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NBA DFS Optimizer Picks Tonight for DraftKings & FanDuel Lineups Stephen Curry | Thursday 1/13/22

Terry McBride



Thursday’s slate tips off at 7:30 pm and features five games loaded with potential for NBA DFS scoring action. The slate begins with a star-studded contest between the Warriors and Bucks that totals at 223.5 and the Timberwolves vs Grizzlies game rockets to 231.5, the highest total on the board. Putting a lot of the scoring weight in the front-end of the slate gives it an interesting shape, particularly with some of the extreme value options in the later games. Lineup construction appears to be taking a stars and scrubs angle in early optimal builds, leaving some interesting under-exposed options in the mid-range on tonight’s slate.

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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 from several price points 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.

Dennis Smith Jr.: DraftKings — $4,000 — PG | FanDuel –$4,400 — PG

Portland point guard Dennis Smith Jr. is essentially unavoidable across the industry today. The backup is slated for a 35.1-minute night in Awesemo’s projections, giving him monumental upside at his standard rate of 0.98 fantasy points per minute. Smith has delivered a 1.12 rate in his 16.3 minutes a night over the team’s last three, for example. The point guard will have plenty to do tonight, Portland will be without most of their guard corps, including current starter Anfernee Simons. Both Smith and Ben McLemore are expected to start, but it is Smith who truly stands out for easy upside despite his incredibly high ownership. Smith has a 30.2% assist percentage to go with a lowly 45.7% true shooting percentage so far this season. With plenty of time and the primary distribution duties, he stands a strong chance of posting a must-have fantasy score for the salary tonight.

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On DraftKings Smith is the most frequently optimal player on the entire slate by more than twice the rate at which the second-ranked player lands. Smith is in the optimal lineup in 74.4% of simulated slates, a gigantic total for any player and the clear-cut bargain must-play of the night. The enigmatic guard is projected for a ridiculous 84.9% ownership, but it seems well warranted and probably low, considering his median projection comes in well above value for his low $4,000 salary. The 38.7 points for which Smith is projected on the DraftKings slate, and the 86.3% boom score probability that comes in the sidecar make him the first-click option in most lineup constructions. The low salary allows access to lineup builds that are not possible with other combinations. Even if he does not have an individually strong performance, the relative value that Smith creates in lineups simply cannot be replicated in the slate’s current form.

The story is very much the same on FanDuel, where Smith comes in as a $4,400 option at point guard. He lands in the optimal lineup 78.8% of the time on the blue site and the public is largely with the play. Smith is projected at -2.4 leverage, but to be on the positive side of the leverage game when projected ownership is at 84% is a neat trick. The Portland guard’s optimal lineup rate laps most of the field, superstars Giannis Antetokounmpo is in the optimal lineup 36.2% of the time, the third-highest rate on the board. Only James Harden comes close with a 61.2% optimal rate that has skyrocketed in afternoon updates since the Nets announced Kevin Durant’s absence tonight. The cheap Trail Blazers guard is projected for 39.2 points on the blue site, and he has an outrageous 84% boom score probability, this is the go-to of go-to value options for this slate’s current configuration.

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James Harden: DraftKings — $10,700 — PG | FanDuel — $10,000 — SG/PG

As mentioned above, Nets star James Harden has taken a major leap forward since this morning, given the announced absence of Kevin Durant. In this situation, Harden sees a gigantic share of the usage on the floor, and he becomes one of the top overall plays on the slate. The superstar scorer has produced 1.31 fantasy points per minute across all situations this season, and he has been at a 1.48 clip over the team’s three most recent games. Harden has a 34% usage rate in 392 minutes without Durant on the floor this season, well up from the 27.4% he sees under normal circumstances. At that level of opportunity, Harden posts an outrageous 1.52 fantasy points per minute. He is easily one of the best top-shelf plays on tonight’s slate across the NBA DFS industry.

On FanDuel, Harden comes in with a 61.2% optimal lineup appearance rate that ranks second to only Smith’s ridiculous value mark. The Nets star is currently projected for 55.8% ownership, leaving room for upside in the current exposure expectations, but there is time for that gap to close. It seems likely that Harden will end up at efficient ownership by the time lock arrives, but he will remain a very strong star-level play regardless of where the leverage score goes. The raw point-scoring production for the price would be difficult to replicate with other star players who come at higher prices, Harden’s potential is that high. On the blue site Harden maths out to a 54.3-point median projection, and he has a 47.5% boom score probability. Harden possesses any-slate upside to 75 fantasy points and beyond, this is an opportunity for him to get to that range at a cheap-for-him salary; that he is hitting the boom score mark roughly half the time is telling of how strong a play this is tonight, fire away.

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The Brooklyn guard is also a strong play on the DraftKings slate, but his higher price bumps its head on a lower salary cap, which pushes the probability metrics back by comparison. On this side of town, Harden is limited to only the point guard position, further boxing in our ability to find him in optimal lineups in Awesemo’s simulated slates. Even with the reduced upside, Harden still finds his way into the top lineup 46.7% of the time, a terrific number that rates second-best on the slate and would be a slate leader many nights. The upside remains clear as well, Harden is projected for 58.4 DraftKings points, and he has a 45.6% boom score probability on the slate. Compared to Antetokounmpo, who costs $12,300, or Nikola Jokic, who checks in at $12,500, Harden is still the clear choice from up top. Jokic’s salary limits him to a 23.5% boom score probability and a 23.1% optimal lineup appearance rate while Antetokounmpo is even further back, hitting a ceiling score only 11.7% of the time and landing in the top lineup on just 19.9% of simulated slates. Harden is not sneaky, 43.4% of the field is projected to include him in lineups, and that mark seems likely to increase, but given the raw scoring upside and the probability marks, he is a good option at any ownership on this slate.

Stephen Curry: DraftKings — $11,200 — PG | FanDuel — $10,400 — PG

Another big name that warrants attention tonight seems to be lacking it on both sites. Warriors superstar, and still the most fun player in the league to include on a roster, Stephen Curry, comes in as a positively leveraged pay-up-to-be-different option across the industry tonight. The proposition is easier on FanDuel, where Curry lands at a bit of a discount both compared to where he has been priced in the past and where other superstars are placed on the board today, but he falls well short of the spectacular probability rates at which we find Harden on both sites. Curry’s major appeal comes in the low raw ownership and positive leverage. He has slipped from the 1.40 per-minute pace from last year to 1.29, but he can still light up the board on any given slate. In the team’s most recent outing, Curry posted 57 FanDuel points in 39 minutes of action. He is projected for 36.9 minutes this evening, more than enough time to do damage in the standings.

Curry lands at an 11.2% optimal lineup appearance rate for his hefty DraftKings salary. That rate lands 26th overall on the five-game slate and seventh among eligible point guards. Between Curry in the seventh spot and Smith (then Harden) at the top of the board are other intriguing names, including Ja Morant, D’Angelo Russell, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, all of whom are projected for roughly twice (or more) the 7.7% ownership projection that Curry rides into the slate. The Warriors star has a 48.8-point median projection and a 9.9% boom score probability. He is a costly differentiation option, but one that has its merits on this slate. The leverage on a star like Curry should not be ignored, particularly when it comes with single-digit raw ownership. The shot can be taken on Curry shares without sinking too much of a full set of lineups into the equation, in case the play does not connect.

Curry comes in at a far cheaper price against a higher cap on the FanDuel slate, where he costs just $10,400. This inflates his probability marks handily on the blue site, where he pops up to a 20.8% optimal lineup appearance rate, fourth highest among eligible point guards behind only Smith, Harden, and Gilgeous-Alexander. Curry ranks 13th overall by optimal lineup rate and his 45.9-point median projection is the fourth-highest raw fantasy point total on the slate, for the second-cheapest price, with Harden again beating Curry out in the category. Rostering the pair of star guards is an option, though a costly one, exploring the difference between lineups that initiate around Curry and Harden or Harden and another star is interesting for this slate, there is a fair range of options for differentiating combinations of players, particularly on FanDuel where Harden and a host of other relevant options have multi-position eligibility. Curry is strongly in the mix on the FanDuel slate, despite just a 13.9% boom score probability. He is projected for 15.4% ownership, which leaves a very appealing 5.4 leverage score. That gap is unlikely to tighten as lock approaches, shares seem likely to go to the less expensive Harden in most cases, certainly a correct move overall, but one that creates opportunity around Curry, planning to be beyond the field on both guards is sound for this slate.

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