The monstrous Wednesday slate brings all but four of the NBA’s teams to the board in a wild 13-game lineup. With so many teams in play, it is easy to find players who will be under-owned for their general quality, and the tools are awash with similarly rated plays from a variety of positions and price tiers. Parsing through the top options by probability metrics and leverage is crucial for a slate such as this, the margin of a few percentage points or a few hundred dollars in salary that pays for additional upside in another position can be the difference between a top 1% lineup and the top lineup. The slate tops out with a pair of 240-point game totals, the Hawks vs Bucks 8 pm ET contest comes in with a spread of 4.5, while the Nuggets and Kings will battle at the same total and the same point spread two hours later. The slate also includes a pair of games totaled in the 230s, a handful in the mid-220s, and some lower-end action between the Knicks and Mavericks in a game totaled at just 216. There are plenty of mid-range and premium plays on the board, but so far the slate lacks the true extreme value pieces that make lineups come together with extreme reliability, many of the inexpensive options are rating out on the same low-probability plateau, creating an interesting lineup construction conundrum across the industry.
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 13 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 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.
Willy Hernangomez: DK $4,000 — C | FD $5,300 — PF/C
At fairly different price points, Pelicans backup big man Willy Hernangomez is a top option for value on one site, and barely scrapes by as a mid-range mix-and-match play on the other. Hernangomez averages an excellent 1.23 fantasy points per minute across all situations this season but averages just 16.4 minutes a night. In an increased role in the absence of several key rotation pieces in recent games, Hernangomez has posted a 1.18 mark in 24.3 minutes per game over the team’s three most recent contests. Hernangomez has a 58.6% true shooting percentage with a 10.9% assist rate and 19.5% rebounding share in his limited role, adding 1.8 stocks per-36. Hernangomez is projected for a 20.1-minute outing tonight, giving him just enough time to squeak out value at his DraftKings salary, while he is a much more difficult ask on the blue site.
On FanDuel, Hernangomez is priced up to a $5,300 mark that makes him difficult to roster in the limited playing time projection. In the event that he seems 24 or 26 minutes, Hernangomez could pay off this price with his per-minute upside, but the 10.62% boom score probability at which he currently lands is not the board’s most inspiring mark for ceiling score potential. At that rate, Hernangomez lands well down the board after a number of other options of higher quality on the slate. Among eligible centers, Hernangomez’s 3.6% optimal lineup appearance rate ranks him 19th on the slate, and any value gained for his power forward eligibility is negligible, the Pelicans big man ranks 33rd at that position. The optimal lineup situation is not as dire as it may seem, however, with so many similar options on the board, the fourth-most frequently optimal power forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo, on the FanDuel slate sits at just a 12% optimal rate. While that is four times the probability of finding Hernangomez in the top lineup, it is not a giant number in a comparative vacuum, but the too-high salary at which Hernangomez is listed on the blue site tonight makes him nothing more than a dart throw reserved for a few lineups.
At an extremely attractive $4,000 salary on the DraftKings slate, Hernangomez is one of the most frequently optimal players at any position, despite dropping his power forward eligibility. The center sits third among all players, landing in the top lineup in 15.9% of Awesemo’s simulated slates. That rate puts him behind only Marvin Bagley III and LeBron James, two wildly different players, one of whom is currently questionable and carrying a massive leverage score into the night. Hernangomez is projected for a 24.1-point median score for the cheap price, and he has an excellent 31.1% boom score probability. That rate ranks fourth among all players and third among eligible centers. Bagley has center eligibility for $5,000 and better probability marks, but he is a -9.2 leverage play. He can also be rostered at power forward alongside many of the other options. The true center above Hernangomez on the board is Nikola Jokic, who costs $12,600 and lands in the optimal lineup 9.9% of the time with a ridiculous 32.18% boom score probability against the titanic salary. Hernangomez is a potentially key piece in reaching the top-end of lineup construction on the DraftKings slate tonight, but he is not projected to be owned like it, the quality option has just a 7.5% ownership projection on this slate. He is an excellent leverage target with an 8.4 that sits second to only currently questionable LeBron James. He is unlikely to do damage at his low cost, and the potential he creates currently cannot be replicated with other options.
Kevin Porter Jr.: DK $6,300 — PG | FD $5,800 — SF/PG
Playing as the primary point guard for the Rockets in a wide-open game against the lowly Lakers that reaches a 234-point total on the board in Vegas does nice things to the overall NBA DFS scoring prospects for Kevin Porter Jr. across the industry tonight. Porter stands as one of the most frequently optimal players at any position on either site, but he is also pushing major popularity on a gigantic slate. The mid-range salary option seems primed for a solid scoring night, although that argument could have been made prior to the team’s most recent game, and Porter posted only 29.5 FanDuel points in 29 minutes in that contest. Still, the 32.9-minute projection leading the offense in what should be a high-scoring game cannot be ignored when the player in question averages 0.95 fantasy points per minute for the season and the opportunity to do more in the absence of a number of teammates who are currently listed as questionable. Porter offers salary and position-based upside on both sites, but he will be a negatively leveraged play across both sites, making it paramount that differentiation is considered in other positions when he is utilized.
The point guard comes in as a $6,300 option on the DraftKings slate, where he lands as the fifth-most frequently optimal player at any position. Unlike other nights, that fifth-ranked rate is just 12.1%, Porter is only technically a leading play by optimal rate on a day where the margins are extraordinarily slim, and everyone looks relatively the same, 50th-ranked Russell Westbrook has a 5.9% optimal lineup rate and is positively levered with just 3.8% of the field projected to include him, for example. At twice the rate of appearance in the top lineup in Awesemo’s simulations, Porter does have value, but it does not stand nearly as far apart from the field as one would see on a smaller less robust slate. As a -9.8 leverage play with 21.9% projected popularity, pivoting to options who grade similarly for probability metrics while landing at, if not positive leverage, at least a low raw ownership total, like Westbrook’s single-digit mark. Porter has a 26.62% boom score probability at his fair price point, ranking him eighth on the slate and second among eligible point guards by likelihood of hitting a required ceiling score. Porter’s 33.3-point median projection is a quality mark, but again he is betrayed by his popularity and the presence of similarly projected options who are simply lower-owned from slightly higher or lower price points. Porter should be included in DraftKings NBA DFS lineups, but undercutting the field in favor of a broader spread seems like a sound approach.
The Houston guard has excellent flexibility on the FanDuel slate, where he can be rostered as either a point guard or a small forward. Porter is projected for a 31.11-point median score on the blue site, leaving him in the optimal lineup in 14.2% of Awesemo’s simulated slates. That mark ranks 13th among players from every position, sixth at small forward, and fifth among point guards. At the latter position, the players that are more frequently optimal than Porter also come at a much higher price than his $5,800, with Luka Doncic leading the way at $11,100 for a 15.1% optimal lineup rate and discounted Russell Westbrook as the most frequently optimal point guard with a 22.2% rate for his $6,800 salary. Porter can be rostered in a number of combinations with the other premium point guards and most of the remaining top options on the slate, but because of that he will be highly popular as well. The Houston standout has a 23.9% ownership projection and a -9.7 leverage score on the blue site, making him the second-most negatively leveraged player behind New York’s Alec Burks. Porter is more than twice as frequently optimal as Burks and he has an advantage of 10 percentage points of boom score probability for $500 more, making him the better play between the two. Still, undercutting the field’s extravagant ownership projections in favor of a broad spread is a sound plan on the FanDuel NBA DFS slate as well. Porter fits into lineups well and makes a number of approaches to this slate work, but that is what leads to his popularity at a pair of positions that offer wide-ranging options.
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Fred VanVleet: DK $8,200 — PG/SG | FD $7,300 — PG
Finally expected to make his return from injury, Raptors star Fred VanVleet looks like an interesting option at efficient ownership across the industry. VanVleet is currently projected to play 35 minutes in Toronto’s top-heavy rotation, which would represent a return to a 3.8-minute reduction from his average. With few restrictions expected, VanVleet should be expected to be his usual average of 1.07 fantasy points per minute. He has a fair mid-range price with positional flexibility on one site, and he comes in at too low a salary where he is restricted to only the point guard position. VanVleet has easy 50- or 60-fantasy-point upside on any given slate with his 56.8% true shooting percentage and 28.2% assist rate but he is not priced like the mid-tier star that he is, a situation that can be exploited in NBA DFS lineups.
On the DraftKings slate, VanVleet ranks 28th overall at a 7% optimal lineup appearance rate. This is again a situation in which we see a wide range of players landing on a similar plateau of optimal lineup appearance frequency. The Raptors sharpshooter has multi-position eligibility between both guard positions on the DraftKings slate and the public is not rushing to include him in lineups with his unconfirmed status at even an $8,200 price tag. VanVleet carries a 19.47% boom score probability at that price, ranking him 24th from the top among players at all positions. In this case, the fifth-ranked – and currently questionable – Christian Wood has a boom score just 10 percentage points higher, again illustrating the similarity between a great many options on tonight’s slate. With his relatively strong probability of hitting his mandatory ceiling score, VanVleet seems underappreciated at just 6.2% public ownership. While that rate leaves him with just a 0.80 leverage score in the technical sense, there is plenty of value in a single-digit ownership mark on a player of VanVleet’s caliber. Adding a few additional shares beyond the point to which the public is expected to reach for the Toronto scorer is a sound approach to the guard position in DraftKings NBA DFS lineups tonight.
At just a $7,300 price tag, VanVleet gains significant value on the blue site. He jumps to a 15.3% optimal lineup appearance rate, the ninth-highest on the board at any position, despite the loss of his positional flexibility. VanVleet is projected for a 37.45-point median score and he has an excellent 27.34% boom score probability, putting him in direct competition with fellow underpriced wing options Jimmy Butler and LaMelo Ball, who are listed somehow at just $7,800 and $7,600, respectively. Adding a $6,000 Kristaps Porzingis, an $8,300 Pascal Siakam, and a host of others to the equation illustrates the broad range of available options on this slate, but only Ball and Russell Westbrook stand taller than VanVleet at the point guard position, extending his quality beyond the -1.9 leverage score at which the public’s 17.2% ownership mark leaves him. VanVleet can be rostered aggressively as an underpriced upside option on this slate.
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View our DraftKings ownership, our FanDuel ownership projections and our Yahoo! NBA ownership projections. Our DFS NBA projections are updated regularly, including whenever any relevant news breaks. Looking for more NBA DFS picks for tonight and the top NBA DFS picks for today? We also have DraftKings ownership rankings, Yahoo! ownership rankings and FanDuel ownership rankings for today's slate. Check out our daily fantasy basketball rankings for fantasy points and values that are derived directly from Alex Baker's own best NBA DFS projections.
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