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NBA DFS Optimizer Picks Tonight for DraftKings & FanDuel Lineups Kevin Love | Thursday 3/31/22

Terry McBride

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NBA DFS DraftKings FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball Optimal lIneups

The Thursday five-game slate of NBA DFS action kicks into gear with a 7 p.m. ET island game between the Philadelphia and the dreadful Detroit Pistons, with the visiting 76ers favored by 10 points in a game with a 223.5-point total. With the Sixers tuning up for the playoffs, the Pistons should present no real obstacle, but there is a bit of blowout risk around Philadelphia’s star big man. Three more games get rolling between 7:30 and 8:00, before the slate’s two-hour gap until the start time of the Lakers – Jazz game in Salt Lake City. The hometown Jazz are favored by nearly two touchdowns in that lopsided contest, bookending the slate with added blowout risk around both the stars from the Jazz and the extreme value plays from the lowly Lakers. The night’s prime target for raw NBA scoring, by a wide margin, is the massive 243-point game total in the Bucks – Nets showdown, with both sides coming to the floor with mostly healthy rosters. Ben Simmons continues to not play for Brooklyn any more than he played for Philadelphia, and Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is technically only probable to play but seems highly likely to go. With a huge score to target, viable plays from a wide range of prices and positioning, and just a 1.5-point spread, this game should be a major part of NBA DFS outcomes across the industry tonight, most of the key players are drawing significant attention but are still worthwhile. Mixing and matching leverage and upside pieces from the other four games with a rotation of the prime targets from this contest is a sound approach to building a single lineup or a handful of lineups, but across a full set of 150, it will be important to keep differentiation more in mind. A variety of viable combinations of players are available for NBA DFS lineups on both sites tonight, there is not just one clear path to the top of the standings.

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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 the top probability plays that also offer leverage on the NBA DFS 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 optimizer 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.

Kevin Love: DK $5,900 — PF/C | FD $6,300 — PF/C

The Cavaliers will come into their matchup against the Hawks without two of their leading frontcourt players, with both Jarret Allen and Evan Mobley laid up, along with veteran point guard Rajon Rondo. The Cavaliers are on the second night of a back-to-back, playing in much the same situation that saw them use a starting lineup that included Moses Brown, who stands as a reasonable value option who is drawing significant attention on the DraftKings slate and comes in as just a mix-and-match option on FanDuel. The more interesting piece of the Cavaliers frontcourt came off the bench and played 26 minutes last night, with the expectation of similar playing time this evening. Veteran forward Kevin Love has been a quietly strong contributor for fantasy point scoring all season. Love has 1.14 fantasy points per minute across all situations this year, a mark he compiles on the back of a 23.8% usage rate in his 22.6 minutes a night. Love produces fantasy points in bunches when he sees playing time, the multi-category contributor has a 58.7% true shooting percentage, a 15.4% assist rate and a 15.3% rebounding percentage this season, and he adds one stock and 3.6 3-pointers per 36. Love is coming off a horrific 16.5-point FanDuel performance in his 26 minutes last night, most likely leaving a bad taste for most NBA DFS gamers, which should result in an unjustifiable lack of popularity for Love; bucked rider, meet horse.

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On the DraftKings slate, Love comes in as just a $5,900 play with eligibility at power forward and center. He lands in the optimal lineup with the third-highest frequency on the board, falling in line behind teammates Caris LeVert and the aforementioned $3,200 Moses Brown. Both of those strong Cavaliers options are drawing efficient ownership, they have negligibly negative leverage scores, but they are negative. Love, on the other hand, has one of the slate’s leading positive leverage scores at 6.5. Despite his 27.3% optimal lineup appearance rate, 3 percentage points ahead of fourth-ranked mid-range value guard Malik Monk, Love will be owned by just 20.8% of the public, leaving plenty of room to add shares beyond the field. The low cost and positional flexibility keep Love in the optimal lineup a fair amount of the time, he also has a strong probability of hitting his salary-adjusted required ceiling score, a necessary ingredient in creating a top 1% lineup that will compete to win a tournament. Love has a 31.03% boom score probability, ranking him seventh overall and second to only Antetokounmpo at the power forward position. While four other centers come in with higher boom score marks, it is important to remember that with Love’s power forward eligibility, three of the top big men on the board can be included in the same lineup. The ability to snap Love into place for leverage at power forward while including two of Brown, Antetokounmpo, superstar Joel EmbiidRudy Gobert, or mid-range value Andre Drummond in a lineup is a powerful base of construction from which to reach for the top of an NBA DFS tournament.

Love gets a raise on the FanDuel slate, checking in at a $6,300 salary against the site’s higher salary cap. He maintains multi-position eligibility between power forward and center, giving him necessary flexibility around the blue site’s singular center stipulation. Love lands in the optimal lineup in 15.6% of Awesemo’s simulated FanDuel slates, ranking him 22nd overall on the slate but sixth among power forwards and fourth among centers. Love is projected for a 29.57-point median FanDuel score and he has a 14.92% boom score probability, putting him in line with similarly priced mid-range plays like Marvin Bagley III and Isaiah Stewart, who come in as more popular public plays. Love has just a 12% public popularity projection, leaving him as an underrated play with a ripe 3.6 leverage score on the blue site tonight. When players like Bagley and Stewart, who pale in comparison on a season-long points-per-minute basis, come with higher raw ownership and less – or negative – leverage, it does not take much to see how Love is the far better option for NBA DFS tournament lineups on FanDuel tonight.

Joel Embiid: DK $11,500 — C | FD $11,500 — C

As massive favorites in the first game of the night, the 76ers are a challenging team to evaluate for tonight’s DFS prospects against the pathetic Pistons. The obvious target on the board is superstar center Joel Embiid, who is a dominant fantasy force that posts 1.63 fantasy points per minute across all situations this season. Embiid’s per-minute mark is second only to that of Antetokounmpo on this slate, the Bucks star stands at a Jokician 1.73 for the season. To illustrate the gap in production between Embiid, Antetokounmpo and the Nuggets superstar center who is not on this slate, the next-highest per-minute rate among tonight’s 10 teams comes from Nets star Kevin Durant, at 1.35. Other stars are at similar levels of production, including Trae Young at a 1.33 and James Harden, who turns in a 1.30 on average. The gulf of per-minute scoring between the slate’s two top options and the also-rans cannot be ignored, the only thing that can potentially cut down the production of a player like Embiid in this matchup is a potential lack of playing time. Still, the center is projected for a 34.6-minute night in Awesemo’s afternoon update, giving him massive, underappreciated upside. Of all the possible risks available in building a lineup, it pays to take them when being right means landing well ahead of the field on an under-owned superstar.

Embiid has a 6.5 leverage score on the FanDuel slate, the fifth-highest mark on the board, making the second-best overall player on the slate dramatically under-owned. The superstar center lands in the optimal lineup in 22.4% of Awesemo’s simulated slates for FanDuel, but the public seems put off by the risk that he will play fewer than 30 minutes. Embiid is projected for just a 15.9% popularity rate on the blue site, which lands four centers ahead of him by popularity on the slate where only one can be rostered. With only Isaiah Stewart carrying multi-position eligibility among those options, there is no way for gamers choosing Rudy Gobert or Clint Capela to also roster Embiid. The risk in this situation goes both ways, gamers who choose those options are taking on the opportunity cost of an under-owned Embiid, while those who roster the 76ers center will be hoping he sees a full complement of playing time. Assuming he does, Embiid has a probability of 38.15% to hit his salary-adjusted required ceiling score tonight. For a player already projected for a 58.13-point median FanDuel performance, that is a massive likelihood of bumping his head on the ceiling, another appealing factor that should not be ignored. Embiid is a clear-cut top option on FanDuel tonight, but the public is not getting to him with enough urgency, this is a situation that should be exploited, blowouts be damned.

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On the DraftKings slate, the situation is slightly more constricted, given the ability to play Embiid alongside a number of combinations of highly viable big men by virtue of the utility spot and additional positional flexibility. Embiid checks into the optimal lineup in 20.7% of simulated DraftKings slates for his $11,500 salary. He has a 59.4-point median projection, the highest raw total on the DraftKings slate, 0.4 fantasy points ahead of Antetokounmpo, who comes in a tougher matchup but one with less blowout risk and a massive game total. Both superstars make for excellent plays, but it is Embiid who comes up under-owned, despite Antetokounmpo’s technically unconfirmed status. Embiid is projected for just 17.2% popularity, leaving him as a targetable 3.5 leverage score play. He has an excellent 41.38% probability of hitting the salary-adjusted ceiling score that one would need from him in order to win a tournament, the second-highest overall boom score mark on the entire slate. Embiid’s rate of hitting his ceiling falls behind only $3,200 Moses Brown, it is ludicrous that he is positively leveraged and under-owned on this slate.


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Khris Middleton: DK $7,800 — SG/SF | FD $7,500 — SF/SG

While he may be no one’s idea of an exciting NBA DFS play, steady Bucks wing Khris Middleton checks in at a fair mid-range price and efficient-at-worst ownership despite playing in the game with a total that leads the slate by more than 14 points. Middleton contributes 1.11 fantasy point per minute yet is rarely seen in this space; in addition to the fact that it is exceedingly difficult for someone who mostly grew up in a place called Middletown to type the name Middleton repeatedly, the forward is almost always appropriately priced and owned by the field. He comes into tonight’s action with a 58.1% true shooting percentage and an effective 24.7% assist rate, but just a 7.9% rebounding percentage. Middleton has produced a 1.06 per-minute rate over the team’s three most recent games, spiking to a strong 47.3-point outing in 39 minutes in the most recent game. With a bounty of options to target in this premium matchup, the slate seems to be slightly overlooking Middleton’s quality on FanDuel, while he is negatively leveraged but at a fairly low raw ownership total on DraftKings. As a mix-and-match piece, Middleton plays well in a variety of constructions.

Middleton checks in as the 17th-most frequently optimal player overall on the DraftKings slate, but he is the fifth-highest ranked shooting guard and sits third from the top among small forwards. The multi-position eligibility across five spots in a DraftKings lineup is a valuable trait that keeps Middleton in the optimal lineup in 16.1% of Awesemo’s simulated slates for his $7,800 price tag. He comes with a strong 38.4-point median projection with a suggestion of upside, given the massive total and a point spread that suggests a tightly contested game. The productive wing has a 22.25% probability of hitting his salary-adjusted ceiling score on this slate, but the field is getting to him a mere 19.6% of the time. While that does land Middleton at a -3.5 leverage score he seems playable by comparison to the 33.1% ownership of Caris LeVert or the 28.5% of Malik Monk. Jazz star Donovan Mitchell comes in as an $8,800 option with more ownership and negative leverage, but the pay-up is at least justified by larger raw point projections. In paying up to differentiate with Middleton, instead of using one of the lower-cost options, a lineup diverges from the field without sacrificing a noteworthy amount of upside.

Middleton is even more appealing as a positively leveraged play on the FanDuel slate. As a $7,500 option at either small forward or shooting guard, he lands in the optimal lineup in 23.6% of Awesemo’s simulated slates, but the public sits somewhat behind the curve on the productive play. Middleton is carrying a 36.54-point median projection for the fair price and positional flexibility, and he has a 20.59% probability of hitting his salary-adjusted ceiling score, but the field is rostering him just 21.5% of the time. At a 2.1 leverage score, Middleton becomes a target for added shares beyond the ownership for which the field is projected. Tonight’s FanDuel slate includes a very thin mid-range. There are only five players who land between the $8,000 salary carried by Russell Westbrook and the $6,500 price of Tobias Harris, including Middleton, Rudy Gobert, Nikola Vucevic, Zach LaVine and Drummond. In that group, Middleton is the second-most frequently optimal player behind LaVine’s 26.7% optimal rate, but he has a lower boom score mark than LaVine, Vucevic and Gobert, while landing at similar ownership. Middleton’s positive leverage is advantageous here, and the positioning is not a direct comparison, but focusing on a rotation of the quality options priced in the $7,000 tier of salary on FanDuel tonight is an interesting viewpoint from which to examine the slate.

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

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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