For a six-game slate, Thursday’s NBA DFS action is absolutely loaded with appealing daily fantasy basketball picks. The slate has four games totaled well above the 230 mark, with one trending over 240 points. Only one game, Mavericks – Pistons, appears to be a clunker for scoring, with just a 212 total on the board. Every other game should be a bonanza for fantasy basketball point scoring, and even that game has several appealing options. With six games on the slate and so many robust options, this article will focus on the top plays with available leverage on the board. As always, 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.
This article always 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: Optimal + 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.
Jalen Brunson — Dallas Mavericks
DraftKings — $4,500 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $4,700 — SG
When superstar point guard Luka Doncic is out, gamers can reliably turn to Brunson for a value play without too much overthinking. Brunson has been excellent in the situation during his NBA career so far; this year his production without Doncic stands at 0.99 fantasy points per minute across all situations, slipping slightly to 0.96 with the team as configured since the trade deadline. At these prices, those rates are more than enough to make Brunson one of the best plays on the board at any position on either site. He is a strong value play and one of the more appealing building blocks available on this one.
On DraftKings, Brunson slots in at both guard spots, giving him incredible utility with his 45.9% optimal-lineup rate and a monster 62.9% boom-score probability on the site. Brunson is getting more attention from the field on DraftKings as a bit of a better bargain. His ownership stands at 45.4% in the afternoon update, which makes him a very popular play on a short slate. Still, even with the popularity, Brunson is edging over the leverage line at 0.5, and it would make sense to roster him in excess of the field, almost regardless of where they land.
On FanDuel, Brunson loses his shooting guard eligibility but picks up significant leverage. The field is well behind the play on the blue site for inexplicable reasons. Brunson has an 11.2 leverage score, putting him among the slate leaders in the category despite a 49.2% optimal-lineup rate. Put another way, Brunson is one of the best two plays on the slate at shooting guard about half the time, and the public is leaving him way under-owned. The guard has a strong upside with a 62.9% boom-score probability and an already solid 34.0 raw FanDuel point projection. This is an excellent play on the FanDuel slate unless things swing dramatically with the ownership projection. Even then it would make sense to roster a fair share of Brunson, but with highly positive leverage, gamers can fire at will.
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Kevin Durant — Brooklyn Nets
DraftKings — $8,500 — PF | FanDuel — $9,300 — SF
Durant is back to playing more than 30 minutes a night, meaning his $8,500 price on DraftKings is already ludicrous before even accounting for Kyrie Irving sitting this one out. With Durant at roughly full capacity for minutes, Awesemo has him projected for a 33.9-minute night after he got 32.6 in the most recent game. Durant finished that game with just 16.7% usage after Irving’s exit, but he should get a far higher number going forward in action without his superstar teammates. In a 50-minute sample since the trade deadline in this situation, Durant has 1.46 fantasy points per minute, which is spectacular for the price on both sites, particularly at the DraftKings discount.
Durant is the top overall option on the DraftKings slate. He slots in with a 62.5% optimal-lineup rate, one of the higher marks for a star-caliber player all season long. Durant should be in essentially every lineup on the site at this price, and that is close to the case, as he is collecting a 62.0% public ownership projection. That still trails his optimal rate by fractions, but there is plenty of reason to be highly optimistic about Durant and simply lock him into lineups, getting well beyond the field. One of the best players in the NBA is far too cheap and has a 65.8% boom-score probability while coming up this frequently optimal.
Durant also leads the way on the FanDuel slate. He is a small forward on the site and comes at a slightly higher relative salary, though not by too much when adjusting for cap value. He has a 55.5% optimal-lineup rate that ranks atop the board at every position. He has a giant 56.9% boom-score probability, exposing the ridiculousness of pricing him this low. Durant makes a phenomenal option on the site, and the public is behind the curve despite the robust 45.8% ownership projection. That rate would leave Durant with a 9.7 leverage score, more than enough to have an excuse to push well beyond the field’s exposures.
Guillermo Hernangomez — New Orleans Pelicans
DraftKings — $4,100 — C | FanDuel — $4,900 — C
Hernangomez is making an interesting case as a pay-down option at center on the FanDuel slate despite the presence of superstar Karl-Anthony Towns, who costs nearly twice as much. Towns is more than twice as expensive on the DraftKings slate, but both players can be rostered on that site if desired, making it less relevant but an interesting play. Hernangomez is projected for a 29-minute night filling in for the absent Steven Adams in the middle for the Pelicans. Across all situations with Adams shelved this season, Hernangomez has 1.09 fantasy points per minute in 609 minutes. He grabs 21.2% of the team’s rebounds in the situation and stands out as a strong option for the salary and leverage available.
On the DraftKings slate, Hernangomez ranks fourth among all players, coming up in the optimal lineup 38.2% of the time. He costs just $4,100 and has excellent utility as either a primary or second center. Hernangomez has a 60.9% boom-score probability, suggestive of major upside for minor investment. The public is behind the curve on this one, leaving Hernangomez with a 2.8 leverage score that is one of the more appealing marks on the top of the DraftKings board today.
On FanDuel, Hernangomez ranks just behind Towns at the position with a 24.7% optimal-lineup rate. Towns has a 27.9% mark, and Nikola Jokic, the other star on the slate, has a 22.2% mark. The trio accounts for more than 75% of the optimal appearances, meaning gamers can all but cross off the other options at the position and comfortably distribute ownership among the three. In that group, Hernangomez stands out for the far lower price and the 8.3 leverage score. The others are more appropriately owned by the public. Rostering 33% Hernangomez would essentially double the field already, well on the way to a strong position if his 53.0% boom-score probability connects on this slate. Hernangomez is a great way to get different, though there is certainly opportunity cost in bypassing two stars who could run off and hide with 70 or 80 fantasy points in solid matchups of their own.
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