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NBA Optimal Lineups Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel Montrezl Harrell | Thursday, Dec. 16

Terry McBride

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The short Thursday slate includes just four games and the highest total on the Vegas board coming in at a mere 216.5 in the contest between the 76ers and Nets. The short low-scoring slate still features a number of quality options for NBA DFS lineup building and several unpredictable situations, but two of the games are carrying hefty point spreads as well, meaning we may not have competitive situations throughout the entire night, which could add another layer of chaos to the minutes mess.

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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 four games on the board, this article will focus on several highly related leverage 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.

Montrezl Harrell: DraftKings — $5,300 — C | FanDuel — $5,100 — C/PF

One of the top leverage plays on both sites, Washington’s Montrezl Harrell has the opportunity to produce in the frontcourt this evening. Harrell is projected for his average 26 minutes this evening, up from the 23.3 that he has seen over the team’s most recent three games during a minor production downswing that saw him produce just 0.82 fantasy points per minute. For the season, Harrell has been a 1.13 per-minute contributor with a 20.2% usage rate, a 13.2% assist percentage, and a 14.8% rebounding rate. The ability for Harrell to contribute in multiple categories, while playing multiple positions on the blue site, makes him highly appealing even without a 30-minute projection. Harrell is a quality piece that the public is not rostering with nearly enough frequency tonight.

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Harrell slots in as both a power forward and center on the FanDuel slate, his positional flexibility gives him significant value and lands him in the optimal lineup in 28% of simulated slates. With a short slate, that mark falls to 12th overall on the slate, but every player with the exception of Evan Fournier (19.4%) who is ranked above Harrell by optimal lineup rate has an ownership projection of greater than 20%, and within that group, only Bradley Beal (28.3%) is below 30%. While strong optimal rates have some of those players clinging to positive leverage, none stands as tall as the 11.8 mark carried by Harrell. He is also the fourth-highest ranked player at center and fifth highest at power forward and can be played in combination with every player above him at those positions. All of Harrell, Julius Randle, Alperen Sengun, and Myles Turner carry center and power forward eligibility, while Kevin Durant slots in as a small forward or power forward from the peak of the board. Playing a rotating core of those five players is both possible and approaches the optimal construction path while allowing for build differentiation with both Harrell and in other positions. He has a 29.1-point median projection, a 31.4% boom score probability and just 16.2% popularity on a short slate.

On DraftKings Harrell comes in with a slightly higher price at $5,300 and he drops his forward eligibility. He still has strong upside on the site, however. He comes in with a 25.1% optimal lineup rate and just 12.9% projected ownership, which creates a major opportunity for lineup differentiation. At the slightly higher price and a 29.3-point median projection, Harrell’s boom score probability slips slightly but it still sits at 26.6%, the fourth highest at any position but third behind Sengun and Nicolas Claxton at the center spot. Sengun can be rostered at the power forward position, and with a utility spot available all three can be included in the same value-driven big man core. Harrell’s low ownership leaves him with a highly targetable 12.2 leverage score, which is nearly three points higher than the next-best mark.


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Derrick Rose: DraftKings — $6,300 — PG | FanDuel — $6,200 — PG/SG

As the list of missing players grows for the Knicks, with Kevin Knox joining R.J. Barrett, Obi Toppin, Quentin Grimes, and, presumably, banished Kemba Walker as unavailable to play this evening, there Knicks are playing a tight rotation that features point guard Derrick Rose taking on a number of minutes that no one wanted to see him forced to play on balky knees. Rose still plays basketball at nearly a star level on many nights, but he is far better cast in his expected role as an offensive boost off the bench in around 25 minutes a night. Rose has produced 0.99 fantasy points per minute across all situations in that many minutes per game this season. Over the team’s last three games he has averaged 34.7 minutes and a 0.86 per-minute mark. The downswing in production is somewhat offset by the additional minutes, but one must question how long Rose will last with this type of workload. For tonight’s NBA DFS purposes, we can shelve those troubles and focus on the clear upside and interesting leverage on the popular player.

Rose is the third-most frequently optimal player on the DraftKings slate, falling in behind only Sengun and Durant at a 36% rate. He is projected for 36.5% ownership, leaving him at a -0.5 leverage score. For $6,300 exclusively in the point guard role, Rose has a 34.6-point median projection and an excellent 30.5% boom score probability. The latter mark ranks third on the entire slate, one spot ahead of Harrell and immediately behind Sengun and Claxton. Rose far outpaces the median projection and boom score probability of the next-highest point guard on the board, value play David Duke Jr, who lands at similar popularity and a worse leverage score. Rose is the top point guard play on the DraftKings slate tonight.

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On FanDuel, Tom Thibodeau’s favorite player sits third overall, landing in the optimal lineup in 46% of Awesemo’s simulated slates. Rose is projected for more than 40% ownership, but his leverage remains on the positive side at 4.3, meaning the field is not rostering him with enough frequency. Rose is projected for a 34.2-point median projection and a 33.1% boom score probability and he has eligibility at both guard spots for just $6,200 on the blue site. The boom score probability ranks fourth at any position and first at point guard. Rose sits second at shooting guard, behind only teammate Alec Burks, who will also see a major role tonight. Burks is eligible at shooting guard and small forward for just $5,500, he is second on the slate at a 49.2% optimal rate, and he can easily be included in lineups that also roster Rose. The positional flexibility on the primary Knicks, including Randle, make them highly appealing across the board tonight.

Saben Lee: DraftKings — $4,200 — PG | FanDuel — $4,600 — PG

With most of the slate focused on Duke as their value play at the guard spot, it makes sense to compare him to other similarly priced options who can provide leverage-based pivot points for the popular play. Duke is on the board as a major value option on DraftKings, but not nearly as much on FanDuel, exacerbating the need to find guard values. Among the low-cost options is Detroit’s Saben Lee, who provided a major spark in 28 minutes off the bench in the team’s most recent game and could be in the process of taking over more minutes. In Awesemo’s projections, Lee is carrying a 23.2-minute mark, which should be enough time to at least make value at around his median projection, and a strong shot at cresting to a ceiling score once again. In the 28-minute performance, Lee posted a massive 42.2-point fantasy score, including that mark he has been at a 1.37 per-minute rate over his last three games, though his average run has been just 18.5 minutes, with a missed game and a nine-minute night in between a 21-minute performance and the monster outburst last time the team played. Lee has played in just 11 NBA games this season while spending some time in the G-League, but when he has been with the big club he has posted 1.03 fantasy points per minute across all situations despite just a 47.7% true shooting percentage. He plays at a frenetic clip at all times and has the opportunity to simply pace his way to a 30-point or more fantasy night, assuming he sees the expected minutes or more.

On the FanDuel slate Lee costs $4,600 at the point guard position. He lands 25th overall by optimal lineup rate with a 13.3%, putting him in favorable comparison with guard options like Armoni Brooks, Immanuel Quickley, Tyrese Maxey, and teammate Cade Cunningham. Lee is advantageous by comparison because he comes at a discount to each of those options while drawing just 7.2% ownership, roughly half what the lowest owned of that group is projected to receive tonight. Lee is projected for a 21.5-point median fantasy score and he has just a 9.5% boom score probability, it should be understood that this is a tournament play that must not be overextended in lineup shares, but with a 6.1 leverage score for the salary and potential production, Lee has more appeal than the public is affording him. On the short slate only 24 players have a boom score probability over 10, and Lee’s mark ranks 27th. The upside plays are many of the obvious and most highly owned on the board, Lee is under the radar. He ranks fifth from the top by leverage score on this slate, falling in behind Harrell, Turner, Fournier, and Durant; only the Knicks’ Frenchman is at a lower price than Lee. In moderation, Lee looks like an appealing option for tournament play. However, if news about his potential minute allotment changes, he could fall very differently in later updates, which is worth monitoring.

On DraftKings Lee ranks 19th overall as a $4,200 point guard with a 21.8-point median projection. He is a similar play on this site, it is important not to get upside-down on exposure, but getting beyond the field seems both easy and worthwhile. Lee has a 14.3% boom score probability and he is projected for just 6.1% ownership on the slate. By comparison, Duke costs the same $4,200 and is pulling in a 33.4% ownership share. Those are not directly comparable players on this slate, as Duke is projected for nearly 30 minutes, but Lee is capable of outproducing Duke as he demonstrated in the most recent game. Lee’s 7.9 leverage score ranks third from the top on the DraftKings slate, falling in behind Harrell and Fournier. While remaining realistic about the probability metrics, Lee should be rostered beyond the field’s ownership on this side of the industry as well. He has sneaky potential in the matchup, assuming he sees the required minutes, and the public is not getting to him with enough frequency, considering that we find him in the optimal lineup in 14% of simulated slates. Lee makes for a strong value and leverage pivot to other low-cost options tonight, but be sure to monitor any news about his playing time.


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

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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