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 for any type of contest 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 myself from 5 to 6 every weekday and Live Before Lock in the hour leading up until lock each day on the Awesemo YouTube channel.
If you have any questions after reading the article, always feel free to DM me in Slack.
Get Awesemo NHL Weekly For $3The NHL returns to the ice on Wednesday, and our team of Awesemo experts is already hard at work. To bring in the 2021 season, we're offering you a NHL Weekly for just $3 by using promo code GRETZKY. This offer will get you access to our Awesemo fantasy point projections, NHL Top Stacks tool, ownership projections and lineup builder. Use promo code GRETZKY before it expires on Friday, Jan. 15.
NBA DFS Deep Dive: DraftKings + FanDuel Picks | Jan. 14
Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers (-10): 222.5
The Heat are short-handed again tonight due to COVID protocols. They will be missing Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Avery Bradley, Goran Dragic, Maurice Harkless, Udonis Haslem, Kendrick Nunn and K.Z. Okpala. Meyers Leonard is listed as doubtful and Gabe Vincent is listed as probable. Assuming that Leonard doesn’t play, and that Vincent is active, Miami will have the same eight players active tonight that they had against Philadelphia on Tuesday.
We have a little bit more information going into tonight’s game than we did on Tuesday since we’ve seen Miami play a game with this group of players now. The starters on Tuesday were Vincent, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Kelly Olynyk and Precious Achiuwa. I expect to see the same starters tonight since Miami was competitive and forced that game into overtime.
All of the starters played at least 30 minutes in regulation with the three normal starters, Robinson, Olynyk and Herro, playing 40.8, 40 and 34.3 minutes in regulation. Vincent played 31.4 minutes and Achiuwa played 30.7 minutes. Miami should be the main source of value again tonight as salaries have not increased enough for the number of minutes most of the Heat will have to play.
Herro led the team with a 35.4 percent usage rate, as we would expect. He should be the number one option offensively again tonight. Including the preseason, Herro has averaged 1.09 DraftKings points per minute with a 30.6 percent usage rate in 147 minutes without Butler, Adebayo, Dragic or Nunn on the floor since last season. Vincent was the only other Miami player with a usage rate above 20 percent on Tuesday as he posted a 25.0 percent usage rate. He has played 94 total minutes without Butler, Adebayo, Dragic or Nunn on the floor and has averaged 0.81 DraftKings points per minute with a 21.6 percent usage rate.
Robinson only had an 18.3 percent usage rate on Tuesday, and that isn’t really surprising since he isn’t going to create his own shots. Still, he was on the floor for almost the entire game, so he is still underpriced for a player that should average about 0.80 DraftKings points per minute.
Achiuwa led the team in rebounding rate on Tuesday, which wasn’t surprising. He is a strong per-minute player and has averaged 1 DraftKings point per minute this season. While we shouldn’t expect him to get a usage bump since he isn’t one of the primary ball-handlers or perimeter shooters, all he needs is the additional playing time to pay off his salary. If he were to get in foul trouble, or play limited minutes for some other reason, Chris Silva would probably be the main beneficiary. Silva has averaged 1.08 DraftKings points per minute in 451 minutes since the start of last preseason. He only played 16.7 minutes on Tuesday, by far the fewest on the team, but he makes sense as a leverage play against the much more popular Achiuwa in large field tournaments since he is likely to be extremely productive if he somehow gets more minutes at Achiuwa’s expense.
Olynyk only had a 13.8 percent usage rate on Tuesday, but he has played a total of 136 minutes without Butler, Adebayo, Dragic or Nunn since the start of last preseason. He has averaged 0.98 DraftKings points per minute with a 21.3 percent usage rate, 14.3 percent rebounding rate and 12.1 percent assist rate. While Olynyk is unlikely to lead the team in any one category, the combination of his projected minutes and ability to contribute in all categories makes him a strong fantasy option as well. He is particularly valuable on FanDuel where he is $1,100 less expensive than he is on DraftKings.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Tyler Herro ($7,300), Gabe Vincent ($4,200), Precious Achiuwa ($4,400), Kelly Olynyk ($6,400), Duncan Robinson ($5,500)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Tyler Herro ($6,500), Kelly Olynyk ($5,300), Precious Achiuwa ($4,100), Duncan Robinson ($4,900), Gabe Vincent ($4,500)
Seth Curry, Furkan Korkmaz and Vincent Poirier remain out for the 76ers. Tobias Harris, Terrance Ferguson, Shake Milton and Matisse Thybulle are expected back tonight. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are both listed as probable as well.
The Sixers were a great source of value for a couple of slates as most of their team was dealing with COVID protocols, but those days appear to be over as Curry is the only main rotation player that is expected to be out tonight. As a result, there is nothing on this team that I’m particularly interested in, outside of Embiid.
Embiid is the alpha here regardless of who is on the floor and his salary didn’t increase much when the team was short-handed. He should be able to dominate this Miami frontcourt that is missing Bam Adebayo. Embiid has averaged 1.61 DraftKings points per minute this season with a 30.5 percent usage rate, 19.9 percent rebounding rate and 15.5 percent assist rate. He has averaged 32 minutes per game this season and is likely to play 34-plus minutes if the Heat are able to keep this game close.
Simmons and Harris have relatively high ceilings since they are the second and third best fantasy producers on this team and they should also benefit from facing a weaker than normal Miami defense. That said, I don’t expect to get to them outside of some tournament lineups because there are far better values available on this slate.
Milton is likely to start in place of Curry and he played 36.3 minutes the last time that he started for Curry and the team was at full strength otherwise. He has some value tonight if we get another 36 minutes, but Tyrese Maxey played well while Milton is out, so I think there is a good chance that Milton sees closer to 30 minutes with Maxey picking up a few more minutes than the 21 that he played the last time Philadelphia was in this situation.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Joel Embiid ($10,000)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Joel Embiid ($10,200)
Charlotte Hornets at Toronto Raptors (-8.5): 220
The Hornets don’t stand out as a team to target too heavily since they are essentially playing at full strength. That said, we can look here for some lower owned upside in tournaments. Charlotte is an underdog on the second half of a back-to-back against the Raptors, but Toronto hasn’t been a particularly bad matchup from a DFS standpoint so far this season. They’re 13th in the league in pace and 21st in defensive rating so far this season.
LaMelo Ball’s playing time remains a concern as his price tag rises since we can never guarantee that he plays more than 25 or 26 minutes. He does have the potential to play 30 or 31 minutes, however, and he has averaged 1.31 DraftKings points per minute this season. His salary makes him tough to trust from a median projection standpoint, but he certainly has plenty of upside if he happens to push 30 minutes of action. Hayward is also an interesting tournament target since he is small forward eligible and that’s a difficult position to fill tonight if we aren’t punting it with a Houston player. Hayward has a relatively low floor for his price tag but he also has a massive ceiling. He’s played at least 34 minutes in most competitive games this season and leads the Hornets with a 25.3 percent usage rate.
Bismack Biyombo isn’t really needed as a value on this slate since we have two teams that are extremely short-handed, but it is worth noting that his price has fallen to $4,000 on DraftKings. He isn’t an exciting DFS player, but he has averaged 26.7 minutes per game and 0.83 DraftKings points per minute in his 11 starts this season.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Gordon Hayward ($7,800)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Gordon Hayward ($7,800)
The Raptors are also full healthy for tonight’s game, with the exception of Patrick McCaw who has no impact on anyone.
I want to start with the Raptors’ frontcourt, because they have been making changes to their starting lineup based on their matchup which is not something that most teams do. Toronto started Alex Len against Jusuf Nurkic on Monday, but they used Chris Boucher to start the second half after Nurkic was injured and replaced by Enes Kanter. Tonight, the Hornets will start a low-usage, undersized center in Biyombo, so I expect the Raptors to start either Boucher or Pascal Siakam at center. Since Boucher hasn’t started a game yet this season, my guess is that Siakam starts at center and Norman Powell re-joins the starting lineup with Boucher playing big minutes off the bench against P.J. Washington and probably closing the game over Powell.
Siakam should see more rebounding opportunities if he starts at center and he has averaged 1.15 DraftKings points per minute overall this season in 35.9 minutes per game. His salary is rising, but he remains a strong forward option — especially if he starts again at center.
Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet both play big minutes in the backcourt with Lowry averaging 36.4 minutes per game this season and VanVleet averaging 35.8 minutes per game. VanVleet has been the better fantasy producer by a slight margin so far this season with 1.12 DraftKings points per minute compared to 1.06 DraftKings points per minute for Lowry. VanVleet is also slightly more expensive, however, making them similar options. If you need a tiebreaker and everything else is equal, I would lean toward VanVleet because a lower rate of his offensive possessions come in the pick-and-roll and he has been the better 3-point shooter.
Boucher stands out as the top option for me, especially on DraftKings at only $6,500. Boucher has only averaged 22.2 minutes per game this season, but he has played at least 24 minutes in six of Toronto’s 10 games. This is a matchup where I expect Boucher to be used heavily as the Hornets have a small frontcourt and Boucher shouldn’t have any trouble matching up with them. He has averaged a team-leading 1.37 DraftKings points per minute in 221 minutes played this season.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Chris Boucher ($6,500)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Kyle Lowry ($7,200), Pascal Siakam ($8,900)
Latest NBA DFS Content
- NBA DFS Picks — Strategy Syllabus for Tuesday, 1/26
- NBA DFS Picks: DraftKings + FanDuel Optimal Lineup + Leverage Leaders | 1/26
- NBA DFS Deep Dive for DraftKings & FanDuel | Tuesday, January 26
- DraftKings & FanDuel NBA Daily Fantasy Picks Based on Awesemo Grades & Values | Tuesday, January 26
- NBA DFS Picks Based Off of Optimal Lineup Percentage and Ownership Projections for DraftKings + FanDuel | 1/26
- Awesemo DFS on Youtube
Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs (-7): 218
The Rockets are where most of our value will come from tonight, in addition to Miami. Houston has nine available players tonight with Chris Clemons, Eric Gordon, John Wall, Danuel House and Brodric Thomas out. James Harden, of course, is no longer on the team and none of the players that Houston acquired in the Harden trade are available to play tonight. The nine available players are Christian Wood, DeMarcus Cousins, David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, Ben McLemore, Jae’Sean Tate, P.J. Tucker, Mason Jones and Kenyon Martin Jr.
Wood and Cousins should dominate usage whenever they are on the floor. We haven’t seen them play alongside each other much this season, but I expect that will change tonight because Houston is short-handed and these are the two best players they have by a wide margin. Including the preseason, Wood has played 22 minutes without either of Harden or Wall on the floor and Cousins has played 20, so we don’t have much of a sample size of what to expect. Overall, Wood has a 27.8 percent usage rate and Cousins has a 23.8 percent usage rate. I expect both numbers to be higher tonight. I expect that we see some Point Boogie tonight as well while will lead to increased assist opportunities for Cousins.
After Wood and Cousins, I am looking at Nwaba and Brown because I think they will play the most minutes, along with Tucker, since they have been the players that we’ve seen take on bigger roles due to injuries earlier in the season. Nwaba has averaged 0.74 DraftKings points per minute in his career while Brown has averaged 0.76 DraftKings points per minute. Assuming that we will get 30-plus minutes from both guys, that makes them look like strong values at minimum salary. Tucker should play huge minutes tonight but it’s still P.J. Tucker. He’s unlikely to take on a big role as a facilitator and he isn’t going to create shots for himself. Still, he’s extremely inexpensive. He has averaged 0.68 DraftKings points per minute in his career 0.73 DraftKings points per minute in 73 minutes without Wall, Westbrook, Harden, Paul or Gordon over the last three seasons. In true P.J. Tucker fashion, his usage rate is still only 9.9 percent.
Tate and McLemore are the other two available players who have been in Houston’s rotation this season. McLemore has averaged 0.85 DraftKings points per minute in 132 minutes and Tate has averaged 0.75 DraftKings points per minute in 274 minutes since the start of the preseason. They’re each likely to play around 30 minutes and McLemore is probably more capable of taking on a scoring role than anyone of the other players mentioned besides Wood and Cousins.
Jones is an interesting large field tournament punt. His chances of success are lower than the other minimum salary players since he has been behind them in the rotation and they’ll probably play more minutes. We do know that Rockets are going to need players to score tonight, however, and Jones could help them out there. If he gets hot from the field, I have a hard time believing that he doesn’t stay on the floor. He has only played 48 minutes, including the preseason, but he has averaged 0.96 DraftKings points per minute with a 21.5 percent usage rate and 15.4 percent assist rate. He was undrafted and is on a two-way contract with Houston, but he did average 22 points per game last season at Arkansas.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Christian Wood ($7,700), DeMarcus Cousins ($4,700), David Nwaba ($3,200), Sterling Brown ($3,000), Ben McLemore ($3,400)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Christian Wood ($8,100), DeMarcus Cousins ($4,600), Sterling Brown ($3,800), Ben McLemore ($3,700)
San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio is another team that I have very little interest in outside of tournaments. They’re at full strength and most of their players are priced up because LaMarcus Aldridge missed several games and then DeRozan missed a couple of games once Aldridge returned. That said, they are playing a Houston team that is primarily using G-League level players so they should be able to outproduce their season averages.
Aldridge is my top option as his salary hasn’t increased fast enough after he started out the season playing relatively limited minutes and then suffered an injury. He will lose usage with DeRozan back on the floor, but he has averaged 1.08 DraftKings points per minute and 32.4 minutes per game in 57 games with DeRozan active since the start of last season. DeRozan has averaged 1.14 DraftKings points per minute and 34.2 minutes per game in the 57 games that he has played with Aldridge since the start of last season. They are the two players most likely to give us 50-plus fantasy points tonight against Houston, with Dejounte Murray being next in line.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: LaMarcus Aldridge ($6,700), DeMar DeRozan ($8,000)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: LaMarcus Aldridge ($7,200), DeMar DeRozan ($8,100)
Indiana Pacers at Portland Trail Blazers (-3): 229
The Pacers played their last game without Oladipo, so we have a good idea what to expect tonight against the Blazers. Malcolm Brogdon has averaged 39 minutes per game and 1.19 DraftKings points per minute in seven games since Warren’s injury. Oladipo’s absence should help to solidify his playing time and usage as well and he has a favorable matchup against Portland. Similarly, Domantas Sabonis has averaged 1.25 DraftKings points per minute in 38.1 minutes per game since Warren’s injury. Going back to last season, Sabonis has averaged 1.42 DraftKings points per minute with a 26.5 percent usage rate without Warren or Oladipo on the floor while Brogdon has averaged 1.17 DraftKings points per minute with a 26.5 percent usage rate.
Myles Turner played 41.5 minutes against Golden State last game and has averaged 1.08 DraftKings points per minute in 32.5 minutes per game since Warren’s injury. Turner leads the NBA in blocks per game and should get plenty of opportunities tonight against high-usage centers in Nurkic and Kanter and two guards that frequently attack the rim in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
Beyond the main three players, we can look to the Pacers for secondary value plays as well. They aren’t as appealing as value plays from Miami or Houston since those teams have fewer players, but the Pacers have plenty of minutes available as well and they should be lower owned in tournaments. Edmond Sumner started against the Warriors and played 30.2 minutes. Sumner has played 537 regular season minutes since the start of last season and has averaged 0.72 DraftKings points per minute. One negative for Sumner is that T.J. McConnell is expected back tonight so the Pacers have one more available guard than they did last game and Sumner could lose a few minutes. Doug McDermott only played about 17 minutes against Golden State due to foul trouble, but he is likely to play at least 24 to 26 minutes tonight. He has averaged 0.78 DraftKings points per minute this season.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Domantas Sabonis ($9,500), Malcolm Brogdon ($8,300), Myles Turner ($6,600)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Domantas Sabonis ($9,200), Malcolm Brogdon ($8,600)
Portland Trail Blazers
Lillard and McCollum both had monster games last night against the Kings and Nurkic had a big game as well. There is plenty of value on this slate so it shouldn’t be difficult to get back to Lillard and McCollum tonight. The matchup isn’t as good against the Pacers as it was against the Kings, but the Blazers still have a 116 point implied total. Lillard has averaged 35.1 minutes per game this season while McCollum has averaged 34.5 minutes per game. They have both averaged between 1.30 and 1.35 DraftKings points per minute. Terry Stotts continues to stagger their playing time, which increases both of their ceilings.
Nurkic played 30.3 minutes last night despite being questionable and I expect another 26 to 30 minutes tonight. Nurkic has averaged 1.15 DraftKings points per minute this season and always has a high ceiling because of his ability to contribute in every category. The only knock on Nurkic is his relatively limited playing time with Kanter stealing minutes off the bench. At only $5,300 on DraftKings and $6,400 on FanDuel, however, 26 to 30 minutes is plenty of time for Nurkic.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Damian Lillard ($9,300), C.J. McCollum ($8,400), Jusuf Nurkic ($5,300)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Damian Lillard ($9,200), C.J. McCollum ($9,500), Jusuf Nurkic ($6,400)
Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets (-4.5): 224.5
Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry is coming off a disappointing game against Indiana, but he remains the obvious starting point for Golden State. Curry has averaged 34.2 minutes per game this season and 1.37 DraftKings points per minute. Denver has struggled defensively so far this season, allowing the fifth-most points per 100 possessions.
Nothing stands out beyond Curry. Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kelly Oubre are all at reasonable price points if you need a last guy in for a tournament lineup, but the layout of this slate makes me think that I’ll primarily be using stars and scrubs type builds and where I end up in the mid-range I will be looking for players who are obviously underpriced for their current roles like Christian Wood. It is also worth mentioning that James Wiseman played a season-high in minutes last game with 26 after averaging only 18 minutes per game since Green returned to the lineup. I’m hesitant to trust those minutes, however, because Eric Paschall is expected back tonight after missing last game and he has been one of the back-up centers behind Wiseman.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Stephen Curry ($9,700)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Stephen Curry ($9,600)
Gary Harris is questionable after missing Denver’s last game. Bol Bol started in his place but only played 15.8 minutes and we didn’t see a true beneficiary emerge in his absence. I don’t think his status has much of an impact on this slate.
Nikola Jokic is the top option here as always. He played 34.3 minutes last game and has averaged 35 minutes per game this season. He averaged about 36 minutes in 12 games without Mason Plumlee last season, so I think that we keep seeing heavy minutes out of Jokic. He has also improved his per-minute production this season with 1.67 DraftKings points per minute.
Jamal Murray’s rates have taken a hit as Jokic has taken on an even bigger role as a facilitator. Still, Murray is capable of getting hot as a scorer, so he is always someone that I’m interested in in tournaments if he is going to be low-owned. He has only averaged 0.88 DraftKings points per minute this season, but his median isn’t indicative of his ceiling since his usage will go up in games where he is shooting well. Will Barton is similar to Murray in that he is correctly priced for his median but underpriced for his ceiling. He is also likely to pick up a couple extra minutes if Harris misses tonight’s game. Murray and Barton are both viable tournament options against a Golden State team that has played at the third-fastest pace this season if you can’t afford Jokic and want exposure to the Denver offense.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Nikola Jokic ($11,000)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Nikola Jokic ($11,200)
Looking for more DraftKings and FanDuel daily fantasy basketball and NBA DFS picks content? We have loads of articles, data, DraftKings and FanDuel cheat sheets and more on the Awesemo NBA home page. Just click HERE.