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Tonight could be one of the craziest nights for Daily Fantasy all season. We have 14 games on the schedule and a slew of injured stars whose absences could throw a wrench into everything. Just take a look at some of the players considered at least questionable for Friday's action: James Harden (ankle, questionable), Kevin Durant (foot, out), Anthony Davis (shoulder, out), Blake Griffin (elbow, out), DeMarcus Cousins (ankle/hip).
That is the most expensive shooting guard, power forward and center, plus the No. 2 small forward and No. 3 power forward. And it isn't even close to a complete list of the Fantasy relevant names who might sit out or be otherwise limited tonight. Michael Carter-Williams' role is still very much in question, Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison are gone for a long time, and Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried could sit out. Add in the return of Bradley Beal looming over the Wizards and the countless players still figuring things out post-deadline, and there are a lot more variables than usual.
With all that in mind, I have but two recommendations. First, if you are going into the big, thousand-plus-person tournaments, don't just throw one lineup in there. Those tournaments are a lottery ticket at best on most nights, but the odds of hitting become vanishingly slim the more variables you throw in.
And secondly, don't splurge at center or point guard, unless you are absolutely sure about the matchup. There are so many good options available at both spots, dropping everything on a high-priced option with any question marks is too risky. Sure, Russell Westbrook is good at any price right now; but DeAndre Jordan or Damian Lillard? You're better off trying to hit it big for cheap and spending on a safer option at the harder positions to fill.
Cleveland at Indiana
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 387.5
With the Cavaliers on the second night of a back-to-back, the matchup with the Pacers' still-tough defense could be a problem.
Washington at Philadelphia
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 393.9
Between the tough matchup against the Wizards and the inconsistent rotation we saw in their last game, it's tough to rely on the 76ers right now.
Orlando at Atlanta
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 393.4
It is tough to justify spending a lot of money on your lone center, but Al Horford could be a good choice if you want to splurge. Nikola Vucevic is a great rebounder and scorer, but his defense needs a lot of work, and the Magic are prone to getting their shots blocked.
Charlotte at Boston
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 391.9
The Hornets' defense has been exceptionally stingy lately, so this will be a good test for the new Celtics' backcourt.
New York at Detroit
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 392.5
The Knicks have the worst 3-point defense in the league, and it really isn't close. Jodie Meeks, Caron Butler or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope all make for solid buy-low bets.
Golden State at Toronto
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 386.5
Was Thursday a sign that Draymond Green is breaking out of his slump, or just an outlier? He was averaging just 24.1 FanDuel points in his previous five games, with two below 20.
Minnesota at Chicago
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 400.3
The Bulls' perimeter play is a question mark right now, but Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah could do well against an Adreian Payne-Nikola Pekovic frontcourt.
Brooklyn at Houston
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 392.9
Jarret Jack's return slowed Deron Williams' resurgence to a halt Wednesday, and makes both difficult to count on against a tough head-to-head matchup in Patrick Beverley.
LA Clippers at Memphis
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 378.8
On the surface, this should be a tough matchup for Chris Paul, especially without Blake Griffin around to take pressure off. However, he had 53.8 FanDuel points against them Monday, and has topped 40 in both games this season.
Miami at New Orleans
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 379.4
The Heat started picking up the pace in the second half lastt week against the Pelicans, so this could be a high-scoring affair on both sides. I love the way Luol Deng is playing now that the Heat are running with him at the four.
Utah at Denver
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 393.2
It's really tough to rely on anyone on the Nuggets right now, but their defensive struggles should make the Jazz a prime source of production tonight. I need to see Ty Lawson break out of this funk before I trust him.
San Antonio at Sacramento
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 397.1
With Darren Collison likely out for the season and DeMarcus Cousins doubtful tonight, Rudy Gay should have a huge role to play. Ben McLemore should get plenty of shots as well.
Milwaukee at LA Lakers
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 395.8
Michael Carter-Williams looked solid in limited playing time in his Bucks' debut, but you can't trust him at this price yet.
Oklahoma City at Portland
Combined FanDuel points allowed per game: 386.3
LaMarcus Aldridge is bravely fighting through two thumb injuries, but he shot just 5 of 19 from the field in Wednesday's game and you have to be concerned about what his scoring is going to look like.
My roster for Feb. 27 at FanDuel.com:
PG Isaiah Thomas, Celtics vs. Charlotte ($6,200)
PG Reggie Jackson, Pistons vs. New York ($6,100)
SG Klay Thompson, Warriors at Toronto ($7,100)
SG Eric Gordon, Pelicans vs. Miami ($6,300)
SF Rudy Gay, Kings vs. San Antonio ($7,800)
SF Kawhi Leonard, Spurs at Sacramento ($7,100)
PF Derrick Favors, Jazz at Denver ($7,500)
PF Reggie Evans, Kings vs. San Antonio ($3,600)
C Al Jefferson, Hornets at Boston ($8,200)
Al Jefferson, C, Hornets at Boston ($8,200)
The Celtics' frontcourt has been one of my favorite opposing units to pick on this season for FanDuel, and Jefferson should be the latest in a long line to take advantage of them tonight. He has struggled with effiiciency since returning from an injury, but has at least 32.0 FanDuel points in eight of the last 10 games, and dominated the Celtics in their last matchup. He dropped 46.3 FanDuel points in 36 minutes against them in December. The Celtics allow the eighth-most FanDuel points per-minute to opposing centers, and few have the ability to post a line like Jefferson. If you want to spend money at the position, this is a good usage of your resources.
Eric Gordon, SG, Pelicans vs. Miami ($6,300)
Gordon's resurgence has been one of the best storylines of the season, and he has played a key role in helping keep the Pelicans' playoff hopes alive amid a flurry of injuries to their All-Star duo of Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis. They are 20-16 with Gordon active, and he played a big part in their win over the Heat last week, dropping 24 points on 7 of 18 shooting while adding four rebounds and six assists to his line. Consistency remains an issue for Gordon, though his ability to serve as a secondary ballhandler has made him an invaluable piece. The Heat continue to struggle defending the 3-point line, and Gordon took advantage of that to great effect in their last meeting. Let's see if he can do it again.
Reggie Evans, PF, Kings vs. San Antonio($3,600)
Evans has barely played under new Kings coach George Karl, but was his customary productive self when he got the chance, coralling 11 rebounds and finishing with 18.7 FanDuel points in 27 minutes in Wednesday's game. With DeMarcus Cousins doubtful with a handful of maladies, Evans could see a large role, and there's no doubting what he can do when he gets the chance; he has averaged 29.1 FanDuel points in five games with more than 30 minutes played on the season. With the pace the Kings play at, there will be plenty of rebounding opportunities available tonight, and he's a voracious rebounder.
Overpay of the night
Kyle Lowry, PG, Raptors vs. Golden State ($7,600)
When DeMar DeRozan was down with a groin injury, Lowry was consistently one of the most productive point guards in the league. He was routinely in the $9,000 range at FanDuel and was often a bargain at that price. However, he has been in a freefall for the last few weeks, with just three games over six assists over the last 10. He is averaging just 27.4 FanDuel points per game in that stretch, a level of production that would suggest a price more like $1,000 below where he is still at. You never want to pay for a name brand when cheaper alternatives are available who might match or even surpass his production. It's hard to survive getting fewer than 30 points out of either point guard spots, and Lowry has reached that mark just twice in nine February games. Steer clear.
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CT: From Weeks 21-24, Asik plays 4-3-3-4 games; Waiters plays 4-4-3-3; Miles plays 4-4-4-3; McDaniels plays 3-4-4-3; and Morris plays 3-3-3-4. I am inclined to go with Miles even without considering the playoff schedule, and the fact that he has a clearly superior string of weeks to close out the season only cements it. Consistency will be an issue, and the looming return of Paul George could limit his role, but the options aren't exactly promising here. At least he has a chance to get hot and pour in some points.
CT: Canaan is the lottery ticket, as any player with a defined role and no competition for minutes on the 76ers would be. Whether he can live up to that potential is another question, but Canaan is going to receive every opportuntiy to do so, which makes it tough to cut ties with him. Len isn't assured of quite as large a role, but you have to love the way the Suns have deployed him recently; the 21-year-old has played more than 32 minutes in three of four games since making his return from an ankle injury at the All-Star break, and is averaging 8.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game in that span. There isn't a ton of upside in the other options here, so stick with the young guys as they get larger roles.
Waiver Wire flier
Danilo Gallinari, F, Nuggets
The last two seasons have been an abject disaster for Gallinari as a knee injury threatened to derail a once-promising career. However, he has shown some spark lately, playing 30-plus minutes in three of four games since the All-Star break, and appears to have earned a much larger role moving forward in the wake of Arron Afflalo's departure. Gallinari isn't doing much playmaking or rebounding, but his scoring numbers have been solid lately, thanks to the rediscovery of his 3-point stroke and a renewed emphasis on getting to the free-throw line. He is 13 of 28 from long range since the break, and has taken 14 free-throws, sinking 13 of them. There are likely a half-dozen point guards available on waivers putting up better numbers than Gallo's 17.0-4.0-1.0 line since the break, but they are all relatively replaceable. Forwards with his kind of second-half breakout potential are a rare commodity in today's NBA.