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NBA DFS Optimizer Picks Tonight for DraftKings & FanDuel Lineups Cade Cunningham | Thursday 3/17/22

Terry McBride

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Yahoo Fantasy Basketball rankings and NBA DFS picks today Cade Cunningham Nikola Jokic

This Thursday is many things, the start of the Tournament, St. Patrick’s Day, and the day that the NBA forgot. With the league largely yielding the day’s basketball viewing public to the junior varsity, only one (extremely lousy) game is on the professional schedule for NBA DFS contests tonight. With the Pistons playing the Magic in a game with a 219-point total and the hometown Magic favored by 1.5, one begins to wonder exactly where these two squads would be seeded among 64 college teams. To make matters even more interesting, both teams will be without a number of players, and several others are currently questionable on the injury report. Still, there are relevant DFS contests to be played and sizable prize pools to be won across the industry, so on we grind.

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Of course, the one-game schedule dictates a format change, with DraftKings employing their Showdown setup wherein a total of six players are rostered, with one player selected as the Captain with both his salary and his fantasy points multiplied by 1.5. On FanDuel, the format is wildly different. The site does not multiply salaries, but rosters include five positions, with an MVP whose fantasy points double, a STAR who receives a 1.5x kicker, and a PRO who has 20% added on top of his score. Without a salary multiplier, the FanDuel contest becomes a game of stacking the correct order of pure fantasy point-scoring, while DraftKings creates strategy nuance via the salary multiplier. The top overall player for median fantasy points projection may not be the optimal player in the Captain spot after his multiplied salary is considered.

Typically this space analyzes players’ optimal lineup appearance rates, boom score probabilities, and ownership/leverage to come to conclusions about their overall value. With just one game and a limited set of options on the slate, we will focus on ownership of players in various roles from site to site, with an eye toward identifying potentially underappreciated players who can be utilized in multiplier positions, using the NBA DFS Boom/Bust Tool.

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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 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.

Cade Cunningham: DK $16,200 — CPT| FD $14,500 — PG

Currently listed as questionable on the injury report, Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham comes into tonight’s slate as the most expensive player on both sites. The young guard has been a 1.04 fantasy points per minute player across all situations this season, getting to that rate on the back of a true shooting percentage that has been limiting him at just 49.7%, as well as a 27% assist rate and an 8.7% rebounding percentage. Cunningham’s salary in the Captain role on DraftKings sits $2,100 above the second-most expensive player on the board, Orlando’s Wendell Carter Jr. (note: Carter Jr. was ruled out at 3:30 as this column was being finalized) who looks like another strong option. Regardless of the high cost, Cunningham lands in a strong portion of the “optimal” lineup constructions coming off the top when crunching lineups for this slate in an optimizer. There is a distinction to be made between appearing in those lineups and the standard optimal lineup appearance rate typically cited in this space, but Cunningham can reliably be considered one of the better choices to provide a required fantasy score if he takes the floor tonight. Cunningham is the most popular selection in the Captain role on DraftKings at 24.6% and in the utility spot at 50.6%, exploring alternate Captain plays can provide significant savings that can be spread across every other position in a lineup, while quite easily re-creating the projection delta in the aggregate.

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Cunningham costs just $500 more than Carter Jr. on the FanDuel slate, he is a clear-cut option for any of the multiplier positions. An interesting wrinkle in FanDuel lineup building for single-game formats. Players who are projected for heavy ownership can go from over-exposed to a potential differentiator, simply based on the role in which they are deployed when ordering the multiplier positions. This, of course, comes with the potential risk of reducing his fantasy scoring output, but with several comparable plays, it makes sense to get to a range of selections anyway. Cunningham is the most popular MVP selection on the FanDuel slate at 38.4%, but he falls to third in popularity in the STAR spot at 15.9% and sits at just 8.6% popularity in the PRO role, the eighth highest ownership in that spot. Rostering the productive guard in the secondary or tertiary multiplier position can create lineup combinations with much better chances of being unique. Carter Jr. is projected within two FanDuel points of Cunningham’s median mark, but he is 10 percentage points less popular in the MVP spot, with every other decently projected player on the board rostered even less frequently. Deploying different selections in the multiplier spots across a range of lineups should be a key point of differentiation on this slate for FanDuel gamers.


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RJ Hampton: DK $3,200 — UTIL | FD $7,500 — PG

With minutes coming at a premium tonight, starting guard RJ Hampton appears to be somewhat neglected by the public, despite carrying a 28.5-minute projection and averaging 26.7 over Orlando’s three most recent games. Hampton is seeing time in the absence of Jalen Suggs, and he should have an opportunity to provide potentially differentiated fantasy point scoring in the single-game format. Hampton has just a 0.75 fantasy points per minute rate for the season and a concerning 0.45 mark in the extended role in the three most recent games. The guard has an unsightly 48.4% true shooting percentage and an 18.4% assist rate, looking at the stat lines does not paint a pretty picture of the player. Still, with so few options on the board and the extreme popularity going to the premium projection-based choices, it makes sense to consider ugly alternatives.

On the DraftKings slate, Hampton is projected for a 22.2-point median score, making him a favorable comparison point to more expensive teammate Markelle Fultz, and inserting him as the 10th highest projected scorer on the board. Hampton out-projects more expensive Cory Joseph, Kelly Olynyk, Moritz Wagner, and others, but he is projected to be less popular in the utility role at just 25.8% ownership. As a comparison point, Wagner is projected for 41.1% popularity and the similar Fultz will be at 28.9%. Joseph comes in with a lower 21.9% ownership mark, but the increased salary negates the difference. Hampton is not a strong option for the Captain role, he is unlikely to produce a ceiling game and, even considering the extreme savings that would be created by deploying his low salary in the multiplier role, that would be several bridges too far.

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On the FanDuel slate, Hampton can potentially be used in a back-end multiplier spot for the less risk-averse, but he is almost definitely a better play in the utility role, where he is projected for merely 10.5% popularity. Hampton will be rostered in the PRO multiplier spot by just 1.1% of the field and is at a 0.1% projection in the two bigger multiplier spots, but he is unlikely to pay off if rostered as either an MVP or STAR play. Hampton can deliver enough scoring to matter on a one-game slate, and his ownership is low enough to make a difference in creating a unique lineup. The guard has just a 21.41-point median projection, but there are only so many options available on this slate, and only three of them are projected for more than 30 median FanDuel points. Anyone with a pulse, and particularly those with a 20-point projection, is in play in this contest.


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

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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