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The Deep Dive: NBA DFS Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel | Thursday, April 8

Dave Loughran

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EMac and Adam Kaufman break down the NBA DFS slate on DraftKings + FanDuel with picks on Saturday, April 17.

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!


NBA DFS Deep Dive: DraftKings + FanDuel Picks | April 8

Players to Watch: Giannis Antetokounmpo — Doubtful; Kristaps Porzingis, Mike Conley — Second game of back-to-backs, could sit; Kyle Kuzma — Downgraded from probable to questionable; Mason Plumlee — Questionable; Jusuf Nurkic — Questionable; Maxi Kleber — Questionable

Point Guard

Luka Doncic (DraftKings: $10,900; FanDuel: $10,300) and the Mavericks are 1-point home dogs against the Bucks, who are expected to be without Giannis tonight. Doncic is a 1.55 DraftKings points per minute producer who leads his team by an insanely wide margin in usage (35.9%) and assist rate (42.7%), while also pulling down rebounds at a strong 12.6 percent clip.

The Bucks are a top 10 defense, but they play at the league’s third-fastest pace and tonight’s game owns a solid enough 228 total. Doncic hasn’t triple-doubled in nearly a month, but over that span he’s still providing us with 1.50 DraftKings points per minute on 38.4 percent usage and 35.6 percent assists. More importantly, he’s only $10,300 on FanDuel, which is egregiously low and explains his projected 38.2 percent ownership. The price of $10,900 on DraftKings isn’t quite as favorable, but Doncic is still the most desirable high-priced NBA DFS pick there as well.

Jrue Holiday (DraftKings: $8,100; FanDuel: $8,800) is more expensive than Khris Middleton on both DraftKings and FanDuel, which is a testament to how well he’s played of late. Over his last five starts Holiday is averaging a stellar 1.48 DraftKings points per minute thanks to some extraordinary shooting, going 62.3 from the field and 48.4 percent from beyond the arc. Now Holiday should draw a start without the two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (doubtful) on the hardwood. In 403 minutes with Antetokounmpo off the floor this season, Holiday is sporting a 28.4 percent usage rate and 35.6 percent assist rate with a team-high 1.39 DraftKings points per minute produced.

Holiday isn’t garnering particularly high ownership right now thanks to an inflated price point, but with DraftKings Points totals of 37.5, 40.3, 64.3, 27.3 and 64.3 in the five games Giannis has missed this season, it’s very clear that he has the ceiling. In those five games, Holiday is averaging 1.42 DraftKings points per minute, so don’t be too worried about paying a hefty price point for him on Thursday.

Holiday will be significantly lower-owned than De’Aaron Fox (DraftKings: $9,300; FanDuel: $9,300) on FanDuel, where he’s only $500 cheaper than the Kings’ star guard. Fox makes for an excellent high-end point guard option against a bad Pistons team, but he should not have nearly double the ownership of Holiday on FanDuel. Fox is averaging 1.24 DraftKings points per minute on the season, and 1.28 DraftKings points per minute on 31.2 percent usage and 26.4 percent assists over the last month. He’s not a good rebounder, though, and ranks outside of the top 20 in steals per game. As great as Fox is, it is totally acceptable to have Holiday instead, as he’s looking at half of Fox’s ownership and is discounted by $500.

Malachi Flynn (DraftKings: $4,700; FanDuel: $6,000) is overpriced on FanDuel but remains a top value option on DraftKings at only $4,700. Flynn has earned some extended playing time since Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet hit the shelf, and has taken full advantage of the opportunity. He’s logged 31-plus minutes in three straight games (VanVleet played 19 minutes in one of them), and hasn’t produced under a fantasy point per minute in any of them. Flynn’s four stocks per game (steals and blocks) over that span might not be sustainable, but he’s still averaging 9.0 rebound chances, 8.7 potential assists and 70.7 touches (second to only Pascal Siakam) over that stretch.

Flynn could see even more opportunity tonight against Chicago with DeAndre’ Bembry serving a one-game suspension for leaving the bench during an altercation against the Lakers. It shouldn’t matter if he starts or not, though, as Nick Nurse is clearly looking to feed Flynn with starter’s minutes regardless. It is worth noting, however, that Bembry actually leads the Raptors in potential assists (10.0) over the aforementioned three-game stretch, so more facilitating chances could be in store for Flynn on Thursday. $4,700 is simply too cheap given how shorthanded Toronto will be once again.

Honorable Mention: Killian Hayes (DraftKings), Darius Garland, Theo Maledon


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Shooting Guard

Donovan Mitchell (DraftKings: $8,600; FanDuel: $7,800) is one of a few shooting guards who is a site-specific play tonight. Sure, you could get to some Mitchell at $8,600 on DraftKings, but the position is actually pretty stacked at more than one tier, making him far from a priority. On FanDuel, however, Mitchell is $7,800 on a night where he’ll be facing the league’s second worst defense.

Since the beginning of March, no team has a worst defensive rating than the Blazers, who are ceding the league’s fourth-highest 3-point percentage (38.5%) and second-highest field-goal percentage(48.9%) to opponents over that span. They don’t play at a lightning-fast pace, but their last 10 games have an average total score north of 230.

Given his 32.7 percent usage rate, 26.9 percent assist rate and 1.26 DraftKings points per minute, there isn’t much reason to avoid him on FanDuel at a sub-$8,000 price point unless ownership is a concern; Mitchell is currently projected to be the highest-owned players on Thursday’s slate — he’s a great NBA DFS pick tonight.

There are a ton of alternatives to Mitchell on DraftKings where there is multi-position eligibility, including Jrue Holiday and Middleton, who are both cheaper than Mitchell and likely won’t have to play alongside Antetokounmpo tonight. Zach LaVine (DraftKings: $8,000; FanDuel: $7,200) also comes into play at a reasonable price point on both sites. He’ll face a short-handed Raptors team and is averaging near-identical per-minute production (1.24) to Mitchell this season.

Now, Nikola Vucevic was recently added to this Bulls roster and there is not a huge sample size of him playing alongside LaVine. In the 110 minutes where they’ve shared the court, though, LaVine is pumping out 1.43 DraftKings points per minute on 40 percent usage and 32.8 percent assists.

Josh Jackson (DraftKings: $4,700; FanDuel: $4,400) should see no shortage of opportunity tonight with Jerami Grant sidelined. Grant has been one of the league’s most improved players this season, sporting a team-high 28 percent usage rate with 1.07 DraftKings points per minute. With Grant (and Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin) off the floor, Jackson is sporting a team-high 26.8 percent usage rate with 18.5 percent assists, 9.5 percent rebounds and 1.04 DraftKings points per minute. He’ll also be facing a Kings team that ranks dead last in defensive rating (117.8) on the season while playing at the league’s 11th-fastest pace.

This is a cut-and-dried situation here; Jackson should be the top dog for the Pistons tonight against a dismal Sacramento defense in a pace-up spot. In case you still aren’t sold, the Kings are allowing the second-highest 3-point percentage to opponents (39.3%) and the most points in the paint (53.3), so Jackson should find a variety of ways to create buckets tonight.

Honorable Mention: Collin Sexton, Paul George, Tyrese Haliburton

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Small Forward

Khris Middleton (DraftKings: $7,800; FanDuel: $8,200) has been quite frustrating at times this season, but none of his past disappointments should keep us from loading up on him tonight. Giannis Antetokounmpo is doubtful to play in tonight’s road tilt with Dallas, which means Middleton will inherit plenty of those voided possessions. Across 533 minutes with Antetokounmpo off the floor this season, Middleton is churning out 1.33 DraftKings points per minute on team-high 31.3 percent usage. He’s also chipping in assists at a 26.5 percent clip with a serviceable enough 9.3 percent rebound rate. Expect a competitive game where Mike Budenholzer could provide Middleton with upwards of 37 minutes. He’ll be popular for good reason, and there isn’t a good excuse to get away from Middleton on Thursday night.

Saddiq Bey (DraftKings: $4,300; FanDuel: $5,100) doesn’t give us much to be excited about as a relatively low-usage player with a modest per-minute fantasy scoring rate. He should, however, be positioned for an expanded role tonight with Grant sidelined. Bey could see upwards of 30 minutes tonight against the Kings, who rank dead last in defensive rating and play and present a nice pace-up spot for Detroit.

There just aren’t any consistently high-usage players on the Pistons; Rose is in New York, Griffin is playing for a contender and Grant will be watching tonight’s game from the bench. Even Delon Wright, who would’ve soaked up more usage and ball-handling responsibilities with Grant out, will be playing in this game but for the other team. At a weak small forward position, Bey gives us a cheap enough option in a good matchup, and on a team that has no clear no. 2 behind Jackson tonight.

Taurean Prince (DraftKings: $4,100; FanDuel: $5,800) is worth considering on DraftKings for the same reasons Bey makes sense. You shouldn’t be going anywhere near him on FanDuel. Prince has posted back-to-back 32-plus-DraftKings points games, which is way out of character but at least somewhat encouraging. Similar to Bey, it’s not about Prince’s pedestrian numbers that should put him on the radar tonight. Instead, look at the matchup: Oklahoma City ranks dead last in defensive rating (117.5) over the last month, while playing at a top-seven pace (101.1). They’ve gotten smoked on a nightly basis, so this terrible Cavaliers team should actually be in a competitive spot tonight. Ignore the rates and focus on the matchup and discounted price point when it comes to Prince.

Honorable Mention: Aleksej Pokusevski, Jimmy Butler (FanDuel), Buddy Hield

Power Forward

Pascal Siakam (DraftKings: $8,500; FanDuel: $8,700) will be relied upon to keep the Raptors’ playoff hopes alive tonight as they look to secure a spot in the play-in round. Toronto has been a disaster this season even when healthy, so the absence of both Lowry and VanVleet won’t do them any favors tonight against Chicago. Siakam has played only 209 minutes without Lowry, VanVleet and Norman Powell since the start of last season. Over those minutes he’s sporting a 27.1 percent usage rate, 10.6 percent rebound rate and 23.2 percent assist rate on 1.25 DraftKings points per minute. Those are solid numbers, but they don’t exactly vault Siakam in that elite tier that one would hope for with so many Raptors starters out.

Bobby Portis (DraftKings: $5,300; FanDuel: $5,800) is already averaging an impressive 1.14 DraftKings points per minute on the season as one of the top options off Milwaukee’s bench. That number remains entirely changed with Antetokounmpo off the floor, but his usage increases from 17.5 to 21.5 percent and his rebound rate spikes to 18.7 percent in the process. More importantly, Portis maintains a real shot at remaining in the starting lineup and getting around 28 minutes of court time. Portis started in place of Antetokounmpo on Tuesday, and although he didn’t close out the game, the veteran journeyman still logged close to 30 minutes in the loss.

Assuming Portis draws another start it’ll be really tough to get away from him tonight. It’s worth noting, however, that he loses pretty significant value off the bench, and will likely only play between 23-25 minutes if Mike Budenholzer decides to remove him from the starting lineup. At a mid- and high-$5,000 price point on DraftKings and FanDuel, respectively, Portis needs to start for us to feel comfortable having him as an NBA DFS pick tonight.

Isaiah Hartenstein (DraftKings: $4,400; FanDuel: $4,000) and Dean Wade (DraftKings: $4,600; FanDuel: $4,500) make for two strange fantasy options tonight against the Thunder. Actually, the entire Cavaliers frontcourt is one worth breaking down …

Hartenstein played 27 minutes last game and posted a strong 16-point, 12-rebound double-double against the Spurs. He played six minutes to close out the game while Kevin Love (DraftKings: $5,800; FanDuel: $5,600) watched from the bench, though, making this a far more precarious position going into Thursday night than you might think. Assuming tonight’s game stays relatively close, Love could play north of 30 minutes for the first time since the day after Christmas. In three games since returning to action after an extended hiatus, Love played 20, 23 and 26 minutes in that order. It’s very possible that J.B. Bickerstaff continues to loosen the reins tonight, which would directly impact Hartenstein’s playing time and potentially limit him to around 20-22 minutes off the bench.

While it is understandable why Hartenstein is popping as a high-owned value option right now, do not ignore Love at a sub-$6,000 price point. He is still a plus-one per-minute fantasy producer and could finally eclipse the 30-minute mark against an abomination of a basketball team in the Thunder. Love and Hartenstein in the same lineup is not ideal either, as Love could really cut into Hartenstein’s value depending on whether or not he continues to see increasing minutes.

As for Wade, expect him to play big minutes again tonight with Jarrett Allen and Larry Nance Jr. sidelined, but temper your expectations from a production standpoint. In the five games where he’s taken on a 30-plus-minute role in the starting lineup, Wade is averaging 0.66 DraftKings points per minute on 10.8 percent usage. Wade will have to provide a lot of minutes tonight in order for the NBA DFS juice to be worth the squeeze.

Honorable Mention: Thaddeus Young, O.G. Anunoby

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Center

Andre Drummond (DraftKings: $6,500; FanDuel: $5,200) seems like a sketchy option tonight, and that’s because he is. First off, Drummond is entirely unplayable at $6,500 on DraftKings, but actually presents plenty of value at only $5,200 on FanDuel. Here’s why: in his first start with the Lakers, Drummond logged almost 13 minutes in the first half before a toe injury removed him from the game. Assuming he would’ve seen a similar rotation in the second half and closed out the game in a competitive spot, Drummond was on pace to play around 26 minutes.

It’s easy to forget that Drummond is an elite per-minute fantasy producer who was averaging 1.48 DraftKings points per minute for Cleveland before they stopped playing him in preparation for a trade. He’s also the best rebounder in the league (26.1% rebound), an underrated facilitator (16.2% assist) and a 31.2 percent usage center. Oh, and Drummond averages 3.0 stocks per game for his career.

Needless to say, it’s easy to see how Drummond could have a big night if Frank Vogel decides to start him and give him enough minutes. LeBron James and Anthony Davis remain out, while Kuzma was downgraded from probable to questionable. There are plenty of directions this one could take tonight, but Drummond sure makes for an intriguing upside play on FanDuel.

Chris Boucher (DraftKings: $5,700; FanDuel: $6,000) looks like he could be going a bit overlooked tonight against the Bulls. He played 33 minutes in the starting lineup last time out and averages 1.22 DraftKings points per minute on the season. It’s possible that Nick Nurse will opt to go with more Aron Baynes tonight against a skilled offensive center in Vucevic, but don’t be shocked to see Boucher earn more minutes with DeAndre’ Bembry suspended.

Mixing and matching some other centers seems to make sense tonight since no one stands out as an elite option. Richaun Holmes is only $6,500 on FanDuel in a premier matchup against Detroit, while Moses Brown has fallen to $5,100 in an equally appealing spot against Cleveland. He’s plummeted back down to earth lately, but could play in the high 20s and is still a threat to post a big points-rebounds double-double on any given night.

Mason Plumlee (DraftKings: $5,900; FanDuel: $6,200) is questionable to play against the Kings, which means Isaiah Stewart (DraftKings: $4,100; FanDuel: $3,700 PF) could become a stellar value option if he gets another start. Stewart would face a Kings team that allows more points in the paint than any other team and is a bottom-eight rebounding club. Averaging 0.93 DraftKings points per minute , it’s hard to see Stewart crashing and burning enough to damage lineups if Plumlee is inactive. For what it’s worth, Plumlee could also be a strong center option too. His minutes have been erratic, but you have to think he’d play in the high 20s if Detroit can finally keep a game competitive. Plumlee has quietly averaged a very impressive 1.11 DraftKings points per minute on the season.

Honorable Mention: Rudy Gobert, Enes Kanter (If Nurkic is out)


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Dave "Loughy" Loughran has been a fixture in the daily fantasy community since not long after its inception, quitting his career as a Drug and Alcohol therapist to become a full-time DFS analyst, player and media personality in 2014. Loughy is the host of "Awesemo Radio" on SiriusXM Fantasy, qualified for the 2016 DraftKings Fantasy Football World Championship, and was featured in the Washington Post and other publications for his success as a player. You can find him on Twitter at @Loughy_D where he'll likely be ranting about the miserable life of a Philadelphia sports fan, using "fella" in almost every tweet, or via email at support@awesemo.com.

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