A typically solid Friday slate features some potential shootouts in the Bucks/Lakers and Rockets/Pelicans, along with some significant players out with injuries. FantasyDraft’s unique roster construction offers you the flexibility to exploit a number of these scenarios, so let’s dive in to where you might best allocate your resources:
Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL at LAL ($18,200): James Harden ($21,100) draws a favorable matchup against the Pelicans, so he can certainly be deployed if you have the cash, while Jimmy Butler ($16,300) is a highly appealing cheaper option with Dwyane Wade (elbow) out for the season. Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo might be in line for an explosive outing in his own right. He’s currently being deployed at power forward and will draw the best matchup in the NBA for fantasy purposes on Friday in the form of the Lakers. Luke Walton’s squad has given up the most fantasy points (52.0) per game to fours on the season, as well as the most (67.9) over the last five. They also rank in the bottom five or 10 in most other categories against the position, and the Greek Freak brings 70-fantasy-point upside despite a couple of “down” games recently.
Elfrid Payton, ORL at PHO ($14,300): Bradley Beal ($15,100), DeMar DeRozan ($14,700), Goran Dragic ($13,700), Devin Booker ($13,600) and Rajon Rondo ($12,300) are among other options at this level, but Payton has been playing the best ball of his career in recent games. He’s scored over 30 fantasy points on three occasions, over 40 twice and over 70 once in the last six while sporting a 20 percent usage rate. Friday, he’ll face off against a Suns defense that’s surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points (55.5) to point guards, as well as the most points (26.2).
Matthew Dellavedova, MIL at LAL ($7,700): For those with a bit more cash in the budget, Avery Bradley ($11,900), Evan Fournier ($11,500) and Tyler Ullis ($11,300) are also intriguing at the higher end of the affordable scale. However, Dellavedova can be had at a deep discount even as he continues to start at point guard. He’ll draw a Lakers defense that’s surrendered the second-most fantasy points (55.8) to the position on the season, including second-most (60.3) over the last five. Particularly notable in Dellavedova’s case is the fact that Los Angeles also surrenders the most assists (10.2) to point guards, as well as the highest field-goal percentage (46.5). Finally, Dellavedova has over 20 fantasy points in two of his last three, which represents a solid return at his price.
Anthony Davis, NO vs. HOU ($18,300): Davis draws a Rockets defense that’s allowed the third-most fantasy points (53.5) to centers. He has been on the edge of 50 fantasy points in his last two, and he also exploded for 82.25 against the Hornets three games ago in a matchup that wasn’t even as favorable as the one he’ll see Friday. DeMarcus Cousins’ presence has been a non-issue as well, as Davis is boasting a 34 percent usage rate since Cousins’ arrival.
Nikola Vucevic, ORL at PHO ($14,000): For those in need of some savings, Al Horford ($12,000) makes for an excellent cost-savings pivot at this level (especially with Isaiah Thomas out), but Vucevic is worth the expense if you can swing it. Orlando’s big man draws a Suns defense that has given up the second-most fantasy points (57.4) to the position over the last 10 games, including the fourth-most (60.2) over the last five. Vucevic has been on a tear in his own right, scoring over 40 fantasy points in three straight before playing only 25 minutes in Thursday’s blowout loss to the Warriors. Given Phoenix’s vulnerable defense, a bounce-back could certainly be in order.
Denzel Valentine, CHI at WAS ($8,000): There are quite a few tournament-only options in the affordable tier Friday, including Dante Cunningham ($6,300), Jeff Green ($6,300), Quincy Acy ($6,400), Shabazz Muhammad ($7,400), Bobby Portis ($7,700) and Tony Snell ($7,800). While Valentine is pricier than all of them, he still can fit into virtually any budget and is now the starting shooting guard for the Bulls in the wake of Dwyane Wade’s season-ending elbow injury. The rookie had already been coming on, as he’d scored 22.75 and 21.25 fantasy points in two of the previous three games before Wade’s injury on Wednesday, and then had 27.75 in that contest against the Grizzlies. He should see at least 30 minutes Friday while facing a Wizards defense that has allowed the most fantasy points (51.6) to the position over the last 10 games.
Dario Saric, PHI vs. DAL ($14,700): Saric is sporting a robust 28.1 percent usage rate since the All-Star break and has scored over 50 fantasy points in his last two games. The 22-year-old big man shows signs of getting better with virtually every game and should be well rested Friday after consecutive days off. While the Mavs have been tough on power forwards overall, Saric has been virtually immune to matchups, and his current returns and usage are worthy of a player of a higher salary.
T.J. Warren, PHO vs. ORL ($12,300): Warren is another player who seems underpriced relative to recent production, considering he’s scored over 40 fantasy points twice and over 30 on three other occasions over the last eight games. He’s been a reliable cash game play in particular, scoring at least 22.50 fantasy points in each of the last 12. His production should only go up now that Eric Bledsoe (knee) has been shut down, considering Warren already sports a solid 20.3 percent usage rate with his veteran teammate off the court this season. Meanwhile, the Magic have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points (46.2) to small forwards on the season, along with the fourth-most (53.3) over the last five games. They’ve also yielded the fourth-most rebounds (8.3), second-most assists (3.8) and third-most three-pointers (2.4) per contest to threes, furthering Warren’s case.