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 January 26th are provided by Caesars Sportsbook, and fantasy advice is based on ESPN 10-team leagues.

What you need to know for Thursday's games

Bullish on the Hornets: The Chicago Bulls have looked better of late (3-1 outright in their past four, 110-plus points scored in five straight), but they are just 1-5 (both outright and ATS) this season when favored on the road. It's been a rough season in Charlotte, but if LaMelo Ball returns, this offense is potent enough to extend those Chicago struggles (116.8 PPG in January when Ball suits up).

Niche Knicks: Sometimes, reverse engineering a game is the way to unearth an edge. Instead of picking your winner and then determining a script for the game to follow, games involving the New York Knicks force you to do the inverse. This season, the Knicks are 9-15 ATS when over tickets cash and 14-7 ATS when under tickets come through, so the question becomes ... how is the opponent trending? In this instance, 17 of the Boston Celtics' past 26 games have gone under the total.

Surging Spurs: The San Antonio Spurs are one of the few teams clearly intent on collecting lottery equity this season, but that doesn't mean the rotation doesn't claim some fun fringe fantasy contributors. Rookie Jeremy Sochan (94% available in ESPN leagues) has averaged 15.8 points and 6.2 rebounds on stellar efficiency (.632 true shooting) over his past five games. Veteran big Zach Collins (98%) has scored in double figures in three straight and stands out as a premier value at just $3,700 on DraftKings for tonight's matchup against the undersized Clippers.

Duren Duren: The Detroit Pistons are another team chasing lottery luck that also claim a rising rookie. Center Jalen Duren (85% available) is cleaning the glass with the best of them, tied with Giannis Antetokounmpo for seventh in the NBA in averaging 11.6 boards over the past 10 games. Facing a Brooklyn team with a somewhat shallow frontcourt that is on the second leg of a back-to-back supports a ceiling around 40 DraftKings points for the UCONN product this evening.

Alperen's Arrival: Somewhat lost in the shuffle of the Houston Rockets' struggles this season has been the breakout play of second-year center Alperen Sengun. Having just turned 20 over the summer, it's remarkable that he's regularly posting "Baby Jokic" lines, such as a 21-point triple-double last night. While the Cleveland Cavaliers present a challenging defensive frontcourt for Sengun and the Rockets tonight, the young pivot's playmaking ability and recent surge in defensive production (averaging three combined steals and blocks the past week) drives value in both DFS and redraft formats.

-- Jim McCormick & Kyle Soppe

Games of the Night

New York Knicks at Boston Celtics
7:30 p.m. ET, TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

Records (Against the Spread)
Knicks: 26-23 (25-23-1)
Celtics: 35-14 (25-23-1)

Line: Celtics (-8.5)
BPI Projection: Celtics: 120.5-111.9
Money Line: Knicks (+278), Celtics (-355)
BPI Projected winner: Celtics (79.1%)
Total: 223.5 points BPI Projected Total: 232.4 points

Injury Report:
Knicks: Evan Fournier, (GTD - Personal); Mitchell Robinson, (OUT - Thumb)
Celtics: Marcus Smart, (OUT - Ankle); Danilo Gallinari, (OUT - Knee)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Best bet: Julius Randle over 11.5 rebounds. Randle is the league's leading rebounder for January, averaging 14.5 boards, and reaching 12 rebounds in eight of his past nine games. The Celtics are a responsible defensive team, but Randle has clearly stepped up with Mitchell Robinson injured and there should be no stopping him, regardless of opponent. -- Eric Karabell

Best bet: Knicks +8.5. The Celtics had an excellent start to the season, and they're still playing well, but the gap in performance between them and the rest of their division has gotten smaller recently. Boston is 17-9 in their last 26 games, while the Knicks are 16-10. Both teams have been streaky over that stretch, but the key trend I see is that the Knicks rarely get blown out. They've only lost by at least 8.5 points three times in their past 26 games. I agree that the Celtics should be favored, but that spread seems too large to me. -- Andre Snellings

Breaking down the rest of the slate

Detroit Pistons at Brooklyn Nets
7:30 p.m. ET, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

Records (Against the Spread)
Pistons: 12-37 (21-27-1)
Nets: 29-18 (24-23-0)

Line: Nets (-7.5)
BPI Projection: Nets: 121.6-112.2
Money Line: Pistons (+235), Nets (-292)
BPI Projected winner: Nets (80.4%)
Total: 232.5 points BPI Projected Total: 233.8 points

Injury Report:
Pistons: Isaiah Livers, (GTD - Ankle); Isaiah Stewart, (GTD - Shoulder); Cory Joseph, (OUT - Back); Marvin Bagley III, (OUT - Hand); Cade Cunningham, (OUT - Lower Leg)
Nets: Day'Ron Sharpe, (GTD - Back); Kevin Durant, (OUT - Knee)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Best bet: Kyrie Irving over 36.5 points + assists. Irving has an excellent matchup at home against the Pistons. Detroit ranks 29th in points allowed per 100 possessions and allow opponents an effective field goal percentage of 56.7%. Irving has surpassed 36.6 PA in four consecutive games so there is a strong chance he will do it again on Thursday night. -- Eric Moody

Best bet: Jaden Ivey over 23.5 points + assists + rebounds. Ivey has played very well for the Pistons since Cade Cunningham went down with a leg injury. Ivey has averaged 15.1 points, 5.7 assists, and 4.4 rebounds over the past 10 games. -- Moody

Best bet: Bojan Bogdanovic over 21.5 points. Bogdanovic is a heavy scorer that is reportedly being featured ahead of the trade deadline. Bogdanovic has averaged 25.1 PPG in his last nine outings, going over 21.5 points in six of them and each of his past four. -- Snellings

Fantasy streamer: Killian Hayes (available in 74.9% of leagues) Hayes is a nightly streamer for me because I think he should be close to universally rostered. He sat out Monday's game with a shoulder injury but is expected back on Thursday. Hayes has averaged 13.3 PPG, 8.0 APG, 2.3 RPG, 2.3 SPG and 1.6 3PG in his past eight games. -- Snellings

Chicago Bulls at Charlotte Hornets
7:30 p.m. ET, Spectrum Center, Charlotte, North Carolina

Records (Against the Spread)
Bulls: 22-25 (26-21-0)
Hornets: 13-36 (20-27-2)

Line: Bulls (-6)
BPI Projection: Bulls: 121.6-115.5
Money Line: Bulls (-225), Hornets (+185)
BPI Projected winner: Bulls (60.9%)
Total: 234 points BPI Projected Total: 234 points

Injury Report:
Bulls: Goran Dragic, (OUT - Illness); Javonte Green, (OUT - Knee); Lonzo Ball, (OUT - Knee)
Hornets: Gordon Hayward, (GTD - Hamstring); LaMelo Ball, (GTD - Ankle); Cody Martin, (OUT - Knee); Kelly Oubre Jr., (OUT - Hand)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Best bet: Nikola Vucevic over 31.5 points + rebounds. As a team, the Hornets allow the third most points per game and give up the most rebounds per game against centers. In his last 11 games, Vucevic has averaged 20.3 points and 13.4 rebounds. In this matchup, he could exceed expectations. The Hornets rank 27th in points allowed per 100 possessions. -- Moody

Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets
8 p.m. ET, Toyota Center, Houston, Texas

Records (Against the Spread)
Cavaliers: 29-20 (24-23-2)
Rockets: 11-37 (17-28-3)

Line: Cavaliers (-8.5)
BPI Projection: Cavaliers: 118.5-109.1
Money Line: Cavaliers (-345), Rockets (+270)
BPI Projected winner: Cavaliers (79.8%)
Total: 221.5 points BPI Projected Total: 227.3 points

Injury Report:
Cavaliers: Donovan Mitchell, (GTD - Groin); Dylan Windler, (OUT - Hamstring)
Rockets: Kevin Porter Jr., (OUT - Foot)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns
10 p.m. ET, Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona

Records (Against the Spread)
Mavericks: 25-24 (16-31-2)
Suns: 25-24 (26-23-0)

Line: Suns (-1.5)
BPI Projection: Suns: 118.2-115.1
Money Line: Mavericks(+100), Suns(-120)
BPI Projected winner: Suns (53.8%)
Total: 221 points BPI Projected Total: 231.2 points

Injury Report:
Mavericks: Christian Wood, (GTD - Thumb); Maxi Kleber, (OUT - Hamstring)
Suns: Deandre Ayton, (GTD - Illness); Landry Shamet, (OUT - Foot); Cameron Payne, (OUT - Foot); Devin Booker, (OUT - Groin); Jae Crowder, (OUT - Not Injury Related)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Best bet: Chris Paul over 8.5 assists. There are reasons to be concerned about Paul making it through the rest of the regular season healthy and productive, as he has already missed significant time and his scoring and shooting numbers are down. While his assists are down some, too, he dished 11 assists in his two games since he returned from his latest injury and should remain quite the helper on Thursday. -- Karabell

Fantasy streamer: Cameron Johnson (rostered in 22.9% of ESPN leagues) Johnson continues to be a popular name recently because, well, he's healthy now and the Suns need him to score. Johnson tallied 46 fantasy points in his most recent game, hitting six of seven attempts from long range and scoring 24 points in 18 minutes. The Suns continue to be cautious with his minutes in his return from knee surgery, but we should expect enough minutes against a shorthanded Mavericks club that has allowed opponents to score 127 or more points against them in four of seven games. -- Karabell

San Antonio Spurs at LA Clippers
10:30 p.m. ET, Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California

Records (Against the Spread)
Spurs: 14-34 (23-25-0)
Clippers: 26-24 (24-26-0)

Line: Clippers (-12.5)
BPI Projection: Clippers: 124.3-112.2
Money Line: Spurs (+600), Clippers (-900)
BPI Projected winner: Clippers (86.1%)
Total: 233 points BPI Projected Total: 236.5 points

Injury Report:
Spurs: Romeo Langford, (GTD - Hip); Devin Vassell, (OUT - Knee)
Clippers: Luke Kennard, (GTD - Calf); Marcus Morris Sr., (GTD - Ribs); John Wall, (OUT - Abdomen)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Fantasy streamer: Jeremy Sochan (rostered in 7.1% of ESPN leagues) Sochan continues to play solid minutes for a Spurs team with Devin Vassell. He has scored 24 or more fantasy points in five consecutive games, including three with 30 or more. A player like Sochan can be a good option in deeper formats due to the fact that he contributes points, rebounds, assists, and steals. -- Moody