The NBA returned from the All-Star break with a solid six-game slate Thursday night and keeps things rolling this Friday with another nine games as the rest of the teams return from their hiatus. The Grizzlies are the only team that played Thursday turning around and finishing a back-to-back, while the Clippers are the only team that will have both days off and return to action Saturday. Friday night’s matchups include some nice ones led by the Nuggets visiting the Thunder and Zion Williamson ($8,000) leading his Pelicans into a great matchup against the Trail Blazers.
As you break down each roster spot and matchup, make sure to take a look at these four players if you need to go with a bargain option who is available for under $4K.
PF NICOLO MELLI, NO at POR, $3,700Melli struggled earlier this season and fell out of the rotation for a while, but he has been effective lately, and he seems to be finding his role in the rotation behind Williamson. Melli has hit multiple three-pointers in five straight games, averaging 9.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 blocks and 22.4 DKFP in 23.0 minutes per game. He had over 20 DKFP in four straight before finishing with just 15.75 DKFP against the Thunder in the final game before the break.
With the Pelicans getting healthier over the break, Melli’s minutes could be more limited than they were in some of those contests, but the 29-year-old rookie has shown enough that he still should have a sizable role off the bench. He played 28 minutes against the Blazers earlier this month and had 28.25 DKFP on 10 points, nine boards and three assists. He gets that favorable matchup against Portland’s frontcourt again Friday and should be able to return value if he continues to get playing time.
PG/SG BRAD WANAMAKER, BOS at MIN, $3,600The Celtics won’t have Kemba Walker (knee) for at least one game coming out of the All-Star break. Walker played in the All-Star game, but Boston will choose to give him some extra time to keep him fresh down the stretch as they continue to monitor his overall workload closely. His absence will open up playing time for Wanamaker, who has been a solid backup and has been able to step up when called upon for more work.
Walker missed three games early this month, and Wanamaker stepped up and produced 25.75 DKFP, 35.25 DKFP and 18.5 DKFP, respectively. He settled back into a reduced role after that but still posted at least 15 DKFP in each of his past seven games. He may not move into the starting lineup or be the primary option on offense, but his bump in playing time should help him easily reach 5x value against the new-look Timberwolves, who still are gelling defensively.
PG/SG ANFRENEE SIMONS, POR vs. NO, $3,500Another All-Star guard absent from Friday’s slate will be Lillard (groin), who is expected to miss a few games after straining his groin in the Blazers’ final contest before the break last Wednesday. Simons stepped up in that game after Lillard left and played 28 minutes, producing a season-high 22 points along with seven rebounds and 34.75 DKFP.
Simons could move into the starting lineup in Lillard’s spot, or the Blazers could move Gary Trent Jr. ($4,400) into that spot. CJ McCollum ($6,600) will likely take on most of the offensive workload left behind by Lillard but there will be plenty of increased usage available for Trent and Simons as well. Simons has been a capable backup in the backcourt all season but will now get a chance to step up and shine as the Blazers try to stay in the playoff race and chase down the Grizzlies for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.
SF/PF MAURICE HARKLESS, NY vs. IND, $3,200Harkless just left the playoff race as he was traded from the Clippers to the Knicks as part of the package that brought Marcus Morris to Los Angeles. Harkless has only played one game for his new team, though, since he missed a pair of games due to illness. He made his Knicks’ debut in the final game before the break, playing 25 minutes and producing 15.25 DKFP on four points, five boards, two assists and a steal in 25 minutes.
While Harkless came off the bench in his first game in New York, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him move into the starting lineup and get more usage going forward. He can be a multi-category producer when he’s at his best and the Knicks badly need production from the SF spot, where Reggie Bullock ($3,800) has been starting. Harkless already got more time than Bullock in that game against the Wizards, so I prefer him as the value play against the Pacers since he has pretty good upside for a player barely over $3K.
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