Defenses to Avoid
Milwaukee Bucks at Washington Wizards: The Wizards haven't been talked about as a defensive team this season, but they are currently the 12th-best in the league in fewest points allowed per 100 possessions (101.9 defensive rating). While that number is merely above average at best, the Wizards look to defend their home court against the free falling Milwaukee Bucks, who are dead-last in the league in points scored per 100 possessions (94.0 offensive rating). The Bucks have struggled to find a consistent scorer throughout the entire course of the season, and head coach Larry Drew has been desperately digging through his bench searching for answers. While it is likely that one or two randomly selected Bucks will shine on a given night, it would take more than a wizard to predict which knight or Greek deity will step up to the quest. With several better options on a Friday night full of games, the illusion of a Buck-loaded roster should only be a dream.
Offenses to Use
Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets: The Warriors and Rockets lead the charge as Friday's top matchup for daily fantasy liftoff. These two teams boast some of the fastest offenses in the league in terms of pace, with the Rockets sixth (98.87) and the Warriors seventh (98.33) in possessions per 48 minutes. Armed with skilled sharpshooters, dynamic wings, and explosive centers, the Warriors and Rockets provide the top daily draftees for a loaded fantasy roster Friday.
Utah Jazz at Portland Trail Blazers: For Friday's second recommended matchup, the Trail Blazers ride with the music to center-stage on their home court. They are third-best in the league in points scored per 100 possessions (108.1 offensive rating) and are averaging 108.7 points over their last six games. The Trail Blazers have several offensive options that could cause problems for the Jazz, who give up the second-most points per 100 possessions (107.0 defensive rating). Blazing with fire, winning 14 of their last 15 games, the Trail Blazers will set the tempo in Friday's contest with the Jazz, leaving the entire starting lineup with a positive note for smooth play.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz
Second game of a back-to-back: New York Knicks
DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
Stephen Curry (at HOU): Curry has been on fire over his last four games, averaging 31.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 2.3 steals and 4.5 three-pointers made during that span. Meanwhile, the Rockets give up 27.9 points (fifth-worst), 11.0 assists (eighth-worst), 2.8 steals (second-worst), and 3.0 (sixth-worst) to opposing eligible point guards. Curry is arguably the most deadly threat from downtown, and perhaps the dynamic Warrior will put on more than just a sniping assault Friday night on the road.
Tony Wroten (at CHA): Wroten gets a special mention here despite the Bobcats' above-average defense against point guards. With Michael Carter-Williams (knee) out for Friday's matchup, Wroten is likely to provide great fantasy value for his price. Wroten is averaging 19.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 2.0 steals in four games as the starting point guard for the the Sixers this season. While those expectations may be lofty on a given night due to the small sample size, Wroten is still penned in for value play Friday.
Other options: Jrue Holiday (vs. OKC), Damian Lillard (vs. UTA), Steve Blake (at SAC)
James Harden (vs. GSW): Harden's last three games featured the following scoring performances in chronological order: 31 points (53 percent FG), 37 points (55 percent FG), and 14 points (18 percent FG). The law of equilibrium would theoretically bring Harden's performance back to a normal state after having such a swing in variation. Given Harden's transcendent ability to contribute heavily in multiple categories, and taking into consideration the Warriors' recent defensive struggles against opposing shooting guards (giving up 21 points to Marcus Thornton on Sunday, and 26 point to DeMar DeRozan on Tuesday), Harden should have the opportunity to bounce back with solid play Friday.
Other options: Dion Waiters (at ATL), Klay Thompson (at HOU), Eric Gordon (vs. OKC)
Evan Turner (at CHA): Turner has scored at least 20 points five times over his last six games and is averaging 21.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.3 steals during that span. The Bobcats feature some of the worst defenses against opposing eligible small forwards, allowing an average of 36.6 points (second-worst), 12.7 rebounds (fifth-worst) and 3.0 steals (ninth-worst) per game. With defensive specialist Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (hand) out of the lineup, Turner should have no problem continuing his strong play against the Bobcats.
Other options: Nicolas Batum (vs. UTA)
LaMarcus Aldridge (vs. UTA): Aldridge has been torrid over his last four games, averaging 29.3 points (58 percent FG) and 9.0 rebounds during that span. The Jazz's frontcourt has been a mess over the past several games, with various injuries and lineup changes revolving around Enes Kanter and Marvin Williams (heel). The Jazz allow opposing eligible power forwards to score 40.1 points per game, making Aldridge an easy pick at the four for Friday's fantasy frenzy.
Other options: Jared Sullinger (vs. DEN), Ryan Anderson (vs. OKC)
DeMarcus Cousins (vs. LAL): While Cousins is coming off a one-game absence due to a minor sprained ankle, he will have a chance to have a strong game Friday against the Lakers. Both Pau Gasol (ankle) and Jordan Hill (ankle) have been dealing with injury issues during practice, and while both big men are expected to play Friday, their effectiveness may be limited. The Lakers give up 18.7 points (fourth-worst), 10.3 rebounds (sixth-worst), 3.1 assists (worst) and 1.4 steals (worst) to opposing eligible centers. With a frontcourt matchup plagued with ankle injuries to both the Lakers and the Kings, Cousins looks to have the upper hand from a fantasy perspective.
Other options: Al Jefferson (vs. PHI), Dwight Howard (vs. GSW), Robin Lopez (vs. UTA)
Kobe Bryant (Achilles) had originally planned to play Friday but will delay his return for at least one more game.
Steve Nash (soreness) is out for at least another week.
Jordan Farmar (hamstring) will be out for approximately four weeks.
Anthony Davis (hand) is out for four-to-six weeks with a non-displaced fracture.
Michael Carter-Williams (knee) did not join the team on the trip to Charlotte and will not play Friday.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (hand) will miss four-to-six weeks.
Andre Iguodala (hamstring) is out for at least another week.
Tyson Chandler (knee) is out until late December.
Tobias Harris (ankle) is with the Magic on its current road trip but remains without a timetable to return.
Rajon Rondo (knee) will have a checkup over the next 10-14 days.
Kelly Olynyk (ankle) could miss more time than originally expected.
JaVale McGee (leg) is out until late December.
Danilo Gallinari (knee) is still without a timetable to return.
Larry Sanders (thumb) is still without a timetable to return.
Carlos Delfino (foot) is out for a large portion of the season.
Jeremy Lin (knee) has been improving but will miss a couple more games.
Omer Asik (thigh) is out for at least another week.
DeMarcus Cousins (ankle) will most likely suit up Friday.
Nikola Vucevic (ankle) hopes to play Friday after missing one game due to a sprained ankle.
Jameer Nelson (foot) could return to the lineup Friday.
Pau Gasol (ankle) partook in the Lakers' 5-on-5 scrimmage Tuesday and should be ready to play Friday.
Jordan Hill (ankle) has been dealing with soreness but will more than likely play Friday.
Steve Blake (elbow) partook in the Lakers' 5-on-5 scrimmage Tuesday and should be ready to play Friday.
Chandler Parsons (back) has been dealing with tightness and could return Friday.
Caron Butler (knee) has been dealing with a sore knee and could return Friday.
Zaza Pachulia (foot) is a game-time decision Friday.
Ekpe Udoh (ankle) is a game-time decision Friday.
Marvin Williams (heel) could return to the lineup Friday.
Toney Douglas (leg) could return to the lineup Friday.