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 Friday, Feb. 24 are provided by Caesars Sportsbook, and fantasy advice is based on ESPN 10-team leagues.
What you need to know for Friday’s games
Statistical success can be driven by who isn’t on the floor. Which is to say, the absence of high-usage players can reveal sustainable fantasy values deeper in rotations.
Take the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team that recently dealt a shot-happy D’Angelo Russell and has been without superstar offensive force Karl-Anthony Towns for much of the season. A formerly quiet role player such as Jaden McDaniels (72% available in ESPN leagues), one of the league’s most versatile and gifted perimeter defenders, has elevated his offensive impact given the need created by his missing peers. Even Russell’s ankle injury last night for the Los Angeles Lakers could create a new role for Dennis Schroder (71%).
Charlotte Hornets defense tonight that is allowing 44.1 DraftKings points per game to small forwards, the second-highest clip in the league. McDaniels, meanwhile, is one of just 11 NBA players currently averaging at least .9 blocks and .9 steals per game. With Towns and Russell off the floor this season, he’s enjoyed a leap of 4.5 DraftKings points per 36 minutes, second only to Anthony Edwards. Such splits scream value.
Trend: The Bucks came out of the All-Star Break in style last season (11-5 ATS) and are an impressive 18-11 ATS at home this season. That’s not a bad trend to take into a game against the Heat that failed to cover eight of 10 games entering the break and has failed to cover all three games this month against the six teams that entered the break ahead of them in East. -Kyle Soppe
Fantasy streamer: Gabe Vincent (rostered in 3.4% of ESPN leagues) will be the Heat’s point guard until further notice with Kyle Lowry sidelined with a knee injury. Vincent has responded well to the challenge and is averaging 15.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.8 3-pointers in his 11 starts this season. He’s also scored between 15 and 21 points in each of his last three games, has at least one steal in seven straight, and has drained 11 triples over his last three. He’s not going to get you a ton of assists for a point guard, but he’s doing enough of everything else to be utilized in almost any fantasy league right now. And with a points over/under of 12.5 tonight, he also looks like a Best Bet for the over. Especially since he torched Jrue Holiday for 27 and 28 points in back-to-back games against the Bucks in January. -Steve Alexander
Fantasy streamer: Kevin Love (rostered in 11.5% of ESPN leagues) is an intriguing streamer in deeper formats against a Bucks team who will be without Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Heat’s second unit desperately needs offense, which is why Miami brought him in. Since the Heat don’t have much depth behind Bam Adebayo, Love is a crucial rotation player. With 10.5 rebounds per game during his lengthy NBA career, Love should immediately boost the Heat in the rebounding department, where they rank 27th with 41.4 RPG. -Eric Moody
Best bet: Jrue Holiday over 21.5 points.Giannis Antetokounmpo (wrist) is doubtful tonight and that usually means that it’s Holiday time for the Bucks. When Giannis sat from Jan. 12 to Jan. 21 earlier this season, Holiday led the team in scoring in four of their five games, racking up between 24 and 37 points in those five. And he had 12 points and 10 assists on 5-of-14 shooting in the other one (against the Heat on Jan. 14). The only concern is that the Heat generally play solid defense against opposing point guards, giving up just 22 points per game to the position. And it just so happens that’s the exact number we’re looking for. And while the Heat slowed Holiday down in that Jan. 14 game, he got them for 24 points two days earlier on Jan. 12. -Alexander
Fantasy streamer: Immanuel Quickley (rostered in 18.4% of ESPN leagues) has scored 14 points in back-to-back games and has scored in double digits in five straight games despite coming off the bench and playing with a red-hot Jalen Brunson. The Knicks played the Wizards twice in January and Quickley torched them for 18 points in each game, combining to hit 13 of 26 shots and three 3-pointers. He’s been one of Tom Thibodeau’s key bench players since just before Christmas and he should probably be rostered in more leagues than he is currently. -Alexander
Best bet: Knicks -2.0.Bradley Beal is questionable for tonight’s game due to right knee soreness. He hasn’t practiced since the Wizards returned from the All-Star break. The Knicks won three consecutive games entering the All-Star break. In its last six games, New York has gone 4-1-1 against the spread. The Knicks should take care of business on the road. -Moody
Injury Report: Cavaliers: Ricky Rubio, (GTD – Knee) Hawks: John Collins, (OUT – Concussion) Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play
Best Bet: Jarrett Allen over 10.5 rebounds: Allen hit this for me last night against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets and has now rattled off at least 11 rebounds in seven of his past 10 games. The Hawks are the 11th-worst team in the league at giving up rebounds to opposing centers and Allen had 11 boards against Atlanta in their only other meeting thus far this season. Just make sure he’s playing on the second night of a back-to-back. -Alexander
Best bet: Evan Mobley over 29.5 points+assists+rebounds. The Hawks are without John Collins tonight which positions Mobley for success. The Cavaliers will likely exploit this mismatch against an Atlanta team that ranks 21st in points allowed per 100 possessions. The Hawks are also not a strong rebounding team. Mobley has averaged 18.6 points, 2.6 assists, and 9.3 rebounds over the last eight games. -Moody
Trend: The Minnesota Timberwolves have seen six of their past eight home games go under the total and have covered six of their past nine in front of their home fans. Working nicely alongside that is the fact that the Charlotte Hornets are 3-8 ATS over their past 11 road games and 10-19-2 ATS when under tickets cash. One for the road? Under tickets are 15-4 when the ‘Wolves play a top-10 pace team.-Soppe
Fantasy streamer: Mark Williams (rostered in 15.4% of ESPN leagues) is worth streaming for the blocks alone and is coming off a game against the Spurs last Wednesday when he racked up 15 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. He has at least one block in nine of his last 10 games and has eight blocks over his last three. He’s also scored in double figures in three of his last four games and has hit double digits in rebounds in two of his last four. And Williams should see a ton of minutes trying to help contain Rudy Gobert tonight. -Alexander
Best bet: Kyle Anderson over 11.5 points. Anderson is coming off a trio of 18-, 12- and 12-point games and the Hornets are the third-worst team in the league against small forwards when it comes to scoring. Anderson’s streak would probably be longer but he played just 13 minutes in a weird blowout win against the Nuggets on Feb. 5. He’s gotten 24 and 31 minutes in his last two games and should be as rested as anyone after taking the last week off. The weird fluctuation in minutes is a minor concern with SloMo but he’s trending in the right direction after the solid run in his last two games, And the Hornets should be easy pickins’ for him tonight. -Alexander
Best bet: LaMelo Ball over 41.5 points+assists+rebounds. In three of his last four games, Ball has exceeded 41.5 PAR. It is expected that the game will have a fast pace and be high scoring, so Ball is in a great position to succeed against a Timberwolves team that gives up the sixth most points per game and the most rebounds per game to point guards. -Moody
Best bet: Rudy Gobert over 14.5 rebounds. Gobert has 14 or more rebounds in two of his last three games. Against the Hornets, who have allowed the most rebounds per game to centers this season, he has a very favorable matchup.-Moody
Best bet: Nikola Vucevic over 11.5 rebounds. Vuc torched the Nets for 15 points and 17 rebounds when they met on Feb. 9 and is averaging 13.2 rebounds in his nine February games. He’s failed to hit at least 12 rebounds only twice in those nine games, going for 11 in one of them and just seven rebounds against the Pacers on Feb. 15. But the fact he played so well against Nic Claxton a couple weeks ago means he should be able to do it again tonight. The Bulls are desperate to snap their six-game losing streak and Vuc will have to come through with a big line tonight to make it happen. -Alexander
Best bet: Zach LaVine over 23.5 points. LaVine also torched the Nets for 38 points on Feb. 9 when defensive wiz Mikal Bridges was busy dealing with DeMar DeRozan, who scored just 14 in that one. After LaVine got the Nets for 38 he had 23 against the Cavs, 26 against the Magic and scored 35 points against the Pacers last Wednesday. He hit just 5-of-16 shots for 18 points against the Bucks last Thursday but should be ready to get back into the scoring groove tonight. He took 25 shots against Brooklyn, hitting 16 of them, and I’m looking for a repeat performance this evening. -Alexander
Best bet: DeMar DeRozan under 22.5 points. As I mentioned above, DeRozan scored just 14 points in a Feb. 9 meeting against Bridges and the Nets, and if Bridges gets the DeRozan assignment again tonight DD should struggle. Bridges has shut down RJ Barrett, DeRozan, Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler in each of his last four games, holding the foursome to a grand total of 34 points – an average of just 8.5 points per player. And considering those four players are averaging a collective 20.6 points per game what Bridges is doing is nothing short of amazing. If DeRozan can score 23 points tonight he will have earned it honestly. -Alexander
Trend:Kevin Durant is expected to return in the middle of next week, so he won’t factor in against his former team tonight. The Thunder entered the break having covered 14 of 19 games, an extended run of overachieving that is certainly worth noting. If you’re telling yourself a story of the Thunder covering, what is the most likely outcome in terms of the total? Unders are 17-10 when the Suns fail to cover this season and 6-3 in the Thunder’s past nine covers, a trend that indicates an adjustment by the books (overs had hit in their prior seven covers). -Soppe
Best bet: Devin Booker over 35.5 points+assists+rebounds. Booker’s minutes allocation continues to rise, which is good news for bettors. Over the last two seasons, he has played 35 or more minutes in 52 games and averaged 29.9 points, 5.3 assists, and 5.0 rebounds. Since Kevin Durant has already been ruled out for tonight’s game, Booker will continue to be heavily relied upon as a scorer. -Moody
Best bet: Deandre Ayton over 20.5 points. Ayton has been on a scoring tear of late and is averaging 24 points per game in February. He had only 18 points against the Clippers last Thursday before the All-Star break, but prior to that he scored at least 22 points in five straight games, racking up 31, 35 and 29 points in three of those. Jaylin Williams will be overmatched tonight and I’m guessing Ayton will be licking his chops. This will be Ayton’s first meeting against the Thunder this season so there’s not a lot of history to go on, but Ayton should be able to get 21 points against the Thunder without having to work incredibly hard. -Alexander
Best bet: Jordan Poole over 26.5 points.Andrew Wiggins and Stephen Curry are still out, so the Warriors will be heavily relying upon Poole. The Warriors face a Rockets team that ranks 28th in points allowed per 100 possessions. Houston also allows opponents an effective field goal percentage of 56.1%, the fifth highest in the league. -Moody
Injury Report: Kings: KZ Okpala, (GTD – Knee) Clippers: Ivica Zubac, (OUT – Calf) Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play
Trend: The Clippers went 9-4 ATS over their final 13 games of the first half and have covered each of their past four games against top-10 pace teams. If you’re more of a totals bettor, it’s worth noting that five of the Kings’ past six games (both overall and when playing on the second night of a back-to-back) have gone over the projected total. In an effort to bring things full circle, the Clips are 6-2 ATS over the past month when a game goes over the number. -Soppe