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NBA Optimal Lineups Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel Darius Garland | Saturday, Dec. 18

Terry McBride



NBA DFS DraftKings FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball Optimal lIneups

Saturday’s six-game slate is racked with chaos as every team deals with the fallout from the ongoing battles with COVID-19 exposures and the league’s stringent testing and protocols. The lists of inactive players for each team are in many cases longer than the lists of available players, the Thunder are the only team that only has one player confirmed to be out as of the mid-afternoon, most teams are down several key players with stars and role players alike scratched leaguewide. The last game of the night, between the Wizards and Jazz, is carrying the highest total of the day at 223.5, with the Jazz favored by 9.5 at home. The potential for a blowout is real and the Jazz are a difficult matchup for better teams than Washington, making the late-night hammer game slightly less appealing than it may seem on the Vegas board. The rest of the slate ranges from the lowly 203 total in the Warriors vs Raptors game out to the mid-teens and features value and salary-based upside from all corners.

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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 six games and a ridiculous amount of value plays on the board, this article will focus on a range of different 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.

Kessler Edwards: DraftKings — $4,800 — SF | FanDuel — $5,900 — SF

With Kyrie Irving announcing that he was beginning the process of returning to the Nets, then immediately entering the Health and Safety Protocols, Brooklyn is up to an 11-man roster on the inactive list, 12 if we count currently questionable Nicolas Claxton. This triage hospital of a rotation is taking on an even more ludicrously depleted squad, with Orlando forced to include a few players who are technically the property of Disney World after being lost in the park years ago as children. The odd matchup has Brooklyn’s Kessler Edwards standing as an interesting NBA DFS play across both sites tonight in his projected 35.2 minutes in a starting role. Edwards has played four NBA games this season, posting a 0.78 fantasy point per minute rate across all situations. Over the team’s last three games, Edwards has averaged 44 minutes a night but has slipped marginally to a 0.76 per-minute mark. In a significant amount of time on the court that should be fine production at the low prices, and the field is behind the curve on Edwards after he posted a clunker of a 22.4 fantasy point performance in 33 minutes the last time out.


Edwards is priced up to $5,900 as a small forward on the FanDuel slate. Despite the higher than expected price for a player most people just heard of for the first time, Edwards lands in the optimal lineup in a significant 17.8% of simulated slates for the blue site, putting him a tick ahead of the field’s projected ownership. The forward is projected for a 31.7-point median score on the FanDuel slate and he has a 27.2% boom score probability. That lands firmly in the mid-range this evening, there are several absurd salary-based plays that have boom scores in the 60% range, with all of Juan Toscano-AndersonGary Payton IIChuma Okeke, and Robin Lopez cracking that mak. All four of those players come negatively leveraged with ownership projections landing more than 10 percentage points above what is projected for Edwards. While he is not a building-block piece like the value pricing makes those players, at a 2.8 leverage score there is every reason to extend for the Nets player in the right lineup constructions, he is a strong point of differentiation with the possibility of point-scoring upside.

The Nets small forward is listed at a less expensive price on the DraftKings slate, where he costs just $4,800. This has him landing in the optimal lineup in 28.6% of simulated slates, the seventh-highest ranked player on the entire slate. The price has him comparing favorably in the category to the same list of value players from the Warriors and Magic, who are all priced in the $3,000s on this slate. Edwards is projected for a 33.6-point median score and he has a 58.1% boom score probability. Again, that mark falls short of the salary-based expectation on the lower-cost values, Okeke also has small forward eligibility and he is carrying a 69.4% boom score probability against just a $3,800 salary, but he is also at a 40.9% ownership projection and a -10.5 leverage score. Edwards, by contrast, is at a 24.2% ownership projection and a 4.4 leverage score, he is a highly appealing play for value that can also help differentiate lineup construction.

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Jayson Tatum: DraftKings — $9,800 — SF/PF| FanDuel — $9,700 — SF/PF

On a slate with value plays galore, it becomes very easy to build lineups that include star players or even multiple stars. The piles of surplus salary sitting on the table and the massive amount of minutes and usage available on the hardwood are combining to float Boston’s Jayson Tatum to the very top of the board on both sites tonight. Tatum has been a rock for the Celtics all season, the team’s best player has come on of late in terms of fantasy scoring after an effective but slow start and he is now up to a 1.22 fantasy point per minute rate on 31.7% usage. That mark still trails the 1.23 that he posted on 29.8% usage last season, but Tatum also saw 42 minutes the last time out and is averaging 36.5 per game, he has excellent raw scoring potential for NBA DFS slates as a multi-category contributor who has an 18.1% assist percentage and 11.3% rebounding rate. Tatum is highly owned on both sites, but the popularity is warranted, he is a strong pay-up building block tonight.

On FanDuel, Tatum lands in the optimal lineup in exactly half of Awesemo’s simulated slates. He will be owned by the field at nearly the same rate, though technically his 0.80 leverage score is on the right side of zero. Tatum is carrying a 45.9-point median projection and a 23.1% boom score probability on the slate. That mark obviously trails the extreme value plays on the board, but it ranks 21st overall on the slate and is second-highest among all players priced above $6,500 on the slate. Tatum is a targetable player at the top of the board with all the money to spend tonight, the ownership is significant but not overly concerning, given the shape of the slate.

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At the top of the board on DraftKings as well, Tatum ranks similarly as a pay-up play. He lands in the optimal lineup in 43% of simulated slates and has a 43.7% ownership projection, which leaves him with a tidy efficient -0.7 leverage score that can be played despite the weight. Tatum’s 48.4 median projection and 27.4% boom score probability are the top marks among players with significant salaries on this slate, many of the other stars are missing in action, leaving Tatum as the best option on the top shelf. Paul George is currently questionable, which has him projected for low ownership, but that will change with news and George has just a 9.8% boom score probability at a higher $10,500 salary. Julius Randle lands in the optimal lineup in 24.8% of simulated slates and he is at a 25.1% popularity mark, but just a 13% boom score probability from a lower median projection of 45.2. Either player can likely be rostered alongside Tatum in viable constructions, but the Celtics forward is the choice if we choose to ignore the ownership, which is a luxury this slate is affording.

Darius Garland: DraftKings — $8,300 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $7,500 — SG/PG

From slightly down the board and the mid-range of salary across both sites, Cavaliers guard Darius Garland looks like an interesting option for lineup differentiation without the sacrifice of scoring potential this evening. Garland is a 0.99 fantasy point per minute player on 25.1% usage across all situations this season, and he has been at a 1.12 rate in 32.7 minutes per game over the team’s three most recent outings. The Cavaliers are currently looking like one of the more relatively healthy teams on the board, but we know they will be without at least rookie big man Evan Mobley and Isaac Okoro. Garland will see plenty of minutes, game log watchers need not worry about the 25-minute outing in the team’s last game, Garland rested the entire fourth quarter in what was ultimately a 124-89 rout of the Rockets.

Garland is an $8,300 option at both guard positions on the DraftKings slate. He is not an extreme upside standout at just a 13.8% boom score probability, his price is, at worst, fair for the anticipated production, but on this sort of slate, it pays to book the potential for strong raw point totals into lineup constructions. Garland is projected for a 38.3-point median scoring night and he lands in the optimal lineup in 19% of simulated slates, ranking him 15th overall with largely a mix of guard and small forward options above him on the board. With an ownership projection slightly below that mark, Garland stands as a solid option with a whiff of leverage, though it amounts to just a 0.60 score with his 18.4% projected public popularity.

The Cavaliers guard is an even stronger option for just a $7,500 salary on the FanDuel slate. Garland carries eligibility at both guard spots on the site and his flexibility and low cost have him landing in the optimal lineup in 27% of simulated slates, ranking him ninth on the slate at any position. Garland lands fourth on the board among eligible small forward. but second among point guards, he is an extremely interesting option on the blue site but the public is not getting to him at nearly the same clip as some of the value players at the position. This leaves Garland under-exposed at just 24.3% ownership, which creates a 2.7 leverage score that can be targeted for differentiation and cost-based upside. Garland is projected for a 35.8-point median score and he has a 17.8% boom score probability on the site, the 14th highest raw projection but the fifth-highest boom score probability among those 14 players.

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