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NBA DFS Optimizer Picks Tonight for DraftKings & FanDuel Lineups Jonas Valanciunas | Tuesday 3/8/22

Terry McBride

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DFS picks for NBA daily fantasy: DraftKings + FanDuel daily fantasy basketball lineups on the FREE stream w/ expert projections + picks on 4/28/22.

The six-game Tuesday slate of NBA DFS action should be another high-scoring night with a few prime targets on the board. The slate peaks in one of the early games this time around, with a huge 239.5-point total in the game between the Nets and Hornets in Charlotte. The Nets are getting healthy and will have both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the lineup, while the high-floor Hornets rotation offers a number of quality options. The remaining five games include two more totals above the 230-point line, the Pelicans vs Grizzlies game is at a 232 total while the matchup between the Bucks and Thunder is at a 230.5 while featuring two of the recent fantasy per-minute fantasy leaders. By comparison to recent slates, there may seem to be a lack of extreme value options on the board this evening, making multi-star lineup construction at least a bit more daunting in the slate’s current configuration. Still, with a few low-cost options available already, and more news sure to break as lock approaches, this slate seems likely to land in similar territory to the chaotic contests of the last few nights across the NBA DFS industry.

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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 on the slate, this article will focus on 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.

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.

Cameron Payne: DK $5,300 — PG | FD $6,600 — PG/SG

As he rises from the value tier into a more appropriate mid-range salary, Suns guard Cameron Payne has retained, if not gained, his value for NBA DFS lineup construction on most sites. Payne is playing a featured role as the team’s starting point guard in the absence of both Chris Paul and Devin Booker, with the team also down a few other rotation pieces including Cameron Johnson. Payne should see plenty of opportunities to shine in his projected 33.3 minutes this evening, over the team’s three most recent games he has averaged 26 minutes a night, putting up a 1.22 per-minute mark. In 36 minutes in the team’s most recent game, Payne scored 37.4 FanDuel points, marginally ahead of his season-long 1.0 per-minute mark, but short of the potential in this situation. In 88 minutes since the start of the calendar year without that trio of teammates on the floor, Payne has posted a 1.15 per-minute rate with his usage jumping from 24.9% to 27.8%. The guard has been priced up to match the circumstances, but it seems that the sites have not gone far enough, Payne still looks like an excellent play for probability across both sites, provided that consideration is given to offsetting his extreme popularity in other ways.

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As the most popular overall player on the DraftKings slate, the leverage situation around Payne is not as bad as one might expect. Payne is also the slate-leader by Awesemo’s optimal lineup appearance probability metric, leading the field by nearly 20 percentage points at 71.4%. With that level of likelihood to land in the top overall lineup, Payne is essentially a must-play at his still-low $5,300 price tag at the point guard position. There is simply too much point-per-dollar upside available in a player who is projected for a 41.7-point median score on the site. With that expectation and his salary on the site, Payne leads the slate in another of Awesemo’s key metrics for tonight. At 80.23% the Suns’ guard is by far the most likely player to hit his required salary-based ceiling score. Payne stands well ahead of $3,100 Jordan Nwora, who is sitting in second as a critical value play with a 69.35% boom score mark and also lands second with a 53.3% optimal lineup appearance rate. With an 11.2 leverage score, Nwora looks like a good way to help differentiate lineups, though he is one of the only extreme value points on the board and that gap may close by the time the slate locks. Payne is not the leverage play that Nwora is, but his -7.5 leverage score is a fair tax to pay for the ludicrous probability marks for the inexpensive guard. Payne is arguably unavoidable in building premium DraftKings NBA DFS lineups tonight.

The blue site did a better job of bumping up Payne’s pricing for his new situation. FanDuel has largely been the more immediately reactionary of the two main sites when it comes to price adjustments, for better or worse, this season. In this case, the bump to $6,600 at either guard spot does not render Payne unplayable, nor does it even knock him from the top of the board by Awesemo’s probability metrics. Payne leads the way with a 48% optimal lineup appearance rate on the FanDuel slate, notably lower than the rate at which he is optimal across town, but easily the best play available at the position today. He checks in at a 51.7% ownership projection that, to be honest, is likely to grow as lock approaches and the volume of industry chatter hits full frenzy. Payne has a 50.08% boom score probability and a 39.72-point median projection on the site that make him too good to skip. Despite a -3.7 leverage score, Payne should be targeted for aggressive ownership on the FanDuel slate. He sits 13 percentage points ahead of LaMelo Ball, who ranks second with a 35.5% optimal lineup rate and comes as a positive leverage play with a 3.9 in the category despite also-heavy popularity. Nworaranks immediately below Ball with a 35.3% optimal rate and a ludicrous 12.4 leverage score for his $4,000 salary at either forward spot. Rostering the full trio is an easy proposition for starting a FanDuel NBA DFS lineup build tonight, but it will require finding a lower-owned play or two.

Jonas Valanciunas: DK $7,500 — C | FD $7,000 — C

With much of the slate’s attention focused on other positions this evening, there is an opportunity to uncover sneaky upside in exploring options at the center spot on both sites today. One potentially lurking fantasy points monster is Pelicans’ center Jonas Valanciunas, who checks in at a fair mid-range price across the industry in his usual role. Valanciunas is projected for 29.7 minutes this evening, slightly below his 31-minute average this year. In his typical action, Valanciunas posts 1.19 fantasy points per minute across all situations, but he has been at just 1.05 per minute in 25.3 minutes a night over the team’s three most recent games, though that includes a weak 17-minute outing in a blowout game. Valanciunas posted a solid 35.8-point FanDuel outing in 30 minutes before fouling out of the team’s most recent game. He could see some additional run beyond the playing time for which he is currently projected, which would extend the fantasy scoring ceiling significantly. Valanciunas has a 61.3% true shooting percentage and he is underrated for his multi-category efficiency, the big man has a 13.1% assist rate and an 18.5% rebounding percentage, adding 1.6 stocks per-36. Valanciunas is positively leveraged and easy to reach on both sites, making him an interesting consideration for additional exposure tonight.

On FanDuel, where the strict singular center stipulation renders the position critical on many slates, Valanciunas lands as the sixth-most frequently optimal player at the position, with three of the choices above him also eligible to be rostered at power forward. Given that flexibility of positioning around fellow big men Jaren Jackson Jr., Kevin Love, and Bobby Portis, Valanciunas is left competing largely with value play Andre Drummond, and similarly underpriced Deandre Ayton. The 2.6 leverage score at which we find Valanciunas sits behind only Jackson Jr.’s 2.8 mark in the category, and the low 10.7% projected public ownership on the New Orleans big man makes him a highly appealing option when making the direct comparison. Among the top ten centers by optimal lineup appearance rate, only Wendell Carter Jr. is at a lower raw projection at 8.7% with a 12.9% optimal rate. Both Valanciunas and Carter Jr. are interesting leverage plays, the Orlando big man also has power forward eligibility and should be considered for additional shares. Rostering the pair is an interesting differentiation pivot for some builds.

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The multiple center possibilities on DraftKings give still have Valanciunas floating around the same level. The Pelicans’ big man is 19th overall by optimal lineup appearance rate, landing in the top build in 12.1% of Awesemo’s simulated slates. That rate compares favorably to most of the board above the big man, there is a large plateau of probability on this slate, seventh-ranked Khris Middleton is a 20.3% optimal play, leaving slightly more than eight percentage points between him Valanciunas. Among eligible centers, Valanciunas ranks sixth by optimal rate and he has a 21.43% boom score probability that falls in line with the other options at his position. With superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo eligible at the center spot on DraftKings, there is some consideration for opportunity cost, though most of the other top-ranked positional options are also eligible at power forward on this site. A strong blend of the premium big men is a good idea, Valanciunas will only be owned by 8.7% of the field, leaving him at a targetable 3.4 leverage score that can be rostered with enthusiasm.


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LaMelo Ball: DK $8,700 — PG | FD $7,800 — PG

One of the top targets in the most heavily totaled game of the night is an obvious name, but he is projected to go under-owned by the field even at high popularity marks. Hornets star LaMelo Ball is a fun and profitable player to include in lineup builds on any given slate, when his pricing and popularity marks fall short of the potential production the player can provide, it becomes nearly mandatory to extend beyond the field for additional exposure. Ball is in that situation this evening on both sites, despite dramatically different pricing on either side of the industry. Ball is averaging 1.29 fantasy points per minute across all situations, leading his team with a 33.8% assist percentage while adding an underrated 9.9% rebounding rate and a 53.8% true shooting percentage. The production will be truly frightening if Ball learns to get his shot to fall with slightly more regularity in the future. For now, he is underpriced for both the potential median scores and the available ceiling in such a highly-projected game.

Ball is the second-most frequently optimal player at any position on tonight’s FanDuel slate. The point guard is cheap for his talent, somehow landing at just $7,800 on a night where the site priced Cameron Payne at $6,600 at the same position. Ball ranks behind only that option from the Suns, and he is projected for two additional fantasy points at a 41.82-point median FanDuel projection. The star point guard gains ground on the role player by virtue of a 3.9 leverage score, only 31.6% of the field is projected to include the Hornets guard in their lineups, leaving him as a playable target who also has a 36.63% probability of hitting his required ceiling score. Ball ranks second in both optimal rate and probability of hitting a boom score, sitting ahead of Darius Garland and Ja Morant in both categories. Both of those star guards are strong options who have slightly positive leverage scores, Garland comes in with a 28.5% ownership mark and Morant will be in only 18.2% of the field’s lineups, both are projected for more than 40 FanDuel points and have ceilings of more than 60. Adding options like Stephen Curry, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and midrange pieces like Malcolm Brogdon and Cole Anthony to the mix only complicates things at the position, there are numerous high-end options at a variety of prices. Gilgeous-Alexander drops in at a -4.1 leverage score while Anthony is a -6.0 play, every other player is at worst efficiently owned. Rotating through the long list of premium guard plays in a variety of combinations with the affordable flexible big men on tonight’s slate is a strong approach. Ball is a strong contender for shares in that mix, despite his raw ownership totals and his positional rigidity at the point guard spot.

On the DraftKings slate Ball is an $8,700 point guard who lands in the optimal lineup 16.4% of the time. That rate, while possibly unexciting, ranks Ball fifth among all eligible guards on the slate and second among point guards behind only the preposterously popular yet probable Payne. The three options between Ball and the top of the board are all eligible at both shooting guard and small forward, with all of Landry Shamet, Khris Middleton, and Cedi Osman flashing salary and opportunity-based value this evening. It would not be impossible to roster all five players in the same lineup, though that may have a limiting impact on the raw scoring potential. Combining that group of players with Antetokounmpo and another premium big man seems like a build worth cautious exploration on the DraftKings NBA DFS slate. For his part, Ball will contribute a projected 43.5 fantasy points to the mix, leaving him with a strong 28.26% boom score probability that adds to his overall appeal in both a raw sense and by comparison to the other playable options in his price range. Ball is positively leveraged on the site as well. He has a 1.2 mark in the category with just 15.2% of the field projected to include him in lineups. Adding a few shares to exceed the public’s exposure on the site is a good approach to rostering Ball, either in combination with the other listed top options or in a variety of differentiated builds.

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

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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