Thursday’s typical four-game slate features Bulls-Celtics and Lakers-Kings in the TNT doubleheader, with Jazz-Rockets and Hawks-Sixers playing on the undercard. This is one of the more inviting slimmed-down schedules that we’ve seen this season.
DeMarcus Cousins and James Harden are the only guys who really require you to open the wallet, and some interesting down-ticket players with good matchups make it easy to feel strong about all nine spots on your roster, even with just eight teams in action.
PG: Isaiah Thomas ($8,100) @ CHI: Apparently the thumb isn’t a problem. Thomas was a game-time decision in Boston’s last game, then went out and scored 22 points with 10 assists in 36 minutes. The Bulls have surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points per game to point guards this year, and if Rajon Rondo (back) is out, Thomas is head and shoulders above the remainder of the point guard crop. If Rondo does indeed sit for his second straight game, pair Thomas with Darren Collison.
SG: Jimmy Butler ($8,500) vs. BOS: In Chicago’s last four games, Butler averaged 31.3 real points and 47.1 fantasy points. He’s not living off one big game, either, totaling at least 40.8 fantasy points in all four. Butler continued to thrive after Derrick Rose’s return to the lineup, going for 32 points and 10 assists in Tuesday’s win over Milwaukee. That he’s $1,400 cheaper than James Harden is the cherry on top of his Thursday candidacy.
SF: Gordon Hayward ($7,600) @ HOU: Hayward is one of those players who is in the mid-price tier on a normal night, but climbs the ladder on Thursday with just four games on the schedule. He remains wildly affordable, however, especially when you consider the opponent. The Rockets have allowed the third-most points per game to small forwards this year, and are generally one of the friendliest defenses in the league. Hayward just had 35.9 fantasy points against them on Monday, and is averaging 33.3 fantasy points, 10.3% better than his season average, over the last 10 games.
PF: Larry Nance Jr. ($4,300) @ SAC: If you divide a player’s price by 100 and then multiply that result by five, you get the number of fantasy points that player needs to contribute to do his part toward the 300-fantasy-point threshold we strive for every night. That equation puts Nance’s baseline at 21.5 fantasy points. He’s averaging 25.2 in his last six games, putting up 16.2 real points and 9.8 rebounds per game in that span. The Kings, meanwhile, have allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to power forwards.
C: DeMarcus Cousins ($10,400) vs. LAL: Simply put, there’s no way to build what looks like winning cash-game lineup on Thursday without Cousins. He had at least 33 points, 17 rebounds and 60 fantasy points in his last two games, and has poured in 30-plus points in each of his previous three, and four of his last six. The Lakers own one of the league’s worst defenses, ranking 26th against centers, from a fantasy perspective. Cousins played just 28 minutes in his only game against the Lakers this year, and still managed to score 21 points and pull down 11 rebounds. Another 60-point night isn’t just possible. It’s likely.