3 NBA FanDuel Studs to Target on Friday 2/4/22

Basketball is the most consistent sport for daily fantasy purposes.

A top slugger in baseball will have his fair share of 0-for-4 days, and an elite fantasy football player is at risk of having games where his team's offense as a whole is shut down. A high-salaried NBA stud is generally going to get his, though. With so many possessions in a game providing opportunities to produce, top fantasy basketball options will be posting high scores just about every night.

While this consistency puts us in a good position to identify top plays, it also means you can't afford to miss when you're paying up for someone. Even with strong value plays in your lineup, paying up and getting a dud is likely going to leave your lineup drawing pretty close to dead.

Which top players should be the focal points of your lineups today?

Nikola Jokic, C, Denver Nuggets ($11,200)

Due to injuries and those returning from them, the studs on Friday's nine-game slate aren't up to our usual standard.

Center still has them, though, and as usual, that starts with Nikola Jokic when he's playing. Jokic may have caused a headache on Wednesday for many; he was ruled out after lineups locked due to a toe injury. However, he's off the injury report entering Friday.

His Nuggets host the Pelicans in Denver, and Jokic just saw the Pels in New Orleans and torched them for 59.6 FanDuel points. That helps alleviate concerns about a matchup where New Orleans is top-five in the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage and paint points.

Jokic is essentially matchup-proof, and this game has a decent 222.5-point total despite two bottom-10 teams in pace inside of it. Still, not much has stopped "The Joker" during a 10-game streak in which he's posted at least 50 FanDuel points.

With that elite floor and plenty of poor options as stars elsewhere, he's a key priority.

Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers ($11,000)

Jokic's game total is 10 points higher than Joel Embiid's (212.5). That's the lone tiebreaker amongst the top-two centers and top-two stars on the slate.

My apologies to those who just play single-entry formats; you'll only get one of these top two. Still, the two leading MVP candidates are by far the safest place to put your salary on Friday. For tournaments, I'll likely just allocate nearly-even exposure to both and forget about the rest of center with great value elsewhere.

Embiid sees Jokic's streak and raises him a current run where he's posted at least 53 FanDuel points in 9 of his last 10 contests. Outside of one blip on the radar in a blowout, Embiid's floor has arguably been even more solid.

There will be even less competition for shots if the 76ers are without Seth Curry once again. Curry missed Wednesday with a back issue, and he's questionable for Friday. Embiid has an absurd 42.1% usage rate during floor situations this season where Curry is sitting. Not only is that better than Jokic's current situation, but it's one of the best long-term floor conditions in the sport.

The Curry news may impact the allocation between Embiid and Jokic, personally, but with nearly identical salaries, I plan on mixing and matching them in bunches for tournaments.

Trae Young, PG, Atlanta Hawks ($8,800)

With forward horribly devoid of star power, there is still a standout for his salary at guard.

Trae Young returned from a shoulder injury on Thursday to drop 43 real-life points on a solid Phoenix defense. However, he didn't have this Earth-shattering performance on FanDuel due to a bizarre night where he collected no boards and just five assists. Hopefully, it keeps his popularity in check on Friday.

For whatever reason, as the Hawks are getting healthier, Young's role is getting better. He had a 40.0% usage rate against Phoenix, and he's had a 35.5% usage rate since the start of 2022 that has been parlayed into 1.44 FanDuel points per minute. Both of those marks are too solid for this salary.

Atlanta's long trip to Toronto with both teams on the second leg of a back-to-back might explain the 216.5-point total. Still, a 2.5-point spread should imply a full workload for Young, and seeing as much offensive responsibility as he does, he's a great option.

On the other side of this one, Fred VanVleet is probably the fourth-best way to spend salary above $8,000, so the two are a quality mini-stack if you are willing to fully occupy point guard.