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NBA Optimal Lineups Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel Domantas Sabonis | Tuesday, Jan. 4

Terry McBride

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A five-game slate filled with intrigue promises to entertain NBA DFS gamers on Tuesday night. The board in Vegas features a pair of games carrying 224.5 totals and a third that stretches to 230.5, with the low point of the night easily identifiable in the Pacers vs Knicks game that lands with a thud at 207. The high point of the night comes in the last game, a 10:30 pm ET start time between the Kings and Lakers that will have potential late-swapping requirements to keep gamers glued to their screens. The slate fits the recently familiar mold; the extreme value created by a significant number of absences, combined with premium options from the top shelf of salary and talent. A broad mid-range continues to provide interesting pivot options as well, in recent contests getting to the correct options in the middle of the top and the bottom end has been the difference between accessing the top 1% of final positions in NBA DFS tournaments on FanDuel and DraftKings.

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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 five 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.

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.

Tre Jones: DraftKings — $3,800 — PG | FanDuel — $4,100 — PG

With star point guard Dejounte Murray out once again, the Spurs will look to Tre Jones playing alongside recent standout Derrick White to start the game in the backcourt. White looks like a strong option on both sites. He lands at positive leverage and has an optimal lineup appearance rate between 15 and 20% across the industry. Jones is also a strong play, but one from a very different salary tier. He is negatively leveraged on one site but appears to be a solid building block of value at his industrywide pricing. Jones has produced 0.85 fantasy points per minute across all situations this season on just 14.4% usage. He has a 0.84 mark in 21.7 minutes per game over the team’s three most recent contests and he posted a 26.9-point outing in 32 minutes in the team’s last game. Jones is projected for a 30.6-minute night, and he has major upside at his pricing on both NBA DFS sites.

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On FanDuel, Jones slots in as a negatively leveraged value play. He appears to be a strong building block and a step along the optimal construction path, so the popularity is warranted. For just $4,100, Jones is the second-most frequently optimal point guard available, trailing only Lakers guard Russell Westbrook, who is more than twice as expensive. Jones has a 26.7% optimal lineup appearance rate in Awesemo’s simulations on the blue site. By comparison, White lands at a 17% rate, but will have 12.1% popularity and a 4.9 leverage score compared to the 32% popularity and -5.3 leverage score for Jones. Still, the per-dollar upside that Jones provides should not be ignored. He is projected for a 27.2-point median score and he has a 43.5% boom score probability that outpaces every other option on the FanDuel slate tonight. Jones’ rate sits 3.5 percentage points ahead of the next-best option, value center Damian Jones, who has a 40.3% boom score probability. The rest of the field is 10 or more percentage points behind Jones by probability of reaching a ceiling score, revealing the true nature of the popular play. Jones is a strong plug-in option in all varieties of lineup constructions, it pays to utilize him and get different in other spots in the lineup.

At just $3,800, the expectation would seem to be that Jones would be over-exposed on the DraftKings slate, but this does not appear to be the case in early projections. Jones is carrying a 27.7-point median projection and a 48.8% boom score probability, tops on the slate by more than 12 percentage points over the second-best option, fellow guard Cameron Payne. At just $4,600, the Suns’ combo guard can slot into either backcourt position. He can easily be played alongside Jones, both guards are inexpensive and positively leveraged, they make a sturdy value foundation in lineup construction. The degree to which Jones outpaces Payne and every other option on the slate by the probability of hitting a ceiling score is not recognized in his popularity. He is projected for a 25.3% public exposure rate, but he lands in the optimal lineup in 33% of Awesemo’s simulated slates, leaving an excellent 7.7 leverage score. By both of those metrics, Jones is a top-four play on the DraftKings slate. Adding shares of Jones and building toward higher scores with the value he provides is a clear path to highly projected frequently optimal lineups.


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Domantas Sabonis.: DraftKings — $9,900 — PF/C | FanDuel — $10,000 — PF/C

Despite playing in the game with by far the lowest total on the slate, Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis pops up at the top of the board on both sites. Sabonis will be the featured piece for the depleted Pacers once again tonight. The team has both Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert, as well as a host of others, on the injured list again today, leaving Sabonis as the lone star in the lineup. For the season, Sabonis has posted 1.19 fantasy points per minute on 21.5% usage, while mostly strong, which is down notably from the 1.29 mark he put up on 23.9% usage in all situations last year. Over the past three games, with the team shorthanded, Sabonis has averaged 38.7 minutes and he has leaped to a 1.41 per-minute mark. In the team’s last outing, Sabonis played 39 minutes and put up a 58.1-point FanDuel score. He is projected for another 38.3 minutes tonight, which should be plenty of time for him to smash through a ceiling against a weak Knicks frontcourt that is likely to be missing several pieces. Knicks star Julius Randle just cleared COVID-19 protocols today and is currently questionable, with several other pieces also out or game-time decisions, Sabonis may find himself by far the biggest and most talented player on the floor to start the game tonight.

At what feels like a low-priced $9,900 with center and power forward eligibility, Sabonis is the most frequently optimal player on the DraftKings slate at 39.5%. He lands in the optimal lineup in Awesemo’s simulated slates far more frequently than the degree to which the public is including him in lineups, Sabonis is projected for a 28.1% ownership share, leaving a slate-leading 11.4 leverage score on one of the most likely candidates to post a slate-bending score. This seems wrong. Getting to added shares of a player projected for a 51.8-point median score with a 31.9% boom score probability is a simple proposition. Rostering more Sabonis in this situation should be easy. He is not fully priced for his upside and there are clear value plays at the guard spots, while Sabonis’ positioning fits in well with other star options on the board. From both a basketball and a DFS perspective, this should be a monster night for the Pacers big man.

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Sabonis is showing a roughly similar value on the blue site. He is a $10,000 option against a higher salary cap, and he has the same multi-position eligibility between center and power forward. The flexibility is critical on the FanDuel slate, as there are several singular center options in play. The ability to roster Sabonis alongside those players as well as some of the other forward options on the slate lands him in the optimal lineup in 35.2% of simulations. That mark ranks fourth overall, second among power forwards, and first among centers on the FanDuel slate. Sabonis is projected for a 48.6-point median score, the second-highest raw point total on the board tonight, and he has a targetable 27.1% boom score probability. That rate of hitting a ceiling score is the fifth highest at any position on the slate. Every player above Sabonis in the category costs around half as much as the Pacers star. The most expensive option in the group is Obi Toppin at $5,300; the three others are priced between $4,000 and $4,100. Sabonis’ boom score probability is tied with Devin Booker, who fills a shooting guard spot for just $8,000, and they sit just 0.6 percentage points ahead of Westbrook, who is a $9,000 point guard. All three can be played in the same lineup easily. It will be a popular initial foundation, as the lowest owned of the three players is projected to be Sabonis at 28.6%, but they all come at positive leverage, so there is upside in building with that blueprint in mind.

Immanuel Quickley: DraftKings — $4,400 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $4,700 — SG/PG

On the other side of the worst-looking game of the night, the shorthanded Knicks have a number of availability question marks, but the ongoing absences of nominal starting point guard Kemba Walker and primary backup Derrick Rose, there should be a clear opportunity for someone to create NBA DFS value in the backcourt. This could come from any number of sources. In recent games the Knicks have started rookie Miles McBride or fellow freshman, Quentin Grimes, to varying effects. The minutes for both rookie guards have still been mostly limited while the share for second-year man Immanuel Quickley has consistently been in the mid-twenties, with regular opportunities to close games in recent contests. Even in situations where the unpredictability of the team’s rotations kicks in, Quickley seems to find his playing time, whether as a scoring shot in the arm for the primary unit or as a main option for the second unit. Over the team’s three most recent games, Quickley has averaged 29.6 minutes, playing 28, 26, and 35. He will be competing for opportunities with the rookies as well as Alec Burks, Evan Fournier, and others, and a return by Randle could skew the entire team’s projections. For now, Quickley can be seen as an underappreciated value play. He averages 0.80 fantasy points per minute for the season and has been just a 0.62 per-minute option in a disappointing stretch over the extended minutes in the last three, but he averaged 0.93 per minute last season. If the shot is falling, there is clear upside at his salary in this much time on the floor.

On FanDuel, Quickley is an optimal play at either the shooting guard or point guard positions in 18.5% of simulated slates. He costs just $4,700 and the positional flexibility has strong utility on the blue site. The optimal lineup rate ranks 18th overall on the site, seventh among shooting guards, and sixth among point guards. Quickley is carrying a strong leverage score at 6.9, one of the more targetable points on the board for his positional availability. The Knicks guard is projected for a 25-point median score on the blue site and he is carrying a 20.2% boom score probability, but the slate is getting to him at just an 11.6% ownership projection. Assuming the minutes hold and the opportunity in the rotation remains the same, Quickley should have a chance to deliver for the cheap price. He has not been a reliable option this season, but that is what seems to be keeping the public at bay, taking a shot on the guard in tournaments has clear upside on this slate.

On DraftKings, Quickley lands 14th overall with an 18.1% optimal lineup appearance rate in simulated slates. Considering seventh-ranked Derrick White is at just a 19.9% mark in the category, there is not exactly a canyon of probability between the two differently priced plays, let alone anyone in between. Quickley is projected for a mere 12.1% ownership on the DraftKings slate, leaving him with an excellent 6.0 leverage score that outpaces all but the top three options in when ranked by optimal rate. The slate is projected behind the curve, but this may be a product of the question marks up and down the Knicks lineup, with clarity the popularity may grow, but the play will remain strong for the $4,400 price. Quickley slots into both guard positions on the site and he has a 26.4-point median projection with a 27.9% boom score probability, the 11th-best option on the slate. Quickley makes for a strong differentiation option that can be rostered in tandem with most of the more popular plays from all tiers.


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

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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