Check out a quick breakdown of every game on Friday’s eight-game 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.
Friday Injury Box
Be sure to follow injury news throughout the day for the latest breaking updates.
|Probable||Reggie Jackson (DET), Marcelo Huertas (LAL), Gorgui Dieng (MIN), Nerlens Noel (PHI), Marco Belinelli (SAC), Ersan Ilyasova (ORL)|
|Questionable||Brandon Bass (LAL), Kobe Bryant (LAL), Norris Cole (NO), Elfrid Payton (ORL), Omri Casspi (SAC), Rajon Rondo (SAC), Jonas Valanciunas (TOR), David Lee (DAL)|
|Doubtful||Jodie Meeks (DET), Richaun Holmes (PHI), Robert Covington (PHI), Kyle Lowry (TOR)|
|Out||Jae Crowder (BOS), Andre Iguodala (GSW), Anthony Brown (LAL), Nikola Vucevic (ORL), Jahlil Okafor (PHI), Meyers Leonard (POR), Ben McLemore (SAC), Jonas Jerebko (BOS)|
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Orlando Magic
Line: Cavs -7.5
The Cavs are flying somewhat under the radar considering they are likely the wire-to-wire Eastern Conference leader and are the presumptive Finals representative from the East. Maybe that’s why no one cares until the playoffs, since the whole thing seems like it is basically a wrap. They just keep plugging along, currently winners of four of their last five and coming off a win Wednesday night at home against Dallas in which Kyrie went for 33 with LeBron getting a night off. Kyrie missing the playoffs last year was a shame, honestly, because he is such a weapon – the kind of player who would likely have the Cavs in contention even if LeBron wasn’t there with him. And, against the defense-averse Orlando backcourt, he could be poised for a repeat performance even with James returning to the court. I would be less sure about the 23 and 18 for Love repeating, especially if LeBron comes back tonight.
“The Cavs present a nightmare matchup for Orlando at every position.”
Orlando here is running into a team that is vastly better than them. The Cavs present a nightmare matchup for Orlando at every position. They are running up against one of the only teams in the league with the ability to dominate them on the boards, apply defensive pressure on their scorers, and stifle their low post-scorers. I don’t love trusting any of these guys tonight in a game where they’ll be forced into playing an even slower pace than usual, and likely see their efficiency decline at the same time.
- LeBron James ($9,300)
- Kyrie Irving ($7,800)
- Victor Oladipo ($7,400)
- Aaron Gordon ($6,100)
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Philadelphia 76ers
Line: OKC -15.5
The worry here, of course, is that Westbrook and Durant basically just don’t play in the 4th quarter or something, right? Because those two are going to torch these guys. Without Okafor, Noel has shouldered basically the entire responsibility for interior defense, rebounding, and scoring. But the fact that he represents the entirety of Philly’s interior presence could mean one of two things: either a big game for Kanter, or him only getting 20 minutes. I could imagine him out there for long stretches late with the game in hand, which makes him an interesting option in a tourney, but maybe not so much in a cash game. The opposite is true of Ibaka – one way or another, he is going to get his minutes in a good matchup but he has been wildly inconsistent all season long.
I happily recommended Noel last night and he delivered. It was to the tune of 14 points, 18 rebounds and 7 steals, good for just a touch more than 50 DK FP. You’re obviously not going to see that every night, but it’s nice to see the upside show through so you know that, in addition to his value in cash games right now as the only option on his team, he can also be an interesting upside play in tournaments for the rest of the season with no Okafor. The only other real option for Philly right now is Ish Smith, averaging just over 30 fantasy points a night over the past couple of weeks.
- Russell Westbrook ($10,500)
- Kevin Durant ($10,100)
- Nerlens Noel ($6,700)
- Ish Smith ($6,400)
Continue your Friday Night NBA Research Journey
|Player Targets||Levitan's Leverage||Cheat Sheet|
|Game Breakdowns||Tournament Plays||Top 5's by Position|
Sacramento Kings @ Detroit Pistons
Line: Pistons -7
With Rondo questionable for tonight’s game with a toe injury, there’s one option that jumps off the page. Darren Collison is one of the best backup point guards in the league and has shown an ability to just step right in and take over whatever responsibilities the team needs. If Rondo sits, Darren Collison has been averaging over 37 DraftKings points per game this season with Rondo on the sidelines. He makes for one of the best cash game options on the board in that scenario.
Beyond Collison, the dynamic of DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond facing off is intriguing. Cousins is listed as a power forward on DraftKings and he looks like he is facing the 5th best defense against power forwards. Drummond looks like he is facing only the 11th best defense against centers, in terms of fantasy points. But in reality, they are playing each other. Last time that happened Cousins put up 33 points and Drummond countered 14 of his own, to go along with 17 rebounds. They are the only two consistently effective big men in the game. Cousins has proven he can score on Drummond and both should be able to clean up on the boards on Friday night.
- DeMarcus Cousins ($10,200)
- Andre Drummond ($8,100)
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($5,600)
- Darren Collison ($5,600)
Boston Celtics @ Toronto Raptors
Line: Raptors -3
These teams meet twice in the next five days, and those are the kinds of game the Celtics are going to be using as a measuring stick. Despite injuries and some bad luck here and there, the Raptors have been able to stay comfortably in front of everyone in the outside outside of Cleveland all season long. They have met twice previously this season, and the Raptors won both times, scoring over 110 points in the process. Because while the Celtics are good defensively against guards, for fantasy purposes, that goes out the window when they are facing guards from teams who normally play at a slow pace.
“The Raptors have that sweet spot of guards who will benefit tonight…”
The Raptors average 96.8 possessions per game, good for 29th in the league. The Celtics average 102.8, good for third. For the best players, the increase in opportunities resulting from the increased pace may or may not be offset by the defensive talent of Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley. I’ll explain with examples: when the Celtics play OKC, any decrease in Westbrook’s efficiency is a decrease in value, because Westbrook’s price is already based on a high rate of play. And when the Celtics play the Jazz, the increase in pace is actually more than offset by the decrease in efficiency, because the Jazz guards are terrible and can’t stand up to Smart and Bradley’s defense. The Raptors have that sweet spot of guards who will benefit tonight from the increased pace and are good enough to minimize the decrease in efficiency, which equals built-in DFS value. Got all that?
Also keep in mind that, while he hasn’t been a fantasy star at all times, Jae Crowder has maybe been the best player on the Celtics, and certainly has been one of the keys to their ability to play small ball with his ability to defend an array of different positions. With him missing time, the Celtics are forced to trot out more of their big men for more minutes (Sullinger and Olynyk have seen small upticks, and Zeller has seen 5 or 6 minutes more per game), and that isn’t really helping anyone. Except, perhaps, for a guy like Bismack Biyombo, who can definitely put up numbers against any of big men the Celtics run out there, and who is likely able to stay on the court a lot more against these revised, bigger, Boston lineups. (And if that doesn’t convince you, he is also coming off back-to-back double-doubles against Milwaukee and Indiana, in which he has totaled 28 points, 38 rebounds and four blocks).
- Kyle Lowry ($7,900) – QUESTIONABLE
- DeMar DeRozan ($7,600)
- Isaiah Thomas ($7,300)
- Bismack Biyombo ($4,600)
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Houston Rockets
Line: Rockets -8.5
This total is expecting both of these teams to score pretty well above their season averages, so if they’re right, there is value to be had all around. And frankly, that would make perfect sense. Neither of them exactly devote themselves to defense, and the guys you actually want to use fit into their matchups nicely. They have played once before this season, a 107-104 Houston victory. Dwight Howard and Karl-Anthony Towns both had double-doubles. Harden and Wiggins scored 27 and 28 points, respectively. Ricky Rubio had a dozen assists. There could be a ton of fantasy goodness in this one.
With Rubio, Wiggins, and LaVine, with Towns in the middle, the Wolves are building a core that can compete for a long time in the new NBA that features less pounding it in the middle and requires more and more perimeter talent. It’ll be fun to watch if management doesn’t screw it up – they just need the right role players and a little maturation. Some shooters, a couple of solid defenders and a year of experience from now, this could be one of the best teams in the West. Against the Rockets you should be able to see that full potential on display…even if it is not enough to actually win the game.
- James Harden ($10,400)
- Karl-Anthony Towns ($8,300)
- Dwight Howard ($7,500)
- Andrew Wiggins ($6,300)
Portland Trailblazers @ New Orleans Pelicans
Line: New Orleans -1.5
The Pelicans backcourt has been hit by some tough injuries this year, to the point that they are relying on Jrue Holiday and Toney Douglas to occupy almost all of the available minutes. Douglas had a big game against Golden State this past Monday, going off for 46.25 DK FP, but other than that game, he has cracked 30 fantasy points only once. He could be a decent cash game option if you’re willing to accept something like 25 DK FP. The other option here is Tim Frazier ($3,400), who played 27 minutes in his Pelicans debut and had just over 33 DraftKings points.
“Specifically, they have a hole the size and shape of Anthony Davis…”
The other story with the Pelicans’ backcourt is the matchup for the opposing Blazers. Lillard and McCollum both have an opportunity to come through big in this one, with no one out on the floor with them who can run with them or keep them from getting open looks from deep. The Blazers will need performances exactly like that, because they have their own holes. Specifically, they have a hole the size and shape of Anthony Davis, who has scored over 50 DK FP in four of his last six games. The last time these two teams faced off was December 23rd, and the Pelicans won by 26 points on the back of a 28-12 performance from their All-World big man, and it is easy to imagine him bringing that same level of effectiveness tonight.
- Anthony Davis ($10,000)
- Damian Lillard ($9,200)
- C.J. McCollum ($6,400)
- Ryan Anderson ($5,700)
Golden State Warriors @ Dallas Mavericks
Line: Warriors -8.5
The last time out for the Warriors was a 36-point win over the Knicks on Wednesday. You’d think this one is not likely to be quite so much of a blowout. For the Warriors, Klay Thompson had one huge game and one average game against the Mavs this season – equaling out to 37 DK FPPG. He’s a streaky shooter and it’s not a guarantee that he’ll be as efficient in this one, but the upside is certainly there if he can get the three point stroke going.
The Mavericks have had some success against the Warriors on the fantasy side of things, with both Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons averaging slightly above their season average in DraftKings points in those two games against Golden State this season. The total in this game is really high, and the last time these teams played there were 234 points scored in total. Parsons seems to have a pretty good matchup against Harrison Barnes, and Dirk should see a lot of Draymond Green, which makes his ceiling a little lower for Friday night. Zaza Pachulia is another interesting option who has played well at times of late but will have to deal with the equally gritty Andrew Bogut.
- Draymond Green ($8,000)
- Klay Thompson ($7,000)
- Chandler Parsons ($6,500)
- Zaza Pachulia ($4,000)
Phoenix Suns @ Los Angeles Lakers
Line: Lakers -3
The great thing about this game is that you already know exactly who to target. No defense, solid pace, and players who know their best shot at winning this game and at being noticed individually is to just try to score as much as possible, as quickly as possible. Brandon Knight should have 20+ shot attempts and so should D’Angelo Russell. You almost hope Kobe misses (questionable with a shoulder injury), just so he doesn’t throw a wrench into your well-thought-out expectations. If Kobe does sit, look for Lou Williams to continue to get a ton of opportunities to huck threes up, as well for the Lakers.
“The Lakers don’t have anyone defensively that can slow Booker down.”
Devin Booker should also be able to make the most of his chances (even if they are somewhat limited by Knight’s return to the lineup). The Lakers don’t have anyone defensively that can slow Booker down. Prior to a dud on Wednesday against a strong Utah defense, Booker had at least 26 DK points in seven consecutive games. Up front, Alex Len should be able to control the glass and should see his double-digit rebounds streak continue.
- Brandon Knight ($7,000)
- Alex Len ($6,800)
- D’Angelo Russell ($6,700)
- Julius Randle ($6,300)