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Daily Fantasy Basketball Strategy: December 31, 2015

It looks like taking Christmas Eve off did the NBA schedule some favors, as we have a six-game Thursday night on tap after a ten-game Wednesday. Talk about balance. Just like Wednesday, there are many players listed as questionable at the time of this writing whose status’ will be made clear throughout the day, or just before tip. That could make this list obsolete by the afternoon, but here goes.

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Vegas lines and totals

Milwaukee @ Indiana (-6) – total of 197.5
Minnesota @ Detroit (-7.5) – total of 201
Golden State @ Houston (-2) – total of 210
Phoenix @ Oklahoma City (-14.5) – total of 210
Los Angeles Clippers @ New Orleans (-3) – total of 207
Portland @ Utah (-3.5) – total of 191

Three games stand out here, with only Suns-Thunder projected as a blowout. That knocks a few points off the projection of the Thunder’s stars, but they can still be productive against a gutted Suns team. Warriors-Rockets and Clippers-Pelicans promise to be tight games with his totals, and should be fun for DFS purposes.

For the sake of this writing, I’ll assume any player listed as “questionable” who missed his team’s last game will sit again and I won’t include guys who may benefit from a player who could sit with a fresh injury. Where I can, I’ll include mentions if a top play would change based on an injury.

POINT GUARD

Russell Westbrook ($10,600) – Westbrook gets to face a Suns backcourt missing its best defender in Eric Bledsoe, and despite the huge spread, he should have little trouble returning value. Westbrook has scored at least 48 points in his last five games, which includes a blowout against the Lakers where he played just 30 minutes. Three quarters of Russ vs. this defense is never a bad option, and OKC could get to 100 points in that time.

George Hill ($5,200) – Hill has been playing well of late and gets to face the Bucks, who have allowed the fourth-most points to opposing point guards over the past three weeks. Hill is averaging over 31 fantasy points in his past four, and while that was boosted by overtime against the Bulls on Wednesday, he should still produce within a few points of that recent average in a good matchup.

Cheap risk option: With both of my last two recommendations—Ty Lawson and Trey Burke—playing tonight and coming off value-crushing performances, I had a decision to make. It’s close, but I’m taking Ty Lawson ($4,000). He’s a little cheaper and there should be more points scored in his game, while Lawson has played more than Patrick Beverley in two straight games.

SHOOTING GUARD

C.J. McCollum ($7,800)Damian Lillard seems likely to miss one more game, although it’s possible the Blazers held him out on the front end of a back-to-back set with the intention of having him return Thursday. McCollum won’t be a top play if Lillard starts, as the usage and performance bump he’s seen in the four games his teammate has matched makes a huge difference, especially if he’s matched up with Raul Neto and Trey Burke at the point.

Monta Ellis ($5,700) – Ellis is finally getting healthy after struggling through the start of the season. His streak of 30-point games was halted at three thanks to a 4-of-19 shooting night Wednesday, but he still scored around 25 fantasy points. A matchup with the Bucks should give Ellis a better chance to find his groove, which he already may have found again when he tied Wednesday’s game late in overtime with a clutch three-pointer.

Cheap risk option: Blake Griffin‘s injury has opened up a ton of shots in Los Angeles’ offense, and if there’s one thing Jamal Crawford ($4,100) likes to do, it’s shoot. In a wide-open game against a Pelicans team that struggles defensively, Crawford has a good chance to exceed value if his shot is falling Thursday night.

SMALL FORWARD

Marcus Morris ($5,700) – Morris gets one of the top SF matchups of the night Thursday against Tayshaun Prince and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Morris is doubtful to see any of Andrew Wiggins either, and he has scored at least 16 points in four of his past five games and is averaging nearly 30 DK points. Add it all up, and you have a very good mid-tier play.

Paul Pierce ($3,900) –While Morris should score more points, Pierce presents much better value and frees up $1,800 to spend elsewhere on your roster. He’s scored almost 26 points per game since Griffin went down, and that includes a blowout of the Wizards where he played just 17 minutes. Be on the outlook for him resting in a back-to-back, but that seems doubtful since the Clippers need him now more than they will for much of the season. The Pelicans are a nice matchup to take advantage of, assuming Pierce avoids guarding Anthony Davis.

Cheap risk option: While he’s just been gliding along in the range of 15 fantasy points per night, Marcus Thornton ($3,700) remains an intriguing punt with a propensity to get hot off the bench. Corey Brewer continues to play poorly and while the Rockets won’t turn away from Brewer entirely, continued struggles could get Thornton in the 20-minute range. If that’s the case, he can hurt the Dubs from deep.

POWER FORWARD

Draymond Green ($9,300) – Green and the rest of the Warriors struggled Wednesday without Stephen Curry, but the Rockets have a tendency to help their opponents bounce back on the offensive end. Green’s value would certainly be boosted if Curry sat again, but he’s still the top PF on the board if Chef Curry returns after missing just one game. It seems more likely than not that Curry sits, but I’m no doctor.

Anthony Davis ($10,400) – Injuries at the top really hurt the PF position tonight, as does the fact that Griffin and Derrick Favors‘ replacements aren’t listed at PF on DraftKings. Therefore, it’s pretty much pay up or punt at this spot, and I’m OK paying up for Green and Davis’ situations. The Clippers play elite PF defense, but without Griffin they have nobody who can keep up with Brow. Sorry, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

Cheap risk option: With his minutes stabilizing, John Henson ($4,000) is averaging 4.5 blocks per game in his last four games. That pays off half his value right there, and he’s topped 25 DK points in three of his past four. You never know when you catch him on a night he randomly plays even more and goes bonkers—or when he randomly gets a DNP-CD—but he’s a solid GPP play even in his normal 20-minute role against the Pacers.

CENTER

Dwight Howard ($6,900) – Howard is coming off his best game of the season against a Warriors defense that has struggled to limit the production of opposing centers without Harrison Barnes. Their small lineup with defensive dynamo Green at center hasn’t seen as much use without Barnes’ ability as a stretch 4, and Howard should rack up a double-double with ease Thursday night, as Golden State ranks in the bottom five in points and rebounds allowed to centers in the past three weeks.

Jeff Withey ($3,600) – Like with Curry and Lillard, I’m projecting Derrick Favors as out Thursday night. Withey has produced like a player $2,000 more expensive over the past three games, including two straight 30-point games against the 76ers and Timberwolves. Somebody needs to clean the glass and protect the hoop in Utah, and right now that job belongs to Withey.

Cheap risk option: Much like Henson, Cole Adrich ($3,400) has proven himself to be a player who can rack up stats in limited minutes by grabbing offensive rebounds and putting himself in position for easy baskets. Since Griffin went down, Aldrich has 62.5 fantasy points in three games. Myles Turner ($3,200) is also a fun play, but it’s unknown whether his minutes can be trusted if C.J. Miles returns and how healthy he is.

Cash Game Ranks

This isn’t necessarily an order of who will score the most DraftKings points. Rather, the rankings are aimed to find the best price, value and production combo to help you win cash games, also taking into account potential ownership levels for each player.

PG
1) Russell Westbrook
2) George Hill
3) Ricky Rubio
4) Brandon Knight
5) Reggie Jackson
6) Chris Paul

SG
1) C.J. McCollum
2) Monta Ellis
3) Klay Thompson
4) J.J. Redick
5) James Harden
6) Khris Middleton
7) Tyreke Evans

SF
1) Paul Pierce
2) Marcus Morris
3) Kevin Durant
4) Gordon Hayward

PF
1) Draymond Green
2) Anthony Davis
3) Serge Ibaka
4) John Henson

C
1) Jeff Withey
2) Dwight Howard
3) Gorgui Dieng
4) Lavoy Allen
5) Andre Drummond
6) Mason Plumlee
7) Andrew Bogut
8) Greg Monroe
9) Clint Capela

As always, stay locked to Twitter and follow me @christripodi, where I’ll do my best to break down the implications of any late scratches or lineup changes before the first game tips at 6 p.m. EST. I’ll also update this article as news breaks throughout the day if at all possible, but I will usually update via Twitter first.

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