An early start to an extremely short three-game NBA DFS Sunday sees the slate lock at 6 pm ET this afternoon. With only three games on tap there are limited options and significantly higher odds of running into lineup duplication issues. With smaller payouts around the industry, it is a frustrating day to be playing the slate at all, but that’s why it’s called a grind. The three games are providing some interesting builds through early afternoon projections, with several injury situations opening up significant value and potentially more to come. Getting to a stars and scrubs mix of high upside and frequently optimal plays is the standard approach, on a slate such as this there is a greater need to focus on lineup differentiation.
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 three games on the slate, the focus is the top 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 Tonight
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.
Ish Smith: DraftKings — $4,800 — PG | FanDuel — $5,000 — PG/SG
With the Hornets’ star starting point guard LaMelo Ball and his backcourt wingman Terry Rozier both entering the league’s health and safety protocols, backup Ish Smith appears primed to see a big bump in minutes and opportunity. Smith comes in at a low price on both sites, he has averaged just 12.6 minutes per game this season but is projected for a 31.5 minute night tonight. The slate is needy for positively leveraged value, which Smith can provide at the projection he is drawing in the new role. Across all situations, Smith averages just 0.77 fantasy points per minute on 19% usage. In 157 minutes without both Rozier and Ball this season, Smith’s usage jumps to 22.1% and he produces a .81 fantasy point per minute mark. On a short slate with limited options in every aspect of the game, the value that Smith can provide at that rate could be enough considering the price.
On FanDuel, Smith is the second-most frequently optimal player at any position, and he slots into both guard spots. He has a 27.7-point median projection on the blue site and his 26.4% boom score probability against just a $5,000 salary also lands second from the top on the entire slate. Smith is coming in with strong positive leverage marks, he is projected for 26.4% public ownership but that is falling well short of the 49% of optimal lineups in which we find Smith in Awesemo’s simulations. That leaves a monster 12.4 leverage score on one of the best overall plays on the slate. No one expects Smith to turn into Michael Jordan, but he has plenty of room to deliver sturdy value for the low price and positional flexibility at his standard rates, with expectation for a bit more time and opportunity, there is a path to a ceiling score.
Smith drops a few places on the DraftKings slate, he comes in as the eighth-highest ranked player at any position, though he can be rostered only at the point guard or utility spots. Smith is cheap at $4,800, he has a 27.7-point median projection and a targetable 31.9% boom score probability on the slate. That mark lands fourth from the top in the category and it ranks second among eligible point guards. Smith lands in 30.4% of the optimal lineups on the DraftKings slate, but the public is leaving him at a 3.5 leverage score, getting to the play in only 26.9% of projected lineups. There is clear upside in Smith with this kind of minutes projection.
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Montrezl Harrell: DraftKings — $5,200 — C | FanDuel — $5,500 — C/PF
Despite seeing just 21.3 minutes a night over the team’s most recent three games and 26.5 minutes per game for the season, Wizards center Montrezl Harrell has delivered value for his price tag with regularity, and he has upside toward slate-bending scores on the right night. Harrell averages a significant 1.2 fantasy point per minute rate in his limited run. He has a 70% true shooting percentage with an excellent 13.9% assist rate and 15.3% rebounding share. Harrell is a strong multi-category contributor who is projected for a 24-minute night, while he is not necessarily one of the top overall options, he is the most targetable play at positive leverage who is not also carrying a concerning questionable tag at this point in the afternoon. Harrell provides ability to get inexpensive and different in lineup constructions, he is not a secret on this slate, but the public is trailing the play on both sites on a three-game night.
On the DraftKings slate, Harrell is the 18th-highest player overall with a 20.3% optimal lineup appearance rate. That mark slots him into the category behind four other centers, with PJ Washington, John Collins, Precious Achiuwa, and Jonas Valanciunas landing ahead of him. The first two players on that list can be rostered at the power forward spot as well, making it a strong list of players to rotate through the frontcourt spots when building multiple lineups. Harrell provides solid leverage, he is projected for just 14.7% ownership which leaves him at a 5.6 leverage score. The center is projected for a 27.7-point median night which puts him in the 25.8% boom score probability range with his low salary in tow. Harrell is a strong option for lineup differentiation without major points or probability sacrifice.
On FanDuel, Harrell comes up in 23.5% of Awesemo’s simulated slates, ranking him 18th on that slate as well. He fits in behind the same list of four players on this site as well, with Achiuwa joining Collins and Washington in possessing power forward eligibility. This helps with flexibility, though we can only roster one of the center-only players at once on this site. Harrell has a 19.7% boom score probability that ranks seventh overall on the site, behind Valanciunas and Achiuwa at the center position, and he is by far the most highly leveraged play in the group. Harrell is projected for just 17% ownership, his 6.5 leverage score outpaces all of the known commodities at the top of the board with the exception of Ish Smith. With the ability to roster him alongside other frequently optimal big men on the blue site, Harrell should be kept in mind as a way to differentiate lineup builds without deviating from primary constructions patterns.
Trae Young (Q): DraftKings — $10,300 — PG | FanDuel — $9,600 — PG
Atlanta Hawks Backups
Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young is currently questionable for Sunday’s action, as he nurses knee soreness. The Hawks also have Cam Reddish and Kevin Huerter listed as questionable, leaving them with a potentially thin backcourt. With all three players currently projected in, it is Young who stands tall on the board on both sites. The point guard has a massive 60.5% optimal lineup appearance rate on the FanDuel slate and a 40.1% mark on the DraftKings board, he is easily the highest-projected player of the day and the only true pay-up candidate on this slate if he plays. Young has a 17.8% boom score probability on the FanDuel slate and a 21.6% mark on DraftKings, but he is pulling positive leverage on both sites with the question about his status. At 50.7% ownership on the blue site and 32.5% across town, Young will likely get more popular if he is confirmed in, thta may not do enough to swallow all of his positive leverage however, he sits at a 9.8 on the former site and 7.6 on the latter. Young is an excellent option for all formats if he takes the floor for the Hawks tonight.
If Young is out and either Reddish or Huerter plays, that player would become a good option as a guard play. Assuming all three miss tonight’s contest, in addition to the value gained by John Collins, simply by virtue of there being more to do in the offense, we would also expect to see upside around players including Danilo Gallinari, Delon Wright, and Lou Williams. It is primarily Wright who would be interesting, he comes in at $3,600 with eligibility only at the point guard spot on DraftKings, while popping up at both guard positions for a mere $4,000 on the FanDuel slate. Wright is irrelevant at his 15.5-minute projection, but if that time were to double he would be a more compelling option. We saw the player deliver a strong 0.97 fantasy point per minute mark across all situations on just 16.3% usage last year, he would be an excellent but likely popular option given on-time news. If Gallinari sees a nudge to more than 30 minutes he would gain ground on the 12.3% and 9.0% optimal rates at which we find him on FanDuel and DraftKings respectively, though he is still an uninspiring option from the midrange even in that situation. The primary option for all scenarios is getting to shares of Trae Young if he plays.
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Our NBA projections DFS are updated regularly, including whenever any relevant news breaks. Check out our DFS rankings NBA for fantasy points and values that are derived directly from Alex Baker's own DFS basketball projections. View our FanDuel NBA ownership, our DraftKings NBA ownership and our Yahoo! NBA ownership projections. We also have DraftKings rankings, FanDuel NBA rankings and Yahoo! rankings for today's slate. Looking for more DFS NBA tonight and the best free NBA DFS tools?
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