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NBA Optimal Lineups Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel Kyle Lowry | Wednesday, Dec. 15

Terry McBride



Wednesday brings a huge 11-game NBA DFS slate and chaos from all corners. With COVID-19 protocols forcing players out across the league, there are significant value plays on the board already and a number of spots that seem likely to emerge around pending news both with health and safety as well as standard fare NBA injury and rest pandemonium. This makes lineup building – and providing analysis on Live Before Lock – an upside-down juggling act of an exercise. If the entire nature of the slate does not change between 6 and 7 pm ET this evening it will be a stunning turn of events, planning for as many of the known unknowns as possible is the best one can hope for heading into the hour prior to lock. Reacting to news and making smart value and upside-based decisions when allocating lineup shares is critical in this situation. Tournaments can be easily won or lost by making the right choice of role players, as was obvious with last night’s wild three-game slates.

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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 board, this article will focus on the 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.

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.

Kyle Lowry: DraftKings — $8,100 — PG | FanDuel — $7,000 — PG

The Heat will again be without stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. They will be joined on the shelf by Tyler Herro, Caleb Martin, and Markieff Morris, all of whom have already been ruled out this evening. This leaves Lowry and a host of Heat role players with significant potential opportunity once again. Over the team’s most recent three games, Lowry has seen an average of 35.3 minutes while posting 1.16 FanDuel points per minute. That number is well up from the 0.94 mark that Lowry has posted across all situations this season. Lowry is projected for a massive 39-minute evening. He played 38 in the team’s last game and delivered 37.1 fantasy points, there is an upside for more. Lowry looks like a popular piece of chalk on both sites, his value is greater on the FanDuel slate for less salary, but his lower overall ownership is more appealing as a spendier option on DraftKings.

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The point guard has a 26% optimal lineup rate on the DraftKings slate tonight, the second-highest overall mark on the board, trailing only fellow point guard Jalen Brunson, who sits at a 26.2% rate for his $6,700 salary across both guard spots. They are not wildly over-exposed on the site when there are a fair number of quality options for lineup differentiation available. Lowry is projected for 28.2% popularity, whereas Brunson lands at a 29.5% ownership share and a -3.3 leverage score. Both guards are in play, but Lowry carries a higher median projection at 44.4. He has the lower boom score probability, but his 38.4% is again second only to Brunson’s 41.8% on the entire slate. Both guards are going to be in many lineups, but they are worth the effort required to get different in other positions.

Lowry’s price is far too low on the FanDuel slate. At $7,000 he is drawing significant attention, despite eligibility at just one guard spot. Lowry has a gigantic 46.4% exposure projection against a 36% optimal lineup rate, leaving him negatively leveraged to degrees that approach concern. He has a quality 40.8-point median projection on the blue site and his 47.1% boom score probability cannot be ignored. He is a major mid-range value with the discounted price, but building him (or Brunson) into a roster on FanDuel means walking in lockstep with roughly half the slate. Lowry has a -10.4 leverage score, with Brunson landing at a -13.1, but no player is within 13 percentage points of their optimal lineup rates at any position, Nikola Jokic stands third on the board with a 22.5% rate and no other player cracks the 20% mark. This makes Lowry and Brunson high-quality building blocks that should be rostered frequently and aggressively, despite their significant popularity.

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Khris Middleton (Q): DraftKings — $7,200 — SF | FanDuel — $7,500 — SF/SG

Against better judgment and knowing that this will likely require an update note shortly after publishing, Khris Middleton stands as an excellent play in spite of his currently questionable status. Middleton is nursing a hyperextended knee and could sit out Wednesday’s game, but the Bucks are already short-handed, with Giannis Antetokounmpo announced out early in the day. He joined a list that includes Demarcus Cousins, Brook Lopez, Wesley Matthews, and Semi Ojeleye. The missing pieces create an opportunity for the Bucks’ next most talented player to step into Giannis’ void. The gap could also be filled by guard Jrue Holliday, but with his status as (almost) definitely playing, Holiday is already tracking for major popularity and negative leverage. He would be a clear go-to option if Middleton were to also sit this one out. However, if Middleton plays, the public is unlikely to catch up to him in time, which should leave some leverage on the board. He has 1.05 fantasy points per minute on 25.7% usage across all situations this season. Without Antetokounmpo, Middleton has a 34.9% usage rate and a 1.18 per-minute mark across 247 minutes this season, a massive uptick in production. If he plays, Middleton has a sneaky opportunity to provide a mandatory score for accessing the top of NBA DFS tournament standings tonight.

On FanDuel, Middleton is projected for just 11.7% ownership in the early afternoon. If Middleton is confirmed as active well in advance of lock, his ownership should climb and his 1.3 leverage score should largely evaporate, but he would likely remain a good play for the fair salary across both shooting guard and small forward. The upside in his 36.5-point median projection and 20.25 boom score probability against what would still be low raw ownership totals would be advantageous in the situation. With positional flexibility and the potential for underappreciated value, Middleton is a player to monitor for news heading into lock this afternoon.

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The same is true on the DraftKings slate as far as the news, but on that side of town Middleton’s 18.6% optimal lineup rate ranks fourth overall, making him more of a standout play if he goes. He is listed for $7,200 as a small forward only, but he lands at a solid 39-point median projection and a 32.3% boom score probability that is the sixth highest on the site. Middleton has just a 16.9% ownership projection that will definitely climb with early news. Middleton’s current 1.7 leverage score would probably slip negative at that point as well, but he is unlikely to reach the depths of the -18.5 that Holiday carries on the DraftKings slate. He is a strong play regardless of where the popularity lands, it seems unlikely to impact his ceiling score potential or optimal lineup rates. Monitor the news for status, of course.

Adam Scherer has even more great DraftKings NBA DFS GPP Picks for your lineups tonight.
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While it is unlikely to get as bad as last night’s “lucky fans get to play” rotation that the Nets seemed to run, tonight’s slate is still likely to slip further into a maelstrom of injury news and absences. Any number of lesser-known role players could see prominent spots by the time lock arrives, it is important to have a plan and explore potential pivots when this situation arises, as there could frequently be a host of plays at similar cost and far lower public exposure to the players that the field chooses to chase. Several of the names on the board already include Miami guards Max Strus and Gabe Vincent, who are both projected for significant action in the depleted Heat rotation along with Lowry. Both players are viable on the DraftKings slate, where they are both landing in the optimal lineup 15% of the time at efficient public ownership. Strus stands out for a $3,100 salary on a 27.5-minute and 14.5% ownership projection on the site. He costs $4,000 on FanDuel and makes the optimal lineup just 4.3% of the time, taking him largely off the board on the blue site. Vincent stands as a quality play at 12% optimal for $4,700 on FanDuel, but his popularity is up there, leaving him at playable but unappealing -2.3 leverage. On DraftKings, Vincent is sturdy but also negatively leveraged at an 18.4% ownership projection for $4,500.

In Oklahoma City the Thunder will be without Luguentz Dort, Tre Mann and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl stand to see increased minutes. The latter is projected for a 24.6-minute night for $4,400 as a power forward on FanDuel, which gives him minimal value. As a $3,400 power forward or center on DraftKings, however, he pops to a 21.1% boom score probability at just 5.1% ownership. Robinson-Earl has just a 20.3-point median projection and a 5.3% optimal lineup rate, this is not a play to get excited about, but he can be rotated in for differentiation and cost savings where needed. Mann comes up as the more interesting option on both sites. He costs just $3,200 at either guard spot on the DraftKings slate, where he is carrying a 21.5-point median projection with a 12.5% optimal lineup rate and a 31.6% boom score probability that stands seventh overall on the slate. At that type of points-per-dollar upside, Mann is a targetable building block on the slate despite the low median projection and the limited 0.73 per-minute rates for the season. The Thunder also have Josh Giddey on the board on both sites tonight. Giddey has a 23.4% ownership projection on FanDuel but only a 6.3% mark on DraftKings, where he costs $6,700 at shooting guard or small forward. Giddey has produced 0.98 fantasy points per minute across all situations this season and he is projected for a 31.3-minute night. On FanDuel he is priced at just $5,800, explaining the popularity as well as the 34.8% boom score probability and 19.8% optimal lineup rate. Giddey is slightly negatively leveraged on FanDuel, but not to a concerning degree. He is at a 3.4 leverage mark on DraftKings.

The Rockets are another team with a number of players on the shelf, including Eric Gordon, Jaylen Green, Kevin Porter Jr., and Danuel House, as well as the perpetually absent John Wall. With featured forward Christian Wood listed as a game-time decision, there could be a massive void in the already depleted Rockets lineup. Wood is dealing with knee tendinitis and seems to be trending toward not playing. The prevailing thought it that this will create a major opportunity for Alperen Sengun to absorb significant minutes. He is currently projected for a 19.4-minute night with Wood active. Even at that mark, he is landing in 7.8% of optimal lineups for his $5,400 salary at center or power forward on FanDuel and 12.3% for just $4,500 at the same positions on DraftKings. If his minutes projection were to get a bump of 10 to 12 minutes he is likely to explode for value across the industry, he would be a go-to building block on DraftKings and a strong value big man to rotate through both positions in unique constructions on FanDuel, regardless of where the popularity falls. The Rockets have a few players who could produce value for their low overall salaries, including Jae’Sean Tate and Armoni Brooks, who are priced close to expectation but would see a bump with Wood out. Josh Christopher is projected for a 20.5-minute night at just $3,100 on DraftKings, giving him a 16% boom score probability but just a 3.8% optimal lineup rate, which leaves him as a dart throw at best. The secure play from the Rockets rotation in Wood’s absence is Sengun; the remaining players are of more mix-and-match quality across the industry.

The final team to monitor for news is the Philadelphia 76ers. The team is already without Georges Niang, and they have Furkan Korkmaz, Seth Curry, and most importantly Joel Embiid listed as game-time decisions for this evening. With Embiid by far the most critical piece to potentially miss the game, the obvious talking point becomes Andre Drummond. He has had a rollercoaster of a season, providing major upside in starter’s minutes, for a while, while Embiid was out, before bumping his head badly on the salary ceiling. With his role and price reduced once again, Drummond comes into the night projected for just 16.6 minutes at $6,100 on FanDuel and $4,700 on DraftKings. The 1.26 fantasy points per minute do not make value at that projection, but it comes with Embiid forecast to play. If that situation changes and Drummond’s minutes projection comes close to doubling, he will be extremely difficult to ignore on this slate. Curry and Korkmaz are both also in the current iteration of projections. Curry’s absence would leave a void of more than 30 minutes available for options like Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, Korkmaz if he plays, and even Tyrese Maxey to see extended opportunity to play and see usage. Maxey is projected for a 28.5-minute night at a salary above $6,000 on both sites, with four more minutes he is unlikely to become an extremely appealing option. Adding time to Thybulle’s 25.5-minute projection or the 23.6 for Milton creates similarly underwhelming upticks in expected production, but they are viable lower mid-range plays at their salaries. The obvious beneficiary of all potentially chaotic situations, assuming at least a few teammates sit out, is Tobias Harris, who is at just a mix-and-match level for $7,300 and $7,400 across FanDuel and DraftKings, respectively. That has the forward in around five percent of optimal lineups with a boom score of around 10% on both sites. In 253 minutes without Embiid on the floor this season, Harris leaps from 1.01 to 1.09 fantasy points per minute and his usage spikes from 24.3% to 30.5%; Harris would be a clear mid-range option if Embiid sits.

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

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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