The Sunday slate is small in both games and prize pools, with both DraftKings and FanDuel NBA DFS tournaments dramatically reducing the top end on a big Sunday in another sport. With five games on the board and a 6 pm ET start time, there is a lot of ground to cover and a short time to capture all the required news for lineup building. The afternoon update to the boom/bust tool reveals several interesting spots for value and upside while the board in Vegas has three of the five games with totals in the 220s, with two of them looking like competitive situations at point spreads below three. The slate has only six active players priced at $9,000 or more on FanDuel and eight in that range on DraftKings, and several of the premium plays by optimal lineup rate are coming from the mid-range, which gives an interesting shape to lineup construction across the NBA DFS industry.
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 five games on the board, this article will focus on the most interesting plays by optimal lineup rate from different salary tiers 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.
Jalen Brunson: DraftKings — $5,300 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $5,800 — PG/SG
With superstar teammate Luka Doncic nursing an injured ankle and sitting out the first game of a back-to-back, Jalen Brunson takes on his usual status as a virtual lock play at pricing that is far too low for his upside in the situation. Brunson offers positional flexibility on both sites, he is a fundamental piece of building a sturdy core, despite what will be runaway public ownership on both sites. Brunson would be a reasonable play at these prices in his normal role. The versatile guard averages a 0.94 fantasy point per minute rate on 56.2% true shooting and a 25.7% assist percentage with a 6.6% rebounding rate under normal circumstances. In 366 minutes without Doncic this season, Brunson’s usage jumps from 20.9% to 25.4% and he produces fantasy points at a rate of 1.04 per minute, which is far too low for his meager salary. Brunson is the top play on the board despite heavy ownership, even with two-thirds or more of the field on the play he falls at or around positive leverage and should be a plug-and-play option.
Brunson is the most frequently optimal player at any position on the FanDuel slate by more than 20 percentage points. He will be crushingly popular at 62.7%, but that number is just barely scraping by his 62.2% optimal lineup appearance rate and 62.7% boom score probability. Brunson is projected for a 34.6-minute night and a 39-point median projection on the blue site, he is at just a -1.1 leverage score, the public ownership should simply be ignored, Brunson is too good of a play at $5,800 with multi-position eligibility on the blue site, this is as close to a lock as plays get.
The story is largely the same on the DraftKings slate. Brunson costs just $5,300, although it comes against a lower salary cap. He slots into both guard positions for the money and he lands at a positive leverage score of 2.6. That last mark is almost shocking, given that Awesemo is projecting the player for 71% public popularity on the slate. That number could easily increase during the afternoon, though there is the hope that emergent guard value from other teams breaking late news will draw things down in the opposite direction. Brunson is projected for a 40.6-point median night on the DraftKings NBA DFS slate, he has a fantastic 75.5% boom score probability that outpaces the field by 40 percentage points. Brunson is the best play of the day across the industry, but he is stronger in spite of more popularity on the DraftKings slate.
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Kevin Durant: DraftKings — $11,000 — SF/PF | FanDuel — $10,800 — SF/PF
Another player who stands to benefit from a star teammate’s absence is Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant. The forward will be taking the floor without star wingman James Harden, who is out for workload management. This immediately vaults Durant to the top of the pay-up options board, the superstar forward is arguably underpriced even at these lofty rates. Durant has produced a 1.30 fantasy point per minute rate on 30.7% usage with a 62.8% true shooting percentage, a 25.7% assist rate, and a 10.1% rebounding share under normal circumstances this season. In 183 minutes without Harden this season, Durant’s fantasy point per minute rate skyrockets to 1.58 and he sees a gargantuan 36.5% usage rate. The situation makes Durant one of the top options at any price tier on both NBA DFS sites this evening. The public is on this play as well, Durant will be efficiently owned, but his upside is significant.
The Nets forward is the top pay-up option on the DraftKings slate, despite doubling as the most expensive available player. Durant has eligibility at both forward positions on the DraftKings slate, he comes in with a 55.4-point median projection that outpaces LeBron James’ 48-point mark by a wide margin for only $200 more at similar positioning. Durant provides the added flexibility and amazing upside for usage and fantasy point production, whereas James will be sharing the floor with two other stars who demand the ball. The situation leans heavily in Durant’s favor, he has a 32.7% boom score probability that ranks fourth overall on the site. When sorting the board by salary, Durant’s boom score mark is more than double every option until we reach the 35.9% mark held by Kristaps Porzingis at just $8,000 (another excellent option on this slate). With Jusuf Nurkic posting a 21% mark for $7,100 at a different spot, then no one cresting 20% boom score probability until Josh Hart’s 23.7% mark for $6,000, the quality of the Durant play should be incredibly clear. The forward comes with positive leverage on the site, he will be rostered by 38.1% of the field, but that leaves headroom with a 2.2 leverage mark.
Durant is of equal value on the FanDuel slate. He lands in the optimal lineup 40.5% of the time and will be owned tightly by the field. With public lineup appearances projected for more than 41%, Durant slips to a -0.6 leverage mark on the blue site, but his overall upside remains clear. Durant is less expensive than LeBron James on the site and he is projected for a 53.1-point median score, nearly seven FanDuel points higher than his superstar counterpart. This leaves Durant with a targetable 30.4% boom score probability on the slate, the public’s ownership can be overlooked and additional shares of the superstar Nets forward can be added while focusing on positively leveraged plays for lineup differentiation in other spots, he is simply the best luxury item on the top shelf today.
Devonte’ Graham: DraftKings — $5,200 — PG | FanDuel — $5,200 — PG/SG
With several of the top plays by optimal lineup rate coming from obvious places or always popular superstars, there is a need to poke the slate for leverage plays when building lineups with only five games on the board. One of the top options for differentiation without sacrificing much upside is Pelicans guard Devonte’ Graham. Graham has averaged 31 minutes a night this season, but he saw just 26 in the team’s most recent outing. Casual observers may mistake that for a bad game, given the lack of minutes and just a 19.8-point fantasy scoring night, but Graham simply sat out most of the fourth quarter in a big victory over the lowly Pistons after providing a +21 night on 3-9 shooting (3-7 from three) with four assists and four rebounds. Graham has been an up-and-down play through the season, rarely cracking the 30 fantasy point mark, but he is priced accordingly and the public has soured on him enough that his leverage scores become interesting on a slate with this structure. Graham has produced just 0.82 fantasy points per minute on 19.9% usage this season, though he was a 0.91 per-minute producer on 21.1% usage last year. The guard has a 20.9% assist percentage but just a 3.9% rebounding share and a 51.2% true shooting percentage. Graham needs to make shots and facilitate to provide value, though he does add 1.5 stocks per-36 minutes.
On the FanDuel slate, Graham lands as the 15th most frequently optimal player at any position in Awesemo’s simulations. He slots into both guard positions on the blue site, extending his value when we find him at an inexpensive $5,200 salary that pairs nicely with Brunson’s low cost. Graham is an excellent value piece to add to a build beginning with the two efficiently owned plays covered earlier in this space. The Pelicans guard comes in with just a 13.9% ownership projection in FanDuel NBA DFS tournaments, but he is carrying a playable 26.7-point median projection and an 18.6% boom score probability that ranks 17th overall on the slate. Graham is carrying a higher positive leverage score than every player listed above him by boom score probability with the exception of Bruce Brown, a strong value play from the Nets who was vying for coverage in this space himself, and currently (very) questionable to play Damian Lillard. Graham has a 20.2% optimal lineup rate and an excellent 6.3 leverage score on the site, the public is not getting to him frequently enough, if a few shots fall he seems likely to post a relevant score at these prices.
Graham is more appealing across town on the DraftKings slate. He costs the same but it comes against a lower salary cap and while dropping the shooting guard eligibility. Still, as a point guard, he comes up in 18.2% of optimal lineups in simulated slates, the eighth-highest mark at any position on the site. He has a 28.1-point median projection that plays well among similarly priced options, while his 22.9% boom score probability is the 10th-best overall. Every option above Graham by boom score probability is a forward on the DraftKings slate, with the exception of Brunson who is in a category of his own. The only other player with guard eligibility in the top-10 by boom score probability is Hamidou Diallo, who is projected for 25.9 minutes and a 23.3-point median DraftKings score for just $3,600, giving him a 32.9% boom score mark, but Diallo can be utilized at either shooting guard or small forward and in tandem with Graham if desired. The Pelicans’ guard is under-owned by the DraftKings public, he has a 5.0 leverage score with only 13.2% of the slate projected to include him in lineups. Graham is one of the top options for lineup differentiation across all of NBA DFS tonight.
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