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Daily Fantasy Basketball Strategy: January 7, 2016

After a week off basking in the Florida sun, I’m back in chilly New York City for the rest of winter. Yippee. After Wednesday’s “massacre” (h/t to The Fantasy Fix’s Zack Rewis for that one), Thursday brings us four NBA games and, per usual of late, plenty of injury news that will help determine the top DFS plays. Read on to see how those ailments affect the short slate.

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Vegas lines and totals

Atlanta (-9) @ Philadelphia – total of 205.5
Boston @ Chicago (-5) – total of 203
Utah @ Houston (-8.5) – total of 196.5
L.A. Lakers @ Sacramento – total of TBA

Jazz-Rockets is easily the least appealing game with an over/under below 200 and a spread pushing 10 points, but every other game is very much in play Thursday night. Lakers-Kings promises to be a bloodbath for DFS purposes, and the injury statuses of Rajon Rondo, Omri Casspi and Kobe Bryant will be important to track through the night. Unfortunately, the late start means the other three games, all of which start at 8 p.m. or sooner, will all be locked by the time any game-time calls are determined. Keep an eye out for news during the day, but it’ll be tough to risk certain guys without official word or even a “doubtful” tag.

POINT GUARD

Isaiah Thomas ($7,800) – Thomas just torched the Pistons for a 22-point, 10-assist double-double Wednesday and will look for more of the same against the Bulls. He doesn’t get much of a usage bump in the absence of Avery Bradley, but a nice matchup makes Thomas a great play regardless of any injury situations.

Darren Collison ($6,000) – Collison’s price skyrocketed $800 after an overtime-fueled, 41-point fantasy performance against the Mavericks, but he’s still a great play if Rajon Rondo sits with a back injury. If Rondo plays and checks in at or near 100 percent, he’d be a great play himself. If not, Collison should be good for scoring in the 30s.

Jordan Clarkson ($5,700) – If Kobe sits again Thursday, Clarkson will be the top PG option on the board in a juicy matchup with the Kings. Clarkson’s usage rate has climbed over 27 in two of his past three games with Bryant out after not reaching that threshold since Nov. 15. He should be good for 35 or so fantasy points if he gets to play without Kobe.

Cheap risk option: There’s not much upside under $4,000 on Thursday’s slate, but Seth Curry ($3,200) is a viable punt if Rondo is ruled out before the early games start. He won’t see 36 minutes of court time again, but the Lakers defense has been known to leave players open on occasion. With Ben McLemore continuing to struggle, maybe George Karl plays Curry a bit more at the 2, as he’s said multiple times he wants to get Steph’s little brother more minutes.

SHOOTING GUARD

Jimmy Butler ($8,200) – Normally targeting the Celtics at SG wouldn’t be wise, but Evan Turner is nowhere near the caliber of defender Avery Bradley is. Butler is hot of late and while much of that production came with Derrick Rose out, he’s still the top SG play tonight in my book. Like Thomas, he’s the one bankable guy you can pay for at the position regardless of injury situations, which dominate the backcourt Thursday.

Lou Williams ($5,900) – Like Clarkson, Williams has increased his usage rate in Bryant’s absence, but his explosion against the Suns sent his price skyrocketing at a higher rate than his teammate’s. He’s still a nice play in this game if Kobe sits, even after a bust Tuesday against Golden State. The Warriors have done that to plenty of players this year.

Marco Belinelli ($4,400) – Belinelli’s status as a fill-in is more about Casspi’s status than Rondo’s, but he’s been hot of late and would see another 30-35 minutes if Casspi is out yet again. That’s more than enough for Belinelli to exceed value, even in a bench role.

Cheap risk option: If Kobe sits Thursday, Nick Young ($3,400) should be in the rotation and always has the chance to get hot and nail a few three-pointers. He’s also just four for his last 24 from the field, so understand that this pick is the definition of high risk if he can’t turn it around. If Nik Stauskas ($3,500) starts again, he’d be a punt option as well.

SMALL FORWARD

Kent Bazemore ($6,100) – Bazemore streak of games with 30 or more fantasy points was snapped Tuesday against the Knicks, but the 76ers should give him a perfect opportunity to begin a new streak. A high team total and a juicy matchup for a player consistently hitting his price tag is a recipe for DFS success.

Jae Crowder ($6,400) – That same recipe applies to Crowder minus the high team total—the Celtics are projected for 99 points against the Bulls. Crowder has been cruising lately and his minutes are very safe, so expect his fifth 30-point outing in his last six even after a somewhat muted performance Wednesday against the Pistons, who defend the wings very well.

Cheap risk option: There’s nothing good going on at the bottom of the SF pool, and the cheapest player I’ll reach for is Jerami Grant ($4,500). Nobody below him has a realistic chance at 20 fantasy points, and Grant can fill up a stat sheet on defense, although the Hawks have been stingy with turnovers and avoiding blocks at the rim. With excellent mid-tier options available Thursday, there’s little reason to go cheap.

POWER FORWARD

DeMarcus Cousins ($10,300) – Fade DeMarcus Cousins at your own risk Thursday, and only if you enjoy watching money burn right in front of your eyes. Roy Hibbert will be no match for Cousins, who has taken at least 27 shots in both games Casspi has missed. Even if Casspi returns, Cousins is finally healthy and showing it with his typical dominant production. He’s well worth his price after going for 68 points and 36 rebounds in his last two.

Paul Millsap ($8,300) – I’m really going out on a limb at PF tonight, but a matchup with the 76ers is difficult to argue against. I prefer targeting them in Philadelphia, as playing at home gives them a better chance of staving off a blowout for longer, and Millsap should have no problem meeting value Thursday. If enough value opens up during the day, you could use both him and Cousins. If not, Millsap becomes more of a contrarian GPP play.

Cheap risk option: Although he hasn’t been very productive in the starting lineup, Trey Lyles ($3,400) is probably the best bet for a good game among the cheap PFs on Thursday. Like the other positions, it’s slim pickings this low, and Bobby Portis ($4,600) is always in play for GPPs even at his rising price. Lyles’ ceiling isn’t much higher than 20 points, but that’s all you need at his price and the matchup against Houston is a good one.

CENTER

Dwight Howard ($7,100) – Howard has cooled a bit after going off against Atlanta and Golden State to close out 2015, but he’s still scored at least 37 fantasy points in his last two games. Jeff Withey has been productive filling in for Derrick Favors, but he won’t be able to slow Howard in this one.

Al Horford ($6,600) – Horford has alternated monster nights with letdowns over his past six games, and by that trend he’s actually due for a down game Thursday. The 76ers defense is bad enough to alleviate concerns of random small-sample size stats like that, however, and while Howard should be good for a few extra points on the night, Horford is also a good play that could save you a few dollars.

Cheap risk option: I find no joy in recommending Roy Hibbert ($3,900) to anybody, but there are just two healthy centers on the slate between $3,000 and $5,000. Kosta Koufos ($4,000) is the other, but he played just 17 minutes in a double-overtime game the last time out and scored 5.5 DK points. Neither is a good option, but I’ll take a random shot at Hibbert in a high-scoring game if I’m forced. Don’t punt at center Thursday.

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) Jordan Clarkson
2) Rajon Rondo/Darren Collison
3) Isaiah Thomas
4) Jeff Teague
5) Ish Smith
6) Patrick Beverley
7) Derrick Rose

SG
1) Marco Belinelli
2) Lou Williams
3) Jimmy Butler
4) Rodney Hood
5) James Harden
6) Evan Turner

SF
1) Kent Bazemore
2) Jae Crowder
3) Gordon Hayward
4) Rudy Gay

PF
1) DeMarcus Cousins
2) Paul Millsap
3) Taj Gibson
4) Larry Nance
5) Nikola Mirotic
6) Nerlens Noel

C
1) Dwight Howard
2) Al Horford
3) Pau Gasol
4) Jeff Withey
5) Jahlil Okafor

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 7 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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