Defenses to Avoid
Charlotte Bobcats at Indiana Pacers: Friday's defensive matchup to avoid probably comes as no surprise to most of our readers. The Pacers will host the Bobcats in their home court and boast the league's best defensive rating, allowing only 93.1 points per 100 possessions. Despite a recent 118-94 loss to the Thunder, the Pacers have been relatively consistent all season long in limiting their opponents' scoring, giving up 100 points only five times so far. Meanwhile, the Bobcats will enter Friday as the league's second-worst team offensively, scoring just 95.2 points per 100 possessions. With inconsistent performances from stars Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson all season long, it would be hard to select any of the Bobcats and expect solid play Friday against the Pacers.
Offenses to Use
Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder's Big Three (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka) should be up for solid performances Friday as they take on the shorthanded Lakers on their home floor. With Steve Blake (elbow), Steve Nash (soreness) and Jordan Farmar (hamstring) all out for an extended period of time, the Lakers will have to thrust the newly returned Kobe Bryant (Achilles) into the point guard spot. This will not bode well for the Lakers from a defensive standpoint, as they were already one of the worst defensive teams before Bryant returned, allowing 103.7 points per 100 possessions. Bryant is likely going to be cautious in his defensive approach, and with an ailing Pau Gasol (knee) in the paint, the Lakers' defense should be easy to exploit, making Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka strong plays on Friday.
Memphis Grizzlies at New Orleans Pelicans: Friday's second offensive matchup to use features the Pelicans against the Grizzlies. The Pelicans are fifth-best in the league in offensive rating, scoring 105.6 points per 100 possessions and will have another chance at a high-scoring game against the Grizzlies, who are without Marc Gasol (knee). Ryan Anderson has stepped up offensively for the Pelicans, who are averaging 109.7 points over the last six games. With multiple options across their starting lineup, the Pelicans should be used in daily lineups for Friday's matchup.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards
Second game of a back-to-back: Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets
DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
Isaiah Thomas (at PHX): Thomas has been on fire ever since stepping into the starting lineup in place of the departed Greivis Vasquez. In two games so far, Thomas has averaged 22.0 points and 9.5 assists as a starter. Also, over the past five games, he has averaged 21.6 points, (50 percent FG, 96 percent FT), 7.8 assists, 2.8 steals and 2.2 three-pointers. The Suns' defense against opposing eligible point guards is below average, and Thomas should produce well for his value Friday night.
Tony Wroten (at TOR): Although Wroten's price tag has increased over the past week, he still produces solid value as a filler for Michael Carter-Williams (knee). Wroten is averaging 18.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.4 steals in eight games as a starter this year, and should continue to produce well when Carter-Williams sits.
Deron Williams (at DET): Williams will likely be the primary option for the Nets if Brook Lopez (ankle) sits.
Russell Westbrook (vs. LAL): Westbrook should dominate the Lakers' weak perimeter defense as mentioned above.
Klay Thompson (vs. HOU): The Rockets are second-worst in the league in points allowed for opposing eligible shooting guards, giving up 42.3 points per game. Thompson has been streaky lately, but dynamic shooters will always lose their touch occasionally. Last week, Thompson went just 2-for-10 from the field against the Rockets in Houston. However, a change of venue could work wonders for Thompson, who shoots 57 percent from the field at home compared to 41 percent on the road this season. As the Warriors host the Rockets on Friday, Thompson could be due for a massive game.
Eric Gordon (vs. MEM): Gordon should have a solid game, especially if Grizzlies' defender Tony Allen (hip) sits.
DeMar DeRozan (vs. PHI): DeRozan has been playing well ever since the departure of Rudy Gay, and he has the opportunity to perform well in a fast-paced matchup against the Sixers.
Terrence Ross (vs. PHI): He started at small forward in the Raptors' last game and should have an opportunity to get a lot of run again against the Sixers. The biggest bugaboo about Ross' value is the fact that he relies on his scoring to carry him, and it's often more prudent to try and slide an extra point guard into the shooting guard slot for daily games.
Evan Turner (at TOR): Turner has been cold over his last five games, shooting above 44 percent from the field only once during that span. With Rudy Gay now with the Kings, the Raptors are left with a hole at the small forward position. As a result, Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan will likely see heavy minutes guarding Turner, which isn't going to bode well for the Raptors. Turner has been contributing well in multiple categories this season, and he should be considered a solid option for Friday.
Kevin Durant (vs. LAL): The Lakers will have a tough time guarding Durant, as mentioned above.
Al Farouq-Aminu (vs. MEM): Aminu is averaging 15.0 rebounds over his last three games and should be worth his price tag as a cheap flier option that could be the difference maker as a player who is unlikely to be used in many lineups.
Amir Johnson (vs. PHI): Johnson is averaging 22.3 points (75 percent FG, 92 percent FT), 9.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks over his last four games,and has looked amazing ever since Rudy Gay's departure. In a matchup against the fast-paced Sixers, Johnson should have no problem racking up large numbers.
Serge Ibaka (vs. LAL): Pau Gasol has been struggling defensively, and the Lakers are shorthanded as a whole.
Ryan Anderson (vs. MEM): Anderson has yet to shoot better than 34 percent over his last three games, but Friday could be the day he breaks out of his slump.
John Leuer (@ NOP): Leuer is averaging 15.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 0.8 three-pointers, 1.0 steal and 1.0 block in 29 minutes per game over his last five games. If Ed Davis (ankle) doesn't play, Leuer could be a sneaky cheap option that might get a lot of run against Ryan Anderson since they matchup so well against each other.
Dwight Howard (at GSW): Howard is averaging 22.3 points, 18.8 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 1.8 blocks over his last four games, and should continue to play well on Friday. Last week against the Warriors, Howard went off for 22 points, 18 rebounds, three steals, and one block. The Warriors are among the worst in the league in defense against opposing eligible centers, allowing 20.0 points (worst), 12.1 rebounds (worst), 2.7 assists (fourth-worst), 1.7 blocks (second-worst), and 51 percent FG (second-worst) per game. Advanced statistics works to Howard's benefit as he faces the Warriors, making him a strong play for fantasy lineups Friday night.
Andre Drummond (vs. BKN): Drummond has been on a tear in the month of December, averaging 15.7 points, 14.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 1.9 blocks per game. If Brook Lopez (ankle) sits Friday, which is highly likely, Drummond should wreak havoc on the Nets' front court, who are already below average defensively even with Lopez in the lineup.
John Henson (vs. CHI): Henson is averaging 15.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 2.2 blocks over his last five games and should be well worth his price tag for Friday's matchup.
Andray Blatche (at DET): Blatche could be considered a low-end option as Brook Lopez (ankle) may sit out.
Jason Smith (vs. MEM): It's not the most reassuring play since Smith will matchup against a good defensive center in Kosta Koufos, but Smith has averaged 34 mpg over his last five games and has averaged a double-double in that time as well.
Anthony Davis (hand) is out for four-to-six weeks.
Marc Gasol (knee) is out without a timetable to return.
Derrick Rose (knee) is out for the regular season.
Bradley Beal (leg) did some court work Wednesday but is still without a timetable to return.
Tyson Chandler (knee) has been working on conditioning but is still at least two weeks away.
Raymond Felton (hamstring) is out for two-to-three weeks.
Andre Iguodala (hamstring) has been feeling better but is still without a timetable to return.
Rajon Rondo (knee) had his check-up pushed back and is still without a timetable to return.
Steve Nash (soreness) is out without a timetable to return.
Steve Blake (elbow) is out for a minimum of six weeks.
Chris Kaman (back) is out without a timetable to return and likely simply out of the rotation.
Jordan Farmar (hamstring) is out for approximately four weeks.
Larry Sanders (thumb) had his pin removed from his thumb and is now wearing a splint.
Caron Butler (knee) is out for another week-to-10 days.
Zaza Pachulia (foot) was diagnosed with a fractured foot and will miss four weeks.
Danilo Gallinari (knee) has yet to run and is still without a timetable to return.
JaVale McGee (leg) has been doing upper body work but is unable to put pressure on his leg.
Carl Landry (hip) is out without a timetable to return.
Will Bynum (groin) is approximately one week away from returning.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (hand) is out for four-to-six weeks.
Danny Granger (calf) could return soon, but is out for Friday's game.
Al Harrington (knee) will undergo knee surgery and will be out for at least four weeks.
Gustavo Ayon (ankle) is out for at least a week.
Jason Terry (knee) is without a timetable to return.
Andrei Kirilenko (knee) is without a timetable to return.
Chase Budinger (knee) is out for at least another month.
Omer Asik (thigh) is out without a timetable to return.
Greg Smith (knee) expects to return Sunday against the Kings but is out Friday.
Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) will undergo surgery and will miss some time.
Brook Lopez (ankle) sprained his ankle Thursday and may not suit up Friday.
Michael Carter-Williams (knee) could return Friday, although it is highly unlikely.
Luol Deng (Achilles) is considered questionable to play Friday.
Jimmy Butler (toe) is considered questionable to play Friday.
Tobias Harris (ankle) could return to the lineup Friday but would likely play limited minutes.
Nene Hilario (foot) is considered questionable to play Friday.
Iman Shumpert (knee) is considered questionable to play Friday.
Martell Webster (ankle) is expected to return to action Friday.
Ed Davis (ankle) is considered questionable to play Friday.
Tony Allen (hip) is considered questionable to play Friday.
Tiago Splitter (calf) is considered questionable to play Friday.
Bismack Biyombo (ankle) is expected to return to action Friday.
Tyler Hansbrough (shoulder) is expected to return to action Friday.
Kelly Olynyk (ankle) is considered questionable to play Friday.
Thabo Sefolosha (knee) is considered questionable to play Friday.
Steven Adams (ankle) is considered questionable to play Friday.
Gary Neal (foot) is considered questionable to play Friday.