This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
We have a compact four-game slate on tap Thursday night, with two of those games featuring particularly appealing projected totals. Despite the small number of games, we certainly have some big names in action. Moreover, one that won't be able to take the floor, Joel Embiid, will bring about plenty of extra opportunity for his teammates with his absence. Although our overall supply of choices is naturally smaller than usual, we still have a solid array of options across the price scale to consider, thanks in part to a relatively manageable injury report.
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 player 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 two games with the highest projected totals on Thursday's slate:
Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder (Projected total: 226.5 points)
The Rockets will have Russell Westbrook back after sitting out Wednesday for rest, and Houston already checks in scoring an NBA-high 119.5 points per road game. The two teams combined for 228 points the first time they met up, and this game marks Westbrook's first trip back to OKC, giving the entire matchup a bit of extra juice.
Portland Trail Blazers at Minnesota Timberwolves (Projected total: 224.0 points)
There's an outside chance Karl-Anthony Towns makes it back from his knee sprain Thursday, but even if he sits, these two teams certainly have plenty of offensive firepower. The T-Wolves come in allowing 112.9 points per home game, while Portland is surrendering 113.9 per road contest, helping explain the elevated total. The first meeting between the teams this season finished with a total of 219 points.
We're in excellent shape at point guard, as Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook represent the most expensive options at a very manageable $8.7K, while Ben Simmons, Chris Paul and Kemba Walker all are very strong alternatives below them. Shooting guard is also in very good shape and enjoys a clean bill of health, and if you can't afford James Harden at $11.2K, there's a nice pricing drop-off all the way to Andrew Wiggins at $7K, followed by an appealing mid-tier quartet of C.J. McCollum, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Schroder and Josh Richardson.
Small forward has even more bargains to offer, as Tobias Harris, who'll be playing without Joel Embiid (finger), will only set you back $6.7K, while Jaylen Brown is arguably underpriced as well just below him at $6.6K. The absence of Danilo Gallinari (calf) and Markieff Morris (foot) does thin out the position a bit, but there's viable value all the way down into the high $3K range in the form of Kent Bazemore, Eric Gordon and Darius Bazley.
Power forward is reasonably well-stocked as well with a very affordable Kevin Love ($7.2K) and Jayson Tatum ($6.9K) as the priciest options, while center tolerates the confirmed absence of Embiid and the potential one of Karl-Anthony Towns (knee) with alternatives such as Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, Clint Capela and Steven Adams, among others.
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.
Returning from Load Management Day: Russell Westbrook, HOU
Joel Embiid, PHI
Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN
Towns is considered questionable with the knee sprain that's already cost him the last 11 games. Gorgui Dieng is projected to draw another start if Towns misses again.
Danilo Gallinari, OKC
Gallinari will not play due to a calf injury. Darius Bazley is likely to draw the spot start at power forward in Gallinari's stead.
Dante Exum, CLE
Exum will not play due to illness. Matthew Dellavedova could see some extra run as a backup point guard as a result.
Nerlens Noel, OKC
Notable Longer-Term Injuries/Absences: Luke Kennard, DET; Blake Griffin, DET; Markieff Morris, DET; Reggie Jackson, DET; Jusuf Nurkic, POR; Zach Collins, POR; Skal Labissiere, POR; Jake Layman, MIN; Gerald Green, HOU; Robert Williams III, BOS; Larry Nance Jr., CLE; Kevin Porter Jr., CLE; Dylan Windler, CLE
We have a trio of five-figure salaries on the ledger in the form of James Harden ($11,200), Andre Drummond ($10,900) and Karl-Anthony Towns ($10,600), although the latter is very questionable with the knee sprain that's already caused a long absence. Harden is coming off yet another spectacular showing Wednesday, although it's worth noting Russell Westbrook will be back in the lineup Thursday.
The $9K range will be down Joel Embiid (finger), but Hassan Whiteside ($9.5K) will be in yet another solid matchup against the Timberwolves. And, the prices for Westbrook ($8.7K) and Ben Simmons ($8.5K) are extremely enticing, especially with Simmons set to play without Embiid.
The likes of Ben Simmons and Al Horford should certainly see some elevated ownership with Joel Embiid (finger) out of action, while James Harden is sure to be extremely popular on such a small slate and coming off yet another triple-double Wednesday. Andre Drummond should also see plenty of clicks based on recent performances and the fact he continues to take the floor without Blake Griffin (knee).
As customary, I've also compiled a list of some likely popular sub-$6K value plays and placed them below the next section, with some of those names deriving their likely elevated ownership due to those confirmed/expected injury absences and resulting expanded roles.
Key and Likely Underowned Values
Brandon Knight, CLE at DET ($3,700)
Knight has suddenly become a factor in the Cavaliers' backcourt rotation over the last two games, logging 23 and 24 minutes, respectively. The veteran guard has compiled 15.3 and 23.9 FanDuel points in those contests, with the latter total coming against this same Pistons squad Tuesday. Knight is projected to continue seeing a similar level of opportunity Thursday with both Dante Exum (illness) and Kevin Porter Jr. (knee) out of action, which will leave him poised to outpace his extremely affordable price against a Pistons squad allowing the fifth-highest offensive efficiency rating (46.2) to opposing second units, along with the fourth-highest three-point percentage (37.6).
Langston Galloway, DET vs. CLE ($3,500)
Galloway has been all over the place with his production recently, which keeps his price and ownership low. There's certainly risk attached here, but the minimum price factors that in. Galloway scored just 31.0 FanDuel points just two games ago against the Lakers, but he then mustered just three FanDuel points over 19 minutes against this same Cavs team Tuesday. However, the matchup is certainly an excellent one on paper, considering Cleveland is allowing the most FanDuel points per game to point guards (55.8), along with the highest shooting percentage (49.0) to the position. Cleveland is also surrendering the fourth-highest offensive efficiency rating to second-unit players (46.5), giving Galloway's case a bit more of a boost.
Other likely higher-owned value plays to consider: Gorgui Dieng, MIN ($5,600); Jeff Teague, MIN ($5,600); Al Horford, PHI ($5,400); Bruce Brown, DET ($5,100); Shabazz Napier, POR ($4,900); Darius Garland ($4,700); Daniel Theis, BOS ($4,300); Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, DET ($4,200); Ante Zizic, CLE ($3,600); Mike Scott ($3,500)