This is our primary in-depth NBA DFS article, and it will be free this season. The goal of this article isn’t just to give you a few plays to plug into your lineup, but to dig a little bit deeper into why projections may (or may not) like certain players. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll have a better feel for the slate as a whole. Combining the context from this article with the raw data that is available in our Boom/Bust tool, Projections and Ownership Projections should allow you to build strong lineups and make optimal NBA DFS picks for any type of contest on DraftKings and FanDuel.
Be sure to catch the Awesemo NBA Daily Fantasy Strategy Show every morning on our Awesemo YouTube Channel to find the best NBA DFS picks on DraftKings and FanDuel!
I plan to update this article with notes at the top until about 5 p.m. EST each day. After that, be sure to check out the Deeper Dive show with Loughy and me from 5 to 6 every weekday and Live Before Lock in the hour leading up until lock each day on the Awesemo YouTube channel.
Note: We changed the format of the article to try and make it a little bit easier to digest. As always, if you have any questions after reading the article, feel free to DM me in Slack.
NBA DFS Deep Dive: DraftKings + FanDuel Picks | March 2
Russell Westbrook ($10,100 DraftKings/$9,600 FanDuel) takes on the Memphis Grizzlies tonight in a game with a 236 point total that is the highest on the slate. Washington leads the league in pace over the last month and the Grizzlies are 10th so we should see plenty of possessions from these two teams. Memphis has also taken a step backward defensively after a strong start to the season as they are 19th in defensive rating over the last month. Since returning from his injury in late January, Westbrook has averaged 1.39 DraftKings points per minute with a 30.2 percent usage rate, 15.2 percent rebounding rate and 44.3 percent assist rate. He is second to Bradley Beal in usage over that time and leads the team in rebounding rate and assist rate. We can expect 35-plus minutes from Westbrook tonight if the game is competitive as well.
Ja Morant has been disappointing recently, but that is something that is usually fixed by a matchup with the Wizards. While the Wizards have seemingly made some improvements defensively and rank 12th in defensive rating over the last month, they still have played at the fastest pace in the league over that time. Morant is relatively inexpensive and has averaged 1.19 DraftKings points per minute and 30.9 minutes per game in 14 games played with both of Dillon Brooks and Jonas Valanciunas active this season.
Chris Paul ($7,500 DraftKings/$7,900 FanDuel) falls behind Morant in the point guard pecking order for cash games, but this makes him an interesting pivot in tournaments since he has a similar range of outcomes. Paul has played 28 games alongside Devin Booker this season and has averaged 1.19 DraftKings points per minute and 31.7 minutes per game. Those averages are very similar to Morant. Paul is just a little bit more expensive and has a more difficult matchup with the Lakers so his average expectation is slightly lower. Pay attention to ownership projections between Paul and Morant because this could be one spot you could take advantage of in tournaments if the rest of your lineup is relatively popular.
Kemba Walker ($7,300 DraftKings/$6,800 FanDuel) is another high upside point guard in the same price range as Morant and Paul. Walker has averaged 32 minutes per game over the last month so his playing time isn’t the concern that it was at some points earlier in the season. Jaylen Brown is questionable for tonight’s game and, if he is out, Walker should benefit as he has averaged 1.16 DraftKings points per minute in 14 games played without Brown and with Jayson Tatum since the start of last season compared to 1.11 DraftKings points per minute in 51 games with both players active. His usage rate increases from 26.7 percent to 28.3 percent in the games that Brown has missed as well.
Derrick Rose ($5,900 DraftKings/$6,200 FanDuel) should get another start tonight with Elfrid Payton doubtful. Rose has averaged 32.5 minutes per game and 1.05 DraftKings points per minute in his three starts without Payton. He has a 22 percent usage rate and 30.4 percent assist rate in those games. I prefer getting to the Morant/Paul/Kemba range if I can, but Rose offers plenty of upside at this price point.
Goran Dragic ($5,600 DraftKings/$5,400 FanDuel), Kendrick Nunn ($5,500 DraftKings/$5,800 FanDuel) and Tyler Herro ($6,000 DraftKings/$6,000 SG FanDuel) are all dependent on the status of Jimmy Butler. If Butler is active, I feel comfortable avoiding all three Miami guards — though Dragic would still be a reasonable option at his price point. If Butler sits, however, all three guards will be in play since they should see solidified minutes and increased production. Dragic has averaged 1.11 DraftKings points per minute and 29.6 minutes per game in 11 games played with Butler inactive and Bam Adebayo active since last season. Herro has averaged 0.92 DraftKings points per minute and 28.1 minutes per game in 10 games without Butler and with Adebayo and Nunn has averaged 0.96 DraftKings points per minute and 30.8 minutes per game in 13 games under those conditions. On Sunday, Nunn played 32.8 minutes, Dragic played 29.8 minutes and Herro played 29.5 minutes off the bench.
Patrick Beverley ($3,800 DraftKings/$4,300 FanDuel) isn’t a particularly safe or exciting option, but he has some upside at a price point this cheap. Beverley has averaged 0.75 DraftKings points per minute and 25 minutes per game in 19 games played alongside both of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard this season. There is a good chance that we get better value throughout the day, but Beverley looks like a reasonable NBA DFS pick at the moment as long as he allows you to fit studs into your lineup elsewhere.
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Bradley Beal ($9,700 DraftKings/$10,200 FanDuel) has averaged 1.37 DraftKings points per minute with a 35.6 percent usage rate and 22.5 percent assist rate in 24 games played alongside Westbrook this season. Beal has averaged 35.7 minutes per game in those games. While Westbrook is the slightly better fantasy performer when both players are active, Beal actually may be a little more valuable on this particular slate given the depth of the point guard position and the lack of strong NBA DFS picks at shooting guard.
Paul George ($8,400 DraftKings/$7,900 FanDuel) hadn’t played more than 33 minutes in a game since his return from injury prior to his last game. While that lack of playing time made him seem scary to roster, it was in large part the result of the Clippers being involved in several blowouts. He played 37.6 minutes in a competitive game against the Bucks on Sunday and he should see big minutes again tonight against Boston as long as the game is close. George has averaged 1.30 DraftKings points per minute and 33.9 minutes per game in 24 games played alongside Leonard this season and, while the Celtics aren’t the most favorable matchup, there is a lack of upside at the shooting guard position that makes George stand out as an NBA DFS pick with his affordable price tag.
DeMar DeRozan ($8,100 SF/PF DraftKings/$8,200 FanDuel) looks like a more appealing option tonight now that LaMarcus Aldridge has been ruled out. With Aldridge coming off the bench in recent games, DeRozan wasn’t playing as minutes alongside him anyway but now we know that he will play none. DeRozan has averaged 1.20 DraftKings points per minute in nine games without Aldridge this season compared to 1.13 DraftKings points per minute with Aldridge active. The matchup against the Knicks isn’t appealing as New York is 26th in pace and second in defensive rating over the last month, but DeRozan is eligible at the weakest positions on the slate.
Dillon Brooks ($5,300 DraftKings/$5,200 FanDuel) is always difficult to trust because he is scoring dependent and isn’t an efficient scorer. He should benefit from the pace of tonight’s game against Washington, however, and his 25.8 percent usage rate in games alongside Morant and Valanciunas this season is difficult to match at his price point. If Kyle Anderson (questionable) is out, it could also open up more minutes for Brooks.
Desmond Bane ($3,400 DraftKings/$3,500 FanDuel) started in place of Grayson Allen on Sunday and played 27.9 minutes. While some of those minutes came in garbage time, Bane did play over 13 minutes in the first half. If we assume that Bane plays another 26 to 28 minutes tonight, he projects as a strong point-per-dollar value. He has started four games alongside Morant and Valanciunas so far this season and has averaged 0.86 DraftKings points per minute and 25.9 minutes per game in those starts. If Anderson is out tonight it further solidifies Bane’s playing time.
LeBron James ($10,700 DraftKings/$10,800 FanDuel) is the top NBA DFS pick among small forwards, but he doesn’t really stand out among the stars at other positions on this slate. We continue to see James produce at a similar rate without Anthony Davis as he does when Davis is active. James has averaged 1.46 DraftKings points per minute with a 32.4 percent usage rate, 13.3 percent rebounding rate and 40.4 percent assist rate in 12 games without Davis this season. He has averaged 34.9 minutes per game in those games. James has averaged 1.49 DraftKings points per minute with a 31.6 percent usage rate, 12.9 percent rebounding rate and 38.7 percent assist rate in 23 games with Davis active this season. He has averaged 34.3 minutes per game in those games. The rates and playing time are slightly higher without Davis which suggests that James’ ceiling is a bit higher, but his salary has also increased to account for that. Tonight’s matchup against the Suns comes in the game with the lowest total on the slate as Phoenix is 29th in pace and ninth in defensive rating over the last month. I’m not trying to talk anyone off rostering James, he is always a perfectly fine option, I just think that when we are splitting hairs between the highest projected players on the slate he comes out behind several others. James will probably be easier to roster on FanDuel than DraftKings since you’ll have to roster two small forwards.
Kawhi Leonard ($8,800 DraftKings/$9,700 FanDuel) offers some value on DraftKings in particular tonight. Leonard played 37.3 minutes against the Bucks on Sunday and has averaged 34.5 minutes per game with 1.33 DraftKings points per minute in the 24 games that he has played alongside George this season. The small forward position is relatively weak and Leonard offers a high ceiling at a reasonable price point.
Jimmy Butler ($9,200 DraftKings/$9,500 FanDuel) is questionable and is also expensive. There is no denying how well he has played this season, however. Butler has averaged 1.40 DraftKings points per minute and 33.1 minutes per game. He has a 27.5 percent usage rate, 13 percent rebounding rate and 38.1 percent assist rate as he produces in every category. The Hawks are 28th in defensive rating over the last month, so it is likely that the Heat are able to score efficiently which benefits Butler in terms of his own scoring but also in terms of the rate at which his potential assists are likely to be converted.
Khris Middleton ($8,300 DraftKings/$7,400 FanDuel) is the opposite of Leonard tonight in that he looks like a strong value on FanDuel but I think we can find better options on DraftKings. Middleton’s ceiling takes a bit of a hit with Jrue Holiday expected back in the lineup but he is still a strong fantasy producer. Middleton has averaged 1.21 DraftKings points per minute and 32.1 minutes per game in 23 games played alongside both of Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Justise Winslow ($3,900 DraftKings/$4,400 FanDuel) remains inexpensive and he could see more playing time tonight if Anderson is ruled out. Winslow played 20.8 minutes in the Grizzlies’ blowout win over Houston on Sunday and he has averaged 22.3 minutes per game through his first four games of the season. There are two things to like about Winslow tonight aside from the matchup with the Wizards. First, I think it is likely that we see a couple minutes more than his 22 minute average if this game is competitive. Of the four games that Winslow has played this season, only one has been decided by fewer than 28 points (Feb. 22 against Dallas). Winslow played 25.6 minutes off the bench and closed that game. Second, he has averaged 0.90 DraftKings points per minute since his return despite shooting 36 percent from the field and 23 percent from 3. For his career, Winslow has a 41.6 percent field-goal rate and 33.5 percent 3-point rate. Winslow has attempted at least 10 field-goal attempts in three of his four games so far and has also contributed an 11.6 percent rebounding rate and 8.0 percent assist rate. His ability to contribute peripherals in addition to his 26.8 percent usage rate off the bench suggest that he will produce at a high rate when his shot is falling and he offers a relatively high floor based on the peripherals and shot volume.
Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,000 DraftKings/$11,300 FanDuel) is always one of the top options on a slate and tonight is no different as takes on the Nuggets in the game with the second-highest total on the slate. Antetokounmpo has averaged 1.67 DraftKings points per minute with a 33.2 percent usage rate, 17.9 percent rebounding rate and 27.3 percent assist rate in 23 games played with Holiday and Middleton active this season. Maybe most importantly, Antetokounmpo has averaged 33.1 minutes per game in those games and he could see 35-plus minutes tonight if the game is competitive. His increased playing time this season has caused him to go from a high ceiling, low floor (for his salary) option in the past to a consistent top tier option whenever he is playing.
Julius Randle ($9,300 DraftKings/$9,500 FanDuel) is expensive but the power forward position isn’t particularly strong tonight — especially if you can’t find the money for Antetokounmpo. Randle played 37.8 minutes on Sunday against the Pistons despite the game being in hand for the entire fourth quarter and he has been the one player on New York who hadn’t seen his playing time affected by the Knicks’ return to (almost) full strength. Now, they are without Mitchell Robinson, Taj Gibson and Payton so any concerns about reduced playing time are even less applicable to Randle. He has averaged 1.30 DraftKings points per minute and 36.7 minutes per game overall this season and 1.41 DraftKings points per minute in the three games that he has started alongside Rose.
John Collins ($6,800 DraftKings/$7,800 FanDuel) has a tough matchup tonight against Miami but he is coming off a monster game against them on Sunday. I don’t think that game should be weighted very heavily in terms of Collins’ chances for success tonight, but I do think that it reinforces that high ceiling that Collins offers for a mid-range price tag. He played 37 minutes on Sunday, but we also can’t read too much into that since this will be Atlanta’s first game since coach Lloyd Pierce was fired. Essentially, Collins remains a volatile option in terms of both playing time and per-minute production. This makes him risky in cash games but appealing in tournaments, especially if he is relatively low owned in NBA DFS contests tonight.
Brandon Clarke ($4,900 DraftKings/$5,800 FanDuel) only played 20.6 minutes off the bench on Sunday, but based on his first half rotation, he lost 6 to 8 minutes to the blowout since he didn’t get his fourth quarter run. Clarke closed the first half alongside Morant, Brooks, Anderson and Winslow in a small matchup against the Rockets. It is less likely that the Grizzlies play small against the Wizards since Washington typically has a center on the floor all 48 minutes (and Valanciunas was in foul trouble against Houston) but, if Anderson is out, that would help to solidify Clarke’s minutes. Clarke is a little bit of a wild card right now because there are several scenarios that could play out. Anderson could be active, in which case I wouldn’t feel confident expecting more than about 24 minutes out of Clarke. Anderson could be out and Clarke could come off the bench with someone like De’Anthony Melton or Winslow starting. In that case, I think there is a good chance that Clarke plays 26-plus minutes and he would produce at a higher per-minute rate because a lot of his minutes wouldn’t be alongside Valanciunas. Anderson could be out and Clarke could start, in which case I would feel confident in projecting him for 30-plus minutes but his per-minute production would take a hit since he produces at a lower rate alongside Valanciunas. There is obviously a lot of nuance here but, if I had to simplify it, I would say don’t roster Clarke if Anderson is in and Clarke is coming off the bench. Look to Clarke as a high upside, low floor option if Anderson is out and he is coming off the bench. Roster Clarke with confidence if he starts in place of Anderson.
Markieff Morris ($3,400 DraftKings/$4,000 FanDuel) has been starting in place of Davis recently. I don’t have much confidence in Morris since there are plenty of ways for him to fail as a low per-minute producer who also has competition for his minutes. I do think he is a reasonable value on DraftKings, however, given the relative lack of strong options at the position and the number of expensive players that I would like to pay up for tonight. Morris has started five games with Davis inactive and LeBron active this season and he has averaged 25.8 minutes per game with 0.76 DraftKings points per minute.
Nikola Jokic ($10,800 DraftKings/$11,000 FanDuel) had a monster game last night and we can go right back to him tonight against the Bucks. Jokic leads the Nuggets with 36 minutes per game over the last month. He also leads the team in usage rate, rebounding rate, assist rate and fantasy points per minute over that time (and over the course of the entire season). The center position also isn’t as deep on this slate as it normally is, so the opportunity cost is relatively low on Jokic.
Bam Adebayo ($8,700 DraftKings/$8,700 FanDuel) gets a bump if Butler (questionable) misses this game. He has averaged 1.29 DraftKings points per minute with a 25 percent usage rate, 15.4 percent rebounding rate and 31.8 percent assist rate in 25 games played without Butler since the start of last season. In 79 games played alongside Butler over that time, Adebayo has averaged 1.22 DraftKings points per minute with a 21.5 percent usage rate, 17.1 percent rebounding rate and 23.3 percent assist rate. Adebayo is most appealing on FanDuel because he is a power forward.
Jonas Valanciunas ($7,200 DraftKings/$7,000 FanDuel) only played about 13 minutes against the Rockets on Sunday but we shouldn’t be alarmed. First, the game was a blowout and Memphis won by 49 points so there was no need for Valanciunas to play in the fourth quarter. Second, he picked up 4 fouls in the first half and his fifth early in the third quarter so he spent a lot more time on the bench than he normally would have. Valanciunas should be back to his normal 29-plus minutes tonight against the Wizards. Washington has allowed the third-most rebounds per game over the last month and the most offensive rebounds per game. Valanciunas is seventh in the NBA with 3.4 offensive rebounds per game this season and 10th with 11.1 total rebounds per game.
Nerlens Noel ($5,200 DraftKings/$5,500 FanDuel) played 39.6 minutes on Sunday with Gibson sidelined. This is after playing about 41 minutes, including every minute of the second half, the previous game when Gibson had to leave with an injury. It appears that Tom Thibodeau is going to stick to his normal habits and run his starter into the ground instead of giving many additional minutes to rookie Obi Toppin. This is great news for Noel, who has averaged 0.79 DraftKings points per minute as a starter this season. He is a strong value on DraftKings, but an even better value on FanDuel because he is inexplicably listed as a power forward.
Brook Lopez ($4,100 DraftKings/$5,100 FanDuel) is an interesting option in tournaments tonight in his matchup against the Nuggets. Lopez’s playing time is inconsistent from game to game, but he has averaged a respectable 26.9 minutes per game over the last month. He has averaged 0.83 DraftKings points per minute this season in 23 games with all three of Milwaukee’s main trio active. While Jokic isn’t reliant on scoring at the rim and Lopez isn’t likely to be the answer for slowing him down, the matchup against a big center makes me think we could see a few more minutes for Lopez tonight.
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