NBA Daily Fantasy Helper: Thursday 1/14/16

Bulls' big men Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson look to fill the void left by Pau Gasol who will not suit up tonight.

If you've never played daily fantasy basketball before, it's time to start. Unlike traditional leagues, you're able to select the players you want on that specific day only, giving you a different squad to root for each and every NBA night.

Today's lineups can be found here. The information below is to help you understand why particular players are being picked, because we don't want you going into the night completely blind. We want to help you. Keep in mind, however, that things often change up until tip-off, so make sure you're refreshing the optimal lineups as close to the start of games as possible.

Oh, and if you're interested, check out our daily fantasy basketball heat chart for today's slate. It's full of information like tonight's Vegas lines, team offensive and defensive efficiency ratings, pace, fantasy points against and so much more.

As for today's picks -- let's get to it.

The Best of the Best

LeBron James (FD: $10,300, DK: $9,700) - With the Warriors projected to blowout the Lakers and DeMarcus Cousins facing off against Rudy Gobert and the Jazz, tonight simply isn't a great night to pay up for superstars. But if I were to pay up for anyone, it would be King James. The four-time MVP comes into tonight red hot, averaging 27.7 points, 9.8 boards and 7 assists per game over his last four outings. Although he draws a very tough matchup against Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs, James is as matchup proof as anyone in the league and will be looking to make a statement against the team our metrics view as the best in basketball.

Jimmy Butler (FD: $8,900, DK: $8,800) - It's important to note that Butler is questionable for tonight's matchup with Philadelphia, but it's extremely likely he plays tonight given the fact that Pau Gasol has already been ruled out. The young Bulls' star comes into tonight playing as well as any guard in the league, posting 27.4 points, 6.6 assists, 5 rebounds and more than a steal in a whopping 38.4 minutes per game in the month of January. With Gasol out and Derrick Rose banged up, the offense should run through Butler tonight in a dream matchup against a 76ers' defense that ranks inside the bottom five in the NBA in both Defensive Rating (107.7) and opposing points per game while playing at the sixth fastest pace in the league.

Kawhi Leonard (FD: $7,700, DK: $8,100) - Leonard has been one of the most consistent and efficient players in the league all season long, ranking second in our player power rankings with an impressive 22.6 nERD. His fantasy value has been somewhat capped as of late given his inconsistent playing time due to a plethora of Spurs' blowouts -- San Antonio leads the league with a whopping 14.1 point differential -- but he should see his full compliment of minutes tonight against LeBron and should have little trouble reaching value given his diminished price tag.

Top Mid-Range Values

Ishmael Smith (FD: $6,600, DK: $7,000) - Smith has been on fire since rejoining the 76ers nine games ago, scoring 16.2 points to go along with 7.8 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game with a massive 29.9% Usage Rate over that span. He gets a great matchup against a Bulls' backcourt that has given up the third most fantasy points per game to opposing point guards on the year and should be the focal point of Philadelphia's offense as long as he is on the floor.

Jordan Clarkson (FD: $6,200, DK: $5,900) - Clarkson has seen a significant increase in both usage and playing time as of late, averaging 34.5 minutes per game with a 25.4% Usage Rate over his last seven, compared to his season averages of 32.4 minutes and a 22.3% Usage Rate. With Kobe Bryant out tonight, Clarkson could see an even bigger boost in both and should have little trouble reaching value in what Vegas expects to be the highest scoring game on tonight's slate by a wide margin.

Jahlil Okafor (FD: $6,400, DK: $6,100) - The Bulls have struggled to slow down opposing big men all season long, allowing the fifth most fantasy points per game to both opposing power forwards and centers on the season. Now back in the starting lineup, Okafor has scored 20.3 points with 6.6 rebounds in 31 minutes per game over his last three games, and should see plenty of action again tonight in a great matchup against a short-handed Chicago front court.

Basement Ballers

Taj Gibson (FD: $4,700, DK: $5,600) - Gibson has played very well as a member of the Bulls' starting five, averaging 8.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and a block in 28.3 minutes as a starter this season. He'll draw his 20th start of the year with Gasol out tonight against a 76ers defense that has allowed the most fantasy points per game to opposing centers on the year and third most to opposing power forwards. 

Joakim Noah (FD: $5,100, DK: $5,100) - Noah will also draw back into Chicago's starting lineup tonight. In his lone start of the season, the Bulls' veteran big man dropped 21 points, 10 rebounds and 2 assists on the Knicks and should see all the minutes he can handle tonight in a dream matchup against the 76ers.

Julius Randle (FD: $5,400, DK: $4,800) - Randle finally seems to be working his way back into coach Byron Scott's good graces, averaging 26.3 minutes per game over his last four. While he's only scored 6.5 points per game over that span, he's averaged 9 rebounds per game during that time and could see a few extra minutes in a potential blowout against Golden State. With Draymond Green likely to sit, Randle could dominate the boards en route to a big fantasy outing.