The NBA All-Star weekend is almost here, meaning that we’ll have some exciting events to watch in the coming days. Who does everyone have winning the three-point contest and the dunk contest? What team will emerge victorious in the new skills challenge? And will Team LeBron or Team Durant win in Sunday’s All-Star game? I have Fred VanVleet winning the three-point contest, Jalen Green taking home the crown in the dunk contest, Team Cavs to win the skills challenge, and it’s tough to bet on Team LeBron in Cleveland.
With my predictions out of the way for this weekend, it’s now time to focus on Thursday’s NBA DFS slate on DraftKings. Even though some teams may rest players and some players might be longing to get to the weekend, I’ll do my best to pick the top performers at each position.
Pay-up option: Luka Doncic ($12,400)
It was an uncharacteristic outing from Luka Doncic on Tuesday versus the Miami Heat as he finished with only 45.5 DraftKings points. Doncic made only five of his 19 shot attempts, but the Dallas Mavericks were able to defeat the Heat on the road. Before Tuesday’s quiet showing, Doncic had three straight games where he scored 65+ DraftKings points. Following his woeful shooting night on Tuesday, I expect we see Doncic perform much better against the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday.
Value option: Shake Milton ($3,500)
With the Philadelphia 76ers trading Seth Curry and waiting for James Harden to make his debut, the 76ers need more minutes from their other guards right now. Shake Milton recently returned from a month-long absence and he’s played in 20+ minutes in three consecutive games. Seeing that Milton is an offensive-minded guard, I expect Philadelphia to continue giving him more playing time until Harden can take the floor. Milton produced 21 DraftKings points in 27 minutes in his last game versus the Boston Celtics and should see 20+ minutes again at only $3,500. There’s not a team that surrenders more three-pointers per game than the Milwaukee Bucks, so there’s a chance Milton could catch fire from outside on Thursday.
Pay-up option: CJ McCollum ($8,500)
Since being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, CJ McCollum has been asked to handle a large offensive workload. In his first four games with the Pelicans, McCollum has recorded a usage percentage of at least 28% in three of them. Considering that New Orleans is trying to make a push for the playoffs, I expect McCollum to continue seeing a heightened workload alongside Brandon Ingram. While the Mavericks play at a slower pace, McCollum has played 36+ minutes in three out of his first four games with the Pelicans. There aren’t many high-salary options at shooting guard, so I’d go down to Jalen Brunson or Cameron Thomas if you aren’t paying up for McCollum.
Value option: Luke Kennard ($3,200)
It is an absolute headache to try and predict who Ty Lue is going to use in his rotation every night for the Los Angeles Clippers. That being said, even after a one-game absence, we saw Luke Kennard get 24 minutes of action on Tuesday night as he posted 24.5 DraftKings points. We’ve seen Kennard perform well when he’s gotten minutes and I expect him to get 20+ minutes in a pace-up game against the Houston Rockets on Thursday night. The Rockets surrender the fifth-most threes per game and they give up the fourth-most DraftKings points to shooting guards this season. As long as he sees the floor, it shouldn’t take much for Kennard to pay off his $3,200 salary.
Pay-up option: Jimmy Butler ($8,800)
Just to be transparent, I likely won’t be paying up at the small forward position on Thursday night. When Kyle Kuzma is the most expensive option at a position, then you know that it’s probably a sign to steer clear of using a chunk of your salary at that position. If I had to pay up, I’d likely go with Jimmy Butler at $8,800 as long as he is active. Butler is dealing with a shoulder injury that he played through on Tuesday night versus the Mavericks. With Kyle Lowry and Bam Adebayo back for the Heat, Butler has been a bit more unpredictable in DFS. But with Miami squaring off against the Charlotte Hornets in a pace-up game, there’s certainly a chance for Butler to have an extremely productive outing.
Value option: Deni Avdija ($4,500)
The Washington Wizards are almost forced to lean into a youth movement the rest of the season with Bradley Beal out for the year. In recent games, we’ve seen the likes of Corey Kispert and Deni Avdija get more playing time and I don’t expect that to change on Thursday. The Wizards will be on the second leg of a back-to-back as they prepare to face the Brooklyn Nets for the second time in the past week. Avdija has gotten 28+ minutes of playing time in three consecutive games and had a season-high 38.25 DraftKings points on Monday. Dorian Finney-Smith is also a viable value option at the small forward position.
Pay-up option: Giannis Antetokounmpo ($12,100)
We have a battle between two Eastern Conference contenders in the Bucks and the 76ers on Thursday night. Giannis Antetokounmpo is coming off of an outstanding performance against the Indiana Pacers where he dropped 50 points, 14 rebounds, and four assists while missing only four shots en route to scoring 74.5 DraftKings points. Some people may try to overthink it by saying that there’s no way Antetokounmpo will follow up his previous performance with another high-scoring output against a solid defensive team in the 76ers. However, Antetokounmpo is matchup proof and I believe the two-time MVP realizes how important these games can be before the All-Star break. If you’re not paying up for Antetokounmp, then I’d recommend making sure you have Doncic in your lineup.
Value option: Robert Covington ($3,900)
Once again, it’s a nightmare trying to pinpoint the rotation that the Clippers are going to deploy every night. But with the team acquiring Robert Covington ahead of the trade deadline, he seems like someone that is going to have somewhat of a consistent role, especially with Norman Powell sidelined. Covington has played 21+ minutes in back-to-back games and he’s notched 23+ DraftKings points in those games. With Los Angeles in a massive pace-up game against a Houston team that doesn't play much defense, Covington seems to be in a smash spot at only $3,900.
Pay-up option: Bam Adebayo ($8,400)
Besides Doncic and Antetokounmpo, the one player I’d go out of my way to pay up for on Thursday night is Bam Adebayo. Adebayo is playing at an elite level right now on both ends of the court for the Heat as he’s recorded a double-double in eight of his last 10 appearances. Miami is leaning on Adebayo to score more recently as he’s posted 18+ points in seven straight games. The good news for Adebayo is that he gets to play in a pace-up game versus the Hornets on Thursday, who have given up a whopping 68.5 DraftKings points per game to the center position in their last seven games (most in the NBA in that span).
Value option: Maxi Kleber ($4,000)
With Kristaps Porzingis no longer in the picture for the Mavericks, they are asking Maxi Kleber, Finney-Smith, and Reggie Bullock to take on increased roles as of late. Kleber was able to be effective on both ends of the floor on Tuesday against the Heat, logging 39.5 DraftKings points in 35 minutes. While it’s tough to expect 35 minutes from Kleber every night, we don’t need him to receive that many minutes to pay off his $4,000 salary. Alperen Sengun could be worth rostering on Thursday as well if Christian Wood is forced to miss his second consecutive game.