Top building blocks and fades for Thursday's NBA DFS action

Our experts believe James Harden should feature in your Thursday DFS lineups, but Chris Paul should be on the sidelines for this slate. Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Which players should you build around and which players should you fade in DFS as we tip off Thursday's NBA action? Our experts have the answers.

Players to build around

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Embiid has proven to be one of the greatest per-minute centers we've ever seen, with the biggest questions about him being stamina and health. Well, Embiid is healthy and has had three full days since his last game, so he should be fresh. He's facing a Los Angeles Lakers squad that is terrible at defending centers, having allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing centers over the past 10 games. Oh yeah, and the last time Embiid faced the Lakers less than a month ago, he dropped 46 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 7 blocks on their heads. So, there's that. -- Andre Snellings

Ben Simmons, 76ers

Last time the Sixers and Lakers faced off, Embiid delivered an historic line. This time, I think Simmons will enjoy a huge game; the Lakers have allowed 50.5 fantasy points per game to point guards over the past five games on FanDuel, fifth-most in the league over this stretch. The Lakers lead the league in pace (possessions per 48 minutes), while the Sixers are fourth, which fuels this game's lofty point total of 219 points at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. Simmons is averaging 1.22 fantasy points per minute this season and can be reasonably projected for 35 minutes, thus he's an ideal high-floor option for tonight's four-game slate. -- Jim McCormick

Mike James, Phoenix Suns

An injury to Devin Booker has him on the shelf for the next 2-3 weeks, and that is going to open opportunities in Phoenix, but the DFS prices have yet to really adjust. In fact, James' DraftKings tag is actually down from where it stood one week ago, thus putting him in a value situation against a Wizards defense that has been vulnerable to high-end point guard production without John Wall in the mix. While everyone else chases the nationally televised Lakers/Sixers showdown, I'm freeing up the ability to roster both Joel Embiid and Bradley Beal by going the cheap route at point guard. -- Kyle Sopper

James Harden, Houston Rockets

On this four-game slate, it is really hard to find a reason to not play Harden. He's consistently over 55 fantasy points, there's a ton of value on the slate, and the difference in salary between him and Bradley Beal or Donovan Mitchell isn't enough to account for his greater floor and ceiling. While Utah still plays at a slower pace, they aren't the defensive monster they once were. In fact, we just saw Russell Westbrook post his best game of the season against them. It's a strong stars & bargains lineup slate, and Harden, who ranks first in the league in usage rate and second in player efficiency rating, is my headlining star. -- Renee Miller

Players to avoid

Chris Paul, Rockets

Paul is one of the greatest point guards of all time, and his fit next to Harden on the Rockets has been pretty seamless from a real-life point of view ... the Rockets are undefeated in the eight games that Paul has played. However, in those eight games, Paul has gone over 40 fantasy points just once on any of the main DFS platforms. This production is less than what his still relatively high price tag would warrant. Plus, he's facing a Jazz defense that has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to point guards this season and only seems vulnerable to high-volume lead guard types like Russell Westbrook (monster triple-double earlier this week) or Paul's teammate James Harden (career-best scoring night against the Jazz last month), but that isn't Paul's role on his team. -- Andre Snellings

Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers

Ingram is a fine player, but there are simply too many red flags to justify going his way tonight. First of all, there is a good chance Robert Covington (10th in Defensive Real Plus Minus) covers him and that's a problem given that RoCo can match his athleticism and has a 35-pound edge. Combine a tough one-on-one matchup with a fringe top 100 usage rate and I'll pass. Yes, I'm aware that Ingram had a nice game when these teams met up three weeks ago (26 points and 11 rebounds), but I'm trusting the process here and believing that, courtesy of Covington, Ingram's ceiling tonight is closer to his season averages (16 points and 5.4 rebounds), something that simply doesn't leave much room for upside. -- Kyle Soppe

Lonzo Ball, Lakers

Ball is an up-and-down player that it's not only tough to build around, it's tough to justify at all on a slate with great options at the top of the salary scale, and plentiful options in the bargain bin. The midrange player in general will be a fade for me, but I pick Ball specifically because I think people still view Philadelphia as a cake matchup. For point guards that hasn't been true this season, and overall the 76ers are ranked 10th in defensive efficiency. Philly is a big home favorite in this game, so if I'm using any Lakers, they are those that offer a more secure ROI than Ball, like Larry Nance Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. -- Renee Miller

Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz

Rudy Gobert is back in the fold for Utah, which means Favors has returned to a complementary role and is playing around 25 minutes per game with a usage rate below 20 percent over the past two games. The Rockets held Favors to 20.5 fantasy points a month ago and Houston's small-ball, space-and-pace agenda could serve to limit his effectiveness and minutes tonight. For a strong alternative, the Suns' TJ Warren could carry Phoenix's offense tonight is also eligible at power forward and can be found at similar pricing to Favors on DraftKings tonight. -- Jim McCormick