A massive Monday slate brings 11 games to the table, or 10.5 games if properly counting the contest between the Celtics and Cavaliers that is currently carrying a bare-bones 200-point total. The teams played to fewer points over the weekend and seem lined up for a rough night for fantasy production, though there are pieces in even that game. The rest of the board looks more promising, with 10 games ranging from a 208.5 to 222 total in morning lines. Most of the games are carrying relatively close point spreads, suggesting competitive games that create upside for all types of scoring. There are extreme values and pay-up options emerging on the NBA DFS board already, giving the slate an interesting shape. Finding a good spread of mid-range options for both point-per-dollar and ceiling-based production is going to be the key reaching the very top of GPP standings on DraftKings and FanDuel.
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 11 games on the slate, the focus is on the top overall plays on board. 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.
NBA DFS Optimizer Leverage Leaders Today
These picks are made utilizing the Boom/Bust Tool, specifically analyzing the optimal lineup rate, leverage score and boom probability. Check out Alex Hunter’s Boom/Bust Tool article, where he breaks down some of the top boom and bust candidates from Awesemo’s expert projections. The optimal lineup rate represents the frequency at which a player appears 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.
Talen Horton-Tucker: DraftKings — $3,000 — SG/SF | FanDuel — $4,400 — SG/SF
Talen Horton-Tucker returned to the Lakers in the team’s last game, providing some much-needed depth in his 27-minute stint. Horton-Tucker started and played significant stints with the first unit throughout the game, including in the fourth quarter. He posted a 17-point night with four rebounds, an assist, and two stocks on 25.8% usage. Last season, Horton-Tucker averaged 0.93 fantasy points per minute, it seems like a reasonable expectation to see him around that mark. With a 28.6-minute projection tonight, in the second game of a back-to-back when coming off an injury it is worth noting, Horton-Tucker looks like an excellent value play across the industry.
On the FanDuel slate, Horton-Tucker is an affordable play from the lower mid-range with eligibility across the shooting guard and small forward positions. He comes up in the top lineup in 19.5% of simulated slates, ranking him fourth among all eligible players from any position on the site. Horton-Tucker comes in with a 26.8 median projection with a 34.4% boom score probability, but he is projected for low ownership in the early part of the day. With just a 10% public popularity projection, Horton-Tucker is pulling an excellent leverage score, his 9.5 is the second-highest mark on the slate at any position. While he is not the extreme value that we will see in a moment on this site, Horton-Tucker seems likely to fill a solid role on this slate, assuming he plays.
Horton-Tucker is priced at the dead minimum salary on the DraftKings slate, making him an absolute smash of a play and a virtual lock, assuming he is slated for a similar run to where he is projected and what he saw last night. Horton-Tucker slots into both the guard and small forward spots, giving him major flexibility to five positions in a DraftKings lineup. Horton-Tucker ranks first among all players with a 44.2% optimal lineup appearance rate. He is carrying a 26.9-point median fantasy point projection and an inflated 65.4% boom score probability that pops off the top of the board, placing him well above all other players on the slate. Assuming he plays, Horton-Tucker is a spectacular value. He is projected for popularity, his current ownership is at 37.8% and it is likely to climb during the day with all of the buzz around the industry, regardless, this is a foundational piece of lineup constructions tonight.
Horton-Tucker was a hot topic in Adam Strangis’ NBA DFS Big Board article, which shows the best value plays from the Awesemo projections.
Alex Caruso: DraftKings — $4,000 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $4,400 — PG/SG
Another of the top plays on the board comes from the value range, this time with relative consistency from site to site. Alex Caruso averages minutes in the mid-20s but he stepped into the starting lineup for Javonte Green last game and ended up playing 39 minutes, pushing his three-game average to 29. With a 33.6-minute projection on the board tonight, Caruso stands out as a solid value across the industry. That production is up slightly from Caruso’s 0.80 per-minute mark last year, despite seeing his usage drop from 14.4% to 13.6% across all situations. Caruso has a 19.7% assist percentage and a 5.5% rebounding rate, though he could easily fall victim to the many mouths to feed remaining in the starting rotation. This is an interesting spot for Caruso, assuming he starts and sees the projected run he should make for a good play, but he is drawing popularity across the industry as well.
Caruso has the second-highest optimal lineup appearance rate on the DraftKings slate tonight, landing in the top lineup in 20.5% of simulated slates. He has eligibility across both guard spots on the slate and is carrying a 27.8 median projection with an excellent 46.5% boom score probability. That mark also lands second among players at any position and it is roughly 20 percentage points higher than the next-highest guard at either spot. Caruso will be popular on the slate, booking him into lineups will require differentiation in other spots as the rest of the roster fills. Caruso is projected for 28% ownership in the afternoon, that number seems likely to climb as lock approaches, barring the emergence of another major value play at a lower price and similar positioning. With a -7.5 leverage score on the slate this is a play to weigh carefully and with more information. As of this point in the day it seems worth rostering Caruso at or around the field’s level, given what he helps purchase at other positions. If the leverage gets worse or other options emerge, it makes sense to make ownership-based pivots.
On the blue site, Caruso lands atop the board by more than eight percentage points with a 30% optimal lineup rate. He has eligibility across both guard spots for $4,400 that makes his 29.3 median projection stand out. He has a 47.6% boom score probability that also leads all players on the FanDuel slate. The public ownership mark for Caruso is at 33.7%, making him one of the most highly owned players on a large 11-game night. Still, there appears to be strong value in rostering him, even at slightly negative leverage. Caruso is somewhat more friendly with just a -3.7 leverage score, but this will again warrant monitoring as lock approaches. Getting beyond the field’s projected ownership is not a difficult task at the cost, there is ceiling potentiaif Caruso sees the projected minutes, but getting there along with too much of the field will not pay out as much.
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The Pay-Up Options
With a few other strong value plays, like Orlando’s Jalen Suggs and Detroit’s Isaiah Stewart available, there are numerous ways to pay for multiple stars in a lineup tonight. This circumstance has several of the available superstars looking like sharp options on the board tonight, getting to the correct combination of premium talents and raw scoring after creating a foundation of optimal lineup appearances, value, and leverage is where NBA DFS tournaments are won and lost. With 11 games from which to choose we have a long list of quality options from the top shelf. Reigning MVP and dominant fantasy performer Nikola Jokic comes in with 1.72 fantasy points per minute for $11,500 on FanDuel and $11,700 on DraftKings. He locks in at just the center spot, but he still has a 12.2% optimal lineup appearance rate at a 1.5 leverage score on the blue site and a 15.3% optimal lineup rate with an even better 3.6 leverage score on DraftKings. Jokic is a strong play despite being the highest salaried player on both sites.
In addition to Jokic, viable star-caliber options include Ja Morant, who was recently covered in this space for his outstanding start to the season. Morant is a $10,000 point guard play on both sites. He is averaging 1.33 fantasy points per minute on 57% true shooting and a 35.6% assist percentage so far this season, up from a 1.08 mark last year. Morant sees 31.1% usage across all situations and should be rostered as one of the very best raw NBA DFS point-scoring options tonight. At the power forward and center positions, Anthony Davis makes for a solid option on both sites as well. Davis is at about the same relative price from site to site, with a $10,700 salary on FanDuel and a $10,400 mark on the DraftKings slate. He comes in with a 15.1% assist percentage and a 14.9% rebounding share this year, posting 1.45 fantasy points per minute on 28.2% usage. Davis joins Horton-Tucker as the prime plays from the Lakers in their evening-ending matchup against the Bulls.
That final game of the night features those two players, as well as Caruso, making it a fixture for fantasy scoring tonight before we even get to DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine. Both Bulls guards land in the top 10 by DraftKings optimal lineup rate, with DeRozan sitting fourth overall at a 14.4% optimal lineup rate on the site as a power forward. With shooting guard and small forward eligibility on FanDuel, DeRozan is the eighth-most optimal player at any position. Damian Lillard is a tale of different pricing, coming in at a $9,200 price tag on the DraftKings slate but falls all the way to $8,200 on FanDuel. That makes him an excellent value proposition who is not seeing enough attention. Lillard has a slate-leading 14 leverage score in early forecasts for the blue site; the public is not close to his 16.2% optimal rate.
With another half-dozen or so plays from the upper tiers of salary that land in the top-25 by optimal lineup rate it makes sense to create a strong rotation of star-caliber players through lineups. Focusing foundational spots on some of the strong value and mid-range plays on such a large slate while keeping an eye on their overall leverage is an important approach to lineup construction for making FanDuel and DraftKings NBA DFS lineup picks tonight.
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View our Yahoo! ownership, our FanDuel ownership and our DraftKings ownership. Check out our NBA FanDuel rankings for fantasy points and values that are derived directly from Alex Baker's own NBA DFS projections. Our daily fantasy basketball projections are updated regularly, including whenever any relevant news breaks. We also have DraftKings rankings, FanDuel NBA rankings and Yahoo! NBA ownership rankings for today's slate. Looking for more NBA DFS plays tonight and the best NBA DFS tools?
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