This article is part of our DraftKings NBA series.
After a head-spinning 11-game Wednesday slate, we come back to Earth on Thursday in a major way. These small two-game slates don't come by very often, but you can count on one thing when they do. The ownership for your popular elites will be through the roof. Your GPPs won't reap benefits unless you're super contrarian, and there's less profitability due to a large number of ties at the top. You'll even need to go against chalk if you want to win any cash games as well. The easy thing about the slate is that both contest styles will require the same kind of thought process, which is great news for those of you who only employ one lineup.
MIL (-13) vs. POR O/U: 227.5
PHO (-4.5) vs. NO O/U: 233.5
It makes very little sense to identify a target or fade candidate on such a small slate, but there are some holes in this two-game list of home favorites. For one, the Bucks are on a back-to-back, although they did return home from Atlanta yesterday. Secondly, there are some injury situations worth monitoring that can provide some exploitative spots as we build out lineups.
INJURY SITUATIONS TO MONITOR
Damian Lillard (back) OUT
Hassan Whiteside (hip) QUESTIONABLE
Your natural pivot here is to go with C.J. McCollum ($7,500), especially when you consider that Anfernee Simons (ankle) ($4,700) might miss Thursday after starting at point guard in Lillard's place against the Pelicans. If Simons can't go, I'd expect McCollum to switch over to point guard, and we'd likely see an extended run for Kent Bazemore ($4,500) and Rodney Hood ($4,200) and possibly more time for Gary Trent Jr ($3,200) as well. You'll need to wait-and-see on Simons to figure this situation out. If Whiteside can't go I'm prepared to make a huge value grab for Anthony Tolliver ($3,500). He's risky, but a look at potential usage in Whiteside's absence is encouraging.
Derrick Favors (back) OUT
Josh Hart (knee) OUT
Lonzo Ball (hip) QUESTIONABLE
Jahlil Okafor (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
At least Brandon Ingram ($7,000) is back to full speed for the Pelicans. Almost every healthy player that's seen more than 20 minutes of court time over the past two weeks gets a boost here, but Jrue Holiday ($8,200) and Ingram top the list. We'll identify additional pivots below.
Ricky Rubio (back) DOUBTFUL
Aron Baynes (hip) OUT
Jevon Carter ($3,300) started in Rubio's place, but didn't accomplish much in the spot start. I'd expect production boosts to head Mikal Bridges' ($3,900) way instead. Frank Kaminsky ($4,600) isn't a bad pivot for Baynes. He technically carries a questionable designation, but is considered probable for Thursday. We'll identify additional spots for this situation below.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL ($10,600) vs. POR
Unless there's late news of a load management day, Giannis is a very difficult player to fade under any circumstance, even though the second-highest priced active player is a whopping $2,100 less. He will likely top the slate as the most prolific player, but he's actually a bit more affordable than we think, especially when we factor in the low-priced pivots we can attack due to all of these injuries afoot on Thursday. I'd experiment with him and some of our value plays.
Devin Booker, PHO ($8,500) vs. NO
With Rubio out, the game will flow in Booker's direction, and I like the additional flexibility he can give us over Giannis, even though I feel Booker will fall 10-15 DKFP lower than Antetokounmpo on Thursday. Booker has been difficult to roster due to an uncharacteristically volatile floor, but based on Rubio's absence, Booker makes a lot of sense.
EXPECTED CHALK AND OTHER TARGETS
At the risk of repeating myself, I need to accentuate what's going on in Portland, so don't forget that McCollum, Bazemore and Hood are all in play in this category.
Eric Bledsoe, MIL ($6,800) vs, POR
Bledsoe only saw 25 minutes on Wednesday, so his load was managed well heading into the back-to-back. He bounced back with a great shooting night on Wednesday after falling short of projections against the Bulls and the Pacers. With Lillard absent, one has to assume that Bledsoe will have a slightly easier time of it against Portland, although the backcourt may end up a bit oversized if Kent Bazemore sees significant time at the two spot.
Kenrich Williams, NO ($5,300) @ PHO
Williams' presence in the starting lineup remains consistent amidst the Pelicans' injury woes, although he risks a small step backwards thanks to Ingram's return. Thanks to a 13-rebound day, he remained fairly relevant, and with Favors out, we should expect to see Williams active off the glass.
J.J. Redick, NO ($5,200) @ PHO
Redick has been out of his mind from long range in recent weeks, and it's hard to see him riding the pine when he's this hot. He's hitting 46 percent of his shots from beyond the arc for the season, and over the past four games, he's two percentage points higher. This conversion rate has obviously given his point totals a considerable boost. I'd take a look at the Pelicans' expected lineup closer to game lock, but I expect Redick to keep his recent complement of minutes.
Jaxson Hayes, NO ($5,100) @ PHO
You can use Hayes as long as Jahlil Okafor stays on the bench. Favors is a definite scratch, and if Okafor's out, Hayes should see 25-30 minutes. While he had a double-double two games ago, Hayes' floor isn't particularly attractive but I expect his ownership to be high. If you wanted to go for an upside candidate who carries some risk, Nicolo Melli ($4,500) is also a reasonable way to go.
Donte DiVincenzo, MIL ($4,400) vs. POR
The 2018 first-round pick out of Villanova is finally getting an opportunity to strut his stuff due to Khris Middleton's (quad) absence, and with Middleton out several weeks, his run in the starting lineup is expected to continue. The Bucks rely on consistent production at this spot, and DiVincenzo is improving with every opportunity he's given. The potential to beat value here makes him almost a no-brainer at this price.
Cameron Johnson, PHO ($4,000) @ NO
While Johnson has some knee issues to play through, you have to be encouraged by the playing time he's getting currently. His minutes have risen from 20 to 26 over the past three games, and he had an excellent night on Tuesday against the Kings. With multiple injuries across the spectrum for the Suns, Johnson could be a prime candidate to beat value.
It's imperative to check back in before tip-off to get the latest news on all of these injury spots. Exploiting them will be your best bet to accomplish something like a Giannis/Booker stack. I'm also ok with starting Booker alongside a combo of Ingram and McCollum while keeping some value chalk in there as well.