Friday December 19th, 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.

Thursday's overachievers

Guard: Jimmy Butler, Bulls, +30.5

With Derrick Rose out of the lineup, Butler stepped up to carry the Bulls past the Carmelo Anthony-less Knicks on Thursday night. He poured in a career-high 35 points while showcasing his all-around game with seven assists, five rebounds, four steals and a block. Butler has taken his game to new heights this season and is a no-brainer All-Star selection in the Eastern Conference. After years of shuffling through shooting guards, the Bulls finally have an answer at the position to pair with Rose in the backcourt.

Forward: Anthony Davis, Pelicans, +23.3

Davis was dominant on both ends of the court and led the Pelicans to an upset victory over the division rival Rockets. He scored 30 points on just 17 shots with 14 rebounds, five blocks, three assists and two steals. Davis was the best player on the court as fellow MVP-candidate James Harden shot just eight of 23 from the field en route to 21 points. Davis has led the Pelicans to a 13-12 start and is No. 1 in blocks (2.7) and PER (33.5).

Center: Dwight Howard, Rockets, +2.6

While the Rockets didn't have enough left in the tank on the second-half of a back-to-back, Howard continued his strong play since returning from a knee injury. He had 17 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks and two assists in the loss. It was a run-of-the-mill performance from Howard, but a positive sign nonetheless that there won't be any long-term effects from his knee injury.

Today's picks

Guard: Nick Young, Lakers vs. Thunder, 10:30 p.m.

Young's game can be difficult to predict because he is prone to hot and cold streaks. One thing that is consistent about him, however, is that he loves the spotlight. A primetime matchup against the Thunder will certainly bring out a focused Young on Friday. The last time the Lakers played on national television, Young scored 29 points and made the game-winning three pointer against the Spurs. While his claim that no one can guard him one-on-one is a bit outlandish, he is capable of huge scoring nights.

Forward: Evan Turner, Celtics vs. Timberwolves, 7:30 p.m.

While Celtics fans lament the trade sending Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks, Turner is licking his chops at the prospect of increased playing time. Turner is a talented ballhandler who Brad Stevens will likely give more time at point guard now that Rondo is gone. He certainly is no star, but his 20-point projection against the struggling Timberwolves seems much lower than it should be. He is versatile enough to flirt with triple-doubles if he is given enough playing time.

Center: Mason Plumlee, Nets at Cavaliers, 7:30 p.m.

Plumlee has been a standout player while starting the last five games in place of the injured Brook Lopez. He has displayed the talent that led to his inclusion on Team USA this summer, averaging 16.2 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Despite Plumlee's strong play, his Basketball Throwdown projection is still a measly 16 points. He has beaten his projection in each of his last five games, including doubling it three times. Plumlee should put up big numbers tonight against the Cavaliers.

- Paul Palladino

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