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Fantasy basketball tips and NBA betting picks for Thursday

ESPN’s fantasy basketball and basketball betting tips cheat sheet is your pregame destination for basketball betting predictions and our best intel and data, featuring ESPN’s proprietary Basketball Power Index (BPI) to help you make smart fantasy and wagering decisions. NBA game odds for Thursday, March 16 are provided by Caesars Sportsbook, and fantasy advice is based on ESPN 10-team leagues.

What you need to know for Thursday’s games

Before the season, it would have seemed reasonable to project tonight’s matchup between Brooklyn Nets and the Sacramento Kings would feature a developed conference power and a fringe contender focused on young talent. The surprise being the roles are reversed, with the Kings cruising thanks to two certifiable All-Stars and the Nets still refining a new-look roster in the wake of a busy deadline.

Brooklyn’s superstars went to the West, while the current roster claims difference-making fantasy free agents such as Cameron Johnson (69% available in ESPN leagues). This UNC product is thriving as a complementary scorer with Brooklyn and is reasonably projected for 32 DraftKings points this evening against a Kings team allowing a league-worst 43.9 fantasy points per game to small forwards.

Finding paths to this contest – which has the closest spread and the highest total of the night — could prove pivotal during a slate that could claim multiple blowouts. Whether that entails stacking lineups with Spencer Dinwiddie and Nic Claxton or rostering multiple Kings stars will depend on your strategy, but it’s hard to imagine fading this contest given the inviting elements of deep rosters and high-octane offenses.

— Jim McCormick

Breaking down Thursday’s slate

Denver Nuggets at Detroit Pistons
7 p.m. ET, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan

Records (Against the Spread)
Nuggets: 46-23 (36-32-1)
Pistons: 16-54 (31-38-1)

Line: Nuggets (-15)
BPI Projection: Nuggets: 136.2-119.2
Money Line: Nuggets (-1400), Pistons (+800)
BPI Projected winner: Nuggets (94%)
Total: 228.5 points BPI Projected Total: 255.4 points

Injury Report:
Nuggets: Jamal Murray, (GTD – Knee); Zeke Nnaji, (OUT – Shoulder)
Pistons: Jaden Ivey, (GTD – General Soreness); Alec Burks, (OUT – Foot); Bojan Bogdanovic, (OUT – Achilles); Isaiah Livers, (OUT – Hip); Marvin Bagley III, (OUT – Ankle); Isaiah Stewart, (OUT – Shoulder); Cade Cunningham, (OUT – Lower Leg); Hamidou Diallo, (OUT – Ankle)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Fantasy streamer: James Wiseman (74.5% available in ESPN leagues) Wiseman has produced double-doubles in three of his past four games and has reached 25 fantasy points in six consecutive games. All Wiseman needed was a chance and over 12 games with the Pistons he has averaged 13.1 PPG, 9 RPG and 1.2 BPG. The struggling Nuggets should get back on track, but Wiseman should keep his numbers going, too. — Eric Karabell

Sacramento Kings at Brooklyn Nets
7:30 p.m. ET, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

Records (Against the Spread)
Kings: 41-27 (38-30-0)
Nets: 39-30 (38-31-0)

Line: Nets (-2.5)
BPI Projection: Nets (136.2-129.8)
Money Line: Kings (+118), Nets (-140)
BPI Projected winner: Nets (57.7%)
Total: 238 points BPI Projected Total: 261.8 points

Injury Report:
Kings: Richaun Holmes, (GTD – Illness)
Nets: Ben Simmons, (OUT – Knee)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Best bet: Spencer Dinwiddie over 23.5 points + rebounds. Dinwiddie has averaged 19.3 points and 4.1 rebounds over the past seven games. The Kings rank 25th in points allowed per 100 possessions and allow opponents to shoot a 56.8% field goal percentage, the third-highest in the league. — Eric Moody

Trend: We all know the Nets are void of true star power and the Kings have routinely proved themselves as a better team than we projected this preseason … and yet, Sacramento still lines up as a good play. The Kings are 10-5 ATS in their past 15 road games, 10-5 ATS as road favorites this season and 31-14 ATS when scoring at least 115 points. The first two boxes will be checked pregame and the third? Well, the Nets have allowed at least 115 points in four straight and the Kings have gotten there in every game since the All-Star Break. — Soppe

Oklahoma City Thunder at Toronto Raptors
7:30 p.m. ET, Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Records (Against the Spread)
Thunder: 34-35 (43-25-1)
Raptors: 33-36 (34-35-0)

Line: Raptors (-6.5)
BPI Projection: Raptors (132-120.6)
Money Line: Thunder (+210), Raptors (-260)
BPI Projected winner: Raptors (71.4%)
Total: 231 points BPI Projected Total: 247.3 points

Injury Report:
Thunder: Aleksej Pokusevski, (OUT – Lower Leg); Chet Holmgren, (OUT – Foot); Kenrich Williams, (OUT – Wrist)
Raptors: Dalano Banton, (OUT – Thumb); Otto Porter Jr., (OUT – Foot)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Best bet: Josh Giddey over 6.5 assists. Giddey comes off a triple-double against the Nets, when he had 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, and he is averaging 9.3 APG over his eight March contests. He is playing 32.6 MPG this month as well, his most of the season. It is a good time to bet on Giddey. – Eric Karabell

Trend: The Thunder have been underestimated on the road for over a month (11-3-1 ATS in their past 15 away games) and while the Raptors are a profitable home team, they are just 7-11 ATS this season when being asked to cover more than five points. They struggle to win by margin and the Thunder are among the toughest teams to handle in such games: 17-6-1 ATS when getting more than five points. — Soppe

Indiana Pacers at Milwaukee Bucks
8 p.m. ET, Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Records (Against the Spread)
Pacers: 31-38 (37-32-0)
Bucks: 50-19 (38-26-5)

Line: Bucks (-13.5)
BPI Projection: Bucks (135.3-124.7)
Money Line: Pacers (+700), Bucks (-1100)
BPI Projected winner: Bucks (83%)
Total: 238 points BPI Projected Total: 260 points

Injury Report:
Pacers: Buddy Hield, (GTD – Foot); Myles Turner, (GTD – Back); T.J. McConnell, (GTD – Back); Tyrese Haliburton, (GTD – Knee); Bennedict Mathurin, (OUT – Ankle); Chris Duarte, (OUT – Ankle); Kendall Brown, (OUT – Lower Leg)
Bucks: Brook Lopez, (GTD – Ankle); Jae Crowder, (GTD – Calf); Grayson Allen, (OUT – Foot)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Fantasy streamer: Andrew Nembhard (rostered in 4.2% of ESPN leagues) is still a solid streamer even if Tyrese Haliburton returns. Chris Duarte and Bennedict Mathurin have already been ruled out and Chris Duarte is questionable due to a sore left ankle. Nembhard should be provided ample minutes. He’s 24 or more fantasy points in four consecutive games. — Eric Moody

Best bet: Giannis Antetokounmpo over 45.5 points + rebounds. Even in a matchup where the Bucks are heavy favorites Antetokounmpo is well positioned to surpass 45.5 PR. He’s exceeded that number in three of his last four games. Against the Pacers earlier this season, Antetokounmpo scored 41 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. — Eric Moody

Trend: The Pacers are just 5-10 ATS over their past 15 road games, not exactly a trend you want to take into Milwaukee … and it gets worse. The Pacers have seen at least 235 points scored in eight of their past 12 games and the Bucks are 18-8 ATS this season in games that reach that number.– Kyle Soppe

Orlando Magic at Phoenix Suns
10 p.m. ET, Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona

Records (Against the Spread)
Magic: 28-41 (36-31-2)
Suns: 37-32 (36-31-2)

Line: Suns (-8)
BPI Projection: Suns (135.3-125.1)
Money Line: Magic (+270), Suns (-345)
BPI Projected winner: Suns (66%)
Total: 228 points BPI Projected Total: 254.8 points

Injury Report:
Magic: Gary Harris, (GTD – Hip); Jonathan Isaac, (OUT – Thigh)
Suns: Duane Washington Jr., (GTD – Illness); Torrey Craig, (GTD – Heel); Landry Shamet, (OUT – Foot); Kevin Durant, (OUT – Ankle)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Best bet: Markelle Fultz over 5.5 assists. Fultz has six or more assists in three consecutive games and four of five, and he has become quite the consistent fantasy provider as he piles on big minutes. The Magic could use more finishers, but Fultz averages 5.9 APG this month. – Eric Karabell

Best bet: Markelle Fultz over 19.5 points + assists. Fultz has surpassed 19.5 PA in four of his last five games. He’s been a difference maker for a Magic team on the fringes of postseason contention. The future looks bright for Orlando with Fultz at point guard. He should have success against the Suns on Thursday night. — Eric Moody

Trend: Is it fair to wonder if, at this moment in time, too much offensive responsibility is on the plate of Devin Booker? During this three-game skid, he’s doing the heavy lifting on the offensive side and doing it well (30.0 PPG on 66.7% shooting from inside the arc), but the Suns are giving up over 1.2 points per possession. Those are disturbing short-term trends with Kevin Durant sidelined and the Magic are more than capable of taking advantage: 10-5 ATS in their past 15 road games. — Soppe