Friday January 2nd, 2015

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, +17.6

Butler continued his campaign for an All-Star selection and the Most Improved Player award in Thursday's win over the Nuggets. He piled up 26 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a block to lead the Bulls. The 25-year-old leads Chicago in scoring at 21.9 ppg and rebounded after scoring a season-low eight points on Tuesday against the Nets. Butler has regularly been the best guard in Basketball Throwdown and is a good pick moving forward.

Forward: Kenneth Faried, Nuggets, +29.3

Faried continued his recent resurgence with a big night during Thursday's loss to the Bulls. He scored 18 points and grabbed 19 rebounds while adding three blocks, three assists and two steals. After an extended slump, Faried has played much better in his last five games, averaging 17.0 points and 16.2 rebounds. His play has warranted extended minutes from coach Brian Shaw as Faried has shown the talent that earned him a starting spot on Team USA last summer.

Center: Gorgui Dieng, Timberwolves, +4.0

With only two games on Thursday, Dieng was the best fantasy center despite only beating his projection by four points during Thursday's loss to the Kings. He recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds while adding two blocks and two assists. With starting center Nikola Pekovic still out of the lineup with an ankle injury, Dieng will get a good chance to prove himself during the next few games.

Today's picks

Guard: Rajon Rondo, Mavericks at Celtics, 7:30 p.m.

Rondo makes his return to Boston on Friday to face the Celtics for the first time since being traded to the Mavericks last month. Rondo has increased his scoring to 13.2 ppg in his first six games with the Mavericks, but his assists have fallen by three per game. It is difficult to predict when Rondo will have a breakout game, but a homecoming against his former team seems like the type of game he will shine in. Rondo has beaten his projection in three of his last five games and should torch the Celtics tonight.

Forward: Kevin Durant, Thunder vs. Wizards, 8:00 p.m.

Durant showed no signs of rust in his return from an ankle injury on Wednesday, scoring 44 points in an overtime victory over the Suns. Despite being limited to 10 games this season by a pair of injuries, he is scoring a career-high 30.1 points per 36 minutes. While the Wizards are one of the best team's in the Eastern Conference, they don't have a defender capable of matching Durant's size and athleticism on the perimeter.

Center: Kelly Olynyk, Celtics vs. Mavericks, 7:30 p.m.

Olynyk has beaten his projection in four of his last five games and is poised to have a big night against the Mavericks. Coming off the bench will work to Olynyk's advantage because the Mavericks traded shot-blocking big man Brandan Wright to the Celtics last month. The Mavericks are not a good defensive team and Olynyk's versatile skills will be on full display on Friday.

- Paul Palladino

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