After a wild 13-game night, NBA DFS action returns to some semblance of sanity with a three-game affair on Thursday. The small slate features a pair of early games tipping off at 7:30 ET with the Suns facing the Mavericks in a tight contest with a 216.5 total and the Pelicans in New York to face the Knicks in a game that comes in at just 209.5. The late-night affair is a lopsided contest on the board in Vegas, with the Warriors coming in as -11.5 favorites over the Pacers, who are expected to be without star big man Domantas Sabonis, though he is still currently a game-time decision. There are absence-based value plays in several corners of this slate, Suns center DeAndre Ayton is out once again, as is Warriors’ star grinder Draymond Green. The Pacers are the most depleted team on the board, however, and several options from the squad are spiking value in probability metrics such as boom score and optimal lineup rates.
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 three games on the slate, this article will focus on several of the top leverage 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.
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.
Kristaps Porzingis: DraftKings — $7,600 — PF | FanDuel –$8,500 — PF/C
One of the top pieces on the entire slate, skilled Dallas big man Kristaps Porzingis looks under-owned across the industry despite coming in at a fair price on the blue site and an arguably discounted rate on DraftKings. The Mavericks are squaring up against the Suns in what should be a hard-fought game that produces several key performances for NBA DFS purposes, Porzingis averages 1.28 fantasy points per minute for the season, which is a good clue to who one of those top performers might be tonight. He has a 12.4% assist rate and 12.7% rebounding percentage to go with the 57% true shooting percentage for the season and he sees 30.3 minutes a night, giving him a platform to produce reliable fantasy scoring output. Porzingis is projected for 30.9 minute. He is one of the top options at any position on either site tonight, but he is not getting owned like it, creating an opportunity for sharp gamers.
Porzingis is in the optimal lineup in 37.2% of Awesemo’s simulated slates for DraftKings tonight, the fifth-highest mark at any position and the second-best among power forwards on the site. Porzingis lands behind Knicks star Julius Randle at the position, but he costs just $7,600 compared to Randle’s $9,100 price tag. He is carrying a 35.9% popularity projection compared to just 24.8% for Porzingis. There are just six fantasy points separating the two players when we look at their median projection on DraftKings, and it is Porzingis who comes up with the larger boom score probability, hitting a ceiling score 21.6% of the time compared to Randle’s 19.8%. With a 12.4 leverage score in his pocket, Porzingis is the top option for secure differentiation in lineup construction on the DraftKings NBA DFS slate tonight, it is atypical to find a star-caliber player as the fifth-most frequently optimal player while also getting him at the second-highest leverage score on the entire slate, take advantage of the opportunity.
Things are much the same on the FanDuel slate. Porzingis comes in with a 46.4% optimal lineup appearance rate despite a higher $8,500 price tag. He has eligibility at power forward and center on the site and the optimal lineup rate ranks third overall at any position. The two players ahead of Porzingis by optimal lineup rate are fellow stars Stephen Curry and Julius Randle, with the rest of the top-6 rounded out by Devin Booker, Luka Doncic and Chris Paul. It is almost impossible to have the top six most frequently optimal players on any given slate all come from the top-tier of salary, but that is the nature of the FanDuel board tonight. Getting to a spread of star options while mixing in the positively leveraged options from the mid-range is a sound approach to lineup construction for this slate. The fact that Porzingis comes in with a ludicrous 13.7 leverage score makes him a major value for differentiation and upside on this slate, despite the 32.7% raw projected ownership. Porzingis is the top leverage play from among the stars. He is carrying just a 10.7% boom score probability with the inflated salary on the site, but he is well worth building into lineups on this site for his median projection alone.
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Devin Booker: DraftKings — $8,300 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $9,000 — SG
Another option from the top shelf in the early game comes in the form of Suns’ star scorer Devin Booker. The guard checks in with 1.18 fantasy points per minute on 31.2% usage this season, up nicely from the 1.09 he turned in on 31.9% usage last year. Booker posted a slate-bending 72 FanDuel points in just 35 minutes last game, showing off his clear ceiling-score upside. Booker is primarily a scorer, but he has a solid 20.8% assist percentage and a 7.7% rebounding rate this year, and he can contribute in a number of ways across his projected 36.8 minutes tonight. With the industry trailing the play on both sites, Booker makes for another strong target when it comes to both the probability of posting a required score and a lack of popularity, key ingredients to cooking up a lineup that has access to the top of GPP standings.
On the FanDuel slate, Booker appears in the optimal lineup in 41.4% of Awesemo’s simulated slates. He has eligibility at only the shooting guard position and costs $9,000 on the site, but he is one of the key pieces from the top of the board. Booker fits into the list of premium players who are frequently optimal on FanDuel tonight. He can be rostered alongside Porzingis to take two plays from the top of the optimal list, both of which offer strong positive leverage marks. In fact, Booker’s 7.7 leverage score is the fourth highest on the entire slate, behind Porzingis at the top, followed by value play Goga Bitadze and Curry. With Booker projected for 33.7% ownership, he will not be unpopular, but the field is not catching up to the rate at which we find the shooting guard optimal, giving him a strong edge over other selections. Booker has a 12.8% boom score probability and a 40-point median projection on FanDuel tonight. He should be included in more lineups than the rate at which the field is utilizing him.
Booker lands in the optimal lineup in 49.5% of simulated slates. That mark stands six percentage points ahead of value center JaVale McGee and nearly 10 percentage points ahead of Randle and Luka Doncic. Booker comes in at just an $8,300 salary and he has eligibility at both guard spots on the DraftKings slate, extending his utility and his upside on the slate. The Suns’ guard has a 26.1% boom score probability at the lower comparative salary, and he is carrying a 42.1-point median projection into the slate. To reiterate what came up in the Porzingis writeup above, it is rare to find such a well-projected frequently optimal star-caliber player at a strong positive leverage mark. On this slate, we have at least two. Booker checks in just behind Porzingis with a 10.0 leverage score on tonight’s slate. The pair make for a compelling first two clicks in DraftKings NBA DFS lineups tonight.
Torrey Craig: DraftKings — $3,800 — SF/PF | FanDuel — $3,500 — SG
With a preponderance of star players at the top of the probability board today, value plays will be a necessity in lineup construction. The Pacers look like one of the more likely sources for underpriced upside when it comes to fantasy point scoring tonight. The team is expected to be without Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, which should create significant opportunities in the frontcourt. Bitadze is priced up at $5,000 on FanDuel, which reduces his optimal lineup rate but also drives away ownership, making him an oddball differentiation play. On DraftKings Bitadze will be more popular at his $3,700 price, but not to a degree that has caught up to his 23.9% optimal lineup rate, making him a top play at a 14.2 leverage score. While Bitadze comes in at low raw ownership, his teammate Torrey Craig looks to be a solid value play with stronger probability metrics across both sites tonight. Craig averages 0.75 fantasy points per minute across all situations so far this season, in the team’s most recent game he put up a 28.6-point night in 31 minutes, and he is expected to play a similar role for a low price again tonight.
Craig costs $3,800 at either forward position on the DraftKings slate. He is projected for a 23.5-point median score, not the most exciting number on the board in its raw form, but his low salary has a 28.8% boom score probability along for the ride, the third-highest mark on the board and one that leads to a reasonable expectation of ceiling-score upside. Craig lands in the optimal lineup in 30% of Awesemo’s simulated DraftKings slates, but he will be owned at a rate well behind that by the public, unless things change when his status is confirmed. The news seems likely to push ownership slightly closer to the optimal lineup rate, but as things currently stand, Craig has a 6.1 leverage score that makes him one of the top differentiation points on the slate. Despite his probability rates indicating that he is a fundamental piece of lineup construction tonight, the field is thus far not getting to Craig frequently enough. He should be rostered aggressively as a helping hand in reaching the star-caliber plays who lead the slate.
Craig is a minimum-priced shooting guard on the blue site tonight. His 31.2% optimal lineup appearance rate ranks 11th best on the slate, and he comes at a sound 6.3 leverage score. The public is too far behind the curve on a min-priced player who is projected for a 30-minute night, an odd situation on a slate where the most frequently optimal players are all high-priced stars. The nature of lineup construction on FanDuel tonight should lead to more shares of Craig landing in public lineups once his status is confirmed, but if the positive leverage remains this is a no-brainer of a value play. Craig is projected for a 23.1-point median FanDuel score and he has a slate-leading 35.5% boom score probability, which should help to clarify the upside available assuming the playing time is there. The field is projected to include Craig in about a quarter of their lineups as of the mid-afternoon ownership update. That will be a mistake if Craig goes off at positive leverage from a minimum salary unless Sabonis plays or Craig’s playing time expectation is otherwise radically altered.
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Looking for more NBA DFS strategy and the best NBA DFS advice? We also have Yahoo! rankings, FanDuel ownership rankings and DraftKings ownership rankings for today's slate. Our basketball DFS projections are updated regularly, including whenever any relevant news breaks. Check out our DFS basketball rankings for fantasy points and values that are derived directly from Alex Baker's own NBA DFS projections. View our Yahoo! ownership projections, our FanDuel ownership and our DraftKings ownership.
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