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Fantasy basketball picks for Thursday, January 15, including LeBron James, James Harden and Zaza Pachulia.

By SI Wire
January 15, 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 its 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.

Wednesday's overachievers

Guard: Victor Oladipo, Magic, +23.2

Oladipo carried the Magic to an upset victory over the Rockets on Wednesday in Orlando. He finished with 32 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals as the Magic scored 120 points. After scoring 33 points against the Bulls on Monday, Oladipo is averaging 23.4 points, 4.2 assists and 2.0 steals in his last five games. The Magic are unlikely to make the playoffs, but Oladipo has emerged as a potential cornerstone moving forward.

Forward: Kenneth Faried, Nuggets, +15.8

Faried has been wildly inconsistent this season, but he has had more ups than downs in the past few weeks. He led the Nuggets to a victory over the Mavericks on Wednesday, piling up 22 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks. In his last 10 games, he has averaged 14.9 points and 14.0 rebounds despite having games with just four and two points. Faried has benefited from receiving more playing time from coach Brian Shaw and shown the potential that earned him a contract extension before the season.

Center: Nikola Vucevic, Magic, +17.9

While Oladipo led the team in scoring, Vucevic was also instrumental in the Magic's win against the Rockets. He had a double-double with 25 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block. The Magic acquired Vucevic in the 2012 Dwight Howard trade and he outplayed Howard (23 points, eight rebounds) on Wednesday. Although Howard is clearly the better player, the Magic have to be happy with his replacement's development.

Today's picks

Guard: James Harden, Rockets vs. Thunder, 8:00 p.m. ET

Harden is having an MVP-caliber season and faces off against his old team on Thursday in Houston. He has beaten his projection in three of his last five games and is coming off a 26-point, 10-assist, five-steal, four-assist game against the Magic on Wednesday. Harden leads the league in scoring at 26.9 points per game and will look to put on a show during a national television matchup.

Forward: LeBron James, Cavaliers at Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET

The four-time MVP is always a good choice, but is a no-brainer tonight against the Lakers. Because he missed eight games, James is projected for just 23 points tonight against a Lakers team that doesn't play much defense. No one on the Lakers can physically matchup with James, who looked much healthier on Tuesday against the Suns. With the Cavaliers looking to snap a six-game losing streak, James will likely look to put his mark on the game from the start.

Center: Zaza Pachulia, Bucks vs. Knicks, 3:00 p.m. ET

Pachulia is not the sexiest pick in Basketball Throwdown, but he has several factors working for him on Thursday against the Knicks in London. For one, he is playing the Knicks and their roster filled with D-League talent. Pachulia already torched New York for 16 points and 14 rebounds earlier this month. While other centers having high projections, Pachulia is slated for just 18 points. With Larry Sanders still not playing, Pachulia should get enough playing time to surpass his projection.

- Paul Palladino

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