Wednesday December 17th, 2014

Ready to show your friends you know more about the NBA than they do? FanNation's Basketball Throwdown fantasy basketball game is your best option. You pick a guard, forward and center who you think will exceed their fantasy projections. The scoring system takes into account points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals and turnovers. The team that surpasses their projections by the most wins, so picking a lineup of Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Joakim Noah is no sure-fire path to victory. You can also bet anywhere from $1 to $500 on each night's matchup or play for free.

I'll give you my picks each day and a recap of yesterday's top performers so you can get bragging rights over your friends.

Sign up for tonight's Basketball Throwdown here.

Tuesday's overachievers:

Guard: Rasual Butler, Wizards, +20.0

Butler's improbable return to being a rotation player for the first time since the 2009-10 season continued with a huge game to lift the Wizards past the Timberwolves on Tuesday night. The 35-year-old had 23 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block while making nine of 15 shots. He was a fringe player the last four seasons and was out of the league entirely in 2012-13, but he is averaging a career-high 18.3 points per 36 minutes while shooting a blistering 53.4 percent on three-pointers. Just as Trevor Ariza showed last season, playing with John Wall is a boon for any three-point shooter.

Forward: Mason Plumlee, Nets, +16.3

After a summer spent with Team USA, Plumlee was expected to make a significant leap in his second season with the Nets. While he got off to a slow start to the season, he has played better recently, including a 21-point, nine-rebound performance on Tuesday against the Heat. In his last three games, Plumlee is averaging 16.7 points and 10.7 rebounds as a starter. With starting center Brook Lopez expected to miss a few more games, Plumlee is poised to continue his strong play.

Center: Enes Kanter, Jazz, +17.9

Kanter nearly carried the Jazz to a win over the Pelicans before Utah's defense crumbled in the fourth quarter. He finished with a season-high 29 points, seven rebounds, two steals, one assist and one block while playing in a supersized frontcourt alongside Rudy Gobert. Since Derrick Favors injured his ankle last week, Kanter has responded well to a bigger role in the team's offense, averaging 21.3 points and 8.7 rebounds. Between Favors' injury and the lack of quality centers for Basketball Throwdown, Kanter is a good option moving forward.

Today's picks

Guard: James Harden, Rockets at Nuggets, 10:30 p.m.

Harden has become an MVP candidate while leading the Rockets to an 18-5 start despite Dwight Howard missing time with a knee injury. He is leading the league in scoring at 26.3 points per game and is also posting career-highs in assists (6.7 apg) and rebounding (6.4). While his offensive game has continued to improve, it is on defense that has made Harden a better play, at least statistically, this season. After being criticized for his lack of effort on defense, he is averaging 2.0 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. He is coming off a triple-double against the Nuggets on Saturday and gets to play them again on Wednesday.

Forward: Josh Smith, Pistons vs. Mavericks, 7:30 p.m.

Smith's fantasy production has mirrored Detroit's struggles this season. He is shooting a career-low 38.8 percent from the field and averaging just 13.5 points per game, but he is still talented enough for a breakout game like the 21-point, 13-rebound, five-assist, five-block, two-steal performance against the Kings last week. Smith should be able to pile up the stats on Wednesday against the up-tempo Mavericks, as Dallas doesn't have a player who can match his size and athleticism.

Center: Rudy Gobert, Jazz at Heat, 7:30 p.m.

Gobert is the pick because of his paltry 15-point projection despite being a likely starter with Favors out of the lineup. He has beaten his projection in four of his last five games while averaging nearly three blocks. In a matchup with the undersized Heat, Gobert will be able to control the interior and possibly do more scoring than usual. In last week's game against Miami, Gobert had nine points, 11 rebounds, five blocks, four assists and a steal en route to a 40.2-point performance.

- Paul Palladino

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