FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball Helper: Thursday 1/23/20

Thursday has just three games of action, and that puts the utmost importance on lineup construction. Who is a must-play?

If you're new to daily fantasy basketball -- maybe you started your DFS journey during the MLB or NFL seasons, or maybe basketball is your sport and this will be your first year giving it a shot -- you're in for a treat. The NBA scene changes on a week-to-week, day-to-day, and -- depending on injury news -- even a minute-to-minute basis, making every slate a unique one that requires an ever-changing approach.

With so much changing so quickly, we're here with plenty of tools to help you out. We have daily projections, a matchup heat map, a lineup optimizer, and a bunch of other great resources to help give you an edge.

Daily fantasy NBA is very reliant on opportunity, so you'll need to make sure that you're up-to-date with key injuries. Our projections update up until tip-off to reflect current news, we have player news updates, and the FanDuel Scout app will send push notifications for pressing updates regarding your players.

We'll also be coming at you with this primer every day, breaking down a few of the day's top plays at each position.

Let's take a look at who you should target on today's main slate.

The Slate

Away Home Over/
Washington Cleveland 231.5 -1.5 115.0 116.5 5 30
Dallas Portland 229.5 +1.0 115.25 114.25 22 21
LA Lakers Brooklyn 227.0 +5.5 116.25 110.75 13 6

A three-game slate requires more overall game theory than anything else, and matchups take a backseat to overall roster construction and opportunity cost.

Point Guard

Point guard is loaded for a three-game slate, and Luka Doncic ($11,200), Damian Lillard ($9,300), and Kyrie Irving ($8,700) are all in play, but if choosing one for floor, Irving rates best in my range of outcomes. Doncic is second. Doncic is first in tournament value, followed by Irving and Lillard. The lack of clear, low-end value plays puts Irving at the top of the list for me despite his matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers, who are a mid-level defense against combo guards.

Lillard will be a strong pivot if C.J. McCollum ($7,700) -- who is questionable -- were to miss. Lillard boasts a 34.5% usage rate and averages 1.30 FanDuel points per minute without McCollum on the floor.

Collin Sexton ($6,000) and Darius Garland ($4,700) are both viable in what is a massive pace-up spot for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Washington Wizards, who are 30th in defensive rating since December 1st. Cleveland is 29th. Both Cavs point guards project for around 35 minutes in a cakewalk matchup, and Sexton ranks first among all point guards in my adjusted value ratings.

Core Plays: Kyrie Irving, Collin Sexton
Secondary Plays: Luka Doncic, Darius Garland
Tournament Plays: Damian Lillard, Isaiah Thomas ($3,800), Rajon Rondo ($4,300)

Shooting Guard

Bradley Beal ($7,500) and Jordan McRae ($5,000) have plush matchups with the Cavaliers, despite the slow pace. Cleveland is fifth among six teams in action in shooting guard defense. The Wizards are technically the worst, so this is the best matchup Beal and McRae could ask for. Beal has his set of concerns in health and general happiness, but he played 38.3 minutes in overtime last night, giving him minutes counts of 27.0, 27.4, 23.0, 33.4, and 38.3 in five games since returning from injury. McRae played 34.1 minutes in that overtime game against the Miami Heat.

Spencer Dinwiddie ($6,500) and Caris LeVert ($4,600) are another duo of teammates who stand out but aren't must plays. While sharing the court with Kyrie, Dinwiddie has a 22.7% usage rate, down from 33.1% without him. That's a massive drop. LeVert's usage falls from 32.5% to 23.0%. Those are still relevant usage rates, and each should see 25 to 30 minutes tonight, good workloads relative to the rest of the shooting guard position.

Core Plays: Bradley Beal, Spencer Dinwiddie
Secondary Plays: Jordan McRae, Caris LeVert
Tournament Plays: C.J. McCollum (questionable), Gary Trent Jr. ($3,800)

Small Forward

LeBron James ($10,700) is the second-most expensive player on the board behind Luka Doncic. Anthony Davis ($10,500) just played 30.1 minutes last night against the New York Knicks and could be limited on the back-to-back set. Davis is questionable. James makes sense regardless, as he is 45 points from overtaking Kobe Bryant for third place on the all-time scoring list. James has a 36.2% usage rate when Davis sits, so he could feasibly get there. James' 25th-percentile outcome is 43.5 FanDuel points, per my projections. No other small forward has a 75th-percentile outcome above 37.1 (Carmelo Anthony ($6,200)). There's legitimate opportunity cost in not rostering LeBron.

Dorian Finney-Smith ($4,400) actually rates out as a decent tournament play at his salary and is numberFire's top projected small forward value. The main reason for it is that he has elevated minutes potential (39.2, 29.7, 37.0 minutes the past three), and he's projected for 34.1, third-most among all small forwards by a pretty safe margin. He puts up a dreadful 0.69 FanDuel points per minute, but there's a floor here, and that has value on a small slate.

Core Plays: LeBron James, Dorian Finney-Smith
Secondary Plays: Carmelo Anthony ($6,200), Trevor Ariza ($4,100)
Tournament Plays: Taurean Prince ($4,700), Joe Harris ($4,200), Troy Brown ($4,800)

Power Forward

Power forward has three plays who stand out above the rest: Kevin Love ($7,000), Jarrett Allen ($5,700), and Davis Bertans ($4,500).

Love has cleared 30 minutes in seven straight games, and the spread is only 1.5 points. We could see him get up to his higher range of outcomes (34 to 36 minutes). Love generated 1.08 FanDuel points per minute and has the eighth-best raw ceiling in my projections. He could feasibly be a top-three fantasy scorer tonight in such a soft matchup if the game stays close.

Allen could be a stellar play with DeAndre Jordan questionable and Nicolas Claxton doubtful. Allen is a productive player at 1.12 FanDuel points per minute and could see his minutes creep up toward 35 if the backcourt is completely thinned out.

Bertans rates as numberFire's preferred power forward value and projects him for 29.5 minutes. Last night, he played 31.9 minutes and took 18 field goal attempts, scoring 24 points and generating 36.2 FanDuel points. Bertans should command heavy ownership tonight at such a low salary.

Core Plays: Kevin Love, Jarrett Allen
Secondary Plays: Davis Bertans, Larry Nance Jr. ($3,800)
Tournament Plays: Anthony Davis ($10,500), Maxi Kleber ($4,800), Kristaps Porzingis ($8,400)


Tristan Thompson ($5,900) is the clear top option at center tonight for his price and matchup. The Wizards are the worst rebounding team in the NBA, and we already know they're fast offensively. That should create a ton of extra chances for Thompson to rack up fantasy points. He went for 52.9 FanDuel points (21 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks) in a meeting with them on November 11th, his second-best fantasy game of the season.

Hassan Whiteside ($9,600) is a strong game theory pivot because he is hard to prioritize with the point guards and LeBron. However, C.J. McCollum could miss this game, and then Whiteside would see a usage boost. Whiteside has a 20.8% usage rate and averages a hefty 1.40 FanDuel points per minute without McCollum on the court.

Core Plays: Tristan Thompson, Hassan Whiteside
Secondary Plays: Ian Mahinmi ($5,100)
Tournament Plays: Dwight Howard ($5,200), JaVale McGee ($4,900)