A massive 13-game Wednesday slate brings a bit of everything to the lineup construction workbench this evening. The slate includes a high point at 227.5 between the Nets and Rockets and also plummets to a 207 total in the contest between the Thunder and Raptors. In between, the Vegas board includes games of all shapes and sizes, and with all but four teams in action, there is a litany of players to choose from at every possible price and position. A slate of this size tends to significantly reduce the frequency with which many of the mid-range plays land in the optimal lineup, giving the board a wide middle with a steep peak among the elite options for upside, value and leverage.
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 13 games on the slate, the focus is on the top overall 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
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.
Tyler Herro: DraftKings — $7,000 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $6,800 — SG/SF
With stars Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler sidelined once again on Wednesday, Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro rises to the top of the board on both sites. He is averaging 0.97 FanDuel points per minute (1.05 DraftKings) on 28.6% usage across all situations this season. In a team-leading 261 minutes without his star teammates on the floor this season, Herro’s usage rate leaps to 31.1%, and his fantasy production increases to 1.00 FanDuel points per minute (1.08 DraftKings). Herro has a 54.9% true shooting percentage with a 19.6% assist rate and an 8.1% rebounding share this season, all of which climb slightly in the more featured role. Herro is in line for a lot of action this evening, Awesemo has him projected for a 35.6-minute night, he should deliver significant value at his price and positioning across the industry. Herro comes as a negatively leveraged play on both sites, but the frequency with which he lands in the optimal lineup by comparison to the rest of the slate stands out, as does his opportunity at a ceiling score. Even on a slate of this size, Herro can be considered good chalk.
The Heat guard is the most frequently optimal player at any position on the DraftKings slate, and it is not particularly close. The runner-up is $5,200 Anthony Simons of the Trail Blazers who lands in the optimal lineup in 16.9% of simulated slates, nearly 10 percentage points behind Herro’s 25.2%. The public will be on this play at nearly a 31% rate, pushing him to a -5.4 leverage score that seems entirely playable on a large slate where it is easy to differentiate lineup construction. Herro has a 39.7-point median projection for his $7,000 salary at either guard spot on DraftKings. He has a 39.3% boom score probability that also leads the slate at any position. That mark lands closer to some of his competitors, value play Ayo Dosunmu lands at a 38.6% mark but his median projection is 14 points below Herro’s at the same position for $3,900 and a -15.8 leverage score. Herro is worth carrying the weight of additional shares to get beyond where the public is currently projected.
Herro is the most frequently optimal play at any position on the FanDuel slate as well. He comes up in the optimal lineup in 20% of simulated slates while coming in at a -6.8 leverage score for his nearly 27% ownership projection. The field is closer to Herro on the blue site. Caris LeVert also fits the shooting guard or small forward positioning that Herro carries, and he comes up in 18.7% of optimal lineups in simulations, but LeVert is slated for a -15 leverage score with 33.7% ownership for the lower price. Paying the difference to offset some ownership while gaining a few percentage points in optimal lineup frequency makes sense when comparing the players. Herro is projected for a 36.4-point median projection and a 31.6% boom score probability on the slate. That mark lands fifth overall on the board, with Herro coming up with the second-best leverage score in that group behind Josh Giddey’s -0.6. Herro is well worth the $6,800 for the overall upside and frequency with which he lands in the optimal lineup, while he is at negative leverage on the slate, he still stands a cut above most of the comparable options in every category.
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Anfernee Simons (Q): DraftKings — $5,200 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $5,200 — PG/SG
Dennis Smith Jr.: DraftKings — $5,800 — PG | FanDuel — $5,500 — PG
With both Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum sidelined for a few games, the Trail Blazers desperately need Anfernee Simons to return after also missing the last two games. If Simons is unable to play, responsibility will again land on the shoulders of Dennis Smith Jr., who is priced in the same range given the unpredictable opportunity. Simons is the better play, coming in at a lower price on both sites and adding shooting guard flexibility across the industry. Smith has produced a 1.00 mark on 48.8% true shooting with a 28.1% assist percentage in his limited 16.6 minutes a night and he ably stepped into the rotation in recent games, but the higher price and lack of multi-position eligibility knock him down a peg in rankings. With Simons currently projected to play 32.1 minutes and Smith at just 22, the decision is clear. If the roles change with news about Simons getting ruled out or potentially seeing limited minutes, the optimal rates and boom score probabilities will shift accordingly.
As things stand, Simons is the second-most frequently optimal play on the DraftKings slate at 16.9%. While that mark is several points behind Herro, it is almost 2.5 percentage points ahead of Dillon Brooks, who falls third in the category. Simons is listed with a massive leverage score of 14.4, given just a 2.5% ownership projection in early reporting. This is because of the question mark about his status, with confirmation of a start Simons will leap in popularity, likely pushing him toward efficient ownership or even negative leverage. He should retain value in that situation, however, given a 31-point median projection and a 35.9% boom score probability that ranks third at any position on the DraftKings slate. Simons provides a reliable shot at his median NBA DFS points projection with clear upside for more. If the minutes were to shift in Smith’s direction, he would see a slightly lower boom score probability for the higher salary and lack of positional flexibility. The same would likely be true about his optimal lineup rate, while his ownership would probably be significant. It will be worth checking back for updates to Awesemo’s tools when news breaks in either direction on this play.
The same points are largely true on the FanDuel slate. Simons is currently projected for extremely low ownership because no one knows if he will play. This creates a huge leverage score given his 15.3% optimal lineup rate on the blue site, the ninth-highest mark at any position. Simons is carrying a 28.4% boom score probability and a 29-point median projection on the slate. With most of the players in this range falling into a range of 2 to 3 percentage points, there is a lot of value in spreading shares around to the most positively leveraged plays available, pending news, Simons may or may not qualify. If he is ruled out, Smith would pop toward the top of the board, but his higher price will probably anchor him slightly lower on the board than Simons, which would again bring the decision down to his overall ownership and leverage score. The quality of either play will vary pending the final projected minutes for Simons and how the field reacts.
Among the Stars
With a few clear values and a mid-range roughly the size of Australia, the slate offers the opportunity to roster at least one of the available mega-stars on the board. Of the players in that range, defending champion Giannis Antetokounmpo rises near to the top on both sites tonight. At 1.71 fantasy points per minute for the season, he needs little introduction to NBA DFS players who are likely already budgeting their salary to reach him. He has a 60.3% true shooting percentage, a 30.6% assist percentage and a 16.7% rebounding rate. Antetokounmpo can and should be rostered frequently despite his hefty five-figure salary on both sites. He is the most expensive option on FanDuel and the third-highest price tag behind Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid on DraftKings. He is easily worth the effort to include in lineups, landing at a 10.2% optimal lineup rate on FanDuel and a 10.3% mark on DraftKings while landing at positive leverage on both sites. One of the best fantasy point producers in the world will be rostered at less than 10% across the industry, getting ahead of the field is both easy and advisable with how the slate is currently constructed, with the likelihood of emergent value later in the afternoon it should only get easier to get to one of the best raw point-scoring options on the board.
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Jokic has the same optimal lineup rate at 10.2% on FanDuel despite slotting into just the singular center position on the site. On DraftKings he slips to 7.7% optimal with a 53.8-point median projection and a 16.9% boom score probability as the most expensive player on the board. He outpaces Embiid’s 2.7% optimal rate, as well as his 48.8-point projection and 7.6% boom score probability, making him the top pay-up option at the center position on DraftKings. On the FanDuel slate, Embiid comes in $600 less than Jokic at just $10,400, but he still falls to optimal with just a 19.8% boom score probability that is well behind the 23.3% Jokic carries. He is the better play at efficient ownership hovering between 8.5 and 10% across the industry.
With seemingly all of the best players in basketball available on this slate, there is a bit of an embarrassment of riches. Playing the ownership and leverage game at this tier is a strong approach, there are arguments in favor of playing any and all of the options from the top shelf on this slate, but decisions about ownership shares have to be weighed with care. While Antetokounmpo is the most frequently optimal player priced above $10,000 on the DraftKings slate, it is Brooklyn’s James Harden who takes that honor on FanDuel. Harden is priced at just $10,200 with eligibility at both guard spots on the blue site. By comparison, he is an $11,200 point guard play on DraftKings. On that site, his 8.6% optimal rate is still second among all players priced above $10,000, but he is more compelling on FanDuel where he also has a 2.6 leverage score and an excellent 21.6% boom score probability with a 48.1-point median projection. Harden is expensive but potentially still underpriced on the FanDuel slate.
Update: In the minutes since this column was finalized, both Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge were announced out for workload management this evening in the second game of a back-to-back, Harden’s value should skyrocket in the next update, as will that of several Nets role players. This will be the first of what will most likely be a chaotic series of changes over the next few hours.
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We also have DraftKings NBA ownership rankings, FanDuel NBA rankings and Yahoo! rankings for today's slate. Looking for more NBA DFS tips today and the top NBA DFS picks for today? View our Yahoo! NBA ownership, our FanDuel ownership and our DraftKings ownership. Check out our NBA DraftKings rankings for fantasy points and values that are derived directly from Alex Baker's own NBA DFS projections DraftKings. Our best NBA DFS projections are updated regularly, including whenever any relevant news breaks.
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