Check out a quick breakdown of every game 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.
Indiana Pacers @ Atlanta Hawks
Line: Hawks -4.5
This game confuses min one sense: here are two teams traditionally strong on defense, but not so much this year. But they are also two teams who traditionally rely on size and interior scoring for their success, and even if some of the faces have changed, that remains true in a lot of ways. For Indiana, the first way is Myles Turner. The rookie center had 22.75 DK FP on Wednesday against Brooklyn, his lowest output in three weeks. Over his eight previous games, he had been over 30 six times, with only one game of fewer than eight boards and only one game with single digit scoring. As he starts to hone his game and build the bulk to carve out space inside, he has the potential to be an athletic big man who can run and help space the floor all while giving fantasy owners the potential of a double-double every single night.
For Atlanta, they have Horford, whose main job lately seems to be keeping all the biggest defenders away from Millsap. If Millsap ends up with Jordan Hill on him all night, he will have his way on offense and open up things for his guards (and even Horford) to get plenty of open looks as well. And just like that, so much for the traditionally strong defenses.
– Paul George ($8,400)
– Paul Millsap ($8,000)
– Myles Turner ($6,500)
– Jeff Teague ($5,900)
Miami Heat @ Charlotte Hornets
Line: Miami -1
For some reason, I like the fact that Kemba Walker being questionable means Vegas can’t set a total for the game, but either way, they’re OK favoring Miami by a point on the road. Walker is the best offensive player on the Hornets, especially with Big Al not playing, so of course his availability will go a long way towards determining how much they can score. But Miami does a great job of playing defense, spreading the ball around, and doing just as much as they need to to grab a win, which is how the end up being favored in Charlotte. We will likely get to see exactly how much of that holds true tonight, because despite the questionable tag, Kemba is expected to play, and his shooting gives Charlotte a much better chance of keeping this one close.
Miami is 6th in the East, six games over .500. The Hornets are just a game away from being .500 and three games behind the Pistons for the final playoff spot in the conference.They have played twice this season and have split the series, with both games ended up with double-digit margins, and their weak spots defensively line up nicely with the other team’s strengths. In other words, there are reasons for each team to like this matchup. The Heat don’t have a wing defender strong enough to stay in front of Batum and Kidd-Gilchrist, and the Hornets don’t have an answer for a PF like Bosh who can face up to the basket and drain mid-range jumpers.
– Chris Bosh ($7,400)
– Hassan Whiteside ($7,400)
– Nicolas Batum ($6,300)
– Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($5,200)
Los Angeles Clippers @ Orlando Magic
Line: Clippers -4
The storyline of the year with the Clips is all about Blake. For a guy who has dominated in the postseason the way he has, it seems absurd that any team would consider trading him, but we seem to have reached that point. But to be fair, it also seems absurd that a team would be able to play as well as LA has after losing a player of that caliber.
After winning four in a row, they lost to the Timberwolves on Wednesday, a performance you would think they’re going to be looking to make up for tonight, and with the strength of Orlando’s team up front, it is going to be Chris Paul taking that task on his shoulders tonight. His price has gone up with Blake out, but not quite high enough to account for all his increased production. He is a solid cornerstone of a fantasy lineup in any type of contest tonight.
– Chris Paul ($9,500)
– Nikola Vucevic ($7,300)
– Victor Oladipo ($6,900)
– J.J. Redick ($4,900)
Philadelphia 76ers @ Washington Wizards
Line: Wizards -9.5
Apparently Vegas thinks the bad defense is going to outweigh the bad offense. And the great thing about that for us fantasy players is that prices don’t fluctuate that fast. Hopefully explaining what I mean will give you a context through which to view these lines and totals from Vegas in all games going forward: if you simply combined the average scores of these two teams to get the total, it would be 197. In other words, 197 points are baked into the prices of the players on these teams. If all of a sudden they’re scoring 215, that means both of these teams are scoring something like 7-10 points above their season averages, and there are values to be had. And in this case, the values are all over the board. Gortat can’t play against teams who go small, but Okafor being out there means his minutes should be solid. All the wing players and guards are going to be facing a defense that will allow them to push the pace and end up with more opportunities than they’re used to. And since they can’t shoot, there will be plenty of long rebounds to go around to help pad some stat lines. Fantasy production for all! Yay!
– John Wall ($9,700)
– Ish Smith ($7,100)
– Marcin Gortat ($6,800)
– Robert Convington ($6,200)
Sacramento Kings @ Brooklyn Nets
Line: Kings -5.5
You kind of just have to laugh, right? A team that’s 7 games under .500 favored by 5.5 3,000 miles from their home court? Not often seen, to say the least. But the Nets have lost five in a row and fifteen of their last seventeen. They lost five, won one, lost five, won one, and then lost five. Maybe they’re going to win one tonight? I can recognize a pattern when I see it. I’m sure the math holds up.
But in all seriousness, if the Nets were going to win tonight, how would it happen? I know, Rondo and Cousins are both listed on DK as questionable, but in reality, they are both likely to play, so let’s not go down that road. Realistically, if the Nets won it would be because Donald Sloan was able to get the ball over halfcourt and get the team into their sets with more than ten seconds on the shot clock, Joe Johnson would knock down all his open looks, Thaddeus Young would use his speed to keep Cousins off-balance on defense and to get into the lane, creating open looks for guys like Wayne Ellington on the outside and Brook Lopez in the paint. The part that’s not likely? Donald Sloan. Young is entirely capable of creating matchup problems for the Kings and then exploiting it, keeping Cousins on a guy like Lopez, who is for his own part, entirely capable of pinning him to the block, eliminating both rebounding and help-defense chances for the Kings’ star forward.
For the Kings, aside from the usual suspects, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a big game out of Rudy Gay here, as the Nets just don’t have any semblance of the size on the perimeter they would need to keep him from his spots. With five straight games of 30 or more DK FP before Wednesday, he’s going to be looking to get back on track in this one.
– DeMarcus Cousins ($11,300)
– Brook Lopez ($7,700)
– Rudy Gay ($7,000)
– Thaddeus Young ($6,200)
Boston Celtics @ Cleveland Cavaliers
Line: Cavs -7
In a sort of best-case scenario here, the Celtics will be able to have enough success and make enough shots to force the tempo a bit and create a game-flow where everyone on the court gets more opportunities. The Celtics have no answer for a big man who can control the paint, which, until recently would have meant Thompson was my sneaky recommendation here. But Love has started playing really well recently, averaging more than two shot attempts per game more since the coaching change that went down a couple of weeks ago. And now all of a sudden Love and Thompson are looking less like starter and backup and more like a 4-5 tandem that could help the Cavs run a small-er ball lineup out there that can still dominate the glass. That kind of lineup will come in very handy against the top teams in the west later on when the games matter most, and the Celtics – a lesser version of those teams – should make for an excellent practice.
– LeBron James ($9,600)
– Kevin Love ($7,800)
– Isaiah Thomas ($7,500)
– Tristan Thompson ($5,200)
Memphis Grizzlies @ New York Knicks
Line: Grizzlies -3.5
One of the lower totals on the board for the night, both of these teams have put their fans in the unenviable position of rooting for offenses that are simultaneously slow-moving and inefficient. The good thing about watching a game like this though is that both of these teams have pieces that will show flashes of real greatness. And of course, that’s the sad thing too, because who wouldn’t love to see Carmelo in an offense with a point guard to run the high pick and roll and shooters spread out all around him? Or Mike Conley running an offense that led the league in attempts and gave him finishers on the wings who would do nothing be relentlessly crash through the lane and toward the rim?
Alas, huh? Jeff Green and Arron Afflalo are gonna have to do. And, hence the 196.5 total. The thing working in Memphis’ favor is that the Knicks really have no defensive answer for their strengths. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, do have bodies they can throw at Melo to try to keep the Knicks offense as a whole stymied without their best weapon. Last time these two met, Memphis won without Conley even playing, behind 37 point out of Gasol and a total of 51 points and 14 boards from him and Randolph. The question isn’t if they can do it again, but what can New York possibly do differently to try to stop them?
– Carmelo Anthony ($8,500)
– Marc Gasol ($7,600)
– Mike Conley ($6,200)
– Zach Randolph ($5,900)
Chicago Bulls @ Denver Nuggets
With Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler both listed as questionable, it’s no wonder Vegas isn’t setting an early line for this one. Of the two, it seems much more likely that Butler misses, since Pau played (and played well) on Wednesday, seemingly untroubled by whatever hand issue he is dealing with, at least too much. If Butler does end up missing, expect Tony Snell to pick up a few extra minutes, and while you’re at it, expect everything about the Bulls to look just a little bit worse. Butler is the best player they have at just about everything, and a game plan that didn’t include him would likely include a heavy, steady dose of pounding it down low. Let’s hope that hand can hold up for Pau.
For Denver, Jameer Nelson missed on Wednesday. If he is out again, it should mean plenty of minutes for Mudiay, but it also turns Gallinari into much more of a playmaker, spending more time with his hands on the ball. That will lead to plenty of shots, knowing him, and hopefully also some assists to help him pad that final line (and fantasy score).
– Pau Gasol ($8,700)
– Danilo Gallinari ($6,900)
– Kenneth Faried ($5,600)
– Tony Snell ($3,400)
Milwaukee Bucks @ Utah Jazz
Line: Jazz -7
The lowest total on the board by far, you might think that’s a sign that Vegas is telling you to stay away. But especially on the Utah side of the ball, at least the fantasy points that will be available are likely to be consolidated in a small number of players. Their production is often limited almost entirely to their frontcourt, with Hayward, Favors and Gobert giving them their best chance to win most nights. Favors has five games back now in his return from injury, and has played 35 minutes a night in each of the last three. With Hayward playing better recently, he should get plenty of attention from Giannis and Middleton on defense. This could lead to even more opportunities than usual for Favors, and a chance for him to really bursts back onto the scene with a massive upside performance. He seems like a no-brainer GPP play to me before we see his price spike back up to pre-injury levels.
For Milwaukee, the opposite is true. When you look at their roster, and their fantasy production, I for one think to myself “why haven’t they won more games?” They have a lot of pieces, but haven’t found the combinations that seem to allow all their talent to shine together. You’re likely to get at least one or two good fantasy performances from them tonight, but there’s a lot more conjecture that goes into trying to figure out who that will be. I like Giannis and Carter-Williams in this one because of their ability to fill up the stat sheet from positions on the perimeter that will keep them away from the steel of Utah’s defense.
– Giannis Antetokounmpo ($7,100)
– Derrick Favors ($7,000)
– Rudy Gobert ($6,700)
– Michael Carter-Williams ($6,100)
San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks
Line: Spurs -6.5
The Spurs might be something like 15 games up on Dallas right now, but these two teams match up pretty well. They have played twice this season, and the Spurs won both times, but the game in Dallas ended at 88-83. The key is just the idea that the Mavericks want to slow it down, and the Spurs don’t mind letting them. In fact, they both slow it down enough and play good enough defense that I could easily see myself avoiding this game altogether if I am only putting together a small number of lineups.
With Duncan out, Aldridge has been a stud, averaging just over 34 DK FP over that stretch, 3 or 4 points a game up from his season average. That makes him a safe play in a cash game, because it doesn’t seem like his opportunities are going anywhere. Ands he has also put up a season high in points in each of their last two games, capped off by a 36-6 performance in a win against the Pelicans on Wednesday, and that makes him a strong choice in a tournament as well.
– Kawhi Leonard ($7,800)
– LaMarcus Aldridge ($7,100)
– Zaza Pachulia ($5,700)
– Deron Williams ($5,600)