
Lonzo Ball, NOP
Ball will remain out for Thursday's game versus the Clippers with his hip injury. Jrue Holiday will continue handling point guard duties, while J.J. Redick will see plenty of extra opportunity as well with the Pelicans also down Josh Hart (knee) and possibly without Brandon Ingram (knee) as well.
Brandon Ingram, NOP
Ingram will be considered a game-time call for Thursday's contest against the Clippers after being scratched just before tip-off against the Rockets on Monday. Kenrich Williams would be in line for extra opportunities should Ingram miss.
Josh Hart, NOP
Landry Shamet, LAC
Shamet will likely be listed as questionable at best for Thursday's game versus the Pelicans due to an ankle injury Lou Williams and Rodney McGruder would once again be in line for additional opportunity should Shamet miss.
Otto Porter, CHI
Kyle Korver, MIL
Korver is questionable for Thursday's game against the Bulls due to a head bruise. Donte DiVincenzo would presumably pick up some extra minutes off the bench should Korver miss.
Elfrid Payton, NYK
Mitchell Robinson, NYK
Robinson is considered questionable for Thursday's game versus the Mavericks due to his concussion. Taj Gibson would continue starting at center if Robinson misses.
Jahlil Okafor, NOP
Okafor shapes up as a game-time call for Thursday's contest due to a left ankle sprain. With backup Jaxson Hayes (ribs) also questionable, Nicolo Melli could be in line to serve as Derrick Favors' primary backup at center if both players miss.
Kevin Huerter, ATL
Huerter has been ruled out for Thursday's game versus the Suns after sustaining a shoulder injury Tuesday against the Nuggets. Cam Reddish, who's considered probable with his own shoulder issue, would likely be in line for the start, while Allen Crabbe could potentially make his season debut as his backup at two-guard after overcoming his knee injury.
Cam Reddish, ATL
Reddish is probable for Thursday's game against the Suns with a shoulder injury. He'll likely be in line for a start at two-guard in place of Kevin Huerter (shoulder), who's ruled out for the contest.
Alex Len, ATL
Len is considered probable for Thursday's came against his old Suns teammates due to a left ankle sprain. He'll likely remain in a fairly even minutes split with Damian Jones at center if he does suit up.
Vince Carter, ATL
Carter will not play Thursday versus Phoenix due to personal reasons. His absence could equate to additional minutes for DeAndre' Bembry off the bench.
The elite level is in firm flux as of Thursday morning, considering the potential absences/uncertain statuses of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Brandon Ingram. As mentioned earlier, Giannis Antetokounmpo may be even more valuable than usual Thursday night if one wants to lock in some certainty at small forward, as even if George plays, he's almost certainly going to be on a minutes limit.
Elsewhere, there are options beyond the top level of players, although the options are a bit thinner at center. where Nikola Jokic stands out head and shoulders above the pack at a cost of $9,600 and is the only true top-shelf option. The likes of Montrezl Harrell ($8,000),Wendell Carter ($6,600) and Aron Baynes ($6,500) are examples of viable pivots off Jokic if paying down.
The chalk landscape won't be completely settled until some of the aforementioned injury situations gain more clarity, but there should be a number of modest-to-bargain-priced options that could be very popular depending on how some of those scenarios shake out. As customary, I've compiled a list of those names – along with other reasonably priced players that aren't affected by injury but are in the midst of a good run of games – underneath our section of likely underowned value plays.
In terms of elite chalk, Antetokounmpo is a good candidate for higher ownership than usual despite checking in as the highest-priced player on the slate at $12,400. Luka Doncic ($11,200) should also continue to see robust ownership in an excellent matchup against the Knicks, while Kawhi Leonard would also be headed for plenty of clicks on his name if he does suit up, given the matchup against a decimated and defensively challenged Pelicans squad. Many should also flock to Jrue Holiday on the other side of that matchup, given his interim point guard role and New Orleans' multiple injuries.
Key and Likely Underowned Values
Gary Harris, DEN vs. BKN ($5,300):
Unlike many of the names just discussed in the previous section, Harris isn't likely to be an overly popular play Thursday. The defensive-minded wing hasn't exactly endeared himself to DFS players this season, shooting just 39.3 percent and averaging a modest 11.0 points per contest. However, he's scored 26.2 and 27.6 FanDuel points over his last two games, respectively, a pair of contests in which he's recorded multiple steals.
He's priced reasonably considering his inconsistent production, and he'll face a Nets squad that's allowed the sixth-most FanDuel points per game (60.6) to shooting guards, along with the second-most steals (2.9) per contest and 46.0 percent shooting. Brooklyn is also surrendering the fifth-highest three-point percentage (37.3) overall, while Harris is draining 34.1 percent of his tries from distance.
JaMychal Green, LAC vs. NO ($3,900):
Green typically garners very modest ownership, but he's got some scoring and rebounding upside and offers very cheap exposure to what could be the highest-scoring game of the night. The veteran big has generated back-to-back double-doubles, scoring 26.9 and 37.8 FanDuel points in those contests while taking 11 shot attempts in each. The matchup against the Pelicans is highly appealing, considering New Orleans allows 43.0 FanDuel points per game to power forwards, along with 47.0 percent shooting to the position.
Mason Plumlee, DEN vs. BKN ($3,700):
Plumlee gives you additional cheap exposure to the Nets' questionable defense, one that's allowing the third-most FanDuel points per game to centers (44.6) and the eighth-most points in the paint (50.2) per contest as well. Plumlee is scoring 72.4 percent of his points in that part of the floor, and he could also benefit from his own squad's poor shooting (43.0 percent, third lowest in NBA) in the form of extra opportunities on the offensive glass. Plumlee has already flashed a ceiling north of 20 FanDuel points in four of 10 games, and he's totaled 18.1 apiece in each of his last two contests as well, all very good returns on his minuscule salary.
Other likely much higher-owned value plays to consider: DeAndre Jordan ($5,900); Brook Lopez ($5,800); Spencer Dinwiddie ($5,500); J.J. Redick ($5,000); Coby White ($4,800); Tomas Satoransky ($4,700); Kenrich Williams ($4,700); Maxi Kleber ($4,700); Kris Dunn ($4,600); Taj Gibson ($4,500); Jalen Brunson ($4,400)