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NBA DFS Optimizer Picks Tonight for DraftKings & FanDuel Lineups Nikola Vucevic | Saturday 4/2/22

Terry McBride



NBA DFS DraftKings FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball Optimal lIneups

A slim Saturday sprint slate sees all three contests tip between 7:30 and 8:30 ET tonight. The two games that commence after 8pm could not be more differently shaped than the early matchup between the Nets and Hawks. That game has a massive 240.5-point total on the board in Vegas and it presents several options at each tier of salary, making it the prime target on a very limited slate. With the tight nature of lineup constructions tonight, spreading out shares and rostering less-than-comfortable plays is the path toward differentiation. The options from the 217-point total in the Heat vs Bulls game and from the Jazz vs Warriors game that ends the evening at a 218-point game total will have a critical impact on this slate, getting carried away rostering primarily options from the game with juicy scoring potential could lead to highly duplicated lineups. There are a few pieces of news to monitor, the statuses of Trae Young and Zach Lavine, both currently listed as probable, are the paramount concern, but several other potentially relevant rotation pieces are on the injury reports as well. Getting to a broad mix of plays and focusing on any possible leverage options with the least potential impact on a lineup’s overall scoring upside is the key to roster construction on a small three-game sprint slate. The raw ownership totals on players are important as well, Nets superstar Kevin Durant is an excellent option at the top of the board at positive leverage, but he is not necessarily someone who will create differentiation in lineups. Durant is the most popular player on the FanDuel slate at 49% ownership. He is more of an option to set a lineup apart on DraftKings, where he is a 5.7 leverage play with a 26.9% ownership projection. There is a major difference between someone who is in a quarter of the public’s lineups compared to someone in half of them.

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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 three games on the slate, this article will focus on the top leverage 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.

Seth Curry: DK $4,900 — SG/SF | FD $4,400 — PG/SG

One of the currently questionable pieces that could present major value from the heavily totaled early game is dead-eye three-point specialist Seth Curry. Curry is dealing with lingering injuries, but he has managed to play four straight, seeing 31.3 minutes a night over the last three games. The heat-check scorer comes in with a season-long 0.77 fantasy points per minute rate on 18.4% usage across all situations between the two teams he has played for this year. Curry has slipped to just a 0.65 rate over the last three, possibly due to playing through pain, but it is equally possible that it is just happenstance. Curry is currently projected for minimal ownership as one of the top plays on the board. The popularity is very likely to climb if he is confirmed well ahead of lock. If the Nets play the game-time decision card, Curry could easily be under-owned for his quality across the NBA DFS industry.

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On the DraftKings slate, Curry has valuable flexibility to five spots in a lineup, given his shooting guard and small forward eligibility. At just $4,900, Curry would have significant value on the slate if he were to lace them up tonight. The wing is projected for a 27.9-point DraftKings performance in 33.3 minutes, giving him a top-end 24.63% boom score probability at the low cost. That mark lands Curry second overall on the slate, only his brother’s understudy, Jordan Poole of the Warriors, stands taller on this slate. Poole hits his salary-adjusted required ceiling score in 30.66% of simulations, making him a prime target but one that will be owned by 38.7% of the public for his $7,200 price tag. Curry, on the other hand, is projected for a mere 12.1% popularity as things currently stand. He has a median projection of roughly 12 fantasy points below Poole, they are not necessarily directly comparable for fantasy output, but that is more than made up for by the ownership and salary differences between the two players. Curry lands in the optimal lineup 34.2% of the time in Awesemo’s simulated slates, dropping in seven percentage points behind the more popular Poole. Curry is immediately ahead of Trae Young, who hits the optimal lineup 33.3% of the time, and Kevin Durant, who gets there in 32.6% of simulated slates. Assuming he takes the floor, Curry’s ownership will climb to more appropriate levels, right now his 22.1 leverage score is easily the slate’s best. Giving the field credit for efficient ownership more in line with Curry’s 34.2% optimal rate seems fair, even if they reach that level Curry’s low cost is worth rostering. With the hope that he will stay at positive leverage, the Nets wing is a target on the DraftKings slate tonight.

The situation is very much the same on the FanDuel slate. Curry comes in as just a $4,400 option at either guard position. The cheap price and positional flexibility float him into the optimal lineup in 36.1% of Awesemo’s simulated slates for the blue site. As the seventh-most frequently optimal player on the board, Curry is in lofty company. The top options on the FanDuel slate primarily come from the upper tiers, with each of Durant, Young, Donovan MitchellJimmy ButlerAndrew Wiggins, and Kyrie Irving landing ahead of him in optimal rates. Curry is a player who helps pay for those options in other roster spots, he is well worth including in a lineup if he is confirmed as playing. The flexible combo guard has a 14.7% ownership projection, leaving him at a ridiculous 21.4 leverage score. That gap will close quickly if he is active, but even at an efficient ownership rate, Curry’s optimal lineup rate and 32.36% probability of hitting his head on a necessary ceiling score on a small slate cannot be ignored. In the mid-afternoon, Curry is a prime target for value at the guard position in FanDuel NBA DFS tournaments.

Danilo Gallinari: DK $4,900 — PF | FD $4,800 — SF/PF

Casting around the board for players who present quality probability metrics at lower raw ownership totals, the All-Seeing Eye of the Boom/Bust Tool lands on Atlanta’s Danilo Gallinari. The capable forward is projected for a 29.9-minute night, slightly ahead of both his season-long minutes average of 25 a night. The Hawks will be without power forward John Collins once again, and Trae Young is on the injury report but expected to play. Since the beginning of March, Gallinari has played 354 minutes without Collins on the floor, turning in almost exactly his season-long fantasy point per minute rate at 0.80. In 135 minutes within that sample that Gallinari played without Young on the floor, however, he was at a greatly improved 1.0 per-minute mark. In that situation, Gallinari sees an uptick to 22.5% usage, a relevant increase for a player who produces his typical 0.82 per-minute rate on just 18% usage. Gallinari is a proven veteran producer, he had a more appealing 0.92 per-minute mark on 21.1% usage last season, he stands a chance of producing a more useful game than what the public seems to be crediting him for in popularity measurements.

On the DraftKings slate, Gallinari ranks eighth overall with a 25.2% optimal lineup appearance rate. That mark lands him below a list of stars that come after Curry and Poole, including Young, Durant, Lavine, Mitchell, and Warriors forward Draymond Green, who costs $5,600 and fills either the power forward or center position on the site. Green’s 27.6% optimal lineup rate is higher than Gallinari’s, but the negligible gap in probability is more than covered by the difference between Green’s 25.2% popularity projection and the mere 16.9% ownership mark projected for the Hawks forward. Gallinari stands out because of that lack of ownership while checking in at a lower salary which creates appreciable purchasing power at other positions. A play of Gallinari’s quality should be either low-cost or low-owned, but not both, taking advantage of this situation at the forward position is recommended. Gallinari’s median projection is 26, Green again sits above him, but only by 3.2 DraftKings points. The difference in their probability of hitting a salary-adjusted required ceiling score is even closer. Green checks in with a 19.09% boom score probability, while Gallinari is on his heels at 18.63%. Rostering Gallinari has obvious appeal, he is under-owned at the current projection, leaving him with a highly targetable 8.3 leverage score. While he may not be an exciting play, Gallinari’s performance stands a chance of being a major inflection point on tonight’s slate, the probability metrics suggest that being ahead of the field is a good idea if he gets there.

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As the 11th-ranked player by optimal lineup appearance rate, Gallinari has very similar value on the FanDuel slate. He is projected for a sturdy 24.93-point median fantasy score for just $4,800 with eligibility at either forward spot. The added flexibility is a bonus with the player coming in at the same price against FanDuel’s higher salary cap, helping to vault Gallinari into the optimal lineup in 30% of Awesemo’s simulated slates for the blue site. The flexible forward has a 10.6 leverage score that should simply say “play me” in the next update. As a major target for quality, Gallinari is simply not in enough of the public’s lineups. He has an 18.05% probability of hitting his salary-adjusted required ceiling score, putting him in similar territory to Green on this site as well. Another point of comparison at that level is Miami’s Bam Adebayo, a player who costs $8,400 and has a 38.99-point median projection. This is obviously someone from a different tier, but Adebayo occupies one of the same positions as Gallinari for nearly twice the price while turning in an optimal lineup appearance rate only 5.2 percentage points ahead of the Hawks forward. Adebayo is projected to be in 39.9% of the public’s lineups, more than double the popularity of the less expensive forward. While he is by no means a bad play, a wide range of popular stars are rating as better than Adebayo in and above his salary tier. It seemingly makes sense to target the differentiation created by rostering Gallinari, while exploiting the inherent value in his low cost when combining stars at other positions on the FanDuel NBA DFS slate.

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The center spot is worth examination as a unique position tonight. Most of the true star-caliber players are eligible at other positions, but there is not a true extreme value center on the board as things currently stand. This leads to a bit of a no man’s land situation around the position. Upper mid-range options exist in Jazz big man Rudy Gobert and Bulls pivot Nikola Vucevic, but they grade out as very similar probability plays to options like Adebayo, Draymond Green, and Andre Drummond across both sites.

On the DraftKings slate, the benefit of rostering two centers in the same lineup is an interesting wrinkle in how things come together tonight. Five centers land at better than a 20% optimal lineup appearance rate, but none of them reach a 30% mark. Among those options, the most frequently optimal player is Draymond Green, who lands in 27.6% of optimal lineups, while Adebayo lands at the bottom of the group at 20.4%. Vucevic checks in with a 21.7% optimal rate and slightly positive leverage at a 1.5 against just 20.2% popularity. The Bulls center is the least popular option in the group, followed by Gobert, who will be in 24% of lineups while providing a 25.1% optimal rate. Drummond costs just $6,000 and checks into the optimal lineup 24.4% of the time, but he joins Adebayo as the only two negatively leveraged options among the top centers. The raw per-minute scoring potential that Drummond provides is significant, but he is drawing the attention of nearly 30% of the field on DraftKings, making him a different play than he will appear to be across town on FanDuel. Among the expensive options, the under-owned Vucevic has the most appeal on DraftKings, where he can be afforded.

Not to be forgotten on the DraftKings slate, Atlanta center Clint Capela will technically be at negative leverage, but his raw ownership is a mere 15.3% and he is projected for more than 30 median fantasy points for just $6,700. Golden State’s Kevon Looney and Atlanta’s Onyeka Okongwu are the value options, they both land in the optimal lineup in roughly 13% of simulated slates while drawing low ownership. Looney is an interesting low-end target on a short slate. He is a 0.98 fantasy point-per-minute performer who has just a 20.9-minute projection, but the field is including him in just 6.9% of lineups, which does render him a strong leverage option with a 6.1 score in the category. Okongwu, by comparison, is a 1.06 per-minute player with a 20.6-minute projection. He costs $100 more than Looney and lands in the optimal lineup in 12.5% of simulations to Looney’s 13%. Okongwu is projected for one more fantasy point than Looney and he has a 14.11% boom score mark to the 12.44 held by the Warriors’ big man. With every point checking in as essentially the same, there is little justification for Okongwu’s 16.5% ownership projection and -4.0 leverage score. Looney makes for the stronger extreme value target on a short sprint slate if those numbers all hold.

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The singular center problem on FanDuel has been somewhat negated by the site’s generous multi-position eligibility. Among the top nine centers ranked by optimal lineup appearance rate, five also carry power forward eligibility. That makes many of the options grade out with strong optimal lineup appearance rates, while some of the center-only players can end up slightly underrated for their lack of flexibility, while they are actually comparable plays when looking only at their position. Among the multi-position options at the top of the board, Green, Adebayo, Looney, Nicolas Claxton, and P.J. Tucker can all be included at power forward. Playing two of those options alongside one of the top center-only players is an interesting approach to blue site builds tonight.

Nikola Vucevic is the third-most frequently optimal center on the FanDuel slate, with just Adebayo and Green ahead of him on the board. The center-only option is also third by salary, he costs just $7,700, falling in behind Adebayo’s $8,400 asking price and the $8,300 tag on Rudy Gobert. Vucevic lands in the optimal lineup in 25.2% of simulated FanDuel slates and he comes at a 3.1 leverage score. Green is at a top-notch 6.2 leverage score, but he is drawing more raw popularity than the Bulls center, checking in with a 26.7% ownership projection to Vucevic’s 22.1%. The extremely appealing aspect of rostering Vucevic on FanDuel is that he comes at positive leverage and a low-for-him price, while also leading all eligible centers with a 23.7% probability of hitting his salary-adjusted required ceiling score. That boom score probability puts him just ahead of Atlanta center Clint Capela, who costs just $6,400 and hits his ceiling score 22.7% of the time. Gobert is a less-likely play for more salary, he lands in the optimal lineup in just 19.5% of simulated slates and hits his ceiling 19.39% of the time for nearly perfectly efficient ownership. The Jazz center is neither a good nor bad play on the slate, making it a typical Gobert night.

Looney ranks fourth by optimal lineup rate on FanDuel, landing in the top lineup in 21.3% of Awesemo’s simulated slates. He also comes at positive leverage with a 5.3 that makes him easily the top big man from the lower tiers of salary. As an extreme value for $3,700 with eligibility at power forward and center, Looney should be more popular than he is. The Warriors’ big man is outpacing more expensive Nicolas Claxton, who is just 12.9% optimal and has a mere 6.18% probability of hitting his boom score mark. Claxton is arguably over-owned at just 11.5%. P.J. Tucker almost certainly is, with his 12.4% popularity against a 6.69% boom score probability and a 12.3% optimal rate. The wildcard in between salary tiers is Andre Drummond. The Nets big man has a 31.69-point median projection in what amounts to a 25-minute night. Drummond has played 29.3 minutes per game over the team’s three most recent outings, however, and he is one of the slate’s top per-minute performers overall. Drummond has a 1.31 fantasy points per minute rate for the season that outpaces every center mentioned so far. He currently has a 14.7% optimal lineup appearance rate and a 17.3% ownership projection, while checking in with a 16.1% boom score probability. All of that is based on a fragile minutes projection that could be several important minutes shy of what the player will see tonight. While he does not necessarily grade out as the top play, Drummond could easily outscore every other big man on the board if he nears 30 minutes tonight, he should not be discarded for popularity reasons.

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

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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