The nine-game Monday slate of NBA DFS action tips at 7 ET and sees eight of the night’s games begin within an hour, followed by a two-hour gap before the Thunder vs Trail Blazers game commences at 10 ET. That final contest of the night is carrying a middling 223-point total, but it features two teams that are playing extremely limited rosters loaded with players at cheap salaries. These teams will be relevant to lineup construction across the industry, it must be properly accounted for. The balance of the slate’s games includes a high point of 236.5 in the Hawks vs Pacers game and bottoms out at just a 209-point total in the Celtics vs Raptors game. If hometown Toronto being favored over first-place Boston by 7.5 is confusing, a quick consultation of the Celtics’ injury report that lists all of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams and Al Horford as out for the night should provide clarification. With that game providing another source of extreme value plays, the oddly shaped slate is loaded with potential for star-laden constructions. The Nuggets vs Hornets and Spurs vs Rockets games are both carrying totals in the mid-230s as well, helping to fill out the slate’s more obvious spots. The remaining games provide a wide range of options from a variety of price points for mixing and matching through NBA DFS lineup constructions.
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 nine games on the slate, this article will focus on the top overall plays on the NBA DFS 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 optimizer 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.
Marcus Smart: DK $6,000 — PG | FD $6,000 — SG/PG
On the second night of a back-to-back, an entirely different group of Celtics is finding its way into a majority of lineups across the industry. With the team confirming the absence of four of their primary pieces early in the day the value in remaining starters and value plays will be obvious to the public, but the quality of the options is likely to remain worthwhile even in the face of increased public popularity. One of the Celtics who should see a major bump with all of his key teammates out is guard Marcus Smart, who averages 0.90 fantasy points per minute and can find his way to relevance in even a standard situation at these prices. There is essentially no sample for this specific situation, across the entire season Smart has played just 17 minutes without all four of these teammates on the floor. In that meaningless sample, Smart posted a massive 1.65 fantasy points per minute. In 97 minutes without Tatum and Brown, but skewing the sample by putting the big men back on the floor, Smart averages 1.09 fantasy points per minute. There is a clear uptick and an opportunity for the guard to reach a significant level of production on this slate, even if the historical sample cannot back it up directly. While Smart’s popularity is likely to rise in later updates, he seems like a clear building block on both sites for a fair midrange price.
On the FanDuel slate, Smart stands third overall behind only star point Spurs guard Dejounte Murray and superstar center Nikola Jokic. Smart lands in the optimal lineup in 35% of Awesemo’s simulated slates for the blue site, but he is currently carrying just a 20.9% ownership projection, leaving a lot of room for the public to even catch up to the relative strength of the play. Even if the ownership gap closes the gap to a 0.0 leverage score, a huge change from Smart’s current 14.1 mark, the guard would be a strong option on this slate. At his mid-range price, the 38.89-point median FanDuel projection is already solid on its own. Smart has a 58.16% probability of blasting through that median mark and getting to his salary-adjusted required ceiling score, making him the top option for upside on the entire slate. Smart outpaces teammate Daniel Theis by nearly 4 percentage points in the category. Theis is on the board in the absence of the entire starting frontcourt, he has an 18.6% optimal lineup appearance rate but is already at significant negative leverage for his $3,800 price tag. Smart’s backcourt running mate this evening, Payton Pritchard, is projected for a 31.5-minute night, 29.75 FanDuel points and a 48.73% boom score probability. The $4,900 option has a 17.7% optimal rate but his ownership is in the single digits, when not rostering Marcus Smart, Pritchard is a quality consideration that the public may overlook. Regardless, Smart is the clear top option on the FanDuel slate this evening, he has an opportunity to be among the slate’s leading scorers for a very low price.
As a $6,000 point guard on the DraftKings slate, Smart lands in the optimal lineup in a whopping 35.3% of Awesemo’s simulations. Smart is projected for a 40.5-point DraftKings score, making him the ninth-highest projected player at any position on the site. Smart ranks 48th on the DraftKings slate when sorting by price, which should help illustrate his value if the 61.78% boom score probability does not. Smart ranks behind Pritchard in that category on DraftKings, the alternate guard costs just $3,900 and he has a 69.31% boom score probability while ranking the same as Smart in optimal lineup appearances. Both guards are very much in play, they can be rotated or even rostered alongside one another. Smart is projected for a 21.2% ownership share at the moment, but that is likely to climb. As with the situation across town on the blue site, it almost does not matter how popular Smart gets. The points-per-dollar upside in the Celtics veteran guard is clear, and he is a key building block in DraftKings NBA DFS lineups tonight.
Theo Maledon: DK $4,500 — PG | FD $4,900 — PG
With star Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sidelined and a few other pieces out or questionable for the team once again, several players look like premium values in the last game of the night. Among these options is inexpensive point guard Theo Maledon, who may begin to lose shares of public ownership to the stronger Celtics options. If that happens, it will make Maledon more interesting for tournament play. As things currently stand, the cheap guard’s negative leverage scores are behind an event horizon from which no lineup can return. The public was all over the Maledon play prior to the Celtics news, but he is a less popular player who does not grade out quite as well, hopefully shaking off some of the esteem of the field. Maledon is projected for a 32.7-minute night and averages 0.78 fantasy points per minute across the entire season, but over the team’s three most recent games the backup has provided a 1.09 per-minute rate, including a 30.3 FanDuel point performance in 32 minutes in the team’s most recent game and a 42.8-point outburst in 32 minutes two games ago. Maledon will still be likely to draw popularity, but if it begins to return to only slightly negative leverage or a more comfortably efficient rate in line with his optimal lineup appearances, there is a good argument for the “zig when they zag” nature of going to shares of him.
Maledon remains the fourth-most frequently optimal player at any position on the DraftKings slate. Both Celtics guards mentioned above leapfrog him, and Nuggets star Nikola Jokic lands at a ridiculous 28% optimal lineup rate and a 35.22% boom score probability despite a price tag in excess of $12,000 on the slate. At just $4,500, Maledon compares favorably with the two Boston guards, he lands in the optimal lineup in 28% of simulated slates and he has a 33.2-point median projection. That raw scoring mark stands slightly above the points projected for Pritchard, but the Celtics value play costs just $3,900, which closes the gap. As things stand, Maledon is carrying a gargantuan 52.8% ownership projection, but that will almost certainly come down as shares of Smart and Pritchard are added to lineups through the day. At a -25 leverage score, Maledon was approaching unplayable levels of popularity. That mark is likely to climb above -10 on its way back toward an even 0.0, the closer it gets the better Maledon looks, if he happens to reach positive leverage he should be rostered aggressively in DraftKings NBA DFS lineups tonight.
Maledon is a $4,900 option with eligibility at only point guard, reducing his comparative value when crossing sites. The Thunder guard has a 17.3% optimal lineup appearance rate, the 13th-highest number in the category among players at any position and the fifth-highest at point guard. Maledon is still slate-relevant at that price, he has a strong 31.88-point median projection and a 49.15% boom score probability that still sits fourth overall on FanDuel. Maledon was projected for a 36.2% popularity rate, which landed him at a -18.9 leverage score in the most recent update. As with the situation on the other site, as the popularity of Smart and Pritchard increases – along with a number of other options that emerge to create upside or value – Maledon’s popularity is likely to decline. As his leverage score approaches 0.0 or a positive mark, he becomes more appealing for tournament play on the FanDuel slate as well. The ability to roster a star guard on the slate has changed, which also has an impact on Maledon’s optimal lineup rates, his quality is somewhat obscured by the presence of Murray, Trae Young and Tyrese Haliburton as frequently optimal pieces from higher salaries. The point guard is very much in play on the blue site, even with the Celtics guards outpacing him in both probability categories.
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Nikola Jokic: DK $12,200 — C | FD $10,900 — C
With apologies to Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray, who looks like a spectacular star salary play with positive leverage on this slate, there are too many question marks around public ownership at this point in the day to get to him as the final featured player. The guard has been extremely popular in this space throughout his breakout season, regardless of where his popularity and leverage land, Murray’s 1.42 fantasy points per minute can and should be rostered across the industry. Without much positional competition, superstar Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic is the primary target from the top shelf once again this evening. Jokic is the league’s best fantasy points per minute performer at a massive 1.74. The center has been even better over his team’s three most recent games, posting a ludicrous 1.82 fantasy points per minute in 33.7 minutes a night. In their most recent outing, Jokic put up a 70.4-point FanDuel score in 35 minutes, a 2.0 fantasy points per minute performance. The center is an undeniable fantasy basketball force, he is worthwhile at any price and any level of popularity. On the floor, Jokic provides a 65.9% true shooting percentage, a 20.6% rebounding rate and a 39.4% assist rate. The center’s assist rate makes him the third-best point guard on the board for facilitation, only Trae Young’s 43.9% mark and the 40.3% held by limited Markelle Fultz outpace the center’s ability to make his teammates better. Jokic is a marvel of NBA DFS point production, he should be in the vast majority of lineups on both sites tonight.
On DraftKings, Jokic is the third-most frequently optimal player at any position despite his gigantic salary. Rostering the center extracts a heavy $12,200 toll from the $50,000 DraftKings salary cap, yet he still finds his way into the winning lineup in 28% of Awesemo’s simulated slates. The next center on the list is $3,700 Celtics backup Theis, who is likely an integral part of affording Jokic’s salary. With the assumption that both of those players are in most of the lineups in which they are optimal, Theis’ 21% should not be viewed as an “instead of” option, the next center on the list would be more an alternative than addition is $5,200 Isaiah Roby, who has a 14.3% optimal rate. Jokic is by far the best player at his position on this slate. Among players from the upper tiers of salary, Jokic outpaces Murray by nearly 4 percentage points of optimal lineup rate and boom score probability and more than 12 percentage points ahead of Young. After that point, potential drops again, with all of Darius Garland, Julius Randle and Pascal Siakam all land at or below 10% optimal. Getting additional shares of Jokic in lineups is highly valuable in comparison to other stars, he is projected for a 61.7-point median score on this slate and he has a 35.22% boom score probability that is titanic at his salary. Figure out a way to pay for Jokic in DraftKings NBA DFS lineups tonight.
The same is true on the FanDuel slate. Nikola Jokic lands in optimal lineups 40.2% of the time, the second-most frequently optimal play on the entire slate. That he falls behind only Murray, who is in the optimal lineup in 42.2% of simulated slates, reveals much about their extremely low prices on the blue site. Murray costs a mere $10,000 while Jokic checks in at just $10,900, they are incredible values on the slate and they can easily be rostered together in the same lineup. Jokic is the more highly projected of the two, leading the entire slate with a 58.63-point median projection. He has a 48.62% boom score probability to Murray’s 46.42% mark, while players like Smart and other value options leap ahead based on their salary-adjusted upside. For one of the night’s most expensive stars to still hit his salary-adjusted required ceiling score nearly half the time is absurd, Jokic should be $1,000 more expensive on this slate. Since he is not, he should be in virtually every lineup, but he is getting just 43.4% of the field’s attention. While that is technically a -3.2 leverage score, it is entirely worthwhile to load up on Jokic shares at this price, focusing on differentiation at other positions, particularly when considering value options like Theis check-in with power forward eligibility, negating the singular center problem to a degree on the blue site and making Jokic the top priority.
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View our Yahoo! NBA ownership, our DraftKings NBA ownership and our FanDuel ownership. Check out our DFS rankings NBA for fantasy points and values that are derived directly from Alex Baker's own best DFS NBA projections. We also have Yahoo! ownership rankings, FanDuel NBA ownership rankings and DraftKings NBA ownership 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 best NBA DFS picks today?
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