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Friday’s slate features 12 games to choose from, and three stand out above the rest potential points.
The Pacers and the Rockets headline Friday’s slate. The Rockets have been featured in this section all season thanks to their combination of fast pace and poor defense. They’ve played at the second-fastest pace and rank dead last in defensive efficiency, and it’s hard to beat that combination. The Pacers have also played at a top-10 pace over their past 10 games, and they rank 26th in defensive efficiency over that time frame. Neither of these offenses is particularly potent, but they should be able to find success in this matchup.
The Grizzlies and Hawks rank second on the slate with a 237.5-point total. Both of these squads have the potential to be dynamic on the offensive end, with both teams ranking in the top-nine in offensive efficiency over the past 10 games. This also stands out as a significant pace-up spot for the Hawks. They’ve played at one of the slowest tempos of late, but the Grizzlies rank sixth in pace over their past 10 games. That should allow the Hawks to put more points on the scoreboard than usual.
Finally, the Pelicans and Spurs is another very appealing matchup. San Antonio has played fast all season, and they rank second in pace over their past 10 games. The Pelicans rank 11th in that department, so this game should feature plenty of possessions. The Pelicans’ offense has also been sneaky-good of late, ranking eighth in offensive efficiency over their past 10 games.
3rd game in 4th night
First leg of back-to-back
Second leg of back-to-back
Key Injuries to Monitor
76ers C Joel Embiid ($10,800) vs. Mavericks
Friday’s injury report is jam-packed, which is to be expected for a 12-game slate late in the season. LeBron James ($10,700) is the biggest name on the injury report, but he’s always on the injury report. It’d be more surprising if he wasn’t listed at this point, but expect him to be in the lineup vs. the Raptors.
Embiid is the biggest “surprising” name on the injury report. Embiid hasn’t been the picture of health throughout his career, but he’s missed just two of the 76ers past 49 games. He’s currently listed as questionable with a back injury vs. the Mavericks.
The entire roster would see a boost in DFS value in his absence, but James Harden ($9,600) would be the biggest beneficiary. Since joining the 76ers’ rotation on February 25, Harden has increased his usage rate by a whopping 10.7 percentage points with Embiid off the court. Unsurprisingly, he also leads the team with an average of 1.55 DKFP per minute in that situation. Tobias Harris ($6,500) has seen a 5.2 percentage point usage bump sans Embiid over that time frame, so he would also be worth some buy-low consideration.
EDITOR’S NOTE: 76ers C Joel Embiid (back) will be available to play tonight vs. the Mavericks.
Hawks PG Trae Young ($10,100) vs. Grizzlies
Friday’s matchup between the Hawks and Grizzlies has the potential to feature two of the brightest young stars in basketball. Unfortunately, both players are currently on the injury report. Ja Morant ($10,200) is expected to play after missing the Grizzlies last game, but Young is questionable due to a quad injury.
Bogdan Bogdanovic ($6,100) has seen the biggest boost in value with Young off the floor this season. He’s increased his usage rate by a team-high 6.4 percentage points, resulting in an average of 1.13 DKFP per minute. Kevin Huerter ($5,300) also sees a large usage bump in that situation, while Delon Wright ($3,300) would likely move into the starting lineup. That would make him one of the best value options on the slate.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Hawks PG Trae Young (quad) has been ruled out for tonight’s game vs. the Grizzlies.
Gilgeous-Alexander was able to suit up despite a questionable designation in his last outing, so it will be interesting to see if he can do it again. The Thunder have nothing to play for at this point, so there’s no reason for them to be aggressive with their young star.
If SGA is out, I’m honestly not sure if the Thunder will crack 80 points vs. the Heat. Lu Dort and Josh Giddey remain out of the lineup, so the Thunder would be down their three top playmakers in that scenario. Tre Mann ($5,200) would be the biggest winner from a fantasy perspective, but this game could get ugly quick.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Thunder PG Shai-Gilgeous Alexander (ankle) will be available for tonight’s game vs. the Heat.
Favorite Pick Against the Spread
Pacers -4.0 at Rockets (-110)
One of my favorite things about sports betting is that you can cheat off the professionals. If you’re an average student and are allowed to copy from the smartest kid in class, you’d be foolish not to do so.
That’s what I’m doing here with the Pacers. The pros are all over Indiana, who have received a whopping 95% of the dollars on just 41% of the bets.
The Pacers are definitely not a good basketball team, but they clearly have more talent than the lowly Rockets. Chris Duarte and Goga Bitadze are questionable, but Malcolm Brogdon is off the injury report for the first time in ages. The Pacers have unsurprisingly been a much better team with Brogdon on the floor this season, increasing their Net Rating by +3.9 points per 100 possessions. He hasn’t spent much time alongside Tyrese Haliburton, but that has the potential to be an excellent pairing.
Meanwhile, the Rockets are embracing their future, which means letting Jalen Green get as much playing time as possible. That’s great for his development, but it’s not great for the team’s on-court results at the moment. The team averaged -9.3 fewer points per 100 possessions with Green on the floor, and they allow 3.4 points per 100 possessions defensively. Overall, Green has played at least 30 minutes in 32 games this season, and the Rockets have won just four of them. That is astonishingly bad. I’ll gladly lay the four points with the Pacers on the road.
Favorite Player Prop
CJ McCollum Under 7.5 Assists (-120)
McCollum is having one of his best years as a distributor, and he’s averaged 6.8 assists per game in his 13 games with the Pelicans. He’s also seen a sizable bump to his assist rate with Brandon Ingram off the court, which bodes well for his assist outlook moving forward.
Still, 7.5 assists is a really high number for McCollum. He’s had more than seven assists in just seven of 49 games this season, but it just so happens that most of them have come recently. I’m willing to bet on some regression for McCollum as a passer and for him to do more damage as a scorer vs. the Spurs.
Nets SF/PF Kevin Durant ($10,500) vs. Trail Blazers
The Nets dropped a hard-fought game to the Mavericks on Wednesday, but they’ll get a much easier task Friday vs. the Blazers. The Blazers rank just 29th in defensive efficiency this season, and the Nets’ implied team total of 121.25 points is tied for the second-highest mark on the slate.
Durant should be asked to carry a sizable workload in this contest. This game is being played in Brooklyn, meaning the team will not have Kyrie Irving available. Durant has increased his usage rate by 4.8 percentage points with Irving and James Harden off the floor this season, resulting in an average of 1.51 DKFP per minute. He also routinely approaches 40 minutes in competitive contests. There’s a chance that this game turns into a blowout, but Durant’s upside is impossible to ignore at $10,500.
Favorite Value Play
Pacers C Goga Bitadze ($3,400) at Rockets
Bitadze is currently questionable for the Pacers, but he stands out as a massive value if he’s able to suit up. He’s been excellent on a per-minute basis this season, and he’s averaged a stout 1.40 DKFP per minute over the past month. He’s missed the past two games, but he scored 29.75 and 35.25 DKFP the last two times he was able to suit up. Add in a dream matchup vs. the Rockets, and there’s a ton to like about Bitadze if he’s active.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Pacers C Goga Bitadze (foot) will be available to play tonight vs. the Rockets.
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