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John Wall, WAS (at LAL), PG ($9,100):
Defenses to Avoid
Chicago Bulls at Indiana Pacers: Friday’s defensive matchup to avoid is a rather easy choice, as the league’s two best defensive teams will face up in a hard-fought, fantasy-ugly battle. The Pacers are leading the league in defensive rating, giving up just 95.6 points per 100 possessions to opponents. Not too close behind, the Bulls allow 97.9 points per 100 possessions, and play at the third-slowest offensive pace in the league, averaging 92.96 possessions per game. Friday’s matchup is going to be a defensive struggle, and money spent on Paul George and company is better wagered elsewhere.
Offenses to Use
New York Knicks at Philadelphia 76ers: It’s always tempting to put the Sixer matchups as offenses to use, and tonight I’ll have to go with the flow. Reason one: tanking teams don’t play defense. Reason two: tanking teams don’t care about offensive discipline. Reason three: tanking teams give budget players a huge chunk of minutes. The Sixers play at a reckless pace, averaging a league-leading 102.29 possessions per game as they continue to charge full-throttle toward the ground, kamikaze style. With 22 consecutive losses, and giving up 112.6 points per contest, it’s hard not to deploy their opposition. The Knicks have been the opposite of terrible over their recent stretch, with seven consecutive wins, averaging 111.3 points per game during that span, including a 92-86 win against the dreaded defense of the Pacers. Sixer fans can celebrate when they draft a stud rookie, but the Knicks have other plans. The hiring of the legendary Phil Jackson to a hefty contract, sent a win-now message to the organization. In short, expect Carmelo Anthony and company to continue to dominate against a nonexistent Sixer defense, while budget players on Philadelphia’s roster put up numbers that are worth loose change.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs
Second game of a back-to-back: Oklahoma City Thunder, Washington Wizards
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Wall has been wreaking havoc over recent memory, averaging 23.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.6 blocks, and 3.6 three-pointers made over the last five contests. He’s been unstoppable from behind the arc, and Friday’s matchup shouldn't be a hard one, as he’ll face the Lakers, arguably the worst defensive team in the league against opposing eligible point guards. They give up 21.5 points (fourth-worst), 5.9 rebounds (worst), 8.8 assists (third-worst), 2.3 steals (worst), and 44.4 percent FG (fourth-worst) per game. Wall torched the Lakers in their first matchup of the season, posting 31 points, six rebounds, nine assists, and three steals. He may carry a heavy price tag, but it may be worth it against the pitiful Lakers' backcourt.
Other suggestions: Isaiah Thomas
(vs. SAS), PG ($7,800), Tony Parker
(at SAC), PG ($7,000), Kendall Marshall
(vs. WAS), PG ($4,700)
Goran Dragic, PHX (vs. DET), PG/SG ($7,500):
Dragic has been the most consistent member of the Suns this season, averaging 20.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.6 three-pointers made per game. His performance of late hasn’t swayed too much out of the norm, and he should be poised for a strong performance against the Pistons, who give up 22.7 points (sixth-worst), 4.4 assists (seventh-worst), 3.0 three-pointers made (third-worst), and 45.8 percent FG (seventh-worst) per game to opposing eligible shooting guards.
Other suggestions: Bradley Beal
(at LAL), SG ($6,300), Tim Hardaway
Jr. (at PHI), SG ($4,400), Kent Bazemore
(vs. WAS), SG/SF ($4,000)
Trevor Ariza, WAS (at LAL), SG/SF ($5,800):
Ariza has been just solid over the last five games, averaging a sub-par 12.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steals, and 2.0 three-pointers made during that span. We’ve seen him explode for stretches this season, and there’s a good chance he’ll bounce back to his performance in early March, where he put up monster stat lines against struggling teams. The Lakers are a defensive disaster against opposing eligible small forwards, giving up an average of 20.4 points (fifth-worst), 7.6 rebounds (second-worst), 4.7 assists (worst), 2.2 steals (worst), and 2.4 three-pointers made (fifth-worst) per game. Consider Ariza a value play Friday, seeing that his price tag has fallen a notch from the usual.
Other suggestions: DeMar DeRozan
(vs. OKC), SG/SF ($7,900), Shawn Marion
(vs. DEN), SF/PF ($5,300), DeMarre Carroll
(vs. NOP), SF/PF ($4,800)
Thaddeus Young, PHI (vs. NYK), SF/PF ($7,800):
Though the night is Young, I play an old song again and again, happily fitting Thad into the power forward spot yet another time. He’s averaging 21.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.6 steals, and 2.4 three-pointers made over the last five games, and Young is continuing to develop into the fantasy stud that everyone loves. He’s coming into Friday’s game with 11 steals over the last three games, and he’ll ride on that momentum against Carmelo Anthony
and the Knicks. I’ve said it in the past, and I’ll say it again: I’m deploying Young every night until his price tag exceeds the $8,000 threshold.
Other suggestions: Carmelo Anthony
(at PHI), SF/PF ($10,200), Zach Randolph
(at MIA), PF/C ($7,500), Dirk Nowitzki
(vs. DEN), PF/C ($7,200)
Drew Gooden, WAS (at LAL), PF/C ($3,700):
The years have gone by since Gooden’s prime days, and through a shocking turn of events, he may be resurging as a fantasy option for the final weeks of the season. He’s averaging 19.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.0 steals over the last three games, and he could certainly keep up similar numbers for Friday’s contest. Starting center Marcin Gortat
(back) came down with a mysterious injury following Thursday’s shootaround, and it’s still unclear how much time he will miss with a strained lower back. Regardless, with such a modest price tag for Friday’s slate, consider Gooden a sleeper for value play.
Other suggestions: Anthony Davis
(at ATL), PF/C ($10,300), Greg Monroe
(at PHX), PF/C ($7,800), Tyson Chandler
(at PHI), C ($5,300)
(knee) is out for at least another two weeks.
(knee) will be out for “a little while” with swelling on his knee.
(groin) could miss the remainder of the season.
(elbow) is still without a timetable to return.
(back) is still without a timetable to return.
(back spasms) is a game-time decision Friday.
(soreness) is a game-time decision Friday.
(illness) practiced Thursday and is a game-time decision Friday.
(rest) is a game-time decision Friday.
(illness) is expected to play Friday.
(hip) is expected to play Friday.
(neck) will undergo an evaluation following shootaround Friday.
(back) is questionable to play Friday.
(eye) has been playing through an injury and is expected to play Friday.
(back) is a game-time decision Friday.
(elbow) is a game-time decision Friday.
(thigh) is a game-time decision Friday.
(back) expects to play Friday.
(knee) expects to play Friday.
(knee) expects to play Friday.