This article is part of our DraftKings NBA series.
There are playoff implications-a-plenty in Friday's nine-game slate, with key games to target as we head into the final weeks of the regular season. Variance will rear its ugly head in every format as teams with little to play for will inevitably kick the tires of some lesser-used talent, which makes the teams with playoff potential safer plays overall.
GAMES I LIKE
The stakes for the Nuggets have never been higher as they head into Oklahoma City in what may be considered a must-win if they hope to sneak in as the West's final playoff team. The loss of Gary Harris has affected the team more than expected, and with Will Barton ($6,800) shifting to the two, Wilson Chandler has been all kinds of mediocre at the wing.
Jamal Murray ($6,800) will need to step up and get it inside to Nikola Jokic ($9,100), who torched the Thunder for 71 DKFP in their last matchup. On the other end, Russell Westbrook is one of six 10k-plus players on the slate, and while I have no quarrel with him, Paul George ($8,100) has averaged a little over 41 DKFP against Denver this season and is a better play on this team relative to price. The high salaries make this game impossible to stack without some help.
The Clippers are another team in do-or-die mode, and though I don't much like the O/U of 218, the Clippers have to make a move tonight against a tough Portland team or their glimmer of hope to reach the playoffs will begin to fade. I think all of the game's stars are in play here, but if you're looking for deep value Evan Turner ($4,100) has taken the reins at the wing in place of Moe Harkess and doesn't need much to reach value at that price point.
GAME I DON'T LIKE
This has all the makings of a blowout if I've ever seen one. The Jazz are almost perfectly healthy and the Grizzlies are, well... you know. Sure, you could dig for value here and expect one or two Jazz players to see regular usage, but when a slate has more than six games I like just eliminating a couple of contests altogether. This one fits that bill.
The rest of our elites are in interesting spots. LeBron James ($11,800) is unsurprisingly the highest-paid guy and will square off against Anthony Davis ($11,600) and the Pelicans. With Joel Embiid (concussion) out for the foreseeable future, Davis' ownership will tick up along with the other desirable big men. Both teams are safe playoff-wise but I think the Pelicans won't slow down here as they need to work out some kinks in the injury department and figure out a scheme that works best heading into playoff time. Rounding out the 10k-plus players are James Harden ($11,500) in another potential blowout against the Suns, Giannis Antetokounmpo ($10,800) against the Lakers, and Karl-Anthony Towns ($10,100) against the Mavs.
Here's how I rank the elites on Friday, based on matchup and past history:
I'll now target three players at each position with a small list of additional players at each spot. I'll be primarily targeting lower-priced targets based on the near-necessity of fielding one or two of the aforementioned elites to keep pace.
Eric Gordon, HOU vs. PHO ($7,800): While Chris Paul (knee) may feel well enough to go, there's no reason why the Rockets need to put him on the court on Friday. Gordon should once again step in and provide a stat line that's typical of his output when Harden or Paul are out, which is a floor of 30 DKFP and a ceiling that could surge well into the 40's depending on how many minutes he receives.
Eric Bledsoe, MIL at LAL ($7,200): Lonzo Ball (knee) potentially limited, the Lakers will likely play catch-up with the Bucks for most of the game, but they'll keep it close enough to leave Bledsoe on the floor directing the offense. The Bucks' soft spot is inside, so Bledsoe will be called upon to exploit the Lakers backcourt.
Isaiah Taylor, ATL vs. PHI ($4,800): With Dennis Schroder (ankle) doubtful and Malcolm Delaney (ankle) out, Taylor should once again draw the start on Friday. Since it is the Hawks we're talking about, there's always a modicum of risk involved, but with the Sixers a bit out of sorts without Embiid, Taylor should have a slightly easier time dishing the ball inside.
This is definitely the weakest position on the slate tonight, so spending on an elite at this position is a prudent choice.
Dario Saric, PHI at ATL ($6,800): I don't expect Richaun Holmes to be anything special for the Sixers in Embiid's absence, but it certainly does give Saric an opportunity to shine. Saric has the talent to absorb a lion's share of Embiid's production, and will see enough minutes even if this game gets out of hand. The forward will remain a popular play as long as Embiid sits.
Brandon Ingram, LAL vs, MIL ($5,600): I favor Ingram as more of a tournament play on Friday, but it's rare that you'll find this kind of talent in the 5K range, and the Lakers have been surprisingly effective against the Bucks this season despite the defensive mismatch on paper.
J.J. Redick, PHI at ATL ($4,800): With Embiid gone until the playoffs, it's all-hands-on-deck for the Sixers to make up for the output, and Redick should be a beneficiary of his absence with Ben Simmons getting a majority of the attention in the backcourt. Redick still displays lightning-fast quickness at the wing and is poised for a big game on Friday.
DeAndre Jordan, LAC at POR ($8,300): The big man is averaging 17.7 rebounds in three games versus Portland this season, so while he hasn't been a prolific scorer, he should have more than enough rebounds to justify a start on Friday, especially considering what's at stake.
Dewayne Dedmon, ATL at PHI ($5,300): Dedmon is a singular talent languishing in a horrible offense, but the Hawks have an opportunity to exploit the Sixers inside with Embiid out. Teams and DFS players alike often underestimate Dedmon but given the right opportunity, his ceiling can pop for a big stat line.
Nene Hilario, HOU vs. PHO ($3,400): He's a bit of a punt/tournament play, but considering the matchup and the Rockets' playoff placement, I think Houston may very well limit Capela's minutes on Friday as he's been a bit banged up of late. Nene is perfectly capable of handling the job inside, and might go overlooked as a good value on the slate.