Friday’s 10-game slate hinges squarely on the Bulls injuries. The problem is their game at Denver starts at 9pm ET, meaning we have to leave spots open for late swap opportunities described below. Also please note this article was written Friday morning  — stay on top of the news all the way to lock as things can change quickly.


1. Pau Gasol, C, CHI The Bulls have the biggest injury issues of the day. Jimmy Butler has tendinitis in his left knee and Gasol has a sprained left hand – both are listed as questionable. We already know Joakim Noah (shoulder) and Nikola Mirotic (abdomen) are out. If Gasol ends up sitting, the Bulls will have no choice but to free Bobby Portis, who is averaging .930 DK points per minute. He’s has a good shot at 30 minutes against a Nuggets defense that gives up 2.2 more points than expectation to power forwards. Reliable Taj Gibson would also get a significant boost.

Editor’s Note: Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker are both expected to play tonight.

2. Jimmy Butler, SF, CHI Butler has already said he’s going to play it safe after taking knee-to-knee contact on Monday. This is a guy averaging 38.3 minutes at a 24.1 usage rate, so there’s a ton of opportunity when he sits. That opportunity was soaked up on Wednesday by E’Twaun Moore, who went off for a 25-5-4 line in 38 minutes. It also was not a coincidence that a resurgent Derrick Rose had his best game since Dec. 18 with Butler sidelined on Wednesday.

3. Kemba Walker, PG, CHA Kemba had fluid drained from his left knee earlier this week and sat out Wednesday. He expects to return tonight, which would cripple any further Jeremy Lin thoughts. It’s getting crowded in the Hornets’ rotation now if Walker does play as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (shoulder), Nicolas Batum (toe) and Jeremy Lamb (toe) are all healthy. The Heat also rank 29th in pace and sixth in defensive efficiency.

4. Devin Harris and Deron Williams, G, DAL Harris (toe) has already been ruled out for tonight while Deron (hip) says he’s going to play. That would leave both Raymond Felton and J.J. Barea as bench players against a Spurs team that leads the league in defensive efficiency and gives up just 91.3 ppg – best in the league by a whopping 4.5 points.

5. Manu Ginobili, SG, Spurs – Manu underwent testicular surgery yesterday and is out at least a month. He plays 20.0 minutes per game on the season and takes 10.0 shots per day, so there’s some slack to be picked up off the bench here. Kyle Anderson averages 13.4 DK ppg without Manu this year, Jonathan Simmons is at 11.4 and Patty Mills is at 19.2.


1. Jordan Hill and Myles Turner against the undersized Hawks

The Hawks rank dead last in rebounding differential (-4.6), give up the 7th-most rebounds per game (45.6) and the 8th-most offensive rebounds per game (11.3). That’s great news for the Pacers bigs, especially with Ian Mahinmi (back) sidelined for the fourth straight game. It ensures big minutes for Myles Turner, who is averaging a very strong 0.994 DK points per minute. It also means a starting role for Jordan Hill, who has averaged 31.1 DK points per game over the last three.

2. Nets’ tight rotation against the Kings

It doesn’t get much better than a home game against the Kings. They lead the league in pace and rank 21st in defensive efficiency. In terms of pace differential, the Nets are in the best spot on the slate. On top of that, we can add in an extremely tight rotation currently being run by interim coach Tony Brown. Over the last six games, Joe Johnson is at 34.2 minutes per day, Donald Sloan 27.7, Thaddeus Young 34.2, Brook Lopez 35.3 and Wayne Ellington 30.5. All five Nets starters are in play against the Kings tonight.

Watch Levitan on the Matchups Breakdown


1. Nikola Jokic’s rapid ascension

Much like Zach LaVine and Myles Turner, sharp people in fantasy know Nikola Jokic is #good. Now the Nuggets are realizing it as well. After averaging around 20 minutes per game for most of the season, Jokic is up to 26.8 over his last seven and 31.3 over his last three. “I know Nikola Jokic and I wouldn’t trade him for anybody in the world,” said coach Mike Malone this week. “He’s a special young man, he’s a special young talent and he’s only going to get better.” Jokic is at an elite 1.131 DK points per minute, right there with guys like Brook Lopez (1.130), Nikola Vucevic (1.130), Kevin Love (1.126) and Carmelo Anthony (1.148). The difference is Jokic only costs $5900. He is facing a Bulls defense that isn’t great against bigs and could be without Pau Gasol (wrist) tonight.

2. LaMarcus Aldridge’s hot streak with Tim Duncan sidelined

Duncan won’t play against the Mavs tonight as he continues to rest a sore knee. It’s his fifth straight game on the sideline. Note LaMarcus Aldridge has really turned his game up over the last four, averaging 39.3 DK points per game. Coach Gregg Popovich has noticed his new acquisition finally settling in. “Well, LaMarcus is feeling more and more comfortable all the time as the season progresses,” Pop said. Also note David West is at 19.4 DK ppg in 12 appearances without Duncan this season. The Mavs give up 1.9 more points than salary expectation to power forwards.


1. John Wall against the 76ers

Wall is not going to completely fail in a dream matchup against a Sixers defense that gives up an absurd 4.1 more points than salary-based expectation to point guards. But I don’t like playing guys coming off career nights in tournaments and Wall did just that on Wednesday as he hit the Warriors for 41 points on 17-of-25 shooting. His ownership will be extremely elevated and he won’t sustain that level of play – even against Philly. Wall is also not cheap at $9700 in a game he might not feel the need to be extremely aggressive. For $2900 cheaper we can get on Kyrie Irving who has a far tougher matchup against Boston but has seen at least 36 minutes in three straight and has a top-14 usage rate of 28.7.


(No particular order)

PG: John Wall, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Donald Sloan, Kyrie Irving
SG: E’Twaun Moore (if Jimmy Butler is out), Rodney Hood, Victor Oladipo, Wayne Ellington, Monta Ellis
SF: Joe Johnson, Aaron Gordon, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Gordon Hayward, Kawhi Leonard
PF: DeMarcus Cousins, Bobby Portis (if Pau Gasol is out), Taj Gibson (if Pau is out), Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, Paul Millsap, LaMarcus Aldridge, Thaddeus Young
C: Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert, Brook Lopez, Al Horford, Myles Turner, DeAndre Jordan