Time is running out for certain players to make their cases in the respective award races they are involved in. Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo are the three favorites to win the MVP award. Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, and Cade Cunningham are vying for the top spot in the Rookie of the Year race. Ja Morant seemingly has the Most Improved Player of the Year award locked up, but Darius Garland will want voters to consider him for the hardware with a strong finish to the regular season.
We can use these ongoing narratives to our advantage in DFS, targeting guys that might have a little more to play for at the end of the season. Teams are also still competing for better seeding for the playoffs, giving us multiple things to consider when constructing lineups. Even with NBA DFS seeming like walking through a room littered with legos on the ground, I’ll try to highlight some of my favorite plays at each position over on DraftKings for Thursday’s main slate.
Pay-up option: Jrue Holiday ($8,000)
The Milwaukee Bucks have already ruled out Khris Middleton for Thursday’s clash with the Washington Wizards. With Middleton sidelined again, Jrue Holiday should handle the majority of the ball-handling duties for the Bucks. When Middleton has been off of the floor, Holiday averages 21.37 points, 4.59 rebounds, and 7.95 assists per 36 minutes. Holiday just posted 40.5 DraftKings points on Tuesday in a blowout win over the Chicago Bulls and he gets a favorable matchup versus the Washington Wizards on Thursday night. With the limited number of high-salary point guards to choose from, Holiday stands out as one of the better values.
Value option: Tyus Jones ($4,300)
It remains to be seen if Morant can return for the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night against the Indiana Pacers. If Morant does miss his third consecutive game, Tyus Jones continues to be a massive value on DraftKings. In the time that Jones has been on the floor with Morant inactive this season, he’s averaged 14.47 points, 3.89 rebounds, and 7.73 assists per 36 minutes. No team has given up more DraftKings points per game (55.22) to point guards in their last 30 games than the Pacers. Now, if Morant can return on Thursday, then you can go up to Alex Caruso or down to Raul Neto to save salary at the point guard position.
Pay-up option: Devin Booker ($9,300)
I was torn between putting Devin Booker or CJ McCollum in this spot as both are operating in similar roles for their respective teams. However, contingent on the fact that Chris Paul will miss another game for the Phoenix Suns, Booker remains the better value. Besides scoring 25+ points in eight of his last 10 games, Booker has also produced a combined 7+ rebounds/assists in each of his last 17 outings. While the All-Star guard has struggled against the Denver Nuggets, Denver has allowed the eighth-most DraftKings points per game (50.29) to point guards in their last 30 games.
Value option: Lamar Stevens ($3,400)
The Cleveland Cavaliers have deployed a variety of lineups all season, but recently they’ve inserted Lamar Stevens into the starting lineup. Stevens has received 19+ minutes in three of his last four appearances and has returned 5x value in four consecutive games. In just his past two games, Stevens has supplied 23+ DraftKings points in each of them and he has an opportunity to do it again on Thursday versus the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors have surrendered the 11th most DraftKings points per game (42.28) to shooting guards in their last 30 games. If you’re able to, Deni Avdija is also worth consideration at $4,700 with Kyle Kuzma ruled out for the Wizards.
Pay-up option: Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,700)
On a five-game slate, Giannis Antetokounmpo possesses one of the highest ceilings on DraftKings. Even in a game where he played only 30 minutes and turned the ball over nine times against the Bulls on Tuesday, Antetokounmpo still managed to produce 59.25 DraftKings points. With Middleton sidelined for the Bucks, Antetokounmpo becomes more of a facilitator, which increases his ceiling in DFS. While a blowout is certainly possible in Thursday’s game against the Wizards, you can assume that a notable performance from Antetokounmpo would be a reason for the blowout.
Value option: Pat Connaughton ($4,100)
Aside from the obvious names of Holiday and Antetokounmpo, Pat Connaughton typically sees an increase in minutes when Middleton misses time for the Bucks. In Tuesday’s contest with Middleton out, Connaughton played 23 minutes, logging 26.25 DraftKings points for the second straight game. Connaughton is less likely to pulled in a blowout than Holiday or Antetokounmpo, so he doesn’t carry much risk on Thursday versus the Wizards. Justin Anderson drew a second consecutive start for the Pacers on Wednesday, so he’s a decent dart throw if he’s confirmed as a starter again on Thursday.
Pay-up option: Scottie Barnes ($7,600)
We have a battle of two of the best rookies in the NBA on Thursday night when the Cavaliers square off against the Raptors. Mobley is the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, but Barnes has made some noise since the All-Star break. While both are viable options on Thursday night, I’ll give the edge to Barnes as the Raptors play their starters heavy minutes every night. Barnes has played 40+ minutes in four of his last five appearances and he’s averaged 43.9 DraftKings points per game in his first two meetings with Cleveland this season. After producing 28 or fewer DraftKings points in two straight games, I’m expecting Barnes to bounce back on Thursday.
Value option: Rui Hachimura ($4,500)
Once again, the Wizards are without Kuzma again on Thursday, leaving more opportunities for the other forwards in Washington. Rui Hachimura replaced Kuzma in the starting lineup last game and contributed 29 DraftKings points in 30 minutes of action. I imagine Hachimura will draw another start on Thursday and even if Washington is unable to keep it close against Milwaukee, I still expect Hachimura to get 25-30 minutes. Even with Antetokounmpo being a dominant defender, the Bucks have given up the fifth-most DraftKings points per game (47.74) to power forwards this season.
Pay-up option: Nikola Jokic ($11,400)
The player with the highest ceiling on Thursday is Nikola Jokic. On a five-game slate, it’s sometimes best to lock in the player with the highest projected total and build the rest of your lineup around him. This is only the fifth time we have gotten Jokic at a salary under $12,000 on DraftKings since December 11th, so it’s easy to play him, even in what is expected to be a tough matchup against the Suns. Jokic is matchup-proof and I expect Thursday’s game versus Phoenix to be competitive, which seems to be a rarity these days. Seeing that Jokic is averaging 60.6 DraftKings points per game this season — and is only $11,400 — just insert him into your lineup and figure out the rest on Thursday.
Value option: Brook Lopez ($4,300)
Brook Lopez has returned for the Bucks and he’s rejoined the starting lineup. After being restricted to 15 minutes in his first two games back from a back injury, Lopez has played 20+ minutes in each of his last two appearances for the Bucks. In those two games, Lopez has notched 24+ DraftKings points and he gets a favorable matchup versus the Wizards on Thursday. Washington has allowed the third-most DraftKings points per game (61.52) to centers in their last 30 games.