This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
Thursday's five-game FanDuel slate excludes the early Celtics-Wizards and Lakers-Kings matchups that don't have any playoff implications. Of the contests that are included, those involving the Suns, Nets, Spurs and Grizzlies all have the potential to affect how the Western Conference's No. 8 seed ultimately shakes out, so there will be plenty of players to consider from those contests, considering motivation levels will not be in question.
Meanwhile, there will be many other second-unit players seeing big boosts in opportunities with teams that are out of the playoffs like the Pelicans or those with locked-in seeds like the Jazz and Magic resting several starts with assorted bumps and bruises.
We'll proceed to examine the key injuries for the day below and will also break down the positional outlook, before reviewing possible chalk plays and some likely under-the-radar bargains that could help you round out your lineups with a couple of superstars.
Before delving into the slate, a reminder that FanDuel has reverted to its previous format of NOT dropping the lowest scoring in lineups after a one-year experiment with that feature. Therefore, it will be important to be prudent with each selection, as each player's total will count toward your final score.
Without further ado, let's dive into Thursday's slate!
Here's a closer look at what could be the two most tightly contested and highest-scoring games on Thursday's slate, including the only one with a projected total as of early Thursday morning:
Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns (Projected total: OTB)
The Suns are in a must-win scenario in this spot, as a loss automatically removes them from play-in consideration. However, they have paths to both the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds if they manage to pull out a win and the Blazers and/or Grizzlies suffer losses. This is the first game of the day that will involve one of the four teams in the play-in scenario, so there will be no scoreboard watching on Phoenix's part and it will simply have to take care of business. The Mavs could be without multiple starters, including Kristaps Porzingis (heel) in this game, and with the No. 7 seed locked in, head coach Rick Carlisle could opt to play it safe with the health of his key players. Nevertheless, with Phoenix needing the victory, this could be an entertaining affair where some points are scored.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Brooklyn Nets (Projected total: 236.5 points):
The Trail Blazers control the No. 8 seed to begin the day, and with this being the last game of the night, they'll know by tip-off whether they must win in order to avoid the nightmare scenario of elimination. That can only be in play if any two of the Grizzlies, Suns or Spurs win earlier in the slate, certainly conceivable in and of itself. Therefore, chances are Portland will be gunning for a victory against a Nets team that could utilize a mix of starters and reserves after already locking in the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.
PG: Unlike other positions that have plenty of injury questions attached, point guard is in relatively good health. Damian Lillard makes for an excellent option up top, while Ja Morant, Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, Ricky Rubio and Lonzo Ball all make for strong mid-tier choices due to either their teams being in must-win scenarios (everyone except Ball) or a significant amount of first-team absences on their squad (Ball).
SG: Luka Doncic starts the player pool off and is normally an excellent choice, but as alluded to earlier, it remains to be seen how much run he'll get. Devin Booker could well be the best top-tier play at the position with his team in a must-win scenario, while DeMar DeRozan and Dillon Brooks are two other wings that will have plenty of motivation and what should be normal workload. The depth here thinned somewhat by the confirmed absences of Jrue Holiday (elbow) and Terrence Ross (not injury related).
SF: Giannis Antetokounmpo (suspension), Brandon Ingram (knee) and Evan Fournier (illness) will all sit out their regular-season finales, leaving this one of the thinner positions on the slate. Luckily, there are some solid options at reasonable salaries with no injury designations in the form of Tim Hardaway, Rudy Gay, Carmelo Anthony, Joe Ingles, Joe Harris and Mikal Bridges.
PF: The confirmed absences of Zion Williamson (knee) and Aaron Gordon (hamstring) up top automatically blemish the overall pool, while Kristaps Porzingis (heel) is a game-time decision that could well sit out with Dallas locked into its playoff seed. Therefore, a pair of sub-$6K options may be the only way to go at the four on this slate, with Brandon Clarke, Maxi Kleber (knee) and Royce O'Neale (who'll be without two fellow starters in Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert) among the candidates.
C: As just mentioned, Rudy Gobert (back) will not play Thursday. However, the rest of the player pool essentially has a clean bill of health, and there are options across the pricing scale ranging from Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Vucevic up top to value plays like Derrick Favors and Boban Marjanovic.
Injury Situations to Monitor
NOTE: Injury reporting is especially fluid in the NBA, where the status of multiple players can change during the course of a day. Therefore, although the following serves as a foundation for the latest injury report as of the time the article is written (usually late morning Eastern time), check back throughout the course of the day with RotoWire for the latest news regarding the status of all players on that night's slate.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL (suspension)
Khris Middleton, MIL (rest) *expected to play*
Middleton is likely to play after resting for the Bucks' game against the Wizards on Tuesday and could be in for a significant bump in usage due to Antetokounmpo's absence.
Kristaps Porzingis, DAL (heel)
Porzingis is considered a game-time decision due to a heel injury. With the Mavericks having the No. 7 seed locked up, it's possible he sits or plays limited minutes. Boban Marjanovic, who provided 20 points and nine rebounds in a start two games ago against the Jazz, would likely handle top center duties again if Porzingis doesn't play.
Wesley Matthews, MIL (hip)
Matthews will not play due to a sore adductor, which could lead to a spot start for Donte DiVincenzo.
CJ McCollum, POR (back)
McCollum has been playing with a lower-back fracture for the last several games, and although he's listed as questionable, he could well be out there given the likely importance of Thursday's game. Gary Trent would potentially draw a spot start at shooting guard should McCollum sit.
Mike Conley, UTA (knee)
Conley will not play in the Jazz's regular-season finale. Jordan Clarkson could draw a spot start at point guard.
Rudy Gobert, UTA (back)
Gobert will not play in the Jazz's regular-season finale. Tony Bradley could potentially handle starting center duties.
Jrue Holiday, NOP (elbow)
Holiday will not play in the Pelicans' finale. JJ Redick could potentially draw a start at shooting guard.
Brandon Ingram, NOP (knee)
Ingram will not play in the Pelicans' finale. Josh Hart (knee) is likely to draw a start at small forward if he's healthy enough to go.
Zion Williamson, NOP (knee)
Williamson will not play in the Pelicans' finale. Nicolo Melli may draw a start at power forward.
Josh Hart, NOP (knee)
Hart is questionable to face the Magic. Hart could draw a start at small forward for Brandon Ingram (knee) if he's able to suit up.
Evan Fournier, ORL (illness)
Fournier will not play in the Magic's regular-season finale. Wes Iwundu could draw a start at shooting guard in his stead.
Terrence Ross, ORL (not injury related)
Ross remains in quarantine after briefly exiting the Orlando bubble and will not play in the regular-season finale.
Aaron Gordon, ORL (hamstring)
Gordon is out for the Magic's regular-season finale, likely affording James Ennis another start.
Michael Carter-Williams, ORL (foot)
Carter-Williams remains out for the Magic's regular-season finale.
Ersan Ilyasova, MIL (elbow)
Ilyasova is questionable for the Bucks' regular-season finale against the Grizzlies. If he's able to suit up, he should be in for expanded minutes and perhaps even a spot start in place of Giannis Antetokounmpo (suspension).
Tyus Jones, MEM (knee)
Jones is expected to remain out against the Bucks.
Seth Curry, DAL (leg)
Curry is listed as questionable with the leg issue that cost him Tuesday's game against the Suns. Trey Burke could draw another start in his stead.
Dorian Finney-Smith, DAL (hip)
Finney-Smith is probable for the Mavericks' regular-season finale against the Suns.
Maxi Kleber, DAL (knee)
Kleber is probable to play with a knee bruise.
Cameron Johnson, PHO (knee)
Johnson is considered probable to play against the Mavericks.
Kelly Oubre, PHO (knee)
Oubre is considered doubtful to play against the Mavericks. Mikal Bridges should draw another start at small forward.
Aron Baynes, PHO (knee)
Baynes is considered questionable with the knee injury that's prevented him from making his bubble debut so far.
Other injuries to monitor:
Elie Okobo, PHO (ankle) - Questionable
Bryn Forbes, SAN (quadriceps) - Out
Patty Mills, SAN (undisclosed) - Questionable
Chris Chiozza, BKN (hip) - Questionable
Jamal Crawford, BKN (hamstring) - Out
Donta Hall, BKN (ankle) - Questionable
Tyler Zeller, SAN (knee) - Questionable
Nigel Williams-Goss, UTA (ankle) - Questionable
We have three players with five-figure salaries on the slate, but with Giannis Antetokounmpo (suspension) unavailable, it's only Luka Doncic ($10.3K) and Damian Lillard ($10.1K) breaking the $10K mark. Of the two, Lillard, who's compiled between 65.1 and 79 FD points in three of the past four games and is likely to be in a must-win scenario, may be the better overall play Thursday. Meanwhile, Devin Booker ($8.8K), Jusuf Nurkic ($8.5K), Donovan Mitchell ($7.8K), DeMar DeRozan ($7.8K) and Ja Morant ($7.7K) could all be in prime positions to offer elite-level production due to the stakes in their games, matchup or injuries to other first-unit mates.
It's safe to say we can expect plenty of chalk on both the Suns and Trail Blazers in terms of prominent players, given that both teams have plenty riding on their games. The same can be said for the Grizzlies and Spurs, while the remaining healthy members of the Pelicans' starting five such as Lonzo Ball and Derrick Favors may also be considerably popular because of the trio of aforementioned absences on the first team. The Jazz's Donovan Mitchell should be in a similar spot as alluded to in the previous section, and there are also a few value plays on Utah and others that should be on plenty of rosters due to projected bumps in opportunity.
On that note, I've identified several sub-$6K players that could be highly rostered – many due to potential absences of teammates – and listed them below the next section. That list is especially extensive for today's slate, as I expected many players with modest salaries to potentially see big minutes.
Pat Connaughton, MIL at MEM ($4,300)
Now that he's over his elbow issue, Donte DiVincenzo could draw the start at shooting guard in place of Wesley Matthews (hip), which would relegate Connaughton to a second-unit role. The veteran has been solid with extended minutes in the last two games, posting 23.0 and 27.1 FD points despite playing no more than 24 minutes in either contest. However, Connaughton also totals of 22.0 and 24.5 FD points in two other seeding games off the bench, and his ability to contribute plenty in rebounds and assists in addition to scoring puts him in play at a very reasonable salary. The matchup against the Grizzlies doesn't hurt, either. Memphis is ranked in the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency rating (44.1) and three-point shooting percentage (36.8) allowed to opposing second units, and they've surrendered the third-highest three-point success rate (38.2) to backcourts specifically.
E'Twaun Moore, NOP vs. ORL ($3,800)
With the Pelicans missing three-fifths of their first unit Thursday as alluded to earlier, there should be plenty of value plays that deliver solid returns for the Pelicans. However, Moore could offer one of the better combinations of low rostering and price out of the group, as JJ Redick and Josh Hart (knee) would likely vault over him for the starting small forward role. Moore also hasn't necessarily distinguished himself in the bubble save for his last game, when he posted 25.3 FD points across 24 minutes in a spot start versus the Kings on Tuesday. Moore also posted 12.7 and 16.3 FD points in two other seeding contests, but Thursday, he should be in for a solid workload even if he comes off the bench against a Magic squad that's allowed 45.5 percent shooting, including an elevated 37.3 percent from distance, to second-unit players, and even higher 46.6 percent and 39.6 percent figures in those categories to small forwards in particular.
Emmanuel Mudiay, UTA vs. SA ($3,700)
With Mike Conley already ruled out, Jordan Clarkson looks primed for a spot start at point guard. That means Mudiay should likewise bump up a notch on the depth chart and see solid minutes off the bench. The young vet has sandwiched FD point totals of 24.7 and 23.8 around a missed game against the Nuggets on Saturday, and he's logged workloads of 28 and 27 minutes in those contests. He should be in for a similar opportunity Thursday versus a Spurs team that's had trouble defending the point guard position all season, allowing the fifth-highest offensive efficiency rating (27.5) to ones, including the second-most points (26.6) and third-most assists (9.5) to the position. Then, San Antonio has also been one of the most vulnerable teams defending second-unit shots, as they're ranked in the bottom 10 in overall shooting percentage allowed (46.6) to bench players while yielding the highest three-point success rate (37.7) to reserves.
Popular value plays to consider: Eric Bledsoe, MIL ($5,800); Brook Lopez, MIL ($5,800); Dillon Brooks, MEM ($5,700); Carmelo Anthony, POR ($5,400); Derrick Favors, NOP ($5,400); Joe Ingles, UTA ($5,300); Mikal Bridges, PHO ($5,000); JJ Redick, NOP ($4,800); Royce O'Neale, UTA ($4,700); Gary Trent, POR ($4,500); Jordan Clarkson, UTA ($4,400); Trey Burke, DAL ($4,300); Jevon Carter, PHO ($4,300); Boban Marjanovic, DAL ($4,100); Kyle Korver, MIL ($3,700)