What an absolute bummer. When I opened up my laptop and had my drink of choice at hand ready to write up my favorite NBA DFS picks for Thursday, I saw that there were only two games happening across the NBA. While it brought some disappointment to my evening, it’s still fun to throw a lineup or two on these types of slates.
On small slates like these, getting different from the rest of the field is quite the challenge. The easiest way to separate yourself from the pack is to leave salary on the table as using the majority of your salary will certainly have you create a lineup that replicates someone else's. And aren’t we trying to swing for the fences, especially on these small slates where taking risks and leaving salary comes with even more rewards? As always, make sure to pay attention to the news across the NBA as things could change in the snap of a finger.
With all of that out of the way, here are my favorite pay-up and value options on Thursday’s main slate on DraftKings.
Pay-up option: LeBron James ($11,100)
The first game that will take place on Thursday night will be between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers. The two most expensive point guards are LeBron James and Stephen Curry, and for me, Curry is an easy fade. For Curry to pay off his salary, he either needs to score 35+ points (which he’s done once in January) or give us a double-double. Seeing that Curry doesn’t consistently record rebounds and assists, James becomes an easy pay-up option, even with Anthony Davis returning to the lineup for the Lakers. James has returned 5x value at his current salary in each of his last two games and in three of his past four. You can play James at either the guard or forward spot, so it’s nice to have that positional flexibility from someone that can explode for 60+ DraftKings points on any given night.
Value option: Malik Monk ($4,500)
Can the Lakers stop trolling everyone by having Avery Bradley in the starting lineup? I understand Los Angeles needs someone that can provide a spark off of the bench, but Malik Monk is best suited in the starting lineup. Monk has been inconsistent at times, however, there are times where it seems like he can’t miss. In Tuesday’s matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, Monk posted 36.25 DraftKings while he converted six of his 12 attempts from beyond the arc. The good thing is that we don’t need 35+ DraftKings points from Monk for him to be worth his salary. If we can get around 28-30 points from the offensive-minded guard, then we’re in business.
Pay-up option: Anthony Edwards ($8,100)
You can go with either Anthony Edwards or D’Angelo Russell if you’re deciding to pay up at the shooting guard position. Russell does have double-double upside, but he’s seemingly taken a backseat to Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns in the scoring department for the Minnesota Timberwolves. While there is the narrative of Russell facing one of his former teams, this seems like a game where Edwards is the better choice. Edwards is coming off of an explosive outing versus the Portland Trail Blazers where he notched 65.25 DraftKings points, which is the third-most points he’s recorded in a game this season. The second-year guard that continues to be the gift that keeps on giving with his interviews will be looking to build on his previous performance against a tough Golden State Warriors team.
Value option: Furkan Korkmaz ($4,800)
The 76ers are going to be without Seth Curry and Shake Milton on Thursday night versus the Lakers while Danny Green is questionable to play. Given Philadelphia’s injuries, Furkan Korkmaz should draw another start, making him someone that is worth rostering on Thursday night. Korkmaz gets most of his production from three-pointers, but he’s contributed 3+ assists in four of his last five games. Also, he’s played 37+ minutes in three straight contests and it’s tough to ignore someone that is getting that type of run at his salary. Besides playing in a pace-up game versus the Lakers, Korkmaz faces a Los Angeles team that surrenders the fifth-most three-pointers (3.65) per game to the shooting guard position.
Pay-up option: Andrew Wiggins ($5,700)
After using Edwards as my preferred pay-up option at the shooting guard position, there aren’t any other true pay-up options at the small forward spot. Unless you elect to use Edwards at small forward, Andrew Wiggins is a viable mid-tier option at the position. Ever since Klay Thompson has returned, Wiggins has been trying to figure out what his role is going to be on the Warriors. After scoring 22 or fewer DraftKings points in three consecutive games, Wiggins has managed to score 26+ points in five of his last seven appearances. Even though he doesn’t have a massive ceiling with Thompson in the lineup, Wiggins can still provide a solid return, especially against the team he began his career with.
Value option: Matisse Thybulle ($3,600)
As mentioned above, the 76ers are a bit shorthanded right now. Curry and Milton have already been ruled out and there’s a chance that Green is unable to return. Regardless of Green’s status, Matisse Thybulle should continue to see increased run for Philadelphia. Thybulle is one of the best wing defenders in the NBA and he’s shown flashes of being an improved offensive player in certain moments. At his current salary of $3,600, Thybulle has returned 5x value in four of his last five outings and he’s eclipsed 20+ DraftKings in three of those five games. In a pace-up game with an inconsistent squad like the Lakers, Thybulle should be able to return 5x value with relative ease on Thursday night.
Pay-up option: Tobias Harris ($7,300)
The rotations for the 76ers are thin right now and Philadelphia is asking quite a lot from their starters. That has resulted in an uptick in production from Tobias Harris in recent games. Harris produced 57.25 DraftKings points on Tuesday and he’s recorded a double-double in back-to-back games for the first time this season. The veteran forward has posted no fewer than 38 DraftKings points in each of his last four games and that shouldn’t change on Thursday night against the Lakers. With the 76ers needing other guys to step up alongside Joel Embiid, Harris should see 36-40 minutes, giving him a prime chance to return value as the most expensive power forward on DraftKings.
Value option: Carmelo Anthony ($4,300)
Besides Monk, the Lakers rely on Carmelo Anthony to produce consistently on the offensive end off of the bench. After shooting a career-best 40.9% from three-point range in 2020-2021, Anthony has proceeded to make 39% of his three-point attempts this season. While he’s not the same scorer he once was, Anthony can still score in bunches when he’s feeling it from outside. There aren’t many value options at power forward, so taking a chance on Anthony having a ceiling game is worth the risk on a small slate. We could get anywhere from 11-30 DraftKings points from Anthony, it just depends on if his shot is falling.
Pay-up option: Joel Embiid ($11,400)
Just go ahead and insert Joel Embiid into your lineup and worry about the rest. You could try to galaxy brain it and fade Embiid on a two-game slate, but I wouldn’t advise it. Embiid has been on quite the tear recently, accruing 65+ DraftKings points in each of his last four appearances. It’s a travesty that the 76ers could waste one of Embiid’s best seasons because they refuse to trade Ben Simmons for anyone that isn’t a Hall-of-Fame talent. On a televised game at home, I expect Embiid to have another monster performance against a Lakers squad that will still likely have Davis on a minutes restriction. Fading high-priced players can help you gain an edge on the rest of the field, but if you’re someone playing one lineup on Thursday night, I would not recommend Embiid being the player you elect to fade.
Value option: Kevon Looney ($4,700)
Kevon Looney has gotten an expanded role for the Warriors in recent weeks with Draymond Green sidelined due to an injury. Looney isn’t much of a scorer in most games as he’s limited to getting most of his points in the paint. While he isn’t going to produce 20+ points, he does bring double-double upside for under $5,000. Looney scored only 14.25 DraftKings points on Tuesday versus the Dallas Mavericks, which was his lowest output since December 20th. He gets a better matchup in the Timberwolves on Thursday night, who have given up the sixth-most points per game (56.82) to the center position on DraftKings.