Friday is traditionally one of the NBA’s big nights each week, and the first one of the regular season doesn’t disappoint. A solid 10-game slate features a star-studded encounter between the Warriors and Pelicans, and the likes of John Wall, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James are also in action, to name a few. Let’s dive in on where the best value at each tier resides Friday:
Damian Lillard, POR at IND ($17,300): Even in an Opening Night blowout during which he didn’t have to do much, Lillard still went for 50.75 fantasy points against the Suns in just 29 minutes. Granted, backcourt mate C.J. McCollum was out for that contest due to a one-game suspension, but Lillard has proven capable of that kind of return with McCollum active many times before. Friday’s matchup sets up well for that type of scenario, considering that Lillard will often draw the defense of Darren Collison, who had a big part to play in the Nets’ D’Angelo Russell scoring 30 points in 30 minutes on Wednesday. Furthermore, McCollum should often find himself in a much tougher matchup against Victor Oladipo, possibly funneling the ball more towards Lillard.
Eric Bledsoe, PHO vs. LAL ($14,000): On the subject of favorable matchups, Bledsoe is an enviable spot against a Lakers team that he averaged 21.8 points (on 48.3 percent shooting), 7.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals against in three games last season. Lonzo Ball isn’t particularly heralded for his defense at his stage of his career, which should allow Bledsoe to win his fair share of one-on-one battle throughout the night. The Suns’ putrid overall performance in the opener on Wednesday is likely to keep Bledsoe low-owned in GPPs as well, but they’ll be catching the Lakers traveling on the second night of a back-to-back, which should only help Phoenix and Bledsoe right the ship.
Dennis Smith, Jr., DAL vs. SAC ($12,300): Smith looked the part of a top-10 pick in both Summer League and preseason, and that caliber of play continued in Dallas’ opener on Wednesday against the Hawks. The rookie collected 35.25 fantasy points on the strength of a 16-point, 10-assist double-double and should have the ball in his hands plenty again Friday versus a Kings’ defense that yielded a total of 67.0 fantasy points to Houston point guards in the opener. Smith might see his fair share of George Hill’s solid defense, but his explosive athleticism and ability to set up teammates for scoring opportunities should afford him ample opportunity to pay off a very reasonable price.
Anthony Davis, NO vs. GS ($18,900): Davis shook off an illness in Wednesday’s opener to explode for 57 fantasy points on the strength of a 33-point, 18-rebound double-double. Draymond Green (knee) has been upgraded to probable for Friday’s game, but he could well be on shaky ground physically and also surrenders four inches in height to Davis, an advantage that the latter parlayed into averages of 35.3 points, 12.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.3 blocks and 2.0 steals in three games versus the Warriors last season. Given what should once again be massive usage, Davis is worth the investment as a pivot off the more expensive trio (Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James and teammate DeMarcus Cousins) above him.
Nikola Vucevic, ORL at BKN ($14,000): Vucevic exploded for 45.75 fantasy points in the opener Wednesday in a favorable matchup against Hassan Whiteside, and he could be primed for more of the same Friday. The Nets allowed a total of 74.8 fantasy points to centers Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis in Wednesday’s opener, and Vucevic’s offensive prowess could give them similar trouble in what could be a high-scoring affair.
Nerlens Noel, DAL vs. SAC ($10,900): Noel provided 39.25 fantasy points in just 19 minutes in Wednesday’s opener on the strength of a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double that also included a trio of blocks. The Kings have some inexperience in the frontcourt if Zach Randolph (mouth) misses again Friday, while Noel should see more than enough minutes in his rotation role to return strong value on a price he far outperformed in the first game of the season.
Kevin Durant, GS at NO ($17,700): Durant checks in priced notably cheaper than other elite options but carries just as much upside, and he should be heavily involved in what could turn out to be a high-scoring tussle. The Warriors scored between 113 and 129 points in four games versus the Pelicans last season, contests in which Durant averaged 23.8 points (on 47.1 percent shooting), 8.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.3 blocks. The Pelicans allowed 50.7 fantasy points and 64.7 percent shooting to the small forward position in the opener as well, while Draymond Green (knee) may not be 100 percent even if he does play, potentially boosting Durant’s already robust usage.
D’Angelo Russell, BKN vs. ORL ($13,700): Russell made a splash with his new squad by compiling 44.25 fantasy points in 30 minutes against the Pacers on Wednesday, and given backcourt mate Jeremy Lin’s catastrophic knee injury in that contest, he could be even more involved Friday. The Magic were one of the more vulnerable teams to point guards last season, and with Elfrid Payton once again manning that spot for Orlando, more of the same could well be in store. Russell should see plenty of minutes given the Nets’ backcourt situation and potentially even put up more than the 22 shots he took Wednesday.