This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
We're primed for a 10-game slate Friday with the NBA's stretch run in high gear. With active playoff pushes throughout the league, we're treated to increasingly competitive matchups each night working to the advantage of DFS players by locking in heavy minutes for some of the higher-salaried players on each ledger. Tonight shapes up in such fashion, with all but three games with point spreads of 6.5 points or fewer as of early morning.
Here's a closer look at the three games with the highest projected totals on FanDuel Sportsbook as of Friday morning:
New Orleans Pelicans at Washington Wizards (Projected total: 241.0 points)
It's never a surprise to find the Wizards involved in the matchup with the highest projected total, and the Pelicans are often also part of scoreboard-busting affairs. New Orleans checks in allowing an elevated 116.4 points per game and 48.2 percent shooting when traveling, while Washington is surrendering an NBA-high 120.5 points per home game while also averaging an NBA-high 108.2 possessions per contest on its home floor. The Pels also score the eighth-most points per contest (114.5) and the Wizards currently check in with the sixth-most points per home game (117.0). The first meeting between the teams finished with a combined 230 points, and with the caliber of scorers on both sides, that number should be exceeded in the rematch.
Indiana Pacers at Utah Jazz (Projected total: 233.5 points)
The Jazz have been part of games with high projected totals more often this season than in years past, but not because their defense has weakened. Instead, it's their play on the other end of the floor that's seen a notable uptick, as Utah is averaging a Western Conference-high 117.0 points per game - including 118.6 at home. In turn, Quin Snyder's club gives up an NBA-low 103.7 points per home tilt, but the visiting Pacers do average the fourth-most points per road game (115.6). However, Indiana also allows 114.5 points per contest when traveling and brings a nice bump in pace to the Jazz with their average of 105.4 possessions per away game, as Utah averages just 102.0 possessions per Vivint Smart Home Arena contest.
Portland Trail Blazers at San Antonio Spurs (Projected total: 231.5 points)
The Blazers have struggled on defense all season surrendering 114.9 points per game, including 116.0 per road contest. Portland is also allowing 48.1 percent shooting when traveling, while the Spurs are actually more generous at home (113.2 PPG allowed) than on the road (110.5). The Blazers also score plenty when away from their home floor, averaging 115.5 points per road contest. The first meeting between the teams finished with 229 combined points, and with both teams Western Conference contenders and at full health in terms of key players, this is another game that should see a fair share of offensive fireworks and prove highly competitive wire-to-wire.
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, 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.
Kawhi Leonard, LAC (foot)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE
James Harden, BKN (hamstring)/ Status: OUT
Zach LaVine, CHI (COVID-19 protocols)/Status: OUT
Pascal Siakam, TOR (rest)/ Status: OUT
Kyle Lowry, TOR (rest)/ Status: OUT
With Lowry and multiple other starters out, VanVleet should be a primary beneficiary while Malachi Flynn should enter the starting five at point guard.
OG Anunoby, TOR (rest)/ Status: OUT
Gary Trent, TOR (ankle)/ Status: DOUBTFUL
Trent's likely absence combined with that of OG Anunoby's should lead to a start for Hood at small forward.
Lonzo Ball, NOP (hip)/ Status: PROBABLE
Ball's expected return should send Kira Lewis back to a smaller role.
Tobias Harris, PHI (knee)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE
If Harris were to sit out, the remainder of Philadelphia's starting five would see a bump in usage and Mike Scott would possibly draw a start at power forward.
Jerami Grant, DET (rest)/ Status: OUT
Devonte' Graham, CHA (quadriceps)/ Status: OUT
Mason Plumlee, DET (rest)/ Status: OUT
Victor Oladipo, MIA (knee)/ Status: OUT
Other notable injuries:
Jamal Murray, DEN (knee)/ Status: OUT
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, OKC (foot)/ Status: OUT
Nickeil Alexander-Walker, NOP (ankle)/ Status: OUT
P.J. Washington, CHA (ankle)/ Status: OUT
Malik Beasley, MIN (hamstring)/ Status: OUT
Gordon Hayward, CHA (foot)/ Status: OUT
Josh Hart, NOP (thumb)/ Status: OUT
Tomas Satoransky, CHI (back)/ Status: PROBABLE
Brandon Clarke, MEM (hip)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE
DeAndre' Bembry, TOR (hamstring)/ Status: DOUBTFUL
Nerlens Noel, NYK (ankle)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE
Michael Carter-Williams, ORL (ankle)/ Status: OUT
Mo Bamba, ORL (hip)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE
Cory Joseph, DET (ankle)/ Status: OUT
Wayne Ellington, DET (rest)/ Status: OUT
Dennis Smith, DET (knee)/ Status: OUT
Malik Monk, CHA (ankle)/ Status: OUT
Aleksej Pokusevski, OKC (arm)/ Status: OUT
Serge Ibaka, LAC (back)/ Status: OUT
We have a robust total of seven players with five-figure salaries that have a chance to take the floor on Friday night's slate: Russell Westbrook ($11,300), Karl-Anthony Towns ($11,100), Nikola Jokic ($11,000), Luka Doncic ($10,200), Joel Embiid ($10,200), Kawhi Leonard ($10,000) and Zion Williamson ($10,000).
Westbrook has been outstanding with six consecutive triple-doubles – a stretch where he's averaging a jaw-dropping 57.7 FD points – making him worthy of his hefty salary, especially considering he's also part of the matchup with the highest projected total of the night. Towns also continues churning out excellent production in the ongoing absence of Malik Beasley and comes in well-rested after taking the last two games off to tend to a personal matter. Jokic comes in averaging 53.4 FD points over his last seven and triple-doubled in his first full contest without Jamal Murray on Wednesday, and he draws a highly favorable matchup against the Rockets. Doncic is in an interesting spot against a very stingy Knicks' defense that held him to "only" 44.1 FD points in his one prior encounter, while Zion is also involved in the game with the highest-projected score and has already exceeded 5x return on his hefty salary on 10 occasions this season.
Players with salaries in the high four-figures capable of also delivering elite scores include Kyrie Irving ($9,700), Paul George ($9,500), Kevin Durant ($9,300), Julius Randle ($9,200), Jimmy Butler ($9,200) and Nikola Vucevic ($9,000).
Irving and Durant will both be on the floor without Harden once again, so each could offer excellent returns on investment if they play sufficient minutes against a Hornet squad that will be shorthanded. George could once again be taking the court without Leonard, is coming off a rest day, and has averaged 53.8 FD points in the two games he's played without Kawhi during the latter's four-game absence. Randle has been excellent, particularly in the second half of the season, and put up 41.1 FD points over 37 minutes in his previous game against Dallas. Butler will once again play without Victor Oladipo and is doing an excellent job facilitating this season, which has boosted his overall fantasy production considerably (45.7 FD PPG). Finally, Vucevic should have even more on his shoulders than usual with LaVine out of action.
In addition to the players just mentioned in the prior section, there are going to be a wide number of chalkier mid-salary and value options Friday due to the number of resting/injured players on the Raptors, as well as the Pistons to a lesser degree. The following are some that could be the most highly rostered, but also carry plenty of upside:
Fred VanVleet, TOR
FVV will carry the offense alongside Malachi Flynn due to the absence of three other first-unit mates.
Malachi Flynn, TOR
Flynn could see a major ball-handling role and is already averaging 34.2 FD points over his last eight games.
Chris Boucher, TOR
Boucher should also see major usage due to the Raptors' multiple absences and gets a very favorable frontcourt matchup.
Isaiah Stewart, DET
Stewart has averaged 31.2 FD points across 27.0 minutes in four prior starts this season.
Reggie Jackson, LAC
Cole Anthony, ORL
Anthony should return to starting five against an extremely shorthanded Raptors' side in absence of Michael Carter-Williams.
Malachi Flynn, TOR vs. ORL ($5,500)
As alluded to above, Flynn should enjoy a massive role Friday with multiple Raptors starters out and could even be charged with primary ball-handling duties, although Fred VanVleet may ultimately take on that responsibility the bulk of the time he's on the floor. Nevertheless, Flynn will be in an excellent spot to generate a strong return on a very reasonable salary, one he's delivered over 5x return in seven of the last eight games. He's also facing a Magic squad that's allowed the fifth-highest offensive efficiency to point guards (28.5 percent) along with the seventh-most FD points per game to the position (42.7), including 54.7 per contest over the last 10. Flynn's usage checks in at a hefty 25.8 percent when all of the teammates he'll be playing without Friday are off the floor.
Aaron Gordon, DEN at HOU ($5,300)
Gordon is in a terrific spot and is coming off one of his more complete performances since arriving in Denver, as he posted 30.3 FD points against the Heat on Wednesday. He should be heavily involved moving forward with Jamal Murray out of action the rest of the way. Gordon is averaging 29.6 FD points per 36 minutes without Murray on the floor thus far and should be able to thrive against a Rockets squad allowing the most rebounds per game (56.5) and the 10th-most FD points per game to fours over the last 10 contests (48.4).
Isaiah Stewart, DET vs. OKC ($4,900)
As mentioned earlier, Stewart should be in for a run with the first unit at either power forward or center Friday without both Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee out for rest. Stewart has averaged 31.2 FD points over his four prior starts this season and faces a Thunder side allowing the second-highest offensive efficiency to frontcourt players (84.3 percent) and in the paint (60.9 percent), while 74.0 percent of Stewart's scoring comes from that part of the floor. OKC is also giving up the fourth-most rebounds per away game (56.1) and Stewart has averaged a solid 6.2 boards across 19 second-half contests.
Other value plays to consider: Kelly Olynyk, HOU vs. DEN ($6,100); Derrick White, SA vs. POR ($5,700); Jae'Sean Tate, HOU vs. DEN ($5,600); Moses Brown, OKC at DET ($5,400); Bismack Biyombo, CHA at BKN ($3,500); Sekou Doumbouya, DET vs. OKC ($3,500)