This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
After the NBA eased into the post-All-Star-break portion of the season with six games Thursday, we have a markedly more robust nine-game slate Friday night. Unlike Thursday, we have a larger injury report that has a trio of big names with confirmed absences in the form of Kemba Walker, Damian Lillard and Karl-Anthony Towns. That will open up plenty of value opportunities on each of their respective squads. And even with the talented trio out of the picture in terms of the overall player pool, there's still plenty to pay up for with so many teams in action.
As usual, we'll proceed to break down the positional outlook below, along with possible chalk plays and some likely under-owned bargains that could help you round out your lineups with a couple of superstars.
Before delving into the slate, a reminder that FanDuel has reverted to its previous format of NOT dropping the lowest scoring in lineups after a one-year experiment with that feature. Therefore, it will be important to be prudent with each selection, as each player's total will count toward your final score.
Without further ado, let's take a more comprehensive look at Friday's slate!
Here's a closer look at the three games with the highest projected total on Friday's slate:
New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers (Projected total: 238.5 points)
These two fast-paced and defensively generous teams are unsurprisingly projected to light up the scoreboard. Portland and New Orleans combined for 255 points the last time they met, and they also generated a 219-point tally in another one of their three meetings. The Pels are playing at the second-fastest pace (107.9 possessions per game), while the Blazers are just outside the top 10 (104.7 per contest). Both also slot into the bottom-five in terms of points allowed (New Orleans-117.3 PPG/ Portland-115.3 PPG), and even with Damian Lillard (groin) out of action, Portland still possesses plenty of firepower.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Washington Wizards (Projected total: 236.0 points)
These two teams combined for 226 points the last time they met, and they check in last (Cleveland) and next-to-last (Washington) in defensive efficiency rating. The Wizards are also surrendering the most points per game at 119.8, while the Cavaliers aren't too far behind at 115.0 allowed per contest. The one wild card in this contest is how Cleveland will respond in its first game under new coach J.B. Bickerstaff. But given the defensive track record of both teams, it's likely safe to assume an elevated point total.
Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers (Projected total: 234.0 points)
The Grizzlies will be on the second game of a back-to-back, but that shouldn't be too much of a factor in terms of fatigue with the All-Star break having preceded the consecutive contests. Meanwhile, the Lakers come in at full health and naturally well-rested, and they sport a solid 114.6 points per game average at home. Meanwhile, Memphis is yielding an almost identical 115.4 per contest when traveling, and they're playing at the sixth-fastest pace (106.6 possessions per game). The one caveat with respect to scoring expectations is the track record of these two teams when getting together this season – the Grizz and the Lakers have combined for 211 and 219 points in their first two meetings, respectively.
Other games with high projected totals: Phoenix Suns at Toronto Raptors (Projected total: 229.0 points); Boston Celtics at Minnesota Timberwolves (Projected total: 227.5 points)
Unlike Thursday's slate, there isn't as rosy a health outlook for Friday's ledger. As mentioned earlier, there are some big names already confirmed out of action, and two of those - Damian Lillard (groin) and Kemba Walker (knee) - certainly weaken the depth at point guard. Elfrid Payton (ankle) is also a 50/50 proposition, and an absence on his part would naturally weaken the ranks further. Mike Conley's planned absence for rest purposes also dings the sub-$6K level at the position.
As was the case Thursday, shooting guard is arguably in the finest shape injury-wise of any position, and small forward isn't too far behind. However, T.J. Warren (back) and Will Barton (knee) each sport questionable designations, and an absence by either or both will thin out the mid-tier at the three.
The frontcourt positions are a bit of a mixed bag. While power forward rivals shooting guard in terms of excellent health and depth, center will be without Karl-Anthony Towns (wrist) and Marc Gasol (hamstring). However, the position endures Towns' confirmed absence well at the top tier, as Nikola Jokic ($10.1K) and Andre Drummond ($9.7K) offer an appealing combination of price and matchup, while Hassan Whiteside ($8.5K) could be underpriced in a matchup against the Pelicans that carries the highest projected total of the night, considering he'll see a significant bump in usage with Lillard out.
Notable Injury Situations to Monitor
NOTE: Injury reporting is especially fluid in the NBA, where the status of multiple players can change during the course of a day. Therefore, although the following serves as a foundation for the latest injury report as of the time the article is written (usually late morning Eastern time), check back throughout the course of the day with RotoWire for the latest news regarding the status of all players on that night's slate.
Kemba Walker, BOS
Damian Lillard, POR
Lillard will remain out due to a groin injury, boosting the usage of the rest of the Trail Blazers' starting five and likely affording Anfernee Simons a start.
Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN
Mario Hezonja, POR
Hezonja will remain out due to an ankle injury.
Alfonzo McKinnie, CLE
McKinnie will not play due to a foot injury.
Ante Zizic, CLE
Zizic is probable to return from the vestibular condition that's cost him more than a month.
Ian Mahinmi, WAS
Mahinmi is questionable due to a foot injury.
Thomas Bryant, WAS
Bryant is questionable due to the foot injury that kept him out of the last four games prior to the All-Star break. If he's able to play, Bryant could potentially draw a spot start if fellow big man Ian Mahinmi is forced to sit with his own foot issue.
D.J. Augustin, ORL
Augustin is questionable to return from the knee injury that's cost him the last 15 games.
T.J. Warren, IND
Warren is questionable due to lower-back soreness.
Elfrid Payton, NYK
Payton is questionable due to right ankle soreness.
Wayne Ellington, NYK
Ellington is questionable due to an ankle injury.
Deandre Ayton, PHO
Ayton is probable due to an ankle injury.
Aron Baynes, PHO
Baynes is probable due to a hip injury.
Dario Saric, PHO
Saric is probable due to an ankle injury.
Elie Okobo, PHO
Okobo is probable due to an ankle injury.
Patrick McCaw, TOR
McCaw is doubtful due to an illness.
Evan Turner, MIN
Turner will remain out while he and the Timberwolves continue to explore a buyout.
Will Barton, DEN
Barton is questionable due to a knee injury after initially being listed as doubtful.
Mike Conley, UTA
Conley will not play due to rest purposes on the first game of a back-to-back set.
Ed Davis, UTA
Davis is questionable due to an ankle injury.
Notable Longer-Term Injuries/Absences: Al-Farouq Aminu, ORL; Norman Powell, TOR; Marc Gasol, TOR; Jusuf Nurkic, POR; Zach Collins, POR; Justise Winslow, MEM; Grayson Allen, MEM; Robert Williams, BOS; Kenrich Williams, NOP; Dewan Hernandez, TOR; Frank Kaminsky, PHO; Darius Bazley, OKC; Andre Roberson, OKC
With 18 teams in action, we have a quintet of five-figures salaries on the slate in the form of Anthony Davis ($10.6K), LeBron James ($10.4K), Luka Doncic ($10.3K), Karl-Anthony Towns ($10.2K) and Nikola Jokic ($10.1K). However, only four are in play, as Towns will sit due to a wrist injury. Of the remaining four, Doncic faces a reasonably difficult matchup versus the Magic, but both Davis and James are in favorable spots versus a fast-paced Grizzlies squad.
It's also worth noting there's another five options in the $9K range, although Damian Lillard (groin) lowers that number to four with his absence. Of that group, both the Cavaliers' Andre Drummond ($9.7K) and the Wizards' Bradley Beal ($9.2K) find themselves in an appealing scenario while facing each other, and both could well outpace their current salaries in a game with the second-highest projected total of the night.
With nine games on tap, we're fairly shielded from chalk, factoring out the usually heavily owned elite plays. However, there will also be a couple of particularly popular spots due to major injuries.
One such spot is Boston, where the likes of Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Brad Wanamaker should be especially popular with Kemba Walker (knee) out of action. The same applies in Portland, where Damian Lillard's (groin) absence will bump up the clicks on C.J. McCollum, Anfernee Simons, Carmelo Anthony and Hassan Whiteside in particular. And, in Minnesota, Karl-Anthony Towns' absence due to a wrist injury also opens up plenty of opportunity. But with so many new players on the Timberwolves following the trade deadline, it remains to be seen which benefit the most.
As customary, I've also put together a specific list of sub-$6K value plays that should find themselves in plenty of lineups – some due to injury situations on their respective teams – and have included those below the next section.
Key and Likely Underowned Values
Michael Porter, DEN at OKC ($4,400)
Porter's ownership levels will undoubtedly be affected by Will Barton's status, with the veteran wing now upgraded to questionable after beginning the day as doubtful. If Barton does take the court, I expect Porter's popularity to be fairly low on the large slate, considering he isn't exactly top of mind after missing the six games leading up to the All-Star break due to an ankle issue. However, the second-year wing was on an outstanding run prior to his injury, scoring 22.8 to 46.5 FanDuel points over a 10-game period. Porter's role was locked into the mid-20s on average during that stint, and after having received clearance for Friday following the extra week-plus off afforded by the All-Star break, Porter should be a full go off the bench Friday.
Naz Reid, MIN vs. BOS ($4,200)
Reid's teammate James Johnson is likely to be the subject of plenty of attention as the likely starter at center for the ailing Karl-Anthony Towns (wrist). However, Reid is also due for an expanded role during Towns' absence, and the young big offered reason for optimism with extra minutes in the first game Towns missed with his current wrist injury just before the All-Star break. Reid logged a career-high 22 minutes in that contest against the Hornets and parlayed them into 25.2 FanDuel points on the strength of a 12-point, six-rebound effort. The Celtics make for a tough matchup statistically, but Reid's price and expected role certainly mitigate a lot of the risk.
Cedi Osman, CLE at WAS ($3,700)
Osman is very likely to be a forgotten man on the big slate, considering he scored just 14.2 to 21.0 FanDuel points in the five games prior to the All-Star break. However, given he's just $200 away from minimum and draws a matchup versus the Wizards, he's certainly worth considering for differentiation/savings purposes in large-field tournaments. Osman generated 27.9 FanDuel points in his one prior meeting against the Wizards back on Jan. 23, and Washington comes in allowing the fifth-highest offensive efficiency rating (24.4) to small forwards, along with the fourth-highest shooting percentage (46.9) to the position. Washington also comes in ranked last in rebounding percentage (47.7 percent), furthering Osman's case at his bargain price.
Other likely higher-owned value plays to consider: Larry Nance, CLE ($5,700); Myles Turner, IND ($5,700); Jaylen Brown, BOS ($5,700); Tim Hardaway, DAL ($5,500); Marcus Smart, BOS ($5,500); Davis Bertans, WAS ($5,400); Rui Hachimura, WAS ($5,300); James Johnson, MIN ($5,200); Malik Beasley, MIN ($5,100); Derrick Favors, NOP ($5,100); Mitchell Robinson, NYK ($5,100); Ish Smith, WAS ($4,900); Anfernee Simons, POR ($4,800): Kevin Porter, CLE ($4,600); Darius Garland, CLE ($4,500); Brad Wanamaker, BOS ($3,900)