Which players should you build around and which players should you fade in DFS as we tip off tonight's NBA action? Our experts have the answers.
Today's panel includes ESPN Fantasy's André Snellings, Kyle Soppe, Jim McCormick and Renee Miller.
Players to build around
The Cavs traded away six rotation players on Thursday, and it is unlikely that any of the replacements will be available for Friday's action against a weak Atlanta Hawks defense. The trades reportedly rejuvenated the Cavaliers, who would like to stay on the winning track after their huge overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday. For them to do that, it'll likely require a larger than usual effort from LeBron James.
Motivation + need + weak defense = a great fantasy line tonight.
Kyle Soppe -- JR Smith, Cleveland Cavaliers
I'm not going to lie to you and call Smith a safe option, but he draws a favorable matchup on the day following Cleveland turning over their roster. This is as good a spot as you're going to get from the king of the heat check. In case you're new to planet Earth, Smith is a player who relies as much on confidence as anyone, and he has nailed 13 of 26 3-pointers over the past week. The Hawks' defense that has allowed opponents to drain 37.5 percent of 3s (second highest). The roster moves that took place yesterday will pay dividends eventually, but I'm looking for James to feature the teammates he is comfortable with tonight, and Smith is one of only a few Cavaliers still in town.
Averaging 23.7 PPG on 16.3 shots during the past three games (and an additional six free throws per outing), LaVine looks good on tape and in the box score lately. For DFS purposes, I really like LaVine's robust 30 percent usage rate this season, as it fuels a relatively high scoring floor. If we consider the revenge narrative against his former team and his reasonable price, LaVine stands out as a strong value tonight. It also helps that the Timberwolves have struggled against enemy shooting guards of late, ranking 21st in fantasy points allowed to the position over the past 10 games.
Simmons is a lock for me at a position without a lot to offer at the top (at least on FanDuel). You have Blake Griffin's revenge game, sure to attract plenty of buyers, then the fairly priced Simmons before a big drop down to Tobias Harris' revenge game. I like Simmons partly for the matchup. New Orleans is a top three DvP matchup for fantasy no matter what position you push Simmons into, and he crushed it the first time these teams met. This should also be a fast-paced and high-scoring game, and I think Simmons will be low-owned. There's talk of him hitting the rookie wall, Dario Saric is going to be super popular, and a lot of people will be taking that revenge ride down Narrative Street tonight. Simmons' wall, if in fact he's hit one, is still providing you a higher floor than a lot of guys do, along with the upside of a weak defensive opponent and home court advantage, where he's averaged about four more fantasy points per game.
Players to fade
Howard was dominant for most of January, but has been pedestrian in three of four February games. He is coming off his lowest point total in a month on Thursday night, a seven-point effort against Jusuf Nurkic and the Portland Trail Blazers. On Friday, the second half of a back-to-back, Howard has to travel to Utah to face Rudy Gobert and the dominant Jazz defensive interior. There are better matchups out there on Friday than taking a chance on this being the game that Howard bounces back in.
Sorry Uncle Drew, but not tonight. Irving has been less efficient on the second night of a back-to-back (44.9 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from 3), and while he looked healthy last night, he is still less than a week removed from a quad injury. That seems like a lot to overcome in a matchup with Victor Oladipo, a top-five guard (minimum 20 minutes played per game) in terms of defensive real plus-minus, and a Pacers team that hasn't played since Monday. I don't think Irving is an awful play, but on a nine-game slate with plenty of viable point guard options on both the expensive and cheap end of the price spectrum, I will have very little exposure to Irving in this spot.
Despite some buzz at the deadline, Bradley wasn't dealt. This means he's still on the roster for his own revenge matchup with the Detroit Pistons. While it's sometimes fun to consider narratives, an objective data analysis of Bradley's situation reveals he'll have a tough time meeting and exceeding value tonight. Bradley is posting sluggish usage rates in the high teens with the Clippers and is jockeying for shots with more competent scorers such as Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris.
This whole game is a bit of a turn off, with it's sub-200 point total and slow pace, so Antetokounmpo's top-tier salary looks even worse tonight. In two games against the Miami Heat this season, the Greek Freak is averaging a full 10 fantasy points fewer than his regular season average. His numbers are down across the board vs. Miami, and it doesn't look like Vegas foresees an offensive outburst from either team tonight. There are some great options in the second tier, so as much as I like him in general, Giannis is sitting out for me tonight.