NBA DFS Picks for February 23

There are 11 games on the NBA slate Friday, but one stands out for DFS purposes.
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After easing us back from the All-Star break on Thursday with six games, the NBA scheduled 11 games for Friday. Even with the large player pool, a number of difficult matchups, slower-paced teams, and obvious tanking scenarios make the pickings surprisingly thin. Use these plays and Lineup Lab's PlayerLab to get you rolling with lineups on DraftKings and FanDuel.

Game Stack Alert

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns

A quick disclaimer: It’s rare to see this kind of outsized value from one specific game on such a big slate. But that’s definitely the case on Friday. With so many teams locked into tough defensive matchups or games that should have a slow pace, we have one game that carries with it most of our DFS hopes and dreams. This is a high-variance approach to lineup creation on FanDuel and DraftKings because the game script can work against you if the game gets ugly. And for big tournaments, there are diminishing returns on the upside. But this game features almost all of my cash-game plays.

Austin Rivers (FD: $5,600, DK: $5,700)

Projected Points: FD: 29.71, DK: 30.74

Tobias Harris (FD: $7,000, DK: $6,900)

Projected Points: FD: 34.13, DK: 34.8

Lou Williams (FD: $7,000, DK: $7,500)

Projected Points: FD: 41.45, DK: 42.95

Danilo Gallinari (FD: $6,300, DK: $6,300)

Projected Points: FD: 30.89, DK: 31.98

The Suns have played this season much like last: at a blistering pace (fourth fastest in the league) with no discernible defense to speak of (dead last). The Clippers are on the second half of a back-to-back, but I’m not overly concerned with their minutes outside of a potential blowout. Even after shipping off Blake Griffin in the blockbuster trade, Los Angeles very much has eyes on that last Western Conference playoff spot, currently one game back in the loss column.

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Rivers, in the starting point guard role, comes at a fantastic value in a pace-up matchup. He’ll never be a big assist guy, but is averaging close to 16 points a game and does chip in the ancillary stat here and there. At his price point, the volume alone will make him one of the more attractive cash-game plays on the slate.

Williams is the rare bench recommendation, but sees such quality minutes as the sixth man that we can roster him without much hesitation. He’s dependent on scoring, but his career-best 23 points per game reflects the opportunity. The Clippers want him chucking, and this is the best matchup for that profile.

Gallinari and Harris have played elite minutes since getting healthy (the former) and getting traded (the latter). Harris is still getting up around 16 shots per game and putting up eight rebounds nearly on lock. At his price, he needs to knock down his threes, which is fine because the Suns have no defense around the perimeter. The same goes for Gallinari who, should see mid-teens shot attempts in this matchup.

Devin Booker (FD: $7,700, DK: $8,000)

Projected Points: FD: 40.92, DK: 42.87

Elfrid Payton (FD: $7,500, DK: $7,900)

Projected Points: FD: 38.19, DK: 38.17

T.J. Warren (FD: $6,000, DK: $6,000)

Projected Points: FD: 36.68, DK: 35.88

Alex Len (FD: $4,500, DK: $4,800)

Projected Points: FD: 29.74, DK: 30.45

Meanwhile, the Suns spent the final third of last season in open and unapologetic tanking mode, completely sitting some of their key players down the stretch in an effort to lose. This season they’ve made it clear they’re going a different route and won’t employ a “strategic tanking” approach. This is actually great news on projecting minutes for the key pieces in their starting lineup. If we use their final game before the All-Star break as a reasonable comparison, Booker, Warren, Payton and Len should all see quality minutes going forward.

From a fantasy perspective, Payton has meshed well with the other Suns’ younger pieces, recording a triple-double in that aforementioned game against the Jazz. He racked up 13 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds in 39 minutes. The Suns are very short on reliable point guard options at this point, and projecting Payton for minutes in the higher 30s makes playing his inflated prices palatable.

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Payton isn’t a high-usage point guard, meaning we can still comfortably roster Booker and Warren without worrying about a decrease in shot attempts. Both need to score to hit value, with each ranking in the top 10 in the percentage of fantasy points derived from actual scoring (Booker is fourthth and Warren is 10th at 68% and 65%, respectively). But again, sharing the starting five with Payton, Len and Dragan Bender doesn’t do anything to hamper the usage. Both are still fantastic mid-tier value plays.

And finally, Len will likely draw another start for Tyson Chandler and is coming off a pre-All Star break game of 38 minutes, 14 points, seven rebounds, five blocks and three steals. With this kind of opportunity, the defensive stats are outliers, but the scoring is likely low. He’s just about the best value on the slate.

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Other Considerations

Upper Tier

James Harden, vs. Timberwolves (FD: $11,400, DK: $11,400)

Projected Points: FD: 56.11, DK: 58.55

Harden slaughtered the Timberwolves a little over a week ago when he put up a ridiculous 34 points, 13 assists and six rebounds in *only* 36 minutes. While Minnesota would like to match him with Jimmy Butler, the Rockets transitioned and crossmatched enough that it simply wasn’t the case, and Harden took them to task. He’s expensive, but on a big slate with possibly other cheap value opening up he makes for the best big money pay off if you can afford him.

LaMarcus Aldridge, vs. Nuggets (FD: $8,700, DK: $7,700)

Projected Points: FD: 42.84, DK: 42.49

With news that Kawhi Leonard could miss the rest of the season, this team is now fully turned over to Aldridge. Beyond the news, not much changes for the Spurs’ big man, and he should continue his All-Star level performance. Denver is allowing around 6% more scoring than league-average to PF/C types and will likely front Aldridge with Nikola Jokic. Consider rostering him on DraftKings where he’s coming $1,000 cheaper.

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Lower Tier

Tyler Johnson, vs. Pelicans (FD: $4,400, DK: $4,800)

Projected Points: FD: 23.29, DK: 23.27

Wayne Ellington, vs. Pelicans (FD: $3,700, DK: $4,000)

Projected Points: FD: 19.88, DK: 21.09

The Heat play shorter rotations, though that doesn’t always mean quality minutes for the usual suspects. Erik Spoelstra will run matchups as well as any coach in the NBA, and that sometimes leads to less run for even the core players. That being said, both Ellington and Johnson are coming very cheap if the average projectable minutes are hovering somewhere around 30 a game. Ellington needs to catch fire from three considering almost all of his fantasy scoring comes from beyond the arc. And Johnson needs to score, as well, though he isn’t as dependent from distance. Both make for salary cap fodder on a night that could be without reliable punt plays.

JaMychal Green, vs. Cavaliers (FD: $4,700, DK: $4,600)

Projected Points: FD: 25.6, DK: 26.12

Something of a stretch, but as of this print there’s very little in the way of cheap value out there even for such a big slate. Green has 30-minute upside, and the Grizzlies will need his defense against a Cavaliers’ team that featueres almost solely wing and stretch-four rotations at this point. He has double-double potential if the minutes are there and is still coming quite cheap across the industry.

Andrew Harrison, vs. Cavaliers (FD: $5,500, DK: $4,300)

Projected Points: FD: 26.3, DK: 25.84

It pains me to write him up because I’ve been burned by this guy more than a couple of times, but in DFS it pays to have a short memory. Harrison is in a solid spot on Friday with Wayne Selden already ruled out, and the Grizzlies somewhat thin in the backcourt. He’s a much better DraftKings play at the discounted price and should see minutes somewhere in the low 30s. He’s produced easy value on these prices in four of his last six games and should again tonight.