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. Good luck!
Washington Wizards @ Indiana Pacers
Line: Pacers -7.5
The story of the Wizards right now is one of injuries. Otto Porter might not play tonight, so you can look at Jared Dudley. Beal is still on a minutes restriction, so maybe Wall gets even more scoring opportunities than he might otherwise. Gortat and Humphries are both out, so all of a sudden Drew Gooden and Nene Hilario are both basically locks for 35 minutes or more. There are prices you can take advantage of across the board.
And for Indiana, the story is all about Paul George. He started off the year on fire, and even during a downturn he has been a relatively consistent fantasy performer. But with him, the thing is that if his shot starts dropping for just one night, the massive upside is always lurking, even as his price is steadily declining. When the matchup is in his favor, like it is tonight, he should be someone who makes an appearance at least somewhere on your GPP rosters.
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Line: OKC -12.5
This line almost couldn’t be high enough. The Thunder defend the post well enough to really limit the Timberwolves best matchup problem against most teams, Karl-Anthony Towns. And the other players on the Wolves roster, even a Wiggins, while they are good, they are just lesser versions of the Thunder players at this point. Much lesser.
Over the last five games, Durant and Westbrook are averaging a combined 98 fantasy points per game. That’s 47.4 points, 13.7 assists, 17 rebounds, and 3 steals per game. Durant is shooting over 50% from the floor over that stretch, including 40% from three. These two are a force, and they’re bringing it every night. If this keeps up into summer, no one is going to want to try to top these two four times in seven games.
Phoenix Suns @ Boston Celtics
Line: Celtics -9
For a team who has lost six of their last eight to be favored by 9, you know something is going terribly wrong in Phoenix. And that something is Eric Bledsoe’s absence. If nothing changes, the rest of these guys could be in for a long second half of the season. Their strength all season long was their ability to push the pace, and the fact that their backcourt duo could present matchup problems, but Bledsoe’s defensive versatility meant those issues only went one way. Now, Brandon Knight (should be available tonight) is left as the only creator and scorer on the team, and he doesn’t have the defensive presence to make even his best games a clear advantage over the opponent. Up front, Alex Len’s injury should open up additional playing time for Tyson Chandler, who could be very productive with a few extra minutes against this Celtics team.
The Celtics have been having a lot of issues lately, but at home, against a team that will let them push the pace and get good looks almost at will from the guard spots, this line makes sense. Isaiah Thomas is getting more opportunities than he probably should, but that is nothing but good news for his fantasy owners. The Celtics will likely go small in this one, which should mean Marcus Smart can get some run without destroying the value of Bradley and Turner, so there will likely be at least two solid fantasy performers from that four-man group.
Portland Trailblazers @ Brooklyn Nets
Line: Portland -4
The Nets have been in a bad way without Jarrett Jack. That sentence sort of epitomizes the precarious position they were in even before his injury, but still. They don’t have a single player capable of effectively bringing the ball up the court, getting the team set in an offense and making an entry pass, never mind one capable of leading a break and creating an open look for a teammate. But hey, they beat the Knicks on Wednesday – I guess anything is possible. They did it with the help of Shane Larking scoring 17 and dishing out 5 assists off the bench, so he could have earned himself some additional time. Until that situation plays out entirely, though, it’s hard to trust any of their guards. If you’re going to play a Net, it basically has to be either Young or Lopez, and you just have to hope they are clearing the boards and creating their own opportunities.
In Portland, Damian Lillard is back. He’s got four games under his belt since returning from injury, and he looks like himself, averaging just over 57 fantasy points per game since his return. So, we’re back where we started with them – two guys to trust, night in and night out, no exceptions. If you’re trying to win money, you’re not starting Portland forwards or centers. It’s an easy rule to remember.
Dallas Mavericks @ Chicago Bulls
Line: Mavs -1.5
The Mavericks are still sitting at 22-18, in 5th place in the West. They have lost their last two – to OKC on Wednesday and in OT against Cleveland back on Tuesday. They are going to look to get back on track in this one against another good opponent, who nonetheless are going to feel like a break after the last two buzz saws these guys ran into. If Zaza remains out in this one, look for Dwight Powell to get some sudden extended run (32 minutes last time with Pachulia missing, good for 25 real cheap fantasy points).
The Bulls, for their part, are coming off a win last night, but it took overtime against the Sixers. Following that up with a game against a much better opponent the next day might be asking too much of their injury-depleted roster. With Pau likely out again, that leaves Jimmy Butler as the only option worth recommending, unless you’re looking for a cheap cash-game fill-in, and I don’t know if Butler can turn in another performance like he did last night (53-10-6 with 3 steals), again, and against a better team.
Charlotte Hornets @ New Orleans Pelicans
Line: New Orleans -2.5
It honestly might be safe to say even Charlotte fans are happy Davis is active for this one, just to give them something potentially entertaining to watch. He played 37 minutes against Sacramento on Wednesday, going for 24-10, and that was with Cousins on the court opposite. Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky should not pose too much of a threat, as long as he can keep getting that much run. In fact, with Tyreke listed as questionable and really potentially missing tonight’s game, Davis should get fed and could end up seeing the higher end of his upside in this one, which is certainly saying something for a player of his caliber.
For Charlotte, with Big Al still out, Kaminsky makes some sense for his defensive abilities, but he is a total liability on the offensive end, which means they would like to be able to make do as much as possible with some extra minutes for Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams. Unfortunately, though, this team is still at a point where their plays are more often than not dictated to them by their opponent and not the other way around. And Davis might very well dictate the presence of as much defense as possible in this one.
Atlanta Hawks @ Milwaukee Bucks
Line: Hawks -3.5
Both of these teams seem to play great defense against the guard spots, but can’s seem to defend down low. I absolutely expect the under to hit in this one, and I don’t even think I’ll have to sweat it out too much – it’ll just be me you hear rooting loudly for no overtime. But the reason I expect that is that I think both of these teams will be feeding their big men in the half court, likely the best option they will have to try to get the ball in the hoop.
Neither of these teams played last night, and both are coming off losses Wednesday night. The Bucks are dropped a tight on to the Wizards, but the Hawks got blown out by the Hornets – you know they don’t want a repeat of that performance. I would expect to see big games from their best players, making Millsap and Hereford both great fantasy options in this one. Millsap was the only Hawk with even a halfway-decent game Wednesday, finishing with 20 points and 5 boards and proving that he not only has the most upside on the team, he is also the most consistent.
Miami Heat @ Denver Nuggets
Line: Heat -2
Hassan Whiteside returned to action Wednesday, coming off the bench, but tallying 27 minutes with 10 points, 11 boards, and 3 blocks. He should be back in the starting lineup Friday, but the question will be how effective the Heat are at controlling the pace. If Miami can keep the Nuggets from running them into a small-ball lineup, Denver doesn’t have anyone who can stop Whiteside in the half court. He should be able to dominate the defensive boards and the low blocks, and is an obvious choice for a double-double, with a chance at reaching the heights of his upside with 20 or more points.
In the backcourt, Dragic is going to continue to miss time, and in the first game he missed on Wednesday, Beno Udrih was the most obvious beneficiary, going from unusable to sort of usable. With 17 fantasy points in 28 minutes, though, he didn’t exactly give you a cheap exciting option. Tyler Johnson is a guy who could potentially do more with the increased opportunity from a fantasy perspective, so I will be curious to see if he exceeds the 25 or so he has been averaging over the past month.
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Houston Rockets
Line: Cavs -2
The Cavs won the first leg of a three game Texas swing Tuesday in Dallas, and then dropped a tight one last night in San Antonio, 99-95. But Kawhi is just the perfect foil to LeBron – the Rockets don’t have one of those. The main thing to remember about the Cavs, though, is that they are pretty much definitely going to be the #1 seed in the East. So what matters to them right now isn’t going 3-0 on a Texas trip, it’s seeing the consistent progression for guys like Kyrie and Tristan Thompson, and that is exactly what they’re getting. Irving’s averages are steadily going up in every category since his return, and Thompson gives them the kind of athletic body down low to let them adapt to any kind of matchup, all while averaging almost a double-double.
For Houston, winners of five straight, this is the kind of game that can be used as a measuring stick. Despite their slow start, there has always been a chance the Rockets ripped off something like a 15-2 stretch to get themselves right back in the mix, and a win tonight could propel them into something exactly like that. But if they want that to happen, with the way Cleveland defends up front, it’s going to have to come in the form of a big game from Harden (averaging 27-6-7 over his last five).