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NBA Optimal Lineups Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel Jaren Jackson Jr. | Wednesday, Dec. 29

Terry McBride

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Wednesday features a compelling nine-game NBA DFS slate with the usual complement of extreme value plays and brightly shining stars there have been in recent weeks. The extended absences and chaotic repercussions from them still abound throughout the league, creating multiple value points in both the low-end and mid-range. Getting to the correct combination of plays on a slate such as this can be tricky. The temptation to roster multiple stars can be strong, but like last night, a more balanced approach can pay dividends when the value plays do not fully come through. With the potential for another day of gigantic scoring totals, it should pay to pay close attention to the leverage column and exploit several of the underappreciated plays priced below $6,000 on either site.

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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 nine games on the slate, this article will focus on several of the top overall value or mid-range 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.

Tyler Herro: DraftKings — $6,900 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $6,200 — SG/SF

Update: About 45 minutes after publishing this article, the NBA announced that the Spurs – Heat game would be canceled, Miami lacks the required eight active players.

The already ailing Miami Heat will be without star Jimmy Butler tonight, as he joins the list of absent players while nursing an ankle sprain. Butler’s absence creates a major chasm in both usage and facilitation in the Heat offense, Miami seems likely to struggle without all three of their primary stars on the court. The upside is that there will be expanded opportunity for several role players from the Heat, with Tyler Herro looking like the primary beneficiary early in the day. There should be an additional downstream impact for Caleb Martin, Duncan Robinson, and Omer Yurtseven tonight as well, but Herro stands the tallest in both leverage and probability metrics, making him strong as a go-to consideration for tonight’s slate. Herro has produced 0.98 fantasy points per minute in all situations this season. In 160 minutes without the three primary stars on the court this season, Herro’s usage jumps from his standard 28.7% to a whopping 34% and he has produced a terrific 1.13 fantasy points per minute. With that kind of per-minute production and a minutes expectation hovering in the range of 40 minutes tonight, Herro seems like a virtual lock across the industry.

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On DraftKings, Herro is the top-ranked play by optimal lineup appearance rate, landing in the top lineup in 65.4% of simulated slates. He costs just $6,900 on the site while bringing positional eligibility across both guard spots, which extends his value in lineup construction. The guard is carrying a 37.3% ownership projection, but he is not the most popular player on the slate, an honor that goes to his teammate Yurtseven at 47.3%. Herro’s projected popularity leaves an almost comical 28.1 leverage score that indicates the field is nowhere near close to appropriate ownership on the play. Herro has a 49.1-point median projection and an amazingly targetable 75.4% boom score probability that almost demands inclusion in every lineup created for the site. Between the probability marks and the lack of appropriate popularity, this is one of the better pre-lock plays that has appeared on the board all season. Even if ownership climbs rapidly and the gap closes, it seems unlikely that the field will extend far enough for the excellent play, Herro should be a part of a vast majority of DraftKings NBA DFS lineups tonight.

The story is very much the same on the blue site, only Herro’s price is $700 lower at $6,200 against a higher salary cap, making him even more valuable. He has positional flexibility between shooting guard and small forward on the site, and he can be expected to land in the optimal lineup 68.8% of the time. The public is getting to the play frequently, Herro is carrying a hefty 52% popularity mark, but that still trails the rate at which he is in optimal lineups by a significant margin. With a 44.9-point median projection and a 76.6% boom score probability, Herro would be targetable at this price regardless of his ownership, but the excellent 16.8 leverage score just adds to the appeal. Herro should be in an inflated number of FanDuel lineups tonight. He is the slate leader in all three of boom score, optimal lineup rate and leverage, making it difficult to recommend a pivot or alternative consideration in this space. The popularity is significant, but the quality of the play is still outpacing it and seems likely to be in the same position at lock.


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JaVale McGee: DraftKings — $5,100 — C | FanDuel — $5,200 — C

The Suns are at home to take on the Thunder this evening, with both teams dealing with numerous missing pieces. The Suns will be without center DeAndre Ayton, as well as frontcourt pieces including Frank Kaminsky, Dario Saric, Abel Nader, and Jae Crowder. This should lead to another starting opportunity for big man JaVale McGee which would also include the chance for an extended run, given the dearth of viable backups. McGee is expected to draw the start, in the team’s most recent game McGee started but ended up playing fewer minutes than Jalen Smith, as he dealt with foul trouble from early in the game and eventually fouled out in the fourth quarter. The biggest cut to McGee’s minutes came from a few minutes into the third until midway through the fourth quarter, but the team attempted to have him close the game before his exit. If he can stay out of foul trouble there should be an opportunity to reach at least the 26.5 minutes for which Awesemo has the big man projected, if not more. McGee is a known commodity who can produce fantasy points in a hurry when he is on the court. The center has 1.37 fantasy points per minute this season, contributing a 67.6% true shooting percentage and a 20.9% rebounding share.

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The Phoenix center is the fourth-most frequently optimal player at any position on the FanDuel slate. McGee lands in the optimal lineup in 24.5% of Awesemo’s simulated slates for the blue site, the top mark among centers and a minor 0.2 percentage points more frequently than the more popular Yurtseven on the site. McGee is projected for a 36.5-point median score on the FanDuel slate and he is carrying a 63.4% boom score probability that is the third-highest mark on the entire site at any position. In that category, McGee falls in 0.8 percentage points behind Yurtseven, but again he is significantly less popular and costs $300 less than the Miami center. McGee is projected for a 22.1% ownership share, leaving him at a 2.4 leverage score which stands head and shoulders above the -5.4 for which Yurtseven is slated. Both options are center-only plays on the site and both come with minor considerations for opportunity cost around some of the bigger name pivots on the slate, but all of the probability metrics indicate that they are the correct plays, with McGee leading the way.

Assuming he meets or exceeds the playing time forecast, McGee looks like a stellar play on the DraftKings slate as well. He has a 34.1% optimal lineup appearance rate that ranks fourth on the site among players at any position, though he trails Yurtseven on this site by around 14 percentage points in the category. The Miami center is far less expensive on DraftKings, coming in at a $4,600 price when he is $5,500 across town on FanDuel. With McGee sitting at $5,100, the reason for the gap in optimal lineup rate and boom score probability on DraftKings is clear. Still, there are advantages to playing the Suns’ center over the option from Miami or playing them as a pair with the utility spot available. McGee is carrying just a 24.9% ownership projection and a 9.2 leverage score, while Yurtseven is at 47.3% and a 1.1 leverage score. With a 32.7=point median projection and a fourth-ranked 64.7% boom score probability, McGee is clearly a strong consideration on the DraftKings slate, and the field is behind the play. Grabbing additional shares of the highly productive center seems like a strong move across the NBA DFS industry tonight.

Jaren Jackson Jr.: DraftKings — $6,500 — PF/C | FanDuel — $6,700 — PF/C

Coming in at what seems like a minor discount for his fantasy point scoring upside, Jaren Jackson Jr. is a strong play for leverage and upside from the upper mid-range of salary on both sites this evening. Jackson is slated for a 29.8-minute night in Awesemo’s projections, which should be plenty of time to produce a slate-relevant score. The Memphis big man has provided 1.13 fantasy points per minute across all situations this season, slightly down from the 1.26 mark that he posted on almost the exact same usage rate last year, which is suggestive of lingering potential. Jackson has averaged 27.2 minutes per game, turning in a 54.5% true shooting percentage with a 5.9% assist share and 8.9% rebounding percentage this season. The field is not including Jackson in enough of their lineups this evening, which creates an opportunity to roster him at positive leverage across the NBA DFS industry.

Jackson lands in the optimal lineup in 12.9% of Awesemo’s simulated DraftKings slates, the 18th-ranked player at any position on the site and eighth among eligible power forwards or centers. Jackson fills both of those positions for just $6,500 on the site, and he is the third-most positively leveraged play at either spot. The big man has just an 8.7% ownership projection, the second lowest overall among the power forward and center group at the top of the board by optimal lineup rate. This creates a 4.2 leverage score that is highly appealing when the actual raw ownership mark is in single digits. Jackson is projected for a 34.3-point median score and he has a respectable 23.9% boom score probability that can be targeted for mid-range value. Jackson is a sneaky option who is not landing in public lineups with enough frequency; he should be treated as such and owned more often than the field, but with multiple quality options occupying the same position, it is important to not let the shares get out of hand as well. Something like 25% ownership against his projected 8% would be more than reasonable.

On FanDuel, Jackson lands as the 19th most frequently optimal player at any position, and eighth among eligible power forwards and centers. He is in the optimal lineup at one of those positions in 15.8% of Awesemo’s simulated slates, and his 5.1 leverage score is second-best among that group, trailing only Boston’s Al Horford (9.1) in the category. Jackson has a 34.7-point median projection and a 26.4% boom score probability as of the mid-afternoon projections update, yet the public is projected to get to him in just 10.7% of their lineups, creating the playable leverage opportunity. Jackson fits in well as a power forward option alongside some of the more frequently optimal center-only plays. If he were reduced to just the center spot it would dramatically change the nature of the play on the blue site, given the opportunity cost on both spend up and better value plays. Fortunately, the aggressive multi-position assignments continue, and gamers have the luxury of using Jackson as a highly flexible piece for FanDuel NBA DFS lineup construction.


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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 FanDuel. Looking for more NBA DFS advice for today and the best NBA DFS tools? Our NBA FanDuel projections are updated regularly, including whenever any relevant news breaks. View our Yahoo! NBA ownership, our FanDuel ownership projections and our DraftKings ownership projections. We also have FanDuel ownership rankings, DraftKings NBA ownership rankings and Yahoo! NBA ownership rankings for today's slate.

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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