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NBA Optimal Lineups Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel Jusuf Nurkic | Wednesday, Jan. 5

Terry McBride



Wednesday brings a solid mid-week NBA DFS slate featuring 11 games, a number of which are heavily totaled. The slate has six games with totals in the 220s and another, the contest between the Hawks and Kings coming in at a 232.5 on the board in Las Vegas. That game should yield several interesting options for NBA DFS point-scoring upside, but there is a wealth of resources on this slate. The recent COVID-19 crisis has shown no sign of abating, numerous teams have multiple rotation players on the injury list and there are 10-day contract players all around the league. This abundance of value plays makes it easy to access any desired lineup construction, but it remains important to focus on the raw scoring potential of a lineup when building for slates such as this one. With a healthy mid-range, it is easy to see a stars-and-scrubs approach simply getting outgunned by a more evenly built construction. Getting to a broad mix of player combinations from among the most highly rated options is a must. This can be considered a base or core through which lower-owned upside pieces at positive leverage should be rotated to capture a wide range of outcomes for tournament play.

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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 on the slate, this article will focus on several of the top overall plays from several salary tiers 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.

Keifer Sykes: DraftKings — $3,300 — PG | FanDuel — $3,700 — PG

This play is in no way sneaking past savvy NBA DFS gamers today. Indiana Pacers point guard Keifer Sykes has started the team’s two most recent games, playing well over 30 minutes in each while filling in for the entire starting backcourt. Sykes played 38 minutes in the team’s loss to the Knicks last night, he posted a 37.8-point night on FanDuel, and he comes right back at an extremely inexpensive price. Sykes has been a 0.73 fantasy points per minute player across the four games he has played for the Pacers to this point, but the previous minutes were very limited, and he had far less to do in his former role. As a starter, Sykes’ value is sky-high across the industry, but so is his popularity. He appears to be more of a building block value play on both sites, despite significant negative leverage, the low cost simply enables lineup builds with a more upward trajectory.

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The probability percentages for the Pacers point guard are outstanding. He leads the slate across all positions with a 41.9% optimal lineup appearance rate on DraftKings, 11.9 percentage points ahead of the next-highest player on the list, fellow guard Anfernee Simons, who is more of a mid-range play but still a strong piece of the puzzle in his own right. Getting to the pairing would not be a bad way to fill lineups, but it would require differentiation in other positions. Sykes also leads the entire slate by boom score probability, his $3,300 is simply far too low for the 34.6 minutes for which he is projected tonight. The point guard’s 68.9% boom score rate is also more than 11 percentage points ahead of the rest of the field. The bad news is that everyone playing NBA DFS tonight seems to be aware of this play. Sykes is projected for a 50.6% ownership share that does not seem to be on a downward plane. The value point guard lands at a -8.7 leverage score on the slate, but his clear points-per-dollar value is undeniable, he is much more likely to be a solid foundational piece than one that gamers regret rostering, regardless of the popularity. This is good value chalk, even on a slate of this size, particularly when fellow value point guard Duane Washington will be 32.5% owned but only 15.4% optimal, leading to a -17.1 leverage score for the more expensive option.

Sykes is even more popular on the blue site, for similar reasons. With Washington landing as a shooting guard only play on the FanDuel slate, the value in getting to Sykes at point guard for just $3,700 becomes even more critical to a specific approach to lineup construction, with the current projections for playing time he is the clear top value both positionally and on the entire slate. Sykes lands in the optimal lineup in 34.7% of Awesemo’s simulated slates but he will be owned at nearly twice that rate, landing at a titanic 62.8% ownership projection. That rate is difficult to roster, even at the extreme discount, but there are just no better options at the price as the slate currently stands. Sykes has a 26.6-point median projection and a 49.7% boom score probability that ranks second overall behind only center Jusuf Nurkic on the site. Sykes’ leverage score is an unsightly -28.1, one of the lowest points we have seen all season. His value is clear, but differentiation will be crucial in lineup construction when he is used. At this level of popularity to utility, it is worth considering alternate constructions when possible, but Sykes is the player most likely to be a part of the winning lineup(s) tonight, with the potential plural carrying massive weight in that statement.

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Jusuf Nurkic: DraftKings — $6,800 — C | FanDuel — $6,000 — C

With his team sorely lacking upside players, Portland center Jusuf Nurkic returned to the lineup in the team’s most recent game. The big man played 26 minutes, right around his season average, and he posted an excellent 43.9-point night on FanDuel, a 1.69 per-minute fantasy point scoring rate. Nurkic has put up a 1.24 per-minute mark across all situations this season, down slightly from the 1.33 that he posted last year on slightly less usage. The center should see an increased focus on the offensive side of the game, in his 99 minutes without all of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Cody Zeller out, Nurkic has led the team with a 32.9% usage rate. That mark is a major step up from the 22.1% he receives under normal circumstances, giving the center fantasy point scoring potential even in his typically capped time on the floor. If Nurkic manages to see additional minutes in the shorthanded rotation, he has an opportunity to blast through the top of his implied ceiling score.

On FanDuel, Nurkic is negatively leveraged as a singular center, there are a number of alternatives, but several of them can be rostered in the power forward role, which should leave plenty of room for the Portland big man where desired. The primary sacrifices when utilizing Nurkic would be other viable center-only plays including Daniel Gafford, who has a spectacular boom score probability and slightly positive leverage, and star-caliber pay-up centers such as Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and, on a lower tier, Rudy Gobert and Clint Capela. Nurkic outpaces all of these options, he is the fourth-most frequently optimal player on the entire slate at 25.8%, outpacing Gafford by 8.5 percentage points. The center has a 39.5-point median projection and a slate-leading 59.8% boom score probability, but that requires a 29.8-minute projection that warrants monitoring. Nurkic is projected for nearly 30% ownership, and he will be a -4.0 leverage play at these rates, but he remains arguably the top center play on the board unless one chooses to take an alternate path by utilizing one of the pay-up centers, all of whom come at far lower overall ownership.

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DraftKings gamers do not like the idea of Nurkic for $800 more than their crosstown rivals on FanDuel are paying. At $6,800, the Portland center is under-owned despite clear quality on the slate. He has a 24.1% optimal lineup appearance rate that ranks fourth overall on the site and first among eligible centers. Nurkic lands 0.3 percentage points ahead of Rockets big man Christian Wood, who is roughly twice as popular and negatively leveraged. Nurkic, meanwhile, is carrying a 7.4 leverage score, the third highest on the site and the best mark among centers, he is extremely targetable on the DraftKings slate. The Trail Blazers big man has a 40.2-point median projection and a 51.5% boom score probability that ranks fourth among all players, but 4.9 percentage points behind the rate at which the less expensive Wood hits his ceiling mark. Given the massive ownership discrepancy, that value can be safely ignored, there is more potential in the lack of popularity that Nurkic carries, Wood can and should be used in lineups, but ultimately he is over-exposed for his quality tonight.

Furkan Korkmaz: DraftKings — $4,700 — SG/SF | FanDuel — $6,000 — SG/SF

With most of the Philadelphia backcourt still on the shelf, it seems likely that Furkan Korkmaz will see another start, which would make him a strong consideration from the low mid-range on DraftKings and a far less likely candidate for success at a higher price on FanDuel. Korkmaz played 36 minutes in the team’s most recent game, electrifying 76ers fans with a 49.2-point FanDuel scoring night. That outing was double the time he received in the team’s previous game, and that 18-minute run exceeded the two games before it. Across the team’s three most recent games, the player has pushed his fantasy points per minute rate to 1.0, well up from the 0.79 he typically provides. Korkmaz has a 49.9% true shooting percentage and a 15.4% assist rate this season, he can contribute in multiple categories if his shot is falling, but that tends to be a weighty “if”. Where he is a salary value, Korkmaz is a good selection, where his price is not comfortable there does not appear to be much upside.

On the FanDuel slate, Korkmaz comes in as an overpriced $6,000 option. He is projected for 32.5 minutes but just 27.1 fantasy points in the median. Despite multi-position eligibility, Korkmaz lands in the optimal lineup in just 4.2% of simulated slates for the blue site, there are simply better options available. Of course, the Philadelphia wing does have a modicum of potential on the slate, he is carrying a 10.1% boom score probability and even the low optimal lineup rate is at a 3.6 leverage score, Korkmaz is drawing just a 0.6% ownership projection, the field is hesitant to include him at this price. At a minor investment threshold, there is some utility in including Korkmaz in a pool of mix-and-match options for differentiation, but he should not be rostered at a rate much beyond where his optimal lineup appearance probability lands.

The guard-forward hybrid play is far more viable on DraftKings. Korkmaz is priced at just $4,700 on this site, which allows his optimal lineup appearance rate to spring to life. The player lands in the top lineup in DraftKings simulations 16.5% of the time, the 10th best rate at any position on the entire slate. Korkmaz is projected for a 27.8-point median score but his boom score probability inflates to 36% against the lower overall salary. He is projected for merely 12.7% popularity, more by far than across town on FanDuel, but dramatically less than all of the other options above him by optimal rate on this site. He has a 3.8 leverage score that is second-best among the top-10 by optimal lineup rate, trailing only Nurkic. Additional shares of Korkmaz are easy to come by and should deliver strong value in DraftKings NBA DFS lineups tonight.

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View our DraftKings NBA ownership, our FanDuel ownership projections and our Yahoo! ownership projections. Looking for more NBA DFS picks DraftKings and the best NBA DFS picks? We also have DraftKings ownership rankings, FanDuel NBA ownership rankings and Yahoo! NBA rankings for today's slate. 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 NBA projections DFS.

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 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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