The ESPN fantasy and betting cheat sheet is your pregame destination for our best intel and data to help you make smart fantasy and wagering decisions. NBA game odds are provided by Caesars Sportsbook and fantasy advice is based on ESPN 10-team leagues.
Dual Disorder: The Timberwolves opened as one-point favorites over the 76ers, but the spread swung several points to favor Philly upon confirmation of James Harden’s debut. The bearded one has been double teamed on 17.3 possessions per game this season, second only to Luka Doncic. Joel Embiid has been double teamed 126 times on post-ups this season, by far the most in the NBA. Given that Harden is the only player in the league that has averaged at least 20 points and 10 assists, a swing at his double-double prop is an interesting path to betting this contest.
Birthday Boy: Fred VanVleet turns 28 years old today and given that he played nine minutes in the All Star Game, it’s safe to count on him returning from a one game absence (knee). He’s averaged 6.3 assists and 4.6 made 3’s in February and should be busy tonight against a Hornets team that ranks second in pace of play.
Fantasy Friendly: Ingredients for big statistical performances are undeniably present in Friday’s matchup between the Rockets and Magic in Orlando; Houston ranks first in the league in pace, while Orlando is 10th. The Rockets are last in the league in defensive rating, with Orlando sitting 24th. Given the matchup metrics, Jalen Green’s scoring prop (14.5) appears entirely achievable.
Kleber’s Case: With Tim Hardaway Jr. ruled out ahead of tonight’s matchup with the Jazz, it’s worth noting Maxi Kleber has tallied 12 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes with Kristaps Porzingis and Hardaway off the floor this season. With six swats across his last two outings, Kleber is helpful for streaming purposes and makes for an interesting target for block props.
Targeting Toronto: Stacking lineups with the likes of VanVleet and Pascal Siakam could prove rewarding given Charlotte is allowing third-most DraftKings points per game to shooting guards and the sixth-most to power forwards. Oh, and the third-most fantasy points to centers. You get the idea.
Weekend Waivers: Head into the weekend with some winning waiver decisions. Denver’s Will Barton (rostered in 68.9% of ESPN leagues) scored a season-high 31 points on Thursday night and plays soft Sacramento defense on Saturday. It’s also time to add Cameron Payne (8.4%). Once he’s cleared from a sore wrist, the Suns’ versatile guard will likely start in place of Chris Paul in one of the league’s most efficient offensive schemes. — Jim McCormick and Kyle Soppe
Game of the Night
Line: 76ers (-2.5)
Moneyline: 76ers (-140), Timberwolves (+120)
BPI Projected Total: 227.5
BPIWin%: Timberwolves- 50.4%
76ers (spread) 84% of tickets, 88% of dollars
Over 67% of tickets, 88% of dollars
76ers ML 80% of tickets, 64% of dollars
Key players ruled out: none
Notable: Don’t overreact to rest. The 76ers are just 4-9 ATS this season when facing a team that is on the second night of a back-to-back.
Bestbet: Tyrese Maxey over 22.5 points assists rebounds The perception is Maxey and James Harden cannot coexist. The two complement each other well, and Harden has echoed that publicly. We will have a chance to see that on Thursday. Maxey has averaged 17.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 37 minutes of play over the last 15 games — Eric Moody
Bestbet: Karl-Anthony Towns over 23.5 points
Towns is a difficult offensive matchup for Joel Embiid and the 76ers, because he operates so comfortably from outside the 3-point line. Embiid is an excellent defender that can move for his size, but his preference is to be in the paint. In his last three matchups with Embiid, Towns has taken almost half of his shots (22 of 46) from long range, while still shooting 58.7% from the field and has averaged 28.0 PP36. — Andre Snellings
Breaking down the rest of the slate
Line: Heat (-5.5)
Moneyline: Heat (-230), Knicks (+190)
BPI Projected Total: 203.5
BPIWin%: Heat- 68.6%
Key players ruled out: Markieff Morris
Notable: The Knicks are just 1-7 ATS in February, with over tickets coming through in six of those games. The Heat are 15-6 (.714 win pct) this season with Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry in the lineup, including 7-1 in their last 8 games. When 1 or more of those players are out of the lineup, the Heat are 23-15 (.605 win pct).
The Heat are one of the best, hottest teams in the league, winners of 6 of their last 7 games with an average scoring margin of +10.1 points in that stretch. The Knicks have lost 13 of 16 with an average margin of -5.4 points. These teams played last month in Miami, with the Heat winning by 14 in a game they were up by 25 after 3 quarters. — Snellings
Bestbet: Kyle Lowry over 24.5 total points + assists + rebounds
Lowry has been outstanding since returning to the fold seven games ago. In 35 minutes per game, he averaged 12.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. Defensively, the Knicks allow a lot of three-pointers and points at the rim. Both of these are weaknesses Lowry and the Heat can exploit. -Eric Moody
Line: Lakers (-1.5)
Moneyline: Lakers (-109), Clippers (-109)
BPI Projected Total: 211.0
BPIWin%: Lakers- 54.1%
Key players ruled out: Anthony Davis, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Norman Powell
Notable: The Lakers are 4-1 ATS in their past 5 when the spread is within 5 points (they were 2-8 ATS in the 10 such games prior).
DFS-value: Russell Westbrook ($8500 on DK)
In light of the preseason hype, Westbrook hasn’t had a great season. In the past 14 games, he has averaged 17 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.1 assists. With Anthony Davis out, Westbrook should continue to see a lot of action. He’s a great value on DraftKings ($8,500) and from a prop betting perspective, I’d take the over for points+ assists + rebounds. — moody
Line: Raptors (-2.5)
Moneyline: Raptors (-140), Hornets (+120)
BPI Projected Total: 215.5
BPIWin%: Raptors- 56.4%
Key players ruled out: Gordon Hayward
Notable: The Raptors are 6-1 ATS in their past seven games played in the United States.
Bestbet: Pascal Siakam over 22.5 points
Siakam entered the All Star Break on a hot streak has averaged 25.0 PPG in his past 10 games while going over 22.5 points in seven of 10 games. As pointed out above, the Hornets struggle defensively against opposing bigs. In his two matchups with the Hornets this season, Siakam scored 24 points both times. — Snellings
Line: Pacers (-7.0)
Moneyline: Pacers (-300), Thunder (-240)
BPI Projected Total: 223.0
BPIWin%: Pacers- 65.5%
Key players ruled out: Myles Turner
Notable: Overs are 11-2 in the past 13 Pacer games. Their final game of the first half went under the total, but… consecutive Indiana games have not gone under the total since we flipped the calendar to 2022.
Line: Magic (-4.0)
Moneyline: Magic (-170), Rockets (+145)
BPI Projected Total: 219.0
BPIWin%: Magic – 55.8%
Key players ruled out: Moritz Wagner
Notable: Houston games have bee awfully predictable of late. Over tickets have cashed in four straight games and the Rockets have failed to cover 9 of their past 11.
Line: Spurs (-2.5)
Moneyline: Spurs (-140), Wizards (+120)
BPI Projected Total: 223.5
BPIWin%: Spurs- 58.5%
Key players ruled out: Kristaps Porzingis, Bradley Beal, Joshua Primo, Romeo Langford, Josh Richardson
Notable: The Wizards have covered just two of their past 14 home games.
Bestbet: Keldon Johnson over 15.5 points
In five of his last six games, Johnson has scored 15 or more points. This season, he averages 12.5 field goal attempts and 15.7 points per game. Since the Wizards rank 21st in points allowed per 100 possessions played, Johnson should have plenty of scoring opportunities. — moody
Line: Suns (-7.5)
Moneyline: Suns (-340), Pelicans (+270)
BPI Projected Total: 219.5
BPIWin%: Suns- 64.1%
Key players ruled out: Chris Paul, Zion Williamson, Larry Nance Jr.
Notable: After opening February with four straight covers, the Pelicans closed the first half of their season with four losses against the number in five games.
Bestbet: Jonas Valanciunas over 29.5 total points + rebounds
Valanciunas has been a statistical monster all season. Over the past 16 games, he’s averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game in 30 minutes per game. The Suns allow a lot of points from the short midrange. This happens to be a strength of Valanciunas’ offensively, as he has made 52% of his 236 attempts this season. — moody
Line: Jazz (-6.0)
Moneyline: Jazz (-250), Mavericks (+205)
BPI Projected Total: 217.0
BPIWin%: Jazz – 64.2%
Key players ruled out: Tim Hardaway Jr.
Notable: Under tickets have come through in 11 of the past 15 Jazz games, including six of the past seven.
ESPN’s NBA Basketball Power Index (BPI) is a measure of team strength developed by the ESPN Analytics team.
BPI highest projected totals
1. Indiana Pacers 113.8
2. Minnesota Timberwolves 113.7
3.Philadelphia 76ers 113.6
BPI lowest projected totals
1. New York Knicks (99.1 points)
2. Miami Heat (104.3)
3. LA Clippers (104.9)
BPI top odds to win (straight up)
1. Miami Heat (68.6%)
2. Indiana Pacers (65.5%)
3. Utah Jazz (64.2%)