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Fantasy basketball tips and NBA betting picks for Friday


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ESPN’s fantasy basketball and basketball betting tips cheat sheet is your pregame destination for basketball betting predictions and our best intel and data, featuring ESPN’s proprietary Basketball Power Index (BPI) to help you make smart fantasy and wagering decisions. NBA game odds for March 3 are provided by Caesars Sportsbook, and fantasy advice is based on ESPN 10-team leagues.

What you need to know for Friday’s games

Timing is so crucial in fantasy hoops; knowing when to cut bait on a disappointing draft pick or injured star can prove difficult. In a league built on the impact of star power, it’s tough to move on even when the math might suggest it is time.

Holding onto LeBron James amid a foot issue that seems both serious and somewhat vague with what we currently know can be challenging in fantasy formats with shallow benches. Managers of Karl-Anthony Towns and Zion Williamson have navigated this quandary for much of the season.

There’s no perfect solution to such decisions, but you are going to face even more such scenarios in the coming weeks as we head into the fantasy playoffs and the final month of the regular season. Scheduled rest, injuries, playoff and lottery positioning all become influential to player availability.

The lasting solution over the years might sound like a motivational poster, but it’s simply time to grind. It’s time to find the surging statistical stars down the stretch to make up for the fact that foundational fantasy forces like James and Towns and other names to come will miss critical stretches of the coming weeks.

Such players are already surfacing. Rookie Jalen Williams is a free agent in roughly 57% of ESPN leagues and yet has been a top-15 fantasy player over the past two weeks as he ascends for the Oklahoma City Thunder and makes for an ideal play again tonight with All-Star Shai-Gilgeous Alexander still sidelined. The Brooklyn Nets know all about moving on from stars and are now seeing strong production from Cameron Johnson (66% available); he’s 22nd on the Player Rater the past two weeks and should prove busy in Boston tonight.

— Jim McCormick

Game of the Night

Memphis Grizzlies at Denver Nuggets
10:00 p.m ET, Ball Arena, Denver, CO

Records (Against the Spread)
Grizzlies: 38-23 (29-29-3)
Nuggets: 44-19 (35-27-1)

Line: Nuggets (-5)
BPI Projection: Nuggets: 127.3-124.2
Money Line: Grizzlies (162), Nuggets (-195)
BPI Projected winner: Nuggets (61.1%)
Total: 233.5 BPI Projected Total: 251.5

Injury Report:
Grizzlies: Steven Adams, (OUT – Knee)
Nuggets: Aaron Gordon, (GTD – Ribs); Michael Porter Jr., (GTD – Heel); Vlatko Cancar, (GTD – Wrist); Zeke Nnaji, (OUT – Shoulder)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Trend: I’ve beat this drum a few times recently with success, so I’m going back to it. The Grizzlies are very good, but when sportsbooks say they are in a bad spot, they normally are. Memphis is just 3-8 ATS as a ‘dog this season and unders have come through in seven of those 11 games. Those ATS struggles could well continue against a Nuggets team that has covered 10 of their past 14 and is 11-5-1 ATS in their past 17 games that have gone under the total.- Kyle Soppe

Best bet: Grizzlies +5.0. My recommendation is to back the underdog Grizzlies. Memphis is currently on a three game winning streak. The Grizzlies are a strong offensive team and rank 10th in points scored per 100 possessions. Memphis is also a solid defensive team and have played well against the Nuggets. The Grizzlies are 4-2 straight up against Denver in their last six games. Additionally, Memphis is also 7-3 against the spread in their past 10 games against the Nuggets. -Eric Moody

Breaking down the rest of the slate

Orlando Magic at Charlotte Hornets
7:00 p.m ET, Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC

Records (Against the Spread)
Magic: 26-37 (34-27-2)
Hornets: 20-44 (28-34-2)

Line: Magic (-3.5)
BPI Projection: Magic: 124.9-121.4
Money Line: Magic (-190), Hornets (158)
BPI Projected winner: Magic (62.3%)
Total: 224.5 BPI Projected Total: 246.3

Injury Report:
Magic: Jonathan Isaac, (OUT – Hamstring)
Hornets: P.J. Washington, (GTD – Foot); Cody Martin, (OUT – Knee); LaMelo Ball, (OUT – Ankle)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Best bet: Gordon Hayward over 16.5 points. I like the fact Kelly Oubre started (and played well) in his last game but don’t love his over/under of 23.5 points. Hayward’s is more reasonable even though he hit just 5-of-14 shots for 15 points on Wednesday against the Suns. He’d hit the over in his previous three games and has scored at least 17 points in five of his last seven games, barely missing the target in the other two. Orlando gives up 23.45 points to opposing small forwards, second-worst in the league, so I’m expecting big things from both Hayward and Oubre tonight in Charlotte tonight. -Alexander

Fantasy streamer: Mark Williams (rostered in 20.3% of ESPN leagues) will face Wendell Carter Jr. tonight in hopes of landing his fourth straight double-double. P.J. Washington (foot) is doubtful and Williams should get almost all of the big-man minutes for the Hornets. He’s double-doubled in four of his past five games and his rostership is starting to reflect his play. This is probably your last call to pick him up this season. His over/under for total points and rebounds is set at 21.5 and if you wanted to take a flier on that it’s not a horrible idea, either. -Alexander

Best bet: Franz Wagner over 24.5 points+assists+rebounds. Wagner is in an excellent spot against a Hornets defense that ranks 22nd in points allowed per 100 possessions. In February, he only averaged 14.0 points, 3.3 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game. Against the Hornets earlier this season, Wagner averaged 16.7 points, 2.7 assists, and 4.3 rebounds. -Moody

Portland Trail Blazers at Atlanta Hawks
7:30 p.m ET, State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA

Records (Against the Spread)
Blazers: 29-33 (30-31-1)
Hawks: 31-31 (27-33-2)

Line: Hawks (-7.5)
BPI Projection: Hawks: 133.6-128.2
Money Line: Blazers (228), Hawks (-285)
BPI Projected winner: Hawks (68.4%)
Total: 240.5 BPI Projected Total: 261.8

Injury Report:
Blazers: Anfernee Simons, (GTD – Ankle); Justise Winslow, (OUT – Ankle); Jusuf Nurkic, (OUT – Calf); Ryan Arcidiacono, (OUT – Back)
Hawks: Trae Young, (GTD – Groin)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Best bet: Jerami Grant over 22.5 points. Grant has burned me in this space before but it’s usually his lack of rebounds that gets me. He scored 28 points in Wednesday’s loss to New Orleans, 24 against the Warriors on Tuesday and has scored at least 23 points in three of his last four. The Hawks give up 23.12 points to opposing small forwards, good for fourth-worst in the league, and the Blazers have to win this game. Grant should have a nice night in Atlanta. -Alexander

Fantasy streamer: Matisse Thybulle (rostered in 3.9% of ESPN leagues) started alongside Anfernee Simons on Wednesday and had 12 points, eight rebounds, four assists, a steal, four blocks and two 3-pointers in a loss to the Pelicans. He also had 15 points, three rebounds, a steal, two blocks and five triples on Tuesday giving him two-game averages of 13.5 points, 5.5 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 3.0 blocks and 3.5 3-pointers, which are very unlike Thybulle historically. The Cam Reddish starting experiment is over, Simons (ankle) is doubtful to play tonight, Thybulle is hot and the Hawks stink against opposing small forwards. Take a flier on Thybulle tonight. And if you’re looking at him as a Best Bet prospect his over/unders are quite reasonable tonight: 8.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers. -Alexander

Best bet: Clint Capela over 23.5 points and rebounds. Capela had 13 points and 15 boards in Tuesday’s loss to the Wizards and had 10 points and 15 rebounds in a Jan. 30 meeting against these same Blazers. He’s kind of been an inconsistent mess over the last month but it’s important to note that the Blazers are the worst team in the entire league defensively against opposing centers, giving up 26.23 points to them each night, as well as almost 15 boards. -Alexander

Best bet: Trae Young over 37.5 points+assists. Young has played great lately and has a 35% usage rate this season. In each of the last three games, he has surpassed 37.5 PA. Young should be able to exploit the Trail Blazers in this matchup since this is their third game in four days. This is a Portland team that ranks 27th in points allowed per 100 possessions. The Trail Blazers also allow opponents an effective field goal percentage of 55.6%, the seventh highest in the league. -Moody

Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics
7:30 p.m ET, TD Garden, Boston, MA

Records (Against the Spread)
Nets: 34-28 (32-30-0)
Celtics: 45-18 (33-29-1)

Line: Celtics (-11)
BPI Projection: Celtics: 133.6-116.7
Money Line: Nets (430), Celtics (-600)
BPI Projected winner: Celtics (82.5%)
Total: 227 BPI Projected Total: 243.2

Injury Report:
Nets: Ben Simmons, (OUT – Knee); Edmond Sumner, (OUT – Personal); Yuta Watanabe, (OUT – Back)
Celtics: Danilo Gallinari, (OUT – Knee)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Trend: I tend to handicap the side of a game and then work from there to see if there is a lean on the total… but sometimes, working backwards is the play. Overs are 8-4 in games where the Celtics give 10-plus points this season and 11-5 in the Nets’ past 16 games. So if we tell the “over” story, it’s worth noting that the Nets have covered five of their past seven over games while the Celtics are a sub-.500 ATS team in those spots since December. -Soppe

Best bet: Jayson Tatum under 28.5 points. Tatum just got done torching the Cavs for 41 points on Wednesday but hear me out on this one. He scored 14 and 18 points in his previous two games and will likely be matched up against Mikal Bridges tonight. By my count, the guy Bridges has guarded has hit the under in points in every game he’s played for Brooklyn, which is seven. His victims have been Tobias Harris (3), RJ Barrett (4), Jimmy Butler (13), DeMar DeRozan (17), De’Andre Hunter (9), Pat Connaughton (5) and Barrett (15) again. I know there aren’t any guys in Tatum’s league on that list but Butler and DeRozan are close and didn’t do much against Bridges. Tatum might break out against him but I’m going to keep riding this train until someone figures out how to score against Bridges. However, if he ends up guarding Jaylen Brown instead, all bets are off. -Alexander

Best bet: Cameron Johnson over 15.5 points. Cam torched the Knicks for 33 points on Wednesday and has scored at least 18 points in four of his last five games. Boston gives up nearly 22 points to opposing small forwards and Johnson is hot, leading the Nets in scoring in two of their last three games. -Alexander

Best bet: Jaylen Brown over 30.5 points+rebounds. On Wednesday night, Brown scored 16 points and grabbed 3 rebounds while shooting 40% from the field against the Cavaluers after missing one game. On Friday night, he will perform better against the Nets. Brooklyn ranks 19th in points allowed per 100 possessions and they are also a poor rebounding team. Brown has surpassed 30.5 points+rebounds in both of his games against the Nets this season. -Moody

New York Knicks at Miami Heat
8:00 p.m ET, FTX Arena, Miami, FLA

Records (Against the Spread)
Knicks: 37-27 (36-27-1)
Heat: 33-30 (22-38-3)

Line: Knicks (-3)
BPI Projection: Knicks: 126.5-116.1
Money Line: Knicks (-145), Heat (122)
BPI Projected winner: Knicks (70%)
Total: 215 BPI Projected Total: 237.7

Injury Report:
Knicks: None reported
Heat: Jimmy Butler, (GTD – Knee); Omer Yurtseven, (GTD – Ankle); Kyle Lowry, (OUT – Knee); Nikola Jovic, (OUT – Back)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Trend: With a slow offense and a stingy defense, Heat games aren’t ever a comfortable “over” bet, but let’s think about it for a second. They are labeled as an underdog in this spot, meaning the expectation is for them to be a bit out of their optimal flow. Following that train of thought, it makes sense that overs are 9-3 over the past 12 games in which the Heat have been an underdog. On the other side, the Knicks are 7-1-1 ATS as road favorites this season and have won each of their past three games against bottom-10 pace teams by 15-plus points. New York is back to playing high level basketball and tonight is a good spot to extend that roll against a quality opponent. -Soppe

Best bet: RJ Barrett over 16.5 points. Barrett went off for 30 points on 13-of-23 shooting when these teams met on Feb. 2, although Jalen Brunson didn’t play in that one. Jimmy Butler is iffy with a sore knee and both Barrett and Julius Randle should be in line to score points tonight. Barrett has only hit for more than the over twice in his last six games, but he should have good vibes knowing he torched them in their only previous meeting of the season. -Alexander

Fantasy streamer: Quentin Grimes (rostered in 1.7% of ESPN leagues) went off for 22 points and six triples against the Nets on Wednesday and got loose for 17 points, four rebounds, three assists, a steal and three triples against the Heat on Feb. 2. His over/under in points tonight is set at just 6.5 points and I think he’s going to have a decent game, making him worth a stream. And if you want to bet him, hitting that paltry 6.5 number shouldn’t be too tough. -Alexander

Phoenix Suns at Chicago Bulls
8:00 p.m ET, United Center, Chicago, IL

Records (Against the Spread)
Suns: 34-29 (33-28-2)
Bulls: 29-34 (32-31-0)

Line: Suns (-3.5)
BPI Projection: Bulls: 124-121.9
Money Line: Suns (-165), Bulls (140)
BPI Projected winner: Bulls (57.6%)
Total: 223 BPI Projected Total: 245.9

Injury Report:
Suns: Terrence Ross, (GTD – Toe); Landry Shamet, (OUT – Foot)
Bulls: Javonte Green, (OUT – Knee); Lonzo Ball, (OUT – Knee)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Trend: Only so much can be learned from a single game against a bad team, but in Kevin Durant’s Wednesday night debut, the Suns produced their second-best defensive game of the season and saw their pace jump up 2.4% from their February average. I’ve already touched on the increase in pace being something to expect as KD gets worked in and adding the length of Durant increases versatility on the defensive end. The Bulls have been friendly to under bettors for nearly two months now (15-4 in their past 19 games) and Chicago is just 2-6 ATS in their past eight that have gone under. Do you buy more into the pace increase than the defensive output? Fine. The Bulls are just 8-17 ATS this season when allowing at least 115 points. – Soppe

Best bet: Zach LaVine over 24.5 points. LaVine is coming off a 41-point explosion against the Pistons on Wednesday and the Suns give up the fourth-most points to opposing shooting guards at nearly 25 points per game. LaVine has scored at least 25 points in five of his last seven games and Devin Booker’s not exactly known for his defense. DeMar DeRozan is also worth a look (22.5) after scoring 29 against the Suns back on Nov. 30 but he’ll have to deal with Kevin Durant tonight, who’s an underrated defender. -Alexander

Best bet: Deandre Ayton over 30.5 points and rebounds. Ayton torched the Bulls for 30 points and 14 rebounds in their previous meeting on Nov. 30 and has hit that over in his past two games. He’s double-doubled in three straight and in eight of his past 10 games and should fare well against Nikola Vucevic again tonight. –Alexander

Best bet: Suns -3.5. Kevin Durant made his Suns debut against the Hornets on Wednesday. Against Charlotte, he had 23 points, six rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. Having Durant and Devin Booker at his disposal gives Chris Paul the best jump shooting duo in the league. They’re the third pair of teammates this season to make nine jump shots each in a game. The Suns are 4-1 straight in their last five games when playing on the road against the Bulls. Phoenix is also 4-2 against the spread in their last six games against Chicago. -Moody

Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder
8:00 p.m ET, Paycom Center, Oklahoma City, OK

Records (Against the Spread)
Jazz: 31-32 (34-29-0)
Thunder: 28-34 (37-24-1)

Line: Thunder (-1)
BPI Projection: Thunder: 124.9-124.4
Money Line: Jazz (100), Thunder (-120)
BPI Projected winner: Thunder (51.9%)
Total: 231.5 BPI Projected Total: 249.3

Injury Report:
Jazz: Jordan Clarkson, (OUT – Thumb); Collin Sexton, (OUT – Hamstring)
Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, (OUT – General Soreness); Aleksej Pokusevski, (OUT – Lower Leg); Chet Holmgren, (OUT – Foot); Kenrich Williams, (OUT – Wrist)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Fantasy streamer: Talen Horton-Tucker (rostered in 9.9% of ESPN leagues) has become a factor for the Jazz, who will once again be without Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton tonight. THT is averaging 13.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.6 blocks and 1.1 3-pointers over the last month and should see a lot of minutes again tonight. He hit just 2-of-11 shots against the Thunder on Feb. 23 but should have better luck this time out. -Alexander

Best bet: Jalen Williams over 17.5 points. Williams scored 24 against the Lakers on Wednesday, 27 against the Kings on Tuesday and had 22 points against the Suns last Friday. His one off game in his past four was a 15-point effort against the Kings on Sunday and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is out again tonight. The Jazz give up 24.23 points to opposing shooting guards and while I don’t love the fact he scored just nine points in 38 minutes against these Jazz on Feb. 23, SGA was playing in that one and scored 39. Josh Giddey, Lu Dort and Isaiah Joe are also likely in for a nice night against the Jazz on Friday. -Alexander

Best bet: Lauri Markkanen over 29.5 points. I don’t love betting on such a high points over, but Markkanen is having a career year and busted these Thunder for 43 points on Feb. 23. He had 28 and 27 points in his last two games and both Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson are out again tonight, meaning the Jazz need Markkanen to score. The Thunder give up 23.02 points to opposing power forwards, seventh-worst in the league, and Markkanen should have positive vibes knowing he got them for 43 just over a week ago. -Alexander

New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors
10:00 p.m ET, Chase Center, San Francisco, CA

Records (Against the Spread)
Pelicans: 31-32 (29-33-1)
Warriors: 33-30 (30-32-1)

Line: Warriors (-4)
BPI Projection: Warriors: 127.3-123.3
Money Line: Pelicans (152), Warriors (-180)
BPI Projected winner: Warriors (55.7%)
Total: 230.5 BPI Projected Total: 248.2

Injury Report:
Pelicans: Jonas Valanciunas, (GTD – Calf); Zion Williamson, (OUT – Hamstring); Larry Nance Jr., (OUT – Ankle); Jose Alvarado, (OUT – Leg); E.J. Liddell, (OUT – Knee)
Warriors: Andre Iguodala, (GTD – Hip); Andrew Wiggins, (GTD – Personal); Stephen Curry, (OUT – Lower Leg); Gary Payton II, (OUT – Abdomen); Ryan Rollins, (OUT – Foot)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Best bet: CJ McCollum over 32.5 points+assists+rebounds. It has been difficult for the Warriors to contain point guards and shooting guards this season. Over the past five games, McCollum has averaged 20.0 points, 6.2 assists, and 4.2 rebounds. There is a good chance he will exceed those per game averages in this matchup. -Moody

Fantasy streamer: Jaxson Hayes (rostered in 0.5% of ESPN leagues) went off for 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in just 16 minutes off the bench against the Blazers on Wednesday and Jonas Valanciunas and Larry Nance won’t be playing again tonight. Willy Hernangomez will likely draw the start at center and is also worth a look, but Hayes is a better running fit against the Warriors and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have another fun line in this one. -Steve Alexander

Fantasy streamer: Jonathan Kuminga (rostered in 6.4% of ESPN leagues) was fun on Thursday night with 19 points, seven boards, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers in a win over the Clippers. He’s just 20 years old so the back-to-back shouldn’t be a problem tonight and he’s scored at least 13 points in three straight games. He also had 18 points, three rebounds, a steal, two blocks and four 3-pointers the last time these teams met on Nov. 21. -Alexander

LA Clippers at Sacramento Kings
10:00 p.m ET, Golden 1 Center, Sacremento, CA

Records (Against the Spread)
Clippers: 33-32 (31-34-0)
Kings: 36-25 (34-27-0)

Line: Kings (-6)
BPI Projection: Kings: 130.8-128.6
Money Line: Clippers (185), Kings (-225)
BPI Projected winner: Kings (57.8%)
Total: 240 BPI Projected Total: 259.4

Injury Report:
Clippers: Ivica Zubac, (GTD – Calf); Marcus Morris Sr., (GTD – Elbow); Norman Powell, (GTD – Arm); Kawhi Leonard, (OUT – Rest)
Kings: De’Aaron Fox, (GTD – Wrist); Richaun Holmes, (GTD – Illness)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Trend: Happy “Clippers on the road” day to those who celebrate. And those who don’t, what are you waiting for? Over tickets have cashed in 20 of Los Angeles’ past 26 road games, including seven straight winners when the Clips face a top-10 pace team. Speaking of tempo, the Clippers are just 4-8 ATS against those fast teams this season, a problem against the Kings (assuming De’Aaron Fox is back as expected). Overs are 7-3 in Sacramento’s past 10 games and the Kings have covered nine of their past 13 games that have gone over the total. – Soppe

Best bet: De’Aaron Fox over 27.5 points. Fox is cooking right now, scoring 33 against the Thunder on Sunday, 42 against these Clippers on Friday and he had 31 points against the Blazers on Thursday. In those three games since the break he’s averaging 35.3 points and the fact he had 42 against them less than a week ago bodes well for Fox tonight. Additionally, the Clippers played on Thursday night and lost an ugly one to the Warriors so they’re going to have tired legs. Fox should go off again. -Alexander

Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers
10:30 p.m ET, Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, CA

Records (Against the Spread)
Timberwolves: 32-32 (30-34-0)
Lakers: 30-33 (29-32-2)

Line: Lakers (-1.5)
BPI Projection: Timberwolves: 130.8-125
Money Line: Timberwolves (100), Lakers (-120)
BPI Projected winner: Timberwolves (60.2%)
Total: 228 BPI Projected Total: 252.9

Injury Report:
Timberwolves: Jaylen Nowell, (GTD – Knee); Karl-Anthony Towns, (OUT – Calf)
Lakers: Anthony Davis, (GTD – Foot); Dennis Schroder, (GTD – Ankle); D’Angelo Russell, (OUT – Ankle); LeBron James, (OUT – Foot)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Fantasy streamer: Troy Brown Jr. (rostered in 0.6% of ESPN leagues) got loose for a season-high 19 points, one rebound, four assists, a steal, two blocks and four 3-pointers on Wednesday night against the Thunder. He hadn’t done much prior to that explosion and it helped that both LeBron James and Anthony Davis were sitting with foot injuries. Davis is listed as probable tonight but D’Angelo Russell and LeBron are out again, meaning Brown should have room to work again tonight. -Alexander

Best bet: Dennis Schroder over 22.5 points+assists. LeBron James’ injury has left a void that is hard for the Lakers to fill, but Schroder is doing his part. He’s surpassed 22.5 PA in two of his last three games. Schroder has also played more than 30 minutes in three consecutive games. -Moody

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