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NBA Optimal Lineups Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel LeBron James | Saturday, Dec. 25

Terry McBride

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The NBA rumor mill has churned up the possibility of Mike D'Antoni replacing Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel at some point before next season

Happy Christmas and Merry Holidays, NBA DFS fans. One of the biggest days of the NBA year gets underway early with a noon tip between the Hawks and Knicks in a rematch of last season’s first-round playoff series. The slate features five games (probably) that will run throughout the day, with the final start time in the Mavericks vs Jazz game landing 10.5 hours after the start of the state. With major question marks about availability and unknown wildcards lurking, it will be important to monitor the news around all the holiday activity, making sharp swaps along the way while the public is otherwise occupied.

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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 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.

Gorgui Dieng: DraftKings — $3,600 — C | FanDuel — $3,500 — C

With starting center Clint Capela joining a host of Hawks on the COVID-19 restricted list, it is backup Gorgui Dieng who is catapulted to the very top of the board on both sites for his absurd value as a fill-in option. Dieng comes in as a mid $3,000s option, he averages 1.07 fantasy points per minute and is projected for a 29.1 minute night in early projections. The center played just 14 minutes in the team’s most recent game, he did not start and was not in foul trouble, he simply served in more of a backup capacity despite the limited roster. The Hawks opted for John Collins and Onyeka Okongwu to start that contest, but there is reason to believe that he will see more action on Saturday. Dieng started and played most of the first half two games ago, before seeing just two limited stints in the second half of a close game. If he comes close to Awesemo’s projection for minutes, Dieng will almost certainly be able to deliver strong value for the low price.

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On FanDuel, Dieng was salaried at the dead minimum $3,500, but he comes with opportunity cost at the singular-center spot. Regardless, he ranks second overall on the Saturday slate, landing at a whopping 48.8% optimal lineup appearance rate on the blue site. Dieng is projected for a 30.1-point median FanDuel score and he is carrying a ridiculously high 70% boom score probability. The center is not a secret, particularly if we have confirmed starting news, he is already drawing a 50.1% ownership projection, cutting his leverage score to a -1.3, but the probability ranks and the cost that can’t get lower should not be ignored.

On DraftKings, Dieng is the most frequently optimal player at any position. He lands in the top construction in 50.8% of simulated DraftKings slates and he carries a 71.9% boom score probability for the low cost. Dieng is a center-only option on the DraftKings slate, but the added ability to roster him in a utility role alongside another pure center gives the play power at these probability points. Dieng costs just $3,600 and he is carrying a 30.5-point median projection, but he does have a 59.6% ownership projection that pulls him down to a -8.8 leverage score on the site. As with the situation across town, it seems like Dieng is just too valuable a building block to leave on the shelf, the public’s ownership is correct and he should be rostered aggressively, though exceeding the near 60% popularity is a tricky task.


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LeBron James: DraftKings — $3,800 — C | FanDuel — $4,600 — PF/C

Over the last 18 years, Christmas Day for many means great food, family, and of course a visit from someone very special… NBA superstar LeBron James. Assuming he takes the floor, James will be playing in his 16th December 25th game in the 19th year of his career. James is currently listed as probable as Friday night crashes into Saturday morning, and it seems likely he will play even if the opposing Nets will be missing fellow star Kevin Durant. James is chasing Kobe Bryant for the largely meaningless Christmas Day games scoring record, but it is currently the relatively fair price, positional flexibility, and probability marks on the Awesemo NBA DFS boom/bust tool that have us intrigued about James for Saturday’s action. The best player of his generation has put up a 1.33 fantasy point per minute rate in all situations this season and has stepped up to a 1.60 mark in the team’s three most recent games. Last time out, James played 35 minutes and delivered a 61.8-point FanDuel performance. He is easily worth the money and the effort required to roster him in a heavy share of lineup constructions.

On DraftKings, James lands in the optimal lineup with greater frequency than all but four players on the slate. The Lakers superstar has a 36.3% optimal lineup appearance rate, trailing just Dieng, Delon WrightPaul Millsap, and Jalen Brunson. James can be played in tandem with any of those options, they are all from the value tier with Wright coming in as by far the most expensive of the trio not named Brunson, at $4,800. Brunson costs $7,600 and stands about six percentage points ahead of James by optimal lineup while sharing point guard eligibility. The ability to roster James at that spot or at the small forward position has major power on the DraftKings slate and it can be useful for lineup differentiation. James is not a surprise to anyone, he will be included in 37.5% of public lineups and that number seems likely to climb when his status is officially confirmed. Still, the player looks like a strong option at just a -1.2 leverage score that is more efficient than it is bad. James is projected for a 52.3-point median score and a 31.7% optimal lineup appearance rate on the slate, he is poised to make a major impact on Saturday’s slate.

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James stands as the fifth-most frequent visitor to the optimal lineup on the blue site as well. On the FanDuel slate, James appears in the optimal lineup in 40.8% of simulated slates but he lands at a major positive leverage score. James loses point guard eligibility but adds flexibility to the power forward spot, making him a movable part for significant upside. The forward is projected for a 50.9-point median projection with a 21.1% boom score probability that defies his $10,900 pricing. Hames should be rostered aggressively for the price, the public is not on top of the play in enough lineups, getting to one of the best players in the league is always a good idea at such positive leverage.

Robert Williams: DraftKings — $5,800 — C | FanDuel — $5,600 — PF/C

The Celtics are another team that has dealt with a litany of absences due to Covid protocols and other factors. The team has a number of players listed as questionable going into Saturday morning. The team is likely to be without big men Al HorfordGrant Williams, and Enes Kanter once again, a situation that should thrust Robert Williams into the spotlight for minutes and upside once again. For the season, Williams has reached a 1.00 fantasy point per minute rate on just 12% usage this season, though that mark is still well down from the 1.36 he posted on 14.5% usage last year. Williams has clear upside ability and it was on display in the team’s most recent game. Across 34 minutes in that contest, Williams delivered a 54.7-point fantasy performance that was only slightly covered in chalk. The public is currently projected well behind the curve on the play, but this may catch up as news is confirmed on a number of Celtics frontcourt pieces.

Assuming that the players who are expected to be out actually do not suit up, Williams looks like a top option on the blue site tonight. He is carrying a 33% optimal lineup appearance rate, good enough for seventh overall on the slate, and second at both of his eligible positions. Williams does dirty work around the rim on the hardwood, he has a 14.3% rebounding share and a 73.7% true shooting percentage that are feeding the 32-point median projection on the FanDuel slate. The big man is carrying an excellent 35.4% boom score probability that outpaces several players ranked ahead of him by optimal lineup rate. Williams is projected to be owned by just 23.8% of the public on this slate, he has an excellent and targetable 9.2 leverage score. Assuming the absence of several teammates, and even if one or two do play, Wiliams looks like a strong option for value and differentiation tonight.

The DraftKings board sees Williams in 15th overall with a 16.7% optimal lineup appearance rate. That mark falls well short of the 50.8% we saw on Dieng at the top of the board, but it compares favorably to the 21.8% mark on the player in 10th. Overall, Williams is certainly a better play on FanDuel, where he has multi-position eligibility at power forward and center for $200 less. Against the smaller cap on DraftKings, he shaves a bit of upside, but still looks like a quality play. The public is projected for just 8.9% ownership on Williams on this slate, leaving him plenty of room at a 7.8 leverage score. Given the 30.7-point median projection and 28.6% boom score probability, it is easy to fathom additional fantasy point scoring potential for the Celtics big man. Williams should be included in far more lineups than the level to which the public has deployed him.


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