Jalen Williams leads Friday picks

Friday will be busy with nine games scheduled to be played across the NBA. The Pacers, who are set to be without Tyrese Haliburton (knee) for at least the next two weeks, will be in action against the Hawks. The Thunder will be playing the second game of a back-to-back set when they take on the Bulls, who are coming off a disappointing loss to the shorthanded Wizards on Wednesday. One of the marquee matchups of the evening will take place in Los Angeles when the Clippers host the Nuggets. Let’s get to the task at hand and highlight some players to consider for your Yahoo lineups, as well as a few to possibly avoid.

GUARDS

CJ McCollum, NO at DET ($36): The Pelicans continue to churn along without Brandon Ingram (toe) and Zion Williamson (hamstring) out. Over the four games McCollum has played since they both went down, he has averaged 32.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.3 blocks. Look for him to score in bunches against a Pistons team that has the second-worst defensive rating in the league.

TJ McConnell, IND vs. ATL ($13): McConnell has shown in the past that he can be productive when given an opportunity. In the 2020-21 season, he averaged 8.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.9 steals over 26 minutes per game. He played 26 minutes after Haliburton went down Wednesday against the Knicks, posting 14 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals. With more playing time coming his way, McConnell is a great option at such a cheap salary.

Guard to Avoid

Mike Conley, UTA vs. ENT ($19): The Jazz don’t ask Conley to shoot much. He has a 16.3 percent usage rate, which has contributed to him scoring fewer than 10 points in 11 of his last 15 games. There are several appealing guards with cheaper salaries for this slate, so there’s no need to take a chance on Conley having a rare scoring outburst.

FORWARDS

Julius Randle, NY at WAS ($44): Now that RJ Barrett is back, Randle should see his recent scoring binge cool off. He only took 12 shots against the Pacers on Wednesday, but he still scored 14 points to go along with 16 rebounds and four assists. He’s going to play a ton and is averaging a career-high 10.3 rebounds to go along with his 24.1 points per game, so he still carries a high floor into this matchup.

Jalen Williams, OKC at CHI ($18): Williams might not provide flashy numbers, but he’s been a consistent contributor during his rookie campaign. He scored 30.0 Yahoo points against the 76ers on Thursday, giving him nine straight games with at least 25.5 Yahoo points. He’s locked into significant playing time, and the Bulls have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the league, potentially setting up Williams to provide value again.

Forward to Avoid

Michael Porter, DEN at LAC ($20): The Clippers are a bad matchup for Porter. He’s reliant on scoring to provide value in DFS, but the Clippers have the fifth-best defensive rating in the league. The last time he faced them, he was held to 15.0 Yahoo points. Add in the fact that he has scored 26.8 Yahoo points or fewer in seven straight games and there’s not much to get excited about here.

CENTERS

Nikola Vucevic, CHI vs. OKC ($32): The Thunder have been playing small with all of their injuries at center. They were torched by Joel Embiid, who posted 30 points and 10 rebounds, on Thursday. Vucevic isn’t in the same stratosphere as Embiid, but he does have a double-double in seven straight games. The last time he faced the Thunder, he recorded 13 points, 13 rebounds and three assists over 40 minutes. Factor in the potential for added shot attempts with DeMar DeRozan (quadriceps) likely out again and Vucevic could be in line for a juicy stat line.

Walker Kessler, UTA vs. ENT ($14): The absence of Kelly Olynyk (ankle) has Kessler lined up to be a starter for the foreseeable future. Across seven games as a starter this season, he has averaged 8.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Expect him to play plenty of minutes against a Magic team that has a lot of size up front.

Center to Avoid

Kevon Looney, GS at SA ($18): The Warriors are healthy again. Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins are back, which enables them to deploy more small lineups. They are missing Jonathan Kuminga (foot), but they won’t exactly need a ton of size in this matchup against a Spurs team that plays small outside of Jakob Poeltl. Kessler has a clearer path to a larger role for the Jazz, and a cheaper salary, making Looney someone to avoid.

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