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NBA Daily Games Cheat Sheet: Friday

Nick Whalen

Nick Whalen

Nick contributes to RotoWire's NBA and NFL content. Many years ago, Stromile Swift gave Nick his unbelievably sweaty headband after a preseason game. Despite its failure to match his school colors, Nick went on to wear that headband for the entirety of his sixth grade basketball season. Catch Nick on Twitter @wha1en.

TEAM ANALYSIS

Defenses to Avoid
Golden State Warriors at New York Knicks: Much of the attention surrounding Golden State this season has centered around Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the team’s high-powered offense. But the Warriors have quietly emerged as an improved defensive team, ranking third in the league in defensive efficiency (99.1) and ninth in points allowed (98.6). Those numbers are especially impressive considering Golden State plays the fifth-fastest pace (98.6 possessions per game) of any team. Prior to allowing 103 points to the Bulls in a blowout loss on Wednesday – an anomaly that isn’t likely to happen again any time soon – the Warriors had conceded 100 points just twice in the previous 13 contests. The Knicks enter Friday’s contest on the second half of a back-to-back and riding a four-game losing streak after falling to the Heat 108-82 on Thursday. The NBA’s 21st-ranked scoring offense (97.6) plays at the second-slowest pace (92.7) and could be in major trouble if Carmelo Anthony doesn’t have another big night, which will be difficult against one of the league’s top wing defenders in Andre Iguodala.

Offenses to Use
Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Lakers Okay, okay, hear me out on this one. It may seem counterintuitive to put any stock in the Lakers right now, but it’s difficult to argue any vastly better options exist. Two of the top offenses in action Friday (Oklahoma City, Dallas) are facing top-flight defenses (Memphis, Chicago), while the Parker-less Spurs are facing an improved Charlotte defense which has allowed 100 points in just two of its last eight games. Phoenix facing off against New Orleans seems like a solid option on the surface, but with Goran Dragic (ankle) a game-time call, the Suns are a risky play – especially considering they mustered just 86 points against the Jazz on Wednesday without him. The Lakers topped 100 points in each of their two wins over the Kings earlier this season and play at the league’s second-fasted pace (99.8), trailing only Philadelphia. With DeMarcus Cousins (suspension) out for Sacramento, this game might not be much of a ratings draw, but the Los Angeles offense should have an excellent chance to take advantage of the Kings’ 27th-ranked defense. Plus, don’t forget this rag-tag Lakers bunch hung 103 points on a stout Memphis defense last time out – one of only two teams to do so since Jan. 12.

Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans
Second game of a back-to-back: New York Knicks

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Point Guard
Jose Calderon, DAL (vs. CHI), PG, ($5,500): Devin Harris has cut into Calderon’s minutes of late, but the veteran’s production hasn’t seen a noticeable drop-off despite averaging more than two fewer minutes per game in February, relative to January. Calderon is virtually a lock for at least five assists and has made two or more three-pointers in nine of 11 games this month. Likely matched up with the undersized D.J. Augustin on Friday, Calderon could be poised for a productive night.

Other suggestions: Jordan Farmar, LAL (vs. SAC), PG, ($3,900), Ish Smith, PHO, (vs. NO), PG, ($4,200)

Shooting Guard
Alec Burks, UTA, (at CLE), PG/SG, ($5,100): Burks has started to gain some notoriety of late for his solid production off the bench, and rightfully so. The third-year Colorado product is averaging 15.6 points on 45.1 percent shooting in February after putting up similar numbers last month. He’s riding a streak of eight straight double-digit scoring games and has been seeing consistent minutes (26.1 per game in Feb.) while getting to the line nearly seven times per game.

Other suggestions: Jodie Meeks, LAL (vs. SAC), SG, ($5,000), Tim Hardaway Jr., NY, (vs. GS), SG, ($4,700)

Small Forward
Gerald Green, PHO (vs. NO), SG/SF, ($5,200): Green at $5,200 is excellent value for a player who has made the most of the Eric Bledsoe’s (knee) continued absence. The injury has allowed Green to log 30-plus minutes on a nightly basis, and he’s averaging over 18 points per game this month. Green won’t contribute much in terms of assists, but he’s an adequate rebounder (4.8 per game in Feb.) and averages 2.1 three-pointers per game.

Other suggestions: Gerald Henderson, CHA (at SA), SG/SF, ($5,200), Klay Thompson, GS (at NY), SG/SF, ($6,100)

Power Forward
Taj Gibson, CHI (at DAL), PF/C, ($6,100): Despite continuing to come off the bench behind Carlos Boozer, Gibson has been seeing starter’s minutes this season, averaging 29.2 per game. He’s currently enjoying his best month of the season (easily), putting up 16.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while shooting 46.7 percent from the field.

Other suggestions: Markieff Morris, PHO (vs. NO), PF/C, ($5,800), Tristan Thompson, CLE (vs. UTA), PF/C, ($6,200)

Center
Tristan Thompson, CLE (vs. UTA), PF/C, ($6,200): Thompson has quietly enjoyed a solid third NBA season and is averaging career highs in scoring (12.2) and rebounding (9.6). His field goal percentage (46.8) still leaves plenty to be desired, but Thompson is making 51.2 percent of his shots in February. In the Cavs’ first meeting with the Jazz on Jan. 10, Thompson went for 18 points (9-12 FG) and 15 rebounds in 35 minutes.

Other suggestions: Channing Frye, PHO (vs. NO), PF/C, ($5,100)

INJURY REPORT

Out

Brenden Haywood (foot) will not play Friday

Carrick Felix (knee) still has a few weeks left on his original timeline

Festus Ezeli (knee) will return yet this season.

Kobe Bryant (knee) will not return for another two weeks.

Xavier Henry (knee) played with the Lakers’ D-league affiliate Thursday.

Ryan Anderson (back) will be out at least another two weeks.

Jrue Holiday (leg) has not practiced and is out indefinitely.

Andrea Bargnani (elbow) is not expected to return this week.

Iman Shumpert (knee) is expected to miss another week.

Caron Butler (ankle) has yet to practice with the Thunder.

Kendrick Perkins (groin) will be out six weeks after undergoing surgery.

Eric Bledsoe (knee) will start participating in five-on-five drills and may return in a week.

DeMarcus Cousins (suspension) should return Saturday.

Tony Parker (soreness) is expected to return Sunday.


Game-Time Decision

Leandro Barbosa (toe) has missed the last four games but is probable for Friday’s game.

Anthony Davis (shoulder) traveled with the Pelicans but did not participate in shootaround. He will be a game-time decision.

Chris-Douglas Roberts (eye) is questionable friday after missing Charlotte’s game Saturday.

Goran Dragic (ankle) missed Wednesday’s game against the Jazz but can be considered probable Friday.

Chris Kaman (back) was held out Wednesday and is questionable against Sacramento

Vyacheslav Kravtsov (ankle) missed the last few games and will not play Friday.

John Lucas (stomach) did not participate in Friday morning's shootaround and is considered a game-time decision to play against Cleveland.

Kenyon Martin (ankle) has not played since Feb. 1 and should be considered doubtful.

Steve Nash (back) has missed the past six games and a return Friday is unlikely.

Gary Neal (coach’s decision)

Nemanja Nedovic (foot) has been practicing recently and will have a chance to play Friday.

Dirk Nowitzki (shoulder) returned to the previous game after irritating his shoulder injury and should be considered probable.

Luke Ridnour (coach’s decision)

Nick Young (knee) will not play Friday.