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NBA Optimal Lineups Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel Nikola Jokic | Saturday, Dec. 11

Terry McBride

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Saturday’s six-game sprint of a slate of NBA DFS action brings a wide range of options in the early evening. With all six games getting underway by 8:30 there will be a frenzy of late-swapping for news in the 8 pm window as five games get started. The lone 7 pm start on the board is an interesting contest between the Jazz and Wizards that carries a 220-point total and should probably not be skipped entirely, given the caliber of players available in some salary ranges. The remaining games include the highest total of the night at 220.5 in the Rockets vs Grizzlies tilt that may require fans to play, pending further injury news, as well as two games that land at 219.5 with the Kings and Cavaliers facing one another in Cleveland and the Nuggets facing the Spurs in Texas to end the night. With a fair amount of available stars and some clear values on the board there are very popular common construction paths, while it is important to focus on using many of those highly popular and frequently optimal players, we also want to pay attention to the leverage column. This is where lineups get differentiated and stand apart from the field, with the hope that the changes vault above the more common and frequently duplicated lineups, creating a lone winner.

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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 six games on the board, this article will focus on the top interesting leverage plays from three 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.

Nikola Jokic: DraftKings — $11,900 — C | FanDuel — $11,200 — C

At $600 more expensive than Joel Embiid on the FanDuel slate and $300 more than Stephen Curry on DraftKings, Denver superstar center Nikola Jokic is coming in under-owned across the industry. Jokic has eligibility only at the center spot on both sites but he is one of the most frequently optimal plays in early simulations. It is rare to get to a superstar of this ilk at such positive leverage marks when he is so highly optimal in simulations and carries a huge boom score probability. Jokic is one of the best fantasy producers in NBA DFS regardless of where one plays, he produces a 1.68 fantasy point per minute rate on 31.1% usage, up from last season’s MVP-winning 1.58 per-minute mark on 29.3% usage. Jokic is posting a monster 36.8% assist rate and a 20.3% rebounding share to go with his 65% true shooting percentage. In the raw stats, he averages 28.5 points, 14.6 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per-36 minutes. Jokic is by all accounts the top option on this slate if his ownership projections hold through to lock, he is well worth the exorbitant prices.

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At 32.2%, Jokic lands as the fourth-most frequently optimal player at any position on the FanDuel slate. He is the top center option on the board after Jaren Jackson Jr. was announced as doubtful to play. The Denver big man comes in with a slate-leading 53.4-point median projection, on a short slate that simple raw scoring has value despite the hefty price, though we certainly need more on a points-per-dollar basis. Fortunately, Jokic is carrying a terrific 26.6% boom score probability into the matchup with the Spurs, ranking seventh overall and second at the center position. The big man listed ahead of him in the category is Montrezl Harrell, who carries power forward eligibility and can be rostered in tandem with Jokic as another strongly positive leverage play. Jokic continues to be the best play as we look to the popularity column, his public ownership is projected for 26.8%, which is by no means a total abandonment by the slate but still falls well short of his optimal lineup rate and leaving him with an excellent 5.4 leverage score. Jokic is extremely targetable on this slate, he should be owned at a greater rate than where the field is getting to him, regardless of the price and single-option positioning.

Jokic stands as the second-most frequently optimal player on the DraftKings slate as well, with Dillon Brooks shooting ahead of him after the Jackson news came through. The Denver big man is an excellent option on the slate, despite increasing popularity that comes in at a higher raw number than on the blue site. Jokic is projected for 27.4% ownership at his lofty $11,900 price tag. He is positively leveraged at that mark, coming in at a 1.9, while carrying the slate’s highest projection at a 56.5 median in DraftKings NBA DFS scoring. The superstar center has a 25% boom score probability against the massive sticker price, which ranks 16th overall but third among centers and easily the highest among the top tier of pricing. The nearest option to Jokic’s boom score rate is Dejounte Murray at a 20.2% mark for $9,900, from there we don’t see another player above 20% until we reach $7,700 Kyle Lowry when sorting by salary. There is significant upside in paying up for Jokic’s explosive scoring potential.


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Tyrese Haliburton: DraftKings — $5,800 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $7,300 — PG/SG

Coming into the slate with staggeringly different pricing from site to site, Sacramento guard Tyrese Haliburton looks like an interesting option for creating lineup differentiation with a fair upside on both sites. Haliburton is far more valuable as a key play on the DraftKings slate while he is more of a mix and match option on FanDuel, but he can be rostered across the board. The second-year player has averaged 33.7 minutes this season, posting a 0.93 fantasy point per minute rate that nearly matches his 0.94 from last season despite a decrease from 17.5% to 15.7% usage. Haliburton has posted a 23.9% assist rate and a 5.4% rebounding share to this point in the season and he has a 55.1% true shooting percentage. Haliburton has not dominated this season, but he has not been bad and he seems dramatically underpriced for his potential on the DraftKings slate. Adding flexibility at both guard spots on both sites and a lack of popularity makes Haliburton a potential target in lineup building this evening.

Where he is less valuable, Haliburton comes up at a 13% optimal lineup appearance rate that still ranks 25th overall, though there are a number of guards at both positions ahead of him on the board. Haliburton gains ground by virtue of a positive leverage score, the public is projected to pay what could be perceived as a high price for the Kings guard only 6.3% of the time, which leaves a healthy 6.7 leverage score. Haliburton is carrying a 32.4-point median projection and a 10.2% boom score probability, his price is efficient but his ownership is not, he can be rostered at a rate of around double the field without putting much of a full portfolio of entries at risk.

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On the DraftKings slate, Haliburton climbs to a 13th-ranked 18.1% optimal lineup appearance rate for his low $5,800 salary. He fits into both guard spots and comes at positive leverage, which cannot be said about all of the players in the mixture of guards that rank above him by optimal rate. The guard comes in with a 31.6-point median projection and a 27.7% boom score probability but he will be owned at just a 16.5% rate, leaving a 1.6 leverage score that can be targeted for upside potential. Haliburton is not the top option on the board, but at his reduced price he is highly appealing. The boom score probability ranks 12th overall and many of the players above him in the category are low-cost value options who have median projections in the low-20s. Haliburton is a sturdy mid-range value option for NBA DFS lineups on the DraftKings slate.

Caleb Martin: DraftKings — $3,500 — SG/SF | FanDuel — $4,900 — SG/SF

It would be fair to say that DraftKings has an inexplicable price on Miami’s Cody Martin today. In the absence of several prominent teammates, Martin has taken up a major role in the Heat rotation, averaging 31.3 minutes per game over the team’s three most recent contests and seeing 34 minutes the last time out. The Miami wing has an amazing opportunity to provide NBA DFS point-scoring upside at a low cost, across all situations he has averaged 0.85 fantasy points per minute on 15.7% usage this season, but he is at a 0.99 per-minute mark for the month of December. That is a dominant per-minute rate at the price on DraftKings and a fair one for the $4,900 on FanDuel. Martin is a key component for lineup building tonight, but his value is far greater on one site, which is of course drawing attention.

On the DraftKings slate, Martin is projected for a 37.5% ownership share, which forces him to a -14.0 leverage score that is potentially concerning. He lands in the optimal lineup in 23.5% of simulated slates, with eligibility at both shooting guard and small forward. This speaks more to the preponderance of value plays on the board today, with standout low-cost guards coming in from all angles, including the Rockets and Grizzlies options. The board is more evenly spread than a play of this nature typically would be, under more balanced circumstances one would expect Martin’s optimal lineup rate to exceed 40 or even 50% with the per-minute potential at the price. He is projected for a 25.1-point median night and he does carry a slate-leading 45.3% boom score probability mark that should not be ignored. Martin is an interesting piece on this slate, but comparable options with similar minutes projections and positive leverage do exist, making it a tricky spot that may actually warrant an undercut to the field’s projected mark and spread to some of the less appreciated options.

On FanDuel, Martin is carrying an 18% optimal lineup appearance rate and an ownership projection that defies his increased price at 34%. He is more clearly over-owned on this slate, despite the solid per-minute production and 30.1-minute projection. Martin is projected for a 25.8-point median FanDuel scoring night and a 20.1% boom score probability. That mark is the tell, Martin drops to 13th overall on the slate and falls behind a number of similarly priced and positively leveraged guard and small forward plays. He can be rostered on the site, even upwards of 20%, but it seems unwise to approach the field’s aggressive share when it comes at a -16 leverage score. Getting to a mix of more positively leveraged options carrying greater ceiling score potential and creating a group of differentiated lineups, rather than focusing on a specific play that is already over-exposed seems like a wise course of action on the blue site tonight.


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

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 Awesemo.com. 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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