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NBA DFS Optimizer Picks Tonight for DraftKings & FanDuel Lineups Bobby Portis | Thursday 3/24/22

Terry McBride

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Thursday’s NBA DFS slate is a five-game sprint that tips at 7:30 p.m. ET and sees the night’s final game, a good matchup between the Suns and Nuggets, start just 90 minutes later. With the potential return of Suns star Chris Paul and the presence of quality options from every price tier on both sides, the late game is a high-priority target that comes in at a 231.5 total in Vegas. That game comes in as the second-highest total on the slate, the matchup between the Pacers and Grizzlies tops the list at a robust 237.5, while the three remaining games all check-in at lower totals. At 229.5, the Wizards – Bucks game has the next-highest mark on the board, but the Bucks are favored by 9.5 and there is some potential blowout risk involved. The Bulls and Pelicans, meanwhile, offer a 225.5 total in a game that should be much more closely contested while offering an abundance of quality mid-range options. The 215 on the board in the night’s first game between the Cavaliers and Raptors is the only truly lackluster spot for potential NBA DFS point-scoring, but there are both price and opportunity-based plays that can be utilized to gain leverage on the field. With several pieces of important news yet to emerge on the Toronto side, the Raptors starting five and available rotation pieces are worth monitoring.

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Overall, the slate is thin on extreme value plays, with most of the top players by optimal lineup rate coming from the mid-range in the afternoon updates, dictating more of a balanced lineup build. That should fit a slate where several of the key stars have already been ruled out. All three of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and DeMar DeRozan are already out, Chris Paul still seems unlikely to take the floor, and all three of Ja Morant, Zach LaVine and Brandon Ingram are questionable. With the litany of injuries, values are sure to emerge, but there may be a dearth of true stars for which one has to conserve salary in NBA DFS lineup constructions. (Update: Morant was ruled out, LaVine was ruled in)

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 five games on the slate, this article will focus on the top probability 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 $6,500 — PF/C | FD $5,000 — PF/C

With both of the Bucks’ primary weapons taking a seat tonight, big man Bobby Portis and point guard Jrue Holiday rocket to the top of the board in Awesemo’s probability metrics on both sites. The afternoon update has both players at significant popularity across the industry, but their rates of success far outpace the degree to which the public is including them in lineups, creating excellent leverage on the two top plays of the day. Portis comes in with 1.08 fantasy point per minute across all situations this season. The sturdy contributor gets to that level of production on a 57.7% true shooting percentage and a 14.9% rebounding rate, as well as two stocks per-36. In 278 minutes without both Antetokounmpo and Middleton on the floor, Portis has maintained a 1.09 per-minute rate, Holiday has been the primary beneficiary in this situation when it comes to increased fantasy production. In 389 minutes without the team’s top two options on the floor this season, Holiday seizes the reins, leaping from 1.13 fantasy points per minute to a massive 1.47 mark. The point guard’s usage skyrockets from his usual 23.2% to a ridiculous 37.2%, while Portis climbs more casually from 20.6% to 25.3%, the second-highest mark on the team. As the obvious focal points for the Bucks this evening, both players should be rostered in a majority of lineups on both sites tonight.

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On the DraftKings slate, Portis sits third behind another featured player and his teammate, with a 38.4% optimal lineup appearance rate. Holiday leads the way at a massive 53.3% probability of landing in the optimal lineup, and he comes at efficient ownership with a 0.8 leverage score. That mark, however, pales in comparison to the leverage available on the Bucks big man, Portis checks in at a targetable 4.9 leverage score despite his terrific probability marks for the salary. He will be owned by merely 33.5% of the field, despite positional flexibility between power forward and center and an easily affordable $6,500 salary. Portis is projected for a 38.8-point median score and he has a top-end 37.39% boom score probability. At that rate of hitting his salary-adjusted required ceiling score, Portis lands sixth overall, first among power forwards and second at the center position. With only superstar Nikola Jokic ahead of him at the center, and the ability to roster the pair of dynamic big men together in lineups, Portis is something of a no-brainer on this slate. The Bucks’ forward is an excellent option for both scoring upside and leverage on tonight’s DraftKings NBA DFS slate.

Portis is the most frequently optimal player on the FanDuel slate. He costs a mere $5,000 on the blue site, with eligibility at both power forward and center, while outpacing Holiday by 2.7 percentage points of optimal lineup appearance rate. With Portis at a 57.7% mark and Holiday landing in the top lineup in 55% of simulated slates, both Bucks are go-to pieces on this slate. Holiday is efficiently owned, but Portis lands at a targetable leverage score of 6.5, despite 51.2% projected public popularity. Even if the leverage gap closes, both Bucks should be rostered in most FanDuel lineups, they are simply too cheap for their potential tonight. Holiday is an $8,200 option at either guard spot, and he comes with a 51.57% boom score probability. Portis, meanwhile, is also the slate’s leading candidate to hit his salary-adjusted required ceiling score, getting to that mark a projected 67.69% of the time, while coming in with a 36.63-point median projection that is already a strong number. Holiday and Portis are the two top options on FanDuel, they will be extremely popular but they should be targeted in all situations unless things change dramatically in later updates. If the need to decide between the two somehow arises, Portis is the stronger tournament play as he comes with positive leverage on both sites.

Zach LaVine: DK $7,700 — SG | FD $7,200 — SG

The Bulls proactively announced their injury situation early in the afternoon today, allowing NBA DFS gamers the time to plan for their current configuration. While Lonzo Ball continues to be out, he will be joined by DeMar DeRozan this evening, with the other relevant Bulls, including Zach LaVine, confirmed to be available. LaVine will be the main beneficiary from the absence of his teammates, he is projected for a high median score and excellent probability metrics on both sites tonight. The guard averages 1.08 fantasy points per minute on 28.5% usage across all situations this season, in the 408 minutes he has seen this season without either teammate on the floor, LaVine leaps to a team-leading 32.9% usage rate and 1.28 fantasy points per minute. That should be the expectation, at a minimum, for the flashy scorer tonight. LaVine is a strong contributor, he has a 60.5% true shooting percentage and a 21.4% assist rate this season, while making 2.9 threes and adding 1.1 stocks per-36. LaVine seems likely to draw increased popularity as lock approaches, but it is unlikely to impact his status as one of the top options on either site tonight.

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On the FanDuel slate, the Bulls guard lands in a tie with Holiday at a 55% optimal lineup appearance rate, the second-highest on the slate. LaVine will be under-owned by comparison to Holiday. While the Bucks point guard is projected for 58.1% popularity atop the slate, LaVine comes in with a 47.7% ownership projection that helps elevate him to a highly desirable 7.3 leverage score. As one of the key points for both upside, LaVine should be targeted at well beyond his public ownership. He has a 43.83-point median projection and a 55.86% boom score probability that leads all players who are not named Bobby Portis or Tyus Jones. With Grizzlies star Ja Morant absent this evening as well, Jones will be a strong mid-range value play, but his popularity is outpacing his optimal rate in the current standings. LaVine at positive leverage is an extremely appealing option when building FanDuel NBA DFS lineups tonight. His boom score probability leads all shooting guard options, after Holiday the next-highest player at the position is Indiana’s Buddy Hield, who hits his ceiling score 44.26% of the time. Hield and Jones are both quality options from a different salary tier, when there is money to be spent, LaVine is one of the top available stars on the entire slate tonight.

As a $7,700 option at shooting guard, LaVine is an excellent play on DraftKings as well. He is projected for a 46.4-point median score and he is carrying an excellent 39.9% boom score probability, second to only Holiday on the site. LaVine lands in the optimal lineup in 50.1% of simulated slates, also second overall to Holiday, with whom he can be paired from the top of the heap. The Bulls guard will be owned by a projected 39.9% of the public, leaving him at a targetable 10.2 leverage score. While that number will surely come back toward Earth before the games start, LaVine may not reach appropriate public ownership. Even if he slips slightly into negative leverage, the sheer upside and probability available in the play would be worth finding points of differentiation at other positions in a DraftKings NBA DFS lineup construction. LaVine should be a major part of most optimal construction patterns across the industry tonight, he is too cheap for this situation and the upside is clear.


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Nikola Jokic: DK $11,400 — C | FD $11,800 — C

With fellow stars dropping off the board in droves, Nuggets superstar center Nikola Jokic is now the night’s most expensive player by $1,700 on DraftKings and $2,300 on FanDuel. And yet, the dominance of the player shines through in defiance of the largesse required in rostering him. Jokic is one of the leading probability plays on both sites and he is unrivaled at his position. The superstar is the NBA’s leading creator of fantasy points, his 1.74 per-minute mark easily leads the slate in the absence of Antetokounmpo, the league’s only other similar contributor. After Jokic, the slate’s next-best rates of fantasy point production are the 1.36 and 1.33 marks carried by backup big men JaVale McGee and DeMarcus Cousins respectively. Among regulars, Kristaps Porzingis is the top contributor after Jokic at just 1.30 fantasy points per-minute, a rate approaching half a point less per minute than the Nuggets big man produces. Jokic is the best option on any slate, this is not a ground-breaking paragraph by any means, but he is featured in this space to illustrate how easily playable he is despite the hefty salary, and how incumbent it is upon NBA DFS gamers to utilize him in lineups tonight based on his probabilities.

Jokic is the fourth-most frequently optimal player at any position in Awesemo’s simulated DraftKings slates, landing in the top lineup 32.4% of the time. This is in spite of his dramatically different price from anyone else who will be taking the court tonight. There is easily enough value to reach Jokic’s big $11,400 mark; Bulls guard Coby White is now a strong option from the value tier for just $4,200 at either guard position, and the other top contributors, including LaVine, Holiday and Portis, can all be rostered around Jokic in viable constructions. The center stands taller than value options at his position as well. Goga Bitadze averages 1.09 fantasy points per minute who is projected for an extended 29-minutes at a $4,900 salary tonight. Even at that rate, the excellent value player lands in the optimal lineup just 20.7% of the time. He can be rostered alongside Jokic, but the star is clearly outpacing the value. Jokic is only 8 percentage points less frequently optimal than Bitadze’s rate plus the 21.4% at which Brook Lopez appears optimal for $4,300, illustrating his true potential tonight. Jokic is projected for a 61.5-point median score, 11.8 raw points higher than Holiday to lead the entire slate. There is no comparison for Jokic on tonight’s board, lineups can be compiled to reach high median projections in different ways, but the center cannot be replicated in the aggregate, he is too strong a contributor and he should be rostered ahead of the public’s efficient 31.6% projection.

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On the FanDuel slate, Jokic lands in the optimal lineup 31.2% of the time, again making him the top available center on the board behind multi-positional Portis. Jokic is projected for a slate-leading 58.64-point FanDuel median score, outpacing the field by 11.3 fantasy points on this site as well. He has a 35.65% probability of hitting his required salary-adjusted ceiling score despite the ridiculous margin between his salary and the next-highest price on the board. Jokic’s rate of hitting his ceiling score lands 14th overall on the slate, he falls in behind a few other centers in the category, including Bitadze who comes in at a 35.67% mark despite a $6,000 salary on the slate. The Pacers’ center only lands in the optimal lineup in 5.1% of simulations, however, because he cannot be rostered alongside the far more optimal Jokic. Steven Adams and Nikola Vucevic also outpace Jokic by boom score probability, but both players fall behind him by optimal lineup appearance rate, and both come at negative leverage rates. With Jokic efficiently owned at 33.1% he is easy to target for shares beyond the rate of public consumption on the blue site tonight. The Nuggets superstar is easily the top option for his median projection, his positional optimal rates and the sheer probability of his being at by far the highest raw fantasy point total at the end of the night, given the other options available on the slate.


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

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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