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Thursday NBA DFS plays

The final day of the regular season is upon us, and DraftKings is offering up a five-game slate that will address the fate of three teams with aspirations for the postseason.  Unlike Wednesday night, where very little was at stake, Thursday will decide who's in and who's out in the West.  The early games (WAS/BOS and SAC/LAL) aren't on the featured slate, so we'll focus on the five games that kick off at 1 p.m. EDT.


Targeted teams in BOLD

Faded teams in ITALIC

MIL vs. MEM (+1.5)

DAL vs. PHO (-5.5) SA vs. UTA (+7.5) POR vs. BKN (+9) NO vs. ORL (-3.5)

The Trail Blazers, Suns and the Grizzlies fill out a complex web of implications for the playoffs, but it stands to reason that all of the teams would be better off with a win. The exception is Portland, who could very well sit their players if the Grizzlies, Suns and Spurs all lose before their game. That scenario would lock up the #8 seed and effectively give them more reason to play their elites for extended minutes.  That outcome is very unlikely, however.  We expect the Bucks to rest or limit their players, and Dallas could very well do the same thing, which gives the Suns and Grizzlies a decent chance of winning. The real crime is that the Suns, who have crushed the competition with an 7-0 run in the bubble, could find themselves on the outside looking in even if they do win.

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN Because of the reliability of Phoenix and Memphis' rotation in must-win games, a lot of entries will be top-loaded, but using late-swap will be a key way to garner value so you can afford the must-have elites, especially in cash contests.  It's important that you place players in the early games into their specific position slots, so that you have added flexibility with the general G, F and UTIL spots in the later contests. It's a simple tactic that can immediately make your roster build as effective as possible. 

INJURY SITUATIONS TO MONITOR Before we mention specific injuries, we have to isolate the Bucks, Mavericks, Pelicans, Jazz, Nets and Magic as teams that could limit or rest their starters.  Since we won't know about some of these teams until later in the day, it would be wise to reserve spots for late swap in the general categories so we can fill out teams like the Pelicans and Nets with more accuracy. Giannis Antetokounmpo (suspension) OUT As expected, the NBA didn't take to kindly to Giannis' aggressive action with Mortiz Wagner, so he will be forced to sit on Thursday.  There are no teeth to that suspension though, as the Greek Freak would have probably sat anyway. We have no additional information about who the Bucks will sit, but since they are the first game, we should get an idea of their starting lineup early. Kristaps Porzingis (heel) QUESTIONABLE Since the Mavs have nothing to play for, it wouldn't surprise me to see Porzingis sit, and other notables could also be severely limited. His potential absence would open up the door for Boban Marjanovic ($3,500) to have another standout game, and the chances of that increase because Maxi Kleber (knee) may be limited with a knee injury. Keep an eye on the Mavericks' lineup to look for other potential values like J.J. Barea ($3,100) if they choose shut Luka Doncic down. Rudy Gobert (rest) OUT Mike Conley (rest) OUT I would expect this list to increase ahead of this matchup, but it's pretty clear that the Jazz are going into safe mode for this contest. Opportunities for Jordan Clarkson ($5,200) and Tony Bradley ($3,400) open up immediately.  It's entirely possible that Donovan Mitchell may join this group.  The starting lineup should tell us a lot, but at least at center and point guard, there will be value in the second-unit rotations all the way down the list. CJ McCollum (back) PROBABLE McCollum will play through the pain in this must-win game, but it's enough cause to fade him in this contest.  He's struggled a bit since Thursday, and reports state that he began to have discomfort in that game. I plan on hitting this game hard anyway, but Gary Trent Jr's ($5,100) fortunes increase when McCollum struggles. Nets roster - QUESTIONABLE Aside from Chris Chiozza (abductor), the injury report is clean right now, but I think there's a high probability that we'll see a lot of scratches or severe limitations in this matchup.  Since it is a later game, the Nets are a team you can dive into for value in those general spots I mentioned, and it may be wise to put a slightly higher-priced placeholder in for the Nets so you can pivot to a better option later in the day. Pelicans roster - OUT Aside from Lonzo Ball ($7,200) and Derrick Favors ($5,200), the starting five will sit for the Pelicans. With Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson out, the value floodgates open wide, and I'm going to find it hard to avoid looking for value here.  I will list a couple of my favorite options later in the article. Magic roster - OUT Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Terence Ross and Jonathan Isaac are all out, which leaves only Nikola Vucevic ($9,100), Markelle Fultz ($5,200) and D.J. Augustin ($5,000) as viable first-unit options. If we hear that Fultz gets the start, I like his chances in what will look like a G League game on both sides.  Diving for value with Orlando burned a lot of lineups two days ago, so while a starting lineup will help us out, I'm not overly interested in the Magic. ELITE PLAYERS Damian Lillard, POR ($11,200) vs. BKN Aside from that unlikely scenario I listed above, expect Lillard to play the full game, or at least until this game is out of hand.  A blowout would be my only concern about Lillard, but he will give you enough production if he only plays three quarters.  The Trail Blazers have the uncanny ability to let teams back into games during bubble play, so he's a lock despite his obvious popularity. Ja Morant, MEM ($9,000) vs. MIL You're going to find this opening trio of recommendations obvious and very chalky, but this slate will be won by the value choices you make to counter the spend-ups. Morant is in a must-win situation and I will have almost 100% exposure to him. The Bucks could end up sitting most of their talent by the second half, and the last time they did that, they lost to the Nets. I think the likelihood of a blowout is slim, but Morant is a lock for at least 35 minutes regardless of the outcome. Devin Booker, PHO ($9,800) vs. DAL Even if Memphis wins the first game, the Suns would still have hope for the No. 9 seed if Portland fails to take care of business later in the evening. The Suns will be at full strength and fully motivated against Dallas.  All three of my top guys are guards so they will be tough to fit into a lineup. Going with all three would only leave you $4,000 per player, and you'd need to be on call all day for updates to find value. I'm more likely to give myself a little wiggle room and only grab two of these standouts, but you can bet I'll interchange the group in my lineups, and Booker will be a key piece. If you wanted a piece of this backcourt and wanted to spend a little less, I have no problem with Ricky Rubio ($7,300) tonight. The status of Luka Doncic ($11,200) isn't yet clear, but he could very well emerge as the contrarian elite you'll need in GPPs.  I think he's too big of a risk because the Mavs don't need to play him, but a brave lineup could take the slate if it works out. Also consider: Jusuf Nurkic, POR ($9,200) vs. BKN EXPECTED CHALK Deandre Ayton, PHO ($8,100) vs. DAL Ayton sets up well against Dallas without Kristaps Porzingis to hold up the interior.  At his price, he will be hard to fit into your lineup if you load up, but you're going to see a full Phoenix stack jump up the standings and Ayton will be in that group.  I am probably going to roll with a Suns stack as well and fill it out with whatever I can manage. Ayton only managed 17 DKFP against the Mavericks earlier in the bubble, but he had Porzingis' 52-DKFP day in his way. Jonas Valanciunas, MEM ($7,700) vs. MIL Valanciunas should be a very popular spot to spend a little less at this position against a Bucks team that will probably offer little resistance. The problem with him is that you lock up the center spot right away, and you could lose out on value later in the day. A center with PF/C eligibility is always more desirable, but Valanciunas could be worth that risk. Dejounte Murray, SA ($6,500) vs. UTA The Spurs are a longshot to sneak in, but this is a great opportunity to deliver for Murray, who has traditionally been a risky DFS play.  The Spurs won't win without a good night from the floor general, and after Derrick's White lukewarm night as he battled through a knee injury, the Spurs will need him even more. Also consider: Carmelo Anthony, POR ($6,300) vs. BKN KEY VALUES Brandon Clarke, MEM ($5,200) vs. MIL I expect Clarke to shine without Giannis on the floor, and as far as the Memphis frontcourt goes, he could end up the bigger value over Valanciunas. We'd need more than 30 DKFP for him to be worthwhile, but we should be getting the Grizzlies' best game at every position in this make-or-break contest. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, BKN ($4,700) vs, POR TLC has emerged as a key player in this offense, but I don't think he's quite at the level where they'd want to rest him. Caris LeVert, on the other hand, is a guy that might end up taking a seat early, and that's nothing but good news for Luwawu-Cabarrot, who just put up 35 DKFP against the Magic. Keldon Johnson, SA ($4,700) vs. UTA If you're looking for low ownership on this slate, I think Johnson is a safe bet.  While he's no longer a secret, I think the Spurs will have pretty low ownership overall, and more people will probably find Rudy Gay to be the safer option.  The Spurs need a wildcard to win this one, and I think Gregg Popovich has confidence in the rookie, who's seen his minutes increase throughout the bubble.   Jeremiah Martin, BKN ($4,400) vs. POR I would want to wait a little longer to find out about Caris LeVert before I went in this direction, but after his 37.5 DKFP against the Magic, he immediately becomes a candidate with the upside to beat value.  It could be tough to slide him in a guard spot, but the UTIL slot is a viable possibility. I'm finding that there are so many values in the bargain bin that my article could become a novella if I gave detailed descriptions for all of them. This is a list of likely values, which doesn't include guys you can find as lineups begin to lock.   JJ Redick, NO ($4,400) vs. ORL Pat Connaughton, MIL($4,200) vs, MEM Khem Birch, ORL ($3,700) vs. NO Nickeil Alexander-Walker, NO ($3,700) vs. ORL Jahlil Okafor, NO ($3,400) @ ORL

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