This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
We have a solid nine-game slate on tap Thursday night, one that affords us plenty of choices in terms of player selection but that also has an inordinate amount of games with lower projected totals. As of Thursday morning, only three games are projected to finish over the 220-point threshold, with the remaining contests currently checking in between 210 and 217.5 points. This includes the Warriors-Timberwolves tilt, which would normally carry much higher offensive expectation were it not for the potential absences of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins and the confirmed one for D'Angelo Russell. Naturally, this doesn't mean we won't see big individual performances, but there could be a bit more of an overall downturn in scoring than we've become accustomed to this season.
As usual, we'll proceed to break down the positional outlook below, along with 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 three games with the highest projected totals on Thursday's slate:
Memphis Grizzlies at Sacramento Kings (Projected total: 225.5 points)
The fast-paced Grizzlies are frequently a part of games with elevated projected totals, and Thursday, they're actually at the head of the pack in what's projected to be more of a lower-scoring slate overall. The biggest factor here appears to be Memphis' suspect road defense, one that's led to the Grizzlies allowing 114.3 points per away contest. Otherwise, the two teams' metrics actually hint at a lower-scoring affair, as the Kings score the second-fewest points per game of any team on its home court (103.5) while Memphis averages a respectable but not spectacular 108.3 points per road contest.
Detroit Pistons at Los Angeles Clippers (Projected total: 223.5 points)
The Pistons have had their share of defensive troubles on the road, while the Clippers have been one of the better offensive teams in the league, especially on their home floor. Detroit is allowing 111.5 points per road contest, while the Clippers are averaging an impressive 116.1 points per home game. Los Angeles also brings a notable boost in pace for Detroit, as the Clippers are averaging 106.5 possessions per home game while Detroit is at just 102.7 possessions per road contest.
Brooklyn Nets at Dallas Mavericks (Projected total: 222.5 points)
The fast-paced Nets have been involved in plenty of shootouts this season, while the Mavericks are always a threat to light up the scoreboard when Luka Doncic is healthy. The Nets check in scoring 111.0 points per road game while allowing 114.1 points per game when traveling. They also average the third-most possessions per road game (108.1). Meanwhile, Dallas is averaging 114.8 points per home tilt and should benefit from Brooklyn's pace of play, setting up a potential high-scoring affair even with Kristaps Porzingis (knee) potentially out of action.
Given the size of the slate, there's no dire situation at any one position Thursday, even with some notable names on the injury report. All five positions have at least one potentially big name either confirmed out or potentially set to miss in the form of Malcolm Brogdon (out), D'Angelo Russell (out), Andrew Wiggins (questionable), Pascal Siakam (out) and Kristaps Porzingis (questionable) and Karl-Anthony Towns (questionable). However, between the other big names near the top of each position's player pool, the strong mid-tier that is always part of a large slate, and the value that opens up with some of these absences, there is plenty to choose from across the board Thursday.
Notable Injury Situations to Monitor
NOTE: Injury reporting is especially fluid in the NBA, where the status of multiple players can change during the course of a day. Therefore, although the following serves as a foundation for the latest injury report as of the time the article is written (usually late morning Eastern time), check back throughout the course of the day with RotoWire for the latest news regarding the status of all players on that night's slate.
D'Angelo Russell, GSW
Russell will not play due against the Timberwolves due to an illness. Alec Burks is expected to draw another start at point guard in Russell's absence.
Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN
Towns will likely be considered questionable at best with the knee strain that's already cost him eight games. Gorgui Dieng would draw another start in Towns' place should he miss.
Andrew Wiggins, MIN
Wiggins will likely be considered questionable at best with the illness that's caused him to miss the last three games. Jarrett Culver would be set for another start should Wiggins miss again.
Malcolm Brogdon, IND
Gary Harris, DEN
Harris is considered questionable with a shin injury that already cost him the last two games. Torrey Craig could be in for another start in Harris' place should the latter miss.
Blake Griffin, DET
Griffin is doubtful due to the knee injury that cost him Monday's game. Christian Wood would likely be in for another start at power forward in his stead.
Markieff Morris, DET
Patrick Beverley, LAC
Edmond Sumner, IND
Sumner is considered doubtful due to knee soreness. His absence would likely lead to extra minutes in the backcourt rotation for the likes of Justin Holiday.
Jeff Teague, MIN
Teague will likely be considered questionable at best with a knee sprain that cost him Wednesday's game. Jaylen Nowell could be the beneficiary of extra point guard minutes should Teague miss.
Treveon Graham, MIN
Zach LaVine, CHI
LaVine is considered probable with a shoulder injury.
Tomas Satoransky, CHI
Satoransky is considered probable with an ankle injury.
Wendell Carter Jr., CHI
Carter is considered probable with an abdomen injury.
Ryan Arcidiacono, CHI
Arcidiacono is considered probable with an elbow injury.
Chandler Hutchison, CHI
Hutchison is considered questionable with the shoulder injury that's kept him out since late November. He'd likely be on a minutes limit if he returns Thursday.
Jae Crowder, MEM
Willie Cauley-Stein, GSW
Cauley-Stein will not play due to an illness. Marquese Chriss is expected to draw another start in his absence.
Kevon Looney, GSW
Garrett Temple, BKN
Kristaps Porzingis, DAL
Porzingis is considered questionable with the knee injury that cost him Tuesday's game against the Thunder. Dorian Finney-Smith, Justin Jackson and Maxi Kleber could be the primary beneficiaries of his absence, while the usage of the remaining members of the starting five would also go up a notch in Porzingis' absence.
Hardaway will not play due to a hamstring injury. Jalen Brunson could be in for another start in his place.
Notable Longer-Term Injuries/Absences: Kyrie Irving, BKN; Caris LeVert, BKN; Jake Layman, MIN; Marc Gasol, TOR; Pascal Siakam, TOR; Norman Powell, TOR; Otto Porter Jr., CHI; Andre Iguodala, MEM; Justise Winslow, MIA; Mike Conley, UTA; Marvin Bagley III, SAC; Andre Roberson, OKC
We have only two five-figure salaries on the slate Thursday, and one of those players, Karl-Anthony Towns ($10,000), remains very questionable to play. That leaves us with Luka Doncic ($10,800) at the very top and the likes of Andre Drummond, Kawhi Leonard and Nikola Jokic as the next most expensive players, with all in the $9K range.
With 18 teams in action, positional scarcity alone won't dictate the importance of any one player. However, it's worth noting Drummond ($9.8K) and Jokic ($9.2K) will both be in especially advantageous matchups, while Doncic's usage could be even more through the roof than usual if Kristaps Porzingis (knee) is forced to miss.
If the Timberwolves duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins ends up missing again, the popularity of multiple Minnesota first-unit members should be especially strong. Alec Burks should also see his ownership elevated, considering he's been delivering very strong returns, remains priced very reasonably and is drawing another start in D'Angelo Russell's (illness) stead.
As usual, I've also compiled a list of some additional sub-$6K value plays that should carry a fair share of ownership due to savings, enhanced roles due to injuries, or both, and listed them below the following section.
Key and Likely Underowned Values
Derrick Jones Jr., MIA vs. TOR ($4,500)
Jones' price continues to be very reasonable for a player of his upside, and he'll have the benefit of facing an injury-depleted Raptors squad Thursday. Jones has scored over 20 FanDuel points in nine of his last 10 games, a strong stretch during which he's shooting 54.8 percent. Toronto has also been vulnerable to small forwards throughout the season, allowing the eighth-most FanDuel points per game (48.9) to the position. With Jones regularly providing 5x-6x value on his current salary recently and the Heat's considerable offensive prowess at home, he makes for a nice cost-savings pivot Thursday.
De'Anthony Melton, MEM at SAC ($4,300)
Melton has had his stints of high ownership this season, but on a large slate and with a couple of recent downturns in production, he shouldn't necessarily be overly popular Thursday. Prior to scoring just 15.4 FanDuel points Sunday against the Hornets, Melton had tallied over 20 FanDuel points in five straight, and he checks in with a stellar 50.9 percent success rate from the field over his last eight games, including a 46.7 percent tally from distance. The Kings are ranked just outside the bottom-10 in offensive efficiency rating allowed to opposing backcourts (47.4), and he just posted 26.6 FanDuel points over just 15 minutes against the Kings on Dec. 21.
Mason Plumlee, DEN at IND ($4,000)
Plumlee isn't ever really over-owned on a big slate such as Thursday's, and he's also coming off a disappointing performance against the Rockets on Tuesday night that saw him score just 3.5 FanDuel points over 12 minutes. However, the veteran big man has a steady role off the bench, had scored over 20 FanDuel points in three of the prior five games, and faces a team that's been vulnerable to bigs all season in the Pacers. Indiana is allowing the most FanDuel points per game to centers (42.6) on the season, along with the second-highest offensive efficiency rating (34.0) to the position. Indiana also ranks in the bottom-10 in the league in rebounding rate (49.2 percent), while Plumlee checks in averaging a career-high 11.6 boards per 36 minutes.
Other likely higher-owned value plays to consider: Alec Burks ($5,600); Bojan Bogdanovic ($5,600); Joe Ingles ($5,500); Nerlens Noel ($5,200); Bogdan Bogdanovic ($5,200); Lou Williams ($5,200); Dwight Powell ($5,100); Shabazz Napier ($5,000); Nemanja Bjelica ($4,900); Delon Wright ($4,900); Glenn Robinson III ($4,700); Jarrett Culver ($4,300)