Monday’s manic Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration across the NBA features a schedule loaded with action. The NBA DFS world sees three separate featured slates, with early action starting at 12:30 this afternoon, but the nominal main slates are still in the evening and will be the focal point of this article. The slates are different from site to site, of course, as FanDuel decided to start their action at 6 pm ET, to capture the Bucks – Hawks game. That contest is interesting for our purposes, it features a 231.5 total and several interesting stars and mid-range players. The games that are on both sites include a 227.5 total between the Suns and Spurs and a late-night star-studded hammer with a 230.5 in the Jazz – Lakers contest to end the holiday. The long day and staggered game times ensure that paying attention and utilizing late swaps will be a major advantage after slates lock. Getting to the correct mix of value and upside is critical, as always, but so is having a plan for news and potential late value.
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 three games on the slate, this article will focus on several of the top positively leveraged 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.
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.
Note: While they are not featured below, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis are the two most frequently optimal players on the FanDuel slate in the current update. Antetokounmpo comes in at a 29.8% optimal rate with a -3.2 leverage score, while Portis is at a 36.1% optimal rate and a -9.6 leverage score. Portis will be owned by nearly half the field. His star teammate will be in a third of all lineups. They are aggressively owned but getting to them at least with the field still seems advisable.
JaVale McGee: DraftKings — $3,700 — C | FanDuel –$4,900 — C
Note: Just as this article was published, DeAndre Ayton was ruled out, which locks in McGee’s projections for tonight.
Slated for just 20 minutes in Awesemo’s projections with DeAndre Ayton questionable, there is a thin margin of error for Suns center JaVale McGee to deliver tonight. The backup big man has produced a terrific 1.35 fantasy points per minute across all situations this season, including a 1.31 rate across the team’s three most recent games. McGee has played 15.3 minutes a night over that stretch, roughly in line with his 16-minute average. In the team’s most recent outing, McGee posted a 29.2-point FanDuel score despite being on the court for just 15 minutes. The big man has a 67.4% true shooting percentage and a 20.2% rebounding rate. He stacks up fantasy points in a hurry when he is on the court, and he seems capable of delivering in even a small role tonight.
On the DraftKings slate, McGee costs just $3,700, pushing him to the very top of the board by optimal lineup appearance rate. He stands at nearly twice the optimal rate as the 22.7% at which we find Jusuf Nurkic in the optimal lineup on DraftKings, and the Portland big man costs $8,100, more than twice the price. McGee is projected for a 27.5-point median night and he has a terrific 53.9% boom score probability that also leads the entire DraftKings slate. The big man will not be on the court for long, but it does not matter at this price, if he sees the 20 minutes for which Awesemo is projecting him, McGee has clear upside to a required ceiling score on the DraftKings slate. The public is projected to include the center in 43.8% of their lineups, leaving McGee as a -3.7 leverage play. Unless something changes about the minutes or the probability metrics, McGee seems like a strong play even at the over-the-top ownership. He is a key building block to accessing frequently optimal constructions on this slate.
The McGee play is very different on FanDuel. On the blue site he costs $4,900, making it a challenge to justify him when we can only have one option at the position. McGee ranks sixth among eligible centers on the FanDuel slate, landing at a 13.4% optimal lineup appearance rate. The top option is Portis, with Nurkic sitting at 22.2% for only $7,500 on this site. McGee is carrying a 27.1-point FanDuel median projection, and he has a 27.9% boom score probability. He is not worthless on the slate, but there appear to be better options positionally. Several of the most frequently optimal centers are only eligible at that position tonight as well, exacerbating the value problem. McGee is over-owned for what he can be expected to contribute for the money on the FanDuel NBA DFS slate. He is projected for 17.5% popularity and -4.1 leverage, the second-worst mark at his position tonight behind only the far more valuable Portis. Mixing McGee into some lineups in a large pool of entries is fine, even advisable, but reaching the field’s ownership does not seem like a great plan at the FanDuel price.
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Kristaps Porzingis: DraftKings — $7,900 — PF | FanDuel — $9,400 — PF/C
Another player that is wildly different from site to site, Dallas big man Kristaps Porzingis comes in as a strong power forward play from the mid-range of salary on the DraftKings slate, and he is just a middling play from the upper range, albeit one carrying positive leverage, in FanDuel NBA DFS lineups tonight. Porzingis is projected for a 30.2-minute night which should be plenty of time for him to meet expectations at his typical 1.30 fantasy points per minute rate. The versatile big man has a 12.6% assist percentage and 12.8% rebounding share this season. He can contribute to fantasy scoring in several ways, including 2.5 stocks per game. Porzingis is highly valuable where he is not sneaky; where he is less valuable he is at least under the radar for tournament play.
On the FanDuel slate, the Mavericks unicorn is priced all the way up to $9,400, with eligibility at power forward and center. Porzingis is projected for a 40.2-point median score on the FanDuel slate, the 11th-highest median projection on the slate, and the third highest at both of his eligible positions. The price is keeping a fair amount of popularity away from Porzingis on the FanDuel slate. He is projected for just 4.5% ownership, roughly half of his 9.2% optimal lineup appearance rate. With that kind of positive leverage, it makes sense to consider Porzingis as a strong pay-up to be contrarian option, although he is limited by just an 11.3% boom score probability at the lofty price tag. The 4.7 leverage score has appeal, and it is easy to get beyond the field on the play, even doubling public ownership would not overexpose a full set of lineups too badly, but expectations should be fairly checked on the Porzingis upside in FanDuel NBA DFS lineups tonight.
The upside in getting to the Dallas power forward on the DraftKings slate is obvious. Porzingis is much too strong of a per-minute producer to be priced at just $7,900. That cut-rate cost puts him in the optimal lineup in 27.6% of simulated slates off of his 40.1-point median projection. The public is trailing behind the value of the play, even at a reduced cost, leaving Porzingis at a 3.7 leverage score that can be chased at this price. The power forward has a 28.7% boom score probability, trailing only centers LeBron James, Jusuf Nurkic, and Rudy Gobert on the entire slate. Porzingis can be played in combination with at least two of those options, depending on value plays selected around them, and he should help offset ownership in a minor way. The Mavericks forward is projected for 23.9% popularity. He can be rostered beyond that mark in sharp lineups.
Tyler Herro: DraftKings — $7,500 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $7,300 — SG/SF
A surprisingly positively leveraged play across the industry, Miami Heat wing Tyler Herro appears to be lacking in public popularity on the slate. Herro comes off the bench for the team, which perhaps keeps ownership numbers on him down when they should not be. Herro is one of the league’s more productive bench players and he sees a featured role when he is on the floor, taking 28.5% usage across all situations this season. In that sample, Herro is a 0.97 fantasy points per minute player in 32.9 minutes a night, largely in the second unit. Herro has posted a 1.04 per minute mark in 33.3 minutes a night over the team’s last three, but he looks significantly under-owned on both sites tonight.
On the FanDuel slate, Herro is projected for a 36.5-minute night yielding a 33.5-point median projection. He costs $7,300 on the slate, this is a full mid-range play not one from the value tier, but even at that level, Herro lands in the optimal lineup in 14.6% of simulated slates for the blue site. He will not be owned anywhere near that level by the public. Herro is projected for merely 4.9% ownership, leaving him at a fantastic 9.7 leverage score that can be exploited for value. With a 14% boom score probability there is some expectation of ceiling upside with the play as well, but the significant lack of attention is worth attention on its own.
The play is similar on the DraftKings slate, but it comes with even better leverage. Herro costs $7,500 in either guard spot on the slate and he is carrying an excellent 11.1 leverage score at the higher price against a lower cap. The guard picks up a 36.5-point median projection and he has a strong 20.7% boom score probability on the site, but the public is getting to him at just an 8.6% rate. With a player of Herro’s scoring acumen owned at that low a level when he is in the optimal lineup 19.7% of the time seems like a mistake by the field. The optimal rate ranks 10th overall, third among point guards, and second among shooting guards. Herro is a clear play from the mid-range of salary on this slate. He will help to differentiate lineups while carrying reliable probability metrics. It seems like a good idea to get additional shares of Herro in DraftKings NBA DFS lineups tonight.
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We also have Yahoo! rankings, DraftKings NBA ownership rankings and FanDuel NBA ownership rankings for today's slate. Looking for more DraftKings DFS NBA and the top NBA DFS picks for today? View our DraftKings NBA ownership projections, our Yahoo! NBA ownership projections and our FanDuel NBA ownership projections. Our NBA projections FanDuel are updated regularly, including whenever any relevant news breaks. Check out our DFS basketball rankings for fantasy points and values that are derived directly from Alex Baker's own DFS basketball projections.
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