With sanity prevailing on Sunday afternoon, both NBA DFS sites are running contests that forego the 6 pm ET game in favor of a normal start time at 7 pm and a five-game slate. The slate bottoms out at just 209.5 points in the contest between the Raptors and Cavaliers, although that game will again yield plenty of injury-related value options. The remaining games all clear the 220-point mark, with the Jazz and Thunder battling at exactly that number, and the Knicks vs Clippers game that tips two hours after all of the other matchups begin is at a 221.5. The slate’s two prime targets are a 229 between the Pelicans and Nuggets, and an enticing 237 in a wide-open ugly contest between the Grizzlies and Rockets. The Grizzlies and Jazz are both favored by more than 10 points in their games, the other three contests should be more competitive situations, which is something worth marginal consideration on a relatively short slate. Outside of situational analysis of the games, lineup builds should be focused on the boom score mark for upside and the leverage score for lineup differentiation on this slate. There are only a handful of players in action who are likely to reach 50 or 60 fantasy point upside, while a wide mid-range can fill out 30 and 40 point performances in a number of different ways.
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 the top plays with positive leverage 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 Today 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.
Ja Morant: DK $10,500 — PG | FD $10,300 — PG
Arguably the most exciting player on the entire slate is inarguably one of the most talented. Memphis’ point guard Ja Morant has taken the league by storm, dazzling his way into fans’ hearts with a spectacular array of off-the-dribble moves and an explosive ability to get to the rim. Morant comes in at a hefty NBA DFS price on both sites, further cementing his status as one of the league’s apex stars. The point guard has put up an excellent 1.38 fantasy points per minute rate across all situations this season, a massive leap from the 1.08 he posted last year, partially on the back of a spike from 26.7% usage to 33% usage. While his season-long rate sits second on the entire slate to only the ludicrous 1.71 carried by Nuggets star Nikola Jokic (Jokic is probable to play after sitting out the last game with an illness), Morant’s recent performance has seen an uptick to even greater heights. Over the team’s three most recent games, the burgeoning superstar has been at a 1.53 per-minute rate, outpaced in the sample by only Jokic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has been at a ridiculous 1.60 per-minute rate over the last three at the same position. Morant is easily one of the top options for production and one of the players capable of hitting a truly slate-bending score, but he is under-owned at the high prices and has positive leverage scores on both sites tonight.
On DraftKings, Morant stands as the sixth-most frequently optimal player at any position, landing in the top lineup in 22.1% of Awesemo’s simulated slates. The point guard is the top-ranked player priced above $9,000 on the slate, from that price point and above, the highest-ranked options after Morant are Donovan Mitchell and Pascal Siakam, both of whom check in with rates in the 17% range. Morant’s advantage over those options should be pressed, and he can be used in combination with the value plays above him on the board, names including Darius Garland, Dalano Banton, and RJ Barrett. Morant is projected for a 50.6-point median score, the second-highest on the slate behind Jokic, who outpaces him by nearly eight fantasy points. Morant has a 26.34% boom score probability that checks in above the expensive center’s mark, however, and he will be owned by just 21.1% of the field, leaving him at targetable leverage with a 1.0 score. Jokic will be owned by less of the field at 13% and he also comes as a positive leverage play with a 3.3 in the category, if one can afford to do so, pairing the two starts creates a lethal but costly combination of quality.
On the FanDuel slate, Morant is projected for a 48.98-point median score, again the second-highest number on the slate. Jokic sits at a 55.09-point median projection, but it is Morant who lands in more optimal lineups on the blue site. The Grizzlies point guard is the second-most frequently optimal player on the entire slate, coming in with a 35.7% mark at strong positive leverage for his $10,300 salary. The lack of positional flexibility has virtually no impact on Morant, he is an easy plug-in option from the top of the board. The explosive star has a 23.64% boom score probability and he will be rostered by 30.8% of the field. While that is a lot of ownership in a raw sense, it falls well behind the probability marks, leaving Morant at an excellent 4.9 leverage score. If that rate holds, Morant should be rostered aggressively, the field will be too far behind the play even with Morant in a third of public lineups, he is simply better than that on this slate.
Darius Garland: DK $8,600 — PG | FD $8,000 — SG/PG
Despite occupying the same position as Morant and playing in the game with by far the night’s least appealing total, Cavaliers guard Darius Garland is looking like a sharp target for a productive night at as an option who is not quite as popular as his metrics show that he should be. Garland is a 1.06 fantasy points per minute player across all situations this season, but he has seen an uptick recently. Garland has been a 1.34 per-minute player over the team’s three most recent games and a 1.22 per-minute player in all situations since the start of February. The Cavaliers seem likely to be without both Caris LeVert and Rajon Rondo again, leaving plenty for Garland to do in this contest, the guard can stuff the stat sheet with scoring and facilitation, he drives the offense with a 37.1% assist percentage and has a strong 58.7% true shooting percentage this season, helping him accrue fantasy points in a hurry at his fair mid-range pricing.
Garland costs just $8,000 with eligibility at either guard spot on the blue site, making him a prime target for added shares in FanDuel NBA DFS lineup constructions tonight. The Cavaliers guard comes in with a 35.3% optimal lineup appearance rate, nearly the same mark at which we find Morant in the top lineup in Awesemo’s simulated slates. He has a nearly matching 5.3 leverage score, coming on the back of a 30% ownership projection and a 23.14% boom score probability. The Cavaliers guard is projected for a 39.16-point median score, the first mark at which he truly differs from Morant despite being projected for a 36.8-minute night compared to the Memphis star’s 33.7-minute projection, Garland will have to do more in his time on the floor but he has comparable per-dollar value and he will be similarly under-owned for the rate at which he is optimal. Garland joins Morant and, from the other side of this game, Pascal Siakam, as the top plays on the board by optimal lineup rate, and all three are at positive leverage scores. That is a strong three-player jumping off point for a wide range of lineup combinations on the FanDuel slate.
Garland’s DraftKings numbers also look a lot like Morant’s, though he is more frequently optimal on the site at 23.6% for his $8,600 salary. The point guard positional restriction does very little to impact Garland’s quality on this site, he is projected for a 42.9-point median score for the fair price and he has an excellent 27.68% boom score probability. As the night’s fourth-most likely player to hit his required ceiling score, Garland shines by comparison to Banton, Jordan Clarkson, and Morant’s teammate Jaren Jackson Jr., the three players ahead of him in the boom score category. Banton is a must-play value option at the flat-minimum $3,000 salary at the point guard position, however, meaning one would have to use three spots including the utility to roster a combination of Banton, Morant, and Garland on this site. At 22.5% ownership and a 1.1 leverage score, Garland is a better decision than the less expensive Clarkson, who comes in with 28.8% ownership and a -4.0 leverage score at a cheap $5,000 price point at either guard spot. Clarkson can be a cheaper cog in the mix with the other guards in lineup combinations, but Garland is the better target when deciding between the two. The Cavaliers guard flashed his upside in the team’s most recent game, putting up more than 60 fantasy points, making him a rare commodity capable of reaching that level on tonight’s slate, he is an underappreciated asset in DraftKings NBA DFS lineup building tonight.
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Dalano Banton: DK $3,000 — PG | FD $3,500 — PF
At perplexing positional differences from the salary floor on both sites, Raptors rookie Dalano Banton is looking like an underappreciated extreme value piece on both sites so far. Banton is expected to draw the start for the Raptors tonight, with most of the team’s other capable facilitators on the shelf, including Fred VanVleet and Malachi Flynn. In his limited 11.4 minutes a night, Banton has not exactly stood out from the crowd, putting up a laughable 46.6% true shooting percentage with an 18.8% assist rate and 8.5% rebounding percentage this season. That totals to just a 0.81 fantasy points per minute rate across all situations this season, but in a limited 54 minutes since the start of February without this set of teammates on the floor, Banton has been at a 0.96 per minute mark. For no salary and with positive leverage on both sites, Banton seems like an interesting piece of value around the industry tonight.
Banton is the leading option for optimal lineup appearances on the DraftKings board tonight. He slots in at point guard for the flat minimum of $3,000 and lands in the best lineup in 33.2% of Awesemo’s simulated slates. As mentioned previously, utilizing Banton in combination with other options like Morant and Garland who only fit into the point guard or flex spots does create a bit of a raw scoring demand on lineup configurations, but with all three at solid leverage scores, it seems like a sound approach to building lineups for this slate. Banton’s bargain salary should provide the ability to fill out the forward and center spots with quality. The rookie guard is projected for a 23.6-point median night and he is also the slate-leading play for boom score probability at a massive 50.73%. That puts Banton as almost twice as likely to hit his required ceiling score as any other player on the slate not named Jaren Jackson Jr. The Memphis big man checks in with a 30.72% boom score rate at positive leverage, making him a good target for lineup shares as well. With Banton so clearly a fundamental building block for value on this slate, it would be fair to expect his ownership projection to be stratospheric, but it is surprisingly low at just 17.1%. That leaves the top value play, a minimum-priced option no less, at a slate-leading 16.1 leverage score, a borderline inexplicable situation that should be pressed for advantage again and again unless or until things change.
With roughly similar value for $3,500 on the FanDuel slate, Banton’s positioning at power forward makes him easy to roster in combination with the slate’s other most frequently optimal players. Banton is a bit less extreme in his value on the FanDuel slate, however, he comes in as just a 13.8% optimal play, ranking him 29th overall on the board due to a number of similarly playable power forward choices available on the slate. When sorting by boom score probability, Banton bounces back, he is the slate-leader in the category on the blue site, coming in with a 38.61% probability of hitting his required ceiling score. The players immediately behind Banton by boom score rate are Siakam, Jokic, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Rudy Gobert, all of whom are notably more expensive prominent names. Banton is projected for just 6.8% public popularity on the slate, while he has just a 23.59-point median projection, his excellent boom score mark and playable optimal lineup rate render him underappreciated. Banton is one of the top salary-based upside plays on the slate, and he is the site leader with a 6.9 leverage score, he can be rostered aggressively unless the probability or playing time projections dip as lock approaches.
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We also have Yahoo! ownership rankings, DraftKings NBA ownership rankings and FanDuel NBA ownership rankings for today's slate. Looking for more NBA DFS picks and the best NBA DFS picks today? View our FanDuel ownership projections, our Yahoo! NBA ownership and our DraftKings ownership projections. Our daily fantasy basketball projections are updated regularly, including whenever any relevant news breaks. Check out our NBA DraftKings rankings for fantasy points and values that are derived directly from Alex Baker's own basketball DFS projections.
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