With a road win over the Pacers on Thursday evening, the Denver Nuggets improved to 24-10 on the season, tying for the franchise's most wins through 35 games. It wasn't just stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray driving Denver's success last night, as second-year forward Michael Porter Jr. delivered a career-high 25 points while missing just one of his dozen attempts from the floor in the victory.
Porter Jr. has reached double-figures in scoring twice this week and is building legitimate momentum as the Nuggets' offensive microwave off the bench. While he's essentially a redshirt rookie after spending last season getting healthy, Porter is quietly emerging as a viable depth addition for those in deeper fantasy formats.
For those in shallower formats, we find Will Barton ascending as an analytical darling, thanks to awesome statistical balance. For instance, the two-way wing has averaged 16 PPG to go with a robust 14 combined dimes and rebounds with more than two stocks (steals plus blocks) per game during the past week of competition.
For the Pacers in the loss, Aaron Holiday continued to produce solid numbers even while he struggled to score, as his game-high 10 dimes confirms, despite being limited by foul trouble. The Pacers' Jeremy Lamb posted a huge line in the loss and is quietly producing stellar numbers during the past two weeks.
Dwight Powell, Dallas Mavericks: (2-8 FG), 4 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 1 TO
Doncic tallied a career-high 15 points in the final frame of Dallas' win over the Nets on Thursday. The Slovenian superstar got some help from sharpshooter Seth Curry, who made all five of his 3-point attempts en route to an efficient 25 points as the team's key complementary scorer sans Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. from the lineup due to respective injuries. Maxi Kleber was strong in relief of an ailing Porzingis with 18 points and three blocks in 31 minutes off the pine.
Even with Andrew Wiggins (illness) and Karl-Anthony Towns (knee) out of the lineup yet again for Minnesota, the Timberwolves won for just the third time since the start of December in downing the Warriors on Thursday evening. Covington delivered a big game that included four stocks (blocks plus steals) and the 3-and-D wing remains available in free agency in 44% of ESPN leagues as of Friday morning. Scoring guard Shabazz Napier produced his third consecutive 20-point performance to go with seven dimes, as he's thrived with Jeff Teague ailing and can be added for the price of a few clicks in 98% of ESPN leagues.
Detroit's top selection from this past June's draft, Sekou Doumbouya, made his first NBA start on Thursday in a loss to the Clippers and responded with a double-double and one of just three positive net ratings for the Pistons. Talk around Blake Griffin has been about him being potential "shut down" for a long stretch to allow his sore left knee extended time to heal, while the absence of Luke Kennard should see Doumbouya enjoy more exposure in the games ahead. With Griffin's high-usage game off the floor, forward Christian Wood is worth a look in deeper leagues, as he could play around 25 MPG amid Griffin's absence.
Oklahoma City downed San Antonio on Thursday thanks to another big line from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is impressively averaging 26 PPG during his past eight games. In a somewhat quiet turnaround for the Thunder, SGA has emerged as a full-fledged fantasy force.
Utah's Joe Ingles tied a season high with 10 assists in a win over the Bulls last night. For his career, the Jazz are 12-1 when he has at least 10 assists in a game. Given that Mike Conley didn't travel with the team on their current road trip, Ingles remains the team's top distributor for the foreseeable future.
Injuries of note
Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is out indefinitely after an MRI on Thursday revealed a severe sprain and bone contusion in his left knee. The recovery from this injury is expected to take at least two months, per reports. Aaron Gordon will see a surge in usage once he's fully healthy, while backup big Khem Birch will also earn additional exposure going forward.
The Clippers' Paul George left last night's game with hamstring tightness. There isn't yet any additional testing results or timeline from the team, but given the Clippers' depth and success sans George earlier this season, we could see Los Angeles prove patient with their superstar wing.
The Pelicans' Zion Williamson participated fully in his first practice since injuring his right knee in October. The team deemed the practice a "light" session, and the former Duke star remains without a firm timeline to return, per ESPN's Andrew Lopez.
Brooklyn's Caris LeVert will return to the floor for the Nets this coming Saturday against the Raptors, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. LeVert remains widely available in ESPN leagues and is a stellar mid-season addition for fantasy rosters, given his looming return.
Analytics advantage for Friday
A thematic truth in fantasy basketball this season has been to stream (adding plug-and-play options from free agency and the waiver wire) and stack (building DFS lineups from a specific team's rotation) whenever possible against the Washington Wizards. The Wizards, after all, have allowed an historically generous 115.9 points per 100 possessions on defense.
This signals that building DFS and redraft lineups around Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Hassan Whiteside and complementary players like Carmelo Anthony and Kent Bazemore could prove rewarding in a game that opened with the highest total of Friday's slate at 235 points.
Top players to watch on Friday
James Harden and the Houston Rockets host a strong Philadelphia defense in a game that airs on ESPN tonight. The two-time scoring champion is just 112 points shy of becoming the 45th player in NBA history to reach 20,000 career points. Harden is also just 11 assists shy of becoming the 66th player to reach 5,000 career assists. The bearded one will become just the 15th player to reach both milestones.
Ben Simmons ranks fifth in the NBA in defensive win shares, while Josh Richardson sports one of the stronger defensive real plus-minus rates among shooting guards, signaling the potential for some stellar individual matchups for Harden this evening.