The 10-game NBA DFS Friday slate looks radically different at 2 ET than it did an hour ago. With the Bucks and Clippers both deciding to play without most of the quality players on their rosters the entire value mechanism has shifted, and several of the slate’s premium stars and mid-range players vanish entirely. A slate that was already complex and laden with questions just got even more interesting. Overall, the board includes a significant number of value plays, and the league’s top per-minute fantasy performer is now the undisputed best player on this slate. Nikola Jokic and his Denver Nuggets are at home to face Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves in a game with a slate-leading 242-point total. With Denver favored by only 2.5, this game should be tightly contested and important for NBA DFS lineups. With that game starting at 9 ET and a late-night 10:30 ET game between the Pelicans and Lakers also providing a number of interesting plays in a game with a 230.5-point total, it makes sense to leave room for swapping around the board in those contests. The slate includes two other games totaled above 230, with the Kings – Rockets coming in at 234.5, and the Trail Blazers – Spurs slated for a 231-point game total. The Suns – Grizzlies game also offers a handful of interesting options from its 229.5-point perch, while the remaining games fall into the lower 220s or under the 220-point mark. A mix of the many premium options from the highly totaled games is important, but the remaining contests should not be discounted entirely, focusing on a strong mix of combinations that reach roughly equivalent heights for ceiling score potential should be the focus on a large slate, rather than getting too worried about any individual player’s leverage or ownership totals.
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 10 games on the slate, this article will focus on the top overall plays on the NBA DFS 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.
NBA DFS Optimizer Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel Lineups
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 optimizer 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.
Bobby Portis: DK $6,300 — PF/C | FD $5,000 — PF/C
The Bucks will be without all of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez tonight. This creates a situation in which veteran big man Bobby Portis is the top option on the floor for short-handed Milwaukee. The Bucks are playing a Clippers team that has eight players listed as out this evening, including recently returned star Paul George. The game has a 219-point total with this version of the Bucks favored by four, Portis should be a big part of anything that the team does on the floor tonight. The productive big man has been more limited in recent outings, following the return of Lopez to the starting lineup. Overall, however, Portis has averaged 1.07 fantasy points per minute this year, which is strong quality for his pricing in general. In a very small 82-minute sample without all of the missing teammates on the floor this year, Portis jumps to a 1.11. In 236 minutes with Middleton in but the others our, he was a 1.16 per-minute performer. Expecting Portis to land somewhere in that 1.10-plus range seems fair for this situation, he is leading the slate in Awesemo’s probability metrics but the ownership projection is currently trailing the field by a wide margin. If those metrics hold, Portis is easily the top target across the NBA DFS industry tonight.
On the FanDuel slate, Portis has an absurd 75.27% probability of hitting his salary-adjusted required ceiling score. That boom score probability sits more than 14 percentage points ahead of the next-most likely player to hit his ceiling score, Memphis’ Brandon Clarke is currently over-owned at a -12.5 leverage score but he does have an excellent 61.76% boom score probability that was the slate’s strongest prior to the Bucks lineup news. Portis drops in more than 6 FanDuel points ahead of Clarke in the median projection for only $600 more, and he lands in the optimal lineup in a slate-leading 39.1% of Awesemo’s simulated FanDuel slates. Clarke drops to ninth overall at his 20.8% optimal rate. With Portis leading both LeBron James and Luka Doncic by 7.1 percentage points in the optimal lineup appearance rate category, his value is clear at $5,000 with eligibility at power forward or center. Portis is pulling in a 25.3% ownership projection that almost certainly has to climb by the time lock arrives. While other plays will surely emerge on a slate that is already rails-adjacent at best, anything could happen, but it seems extremely likely that Portis will end up as an extremely strong play that is negatively leveraged. At this point in the day, he is at a 13.8 leverage score on the positive side, his ownership is nowhere near where it should be when considering his probability metrics. Even if he comes in at the same score on the negative side, even on a 10-game slate, Portis is too strong a performer to pass up at this price and positional flexibility when he will be the best player on the floor on either team.
DraftKings has Portis on an entirely different salary tier, $1,300 above where he is priced on the FanDuel slate against the lower salary cap, and it still only puts a minor dent in the quality of the play. Portis is carrying a slate-leading 34.6% optimal lineup appearance rate tonight, and he has eligibility at both the power forward and center positions. Portis’ 41.2-point median projection is the ninth-highest raw fantasy point total on the DraftKings slate, but he is the 39th most expensive player, his value is quite clear in this situation. The public ownership is currently trailing well behind the play on this site as well. It seems reasonable to expect that Portis will at least approach efficient ownership, if not negative leverage, even at the higher salary. He is projected for just 10.7% popularity as things currently stand, giving him a ridiculous 23.9 leverage score in the mid-afternoon. By the time lock rolls around, Portis is likely to be a tighter play at high 20s to mid-30s ownership at least, he would still be well worth the salary and roster spot even at that level of popularity. Portis has a 53.8% probability of hitting his salary-adjusted required ceiling score. Brandon Clarke outpaces Portis by boom score probability on this slate, reaching that level of production 60.2% of the time for his $4,000 salary at the same positions. Clarke is projected 10 fantasy points below Portis on the site and comes at a negative leverage score on this side of town as well, though that may balance out as Portis gains ground. Both the value play from Memphis and the Milwaukee mid-range big man are very much in play across the industry, but with the role and opportunity available, Portis is the stronger play when deciding between the two.
Amir Coffey: DK $3,700 — SG/SF | FD $3,600 — SF/SG
Another player who will benefit from his team listing the majority of its salary cap space as inactive tonight, Amir Coffey should step into significant minutes in the starting lineup. Coffey has averaged just 22.9 minutes for the season and he has seen just 19.5 minutes a night over the team’s three most recent games, but he is projected for a 31.9-minute night with plenty of room for more this evening. Coffey is not nearly priced for that much time, even at his low season-long per-minute fantasy rate he makes for a quality option from the extreme value tier. Coffey has a 0.70 per-minute rate for the season, but in the limited recent three-game sample he has been at a 0.95 rate. In 220 minutes without the relevant players who will be out this evening, Coffey has been at a 0.72 per-minute rate for the season and a 0.74 per-minute mark since the start of the calendar year. Even more concerningly, in 60 minutes since the beginning of March in that configuration, Coffey has just a 0.65 per-minute fantasy scoring rate. And yet, he remains an intriguing price and opportunity play on tonight’s NBA DFS slate.
At 14.6%, Coffey lands 12th overall by optimal lineup appearance rate on the DraftKings slate. Coffey slots in for just $3,700 and he can be used in five different roster slots, given his eligibility at shooting guard and small forward. Coffey has a direct point of comparison in teammate Luke Kennard, who is projected for a 32.3-minute night and a 22.1% optimal lineup appearance rate. Kennard is pulling in a 19.1% popularity projection on the site, leaving him at a positive leverage score that is appealing at his optimal rate and becomes a target when considering his 50.17% boom score probability. While Kennard is clearly also a top play on this slate, the interesting aspect that Coffey brings is a near-total lack of popularity. Despite a similar opportunity in the starting lineup and a lower price point, Coffey is currently projected for just 4.5% popularity against his excellent probability metrics. While that rate of ownership is likely to climb throughout the day, he will still come at low raw ownership by comparison to Kennard. Coffey is a sneaky option who has a 26.5-point median projection to Kennard’s 28.3 and a 42.84% probability of hitting his salary-adjusted ceiling score. Coffey’s 10.1 leverage score is a target in lineup combinations of all types, as a direct pivot away from one-fifth of the field’s lineups that include Kennard, Coffey stands out as an excellent consideration.
The situation is very similar on the FanDuel slate. Coffey is projected for a mere 3.0% popularity on the blue site tonight. He comes at the same $3,600 price tag and positional eligibility at shooting guard and small forward that Kennard receives on FanDuel, casting them in direct competition. Kennard is easily the more popular play, he still lands in positive leverage land at a 1.2, with 16.7% of the field including him in lineups, but the raw ownership differential and the 8.1 leverage score at which Coffey can be rostered are well worth the pivot. Kennard is more likely to land in the optimal lineup, and he is more likely to hit his salary-adjusted required ceiling score, but Coffey is easily within reach of him in both categories. The less popular Clippers wing has a 45.6% boom score probability on the site, trailing Kennard’s 50.06% mark by fewer than 5 percentage points. Coffey provides excellent differentiation while barely sacrificing in the median or the probability categories, he is a strong play provided that the minutes and ownership projections hold.
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LeBron James: DK $10,900 — SF | FD $11,000 — SF/PF
A hyper-important game is expected to bring both Anthony Davis and LeBron James back into action for the Lakers tonight. The team has been a disaster on the floor all season, leading to their current status on the outside looking in at the play-in tournament. The Lakers are tied with the Spurs in the loss column, with San Antonio currently holding the 10th and final spot in the postseason, making it extremely likely that James and Davis both take the floor tonight. With news most likely coming after lock, this is an interesting target for tournament play. Getting to shares of LeBron James when he is at significantly positive leverage is always worth planning for, he is a 1.43 fantasy points per minute performer this season. James has a dominant 61.8% true shooting percentage to go with his excellent 29.8% assist rate and 10.9% rebounding percentage, and he remains a force on the defensive side of the game, adding 2.3 stocks per-36 to pad his fantasy scoring. LeBron James needs no real sales pitch, he is a potentially slate-changing play for those willing to roster him with the questionable tag, if he is in it is a major leg-up on the field.
James is currently projected for just 7.9% popularity on the DraftKings slate, a number that simply will not hold if he is confirmed in before lock and one that will definitely climb with post-lock swaps when news breaks. Still, James has a 23.8% optimal lineup appearance rate based on his $10,900 salary and excellent 57.3-point median projection on the site. The third-highest raw point projection should not be available at a 15.9 leverage score on this type of slate, James is easily one of the top producers on the board, and he has an excellent probability of hitting his required ceiling score. At 32.06%, James gets to the salary-adjusted ceiling 2.5 percentage points more often than Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and 10 percentage points more frequently than Luka Doncic, the other top stars on the slate. He exceeds Spurs guard Dejounte Murray and Celtics star Jayson Tatum by an even wider margin, making him one of the slate’s absolute apex plays. The only thing that will stop James on this slate is arriving on the sideline in street clothes, he is a fantastic play in DraftKings NBA DFS lineups if he is in uniform.
The same situation exists with James’ popularity on the FanDuel slate, where he is an $11,000 option against a higher salary cap. With eligibility at both forward positions, James’ flexibility enhances his own quality and it affords more opportunity for swapping away from shares should he happen to sit out the game. James has a 32% optimal lineup appearance rate on the blue site, tied for second overall with Doncic and 1.9 percentage points ahead of Jokic. With Bobby Portis standing above the trio of stars and Dejounte Murray just below him, the nature of the FanDuel slate is clear. Getting to extra shares of James ahead of the news makes sense, planning for him to play helps acquire shares well beyond the field’s current 8.7% ownership projection. James has a 35.05% boom score probability and a 55.29-point median projection on the site, second to only Jokic’s 60.45 in raw FanDuel NBA DFS scoring. A red indicator with the word “out” would be the only reason to avoid clicking LeBron James’ name in a majority of FanDuel lineups tonight.
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We also have DraftKings NBA rankings, FanDuel NBA ownership rankings and Yahoo! NBA rankings for today's slate. Check out our NBA DraftKings rankings for fantasy points and values that are derived directly from Alex Baker's own best DFS NBA projections. Looking for more NBA DFS picks FanDuel and the best free NBA DFS tools? Our NBA DFS projections DraftKings are updated regularly, including whenever any relevant news breaks. View our Yahoo! ownership, our FanDuel NBA ownership projections and our DraftKings NBA ownership.
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