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NBA Optimal Lineups Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel Julius Randle | Tuesday, Dec. 7

Terry McBride



Tuesday’s tiny three-game slate has three interesting games staggered through the evening, with the nightcap rivalry renewal game between the Celtics and Lakers carrying the evening’s largest total at 217. Every game on the board is carrying a 2.5-point spread, meaning we should see several highly competitive games. Each contest features players at or around the star tier, and each game also includes significant value plays and a few injury and rotation question marks. With only six teams from which to draw plays, unique lineup construction is a difficult proposition this evening, making the leverage scores and ownership projections an even more critical factor than on larger slates. There are a few interesting pivot points away from the field’s overall ownership, giving the slate an interesting shape in early projections.

This space will always focus on the factors mentioned above, but at times we will call out plays that are over-owned, taking the opportunity to discuss the potential pivots. With a mere three games on the slate, the focus is on the top overall leverage plays on the Boom/Bust Tool. As always, the goal is to find players who are under-appreciated for the frequency with which they land in the optimal lineup in DraftKings and FanDuel NBA DFS projections and simulations.

DraftKings & FanDuel NBA DFS Lineup Optimizer Picks

These picks are made utilizing the Boom/Bust Tool, specifically analyzing the optimal lineup rate, leverage score and boom probability. The optimal lineup rate represents the frequency at which a player appears in the optimal lineup in Awesemo’s simulated DraftKings NBA and FanDuel NBA slates. The leverage score is the difference between the optimal lineup rate and projected ownership, while the boom probability indicates a player’s likelihood of hitting a ceiling score. It is important to remember that not all of these NBA DFS picks are highlights, at times we will discuss plays that are outright bad or come at such aggressively negative leverage that they are rendered bad in this space, so be sure to read the analysis and not just the headlines.

Julius Randle: DraftKings — $9,100 — PF/C | FanDuel — $8,700 — PF/C

With tumult throughout the rotation in New York, the one player who is likely to be an entirely safe pick for NBA DFS purposes, in terms of playing time and role, is likely Julius Randle. The Knicks have already removed Kemba Walker from the rotation, with the coaching staff suggesting that more changes could be in the works. A potential beneficiary of those changes could be low-priced second-year man Obi Toppin, who is worth monitoring for news as the day rolls on. Randle seems safe to see his 35.5 minutes, regardless of any changes the team has in mind. He is the focus player in New York, for better or worse, for the next few seasons, and he is a multi-category producer for NBA DFS point-scoring. Randle has a 27.2% usage rate and a 52.6% true shooting percentage so far this season, adding a terrific 25.6% assist percentage and 13.4% rebounding share. He is producing 1.15 fantasy points per minute, with his scoring down somewhat from last season. He averaged 1.21 per minute on 28.5% usage last year, so there is more ceiling for the money than we have seen in most outings this season. At the price on a small slate, Randle’s upside is rare at the available leverage scores.

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Randle was showing up as one of the top picks for lineups, according to our Boom/Bust projections. Alex Hunter has more in his Boom/Bust NBA DFS Picks Tonight.

On the FanDuel slate Randle lands as the 10th most frequently optimal player at any position in Awesemo’s simulations, coming up in the winning lineup 31.5% of the time. Interestingly, the next name on the list is teammate R.J. Barrett, who is negatively leveraged for far less salary at the small forward or shooting guard spots. Between the two, the positive leverage and significantly higher upside of Randle is worth the additional salary. Randle is projected for a 41.4-point median FanDuel score, just 0.5 short of the mark for Jayson Tatum, who is negatively leveraged at 33.2% ownership. Randle is projected for 29.6% popularity, landing him at a 1.9 leverage score that should be targeted for the small amount of differentiation it could provide in the right spot. With a 20.4% boom score probability on the board, Randle outpaces Tatum by nearly 9 percentage points and lands fourth highest at any position on the site. When sorting by salary, Randle’s boom score probability remains the highest mark on the board until we reach the $6,300 mark for Jakob Poeltl, who has a 20.7% boom score mark against a 31.6-point median projection as a different play with center eligibility. Slotting Randle in alongside other center options is easy with his positional flexibility to power forward.

For $9,100 and with power forward and center eligibility, Randle retains his value from site to site when we move to DraftKings. He has a 29% optimal lineup rate that lands fifth highest on the slate. He falls behind several other power forward and center options, but his next-level projection and boom score probability at a 2.9 leverage score help to advance the appeal. Randle’s 25% boom score mark is the third highest on the slate, though fellow star Dejounte Murray is similarly ranked at the point guard position with a 26.4% for his $9,500 salary. Randle is carrying a 44.1-point median projection and he will be rostered by 26.1% of the field, which is not enough attention for a three-game slate. The flexibility provided by his positioning gives Randle significant upside in tandem with several of the other highly ranked star plays or options at his positions. With positive leverage, he remains one of the top pay-up options on the slate despite a higher price than the mark at which he can be rostered across town.

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Talen Horton-Tucker: DraftKings — $5,000 — SG/SF | FanDuel — $5,000 — SG/SF

One of the potential sleepers at the mid-range with a virtually guaranteed minutes floor this evening, Talen Horton-Tucker comes in at an affordable $5,000 with multi-position eligibility on both sites. Despite the presence of all three superstars in the Lakers rotation this evening, there is enough for Horton-Tucker to do in his projected 27 minutes that he could easily pay off this price. As was discussed on the Strategy Show this morning, Horton-Tucker did not close for the Lakers last game, which was largely due to Malik Monk getting hot and playing the entire fourth quarter. Outside of an outlier situation like that eating into his overall minutes, we should see enough security in Horton-Tucker’s projection that he can be rostered aggressively, given the excellent leverage scores across the industry. Horton-Tucker averages 0.83 fantasy points per minute on just 18.8% usage, despite just a 47.3% true shooting percentage. He contributes a 13.3% assist rate and an 8.5% rebounding share to the equation as well, there is NBA point-scoring upside on the table for a cheap price.

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On DraftKings Horton-Tucker falls in behind superstar teammate LeBron James, landing 14th overall with a 22.8% optimal lineup rate. James is underpriced at $9,900 with point guard and small forward eligibility, and he is squeaking out positive leverage despite a 25.6% ownership projection. With that in mind, the fact that his optimal lineup rate sits at 28.8%, just 6 percentage points above Horton-Tucker’s, shows the appeal of the value play as well. He is projected for just 11.9% ownership on the DraftKings slate, despite the frequency with which we find him in the optimal lineup in Awesemo’s simulations. This leaves a slate-leading 10.9 leverage score that compares favorably with players who are currently carrying questionable tags, who will all get more popular with confirmed status. Horton-Tucker is unlikely to see significant change, though his value could increase if currently questionable Carmelo Anthony does not play, simply by virtue of additional minutes to be distributed. If either of the currently probable stars, James or Anthony Davis, does not play there will be more to do for the wing who will then see his popularity increase with his rates. Any way we slice the slate, Horton-Tucker comes up as an interesting and under-owned play.

The FanDuel board has Horton-Tucker slotting into the eighth-highest position by optimal lineup rate; he lands in the top lineup in 32.2% of simulated slates. He has the same price and positional value against a higher salary cap on this site, which is drawing more of the public’s attention. He is projected for 21.7% popularity in the early afternoon, but that mark still leaves him at a significant 10.5 leverage score on the FanDuel slate. He has a 21.8-point median projection on the site, though his boom score probability is very limited at just 5.8%. Horton-Tucker is a plug-in piece for around his median projection, which is a workable play on a three-game slate. His pricing and sturdy reliability should provide enough by allowing access to other plays while coming in at a public ownership rate that falls well below the frequency with which he helps construct the winning lineup. Horton-Tucker may not be the flashy star whose 65-point outing seemingly wins a tournament, but he may be the building block that allows us to reach that star.

Jalen Brunson: DraftKings — $5,200 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $5,300 — PG/SG

Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson is currently projected for a 29-minute night in his usual role in the second unit, Awesemo has both Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis playing in the current run of projections. Both Dallas stars are currently questionable to play, though both did practice on Monday and seem to be trending toward playing. Their absence would create a situation in which Brunson explodes in both upside and popularity as he typically does when entering the starting lineup. With added minutes, Brunson’s per-minute mark would create extreme value for the cheap prices at which he is listed on both sites today. As things currently stand, even with his star teammates playing, Brunson looks like a viable value with positive leverage across the industry. He averages 0.96 fantasy points per minute on 21.4% usage across all situations this season. He has a 56.4% true shooting percentage and a sharp 26.3% assist rate. Even with his teammates on the floor, the price and positional flexibility that Brunson provides should not be ignored.

On FanDuel Brunson lands in the optimal lineup 39.8% of the time in Awesemo’s simulations. He is projected for significant ownership at 36.8%, though that mark is likely factoring in some of the questionable status on Doncic, who is projected a bit low and at positive leverage at the moment. When the situation clears up with the minutes, we should see the ownership dip further, which would extend Brunson’s 3.0 leverage score, assuming his projected floor time stays at 29 minutes. Brunson is projected for a 26.9-point median night with a 17.8% boom score probability that ranks seventh overall and compares favorably with more highly regarded stars such as Murray, Doncic, Randle and Dennis Schroder. With upside and a lack of appropriately proportioned ownership, Brunson is an interesting target for mid-range value on the slate. It will be important to monitor his popularity and leverage scores, but he should start the night as a sturdy building block in any situation.

On DraftKings Brunson sees similar value. He comes in with a $5,200 price tag at both guard positions, where he is projected for a 27.6-point median night. His 23.2% boom score probability is the fifth-highest mark on the slate at any position, comparing well with a similar list of players as we see on the blue site at the top of the board. Brunson is carrying a 26.7% ownership projection, but he is a positively leveraged play with a sharp 4.7 score in the category. Whether his ownership dips when Doncic is confirmed to be playing or his optimal rates explode if his teammate is out, Brunson should be a strong play who can be rostered ahead of the field. He is currently landing in the optimal lineup in 31.4% of Awesemo’s simulated slates, the third-highest rate on the entire DraftKings slate. He will be the slate-leader in the absence of his teammates, but he is an excellent target in any circumstance.

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Our best NBA DFS projections are updated regularly, including whenever any relevant news breaks. We also have Yahoo! NBA rankings, DraftKings NBA rankings and FanDuel NBA ownership rankings for today's slate. Check out our DFS basketball rankings for fantasy points and values that are derived directly from Alex Baker's own NBA DraftKings projections. Looking for more NBA DFS value plays and the best free NBA DFS tools? View our FanDuel NBA ownership projections, our Yahoo! NBA ownership and our DraftKings ownership.

Terry used to do other things, now he writes words on the internet. He hopes his more than 20 years’ experience in season-long and daily fantasy sports and his custom models for MLB, NBA, and NFL don't steer you too wrong when he writes columns and makes picks on A lifetime of experience keeping odd hours make Terry ideal to cover KBO baseball overnight until the world returns to normal. Most of those late night hours have been spent on the couch watching sports, T.V., and movies; just try to shut him up about any of the above. You can find his pop-culture ramblings and more on Sideaction.

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