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 @ Charlotte Hornets
Line: Hornets -3
The Pacers are now a game back of the Hornets in the loss column after losing three of their last four, including a 1-point loss to Charlotte last week. In that game, Kemba Walker nailed the game winner to get to 22 points, and Marvin Williams led the way for Charlotte with 26 points and 13 boards. One player you might expect to be able to have a big game, Nicolas Batum, did not, finishing with only 6 points and 7 assists. But if there is one thing I would expect to be different this time around, that is it – Batum should have no problem getting looks against defenders like Monta Ellis and should come away from this one with a more impressive stat line.
For Indiana in that game, why don’t you guess who their top performer was? You were right! It was Paul George. It’s always Paul George. His 32-6-4 with three steals and a block got your 53 DK FP. He has had a couple of off scoring nights in his last three, which is not good for Indiana’s chances when it happens, so a trip to face an opponent he school just a week ago could be exactly what he needs to get back on the right track. George Hill, Monta Ellis and Rodney Stuckey – all the guards rotating in for Indiana – are going to have their hands full on the defensive end during this one, which should leave George all the opportunities he can handle while picking up the slack on offense. No one else on the team had more than 15 points against this squad last time, and that someone was Myles Turner. Williams and Turner play differently enough that there was basically a permanent mismatch at the PF slot, as each player was able to take advantage of the other at times, a theme I would expect to play out the same way tonight.
– Paul George ($8,100)
– Nicolas Batum ($6,600)
– Marvin Williams ($5,800)
– Myles Turner ($5,400)
Phoenix Suns @ Orlando Magic
Line: Magic -12.5
Talking about how much the Suns have been losing is defined only by how far you want to go back. They have lost two in a row, fifteen out of sixteen, 21 out of 23, 30 out of their last 33. This is a team that just can’t play any style of basketball effectively right now. The majority of looks are still going to the guards in what was designed to be an offense featuring Knight and Bledsoe, except now the names are Ronnie Price, Archie Goodwin and Devin Booker. It’s not quite as effective, unsurprisingly. And that, my friends, is how you end up with a Magic team six games under .500 in the East and favored by 12.5 points.
After a long run of double-digit rebounding performances, Aaron Gordon had failed to hit that threshold in four straight games prior to their meeting with Chicago earlier this week. For me, I am taking his 15 rebounds in that one as an encouraging sign that while, like anyone, he is going t have ups and down in his seasons, the success he’s had over the past few weeks is not a fluke. Gordon is here to stay as a productive forward in the NBA, and his price is likely only going up from here.
Editor’s Note (5:55 PM ET): Victor Oladipo is OUT tonight for the Magic. Evan Fournier will return but look for Mario Hezonja to draw the start again (as he did for Fournier on Wednesday). Hezonja ($3900) had a big night on Wednesday, scoring 35 fantasy points in 37 minutes. He does come with some risk though as he’s heavily dependent on getting shot attempts and the rotations for Scott Skiles and the Magic are always tumultuous but at that price he’s a very strong value option tonight.
– Victor Oladipo ($7,100)
– Aaron Gordon ($6,800)
– P.J. Tucker ($4,600)
– Ronnie Price ($4,100)
Miami Heat @ Philadelphia 76ers
Line: Heat -9.5
Editor’s Note (5:20 PM): Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Kendall Marshall and Nik Stauskas are all OUT tonight for the Sixers. Philadelphia will start Ish Smith, Robert Covington, Hollis Thompson, Jerami Grant and Carl Landry. Of that group, Landry is the only one who might not see a ton of minutes tonight against Miami and the other four are all viable options on an extremely depleted roster. Grant and Smith are the two biggest beneficiaries as both should see more shot opportunities with Noel (around 8 FGA per game) and Okafor (around 15 FGA per game) out.
The Heat are coming off a 108-92 dismantling of the Suns last night, and amazingly enough, the Sixers actually probably present more of a challenge right now. Even without Jahlil Okafor (missed the last two games, listed as day-to-day), they have some weapons, but the Heat’s suffocating defense is the kind of thing that just stalls an offense in it’s tracks. They don’t just stifle so-called weapons, they keep them from getting the ball and force everyone into bad shots just by virtue of never allowing an offense to get out and run, never making getting the ball into play easy. I have to be honest, I don’t honestly recommend playing anything from Philly in this one. But the Heat, on the other hand, should have everything working. With Okafor out, and potentially Noel as well, Whiteside should have free reign in the middle; Wade is Wade and has been doing Wade things lately (23 ppg over his last six); Joe Johnson has been getting a good amount of looks since he got here, and then there is Dragic. Dragic’s fantasy production is up more than 8 points per game over his season average over the past couple of weeks as the Heat’s offense has started clicking on all cylinders. Dragic could be the most productive guy on this team – in fact, when they grabbed him, that was the expectation. Right now, he is showing why, averaging 19 points and 6 assists since the break.
– Hassan Whiteside ($8,300)
– Dwyane Wade ($7,200)
– Goran Dragic ($6,900)
– Robert Covington ($5,400)
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New York Knicks @ Boston Celtics
Line: Celtics -9.5
The Celtics are sitting at 37-25, only 6.5 games behind the Cavs in one of the more surprising turnaround stories happening over the past month or so. They have won four straight and are 14-3 since the beginning of February, a run that will let you make up some ground in the standings on just about anyone. Their three losses came against Milwaukee, Utah, and Minnesota. In those three games, the top performer for the opponents were Towns, Gobert, and Monroe – sense a theme? If the Knicks are going to have a chance, it seems, Lopez is going to have to be a big factor. Luckily for him and for Knicks fans, he’s been a big factor more often than not lately, averaging more minutes, points and rebounds in February than he did in any other month of the season.
For Boston, my gut is telling me that Crowder will spend a lot of time on Porzingis, especially if they are running out the small-ball ‘three-guards + Crowder and a center’ lineup they have deployed with good results all season long. That lineup typically features a rotation of four guards: Thomas, Smart, Turner and Bradley, and you will probably see more of that tonight, but Thomas and Bradley are the ones to trust, getting by far the most consistent minutes and usage from the group.
– Carmelo Anthony ($8,600)
– Isaiah Thomas ($7,600)
– Robin Lopez ($5,600)
– Avery Bradley ($5,000)
Portland Trailblazers @ Toronto Raptors
Line: Raptors -5
The Blazers are coming off a loss in Boston on Wednesday, which was their fourth road game out of a six-game trip, and now they are in Toronto. But despite that loss, they have still won nine out of their last eleven, a stretch that included some pretty impressive victories (vs. GS, vs. UTA, @ IND, @ MEM, to name a few). Mason Plumlee has been a consistent, if somewhat unimpressive, presence in the middle for them all season long (a decent cash game option if you just want to avoid the total zero). But other than Plumless, it’s all about Lilland and McCollum, who are quickly turning into one of the best guard combos in the game. If it weren’t for Steph and Klay, they’d probably be the best. Over their last six games, the two of them are averaging a combined 75 fantasy points a night, and there are no other options, so they’re easy to trust. If anything, the hard part is just choosing which of these two to rely on on a night-to-night basis – the more expensive upside play to headline your lineup or the cheaper just to help fill in your last couple of roster spots? For me, tonight, it’s Lillard, who tends to like to step up against other quality PGs like Lowry, almost as if he has something to prove (which, of course, he does).
The Raptors are still sitting pretty as the 2-seed in the East, and they’ve done it with a very well-balanced lineup with the solid big man in Valanciunas, great scoring from their guards in Lowry and DeRozan, and a frontcourt that is soon to be bolstered by the return of DeMarre Carroll (although not likely tonight). The Lillard/McCollum Lowry/DeRozan matchup is certainly key, but the Portland combo could slightly outplay their Raptors counterparts and still lose, as the ability of the Toronto front court gives the Raptors an obvious advantage.
– Damian Lillard ($9,000)
– DeMar DeRozan ($7,400)
– C.J. McCollum ($6,900)
– Jonas Valanciunas ($5,000)
Washington Wizards @ Cleveland Cavaliers
Line: Cavs -8.5
A matchup of the #1 seed in the East and the first team outside the playoffs, this would be a perfectly evenly matched contest if you just removed LeBron. Wall-Kyrie is a great battle, and Gortat and Morris battling it out with Love and Thompson could be interesting too. But Otto Porter vs. LeBron? Oh well.
The Cavs are coming off three days of rest, and should be ready to defend their home court at full speed tonight. They had lost three of their last five prior to the little break, which, interestingly, coincided with four of five games for Kyrie with over 35 DK FP. When he is pushing the ball, breaking down defenses, and shooting himself, it looks like another weapon that could make this juggernaut unstoppable, but in reality, it seems to be a symptom of a problem. Kyrie can take over when the rest of the offense is breaking down… but that’s LeBron’s job. As Cleveland’s PG, it’s Kyrie’s job to make sure the offense doesn’t get bogged down. This might not matter tonight, but it will, eventually, even if it takes until the Finals. They’ve got three months to figure it out.
– LeBron James ($9,600)
– John Wall ($9,400)
– Marcin Gortat ($6,700)
– J.R. Smith ($4,900)
Utah Jazz @ Memphis Grizzlies
Line: Grizzlies -1.5
The lowest total on the board, and for good reason, this would appear on the surface to be a game you should consider avoiding for fantasy purposes. With Gasol continuing to be out, Zach Randolph is manning most of the interior duties for Memphis, especially on offense, but against Utah, he’ll be hard to trust. Between Favors and Gobert, there is just a little too much defense and a little too much competition for rebounds. Instead, this should be a game that features plenty of Mike Conley, who is not only the best playmaker on the Grizzlies, but is also squaring off against the soft parts of the Utah defense. He has the quickness to beat their guards off the dribble, and the mid-range game he’ll need to score while managing to avoid the Jazz rim protectors. Even though the Grizzlies don’t score a lot, it’s nice to know right now that there are really only two options to turn to, so whatever fantasy value does exist should be easy enough to identify in advance.
For Utah, Favors still has to contend with Randolph, who might have missed a step but can still put a body on him in the lane. Gobert, though, should find his ability to fight for and gain position in the post enhanced without Gasol roaming around. And the Grizzlies don’t have the personnel to force them into a smaller lineup, so there should be plenty of opportunities to go around.
– Derrick Favors ($7,100)
– Mike Conley ($6,700)
– Zach Randolph ($6,500)
– Rudy Gobert ($6,400)
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Milwaukee Bucks
Line: Bucks -4.5
Michael Carter-Williams missed on Monday and Wednesday, and there is at least a chance he misses again tonight. If he does, you can find some value in Jerryd Bayless, whose minutes have been up slightly on average for the last couple of contests. That switch would also lead me to have a little more trust in Rubio, who is sure to find a little more room to maneuver against Bayless. It is also easy to like both big men in a game where there aren’t a lot of rebounders at the forward position, because double-digit boards is in play, and that’s always a good place to start.
With a total of 213, Vegas is expecting both of these teams to exceed their scoring averages, which makes sense – they don’t play great defense. The thing about both of these two teams is that they are just full of potential. They both have these young, inconsistent, high-upside options, and the price is always right. They’re priced right in that zone where you can use them in a GPP and really get your hopes up, always wondering if they are even going to show up that night. Good defenses can take them out of their rhythm and ruin their value, so you need to take advantage when they’re facing good matchups, like now, for instance.Wiggins, for example, has had 30 of more DK FP in five of eight and you can get him active with confidence – the times he didn’t hit that threshold, he was facing off were against some solid defensive units.
– Karl-Anthony Towns ($8,200)
– Giannis Antetokounmpo ($7,700)
– Greg Monroe ($6,500)
– Andrew Wiggins ($6,000)
Brooklyn Nets @ Denver Nuggets
Line: Denver -5.5
On game six of a nine game road swing, the Nets won two of the first three on the trip, but are coming off two straight losses in Los Angeles. Road trips like this don’t tend to get easier as you enter Week 2. Since dealing Joe Johnson, Brooklyn has been relying more on Bojan Bogdanovic, but other than that, not much has changed. You’ve got Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez, and not much else. It’s enough for them to have racked up 17 wins so far this year, and that is nothing but a testament to how good Young and Lopez have actually been. Their lack of any effective guard play can completely handcuff the offense against a good defense, but Denver is not that. Regardless of the outcome of the game, you should expect both Young and Lopez to be able to find their spots and make useful contributions.
For Denver, Gallinari is out, and at this point, the question appears to be whether he is coming back at all. What that really means is that they have some small guys, and some big guys, but no one really in between. They have been giving extra minutes to Will Barton and Gary Harris, both listed at SG, often right alongside Mudiay. Those three with Faried and Jokic make for an interesting lineup – one that is usually more susceptible to mismatches than prone to creating them. Young seems like the most obvious beneficiary, someone who fits nicely into that gap between the trio of guards and the two big men and who could be the kind of walking mismatch who can help your fantasy lineup in a big way.
– Brook Lopez ($7,400)
– Thaddeus Young ($6,900)
– Will Barton ($6,200)
– Gary Harris ($4,600)
Atlanta Hawks @ Los Angeles Lakers
Line: Hawks -9
The Hawks have got to love being favored by nine on the road – we’re talking about a team that is 14-16 away from home so far on the year, and coming off a loss to Golden State that kicked off this road trip. But if there is such a thing as a moral victory in today’s NBA, it’s losing to the Warriors in OT (just don’t say that to the Thunder). Hopefully, as strange as this might sound, the Hawks can carry some momentum from that performance into LA, where they play each of the next two nights. Starting with the Lakers, they’re getting a team that doesn’t defend well in the middle or in the backcourt, which is great because it means that Jeff Teague will be able to get them into their sets efficiently and get the ball to Millsap and Horford in good spots, and when those guys are successful the whole team is successful.
For the Lakers, it’s all about the youth movement lately, and you kind of have to love it. With no Lou Williams tonight and potentially no Kobe, there will be plenty of run once again for D’Angelo Russell, who has been averaging 32 minutes and almost 40 DK FP a night for the past week. He has had four straight games with over 30 fantasy points (and three of those were at 39.25 or more), and he flashed 50+ point upside just last week against the Nets. He is starting to look like the kind of player who could join with Julius Randle to form the core of a contending team in the years ahead, and it’s fun to watch the beginning stages of that now. I just hope it keeps up.
– Al Horford ($7,400)
– D’Angelo Russell ($6,300)
– Julius Randle ($5,900)
– Jeff Teague ($5,900)