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NBA Optimal Lineups Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel Dejounte Murray | Thursday, Dec. 23

Terry McBride

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A large Thursday slate includes 11 games and so far none of them have been postponed. The league has seen a number of players either enter or exit the health and safety protocols in the last 24 hours, with the revolving door of availability swinging ever onward. The NBA DFS slate takes an interesting shape with the large number of value plays and the more significant tier of top-shelf expensive stars that are available in various combinations. The ability to roster multiple stars on the slate should push the fantasy point scoring expectation once again, and the optimal construction path appears to be strongly toward that type of construction. The board in Vegas includes a 230-point total in the late game in Denver between the Hornets and Nuggets as well as a 227.5-point total between the Timberwolves and Jazz in Utah. There are many targets for NBA DFS upside between those two games but gamers should plan on a broad mix of plays from the best overall spots across the large slate.

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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 11 games and a lot of unpredictability on the board, this article will focus on several of 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.

Dejounte Murray: DraftKings — $10,300 — PG | FanDuel — $9,900 — PG/SG

On a slate where we can afford essentially any combination of stars, several stand out for both upside and positive leverage on both sites. Anyone who has been a regular visitor to this space all season knows we have ridden the Dejounte Murray rocket from the mid-range up to the now $10,000 price level, but the Spurs point guard simply won’t stop producing, and he looks good across the NBA DFS industry once again, despite a massive salary. Murray has delivered at every turn this season, he is the only player who took a major leap in salary who has not bumped his head on a price ceiling, his 1.34 fantasy point per minute rate across all situations is up from a 1.11 mark last year despite increasing his usage from 23.1% to just 24.8%. Murray has a sharp 35.3% assist percentage and a high-quality 11.6% rebounding rate. In his most recent outing, Murray played 31 minutes and delivered a monster 69.7-point FanDuel point performance. He has averaged 1.65 fantasy points per minute in 34.3 minutes per game over the team’s last three and he stands a good chance to put up a similar mark against the Lakers tonight.

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Murray is a $9,900 option at either guard spot on the FanDuel slate, where he lands in the optimal lineup in 23.7% of simulated slates. The premium guard play ranks sixth overall by optimal rate on the site, falling in behind value play de jour redux Delon Wright, who fits in at both guard spots for $4,500; Stephen Curry, who slots in at the point guard only and actually costs $200 less than Murray; Cam Reddish, who delivered in a major way after being featured in his space yesterday and fits in at the shooting guard and small forward spot for a cheap $4,300; and Jalen Brunson, who should be the lead producer in Dallas again for just $7,400 at both guard spots. That group with the addition of Murray would make for a fine core of plays across both guard positions in NBA DFS lineup building on the blue site, but only Murray and Curry come with positive leverage. The Warriors superstar will be rostered by 27.8% of the FanDuel public, leaving him with a 2.9 leverage score, while Murray is in 18.1% of lineups and carries a 5.6 leverage score. The sharp tip of the spur in San Antonio is projected for a 48-point median projection with a 25.7% boom score probability that ranks him 12th overall on the slate, but fourth among players priced at $9,000 or higher. Murray makes for a strong star-level differentiation piece, he does not come by as many shares as his peers via optimizers, given the nature of the pricing, but he can provide a strong alternative to his chalkier and more poorly leveraged peers.

On the DraftKings slate, the Spurs point guard will be challenged by a $10,300 salary, the eighth-most expensive player on the slate. That does little to slow him down in the probability metrics, however, Murray is projected for a 48.3-point median score which lands him in the optimal lineup in 14.4% of simulated slates, the seventh-most frequently optimal player at any position on the site. Murray lands behind only the more expensive star option Nikola Jokic, who comes in at $12,200 but lands in the optimal lineup in 22.6% of simulations, although that comes at negative leverage. Murray is projected for a 12.4% ownership share on the DraftKings slate, which leaves him positively leveraged to the playable tune of a 2.0. He is carrying a 21.5% boom score probability despite the major salary allocation, while that lands just 21st overall, it sits second to only Jokic’s ridiculous 37% mark among any player priced above $8,500. Murray is a strong option on this slate as well, with the low raw ownership total and excellent relative probabilities on this slate, he can be rostered beyond the field even at an uncomfortable salary.


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Guillermo “Willy” Hernangomez: DraftKings — $3,800 — C | FanDuel — $4,600 — PF/C

On a value-based slate, there is no ignoring the significance of Guillermo Hernangomez in early projections today. The Pelicans big man is projected for a 28.3-minute night, with regular starter Jonas Valanciunas on the shelf. Hernangomez should see roughly starter’s minutes in the rotation and he is an inexpensive option who has averaged 1.34 fantasy points per minute in his limited 14.2 minute-per-night role in 18 games this season. Hernangomez played 17 minutes in the team’s most recent game and he produced a 23.2-point night, extrapolating for more minutes provides a very nice fantasy score for the money tonight. The center is a solid multi-category contributor, in his limited action in a backup role, Hernangomez has a 15.2% assist share and a 21.8% rebounding percentage this season, as well as a 68.3% true shooting percentage. The lone issue with Hernangomez on both sites is his popularity, barring a major value opening with news he is very likely to be the most popular player in NBA DFS lineups tonight.

On the DraftKings slate, Hernangomez costs a mere $3,800 and seemingly should be in every lineup. The center is projected for a 36-point median fantasy score and he lands in the optimal lineup in 56.1% of Awesemo’s simulated slates. While the leverage is at a -7.2 and his ownership is a massive 63.3%, Hernangomez outpaces the next best option by optimal lineup rate at any position by more than 25 percentage points, and he is roughly 34 percentage points ahead of Jokic, the next most frequently optimal center. The ability to roster both center-only plays on the slate has power, Jokic and Hernangomez will be a very popular combination, but the play is warranted and can be utilized as long as lineup differentiation is considered in other areas of the build. The Pelicans center has a gargantuan 84.1% boom score probability on DraftKings, by far the highest on the site tonight, and one of the highest we have seen all season, he appears to be as good as good chalk can get tonight.

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At a higher price on the FanDuel slate, Hernangomez retains value by adding power forward eligibility. The slate would probably be more interesting if FanDuel had limited the strong value play to the singular center spot, but with the ability to play alongside options like Jokic on the blue site as well, Hernangomez also vaults to the top of probability categories on this site. The big man has a 34.8-point median projection and a mountain of a boom score probability that peaks in the clouds at 67.9%. The public is all over the play on this side of town too, however, Hernangomez is protected for a 63.1% ownership share which is cast against a 47.2% optimal lineup appearance rate on the site. At a -15.9 leverage score and not as extreme a value rate, Hernangomez still makes for playable chalk, but there are pieces that are at least worthy of consideration as lower-owned alternatives. Still, the inherent upside in his probability marks cannot be ignored, Hernangomez seems much more like a building block on this slate than he does a player to be avoided. As long as the minutes are there, the production should be as well.

LaMelo Ball: DraftKings — $9,900 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $9,600 — PG

Coming in slightly less expensive than Dejounte Murray on both sites while playing in the game with the night’s highest total and a tight point spread, Hornets star guard LaMelo Ball looks to be in a strong spot to produce. The Hornets are one of the more relatively healthy teams on the board, but Ball produces in all situations and he is projected slightly above his average minutes tonight due to a few missing bench pieces. Ball has produced a 1.37 fantasy point per minute mark across all situations this season and he has been a 1.42 per-minute player over the team’s most recent three games. He is not a discount option, the pricing is efficient for his median projection on both sites, but there is an upside in the player and current ownership projections show the public well behind the play.

On DraftKings, Ball is a $9,900 option at either guard position. He has a 44.4-point median projection that compares favorably with the other top guards on the slate and other players at his price tier across all positions. Ball lands as an optimal guard play in 9.7% of simulated slates on DraftKings. That mark seems low when compares with the sky-high rates of some of the value players, but the board drops to just 16.7% as of the sixth-ranked John Collins, and there are a host of players at similar rankings with small differences based on price and positioning. Ball has a low 15.3% boom score probability for the aggressive price tag, but the field is slated for just 7.2% ownership which leaves him at a 2.5 leverage score. While he may not be a piece to get over-exposed to, Ball does have value as an alternate option at the star level, he should be owned at a rate beyond the point at which the field is currently projected.

The play looks stronger on the FanDuel slate. Ball loses his shooting guard eligibility, but the price drops to $9,600 and he lands in th optimal lineup in 13% of simulated slates, good for 22nd overall. He has a 14.1% boom score probability and a 42.9-point median projection on the slate, but the public is projected for just a 5.8% ownership share, leaving the star guard at a 7.2 leverage score. Depending on the nature of the lineup under construction, Ball can be rostered alongside other star guards, or in place of them. He works well with a variety of complementary plays, despite the lack of positional flexibility. There is enough ability to move the major building blocks on the slate from position to position that Ball can become a plug-and-play point guard in three times as many lineups as the field with ease, which would still not be dangerous exposure if the play does not hit a ceiling.


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

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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