Fantasy basketball tips and NBA betting picks for Friday – ESPN

ESPN’s fantasy basketball and basketball betting tips cheat sheet is your pregame destination for basketball betting predictions and our best intel and data to help you make smart fantasy and wagering decisions. NBA game odds for January 6 are provided by Caesars Sportsbook, and fantasy advice is based on ESPN 10-team leagues.
Tight Spread, Fade Points: More often than not, sports betting is a game of micro edges. Every once in a while, a lasting trend will overwhelm, but usually it’s a matter of grinding out the small advantages and that is the case tonight. There are a handful of coin flip games tonight where the spread is no more than three points and in spots like that this season, under tickets have cashed 56.9% of the time. You won’t get rich cashing at that rate, but I’ve never seen someone go broke making a profit.
Low Totaled Underdogs: The Heat/Suns game is shaping up to be the lowest total on the board, but the Knicks/Raptors is also likely to close below the 225-ish point total that has become normal in this era of basketball. Well, underdogs have covered 56.4% of the time in low total games (under 220 points) and have returned an overall profit just north of five units this season if you bet them all moneyline.
Living Up To The Spread: The Nuggets are 7-6 ATS this season (unders: 8-4-1) when favored by more than five points. Those trends work in contrast to their numbers when favored by fewer than five points: 6-7 ATS with unders going 5-8. Again, we aren’t talking massive trends, but with Donovan Mitchell already ruled out and Darius Garland banged up at the very least (hasn’t played in a week and is questionable with his thumb injury), don’t shy away from expecting big things from Denver.
Find Your Center: Several standout streaming options have surfaced for Fridays’ 11-game slate. With Clint Capela still dealing with a calf injury, Atlanta’s Onyeka Okongwu (80% available in ESPN leagues) faces the Lakers’ Thomas Bryant (78%) in a matchup of undervalued centers. Bryant has thrived since shifting to the starting lineup with Anthony Davis ailing, averaging 15.5 points and 10 rebounds on stellar scoring efficiency over his last 10 games.
Waiver Wings: The Charlotte Hornets won’t have Gordon Hayward or Kelly Oubre Jr. in the lineup against the Bucks on Friday evening, vaulting dynamic defender Jalen McDaniels (92% available in ESPN leagues) into a larger role. Another rewarding and potentially more enduring move would be adding San Antonio’s Josh Richardson (98%). With Devin Vassell undergoing a knee procedure, both Richardson and rookie Jeremy Sochan (95%) could emerge with larger roles in the coming games.

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Trez Time: As he deals with a lingering foot ailment, Joel Embiid and his elite two-way production won’t be on the floor for the 76ers tonight as they host the Bulls. One name to watch in the wake of Embiid’s absence is Montrezl Harrell, who is a free agent in nearly three-quarters of ESPN leagues and is coming off a strong game in place of Embiid that included 19 points and four blocks. The rim protection won’t always be so nice, but it’s clear Harrell can handle scoring and rebounding duties against a Bulls team that struggled to protect the paint. Conversely, building around Chicago’s Nikola Vucevic at just $7,300 on DraftKings is appealing given he won’t have to deal with Embiid.
Sourcing Assists: In an era with so many heliocentric superstars controlling the show, finding assists on the waiver wire can prove challenging. A continuously underrated productive passer has been Killian Hayes (80% available in ESPN leagues) of the Pistons, who has at least 10 assists in his last two full games and is positioned to produce tonight against a Spurs team ceding 51.3 DraftKings points per game to point guards, the sixth-highest allowance in the league. We also find Monte Morris (47% available in ESPN leagues) excelling as the Wizards’ top distributor with Bradley Beal sidelined. The pure point guard has at least six dimes in four of his past five games.
— Jim McCormick & Kyle Soppe
Portland Trail Blazers at Indiana Pacers
7:00 p.m ET, Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Line: Pacers (-1.5)
Money line: Trail Blazers (+105), Pacers (-120)
Total: 237 points
BPI Projected Total: 244.4 points
BPI Win%: Pacers (64.1%)
Injuries and updates
Fantasy streamer: Shaedon Sharpe (rostered in 1.4% of ESPN leagues) is a viable streamer for fantasy managers in deeper formats with Gary Payton II questionable with a right ankle sprain for tonight’s game. Payton II missed the Trail Blazers’ last game, and Sharpe scored 22 fantasy points. The Pacers rank 23rd in points allowed per 100 possessions. -Eric Moody
Fantasy streamer: Jalen Smith (rostered in 33.9% of ESPN leagues) has been productive despite his inconsistent minutes. Streaming him is not for the faint of heart, but Smith has scored 25 or more minutes in two consecutive games. In those two games, he played 32 minutes in total. -Moody
Best Bet: Tyrese Haliburton over 19.5 points. Haliburton is consistently productive on offense, though sometimes he hits assists harder than points. With that said, he hits the points more times than not (over 19.5 points in nine of his last 15 games), but even more interestingly, when he goes over he goes OVER. In all nine of those overs, he’s scored at least 23 points, and has has scored at least 26 in six of those games. Thus, I’d not just pick Haliburton over 19.5 points tonight against a friendly defender like Damian Lillard, I’d take him at 23-or over or over 25 for more juice. -Andre Snellings
Chicago Bulls at Philadelphia 76ers
7:00 p.m ET, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
Line: 76ers (-4.5)
Money line: Bulls (+158), 76ers (-190)
Total: 231 points
BPI Projected Total: 231.6 points
BPI Win%: 76ers (72.5%)
Injuries and updates
Fantasy streamer: Patrick Williams (rostered in 4.2% of ESPN leagues) should see additional minutes with Javonte Green questionable for Friday night’s game due to right knee soreness. In the games Green hasn’t played this season, Williams has averaged 33.9 minutes per game. He’s averaged 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per 40 minutes. -Moody
Fantasy streamer: Montrezl Harrell (rostered in 26.9% of ESPN leagues) is once again on the streaming radar with Joel Embiid ruled out for his second consecutive game due to left foot soreness. Harrell scored 50 fantasy points against the Pacers on Wednesday. Fantasy managers in deeper formats who need a center should consider using him in lineups. -Moody
Fantasy streamer: De’Anthony Melton (rostered in 48.3% of ESPN leagues) will most likely be inserted into the starting lineup with Joel Embiid ruled out. The Bulls have struggled to defend point guards all season due to the absence of Lonzo Ball. Melton has averaged 30.7 fantasy points per game this season. -Moody
New York Knicks at Toronto Raptors
7:30 p.m ET, Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Ontario
Line: Raptors (-4)
Money line: Knicks (+143), Raptors (-170)
Total: 218 points
BPI Projected Total: 229.7 points
BPI Win%: Raptors (54.8%)
Injuries and updates
Best Bet: Knicks +4 over Raptors. I like the talent on the Raptors, and they’re playing at home, but they just haven’t played well of late. They have lost four of their last five games, and 10 of their last 13 overall. Their three-point loss to the Bucks on Wednesday was a thriller, but the dramatic ending overshadows the fact they were down by 19 points very late in the fourth quarter and the Bucks seemingly took their collective foot off the gas pedal. Meanwhile, the Knicks have been extremely streaky but seem to be on an uptick. They won eight straight games, then lost five straight (admittedly, including a seven-point loss to the Raptors), and have now won three straight again. With two teams of similar caliber, when one is playing better in the short term and is getting the points, I lean in that direction. -Snellings
Brooklyn Nets at New Orleans Pelicans
7:30 p.m ET, Smoothie King Center, New Orleans
Line: Nets (-4.5)
Money line: Nets (-180), Pelicans (+152)
Total: 231 points
BPI Projected Total: 237.4 points
BPI Win%: Nets (64.4%)
Injuries and updates
Fantasy streamer: Jaxson Hayes (rostered in 1.2% of ESPN leagues) is a streaming option with Willy Hernangomez listed as questionable due to a left ankle sprain and Larry Nance Jr. listed as questionable due to right shoulder soreness. As a reminder, Zion Williamson is out for the next few weeks. Hayes has averaged 14.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per 40 minutes this season. -Moody
Best Bet: CJ McCollum over 25.5 points. When Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram are out, McCollum is the man for the Pelicans at the offensive end of the court. He’s the only real creator, and is still the best finisher. McCollum has gone over 25.5 points in seven of his last 11 games anyway, but as the focal point of the offense on Friday against a Nets squad where the Pelicans will really need his production, I expect McCollum to play well. -Snellings
Charlotte Hornets at Milwaukee Bucks
8:00 p.m ET, Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee
Line: Bucks (-10)
Money line: Hornets (+345), Bucks (-455)
Total: 231.5 points
BPI Projected Total: 239.5 points
BPI Win%: Bucks (71.9%)
Injuries and updates
Best bet: LaMelo Ball over 35.5 points+assists+rebounds. Due to Kelly Oubre Jr. and Gordon Hayward’s injuries, Ball will have to carry the Hornets. The Bucks play strong defense, but Ball has been exceptional over the last four games. Over that time period, he has averaged 24.2 points, 9.5 assists, and 7.0 rebounds per game. -Moody
Washington Wizards at Oklahoma City Thunder
8:00 p.m ET, Paycom Center, Oklahoma City
Line: Thunder (-1)
Money line: Wizards (+100), Thunder (-120)
Total: 231.5 points
BPI Projected Total: 234 points
BPI Win%: Wizards (56.3%)
Injuries and updates
Fantasy streamer: Daniel Gafford (rostered in 8.3% of ESPN leagues) is an underrated streamer. He has flourished since December 20th. Gafford has averaged 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.5 blocks in the past eight games. If you need a center don’t overlook him. -Moody
Detroit Pistons at San Antonio Spurs
8:00 p.m ET, AT&T Center, San Antonio
Line: Spurs (-1)
Money line: Pistons (+105), Spurs (-120)
Total: 236 points
BPI Projected Total: 241.7 points
BPI Win%: Spurs (58%)
Injuries and updates
Fantasy streamer: Jalen Duren (rostered in 14.9% of ESPN leagues) has prospered since he entered the starting lineup. It has been 11 games since he made the transition, and Duren has averaged 10.0 points and 10.5 rebounds. He’s a great streamer against a Spurs team that ranks 30th in points allowed per 100 possessions. -Moody
Best bet: Isaiah Stewart over 20.5 points+assists+rebounds. Since his transition to power forward, Stewart has performed well. The Spurs, a poor defensive team, provide him with another opportunity to shine. Over the last 11 games, Stewart has averaged 17.7 PAR. He should be able to surpass that average against the Spurs. -Moody
LA Clippers at Minnesota Timberwolves
9:00 p.m ET, Target Center, Minneapolis
Line: Timberwolves (-2.5)
Money line: Clippers (+130), Timberwolves (-155)
Total: 226 points
BPI Projected Total: 232.7 points
BPI Win%: Timberwolves (51.8%)
Injuries and updates
Fantasy streamer: Jaden McDaniels (rostered in 23.5% of ESPN leagues) continues to be a very good streamer while Gordon Hayward is dealing with an injury to his hamstring and Kelly Oubre Jr. is sidelined following hand surgery. This season, he has averaged 25.4 fantasy points per game. -Moody
Best Bet: Anthony Edwards over 25.5 points. I’m honestly unsure how Edwards’ line is staying so low. Yes, he’s playing a Clippers’ defense that is strong, and that features two elite defensive wings…when healthy. But, this is also a Clippers team on the second half of a back-to-back, with both Kawhi Leonard (rarely plays both halves of back-to-back) and Paul George (was questionable Thursday with a hamstring injury) as major question marks. Plus, I’m burying the lead, as Edwards has scored at least 27 points in seven straight games, and nine of his last 10 overall (averaging 29.4 PPG in those 10 games). -Snellings
Best Bet: Timberwolves -3.0 over Clippers. As I just pointed out, I’m unsure whether either Kawhi Leonard (rarely plays both halves of back-to-back) or Paul George (was questionable entering Thursday’s game with a hamstring) will be available and/or full speed for the Clippers tonight. Even if they are, the Clippers have lost four straight, including the absolute shellacking they took from the Nuggets on Thursday. The Timberwolves had a six game losing streak to end 2022, but had won three straight before that streak and have won their last two games against solid Nuggets and Trail Blazers squads. Playing at home, the Timberwolves should have the advantage on Friday. -Snellings
Cleveland Cavaliers at Denver Nuggets
9:00 p.m ET, Ball Arena, Denver
Line: Nuggets (-6)
Money line: Cavaliers (+205), Nuggets (-250)
Total: 221 points
BPI Projected Total: 232.8 points
BPI Win%: Nuggets (65.2%)
Injuries and updates
Fantasy streamer: Caris LeVert (rostered in 43.7% of ESPN leagues) should be leaned on heavily on Friday night with Donovan Mitchell sitting out against the Nuggets for rest. LeVert has scored 30 or more fantasy points in three of his last four games. -Moody
Miami Heat at Phoenix Suns
10:00 p.m ET, Footprint Center, Phoenix
Line: Heat (-2)
Money line: Heat (-135), Suns (+115)
Total: 214 points
BPI Projected Total: 227.9 points
BPI Win%: Suns (53.1%)
Injuries and updates
Atlanta Hawks at Los Angeles Lakers
10:30 p.m ET, Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles
Line: Hawks (-2.5)
Money line: Hawks (-135), Lakers (+115)
Total: 242 points
BPI Projected Total: 241.8 points
BPI Win%: Hawks (54.7%)
Injuries and updates
Fantasy streamer: Thomas Bryant (rostered in 23.9% of ESPN leagues) has averaged 10.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game over his last 11 games. He’s a great streamer while Anthony Davis is out due to a foot injury. The Hawks are a poor rebounding team. -Moody
1. Indiana Pacers (124.2)
2.Milwaukee Bucks (123.1)
3. San Antonio Spurs (122)
1. Portland Trail Blazers (112.6)
2. Miami Heat (114.2)
3. New York Knicks (114.2)
1. Philadelphia 76ers (72.5%)
2. Milwaukee Bucks (71.9%)
3. Denver Nuggets (65.2%)

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