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Daily Games Cheat Sheet: Friday

Alex Rikleen

Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living in Delaware.


Defenses to Avoid
Brooklyn Nets at Toronto Raptors: The pace of this Raptors-Nets series has been noticeably slower than that of the Spurs-Mavericks or Rockets-Blazers. Before Wednesday's games, when Raps-Nets exploded and Rockets-Blazers slowed down, the Raps-Nets were running eight fewer possessions per team per game than Rockets-Blazers, and three fewer than the Spurs-Mavs. Neither the Nets nor the Raptors have been particularly desirable fantasy opponents, but from the statistical perspective, the Raptors have been the tougher foe. Through five games, the Nets ranked dead last among playoff teams in rebounds per game, second to last in three point shooting percentage, and fourth to last in assists per game. Even after giving up 113 on Wednesday, the Raptors have still held the Nets to 11th in playoff points per game.

Bizarro-honorable mention here: the Dallas Mavericks defense at home against the San Antonio Spurs, for their consistent inconsistency. In games one, two, and four of this series, the Spurs were held to 90, 92, and 93 points, respectively. In both games three and five, the Spurs scored 109 points. The fantasy poster child for the impact of these bipolar results Tiago Splitter, with 39.4 fantasy points per game when the Spurs scored 109, but only 24.3 per game when the Spurs were in the low 90s.

Offenses to Use
Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers: Right now these two teams are first and second among playoff entrants in points per game. Of Friday's three games, only this one has an over/under set above 200 (it stood at 213 as of the writing of this article). These two teams also rank second and fourth in rebounds per game. Both are in the top five for three point attempts per game, free throw attempts per game, and even blocks per game. Despite setting the second fastest pace among the eight series, both of these teams are in the better half of the league in turnovers per game. If forced to choose, the Blazers would get the favorability nod, in part because of their more predictable lineup and rotation. Not only have the Rockets been (wisely) fidgeting with their rotation throughout the series, but they also enter Friday night with some uncertainty at point guard Patrick Beverley (illness) will play, but he was limited in Wednesday's game and Thursday's practice. Portland has also been shooting better, from the field, from three, and from the line. All that said, there should be plenty of value available from both teams.

Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: None.
Second game of a back-to-back: None. DAILY PLAYER RECOMMENDATIONS
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Point Guard
Patty Mills, SA (at DAL), PG, ($3,100): In order to win a DraftKings 50-50 contest, most nights a roster needs to earn slightly more than 4.8 points for every $1,000 spent in salary cap. When you can find a palatable player for just $3,100, that means they need to score only a measly 15 fantasy points in order to earn you a profit. During March and April, looking only at games when Mills played fewer than 25 minutes, he exceeded 15 fantasy points more than two-thirds of the time. He's been underwhelming for much of this series, but his workload and field goal attempts have been steady. And don't forget the most important reason why you're drafting Mills because of the financial flexibility a player this cheap gives you.

Other suggestions: Devin Harris, DAL (vs SA), PG/SG ($4,300); Damian Lillard, POR (vs HOU), PG, ($8,800)

Shooting Guard
Nicolas Batum, POR (vs HOU BK), SG/SF, ($7,200): The mid- and low-priced shooting guard options for tonight look generally shaky, so I'm spending extra to go with a trusted quantity. The most appealing option for $6,000 or below is probably Patrick Beverley, but there is still no way of knowing how much his illness will continue to impact him. Speaking of Beverley, if he is slowed, or if he yields playing time to Jeremy Lin, then the Blazers backcourt are the primary beneficiaries. Even if Beverley is at full strength, however, Batum usually matches up against James Harden who has so far been living proof of how hard it is to correct bad habits developed during the regular season. Batum has scored more than 30 fantasy points in four of the last five games, including a 51.75 point outing in game four.

Other suggestions: Demar DeRozan, TOR (at BK), SG/SF ($7,500); Monta Ellis, DAL (vs SA), PG/SG, ($7,000); Manu Ginobili, SA (at DAL), SG/SF, ($6,300)

Small Forward
Paul Pierce, BK (vs TOR), SF/PF, ($5,200): For a price far below your average-per-slot-allotment, you can start a former NBA champion with a reputation for clutch who is playing in an elimination game. Pierce is among the league's most dangerous players when he feels like he has something to prove, which certainly applies here. Pierce saw fewer minutes due to his poor play Wednesday, which only increases the amount of psychological pressure he is feeling. He is eager to demonstrate he is still valuable enough to make a difference in this league, and a first round exit at the hands of the Raptors would seem to show the opposite. Comparative cost is the key factor here I have more confidence that Pierce will produce than the similarly priced Greivis Vasquez or Amir Johnson (both $5,400).

Other suggestions: Kawhi Leonard, SA (at DAL), SG/SF, ($6,200); Wesley Matthews, POR (vs HOU), SG/SF, ($6,000)

Power Forward
Omer Asik, HOU (at POR), PF/C, ($5,000): Asik has seen more and more court time as this series has worn on, and the results have been mostly positive. His playing time has increased in each game of the series, and as Asik has become a more prominent part of the Rockets' rotation, LaMarcus Aldridge's productivity has correspondingly slowed. Though the 2013-14 regular season was a turbulent one for Asik, his per 36 minutes stats for the season remained in line with those from his breakout 2012-13 campaign (he averaged 14 rebounds and 10 points per 36 minutes this season). Given his size and skills, any time Asik plays 30 minutes and does not approach a double-double is a disappointment, even against a strong rebounding team like Portland.

Other suggestions: Chandler Parsons, HOU (at POR), SF/PF, ($7,000)

Tim Duncan, SA (at DAL), PF/C, ($7,500): Before Spurs-Mavs game one, I recommended slotting Duncan into your lineup, in part because of the increase in minutes he was likely about to experience. Duncan's minutes allotments through the first five games of this series: 38, 30, 36, 38, and 38. He averaged 29 minutes during the regular season. The extra minutes have not necessarily led to increased production (he has had two games above his regular season average fantasy points per game, one at it, and two below it), but they remain significant. Duncan's down games have served to lower his cap hit he's now cheaper than he was at the end of the season while the increased usage ensure that he will continue to get opportunities. Now the Spurs can earn some extra rest with a win in game six, and Duncan is historically strong in potential closeout games.

Other suggestions: Dwight Howard, HOU (at POR) PF/C, ($9,800); Dirk Nowitzki, DAL (at SA) PF/C, C, ($8,600)


Game-Time Decision
Patrick Beverley (illness) is a game-time decision Friday.
Samuel Dalembert (ankle) is a game-time decision Friday. He rolled his ankle during Wednesday's game. He left the court, but later returned to the game.
Landry Fields (back) is a game-time decision Friday. He was available to return on Wednesday, but did not enter the game.
The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire.