Friday December 26th, 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: Russell Westbrook, Thunder, +22.5

With reigning MVP Kevin Durant sitting out for a fourth straight game with a sprained ankle, Westbrook carried the Thunder to a Christmas Day win over the Spurs in San Antonio. He had 34 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and five steals as the Thunder pulled away in the fourth quarter. Westbrook is having the best individual season of his career, averaging 28.6 points, 7.4 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists. If continues at his current pace, he will be the league leader in points per game once he plays in 70 percent of the Thunder's games. After Durant won the award last year, Westbrook is at the forefront of the conversation this season.

ForwardLuol Deng, Heat, +17.6

Facing off against LeBron James for the first time since the pair switched teams in free agency, Deng nearly matched him point for point. Deng finished with 25 points, eight assists and eight rebounds, while James had 30 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Combined with Dwyane Wade's 31 points, Deng led the Heat to a win over the Cavaliers on Thursday. He has had an up and down first season in Miami, but is still averaging 14.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals as the team's third option behind Wade and Chris Bosh.

CenterSteven Adams, Thunder, +25.5

Adams had his best game of the season as the Thunder knocked off the Spurs. He finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and two steals while matched up with the Spurs' frontline of Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. The 21-year-old replaced Kendrick Perkins in the starting lineup this season and has come on strong over the past two weeks. In his last nine games, he is averaging 9.4 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. With Adams and Serge Ibaka providing rim protection, the Thunder will be title favorites once Kevin Durant returns from his latest injury.

Today's picks

GuardIsaiah Thomas, Suns at Kings, 10:00 p.m. ET

Thomas returns to Sacramento for the first time since signing with the Suns in free agency. He struggled in a home game against the Kings in November, finishing with just three points and four assists. After missing time with a sprained ankle, Thomas has come on strong while averaging 17.4 points and 3.6 assists. His 30-point projection could be tough to reach, but Thomas has the extra incentive of facing his former team on Friday. During the offseason, Thomas said he was "going to kill Sacramento" when they played this season.

ForwardShabazz Muhammad, Timberwolves at Nuggets, 9:00 p.m. ET

Muhammad is enjoying a breakout season in his second year with the Timberwolves. Since seeing his playing time increase nearly a month ago, he has averaged 19.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in just 27.6 minutes per game. It is easy to see why Muhammad was one of the nation's top recruits just two years ago. While the Timberwolves aren't going anywhere this season, Muhammad is developing into a potential long-term piece alongside No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins.

CenterDeMarcus Cousins, Kings vs. Suns, 10:00 p.m. ET

Cousins is one of the top centers in basketball and has returned from a bout with viral meningitis to average 26.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals. Despite his strong play, his projection for tonight is a paltry 17 points. He has blown past that total in each of his three games back and is a no brainer to start tonight.

- Paul Palladino

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