Defenses to Avoid
Utah Jazz at Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks will host the Jazz in a matchup that could be unharmonious from a fantasy perspective. Scoring just 97.8 points per 100 possessions, the Jazz are sixth-worst in the league in offensive efficiency and are the fifth-slowest team in terms of offensive pace (93.87 possessions per game). They will face the Hawks, who give up just 96.8 points per game on their home court. With a messy frontcourt rotation of Marvin Williams, Derrick Favors, Jeremy Evans, and Enes Kanter, it will be hard to expect reasonable performances from the Jazz's cog, making them hard to pick up on a Friday with many other options.
Offenses to Use
Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers: Much to the disappointment of Lakers fans, Kobe Bryant will be sidelined for six weeks with a fracture in his left knee. The silver lining for daily players is that a whole new opportunity for low-end options to perform opens up. Leading the pack figures to be Xavier Henry, who will initially take over point guard duties with Bryant, Steve Nash (general soreness), Steve Blake (elbow), and Jordan Farmar (hamstring) out. Henry is likely affordable, and despite his lack of consistency this season, his performance Friday could make or break some contests. In addition to Henry, consider Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, and Wesley Johnson suitable options as well. The Timberwolves also look to benefit from the Lakers' backcourt injury woes, as they boast the second-fastest pace in the league (100.51 possessions per game) and will play to Lakers' head coach Mike D'Antoni's system. In addition to the usual suspects at Minnesota, wing players such as Corey Brewer and J.J. Barea (who could be had at bargain price) could have an opportunity to decimate a shorthanded Lakers squad. Both the Lakers and Timberwolves look to have their share of cheap backcourt players who could produce well for daily games on Friday.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz
Second game of a back-to-back: None
DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
Deron Williams (at PHI): The Sixers are among the worst in the league in defense against opposing eligible point guards, allowing 27.3 points (fifth-worst), 7.3 rebounds (third-worst), 12.9 assists (worst), 2.7 steals (fourth-worst), 0.5 blocks (seventh-worst), and 3.4 three-pointers made (worst) per game. Williams should have an enjoyable matchup against rookie stud Michael Carter-Williams (knee) who is likely going to suit up after missing seven games. Carter-Williams has given up strong performances to opposing point guards, and Williams fits the bill as a player who could easily go off against the Sixers' weak defense. Over his last five games, Williams is averaging 18.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 9.2 assists, 0.8 steals, and 2.0 three-pointers made per game. He will have every opportunity to log another solid game Friday night.
Other options: Kemba Walker (at DET), J.J. Barea (at LAL), Mario Chalmers (vs. SAC)
Joe Johnson (at PHI): Johnson has been on fire recently, averaging 22.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals, and 4.5 three-pointers made over his last four games. This stretch of games includes a breakout performance where Johnson put up 37 points (13-20 FG, 10-14 3Pt, 1-1 FT) to go with seven rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block. As RotoWire's Renee Miller says, breakout games can negatively mess with our minds when it comes to fantasy sports, creating expectations that aren't likely repeatable on a regular basis. Though Johnson fell off his high performance with an "average" 20-point outing on Wednesday, he is still a solid option for Friday's matchup. Helping his case is the fact that Johnson will face the Sixers, the same team he sunk 10 treys on just a couple of days ago. Note: Johnson did not practice Thursday due to personal reasons, but the Nets expect him to play Friday. Do keep a tab on our updates in case he misses the game.
Other options: Xavier Henry (vs. MIN), Nick Young (vs. MIN), O.J. Mayo (at CLE)
Paul George (vs. HOU): George hasn't been performing his best over recent games, averaging just 17.3 points (34 percent FG), 6.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.8 steals, and 1.8 three-pointers made over his last four performances. He will have an opportunity to bounce back Friday against the Rockets, who give up 33.4 points per game to opposing eligible small forwards. With other high-end options at the small forward spot facing tougher team-defensive matchups, George could fit the bill if you decide to spend heavy.
Other options: Giannis Antetokounpo (at CLE), Corey Brewer (at LAL), Wesley Johnson (vs. MIN), Wilson Chandler (vs. PHO)
J.J. Hickson (vs. PHO): Hickson has been producing well for his value, averaging 14.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists,1.0 steals, and 0.8 blocks over his last five games. He should have a favorable matchup against the Suns, who aren't especially strong defensively in the frontcourt. While Hickson isn't a lock to go off, he has the potential to put up good numbers for his price, making him a solid choice for daily play on Friday.
Other options: Kevin Love (at LAL), Pau Gasol (vs. MIN), Tristan Thompson (vs. MIL)
DeMarcus Cousins (at MIA): Cousins being the recommended center for Friday's slate of games shouldn't come as a surprise anymore. The big man has come up huge in the month of December, averaging 24.3 points (53 percent FG, 80 percent FT), 11.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. Cousins' price tag has shot up to par with the elites, but he is well worth every penny. The Heat aren't known for their interior defense, and Cousins will have every opportunity to continue to rip open the fantasy realm. He has yet to fall short in his performance when I've penned him in these articles, and I'm still waiting for that day to come (if it ever does). Deploy the monster until he overheats and gets suspended. [Editor's note: Knock on wood if you use Cousins, because I'm pretty sure Michael has just jinxed him.]
Other options: John Henson (at CLE), Jonas Valanciunas (at DAL), Spencer Hawes (vs. BKN)
Kobe Bryant (knee) has a fracture in his left knee and will miss six weeks.
Steve Nash (general soreness) is expected to be out for another four weeks.
Steve Blake (elbow) is expected to miss six weeks.
Jordan Farmar (hamstring) could return within a week.
Ersan Ilyasova (ankle) will be shut down "for at least the next few games."
Gary Neal (foot) did not travel with the team to Cleveland.
Zaza Pachulia (foot) is out for at least four weeks.
Danilo Gallinari is still without a timetable to return.
JaVale McGee (leg) is still without a timetable to return.
Jordan Hamilton (suspension) will serve a one-game suspension Friday.
Jason Terry (knee) hopes to return within two weeks.
Andrei Kirilenko (back) hopes to return to practice by Christmas.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (hand) hasn't suffered any setbacks but is still a few weeks from return.
Omer Asik (thigh) is still without a timetable to return.
Devin Harris (toe) is still without a timetable to return.
Chase Budinger (knee) is still without a timetable to return.
Michael Beasley (hamstring) will not play Friday.
James Harden (ankle) played on Tuesday but said he felt sore, and is a game-time decision.
Kyrie Irving (illness) missed practice on Thursday and is a game-time decision Friday.
Ty Lawson (illness) missed practice on Thursday and is a game-time decision friday.
Michael Carter-Williams (knee) deemed himself "ready to go" for Friday and could return.
Joe Johnson (personal) did not practice Thursday, but is fully expected to play Friday.
Jeremy Lin (back) returned to practice Thursday but isn't likely to play Friday.
Dion Waiters (wrist) is dealing with tendinitis is a game-time decision Friday
Caron Butler (knee) is with the team in Cleveland and could return to action Friday.
Danny Granger (calf) is expected to make his regular season debut on Friday.
Rodney Stuckey (shoulder) has had trouble moving his arm and is doubtful to play Friday.
Gustavo Ayon (ankle) is questionable to play Friday.
Cartier Martin (ankle) is questionable to play Friday.
Alex Len (ankle) has been improving and could return Friday.