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NBA Daily Fantasy Helper: Friday 1/18/19

The Portland backcourt offers some big upside in a great matchup against the Pelicans tonight.

If you're new to daily fantasy basketball -- maybe you started your DFS journey during the MLB or NFL seasons, or maybe basketball is your sport and this will be your first year giving it a shot -- you're in for a treat. The NBA scene changes hugely on a week-to-week, day-to-day, and -- depending on injury news -- even a minute-to-minute basis, making every slate a unique one that requires an ever-changing approach.

With so much changing so quickly, we're here with plenty of tools to help you out. We have daily projections, a matchup heat map, a lineup optimizer, and a ton of other great resources to help give you an edge.

We'll also be coming at you with this primer every day, breaking down a few of the day's top plays at each price point.

Let's take a look at who you should target on today's main slate.

Best of the Best

Anthony Davis ($13,800): An absurdly high price tag makes sense with Davis' absurdly high production. If we apply FanDuel scoring to seasons that pre-date FanDuel, the highest per-game average in a season since the 1970s is 61.9. Through 40 games this year, Davis is averaging 63.2. He's been especially dominant lately, with at least 80 in four of his last nine games. Our models project him for 12.2 fantasy points more than anyone else on the slate, and he's a top play in all formats. It's well worth it to build your lineup around Davis' hefty salary.

Damian Lillard ($9,800): Up against Davis' New Orleans Pelicans squad tonight are the Portland Trail Blazers, whose 118.25-point implied total is the slate's second-highest. That's not a surprise, considering the Pels play at the league's 5th-fastest pace while ranking 26th in defensive rating. They're giving up the third-most points and sixth-most assists per game to opponents, which has them allowing the fifth-most FanDuel points per minute at the point. Dame underwhelmed in a soft spot on Wednesday, but his salary has fallen $300 despite his matchup getting even better. He's played at least 36 minutes in each of his three games that ended with a margin of victory in the single-digits (the Blazers are three-point favorites tonight), and he should have no trouble converting minutes to production against New Orleans.

Nikola Vucevic ($9,500): Another player who's been seeing strong minutes when games stay close, Vooch has played in five games with margins of victory below 13 and 5 of 13 or more in his last 10. In the blowouts he played only 26.4 minutes per game, while the close games saw him average 34.0. He's averaging a career-best 1.43 FanDuel points per minute on the season (eighth in the NBA), and he should get enough work to do some serious damage tonight as only one-point favorites against a Brooklyn Nets squad that allows the NBA's third-highest fantasy efficiency to centers.

Mid-Range Options

Hassan Whiteside ($7,300): If you don't have the room to pay up for Vooch at center, Whiteside can give you some similar upside. Whiteside tends to be a boom-or-bust kind of play, and that's why you get his upside priced in this range. He went off for 49.6 FanDuel points just five games ago, and he's got five games with at least 50 fantasy points on the year, including one with 82.0 -- the eight-highest single-game fantasy score for any player this year. The Detroit Pistons are solid in the frontcourt, but if you're looking for a high-upside tournament option at center, his ceiling keeps him firmly in play.

C.J. McCollum ($6,700): Another alternative to one of those top-priced players that you can move to if you're trying to fit Davis, this spot is about as dreamy for McCollum as it is for Lillard. The high scoring and assist numbers New Orleans allows are just as appealing for McCollum, and he's getting plenty of work recently. McCollum has played at least 37 minutes in two of those last three close games I mentioned for Dame, averaging 18.0 field goal attempts. If you can't afford to pay up for Lillard, McCollum makes a nice cost-effective way to get exposure to the Blazers' huge offensive upside tonight.

Jaren Jackson Jr. ($5,600): Jackson is nice and cheap relative to his recent production. He has at least 28.0 FanDuel points (five-times value on today's salary) in four of his last eight games, falling only 0.3 points short of doing it in five of eight. He's averaging a solid 27.4 minutes (and 26.9 fantasy points) per game in that stretch. Our models project him to return five-times value again tonight, with 28.4 FanDuel points in 27.3 minutes of action.

Basement Ballers

Cedi Osman ($4,700): The Cleveland Cavaliers will be thin today, with Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. both ruled out. Osman averaged 34.3 minutes per game in the first three Nance missed in this run before dealing with a surprise benching during Wednesday's game. The addition of Thompson on the shelf won't directly translate to minutes for Osman, but it should force the Cavs to go smaller (with Ante Zizic and Channing Frye their only other centers), opening up some serious minutes at the four. Osman's not an efficient fantasy producer, averaging a brutal 0.68 FanDuel points per minute on the season, but even in a tough matchup with the Utah Jazz, the potential we see his minutes climb into the mid- to high-30s tonight makes him a solid value anyway.

Jonathan Isaac ($4,400): The Nets don't struggle with forwards the way they do with centers, but Isaac can still offer some serious value here. Like Vucevic, he's seeing significantly more run when games stay close lately (29.0 per game in the last five close games versus 25.0 in those 13-plus point margin contests). His production in that sample has been awful (13.7 FanDuel points per game), but almost nobody is going to average only 0.47 FanDuel points per minute over any sort of extended sample. Isaac is averaging 0.8 per minute over his young career, and simple regression pushes him into play with the solid minutes he's playing.

Ante Zizic ($4,200): Zizic comes in as the clear top value option on the slate. As mentioned above, the Cavs will be without both Thompson and Nance tonight, leaving them incredibly thin in the frontcourt. When Thompson made an early exit on Wednesday, Zizic played a season-high 26.5 minutes -- even though Thompson's presence limited him to only 9.5 in the first half. Averaging 0.98 FanDuel points per minute in his young career, Zizic's efficiency makes him an absolute steal when he's getting big minutes at this price. A matchup with Rudy Gobert isn't a great spot, but at this price he can afford to take a pretty significant hit in efficiency and still offer solid value -- only needing 0.79 per minute to return five-times value on today's salary if he plays 26.5 minutes again. His upside for minutes is much higher, and a 20% drop in efficiency is not likely. Both his floor and his ceiling are terrific tonight.

Jason Schandl is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Jason Schandl also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username Jaymun. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.

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