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NBA Optimal Lineups Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel LaMelo Ball | Saturday, Jan. 8

Terry McBride

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NBA DFS DraftKings FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball Optimal lIneups

A short Saturday slate features a five-game schedule with just one late-night game starting 90 minutes after the 7-7:30 pm block of games tip. The largest total of the evening is in the extremely targetable Hornets vs Bucks game, which comes in with a giant 235, while the contest between the Jazz and Pacers is the only other game that even cracks the 220 mark, coming in at 224. As has been the trend recently, we have a litany of absences that create value on every squad and absurd roster combinations are entirely possible for both FanDuel and DraftKings NBA DFS lineups tonight.

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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 several of the top leverage and value 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.

Hassan Whiteside: DraftKings — $3,500 — C | FanDuel — $6,100 — C

The no-brainer play of the year so far on DraftKings comes in at nearly twice the price on the FanDuel slate, making this a very different play on opposite sides of the industry. Hassan Whiteside is projected for 27.5 minutes this evening, a massive amount of time for a player who produces at 1.28 fantasy points per minute when he comes at the dramatic discount at which we find him on one of the sites. Whiteside played 30 minutes in the team’s most recent outing and turned in a disappointing 21.9 FanDuel points, any hopes of the field abandoning the play after that clunker of a performance should be forgotten, Whiteside is explosively popular once again. The center has a 65.5% true shooting percentage and a 20.2% rebounding rate in his limited action this season, with the anticipated role he is a plug-and-play option on DraftKings, but very different across town.

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On the FanDuel slate, Whiteside comes in at an inflated $6,100 salary that casts the play into question at -15.1 leverage. Whiteside is still a strong potential points-per-dollar play even at the increased price, but his popularity is excessive at 38.8%, and it far outpaces his 23.7% optimal lineup appearance rate on the site. That rate is good for just the ninth-best overall on the site and, more importantly, ranks third among eligible centers. One of the centers ranked above Whiteside, Orlando big man Mo Bamba, is a fellow center-only option who comes in at the same price, nearly a third of the ownership, and a positive leverage score that is almost directly opposite his more popular peer. Whiteside is over-owned on the FanDuel slate, but he is not entirely without value, he should be included in rosters but exposure in line with his optimal rate would be more appropriate, barring any changes to probability metrics. Whiteside is carrying a 32.7-point median projection and a 29.7% boom score probability. By comparison, Bamba is slated for a 33.7-point median and a 34.1% boom score probability. Getting to additional shares of the Orlando pivot as a direct swap is a good option on this slate.

The scenario is hilariously different on the DraftKings slate. It is not because Bamba rates poorly on the slate, his 25.4% optimal lineup rate ranks sixth overall and third among eligible centers, with only superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and Whiteside ahead of him at the position, and he comes at a strong 10.1 leverage score. The issue is far more related to the ludicrous $3,500 price tag to which Whiteside was assigned for this slate. That salary has the productive center slated for an 80.1% boom score probability against his 32.8-point median projection tonight. Whiteside is in the optimal DraftKings lineup in a ridiculous 71.4% of simulated slates, doubling the field’s best rates. The Utah center seemingly needs to just take the court to deliver value on his salary, and he has a very good chance of putting up a necessary ceiling score for the money. The upside is not unnoticed by the field, however, Whiteside is projected for a 91.3% ownership rate that is the highest popularity projection in recent memory. Even with essentially the entire field on the play, the probabilities are such that Whiteside simply seems like a plug-and-play building block for extreme value on this slate, his utility outpaces any need to differentiate from the rabid ownership rates. Rostering him alongside Bamba in a utility role is a viable approach to find minor differentiation, the Orlando big man is projected for merely 15.3% ownership.


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LaMelo Ball: DraftKings — $9,500 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $8,600 — PG

After booking the entire DraftKings entry pool into the center spot, gamers will need to find ways to get different in a hurry in other positions. Fortunately, Hornets star LaMelo Ball looks like an excellent option to help with that conundrum on both sites tonight. Ball is carrying a 1.36 fantasy points per minute rate across all situations this season and he is the lead option from his team in a game carrying by far the night’s highest total. The productive point guard is pricey but worthwhile on both sites, he has a 54.3% true shooting percentage this season and he pairs it with an excellent 34.9% assist percentage and solid 10.6% rebounding rate. Ball comes with positive leverage on both sites, he is a compelling option to differentiate lineups at the top shelf.

On the DraftKings slate, Ball is priced up to $9,500 with eligibility at both guard positions. The pricing is pushing a fair amount of popularity to other players at both positions, Ball is projected for just 16.1% public exposure on the slate, which is not in keeping with the 20.3% rate at which we find him in the optimal lineup in Awesemo’s simulated slates. Ball is projected for a 45.9-point median score, the third-highest raw fantasy point projection on the entire slate, but he comes with a 4.2 leverage score while the other top-5 options by projection are negatively leveraged. In fact, Ball and Jimmy Butler are the only two positively leveraged players who are also projected for more than 40 DraftKings points this evening, giving the pair clear value in lineup constructions. Ball has a 37.4% boom score probability even at the inflated price, he is more than capable of putting a ceiling score on the cost, that rate ranks 12th overall on the slate. Ball is a good option to get different after rostering heavy chalk in the frontcourt, lineups will still require differentiation, but his large median projection is a helpful step along a quality construction path.

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Ball is less expensive and, therefore, more popular on the FanDuel slate. With the blue site pricing the point guard only player at $8,600 he jumps to a 29% popularity projection, but that also comes against a stronger optimal lineup rate. Ball lands in the top lineup in Awesemo’s simulated FanDuel slates 32.8% of the time, the fifth-highest rate on the slate at any position and third among eligible point guards. Both of the more highly ranked plays at the position, namely Cade Cunningham and Alec Burks, also have shooting guard eligibility, so Ball does not block the ability to include their quality in lineups if so desired. The Hornets star is a strong option, he has a 33.4% boom score probability that outpaces both of those guards by at least four percentage points and he is carrying the third-highest raw point total on the FanDuel slate as well at 44.5. With a 3.8 leverage score, there is good reason to include Ball in more lineups than the rate for which the public is projected.

Cole Anthony (Q): DraftKings — $8,100 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $7,400 — PG/SG

After returning for an excellent 44.5 FanDuel point performance in just 26 minutes on Wednesday night, Magic guard Cole Anthony is listed as a game-time decision today with the same ankle injury designation. This play needs news, but if Anthony does take the court it will likely be at ownership that is too low for the upside. After missing eight games, Anthony returned to post a 26-7-5 line in the limited run on Wednesday, if he sees anything like the 33.7 minutes for which Awesemo currently has him projected he would be a strong option at limited popularity thanks to the questionable tag he has carried all day. Anthony is having a standout season when he is on the court, he has a 1.08 fantasy point per minute rate that is up from 0.94 across all situations last season, and he is a strong multi-category producer with his scoring acumen and 28.5% assist share.

On the FanDuel slate, Anthony is inexpensive for his talent, he comes in at just $7,400 with eligibility at both guard positions. Assuming he plays, Anthony will likely go off under-owned. The Orlando guard is currently projected for just 16.1% popularity but he has a 35.7-point median projection on the blue site and the field’s rate of exposure is well behind his probability marks. Anthony’s leverage score comes in at an excellent 7.2, he lands in the optimal lineup in 23.3% of simulated slates with the current projection of minutes, which would put the field well behind the curve. His 19.4% boom score probability pales in comparison to the very top of the board, where Bobby Portis is slated to hit the ceiling half of the times the slate plays, but Anthony’s rate compares favorably to many other guard options, including Burks and Cunningham. Monitoring news and having a plan for his absence will be important when considering rostering Anthony, but he is worth keeping in mind for the potential upside if he does play.

On the DraftKings slate, Anthony lands at a higher price against the lower cap, he is an $8,100 option at either guard position on the site. However, this has minimal impact on his overall quality, Anthony lands in the optimal lineup in 15.7% of simulated slates, the same rate at which we find the less expensive Chris Paul, but the Magic guard comes with positive leverage that the Suns veteran lacks at his 19.3% popularity. Anthony is projected for just 9.5% ownership, given the questionable status, even if news lands he seems unlikely to catch the veteran star’s popularity, leaving room for rostering the quality and probability. Anthony has a 19.9% boom score probability and a 38.1-point median projection and a 6.2 leverage score, he will be a premium guard option if he manages to play at all tonight.


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

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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