Tuesday night is daily fantasy basketball night with a big nine game slate on the board. With most gamers landing on eight to 10 as their favored slate size, this seems like an ideal spot, and the sites have responded with solid contests across the board. The slate is tightly packed with only a few clear-cut value plays and numerous appropriately priced stars. Constructions will be very interesting to watch tonight, as only a few paths will yield results close to the top of standings. With nine games, we’ll be looking at some of the best plays from each salary tier with frequent appearances in the optimal lineup in simulations. We are always looking for players who are under-appreciated for the frequency with which they land in optimized lineups in DraftKings and FanDuel NBA simulations.
As always, this article comes out ahead of lock, and many things will change with our daily fantasy basketball picks. Be sure to follow the @AwesemoNBA Twitter handle for all the latest breaking news (via our NewsGod).
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. 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 we will also be discussing bad chalk and shaky investments in this space, so be sure to read the analysis and not just the headlines.
JaVale McGee – Cleveland Cavaliers
DraftKings — $3,500 — C | FanDuel — $3,600 — PF
It is important to be clear about this play from the outset. No one expects McGee to see 36 minutes on the floor tonight. His projection is based on a 16.2-minute share, and he still ranks as one of the top plays on both sites. McGee simply racks up fantasy points in bunches during the time he does see on the court as the backup big man for the Cavaliers. His 1.26 fantasy points per minute rank 18th overall on the slate, above Jayson Tatum and Kyrie Irving, to name two. McGee is nowhere near the caliber basketball player those two are, but for our purposes, at these prices, he is an ideal option.
On FanDuel McGee comes up in the optimal lineup in 27.7% of simulations, second on the entire slate and first among power forwards. McGee has just a 22.8 median projection for his short run but carries a 34.0% boom-score probability, though he will be popular in the field. The -0.8 leverage score is more level than we would like to see on a value upside play like this, but it is well within range to exceed the public and level up on the McGee play’s savings.
In DraftKings NBA contests, McGee costs just $3,500 and slots in as a center. He appears in the optimal lineup 19.7% of the time while contributing a 25.7% boom-score probability. Rostering McGee alongside some of the other available center options on the slate looks like a strong play that takes full advantage of the site’s flexibility. He will be popular and has a -5.6 leverage score, but there still appears to be some room to exceed the field.
Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks
DraftKings — $11,200 — PG / FanDuel — $11,200 — PG
The highest-priced player on both sites looks like an excellent play, which is a rare in daily fantasy basketball. Doncic is always one of the highest-projected players, but without several of his key teammates in the starting lineup tonight, he might have to do even more than his current 1.53 fantasy points per minute. The Mavericks will be without their No. 2, Kristaps Porzingis, as well as Maxi Kleber, leaving them short-handed and small. In a matchup against the Celtics, that could be deadly and the Mavericks will likely try to run, which could benefit Doncic.
On DraftKings he slots in at the point guard spot and lands in the optimal lineup in 12.3% of simulations. While the number doesn’t sound high, it ranks 15th overall on the slate, though just sixth among eligible point guards. Doncic has a strong 16.9% boom-score probability, given the excessive salary, and he will be slightly under owned, turning up a 0.7 leverage score. Ultimately he fits in as a flashy spend up play on the site. He has a strong chance to be in the top lineup and to put up the top overall score of the night, but based on his cost and positioning, he may not be the most optimal starting point for constructions. Rostering him above the field will still probably be advisable, however.
On FanDuel Doncic appears to be a stronger play for which we can pay up. He comes up in 20.2% of optimal lineups in Awesemo’s simulations, but more ideally, he lands in them with a 6.7 leverage score, which means the public isn’t paying for him frequently enough. Doncic carries one of the slate’s top median projections and a 22.1% boom-score probability. As the top and only prime option for the Mavericks tonight, he should be just that for a large share of our lineups as well.
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Pascal Siakam – Toronto Raptors
DraftKings — $8,100 — PF/C / FanDuel — $8,900 – SF
Another play that looks different from site to site, Siakam slots in as an awkward salary fit on both sites but manages to find some room for production on DraftKings. Siakam is a quality player and part of Toronto’s three-headed monster alongside Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. Predicting the productivity of the trio has been difficult this season, as they all average within 0.1 fantasy points per minute of one another, but they tend to make ceiling scores in different games. When one of the three is out, the other two increase in value when priced correctly. Lowry has been out for three games and is questionable again tonight, but Siakam is appropriately priced for the situation if Lowry does not play and overpriced if he does.
On DraftKings Siakam clings to relevance, primarily via his raw projection and positional flexibility between the forward and center spots. Siakam has a 16.1% optimal-lineup rate on the site but just a 12.6% boom-score probability on what is not a prohibitively expensive salary. He will be under 10% owned, creating a quality 6.6 leverage score, but the upside is lacking. Siakam fits in as a plug-and-play for around his median projection as an expectation, and it is fairly simple to leverage up on his low public ownership. Doubling the field despite the low boom score would not be overly risky.
On FanDuel Siakam is barely on the board. He comes up in the optimal lineup in simulations just 8.2% of the time, one of the worst scores in his salary tier. He gains leverage at a 5.1 score because less than 5% of the public will be rostering him, but there is no real reason to chase his 12.6% boom-score probability too far beyond where the public is. Doubling up on Siakam would be easy and would put you around the probability of him landing in the optimal lineup. He is at best a mix-and-match play that should probably not be owned further than that.
Michael Carter-Williams — Orlando Magic
DraftKings — $4,500 — PG / FanDuel — $5,500 — PG/SG
With rookie Cole Anthony on the shelf until after the All-Star break and starter Markelle Fultz out for the season, Carter-Williams is going to remain relevant for daily fantasy basketball until his pricing catches up with his current role. Over the team’s last six games, since Anthony’s injury, Carter-Williams has averaged 29.3 minutes per game, seeing 22% usage and scoring 10.4 real-life points. He adds a 16.4% rebounding rate and a 33.7% assist rate, as well as 10.3% steals and 15.8% blocks shares on the defensive side. Carter-Williams can score fantasy points in several ways, though his season-long average is at just 0.78 per minute (0.86 for the past two weeks).
Carter-Williams is in play as a point guard on both sites, though he is more of a mix-in play on DraftKings. For his $5,500 price tag, Carter-Williams slots in below several other guard options, although he catches up with a quality 19.2% boom-score probability and gains additional ground through position flexibility. He is a moveable part and a nice piece with upside and not enough ownership at below 10% public popularity.
On FanDuel Carter-Williams stands out and will land in lineups via optimizers with frequency. He appears in the optimal lineup in 24.5% of simulations for the blue site, though he is far more popular, coming in with a -7.2 leverage score. Carter-Williams’ price has not moved nearly enough on the site; at $4,500 he appears to retain value despite the popularity. The 54.8% boom-score probability appears to be upside worth buying into once again on the FanDuel slate tonight.
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