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.
Phoenix Suns @ New York Knicks
Line: NYK (-8.5)
There is no line from Vegas on this one because no one is quite sure if Carmelo is going to play – he sat out last night, but told reporters he could be back for tonight’s game, and also because Porzingis missed last night and there has yet to be any kind of update on his status either. But with all respect to the Suns, even if Carmelo and Porzingis sit out, with no Knight or Bledsoe, I think you have a pretty good idea what this line and total might look like. This team has been built around guard play all year, by which I mean they have no good frontcourt options to speak of, so look for Archie Goodwin and Devin Booker to slide into the minutes and almost the entire roles of the two starters while they both remain out. When Knight comes back, they might move to some kind of split and ruin both their values, so take advantage now.
For the Knicks, Derrick Williams would be in line for an increased role if Carmelo does miss. He had a seriously down night last night, but still was out there for 28 minutes, and at the price, he has plenty of upside (40+ DK FP in the two game prior). Based on a sample size of just a single game (last night), O’Quinn would be the biggest beneficiary if Porzingis missed (in last night’s game, he had 19 minutes for 8-6-3 and 2 blocks, good for 25 DK FP).
– Derrick Williams ($5,700)
– Archie Goodwin ($5,600)
– Devin Booker ($5,500)
– Arron Afflalo ($5,200)
– Kyle O’Quinn ($3,000)
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Detroit Pistons
Line: Cavs -4
On paper, the only person who has a good matchup in this game is Timofey Mosgov. So why don’t you start him – he’s cheap enough.
The takeaway from this line, then, is that Vegas doesn’t believe the on-paper matchups. With both defenses ranked inside the top-10 in terms of fantasy defense against PG (maybe a little different in CLE now with Kyrie back), SF and PF, and yet Vegas thinks both of these teams are going over 100. Detroit can guard most small forwards because they can stop them from getting to the rim without fouling. Cleveland can defend most big men because they can rotate through three or four quality defensive big men and LeBron is fast enough to play help D and strong enough to make a difference when he gets there.
In other words, both of these teams succeed with team defense. But when you’re dealing with top options like LeBron and Drummond, you need individual defenders who can stop them, and these teams don’t have those guys.
– LeBron James ($9,700)
– Andre Drummond ($8,600)
– Reggie Jackson ($7,000)
– J.R. Smith ($5,500)
Orlando Magic @ Boston Celtics
Line: Boston -8
Isaiah Thomas is listed as questionable, but there is nothing to worry about there – he finished the game Wednesday and is expected to start tonight as well. Which is a good thing, because it’s pretty hard to trust basically anyone else on their team right now. Him and Avery Bradley are the only two getting enough minutes to trust, or enough shots to have any upside, even if Jaw Crowder is the best player on the team.
Even if they don’t have great fantasy options, Stevens has the pieces working well enough to have kept this team afloat a few games over .500 for most of the season. The Magic, on the other hand, have lost seven straight and eleven of twelve, dropping games to teams from every end of the spectrum. But the team with all those losses probably has the more reliable fantasy options at the end of the day. What little fantasy production their team does have is consolidation in just a few guys, which makes them easier to trust – and in this matchup, all of their bigs should be starts and their guards should be sits. It’s that simple sometimes.
– Isaiah Thomas ($7,800)
– Nikola Vucevic ($7,600)
– Avery Bradley ($6,000)
Miami Heat @ Milwaukee Bucks
Line: PICK EM
There is no line in this game either, with Whiteside’s status up in the air. And while Whiteside playing or not playing is obviously a big deal, it’s not like the Heat are easy to predict when they’re healthy. Whiteside could be one of the most unpredictable players in the league when he’s active, so knowing for sure he was out might actually make selecting your Heat an easier task, not a harder one.
There are two players I know for sure I want in at least a lineup tonight: Giannis and Bosh. Antetokounmpo got ejected from last night’s 20-point loss to the Grizzlies, and is going to be coming back raring to help his team, and facing just the matchup to do it. If there is a weak spot in the Heat’s defense, it’s defending just his brand of athletic swingman. And since the Bucks are already a slow team, the Bucks’ players already have that baked into their price, so there is no automatic drop off when facing the Heat just because the game slows down. Bosh is Mr. Consistency, but especially if Whiteside doesn’t play. A great cash game option, he is basically a lock for 30+ fantasy points with 40+ point upside, not bad value for the price.
– Chris Bosh ($7,700)
– Giannis Antetokounmpo ($7,100)
– Greg Monroe ($7,000)
– Justise Winslow ($4,500)
Houston Rockets @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Line: OKC -7.5
Two-hundred and twenty-two points. With this line, that means that Vegas expects the Rockets to lose and still put up almost 110 points. But more importantly, lose. The Thunder are primed to be the best third seed in the playoffs any of us have ever seen, setting up a truly epic round 2 battle. I am already excited to see Durant and Westbrook try to take down one of the top two seeds. And the excitement is there because of the way those two are playing – it’s a thing of beauty. That’s how you win 11 of 12 and 17 of 20.
The Rockets are still hanging on to the 7th seed in the West with the break coming up in a couple of weeks, and if anything have been playing slightly better. They just ripped off four in a row before getting smoked by San Antonio, and they did it in large part on the strong play of Harden and Ariza. Even if the results aren’t much better against OKC than they were against the Spurs, these guys can still add value to a fantasy roster. They like to play a fast-paced game – which OKC will oblige – but doesn’t always have enough scorers to follow through. So the ones they do have get plenty of opportunities.
– Russell Westbrook ($10,800)
– Kevin Durant ($10,100)
– James Harden ($10,000)
– Trevor Ariza ($5,500)
Brooklyn Nets @ Dallas Mavericks
Line: Mavs -9.5
The Mavs don’t really score that much, coming in at 19th overall in points scored per game so far on the season, with the 10th highest winning percentage. They are winning games with efficiency and defense with plenty of late-game execution. For them to be favored by almost 10, it takes a team with a serious lack of potential. On the injury front, Zaza Pachulia has missed three starts, and in his absence, Salah Mejri has played reasonably well, but Pachulia is expected back tonight.
The Nets only have three wins in 2016, and it’s not hard to imagine it staying at three after this one. But Dallas doesn’t exactly have the best defensive backcourt in the game, which is a good thing if you’re a Brooklyn fan. The Nets’ best players (and fantasy options) are the PF and C, and their biggest problem is literally not having the guards to even get them the ball. They can’t bring the ball up, get set in an offense and get their scorers the ball in positions to succeed against elite defenses. Against Dallas, you probably still shouldn’t expect the Nets’ guards to score, but they should at least be able to get Young and Lopez the ball. This one might be closer than you think.
– Brook Lopez ($7,100)
– Thaddeus Young ($6,300)
– Dirk Nowitzki ($6,300)
– Zaza Pachulia ($5,800)
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Utah Jazz
Line: Jazz -7.5
Derrick Favors has two games under his belt back in the Utah lineup. He played 20 minutes his first time back, understandable after missing more than a month, and in his second game back, the Jazz were destroying the Hornets (29 point win), so he only played 21. But he should be in line to get a bunch more than that, if not quite his complement, going forward. The best player on the team, it shouldn’t take long for his presence to improve on the 7-9 record they had while he was out. He went over 20 DK FP in both of the last two even with the limited minutes, showing he is not returning too early and should go back to being a staple in your fantasy lineups soon enough. In fact, tonight might not be too soon, because he has the talent to really help you in a GPP against a good opponent (like tonight), while his price and ownership % are still slightly suppressed due to the injury.
For the Timberwolves, the results might not be there yet, but the promise is, both for the future of the franchise and for the future of your fantasy roster. Every night, playing Towns and Wiggins is enticing, because the talent so far outstrips the price. Of course, there is a reason for that, called “consistency.” The Jazz slow the game down enough and play enough D that tonight might not turn out to be the night to rely on those two, but as a shot in the dark to put you over the top in a big tourney, there are dumber moves you could make.
– Gordon Hayward ($7,500)
– Karl-Anthony Towns ($7,100)
– Rudy Gobert ($6,700)
– Derrick Favors ($6,600)
Charlotte Hornets @ Portland Trailblazers
Line: Portland -5.5
It really is fun watching a couple of guys like Lillard and McCollum start to learn how to play together. It’s too bad they just don’t have the forwards and centers to match up with anything up front. In their last outing, a matchup with the Kings, those two combined for just about 70 DK FP. Their other three starters combined for 68. That trend has been pretty consistent all season long, and when you know half of a team’s production is going to two guys, it makes it easy to decide what to do from a fantasy standpoint.
The Hornets had won three straight coming into their 29-point loss at Utah on Wednesday. The Blazers have one more win and one more loss than Utah, for a statistical tie in the standings, but the two teams could not be constructed more differently. Even with Big Al still out, the Hornets rely on their frontcourt for a good chunk of their offense, something Utah can defend much more easily than Portland, so at the very least, I would expect this one to be a much closer game. Especially because Charlotte also has Kemba Walker, the kind of streaky offensive player who might be enticed into trying to keep up with Lillard and McCollum and who has the skills to actually do it.
– Damian Lillard ($9,300)
– Kemba Walker ($8,700)
– C.J. McCollum ($7,400)
– Marvin Williams ($5,000)
Los Angeles Lakers @ Los Angeles Clippers
Line: LAC (-15.5)
Sure, it seems like one of the easiest “road” games you could ever have, but I don’t know – I bet it’s weird having to go to the visitor’s locker room. I bet they have a different parking lot and everything. I don’t know about you, but my route to work has me basically on autopilot every morning – how many of these guys do you think make at least one wrong turn trying to get where they’re going tonight?
I ask mainly because talking about the actual game in this one is not so much fun. The Lakers have lost seven straight now, and these two teams, who started off on opposite ends of the spectrum, are only getting even more separation from each other as time goes on and they move in opposite directions. The Clippers are experiencing all this recent success without Blake Griffin, who hasn’t played since Christmas. This has left them forced into playing some version of small ball + DeAndre, which seems to be working for them, mainly because it’s working for Chris Paul. He is averaging almost 8 more DK FP without Griffin than he was with him, taking advantage of increased shot opportunities. He’s scoring more with the same number of assists, which just goes to show that while a PG loves to have a good finisher around, Paul’s skill-set has been helping Blake more than the other way around.
The Lakers are coming off a 23-point loss to the Bulls last night, playing without Lou Williams. Julius Randle was their best performer, but Jordan Clarkson got some more shots up than usual and Nick Young contributed 14 points off the bench with Williams out with an illness. Also, I propose that from now on, when someone misses a game “with an illness,” we use language than makes the whole situation seem a little more harmless, and a little more familiar. If Williams misses tonight too, can we all agree to just think to ourselves: “he called out sick tonight?”
– Chris Paul ($9,800)
– Julius Randle ($5,900)
– J.J. Redick ($5,300)
– Paul Pierce ($3,800)