Defenses to Avoid
Washington Wizards at Indiana Pacers: Once again, the Pacers take the crown as the defensive matchup to avoid for Friday's games. With a league-best 93.3 defensive rating, they will host the Wizards, who are among the slower teams in the league in terms of offensive pace, averaging just 95.01 possessions per game. While the Wizards have actually been rather effective lately in terms of producing fantasy-friendly numbers, the Pacers could easily change that. In their first meeting of the season, the Pacers won 93-73, limiting the Wizards to having only two players reach double-digits in scoring (Marcin Gortat with 17, Trevor Ariza with 14). While it will be hard to write off studs like John Wall and Bradley Beal for solid games, the Pacers' suffocating defense is always good reason to stay away from opponents in daily games.
Offenses to Use
Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles Clippers: Friday's Los Angeles matchup is plagued with injuries across the board, specifically at the guard positions. With Chris Paul (shoulder), J.J. Redick (wrist), Reggie Bullock (ankle), Kobe Bryant (knee), Steve Nash (general soreness), Steve Blake (elbow), Jordan Farmar (hamstring), and Xavier Henry (knee) hitting the pine, value players continue to have the opportunity to produce in daily games. Leading the list is Darren Collison, whose price tag has shot upward on most sites, but is still worth taking as a mid-level option. The possible return of Redick shouldn't negatively affect Collison's value, as Collison is still the man at the helm of the Clippers offense. Other options for daily play are available on both teams, and these aren't just limited to value guards. Consider the battle of Staples Center to be a solid choice for fantasy play, as both teams are among the league's fastest offensive teams, with a 99.39 pace (Lakers) and a 98.11 pace (Clippers).
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Washington Wizards,
Second game of a back-to-back: Miami Heat
DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
Jameer Nelson (at SAC): Daily game price setters are so intelligent. When players like the aforementioned Chris Paul (shoulder) and [insert list of Laker guards here] are out for extended periods of time, there's usually a so-called "value player" that steps up and makes his way to fantasy relevance. Hence, a lot of fantasy players are tempted to use that player no matter what, as they provide "good value," as marketed. Meanwhile, daily game price setters understand this consumer logic, and respond by increasing the replacement player's price significantly, to a level arguably higher than their worth. Does this sound familiar? While it pains me to say that, on the particular site I use for reference, Jameer Nelson could be had at a cheaper price than Darren Collison, it provide some opportunities for daily gamers in Friday's matchups. Nelson hasn't been particularly hot recently, but the Kings are among the worst in defense against opposing eligible point guards, allowing 28.6 points (second-worst), 6.4 rebounds (10th-worst), 11.4 assists (third-worst), 3.0 three-pointers made (fourth-worst), and 45.8 percent FG (worst) per game. Nelson is far from a "value play" Friday, but he's cheaper than many options who have equal potential to perform.
Other options: Brandon Jennings (at PHI) [the Sixers have poor defense against opposing point guards], Darren Collison (vs. LAL) [pricey on some sites but could provide his worth], Goran Dragic (at MEM) [main facilitator with Eric Bledsoe (knee) out]
O.J. Mayo (vs. CHI): I'm a health freak, and so if I ever feel reckless enough to eat at McDonald's, I use Miracle Whip. Yet, amidst a sandwich of Friday night games with so many options at the shooting guard spot, I pick Mayo, despite his inconsistent production this past season. The USC product has been driving owners in season-long leagues crazy, trading hot streak for cold streak, being too valuable to drop, but being too frustrating to play on game-filled nights. In fact, he's managed to frustrate coach Larry Drew enough, that he was limited to just nine minutes of action in a game just two weeks ago. Add that onto the fact that he will face the Bulls on Friday, who are among the best defensive teams against opposing eligible shooting guards, and certainly, I must be crazy to recommend him for Friday play. If anything is worth noting, not that it means much, Mayo has scored in double-digits for two consecutive games and is averaging 28 minutes during that span. Meanwhile, starter Giannis Antetokounmpo has scored a total of two points over his last two games, and hasn't done much to maintain sizable minutes in the Bucks' starting rotation. Needless to say, the Bucks were blown out over the last two games, which could be the reason why Mayo saw increased opportunity. However, I'm notorious for recommending high-risk plays, and Mayo's price tag on most sites is lower than what he's capable of producing. If he blows up for 30 points, you'll be wishing me a Happy Meal. But if he goes for three points, one steal, and two turnovers, at least I gave you a lame pun to chuckle at, as the weekend has finally come.
Other options: Joe Johnson (vs. MIA) [averaging 25.0 points over his last two games], Gerald Green (at MEM) [could see extended opportunity with Eric Bledsoe (knee) out], Jodie Meeks (at LAC)
Mike Dunleavy (at MIL): With Luol Deng traded to the Cavaliers, Dunleavy is the favorite to maintain the starting role at the small forward position for the Bulls. He's coming off a rather poor performance Tuesday, but he's still getting enough minutes to produce solid numbers. Dunleavy could be had at budget price on most sites, and he's worth taking up if you're looking for a cheap option at the small forward spot. The Bucks are among the worst in the league in defense against opposing eligible small forwards, allowing 34.0 points (sixth-worst), 12.6 rebounds (fifth-worst), 2.9 steals (seventh-worst), and 4.1 three-pointers made (fourth-worst) per game.
Other options: Rudy Gay (vs. ORL), Luol Deng (at UTA) [he's slated to make his Cavaliers debut on Friday, and picking wild cards for daily game play is certainly exciting; deploy with caution], Paul Pierce (vs. MIA)
Thaddeus Young (vs. DET): After catching fire for a period of multiple games, Young finally landed back on earth in Tuesday's performance, going 0-for-7 from the field for a scoreless outing. His price tag on most sites has soared to a rather high level, but Young could still be worth taking up for Friday's matchups. He's going to face the Pistons, who give up 40.0 points (third-worst), 6.1 assists (fourth-worst), and 2.8 steals (seventh-worst) per game. Young averaged 20.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.3 three-pointers made in December, and he certainly has the potential to play up to his value on Friday.
Other options: Paul Millsap (at ATL), Glen Davis (at SAC), Tobias Harris (at SAC)
Dwight Howard (at ATL): I'm not going to discredit that Pero Antic has been doing a solid job against opposing centers over recent games. The Hawks, who have lost starting center Al Horford (shoulder) for the season, appear to have settled with Antic as their starter for the meantime. This makes it extremely tempting to deploy Howard for Friday night play, as the star has been on quite a slump of late, and he's looking to find his groove sooner than later. Howard will have every opportunity to explode against the Hawks, who are dealing with a rather thin rotation at the big man spots. If you're looking to spend a lot at the center position, consider Howard a possible investment.
Other options: Pero Antic (vs. HOU) [in the same way that Antic can't contain Dwight Howard, it's highly unlikely that we see Howard roaming around the three-point line to cover Antic], DeAndre Jordan (vs. LAL), Spencer Hawes (vs. DET)
Out for Season
Al Horford (shoulder)
Derrick Rose (knee)
Brook Lopez (foot)
Jeff Taylor (Achilles)
Quincy Pondexter (foot)
Chris Paul (shoulder) could miss up to six weeks.
Marc Gasol (knee) has been cleared for on-court action but is out for Friday's game.
Deron Williams (ankle) will miss at least the next two games.
Kobe Bryant (knee) is expected to miss four more weeks.
Steve Nash (general soreness) is out without a timetable to return.
Steve Blake (elbow) is expected to miss four more weeks.
Jordan Farmar (hamstring) is expected to miss four weeks.
Xavier Henry (knee) is expected to miss another week.
Nikola Vucevic (concussion) isn't with the team on their current road trip.
Rajon Rondo (knee) is getting better and could return to action within a month.
Ryan Anderson (back) is out without a timetable to return.
Shawn Marion (shoulder) will not play Friday with a contusion.
Eric Bledsoe (knee) will require surgery and is out indefinitely.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (hand) returned to practice but isn't returning Friday.
Patrick Beverley (hand) is out for a couple more weeks.
Omer Asik (thigh) is still without a timetable to return.
Devin Harris (toe) expects to return to practice soon.
Reggie Bullock (ankle) will not play Friday.
Chandler Parsons (hamstring/knee) is a game-time decision Friday.
Lance Stephenson (knee) is a game-time decision Friday.
J.J. Redick (wrist) could return to action Friday.
Mario Chalmers (Achilles) is a game-time decision Friday.
Shane Battier (quadriceps) is a game-time decision Friday.
Tony Wroten (illness) practiced Thursday and is likely to play Friday.
John Jenkins (back) is questionable to play Friday.