Welcome to this week’s Sunday version of the NBA DFS Deep Dive. This article is a daily staple of our voluminous daily fantasy basketball content. The goal of the article is to dig deep into the NBA slate, instead of simply providing a few picks and moving on. We will be looking at some of the “why” behind a player’s projections or standing on tools like the Boom/Bust. Our hope is that 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 Awesemo’s Boom/Bust tool, Projections and Ownership Projections should allow you to build strong lineups and make the best NBA DFS picks on DraftKings and FanDuel for any format.
Be sure to check out this morning’s Strategy Show featuring Josh Engleman and Rayen “Rynpak” Patnaik
NBA DFS Picks: DraftKings + FanDuel Picks | May 2
Note: With eight games on deck, we’re going back to the positional breakdown for this week. If you have any questions after reading the article, feel free to DM me in Slack at tmcb74.
Luka Doncic ($10,800 DraftKings/$10,600 FanDuel) snapped his string of games without a triple-double and registered a monster 20-assist night against the Wizards the other night, showing off his massive any-given-slate upside. The Mavericks will be without power forward Kristaps Porzingis as well as wing Tim Hardaway Jr. and J.J. Redick, so there is plenty of heaving lifting for Doncic once again tonight. In 151 minutes since the trade deadline without those specific teammates, Doncic leads the Mavericks with a gigantic 38.3% usage rate and puts up 1.41 fantasy points per minute. There is plenty of reason to get to him tonight, Doncic is one of the top options at the position on both sites, though he will be at a slightly negative leverage score on both sites in the boom/bust ratings.
LaMelo Ball ($6,800 DraftKings/$6,100 FanDuel) is back, which is exciting news for basketball fans regardless of whether one choses to roster him for NBA DFS purposes. Ball returned in the team’s last game, playing 28 minutes and putting up a solid multi-category night with 11 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, five turnovers and three stocks. The coach did mention that he would not mind shaving the rookie’s minutes in tonight’s game, given the recent return from injury, but there is still major upside for the price. This is a player who was averaging 1.23 fantasy points per minute across all situations earlier in the year, he is a bargain on both DraftKings and FanDuel and should be rostered far more than he is getting, unless we get specific information about a minutes limit in the 20-22 range. That minutes outcome may be tied to the status of teammate Devonte’ Graham, who is currently questionable after missing the last game. If Graham is active, there will be an easier path to limiting Ball’s minutes.
Damian Lillard ($9,400 DraftKings/$8,500 FanDuel) is still underpriced on FanDuel and at worst is coming in at a fair number on the DraftKings slate. The Portland star made a season-high in threes his last time out and has been productive all season with a 1.26 fantasy point per minute rate, though in 562 minutes since the March 25th trade deadline, Lillard sinks to just a 1.14 per-minute mark. The point guard has been somewhat up and down in these spots, but he is priced for that decreased production. Lillard and the Trail Blazers are taking on the Celtics in the highest totaled game of the night, despite both teams playing at a below average pace. This could be a sneaky-good spot for upside across the board, and Lillard correlates well with some of the Celtics we will want to roster.
Ben Simmons ($7,200 DraftKings/$7,200 FanDuel) takes the court with a 1.16 fantasy point per minute average across all situations this season. The Sixers have pressed the definition of all situations during some stretches this year, but they come into this game with relative health, expecting to only be missing forward Mike Scott. Simmons has a 1.12 per-minute rate since the trade deadline, playing 433 minutes in similar situations. The point guard has a solid 41.3% assist rate and a good 24.6% rebounding rate on the season, he is a productive player who does not need to score to create fantasy points. The prices are fair across the industry, Simmons can be played on both DraftKings and FanDuel tonight, he ranks among the leaders in Awesemo’s optimal lineup appearance rate metric.
Delon Wright ($5,000 DraftKings/$5,400 FanDuel) stands out as the strongest value option at point guard on both sites. The productive guard is projected for 25.5 minutes in the absence of star De’Aaron Fox, who remains in the league’s health and safety protocols. Wright has a 0.85 fantasy point per minute rate in 75 minutes with Fox, Harrison Barnes and Chimezie Metu out, which is expected to be the situation tonight. Wright is at 0.88 in a larger 235 minute sample with only Fox removed, so we can expect around that production from him tonight, with potential for more, though the return of relatively high-usage Marvin Bagley will have an unpredictable impact. In the team’s last game Bagley saw 25.0% usage in his 21.0 minutes, he could be on the court more. Wright saw 23.2% usage in that one in 29 minutes. There is upside for the salary across the industry.
Chris Paul ($7,700 DraftKings/$8,200 FanDuel) is in a simple matchup against the Thunder, but he is drawing significant ownership on both sites, cutting down the overall appeal. Paul has had a strong first season in Phoenix, doing things like grabbing a 50.9% assist share and averaging 16.2 real life points in 31.6 minutes, despite his advancing NBA-age. Paul is still a star and he is the driving force in a Phoenix offense that will likely be without several pieces tonight. The injury report simply informs who Paul will have available to receive his passes, the general upside for the point guard will be around the same with most sets of these teammates.
Kyle Lowry ($7,000 DraftKings/$6,900 FanDuel) and the Raptors are going up against the defensively solid Lakers who now have both Anthony Davis and LeBron James healthy and likely to be in the lineup. Lowry sat last night and is listed on some sites as questionable, but should be active. Lowry is down to just 1.02 fantasy points per minute this season, however, and the price is not particularly low for that production on either site. Lowry can be used as a mix and match option tonight, and there is upside in getting to a player with his track record at these prices, we just don’t have the current-year production to support the play in a bad spot. With the public getting Lowry into negative leverage territory, this becomes a relatively easy spot to skip or at least undercut the field.
The point guard spot has important additional options on DraftKings this week. Add LeBron James, Tyrese Haliburton, Fred VanVleet, C.J. McCollum, Marcus Smart, Immanuel Quickley, Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Brunson, Lonnie Walker and Graham to the mix at point guard.
Dejounte Murray ($7,500 DraftKings/$8,600 FanDuel) is underpriced on the DraftKings slate and worth mentioning. He is currently pulling an excellent leverage score; the public is way behind and there is upside in getting to him at such a low price and a quality 15.6% boom score probability on the boom/bust tool. The point guard averages 1.12 fantasy points per minute across all situations this season. In games without Derrick White in the lineup since the trade deadline, Murray has been at a 22.0% usage rate and averages 1.10 fantasy points per minute. If the public remains behind the curve this is an excellent DraftKings play. On FanDuel, Murray is appropriately priced and stands more as a mix-in option.
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C.J. McCollum ($8,100 DraftKings/$7,500 FanDuel) stands out for what seems like a low-for-him price in the evening’s highest totaled game. Playing alongside Lillard, McCollum has put up a 1.12 fantasy point per minute rate through the season. Since the trade deadline, McCollum has played 706 minutes, scoring us 1.08 fantasy points per minute across all situations. He is second to Lillard in that sample, grabbing a 25.5% usage rate to Lillard’s 28.4% mark. There is plenty of opportunity and upside, McCollum will need to score for the Trail Blazers to fulfill their end of the game total, this is a likely spot for production, though the shooting guard ranks a few spots down the board in the optimal lineup rate metric.
Fred VanVleet ($7,900 DraftKings/$7,200 FanDuel) is another Raptors guard who is in a tough situation in a relatively bad spot against the Lakers. VanVleet has had a productive year at 1.08 fantasy points per minute, up from the 1.02 mark he had last year, but when we see Toronto at full health it is difficult to nail down which of their players will pop for upside. With Gary Trent Jr., Paul Watson and Chris Boucher off the court, VanVleet has seen 24.5% usage and delivered a 1.07 fantasy point per minute rate across 189 minutes since the trade deadline. If Lowry joins them on the bench, VanVleet spike all the way to a 1.24 per-minute rate, which is the situation we need to monitor. If Lowry sits, jump on the VanVleet bandwagon.
Evan Fournier ($5,300 DraftKings/$4,700 FanDuel) stands out for his pricing, particularly on the FanDuel slate. A bit of a name brand from his time in Orlando, Fournier is not typically this inexpensive, and he still has a 30.4 minute projection from Awesemo. The Celtics will be without Kemba Walker once again, though the stars on the team have done most of the work in the point guard’s absence, putting up monster games while Fournier has struggled. There is speculation that Fournier is still recovering from his illness and playing into shape. In the team’s last three games, Fournier has played 29 minutes per night, scoring just seven real points per game on only 13% usage. If Fournier’s teammates pay him more attention tonight, he could deliver upside for the money, but the floor is shaky given his recent run, Fournier has just a 6.5% assist rate and a 15% rebounding share with Boston so far.
Tyrese Haliburton ($7,300 DraftKings/$7,600 FanDuel) closed significant ground on Ball in the Rookie of the Year race during Ball’s absence, though Ball likely still has the award locked up. Haliburton has been highly productive all season, putting up a 0.94 fantasy point per minute rate across all situations. Since the trade deadline, in games without Fox, that mark is up to 1.02 points per minute. For the production, Haliburton is not fully priced up, though the public is on the play on both sites. Haliburton is around fair ownership across the industry, he is playable but there is not significant upside in going way beyond the projected public popularity.
Devin Booker ($8,000 DraftKings/$7,800 FanDuel) seems like he has not had big standout games all season long, though he has been relatively productive at a 1.10 fantasy point per minute rate. Booker has been fairly priced for the production throughout the season, which is the case again tonight. The shooting guard sees a team-leading 32.1% usage across all situations this season, and he contributes a 23.7% assist rate and just a 15.8% rebounding share, while leading the team with a 25.5 points per game average. Booker is a fine mix and match option, particularly if he is under-owned by the field, but that is not the case today.
Torrey Craig ($3,700 DraftKings/$3,500 FanDuel) is at the minimum on the blue site and close enough to it on DraftKings. Craig is projected for 21.3 minutes in Awesemo’s afternoon update, though that could change as we get news on the status of some of his teammates. Craig has been solid when called upon, putting up 0.90 fantasy points per minute in all situations this season. If teammate Cameron Johnson is active, we will likely not see enough Craig to matter. If he maintains the strong minutes projection, he could be a potentially important value-based building block at these prices.
DeMar DeRozan ($8,200 DraftKings/$8,800 FanDuel) is priced up but has been productive at 1.15 fantasy points per minute for the entire season and a 1.17 mark since the trade deadline. With White out and Murray questionable, DeRozan would stand to see significant usage and plenty of run, which would help bolster his ratings at the relatively high salaries. With Murray projected in, we do not see a DeRozan land in the optimal lineup in simulated slates with much frequency, though the public is a bit behind the curve on the play on FanDuel, while just at appropriate levels on the DraftKings slate.
Jimmy Butler ($9,000 DraftKings/$9,800 FanDuel) stands atop a relatively weak position — LeBron status pending — on the slate tonight. There are only a few available stars as the position alongside several semi-uncomfortable scrubs. Butler has an excellent 1.35 fantasy point per minute rate through the season, In this situation, without Victor Oladipo, Tyler Herro and possibly Goran Dragic, since the deadline, Butler has put up just a 1.20 per-minute mark, which gets concerning at these salaries. If Dragic plays, Butler climbs to a 1.32 in the 314 minute sample, which would be a more sound mark to shoot for at the prices on both sites. Regardless, Awesemo has Butler rating out as one of the top plays on the boom/bust tool for the position, making him a go-to option at positive leverage.
Jaylen Brown ($8,400 DraftKings/$8,800 FanDuel) is helping shoulder the load in Walker’s absence. In the team’s last outing, Brown scored just 17.0 real life points, despite a 43.5 minute night in an overtime game, going an ugly 5-24 from the field. Jayson Tatum picked up the slack in that one, putting up a monster 60 real point night. Brown is typically a far better wingman, however, in the team’s last three games, including that clunker, Brown is averaging 31.3 real points per contest. In games without Walker since the deadline, Brown has averaged 1.22 fantasy points per minute, which would be solid production at around the right value for the money. Brown ranks a few pegs down the boom/bust board for tonight’s slate, based on the somewhat aggressive pricing, but he is a solid mix-in option at worst.
LeBron James ($10,000 DraftKings/$9,800 FanDuel) is back in the Lakers lineup, but is questionable to play tonight. Of course, James was questionable while never missing a game every night before his eventual injury, but we can’t look at this the same way with the superstar returning from absence. If James plays, he is projected for a 32.9 minute night in Awesemo’s afternoon update. This would put him on the board in our boom/bust metrics, but the pricing does not like him at the position, and James comes up infrequently in the optimal lineup in simulations for both sites. That is despite his point guard eligibility on the DraftKings slate. James is a 1.41 fantasy point per minute producer across all situations this season, but with the metrics breaking down that way and with a major question mark about the overall time he would be on the court, if he plays at all, it is difficult to plan to play the King in this one.
Mikal Bridges ($5,300 DraftKings/$6,500 FanDuel) is a solid option from the midrange, almost regardless of which of the Suns players who are currently questionable end up taking the court. Bridges has produced a solid 0.81 fantasy point per minute rate and seems to land in this comfortable midrange on most slates. His pricing is more aggressively pro-player on the FanDuel slate, but Bridges retains upside for the money on DraftKings as well. Since the trade deadline, Bridges has been seeing more time with Jae Crowder shelved. His per-minute production has dropped to 0.77 but over more time there is still upside to be had.
Buddy Hield ($7,000 DraftKings/$6,800 FanDuel) is drawing some attention from the midrange as well, though he ranks well behind Bridges for higher salary on both sites. Hield is a streaky, scoring-dependent player who averages 0.85 fantasy points per minute for the season. Since the trade deadline, Hield has been at a 1.07 fantasy point per minute mark in games without Fox, over a 194 minute sample. If we can project that type of production, Hield is in play in a highly totaled game against the Mavericks.
R.J. Barrett ($6,500 DraftKings/$6,500 FanDuel) has improved in most facets of the game so far this season, He has turned into a solid three point shooter, currently shooting 39% from deep for the entire season, a marked improvement in an area that was a problem for him last year. Barrett has shown growth in other areas and is a solid contributor with a 17.4% rebounding rate and 18.9% assist share. Barrett is overly popular on both sites tonight, however. The Knicks are in a good spot against the G-League Rockets, and Barrett is projected for his usual 31.6 minutes, but at negative leverage on both sites, there are simply better plays.
On DraftKings we add Doncic, Craig, Fournier, Tate, Tobias Harris, DeRozan and Robinson to the position.
Julius Randle ($10,200 DraftKings/$9,700) is the new pride of New York City, putting up a truly special season in his breakout year. Randle has tightened everything up this season, dialing his production up to 11 in the process. The power forward leads the team in usage at 28.1% for the season, while also putting up an excellent 35% assist share, second only to point guard Derrick Rose. He adds a 29.2% rebounding rate to the mix, totaling to a daily average of 24.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists. Randle is an excellent option from the top of the board, despite the high price on both sites. Power forward is another weak position tonight, paying up to one of the best players on the board makes a ton of sense, despite heavy public ownership and negative leverage marks.
Christian Wood ($8,600 DraftKings/$9,300 FanDuel) is on the other side of the contest against Randle and his Knicks. New York has been excellent on defense all season long and plays at a relatively slow place. They should not have much difficulty handling the Rockets, though Wood is Houston’s best option for production at a 1.22 fantasy point per minute mark that matches Randle’s season long number. For a major discount in both salary and ownership, it could make sense to swing some shares of power forward ownership from one side of this game to the other, picking up $1,600 in salary on DraftKings and $400 on FanDuel, without sacrificing too much upside.
Jayson Tatum ($9,900 DraftKings/$10,100 FanDuel) has been earning his fantasy salary since Walker has been out. Tatum had a monster 60 real points the last time out, in an overtime come from behind victory against San Antonio, and he has been the team leader at over 40 points per game since Walker went on the shelf. Since the deadline, Tatum has a 1.30 fantasy point per minute rate with Walker out, a 389 minute sample that carries significance. Tatum is priced up for the production and he makes for an interesting inflection point, the public is not really on him at these salaries, but the upside is also somewhat capped. Tatum is in the mix, but not an over-the-top option tonight.
Tobias Harris ($7,000 DraftKings/$7,000 FanDuel) is at a good price for his regular production in a healthy Philadelphia lineup. The team is taking on a weak San Antonio Spurs squad and they are relatively strong favorites with a solid implied total. Harris has had a 1.17 fantasy point per minute rate since the trade deadline, slightly up from his season-long mark. He is not priced for that level of production, though he is also not at an extreme discount. This is creating a situation where Harris is owned fairly by the field, but we can easily push beyond the 23.0% ownership where necessary. Using him in tandem with the top two options is a likely strategy as it is not prohibitively expensive. Pivoting to other options with frequency will help keep lineup constructions different, but at worst we should be around the field on Harris tonight.
Jae’Sean Tate ($6,000 DraftKings/$6,500 FanDuel) finds himself with a 29.4 minute projection in the unappealing matchup against the Knicks. Tate is one of the better options at the power forward position on the board regardless of the spot, however, given the prices. Tate has a 0.86 fantasy point per minute rate for the year, 1.02 per-minute in the situation the Rockets will likely find themselves roster-wise tonight, since the deadline. Tate has a chance to be a productive midrange option on this slate.
Pascal Siakam ($7,800 DraftKings/$8,000 FanDuel) is yet another Raptors player mired down by the matchup against the Lakers and, at worst, fair prices. Siakam produces fantasy points at a 1.09 per-minute rate, 1.06 since the deadline, and like his teammates, needs someone else to be out for his production to truly spike, though if Lowry sits Siakam has been just a 0.95 point-per-minute producer in 94 minutes since the trade deadline. Siakam is on the board primarily as a mix and match option across sites tonight, though he stands out more on the boom/bust tool for the FanDuel slate, where we are required to roster two players at the position.
Anthony Davis ($9,100 DraftKings/$9,600 FanDuel) is projected for 32.9 minutes for the Lakers tonight. At a 1.34 fantasy points per minute rate for the season, and that salary, it seems like Davis should be ranked higher on the site’s various metrics, but he does not compare favorably in terms of his appearances in the optimal lineup. Davis has some upside at the salary, but his production has been down to just 1.22 per-minute in the 141 minutes since his return, and we simply have other options at similar prices. Davis is not out of play, but he is a tough ask at these rates.
Marvin Bagley ($4,500 DraftKings/$4,600 FanDuel) is another odd case study. Bagley returned to the Kings lineup and played 20.7 minutes. He put up 11 real points and grabbed four rebounds in the short run. Projected for 27.9 minutes tonight, the 1.01 fantasy point per minute producer has an excellent shot at delivering upside for his meager salaries on both sites. He is drawing some attention from the public and does not appear in the optimal lineup in simulations more than 10% of the time on either site, but there is appeal in the potential for upside if we see a full starters’ run.
Joel Embiid ($10,400 DraftKings/$9,800 FanDuel) is one of the leading center options on either site and is the true standout star among actual centers across the industry. Embiid has a dominant 1.61 fantasy point per minute rate across all situations this season, and he is at 1.56 per minute since the trade deadline. Embiid should see his usual complement of minutes tonight, he is projected for a 31 minute game in what should be a spot he can do basically anything he wants against the San Antonio frontcourt. Embiid is a solid pay-up option, though he is not without popularity and lands at slightly negative leverage on FanDuel and slightly positive on DraftKings. Pushing past the field is likely the move with the superstar center.
Robert Williams ($5,200 DraftKings/$5,400 FanDuel) is a 1.37 fantasy point per minute producer for the season and is priced like someone under 1.0 in that category. Williams is an excellent producer and needs only time to hit value. He has grabbed a dominant 40.9% rebounding share in his time on the court this year, and needs only 14.7% usage to get his 8.2 points per game. The season-long average is still just 18.9 minutes, 22.7 in the team’s last 15 games. Williams is a standout at the top of the board on both sites in the boom/bust categories, given his low prices. If he sees or beats the minutes projection he will be an excellent NBA DFS pick for tonight.
Deandre Ayton ($6,700 DraftKings/$6,600 FanDuel) manages just 1.09 fantasy points per minute in his role in the middle in Phoenix. Ayton averages 10.7 rebounds but just 14.8 points per game for the season, but consumes just 18.4% usage and fits well with the high-volume guards. Ayton’s rebounding average represents a stellar 39.1% of the team’s total, he is a dominant force in grabbing missed shots, and he is finally somewhat priced down to a realistic mark for what he actually does on the court this year. At these salaries, Ayton can be rostered with some expectation of upside. Unfortunately, the field is already on the play. Ayton is the most negatively leveraged center option on both sites. As someone we have not gotten to much throughout the season, it seems foolish to go out of our way for him in a spot where he is not one of the top options on the board but will be over-owned.
Bam Adebayo ($8,300 DraftKings/$8,300 FanDuel) is an underrated frontcourt option for daily fantasy basketball purposes. The big man puts up 1.25 fantasy points per minute across all situations. In games without Oladipo, Herro and Dragic on the court, Adebayo has been at a 1.22 rate, while he stands at 1.26 with Dragic in but the others off. Ultimately, there is production for the salary, but Adebayo will be popular and is trending for negative leverage on both sites. He lands as more of a mix-in option, given the overall upside and multi-category scoring potential, contrasted with Ayton’s more limited game for less money.
Richaun Holmes ($6,500 DraftKings/$6,900 FanDuel) has been productive on a per-minute basis all year long. When he is healthy and in the lineup we can reliably expect around 1.10 fantasy points per minute from the big man. He is projected for a 30.3 minute night and has solidly positive leverage across the industry, making him an appealing option. With Bagley returning, there is a bit of a question about the usage distribution in the frontcourt, but given the unknowns about his overall run tonight, we can’t ding Holmes too much for the lack of clarity. Holmes lands toward the bottom of the group of playable centers on FanDuel but ranks out more favorably by comparison in the optimal lineup category on DraftKings.
Andre Drummond ($7,300 DraftKings/$7,100 FanDuel) is finally playing with the superstars he came to Los Angeles to join, though that could severely cap his overall upside for NBA DFS purposes. Already down to just a 27.6 minute projection for tonight, Drummond simply might not see enough focus or time to put up his semi-regular production. He is a point-per-minute beast at 1.41, but needs to prove it to us in this situation before we go to him with much urgency, despite what remains a good price for the available rates.
Jakob Poeltl ($5,500 DraftKings/$6,000 FanDuel) has been playing significant minutes in the Spurs starting unit of late, averaging 1.01 fantasy points per minute over a 631 minute sample since the trade deadline. Poeltl is fairly priced for the production on both sites and does not see significant NBA DFS upside with just a 14.6% usage rate in the sample. When he is priced at a value rate, Poeltl can be an interesting option on our board, but at these rates it simply is not there.
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