Tuesday’s short slate of NBA DFS action brings a small slate full of question marks related to a number of known and anticipated player absences. The rotations for several of the night’s teams are in flux, perhaps none more so than the value-laden Pistons, who bring a number of inexpensive players who may see minutes in the absence of a number of teammates. The Lakers are without LeBron James and might be without currently questionable Anthony Davis, creating a chasm of usage and upside in their game against the Knicks. Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic are also unlikely to play, extracting a few more stars from the top of the slate. A few additional spots of value and upside land throughout the slate, getting to the right combination of options that include both a strong foundation of optimal lineup appearances and boom-score upside while weaving in plays for leverage and differentiation is the key to lineup construction on a small slate on both 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 four games on the slate, the focus is on a few of the positively leveraged values on the 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. 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.
Nerlens Noel: DraftKings — $4,200 — C | FanDuel — $4,800 — C
With just four games on the slate, there are potentially mandatory plays in all corners this evening. With apologies to Julius Randle, who comes in as an excellent option at a broken $8,400 price on FanDuel but is a $10,000 forward on DraftKings, the most compelling Knicks option for value across the industry seems to be center Nerlens Noel. Noel has averaged 23.3 minutes a night in the six games he has managed to play this season. In the team’s two most recent outings, Noel saw 29 then 26 minutes, with the Knicks missing several pieces, primarily fellow big men Taj Gibson and Mitchell Robinson. Noel is expected to see a fairly large role for the team again this evening, though he is sometimes self-limiting in accumulating fouls rapidly. Noel is projected for a 29.6-minute night in the early afternoon update, that amount of run would give Noel significant value, but the public is not rushing to roster him. Noel averages 0.89 fantasy points per minute in his limited action this season, but he was a 0.94 player last year and he is someone who gets his NBA DFS points through means other than real-life point scoring given that he posted that rate on just 9.2% usage last year. He has a 74.7% true shooting percentage and a 13.8% rebounding rate this year while averaging three stocks in the limited run.
Noel is one of the top options by optimal lineup rate on both sites. On the FanDuel slate, Noel ranks ninth overall, landing in the optimal lineup in 25.5% of simulated slates. That rate ranks him fourth among eligible centers, though two of the options above him also slot in at the power forward spot, and the third is center-only Nikola Jokic, who is considered highly questionable to play this evening. Considering that one of the power forward eligible options is also questionable Anthony Davis, Noel suddenly looks like one of the best options at the position. He is projected for a solid 27.4-point median score on the blue site and he has a slate-leading 29.6% boom score probability that is highly encouraging when combined with his 5.3 leverage score. The slate is still well behind the curve on an unexciting but productive player, which creates a strong opportunity for FanDuel lineup construction.
On the DraftKings slate Noel ranks sixth overall by optimal lineup rate, coming in with a 24.6% mark against even lower ownership than he sees across town. Noel is less expensive at $4,200 against the lower cap, which increases the overall appeal in getting to him, but the public is trailing the play at just 16.5%, leaving an 8.1 leverage score that is very targetable for lineup building. Noel is projected for a 25.1-point median score on the DraftKings slate and he has a massive 32.2% boom score probability. ranking him third on the slate tonight. Adding shares of Noel well beyond what the field is projected for is a strong approach to this site for both upside and differentiation, assuming these projections hold in later updates. With significant news pending around the league, a number of these options may change, but the value of such an inexpensive center play should remain significant.
There’s another Knicks player who is the apple of Emac’s eye today, which you can read about in his NBA DFS Building Blocks article where he breaks down all of his favorite plays.
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C.J. McCollum: DraftKings — $7,800 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $7,600 — SG
Neither of the Trail Blazers’ primary guards is a secret on tonight’s slate, but they both look like good options. The team will be matched up against the undermanned Nuggets lineup that seems likely to be without Jokic in a game that is carrying the highest total of the evening. From site to site, it is C.J. McCollum who is outpacing his star teammate Damian Lillard when it comes to appearances in the optimal lineup in Awesemo’s simulated slates. McCollum has disappointed with 1.01 fantasy points per minute in 35.2 minutes per game this season. He is seeing 25.9% usage, only slightly down from the 26.5% that he saw last year in posting a 1.11 per-minute mark. McCollum has a 53% true shooting percentage and a 20.2% assist percentage this season, with the overall production slightly down he is underpriced for the known commodity that he represents, getting additional shares on both sites is advisable with the public projected to be behind the curve once again.
McCollum ranks as the second-most frequently optimal play on the entire DraftKings slate, falling in behind only the questionable center on the other side of this one, who is currently still pulling a 33.3-minute placeholder projection on Awesemo’s board. Assuming that Jokic does not play, McCollum will have several percentage points clearance on most of the field, although Trey Lyles, who is expected to step into a minutes uptick in Detroit is close on his heels at 29.2% optimal. Still, McCollum is a leading play, and he slots into both guard positions on the site for only $7,800. He has a 38.4-point median projection to go with a 25.6% boom score probability that ranks fourth among all players and first at both guard spots. McCollum is projected for just 23% popularity, leaving him with a 6.3 in the category, a mark that lands as one of the most highly playable on the board despite McCollum’s status as one of the best overall plays, this is exactly what we are looking for on the Boom/Bust Tool from day to day.
McCollum looks equally good on the FanDuel slate. He has a 38.8% optimal lineup appearance rate that falls second to only the far-too-cheap Randle play at power forward or center. Among guards, McCollum tops the board by five full percentage points over Paul George, and another 1.2 ahead of his running mate in the Portland backcourt. There is no downgrade in quality despite McCollum carrying eligibility at only the shooting guard spot on the blue site. He is still carrying a 23.3% boom score probability that slots in fourth overall and first among guards. McCollum will be owned by around 30% of the field, but his optimal rate has him tracking as a better play than that. Getting to one of the top options for upside and raw scoring potential at positive leverage on a slate where many of the stars are falling by the wayside is almost too much to hope for, but that is precisely the potential that the Portland playmaker is projected to provide.
Talen Horton-Tucker: DraftKings — $5,900 — SG/SF | FanDuel — $6,000 — SG/SF
With the Lakers down at least one star, and potentially a second with Davis ailing, Talen Horton-Tucker becomes a more interesting piece from the mid-range of the salary board across both sites. Horton-Tucker offers multi-position eligibility across the industry, and he is carrying a 35.1-minute projection for a fair price. The minutes are an uptick from the 32.6 that the wing averages in his typical role for the team. Those nights have seen him contributes 0.90 fantasy points per minute on 22% usage, posting a 52.5% true shooting percentage with a 10.5% assist rate and a 9.0% rebounding share. Horton-Tucker was slightly stronger at a 0.93 per-minute mark last season, but the numbers should see a further uptick with more to do in the absence of his teammates. In 130 minutes without LeBron James on the floor this season, Horton-Tucker’s usage has jumped to 24.6% with his fantasy points per minute spiking to 1.02. Horton-Tucker becomes the team’s second-leading player with a 27.8% usage rate in an admittedly small sample of 37 minutes without both Davis and James this season, with his per-minute rate jumping again to 1.07. In the absence of either star, Horton-Tucker is a strong value play. He gains ceiling potential with both off the floor, but he is also a play that the public seems eager to roster.
Horton-Tucker is the most popular player in DraftKings projected ownership in the early afternoon. He has a 28.6% projection that is likely to climb as lock approaches and he is discussed across the industry. At just $5,900 he has strong flexibility between both shooting guard and small forward, the utility alone helps him land in the optimal lineup in 26.5% of Awesemo’s simulations, a rate that falls just short of the public’s ownership projection, leaving him at a 2.1 leverage score that seems fairly playable as good chalk on a small slate, provided one focuses on differentiation across other lineup positions. Horton-Tucker has a 23.6% boom score probability with a 30.3-point median projection, all marks that are coming with Davis currently projected to play. Both the popularity and the per-dollar value of the player will climb if Davis scratches, which will be a known factor prior to lock with the Lakers in New York on Tuesday night. Monitoring the site tools closely to gauge the value against the popularity will be a key factor in knowing where to roster this play tonight.
The situation is similar on FanDuel, though Horton-Tucker is already further into negative leverage territory with a -4.4 mark. He is one of the most highly optimal plays on the slate, coming in with a 31% rate that falls sixth overall, behind Jokic. Horton-Tucker is the least expensive of those plays by $1,600 behind McCollum’s price, giving him impressive value. He comes in with a 29.6-point median projection across both shooting guard and small forward for contests on the blue site, though his boom score probability is just 17.7% and he will be in 35.4% of public lineups and counting. Horton-Tucker is worth rostering on the site, but the degree to which one gets exposed to the play should again be gauged given news closer to lock, with an eye on the leverage column in particular.
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Check out our DFS basketball rankings for fantasy points and values that are derived directly from Alex Baker's own daily fantasy basketball projections. Looking for more DFS NBA tonight and the top NBA DFS picks for today? Our basketball DFS projections are updated regularly, including whenever any relevant news breaks. View our DraftKings NBA ownership projections, our FanDuel ownership and our Yahoo! ownership. We also have DraftKings rankings, FanDuel ownership rankings and Yahoo! NBA ownership rankings for today's slate.
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