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.
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De’Aaron Fox (DraftKings: $8,700; FanDuel: $8,900) is playing arguably the best basketball of his young career, averaging 1.26 DraftKings points per minute on 31 percent usage and 30.1 percent assists over the last month. He’s failed to score 28 points in only one of his last nine starts and has clearly been more aggressive as a scorer, even getting to the free-throw line nearly nine times a game over that span.
Golden State plays at the league’s second-fastest pace and won’t have the offensive firepower without Stephen Curry to pull away from Sacramento tonight. This should lock Fox into big minutes, as he’s already averaging the fourth-most minutes in the league over the last month (37.5 minutes per game). He has dropped back below $9,000 on both FanDuel and DraftKings and should be on all of our radars tonight in the highest-total game of the slate.
Ben Simmons (DraftKings: $8,600; FanDuel: $8,200) hasn’t taken advantage of Joel Embiid’s absence like we would’ve hoped, but he still sees a near 5 percent spike in usage (20% to 24.6%), which has to be good for something. Simmons owns a 12.8 percent rebound rate without Embiid while churning out 1.20 DraftKings points per minute. He always leaves us wanting more, but at $8,200 on FanDuel we won’t have to worry about him turning in less than an All-Star performance. The only thing I don’t love about Simmons tonight is a pace-down matchup against a good Lakers defense.
Jordan Poole (DraftKings: $6,100; FanDuel: $6,200) couldn’t have asked for a better matchup. Coming off a relatively disappointing game against a stout 76ers defense, Poole will draw the bottom-ranked Kings tonight in what should be the most fantasy-friendly game on the slate. In four games Poole has played without Curry he’s averaging 1.02 DraftKings points per minute on 24 points and 24 percent usage. Poole has never been big on peripheral stats, but it’s at least somewhat encouraging to see that he’s second on the team in potential assists (7.7) behind Draymond Green over the last three games Curry has missed. Poole is also second in touches per game (71.3) over that stretch, indicating that he has clearly seized a huge role in the rotation with Curry sidelined.
Assuming we get another 35 to 38 minutes from Poole tonight (he’s averaging 37 per game since Curry went down), it will be hard to view him as anything but a top option at the guard position. Big minutes, high usage and a mouth-watering matchup in a fast-paced game create the perfect recipe for success.
Tyrese Haliburton (DraftKings: $6,000; FanDuel: $5,700) has played 36 minutes in consecutive games, and while he hasn’t necessarily been dominant with that extended playing time, the opportunity is what makes him valuable. He will face a Warriors team that plays at the league’s second-fastest pace and won’t have Curry on Thursday. Cory Joseph’s departure should make Haliburton’s minutes even more secure until Delon Wright joins the rotation.
Haliburton is producing 0.97 DraftKings points per minute on the season, but that number drops to 0.85 with Fox on the floor. Fortunately, the lack in efficiency should be mitigated by the increase in playing time and pace. You aren’t overpaying for Haliburton on FanDuel or DraftKings, but as one of the chalkiest players on the slate, you will definitely be joined by approximately 30 percent of the field.
Paul George (DraftKings: $7,800; FanDuel: $8,200) is a strong price play tonight against the Spurs. He averages 1.25 DraftKings points per minute on the season with a 28.4 percent usage rate, 25.4 percent assist rate and 10.1 percent rebound rate. He is also logging huge minutes in competitive games and has still managed to eclipse 30 minutes in a lot of blowouts. George doesn’t have a single 60 DraftKings points game this season, though.
I would like to believe that Lou Williams’ departure will help George, but he’s seen a huge decrease in playing time this season. That said, Williams’ 26 percent usage rate was third highest on the Clippers behind only George and Kawhi Leonard. Serge Ibaka was fourth on the team with a 20 percent usage rate, and he’ll remain sidelined tonight. Ultimately it will be the Leonard and George show tonight, so there’s no reason not to like the latter at a mid-range price point.
Andrew Wiggins (DraftKings: $6,700; FanDuel: $6,800) is one of the more infuriating players to target. His potential without Curry seems limitless, yet he went out and averaged 0.51 DraftKings points per minute across 34 minutes in Tuesday’s loss to the Sixers. In the two prior games with Curry out, both of which came against the Grizzlies, Wiggins combined for 60 points, 17 rebounds and 6 steals and averaged 1.50 DraftKings points per minute.
The point here is that Wiggins is wildly unpredictable and has a significantly lower floor than any of us should feel comfortable with. So naturally there are two sides of the argument on Wiggins tonight: On one hand, Wiggins faces a Kings team that ranks dead last in defensive rating (118.1) and plays at a top-10 pace. He is also averaging 1.01 DraftKings points per minute on a team-leading 26.4 percent usage across 488 minutes without Curry on the floor this season. Wiggins is also reasonably priced given the conditions.
On the other hand, he’s Andrew Wiggins and is going to be one of the more popular options on Thursday’s slate. Unfortunately for my sanity, it’s hard to side against Wiggins tonight. There are too many factors working in his favor, and he isn’t projected to be all that chalky on a five-game slate. There are, however, plenty of alternative ways to get good exposure to this game if you aren’t feeling Wiggins.
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Jimmy Butler (DraftKings: $9,000; FanDuel: $9,500) is enjoying the best statistical season as a pro, averaging career-high marks in rebounds (7.9), assists (7.3) and steals (2.0) while scoring north of 21 points per game. He has also never come close to averaging the elite 1.41 DraftKings points per minute that he’s done through 30 games this season. With 50-plus DraftKings points in 16 of his last 25 games and 43-plus DraftKings points in all but five of those starts, Butler has been one of the most reliable fantasy contributors in 2020-2021.
He isn’t overpriced on FanDuel or DraftKings, especially given tonight’s stellar matchup against the Trail Blazers. Although they have been playing at a very slow pace, Portland ranks dead last in defensive rating over the last month, which makes this matchup a whole lot more appealing for Butler. The Blazers also can’t protect the rim, which bodes well for Butler, who is averaging 17.6 drives per game and is attempting more than a third of his shots from within three feet of the basket. He is eighth in basketball with 14.5 potential assists per game while also seeing 13.4 rebound chances a night. On a slate where pay-up options are somewhat limited, Butler makes for a high-floor and ceiling play without having to pay a premium.
Harrison Barnes (DraftKings: $6,300; FanDuel: $6,000) is logging more minutes over the last month than anyone not named James Harden and Julius Randle. He might only average 0.89 DraftKings points per minute but is playing an outrageous 38 minutes per game over the aforementioned stretch. That means we have to consider Barnes tonight at a low-$6,000 price point on FanDuel and DraftKings against the second-fastest team in basketball. He doesn’t do anything exceedingly well, but considering how often Barnes is on the floor, it really shouldn’t matter.
Kelly Oubre (DraftKings: $6,200; FanDuel: $7,200) is one of the league’s more enigmatic players, which should place him squarely in tournament consideration tonight against the Kings. He has played 330 minutes with Curry off the floor this season, averaging a very respectable 0.98 DraftKings points per minute on 21.8 percent usage and 10.1 percent rebounding. What makes Oubre unique tonight is simple: He’s virtually unowned on FanDuel because his salary has risen above $7,000. There is no doubt Oubre is the least favorably priced player on Golden State, but he’s still capable of playing 35-plus minutes against the league’s worst defense. His DraftKings price of $6,200 is far more reasonable, but Oubre is also pulling around 13 percent projected ownership at the time of writing.
Julius Randle (DraftKings: $10,200; FanDuel: $10,200) can’t be stopped lately, and even if opponents figure out ways to slow him down as a scorer, he’ll just beat them as a playmaker. Randle leads the Knicks in potential assists (10.8), rebound chances (17.3), usage (27.2%) and touches per game (83). What more could we ask for? Oh, that’s right — a home matchup against the Wizards. Yeah, Washington is a bottom-four defense that plays at the league’s fastest pace by almost two full possessions per 48 minutes. Only Harden is playing more minutes than Randle (38.1 minutes per game) over the last month, and there’s really no reason to believe Randle will slow down tonight. It’s really that simple.
Bam Adebayo (DraftKings: $8,000; FanDuel: $8,000) should feel great about tonight’s meeting with Portland. As earlier noted, the Blazers cannot protect the rim and have been beat up in the paint with Enes Kanter starting at center. Adebayo is a true jack of all trades, sporting a 24.5 percent usage rate, 27.2 percent assist rate and 16 percent rebound rate while producing 1.23 DraftKings points per minute on the year. The Blazers aren’t playing at an elevated pace this season, but they are dead last in defensive rating over the last month and should give Adebayo anything he wants over the course of the night.
Lines, Odds, and Sportsbook data are current as of 04/22/2021 07:36 PM ET
Ivica Zubac (DraftKings: $5,600; FanDuel: $5,600) is playing big minutes in the Clippers’ starting lineup outside of Monday’s win over Atlanta. We can project him for another 32 minutes tonight with 35 minutes being a realistic outcome too. Zubac is averaging 1.04 DraftKings points per minute on the season, and while his 15 percent usage rate leaves much to be desired, he is rebounding at a 19 percent clip while also producing a solid 3.5 percent block rate.
The Spurs are a neutral matchup tonight, playing at a league-average pace and sitting 10th in defensive rating. They do, however, allow the third-most rebounds to their opponents and have their shots blocked at the eighth-highest clip. Zubac is a safe play tonight, but his 30 percent (slate-high) ownership seems a tad high. I love the next player on our list at a nice discount from Zubac.
James Wiseman (DraftKings: $4,800; FanDuel $4,200) is someone I really love tonight. He is garnering some attention, but it’s well deserved. No team is allowing more points in the paint to their opponent than the Kings, while only a handful of teams are ceding a higher field-goal percentage at the rim. Moreover, Sacramento owns the worst-ranked defense in the league, coughing up a whopping 117.9 points per 100 possessions.
Wiseman has a long way to go before he’s going to be a feared offensive weapon in this league, but he’ll have the opportunity to showcase his extensive, yet raw skill set tonight. He boasts a 25.1 percent usage rate and 16.5 percent rebounding rate while churning out 1.03 DraftKings points per minute across 189 minutes with Curry off the floor. He should see around 26 to 28 minutes against a dreadful Sacramento defense and can be had at a discount across the industry.
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