Thanks to netting a season-high 61 points from their bench, the 76ers secured an easy win on Thursday evening against the Heat despite just nine points from MVP candidate Joel Embiid. Emergent Sixth Man of the Year candidate Shake Milton erupted for 31 points on just 15 shots while delivering seven dimes in 27 minutes -- marking the most points by a player off the bench in the NBA this season.
Notorious for empowering scoring savants off the bench such as Jamal Crawford and Lou Williams over the years, coach Doc Rivers has consistently leaned on Milton as an offensive microwave for Philly this season. The SMU product is averaging a career-high 15.8 PPG and has scored in double-digits in all but two appearances. Rostered in just 15% of ESPN leagues, Milton's blend of scoring, shooting (1.4 3PG) and steals (1.1 SPG) merits more attention from fantasy managers.
Sixers rookie Tyrese Maxey also continued his strong play on Thursday, producing 15 points in 26 minutes of action. Fearless as a driver and averaging 1.8 "stocks" (combined steals and blocks) the past week, Maxey -- rostered in 44.5% of leagues -- figures to continue to start for Philadelphia as long as Seth Curry remains sidelined due to the health and safety protocol.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers: 9 points (3-8 FG), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 TO
The Spurs' Johnson set a new career high in scoring in downing the Rockets last night and became the first San Antonio player 21 or younger to produce at least 29 points since Tony Parker in 2004. The breakout second-year wing has tallied at least one steal in all but two appearances this season and is pacing San Antonio in rebounding on the season. Still a free agent in roughly 26% of ESPN leagues as of Friday morning, Johnson is among the best waiver gems of the fantasy season thus far.
Houston's Wood produced his second-highest scoring performance of the season in a loss to Johnson's Spurs on Thursday. With James Harden off the roster, Wood could enjoy even more offensive opportunities, as he has produced a team-high surge in fantasy points per 36 minutes whenever Harden was off the court this season. The performance marked Wood's third game this season with at least 20 points and 15 rebounds, tying Andre Drummond for the most such performances in the NBA.
Toronto's Chris Boucher tied a career high with 25 points and also produced 10 boards and two blocks in a win over the Hornets last night, joining only Charlie Villanueva and Serge Ibaka in franchise history with multiple games of at least 25 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Boucher tried to contest a Miles Bridges dunk and ended up on the other end of a poster play, but he remains an awesome statistical force and is still a free agent in roughly 17% of ESPN leagues.
Charlotte's P.J. Washington is a rising fantasy force with two straight double-doubles after last night's 20 points and 11 pulls in a loss to the Raptors. You can still find Washington in free agency in 26% of ESPN leagues. To put Washington's unique blend of shooting and defense in perspective, he's one of just three players this season averaging at least 1.2 3PG, 1.4 BPG, and 1.0 SPG.
While reports suggest he was fairly close to joining Houston in a blockbuster for James Harden, Ben Simmons responded strongly to remaining with the 76ers, delivering his 30th career triple-double in his 228th career game in the win over Miami last night, making him the third fastest in NBA history to reach this mark, behind only Oscar Robertson (75 games) and Magic Johnson (190).
Injuries of note
The Trail Blazers suffered a significant loss last night with center Jusuf Nurkic fracturing his right wrist. Whether Nurkic requires surgery will influence his recovery timeline, but it appears Enes Kanter and Harry Giles III will serve as the team's center platoon for the foreseeable future. Kanter is the immediate addition to consider for fantasy purposes, given his elite rebounding upside.
The Mavericks' Jalen Brunson and Josh Richardson are still in the health and safety protocol and will miss Friday's matchup with the Bucks, setting up Tim Hardaway Jr. once again as a solid fantasy play.
The Cavaliers' starting backcourt of Darius Garland (shoulder) and Collin Sexton (ankle) will miss yet another game for Cleveland on Friday, setting up Cedi Osman and Damyean Dotson as likely starters and worthy streaming options.
New Orleans will be without Lonzo Ball this evening due to a knee ailment, while fellow starting guard Eric Bledsoe is questionable with an eye injury that kept him out of the team's last game. It looks like Nickeil Alexander-Walker, fresh from a career-high could once again play a meaningful role for the Pelicans tonight.
Analytics advantage for Friday
The Orlando Magic will be without Evan Fournier for yet another game due to lingering back spasms. Fournier's absence sets up scoring force Terrence Ross as a viable fantasy starter tonight; Ross has netted a 1.9% jump in usage rate with real improvement in fantasy points per 36 minutes with Fournier off the floor this season.
Ross is a free agent in roughly 54% of ESPN leagues and, while he's been frigid from the floor in recent outings, is due for a positive correction in the scoring department against the depleted Celtics this evening.
Top players to watch on Friday
The Bucks host the Mavericks on Friday night in a game that airs on ESPN between the top two MVP favorites. Luka Doncic (+400) has a slight odds advantage to Giannis Antetokounmpo (+450), according to Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.
Antetokounmpo is trying to become just the fourth player ever to win three straight MVP awards, joining Larry Bird (1983-84 to 1985-86), Wilt Chamberlain (1965-66 to 1967-68) and Bill Russell (1960-61 to 1962-63). Doncic would become the youngest player to win MVP.
The last time Luka and Giannis played each other was back in early August in the bubble, a Mavericks 136-132 win. Doncic had 36 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high 19 assists, becoming the first player in NBA history to hit all those marks in a game in NBA history. Giannis, meanwhile, had 34 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. This should be fun.