Playoff seeding will be on the line in several of the seven games in the NBA on Friday. There will also be a lot of the top players in the league in action with the Rockets, Thunder and Bucks set to take the floor. Let’s examine the matchups and highlight some players to target and avoid while creating your Yahoo entry.
D'Angelo Russell, BKN at LAL ($35): Russell has exploded over the last two games, scoring 53 and 73.8 Yahoo points, respectively. He took advantage of two teams that play at fast paces in the Clippers and Kings and will get another one Friday since the Lakers play at the fifth-fastest pace (103.7 possessions per game). While there is also the revenge angle here against his former squad, this would have been a favorable matchup regardless. At this reasonable price, he’s one of the top targets at any position.
Fred VanVleet, TOR vs. OKC ($19): This should be a fun matchup between two teams with a lot at stake in terms of playoff seeding. Unfortunately for the Raptors, they will be without the services of Kyle Lowry (ankle). VanVleet has started the last two games and was productive with 38.4 and 35 Yahoo points, respectively. He played a whopping 40 minutes against the Thunder on Wednesday and could provide plenty of value based on his expanded role.
Guard to Avoid
Evan Fournier, ORL vs. MEM ($18): Fournier has been in a slump lately by shooting just 39.8 percent from the field across his last eight contests. Considering the majority of his contributions usually come in the scoring column, he finished with 22.8 Yahoo points or fewer six times during that stretch. The Grizzlies allow the second-fewest points per game (104.9), so this is not the night to take a chance on Fournier breaking out of his slump.
Danilo Gallinari, LAC at CLE ($29): Things are wild at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. The last four teams all have identical records with the Clippers being a part of that group. Gallinari has been their offensive leader down the stretch, which has helped him score at least 30.5 Yahoo points in nine straight games. This game might actually stay relatively close since the Cavaliers are the healthiest that they have been in a while, and if that’s the case, Gallinari should be extremely productive over his full complement of minutes.
Mario Hezonja, NY vs. DEN ($11): Hezonja has been forced into added playing time lately with the Knicks dealing with several injuries. He’s made the most of his opportunity, scoring at least 22.5 Yahoo points in three straight games. If Frank Ntilikina (groin) and Noah Vonleh (ankle) are out again, Hezonja could receive enough playing time to be worth taking a chance on in tournament play.
Forward to Avoid
Jonathan Isaac, ORL vs. MEM ($18): Isaac has had a few strong performances lately, but he’s largely been unproductive with 24.8 Yahoo points or fewer in six of his last eight games. His 16.1 percent usage rate leaves him with limited scoring upside. Facing the Grizzlies’ tough defense won’t make scoring any easier for him, either. Since he’s not that cheap, it’s hard to justify paying this much to get him into your lineup.
Jonas Valanciunas, MEM at ORL ($22): The Grizzlies are running out of healthy players. Jaren Jackson Jr. (thigh) and Avery Bradley (leg) are still out and will likely be joined on the sidelines Friday by Mike Conley Jr., who is listed as doubtful due to general soreness. In other words, they plan to rest him as part of their tanking efforts. Valanciunas is already averaging 19.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks since joining the team and should receive all of the scoring opportunities that he can handle in this matchup.
JaVale McGee, LAL vs. BKN ($16): McGee has played well since returning to the starting five, averaging 11 points, 8.1 rebounds, one steal and 1.6 blocks across eight games. He still only logged 23 minutes a night during that stretch, but he’s shown throughout the season that’s all the playing time he needs to be productive. This is a stellar matchups against a Nets team that allows the seventh-most Yahoo points per game (41.6) to opposing centers, making him the top cheap option to target at the position.
Center to Avoid
Tristan Thompson, CLE vs. LAC ($20): After having not played in over two months due to a foot injury, Thompson made his return to the floor Wednesday against the Bucks. Since he was out for so long, it’s no surprise that he only logged 12 minutes. The Cavaliers have nothing left to play for at this point, so it makes no sense to throw heavy minutes at Thompson in his second game back. He’s way too expensive, so be sure to avoid him.