Check out a quick breakdown of all the action on Friday’s NBA slate, the first big night of action coming back from the break.We’ll take a look at the Vegas lines and totals and recent trends, and we’ll finish by naming a few players you can be targeting from every game.
Dallas Mavericks @ Orlando Magic
Anyone know what Aaron Gordon was up to this weekend? The potential was on full display Saturday night, but if you’ve been watching closely, it’s been coming for a while now. He’s averaging only 21 minutes for the year, but just about 30 for the two weeks leading up to the All-Star break, and he has turned that increased opportunity into increased fantasy value. He had nine or more rebounds in eight of ten games before the break, and when you’re approaching double-digit boards and getting that many minutes every night, you’re a constant threat for a double-double.
An NBA game ends up as a PK only when neither offense is all that explosive. These two teams both have the same approach, running a lot of sets on offense, controlling the boards, managing to keep games low-scoring without playing particularly great defense – so the chances of one of them running away from this one are slim to none. And since they both have a myriad of options splitting up the limited fantasy production, it’s an easy game to avoid if you’re looking for GPP options, but you could still find value in the mid-range options here.
– Victor Oladipo ($6,400)
– Chandler Parsons ($6,300)
– Aaron Gordon ($6,000)
– Deron Williams ($5,900)
Detroit Pistons @ Washington Wizards
Line: Wizards -1
The Wizards kicked off the second half of the season last night with a win over Utah, 103-89 at home, and now are adding Markieff Morris. It’s unlikely that he’s available Friday, so Wall and Gortat, who led led the way last night, are going to have to do it again. Gortat’s performance might have been the most encouraging, as he shot 9-12 from the field and grabbed ten boards against a Jazz frontcourt that actually has had success limiting big men all season long.That’s the kind of efficiency that lets a veteran like Gortat find success consistently against Drummond right now. That might change as Drummond gets more experience, but right now he is the rare big man who can have a dominant fantasy performance himself while giving up one at the same time.
Beal came off the bench, but still got up 14 shots in 24 minutes, making his night productive. But that might have been deceptive, because if that’s the usage he is going to get against better defenses, he might not be able to live up to his price tag. For Detroit, Caldwell-Pope looks primed to return to action here, which should provide a good boost for the Pistons, and could provide another viable fantasy option as long as he comes out in this one and shows that he is returning at full strength, or at least something close to it.
– John Wall ($9,600)
– Andre Drummond ($8,100)
– Reggie Jackson ($6,500)
– Marcin Gortat ($6,400)
New York Knicks @ Brooklyn Nets
Line: Knicks -3
Coming back from the long rest, everyone should be available for the Knicks, something they haven’t been able to say much this season. It will be interesting to see where the opportunities go with everyone there and contributing. My guess is you won’t see Carmelo’s look going down any, and they’d be foolish not to keep Porzingis involved, so I just might not rush to add any of the Knicks’ secondary scoring options (guys like Afflalo, Galloway, or the other Lopez).
For the Nets, as always, all of the talent they do have is in their front court… in Young and Lopez specifically. The problem they have is that with their injuries and general lack of depth and talent at the guard spot, they literally don’t even have someone to effectively get the ball up the court and into the hands of their best players – their PF and C. Fortunately, that stops mattering quite so much against terrible defensive teams, so they should be in good shape against the Knicks. In other words, for once, there should at least be a couple of viable fantasy options on Brooklyn – that’s something.
– Carmelo Anthony ($8,600)
– Brook Lopez ($7,300)
– Kristaps Porzingis ($7,300)
– Thaddeus Young ($6,700)
Miami Heat @ Atlanta Hawks
Line: Atlanta -9.5
The second lowest total on the board, it’s actually sort of impossible for me to imagine this game having more scoring than the lowest (Celtics @ Jazz). That game I think is going over – this one, I am not so sure. I mean this in the most unflattering way possible: this game is going to remind me of the 1990’s. There are good players, definitely, but the basketball just isn’t pretty. I think it’s significant that Teague and Dragic were probably the two most sought-after trade pieces either of these teams had – it’s plainly obvious that their talents are being undervalued in their current situations, so why not try? These are players who could be fantasy assets on the next level in a different situation. Their prices could have gone up $2,000 or more with the snap of the fingers. Instead, though, they are playing on teams that do not push the ball, do not feature guards, do not require plays to be made with penetration or passing, and are content with keeping games low-scoring and close.
The line is at 9.5 in favor of Atlanta because Bosh is out, Whiteside is suspended, and Wade might not play. Unlike most teams, where you see an injury to a top player and wonder how all those minutes and looks are going to be distributed, you get the impression that for the Heat, it’s not going to change much. They’re just going to plug in Stoudemire or McRoberts for Bosh, play the same style, and just be a little bit worse. Whatever the difference is between Bosh and Stoudemire/McRoberts, that’s how much worse the Heat are getting. You might see Whiteside be given a bit more leeway than he would have gotten otherwise when he returns (one game suspension being served tonight), but I wouldn’t go expecting Dragic or Wade to all of a sudden have a ton more chances than they’ve been getting all along – that’s just not what this team is built to do.
– Paul Millsap ($7,800)
– Al Horford ($6,700)
– Amar’e Stoudemire ($4,200)
– Josh McRoberts ($3,000)
Toronto Raptors @ Chicago Bulls
Line: Toronto -5.5
Gasol is still on the Bulls, and while Valaciunas is capable of keeping him off the boards for the most part, Gasol should be able to get his shot at will in this matchup. And since he is the only thing the Bulls have going for them right now, expect him to have the chance to do just that, early and often.
For the Raptors, the loss of DeMarre Carroll is obviously not ideal, and as fantasy owners we never like to have an option removed from the table. But, especially with Butler’s defense also removed from the equation, Carroll being out could be a big boost for both Valanciunas and DeRozan. Valanciunas should realize the high end of his potential on the boards, which makes him an easy candidate for a double-double and DeRozan could see enough looks to push for a 30-point night (which could easily be 50+ DK FP).
One interesting aspect of this game to pay attention to is the Rose-Lowry matchup. Rose has actually been playing more minutes and doing more on offense gradually, the longer Butler has been out, and his price tag has swelled to prove it. He had no fewer than 15 shots in any of the seven games leading up to the break, and this feels like the kind of game where the two point guards could be battling for alpha dog status all game long without realizing that their duel is actually secondary to what’s going on up front in terms of actually determining the outcome of the game.
– Pau Gasol ($8,700)
– DeMar DeRozan ($7,700)
– Derrick Rose ($7,300)
– Jonas Valanciunas ($6,000)
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Memphis Grizzlies
Line: Grizzlies -5
How about Zach LaVine? You heard of him? He’s another guy who did the full monty with his potential on Saturday, giving everyone a peek at what could be, much like Aaron Gordon. The difference is that LaVine has actually already started flashing that potential on the floor. He has been averaging almost 10 minutes a game more for the month of February than he was for the entire season previous, and in that extra time, he is establishing himself as a future very valuable third wheel alongside Wiggins and Anthony-Towns. The kind of athleticism he brings to the table is never a bad thing, and if he and Wiggins both start asserting themselves, they actually have the raw power and speed to out-Memphis Memphis.
With no Gasol, the Grizzlies can struggle to get open looks, and their offense tends to get bogged down. They should hope they end up covering this spread, because if the lead is less than 5 points down the stretch, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them just drop the game outright. A win without covering seems highly unlikely.
– Karl-Anthony Towns ($8,500)
– Zach Randolph ($7,100)
– Mike Conley ($6,500)
– Andrew Wiggins ($6,300)
Philadelphia 76ers @ New Orleans Pelicans
Line: Pelicans -9
The Pelicans are favored by 9! The Pelicans! I mean, yeah, they’re playing the Sixers, but still. The Pelicans! These guys are 20-33, with losses in six of their last eight, and here they are favored by almost double-digits. Anthony Davis had 24 points in 15 minutes on Sunday, and here’s the thing: he just looked like he belonged. Out there with the studs from Golden State and OKC, he still looked like maybe, just maybe, he might be the best player on the floor.
It is therefore pretty obvious who’s the best in a game against the Sixers. And the big problem he presents for Philly is that not only should he able to dominate the guys they have to throw at him, it’s that those guys are the best players on the Sixers. Philly’s front court is their best weapon, and Davis has the potential to neutralize them by himself.
Ish Smith should be fun to watch in this one as well, coming back to face the team that dealt him not too long ago, and for not very much. He had some time to rest his injured ankle, and he has been a catalyst for this Sixers team, as probably their single best perimeter player. He should be right back in that role in this one. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Smith make an emphatic case that the Pelicans did not choose wisely when they jettisoned him for nothing but a pair of second-round picks.
– Anthony Davis ($9,700)
– Ish Smith ($7,300)
– Jrue Holiday ($6,900)
– Nik Stauskas ($3,800)
Indiana Pacers @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Line: OKC -9
If the only game you had ever seen in your life was Sunday’s All-Star game, you would say that Paul George is not just the best small forward in this game, but that he is the best small forward in the world. Of course, he is probably not going to be able to replicate his 41 points in 27 minutes performance from Sunday, and most people (ok, all people) would tell you that this is one matchup where he is outclassed at his own position. In fact, he might be most valuable in this one on the defensive end, for being one of the only guys in the league with the size, speed and strength to at least make Durant have to compete for everything he gets.
With Durant thus faced with one of his only real challenges of the season, and Monta Ellis prominently involved in the defense of OKC’s guards, this could mean a big game for Westbrook. The idea of Russ coming around a screen with the ball in his hands to discover that Ellis has been switched over to defend him must make him more than a little excited for his potential to go off in a big way tonight. I know I’m excited.
– Russell Westbrook ($11,100)
– Paul George ($8,200)
– Monta Ellis ($6,000)
– Serge Ibaka ($5,500)
Charlotte Hornets @ Milwaukee Bucks
Line: Hornets -1
Giannis and Middleton certainly form an exciting nucleus, but neither have the honed offensive game you need to create good shots against stout defenses in pressure situations. Luckily, that’t not what they’re going to be facing tonight. But until they have that guy, they are going to struggle closing out games even against mediocre teams. And against good teams, they almost invariably get exposed as incapable of closing out games.
The Hornets are without Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams, but should be getting Big Al back into the fold simultaneously. Jefferson gives this team an entire new look with his post moves, just because there is always an option. There are too many instances of the ball just getting pounded into the floor on the dribble with no pass coming until the play-clock is winding down. The ability to just dump it into the post will do wonders for that issue, so it will be interesting to see the kind of shape he is for his return.
– Nicolas Batum ($7,400)
– Khris Middleton ($7,200)
– Greg Monroe ($6,900)
– Al Jefferson ($5,600)
Houston Rockets @ Phoenix Suns
Line: Rockets -8
With a total this high and a line this big, Vegas is basically just expecting the Rockets to score a lot of points. With Bledsoe and Knight still out, and now Morris gone, there is nothing left for Phoenix but the next lottery pick. Before the trade, Phoenix had no big men. Now, I don’t even know what to call their frontcourt. As far as maximizing their value goes, from a fantasy standpoint or a real-life NBA standpoint, then, Archie Goodwin and Devin Booker could not have landed in a better situation. They are on a team built around the two starting guards. Then, the starting guards went down, but there was such a dearth of talent everywhere else on the roster that it just became a plug and play situation – the two backup guards went in and basically took over all the minutes and opportunities the two starters had before them. Their upside isn’t anything like Knight and Bledsoe’s, but then, neither are their price tags. Now you have two mid-range options getting consistent usage instead of two top-tier options getting the same usage. And when it comes to roster construction from a DFS perspective, the mid-range guys might even be more useful.
The Rockets find themselves still with Dwight Howard but with no Motiejunas, a development no one was really predicting prior to yesterday’s trade deadline. Theoretically, his loss should help consolidate opportunities in the long run since they didn’t replace him with anyone, really. But the fact is that he hasn’t played much this year, so in the immediate term, there really should be no impact at all on the productivity of the key fantasy options on the Rockets.
– James Harden ($10,600)
– Archie Goodwin ($6,400)
– Devin Booker ($6,300)
– Clint Capela ($5,300)
Golden State Warriors @ Portland Trailblazers
Line: Golden State -9
On the one hand, you see that on paper Portland is good at defending point guards, and you think, “yeah, but Steph is different.” But on the other hand, if they are making life even a little bit more difficult for Curry, the Warriors have so many other options, why would he force it? It’s not as if they are going to need him to put up 40 to take care of the Blazers.
With the lack of quality depth up front for the Trailblazers, the Warriors are not likely going to feel the need to trot Bogut out there much, so you should see a smaller, faster lineup out there for both teams for most of the game. Makes sense, since that’s the only way you get to a total like 220. The Blazers’ guards both came into the break playing well, possibly feeling slighted for what seemed like a complete lack of consideration for an All-Star nod, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they start off the second half with the exact same attitude. It might not work against Golden State, but from a fantasy perspective, I can’t think of much of anything better than Lillard and McCollum doing everything in their collective power to try to single-handedly (double-handedly?) keep up with Golden State.
– Damian Lillard ($9,200)
– Draymond Green ($9,000)
– Klay Thompson ($7,600)
– C.J. McCollum ($7,100)
Denver Nuggets @ Sacramento Kings
Line: Kings -4
This should be a fun game to watch. Here we have two teams who don’t play much defense AND who like to push the ball – a perfect storm of fantasy production. The Nuggets don’t really have a lot of guys who can contend with Boogie, which tells me they will need to have Gallinari at the 3 for most of the night and run with two of their bigs out there, which could mean plenty of run for both Faried and Jokic.
The flip side of that is that running Faried and Jokic out there could allow the Kings to play Cousins and Cauley-Stein next to each other for long stretches as well. If Cauley-Stein could get his offensive game and rebounding ability all working at the same time, the combo of him and Cousins would be by far the most devastating weapon Sacramento could deploy. Instead, for now, the combo they rely on is Cousins and Gay, which can be explosive, but isn’t quite as much of a matchup nightmare.
This game would have the potential for being a fantasy point scoring bonanza for the guards, if the guards were the type to do that kind of thing. Rondo, of course, has the potential to exploit the terrible defense and uptempo pace, but he is dealing with turf toe right now, and without knowing if that will impact his minutes or his athleticism, it’s hard to recommend him. But if he is at full speed, he is a threat to produce well above his price tag here. If you’re running a bunch of different lineups out in a bigger tourney, it makes sense to include him in at least one of them.
– DeMarcus Cousins ($11,000)
– Danilo Gallinari ($6,900)
– Rudy Gay ($6,600)
– Kenneth Faried ($5,900)
Boston Celtics @ Utah Jazz
I am going to be honest – this combination of total and line makes zero sense to me. The fact that the game is a PK, in Utah, means that the Celtics are getting a good amount of respect here. But the total of 196 is the lowest on the board, which means Vegas is telling me the Jazz are going to be able to control the pace.
I understand the respect: the Celts have won nine of their last twelve, and are up to third in Eastern Conference. But I have a hard time buying this as a total – I would look hard at the over for this one. The Jazz keep scores low with their pacing, but they don’t have the individual defenders they need to force the Celtics to stick to that script, especially in the backcourt. I almost see this one in the opposite light: the Jazz have some quality players who score less than you might expect in terms of fantasy points, because of the lack of speed in their game plan. I see a matchup with the Celtics, then, being a boon – all of a sudden the Jazz could be forced into a faster pace, increasing the potential for everyone on the team. I love this scenario, because it creates a value play out of everyone on the Jazz roster, since their prices are based on a slower pace than what we could see tonight, they might all suddenly have a spike in opportunities. The Celtics players should be fine from a fantasy POV, but their prices are already based on a fast pace of play, so there is no automatic, built-in value. You’re going to have to be more old-fashioned with your fantasy theories, and just predict who you think will step up for them in this one.
– Gordon Hayward ($7,100)
– Derrick Favors ($7,000)
– Rudy Gobert ($6,700)
– Jae Crowder ($5,700)
San Antonio Spurs @ Los Angeles Lakers
Line: Spurs -13.5
This total isn’t the lowest on the board, but when you factor in the line, Vegas is predicting the smallest output of the night coming from the Lakers. And can you blame them? One of the worst offenses in basketball facing off against one of the best defenses does not typically make for a very competitive game. The Spurs came out last night and got by 19 by the Clippers, with Kawhi sitting it out with a “left calf.” The Sputs might know in their heads that the Clips just matchup well with them, and that they’re missing their best player in Kawhi, but that doesn’t make the loss sting less. And you know they don’t want to stick around in LA an extra day just to lose twice on the same court. And Leonard is not even on the injury report here tonight, so hopefully that means the All-Star break + 1 extra day was enough to cure his “left calf injury” and he’ll be back in action tonight.
For the Lakers, everyone is available, but with the way the Spurs defend the perimeter, most of them might as well not be. They would need to rely on keeping the score low, getting the ball in low to Randle and Hibbert and hoping Kobe is hitting his shots if they want to try to steal a win here. And it’s debatable whether that’s actually what they want anyway.
– Kawhi Leonard ($7,500)
– Julius Randle ($6,000)
– Kobe Bryant ($6,000)
– Patty Mills ($4,500)