Check out a quick breakdown of all ten games on Friday’s NBA slate. We’ll take a look at the Vegas lines and totals, recent trends, and a few players you can be targeting for tonight’s action.
Philadelphia 76ers @ Charlotte Hornets
Line: Charlotte -15.5
The Hornets are 43-31, and with eight games left on the schedule, there is virtually no room separating them from the Hawks, Celtics and Heat for the third seed in the East. Each team should be pressing at this point in the season to try and both earn homecourt in the post-season and potentially avoid Cleveland until the Eastern Conference Finals. Charlotte might be playing the worst team in the league, but their guys will likely be playing a full complement of minutes. Big Al might see some extra time on the bench, but that’ll only increase the value of a guy like Marvin Williams, playing big minutes against a team with no frontcourt left. But the real story in Charlotte is obviously the play of their guards, and Batum in particular. He had 56.25 DraftKings Fantasy Points when these two teams met earlier this week and is in a great position to have another big night on Friday.
For Philly, Robert Covington has been taking advantage of the elevated role he has found on this roster lately, scoring at least 33 DK FP in four straight, while averaging 17 points and 9 rebounds. Ish Smith is the other player to consider as he’s shown flashes of offering fantasy value this season but for the most part, Philly is a mess right now with very little to play for down the stretch.
- Kemba Walker ($8,000)
- Nicolas Batum ($7,700)
- Robert Covington ($6,400)
- Marvin Williams ($5,700)
Dallas Mavericks @ Detroit Pistons
Line: Pistons -6
The Mavericks are in a tie with the Rockets and the Jazz for the final two playoffs spots in the West, and they have won their last two games despite a combined total of 21 points out of Dirk Nowitzki. A lot of that slack has been picked up by J.J. Barea, who has been over 40 DK FP in each of the two games on the strength of shooting 7-for-13 from three point range. That kind of shooting is exactly what a team like Dallas needs to be able to succeed in the half court. They don’t have a lot of athletes, so if they are going to try to score in half-court sets, they need someone to kick it out to on penetration or from the post in order to keep the floor spread.
Detroit is currently the 7th seed in the East and while they should be in good shape to make the postseason, they’re still pushing down the stretch to win games. Drummond has been doing his part, averaging 19 and 15 over their last five games, numbers that have certainly helped the Pistons rip off their current streak of six wins in their last seven. The emergence of Caldwell-Pope in the backcourt to complement Reggie Jackson has made this Detroit squad a much more well-balanced team down the stretch while making some of their core players much more relevant from a fantasy perspective.
- Andre Drummond ($7,400)
- Dirk Nowitzki ($6,700)
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($5,300)
- J.J. Barea ($5,300)
Brooklyn Nets @ New York Knicks
Line: Knicks -6
The Knicks are unlikely to have Kristaps Porzingis tonight as he’s doubtful with a shoulder injury. Hopefully the injury isn’t too serious, but at this point in the year you have to wonder if it’s even worth it for the Knicks to risk making that injury worse. The Knicks are ten games out of a playoff spot, after all. Even the Nets have started looking ahead to the future, however desolate it may be. They held Lopez out of their game on Wednesday just as a maintenance day. There are no reports of any kind of injury that should concern you, so all you should be looking at is a healthy, and now rested Lopez in a good matchup. In fact, this should be a plus matchup for both of the Nets’ best players – Lopez and Thaddeus Young – especially if Porzingis misses.
For New York, the benefit of playing a team like the Nets is that poor ball handling play from their guards is something that can be completely covered up against a team that doesn’t defend the guards well, and Porzingis missing time, if he does, just means more shots from Carmelo. It’s not as if they have to wonder where the offense will come from. For some teams, a star goes down and the question really is “who is going to absorb all those attempts?” In New York, we know already. He had 31 points on 22 shots to go along with 7 rebounds and two assists last time out against Dallas.
- Carmelo Anthony ($8,500)
- Brook Lopez ($7,000)
- Thaddeus Young ($6,700)
- Bojan Bogdanovic ($4,300)
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Atlanta Hawks
Line: Hawks -2
The Cavs played last night and the Hawks didn’t, with Cleveland dispatching the Nets at home 97-77 and then traveling to Atlanta for a tougher test. We can all thank the Raptors for making sure this isn’t a runaway for the #1 seed in the East so the Cavs will likely continue to give their starters minutes until things are more clear cut in the playoff picture. LeBron played 31 minutes last night, ending up with 24 points and 11 assists. But, this wasn’t the kind of game that required his best effort, so you didn’t even see it. He only pulled out enough to win, went 8-for-11 from the field, and then let his teammates take it from there. But in a game against a team that is #1 in the league at defending point guards, and who actually have the bodies to matchup up with Cleveland in the paint, this might be just the kind of game LeBron needs to take over on his own.
For Atlanta, they are going to want to hold onto their slight lead over the Heat, Hornets and Celtics in order to retain home court advantage in the first round and test themselves a little to see what the playoffs might have in store. But Cleveland is really not a great matchup for this team, either in real life or for fantasy purposes. Atlanta plays relatively fast (ninth fastest pace in the league), so that factors into their player prices and Cleveland has had a ton of success in the last two years at slowing Atlanta down. With the way Cleveland defends the interior, it might be tough for Millsap or Horford to get anything going consistently (even if the volume remains).
- LeBron James ($9,900)
- Paul Millsap ($7,600)
- Kevin Love ($7,200)
- Jeff Teague ($5,900)
Toronto Raptors @ Memphis Grizzlies
Line: Raptors -5.5
Comfortably at #2 in the East, six games up on the mess right behind them vying for third, the time in the season has come where you officially need to worry about them managing minutes for their stars to give them rest. At least if they just get outright benched you usually know about it in advance, but having someone’s minutes just cut by 15% can be just as painful, and it’s so much harder to see coming. When a price tag is based on a certain amount of minutes over seventy-something games of the regular season, and all of a sudden those minutes are cut, the player has to be playing at his absolute most efficient to produce any value for your fantasy lineup at all. This hasn’t started to manifest itself in the minutes distribution yet, but it could start at any point between now and the end of the year, so tread carefully.
“At this point, it’s hard to totally trust anyone on the Grizzlies.”
If it wasn’t for that, though, the narrative here would be “start all your Raptors.” Having Randolph back and playing at what looks like full speed has made them look much more like a professional basketball team, but they are still not the same team as they were for the majority of the season with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. There just isn’t an advantage for them to exploit anywhere anymore. At this point, it’s hard to totally trust anyone on the Grizzlies. The bright side is that in a cash game, they’ve got a bunch of cheap to mid-range options getting more opportunities than they deserve (I am looking at you, Matt Barnes), which can be very helpful when you’re rounding out a cash game lineup.
- Kyle Lowry ($7,900)
- DeMar DeRozan ($7,700)
- Zach Randolph ($6,500)
- Matt Barnes ($5,600)
Orlando Magic @ Milwaukee Bucks
Line: Bucks -3
If nothing else, this game is going to feature a bunch of guys with freakish athleticism going back and forth against each other. You’ll look at the way some of the guys on these teams move and think you are seeing some new prototype: basketball player 2.0. And you won’t be far off – a few of these guys look like they were designed specifically to shrink a basketball court and make the game look easy, and at the very least, that means this game should be fun to watch, which is saying something for a game between two teams out of the playoff picture at this point in the year. But both of these teams have young, impressionable players on their rosters and both coaches have seemed to be playing to win every game when they go out there, which bodes well for the mindsets of these guys in future – hopefully more competitive – seasons. This is especially true for the Magic, who can talk legitimately about how if they were playing the way they are now all season long, they might actually be in the playoff picture. With Vucevic active and still averaging 19-9 for the year, and role players like Aaron Gordon being able to step up on occasion and contribute, it’s hard to argue with them.
“Since getting the job as the primary ball-handler in late February, he has recorded four triple-doubles…”
It’s a bit different in Milwaukee, where instead of exceeding expectations late in the year, they have been mildly disappointing all season long. Although, if Bucks fans want something to take the sting of disappointment away, the play of Giannis Antetokounmpo is just the thing. Antetokounmpo has already been announced as the full-time POINT GUARD for the Bucks next year. In case you were wondering, he is six feet, eleven inches tall. 6’11”!! Since getting the job as the primary ball-handler in late February, he has recorded four triple-doubles and is averaging 19 points, 7 boards and 7 assists. He is a walking mismatch, the kind of guy who is a nightmare to prepare for no matter what position he is playing.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo ($9,100)
- Victor Oladipo ($7,300)
- Nikola Vucevic ($6,500)
- Jabari Parker ($5,700)
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Utah Jazz
Line: Jazz -9
These are the kinds of games you like to see Karl-Anthony Towns face as a basketball fan, but not as a fantasy owner. Seeing what he can do against a stout defender like Gobert is something of a litmus test, but also suppresses his upside just enough to make you question if the price tag is worth it. In their second meeting of the year, he responded in a big way, finishing with 32 points and 12 boards in a losing effort. Last time, it was 14 and 11. Which guy shows up tonight? Either way, the Jazz in general are not a great matchup for the Wolves, having beaten them easily in each of their last two meetings, with the Wolves failing to score more than 90 points in either contest. Utah has the length on the wings to contest Minnesota’s talented swing guys and the interior defense to collapse on a team that, for now anyway, lacks the shooting it would need to respond to that kind of situation.
For Utah, Hayward has Wiggins to contend with, a defender with the length and quickness to bother his shot, but with Towns occupied by a legit center on the other side, Favors has been able to find success, averaging 20 points an outing in those last two meetings. He is listed as questionable for tonight though, so even if he is active, you have to worry about his effectiveness. That could mean more opportunities for the Utah guards, Shelvin Mack and Rodney Hood. They are often overlooked as fantasy options, which keeps their prices down nicely. They can both knock down an open jumper when they need to – Hood is shooting 45.5% from three over his last five games (15-for-33).
- Karl-Anthony Towns ($8,600)
- Ricky Rubio ($6,800)
- Shelvin Mack ($6,000)
- Rodney Hood ($5,200)
Miami Heat @ Sacramento Kings
Line: Heat -7
With DeMarcus Cousins suspended, this game gets less competitive but more intriguing from a fantasy perspective. The Heat are the better team and they want the game more, and the Kings don’t have the perimeter defenders or, now, the interior defense to stop them Miami doing what they need to do to secure the W. The positive for fantasy players is that Cousins suspension creates a couple of cheap upside options that you can take advantage of. Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein should be right back in that 25-30 minute range tonight. Last week when Cauley-Stein was getting that run, he recorded a 20 point, 9 rebound average over a three-game span.
For Miami, Wade has looked like Wade – and if that can keep up for two straight months, no one wants to face this team. He had 30 points and 9 assists one night, 26 points and 10 boards the next, with four blocks and a couple of steals mixed in – this guy can still be a difference maker on both ends. He finally seems to be meshing well with Dragic, and they have been able to coordinate defensively in a way that really slows down opponents’ ability to get into their sets and sets the tone for the defense as a whole. Assuming he plays tonight (which is always a concern with the aging Wade) he should be in line for a strong effort tonight.
- Dwyane Wade ($7,200)
- Goran Dragic ($6,900)
- Willie Cauley-Stein ($4,600)
- Josh Richardson ($4,400)
Boston Celtics @ Golden State Warriors
Line: Warriors -12
The last time these two teams met, the game went to double OT. It was one of the more entertaining games of the season and Golden State battled it out for the final win of their 24-0 start to the NBA season. In that game the Warriors were missing Klay Thompson and the Celtics were without Marcus Smart, both of which play vital but separate roles for their teams (Klay is an offensive weapon and Smart is a lockdown defender). Stephen Curry ended up with 38 points in 47 minutes of action on 9-for-27 shooting. He was productive but his efficiency was way down as the Celtics swarmed him all over the court One thing that hasn’t changed since December: the Celtics have no one to deal with Draymond Green. It helps that Jae Crowder returned to action last night (Crowder is questionable to play again tonight), but the Warriors can go small and get Draymond in a matchup against a slower Jared Sullinger or Amir Johnson. Green’s versatility has created mismatches all season long and the Celtics are certainly not immune to that. In that December matchup, Draymond just missed a triple double, dropping 24 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 blocks and 5 steals in 50 minutes of court time.
The Celtics are coming into this one off of a pretty brutal 116-109 loss to Portland last night, in which they limited Lillard and McCollum to a combined 11-for-45 shooting. Isaiah Thomas predictably led the way for Boston with 22 points that included 4 makes from downtown. He might struggle to be efficient tonight against a strong Warriors defense but the expected pace of this game should lead to plenty of opportunities for Thomas to reach fantasy value. As a pure volume play, I love him as an option in any kind of tournament tonight – for only $7,000, he is giving you a high floor as well as some upside.
- Draymond Green ($8,100)
- Isaiah Thomas ($7,800)
- Klay Thompson ($6,700)
- Jae Crowder ($5,300)
Washington Wizards @ Phoenix Suns
Line: Wizards -7
This should be a fun game to watch, with plenty of back-and-forth action and strong guard play. John Wall is up to 47 double-doubles on the season and seems to be a virtual lock to hit that target every night. On every possession, for what seems like at least half of the shot clock if not more. Washington relies on Wall to create both his own shot as well as shots for the other Wizards on the court. His running mate in the backcourt, Bradley Beal, has been up and down all year long and has been far from a reliable fantasy option. The matchup is really strong here for all of the Wizards weapons though as the Suns have the 2nd worst defensive efficiency in the NBA.
The other storyline for Washington is Markieff Morris’s return to Phoenix. He was unceremoniously ditched by the Suns earlier this season after a slew of incidents and he certainly will be a little juiced for his return, even if the current Suns roster and coaching staff looks nothing like the team he left behind.
For Phoenix, the bright spot of this lost season is rookie Devin Booker. He’s been the silver lining to the season-ending injury to Eric Bledsoe. He averaged 37.7 minutes in March, and turned in 22 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists per game, which are terrific numbers for any NBA rookie. He still has a ton of upside and tonight he’s in a good spot in an uptempo game against the Wizards. The other guard in the Phoenix backcourt, Brandon Knight, is in play tonight as well. He has an incredibly high usage rate and will continue to shoulder the vast majority of the offensive load for the Suns.
- John Wall ($10,300)
- Brandon Knight ($7,100)
- Devin Booker ($6,900)
- Markieff Morris ($4,900)