San Antonio Spurs (21-35) at Atlanta Hawks (26-29)
Dejounte Murray comes in as our fantasy star of the night for Friday, posting a huge stat line and helping to beat the Hawks 136-121 as an heavy underdog. Murray scored 32 points while dishing out 15 assists and grabbing 10 rebounds. This was arguably the best game of Murray’s career, but more games like this could be in his future now that Derrick White is off the team. He has unlimited upside without White next to him and should be seen as a top asset for the rest of the season. He is just outside of the top-15 players and should be able to push higher after the All-Star Break. Keldon Johnson finished as the second-leading scorer with 26 points on 6-8 three-point shooting. There should be extra opportunities without White, but Johnson should not be relied on to score like this on a game-to-game basis.
It was a rough game for the Hawks from the start as their inconsistency continued. Trae Young led the way with 18 points and 11 assists. Bogdan Bogdanovic led the team in scoring with 23 points off the bench. He has been playing off the bench since coming back from a knee injury and it has been suiting him very well. He has the same upside off the bench and starting, but it appears he has a slightly higher floor being staggered with high usage players like Trae Young and Kevin Huerter.
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Oklahoma City Thunder (17-38) at Philadelphia 76ers (33-22)
The 76ers took care of business on Friday, winning 100-87 as they had the lead for almost the entire game. Joel Embiid was held in check offensively but still managed to put up a monster stat line, scoring 25 points, grabbing 19 rebounds, and swatting five shots. Embiid has been a top-five fantasy player this year and should be able to keep similar value next to James Harden who was acquired in a blockbuster trade at the deadline. Kevin Durant and James Harden were top-five fantasy players alongside each other, so there is little reason to suspect that Harden and Embiid couldn’t do the same. Tyrese Maxey scored 24 points last night while adding five rebounds and two assists. He should see fewer ball-handling duties next to James Harden, which will hurt his overall fantasy upside.
The Thunder continue to struggle their way through the season with it being much worse since Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, losing their last four games. Derrick Favors surprisingly led the way in scoring for the Thunder, finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds. He should soak up a few extra minutes with Mike Muscala and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl both out of the lineup but has limited upside and almost no security in playing larger minutes against teams without a larger center. Lu Dort finished with 15 points while struggling from the field, shooting just 6-17. He should remain as the top-scoring option with Gilgeous-Alexander out until after the All-Star Break.
Cleveland Cavaliers (35-21) at Indiana Pacers (19-38)
Caris LeVert returned to Indiana for the first time as a Cavalier and helped his team to a 120-113 win over the Pacers. Levert ended with 22 points and five assists in his first start for the Cavs. He should be a high volume scorer on this team with his ball-handling abilities set to decrease when Darius Garland returns to full health from a minor back injury. Jarrett Allen had his way with the inexperienced Pacers frontcourt, scoring 22 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. He sits just outside the top-40 players this season giving managers a huge boost in field goal percentage, rebounds, and blocks.
The Pacers played their first game with Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield in the lineup and both played well in the loss. Haliburton was the team’s leading scorer with 23 points while adding six assists and three steals. He should continue to thrive as the main ball-handler with Malcolm Brogdon out of the lineup and should remain heavily involved even when he returns. He has been a top-30 fantasy player this year and should continue a similar trajectory with or without Brogdon. Hield had a strong first game as a Pacer finishing with 16 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. The assist and rebound numbers are outliers for Hield but it appears that the change of scenery should help his fantasy value.
Charlotte Hornets (29-28) at Detroit Pistons (12-44)
The Hornets get a much-needed win as they blow out the Pistons 141-119. LaMelo Ball continues his amazing fantasy season, finishing with 31 points, 12 assists, five rebounds, and four steals. Ball has been a top-20 fantasy player this season with shooting percentages being his only downfall. He could become a top-10 fantasy player with improved shooting and shot selection. Terry Rozier had an excellent night on Friday finishing with 25 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds for his second career triple-double.
The Pistons welcomed back their first overall pick, Cade Cunningham, into the lineup on Friday after missing five games with a hip injury. He only played 22 minutes but managed to score 12 points while adding five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. He should remain a high upside fantasy player with his shooting numbers and turnovers hindering his night-to-night production. Saddiq Bey stepped up as the top offensive player last night, scoring 25 points on 3-8 three-point shooting. He ranks outside of the top-125 players and is far too volatile to trust on an every game basis.
Denver Nuggets (30-25) at Boston Celtics (32-25)
The Celtics entered the Derrick White era on Friday and started off 1-0 with their new backcourt addition. White played 28 minutes in his debut and looked very strong posting 15 points, six rebounds, and two assists. His fantasy value is slightly lower than it was on the Spurs, but this is a great situation for White as he should see close to 30 minutes a night with plenty of open shots. Marcus Smart stood out for the Celtics last night, scoring 22 points while adding seven assists, five rebounds, and five steals. He should be locked into massive minutes now that the Celtics are very thin in their backcourt but he still will need to hold off Derrick White for the lion’s share of point guard minutes.
Nikola Jokic continued his fantasy dominance even in the loss last night. He finished with 23 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists. It feels like he is locked into a triple-double every other night lately. He is the number one fantasy player this year and shows no signs of slowing down. Aaron Gordon added 17 points as the second-leading scorer last night. Both Jokic and Gordon will see extra offensive touches for as long as Monte Morris is out with a concussion, although that is not expected to be for very long.
Minnesota Timberwolves (29-27) at Chicago Bulls (35-21)
The Bulls won the fourth quarter by 11 points to close out a 134-122 win over the Wolves. DeMar DeRozan exploded for 35 points, six rebounds, and six assists to lead the Bulls to a win. DeRozan has been a top-20 category player with his only issue being the fact that he takes very few three-pointers. Rookie Ayo Dosunmu continues to show his playmaking abilities as he ended with 14 points and 10 assists last night. He has seven or more assists in six of his last seven games and should continue to play massive minutes as long as Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso are out of the lineup.
The Timberwolves suffered a tough loss as they were in the position to win for over three-quarters of the game. They were led by Anthony Edwards last night as he finished with 31 points, eight assists, and six rebounds. This was a very encouraging performance for Edwards as he has been slumping over the past few games, especially with his peripheral stats. Edwards has been a top-40 player this year for fantasy with consistency being his biggest issue. He should continue to grow as the year rounds out and will be a great fantasy player next year if he can improve his consistency and shooting numbers.
Orlando Magic (13-44) at Utah Jazz (35-21)
Utah continues to take care of business without Rudy Gobert who continues to be sidelined with a calf injury. Udoka Azubuike and Hassan Whiteside have been splitting his minutes but it has been Whiteside who is producing more for fantasy. Whiteside finished with 15 points and 18 rebounds off the bench in last night’s win. He is a great per-minute producer and is more than viable when Gobert is sidelined. Donovan Mitchell has been excellent lately and continued it last night with 24 points, seven rebounds, and three steals. He has been a top-15 player this year and should continue that trend as he tries to push his team into the best seeding possible for the playoffs.
The Magic continue to have their focus on player development as they are a bottom-two team in the league. Wendell Carter Jr. led the way for the Magic finishing with 22 points and nine rebounds. He continues to play better than his front-court mate Mo Bamba and will likely be prioritized over him for the future. Cole Anthony added 18 points, six rebounds, and five assists in the loss. He has shown some amazing flashes of his upside this year for both fantasy and real-life play. He has been a top-70 player this season and should be able to improve on that next year if he can bump up his shooting numbers and limit his turnovers.