The daily fantasy basketball season rolls on Friday night, even if some people have jumped shipped for the shiny new baseball season that popped up yesterday. With a fun 10-game slate lined up, there is every reason to continue grinding NBA DFS while the attention of others might be scattered at best. The Friday night slate is loaded with interesting games but only a few with very big game totals, so be choosy about your selection process. With 10 games on the slate, the focus will primarily be on the top overall plays on the board. The goal is to find under-appreciated players for the frequency with which they land in the optimal lineup in DraftKings and FanDuel NBA simulations.
As always, this article comes out ahead of lock, and many things will change with these daily fantasy basketball picks. Be sure to follow the @AwesemoNBA Twitter handle for all the latest breaking news (via NewsGod).
NBA Daily Fantasy Basketball: Optimals + Leverage Leaders
These picks are made utilizing the boom/bust tool, specifically analyzing the optimized-lineup rate, leverage score, and boom probability. The optimized-lineup rate represents the frequency at which a player appears 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, and bad chalk and shaky investments will be discussed in this space, so be sure to read the analysis and not just the headlines.
Fred VanVleet — Toronto Raptors
DraftKings — $8,200 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $7,400 — SG
The Raptors continue to produce extreme plays on the boom/bust board, with VanVleet leading the way as one of the standout plays of the night on FanDuel. He ranks well on DraftKings as well, though not to the same degree. He averages 1.09 fantasy points per minute and is slated for a 37-minute projection from Awesemo, plus he will be in a good situation with Kyle Lowry sidelined. With Lowry out, VanVleet has posted 1.17 fantasy points per minute this season and should be expected to produce a quality game for daily fantasy basketball purposes.
The FanDuel price on Fred VanVleet is simply broken for this situation. The $7,400 that he costs at shooting guard results in his appearance in the optimal lineup in 37.2% of simulations for the blue site, a slate-leading mark. VanVleet creates a 48.3% boom-score probability against that salary, meaning he is hitting his ceiling roughly half the time. VanVleet will be owned, the public is getting to him to the tune of a -10.4 leverage score, and there are other choices at the position, but VanVleet truly still stands out to the point that he seems more of a building block than a pass-point.
On DraftKings VanVleet is less mandatory, coming in with an 18.8% optimal-lineup rate, though that mark still ranks eighth on the slate. Eligible at both guard spots, VanVleet finds himself with a reasonably good 23.5% boom-score probability against a salary that is significantly higher across sites with a lower salary cap. He will be lower owned in the raw total and will have a better leverage score at just -4.4. VanVleet seems like a quality spend-up option on DraftKings tonight, and one can push past his public ownership given what the boom/bust is showing us.
James Johnson — New Orleans Pelicans
DraftKings — $3,000 — SF/PF| FanDuel — $3,500 — PF
So James Johnson exploded to the top of the boom/bust board today, which isn’t a typical NBA Friday. The Pelicans will be without a number of their key players, with Lonzo Ball, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram all sitting out. Playing in much the same situation in his Pelicans debut in the team’s last game, Johnson saw 28.3 minutes and scored 17 real points on just 20.9% usage. He added three rebounds, two assists and two blocks and has upside for more in those counting stats. At the dead minimum price on both sites, Johnson should be a big part of our plans tonight.
On DraftKings Johnson obliterates the field, coming in with a 59.1% optimal-lineup rate and a gargantuan 71.3% boom-score probability. At the minimum, Johnson does not have to do very much beyond showing up for his median projection to make the ceiling value. The public — at least as of our most recent update — is sleeping on the play. Despite the massive indicators, Johnson is currently projected for a slate-leading 22.5 leverage score. Roster him well beyond the field, Johnson is one of the easier building block in recent weeks.
On FanDuel the play is the same, but the numbers change. Johnson comes up in the optimal lineup in 34.7% of simulations at the minimum price and power forward position. He has a gigantic 69.9% boom-score probability to lead all players on the site and he will once again only need a nudge north of his median projection to bump his head on the ceiling. Johnson projects as similarly under-owned on FanDuel as well; he has a 19.3 leverage score that pops off the page. It is rare to get such dramatic leverage on value plays like this.
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Kira Lewis — New Orleans Pelicans
DraftKings — $3,700 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $4,100 — PG
Dipping into the Pelicans roster for another value play seems like a good idea on a night where they are loaded with them. There could have been a section on a full team breakdown, as other players on the roster will have significant value as well. Lewis stands out most after Johnson and teammate Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who is getting plenty of buzz on his own. Lewis has produced 0.85 fantasy points per minute across all situations through the course of the season in just 15.4 minutes per game as a rookie. He will have plenty of opportunity for more playing time and usage tonight.
Lewis slots in as the 13th overall player on the FanDuel slate by optimal-lineup rate, and he offsets some salary spend at other spots with his friendly price. Lewis has a 49.2% boom-score probability that screams upside, and he will be under-owned by the public, coming up with a highly playable 4.3 leverage score. With Awesemo projecting him for a 30-minute night, there is plenty to love here.
On DraftKings the opportunity will be the same, and the price is even better. At just $3,700 and with eligibility across both guard spots, Lewis lands in the optimal lineup in 31.9% of simulated slates. He will hit his ceiling nearly half the time, popping up to a 49.5% boom-score probability against the bargain salary for the expected minutes. Lewis will be owned at the appropriate levels by the field, coming in with a -0.7 leverage score. It is possible to push past that mark or roster him in tandem with the public; the upside suggests that the right move is getting to him with more frequency than the field.
Zach LaVine (Q) — Chicago Bulls
DraftKings — $8,300 — SG | FanDuel — $7,200 — SG
This is more for the FanDuel crowd. LaVine is questionable again on Friday night, and he did not play in the same situation in the team’s most recent game. If he does play, however, consider him healthy and assume a full complement of minutes. This would render LaVine both under-owned and underpriced on FanDuel.
On the DraftKings slate assuming a 32.4 minute projection, LaVine lands in the optimal lineup in just 4.3% of simulations given his fairly high salary. He is a mix-in option and something of an afterthought who is not a necessity on the site.
On FanDuel, however, LaVine looks like a terrific GPP option. With the 32.4 minutes Awesemo has him projected to play, LaVine would come up in the optimal lineup 14.6% of the time, ranking him third among shooting guards. The public will likely remain behind the curve on his late status change, leaving him a large chunk of his current 11.6 leverage score. At a 21.6% boom-score probability, he is a dynamic player who is capable of even more than the 1.17 fantasy points per minute he has put up this season.
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