The NBA Deep Dive is our most in-depth NBA DFS article, offering analysis of some of the top picks and optimal strategy for DraftKings and FanDuel lineups on the slate today. Used in conjunction with Awesemo’s NBA DFS projections, ownership projections and Boom/Bust tool, it should help you to improve the quality of your lineups. With news breaking throughout the day and the NBA injury reports being released, the best place to find all of today’s starters is our Awesemo NBA Starting Lineups page.
The Deep Dive: NBA DFS Picks & Optimal Lineup Strategy
James Harden ($9,400 DraftKings/$10,300 FanDuel) takes on the Philadelphia 76ers tonight. Harden is reasonably priced on FanDuel and extremely underpriced on DraftKings. Based on Brooklyn’s rotation from game one, and common sense, Harden should play every minute that Kevin Durant is not on the floor in addition to plenty of minutes alongside Durant. Assuming this breaks down to about 33% of his minutes without Durant on the floor, Harden projects for a 28.9% usage rate, 13.5% rebounding rate and 43.6% assist rate based on his past rates with Kyrie Irving on the bench.
Jaylen Brown ($8,300 DraftKings/$8,500 FanDuel) is coming off a massive game against the New York Knicks. He was questionable to even play in that game and ended up playing about 46 minutes including double overtime. It is not important that he played extremely well, but it is important that he was able to play so many minutes because it allows us to confidently project him for a full allotment of minutes tonight against the Raptors. Brown has averaged 1.19 DraftKings points per minute with a 29.8% usage rate since the start of last season.
Malcolm Brogdon ($7,500 DraftKings/$7,700 FanDuel) was the beneficiary of a very tight Indiana rotation in the first game of the season. The Pacers elected to only use eight players, which allowed Brogdon to play 40.3 minutes in regulation. Brogdon will not average 40 minutes per game this season, but the Pacers rotation suggests that Brogdon has one of the highest minute projections on the slate tonight. He also has a (probably) favorable matchup against the Washington Wizards. Since the start of last season, Brogdon has averaged 1.14 DraftKings points per minute with a 25.6% usage rate and 27.3% assist rate.
Dejounte Murray ($7,000 DraftKings/$7,900 FanDuel) played very well against Orlando in the first game of the season. He has a more difficult matchup tonight against Denver, but he is still underpriced relative to his ceiling. Murray has averaged 1.11 DraftKings points per minute since the start of last season and it is possible that he produces at a higher rate this season with DeMar DeRozan no longer on the team. At the very least, Murray should continue to produce about 1.1 fantasy points per minute and to play minutes in the low-to-mid thirties in competitive games.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($6,700 DraftKings/$7,500 FanDuel) is one of the most mispriced players on DraftKings and he offers value on FanDuel as well. Since the start of last season, Gilgeous-Alexander has averaged 1.2 DraftKings points per minute with a 28.7% usage rate and 30.7% assist rate. Tonight’s matchup against the Rockets is likely to be a fast-paced game with limited defense, and Gilgeous-Alexander should play at least 33 or 34 minutes.
Jalen Green ($4,800 DraftKings/$5,500 FanDuel) played 32.2 minutes against the Timberwolves in his NBA debut and probably would have played more if the game were competitive as he was removed with about eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. Green should not be projected for 40 minutes tonight, but he did play 20 minutes in the first half against Minnesota, and he was in the midst of a similar second half rotation when the Rockets emptied the bench. It is likely that Green will play at least 34 to 36 minutes if tonight’s game is competitive. Green has averaged 0.77 DraftKings points per minute with a 21% usage rate and 15.5% assist rate since the start of the preseason and it is likely that his per-minute production increases sooner rather than later based on his talent level.
Kevin Durant ($9,300 DraftKings/$10,800 FanDuel) does not project quite as well as Harden in Awesemo’s NBA DFS projections, but he is also expected to garner less ownership. He is especially appealing on DraftKings at a $1,500 discount from FanDuel. Durant is likely to lead the team in usage rate tonight. Assuming he plays about 33% of his minutes without Harden on the floor, Durant projects for a 32.1% usage rate, 12.3% rebounding rate, 25.1% assist rate and about 1.41 DraftKings points per minute in tonight’s game.
Domantas Sabonis ($9,000 DraftKings/$9,700 FanDuel) started the season with a big game and he has an enticing matchup tonight against a relatively weak Wizards’ frontcourt. Sabonis was another beneficiary of a tight Indiana rotation as he played 39.3 minutes in the season opener. Last season, Sabonis has averaged 1.32 DraftKings points per minute with a 24.8% usage rate, 17.8% rebounding rate and 25% assist rate in 44 games played with Myles Turner and Brogdon active.
Jayson Tatum ($8,800 DraftKings/$9,800 FanDuel) had a disappointing game against the Knicks, but it was not for a lack of opportunity. Tatum was second to Brown with a 30.6% usage rate, but he had just 31.1% true shooting (compared to 68.6% for Brown). There is no reason to think that Tatum’s poor shooting will carry over to tonight’s game. He has produced 1.27 DraftKings points per minute with a 30.8% usage rate since the start of last season.
Julius Randle ($8,500 DraftKings/$9,500 FanDuel) played 36 minutes in regulation against Boston before playing about 10 more minutes in double overtime. He is likely to be one of the league leaders in minutes per game again this season as Tom Thibodeau loves to run his starters for as many minutes as he can. Randle has been exceptionally productive since joining the Knicks, averaging 1.22 DraftKings points per minute with a 28.9% usage rate, 15.2% rebounding rate and 22.1% assist rate.
Brandon Ingram ($7,500 DraftKings/$8,300 FanDuel) is the primary beneficiary of Zion Williamson’s absence. Ingram has produced 1.25 DraftKings points per minute with a 31.6% usage rate and 26.3% assist rate in 869 minutes without Williamson on the floor since the start of last season. By comparison, he has produced 1.09 DraftKings points per minute with a 26.9% usage rate and 19.5% assist rate in 1,264 minutes alongside Williamson. Ingram played about 37 minutes in the Pelicans’ blowout loss to the 76ers on Wednesday.
Tobias Harris ($7,200 DraftKings/$7,600 FanDuel) was on his way to a huge performance on Wednesday night but he ended up not playing at all in the fourth quarter as Philadelphia’s second unit got hot and turned the game into a blowout. Harris has benefited from the absence of Ben Simmons in the past and there is no reason to think that will be different this season. Since the start of last season, Harris has produced 1.23 DraftKings points per minute with a 28.6% usage rate in 829 minutes without Simmons on the floor. One negative for Harris is that his minutes were not staggered with Embiid’s minutes in the season opener, so it is likely that he will play almost all of his minutes alongside Embiid tonight. He has played 289 minutes alongside Embiid without Simmons since the start of last season and has produced 1.13 DraftKings points per minute with a 24.4% usage rate. Harris should get 34 or 35 minutes from Harris tonight as long as the game is competitive.
Scottie Barnes ($4,500 DraftKings/$5,100 FanDuel) was relatively disappointing from a DFS standpoint in his NBA debut and he has a more difficult matchup tonight against the Boston Celtics. There are plenty of reasons to roster Barnes again, however. First, his salary did not increase all that much. While he is not close to the minimum salary anymore, he is still extremely affordable. Second, he had an extremely impressive game in terms of opportunity. Barnes was third on the Raptors with a 23.5% usage rate. He was also third with five potential assists and his 10 rebound chances were the fourth most on the team. His playing time was also encouraging as he played 32.5 minutes which was more than everyone except for Fred VanVleet and O.G. Anunoby. It is also possible that Barnes would have played more if it were not for foul trouble. He picked up his third foul with five minutes and 17 seconds left in the second quarter and missed the remainder of the half. Tonight’s matchup against Boston is dangerous, but Barnes is still priced much closer to his floor than his median projection.
Josh Giddey ($4,100 DraftKings/$5,300 FanDuel) is another rookie value option in an enticing matchup against the Houston Rockets. Giddey played 28.7 minutes in his NBA debut against the Jazz on Wednesday. He only had an 11.8% usage rate against Utah, which was the lowest of any player in Oklahoma City’s rotation. He did play the bulk of the minutes that Gilgeous-Alexander was not on the floor, however, which will give him an opportunity to play a bigger role in the offense for about eight to ten minutes. Since the start of the preseason, Giddey has averaged 0.96 DraftKings points per minute in 144 total minutes played and 0.66 DraftKings points per minute in 56 minutes alongside Gilgeous-Alexander. His per-minute production alongside Gilgeous-Alexander should increase at least somewhat over a larger sample, but the minutes with the second unit are probably where Giddey’s production needs to come from.
Nikola Jokic ($10,200 DraftKings/$11,100 FanDuel) is always one of the highest projected options on any given slate. He played 34.7 minutes against the Nuggets on Wednesday, and he should get similar playing time tonight against the Spurs as long as the game is competitive. If the game gets out of hand, it is likely that Jokic is one of the reasons why and that he is producing at an above average per-minute rate. Jokic averaged 1.73 DraftKings points per minute with a 31.9% usage rate and 43.1% assist rate in 23 games without Jamal Murray last season.
Joel Embiid ($10,000 DraftKings/$10,700 FanDuel) played well in Philadelphia’s season opener, but he only played 25.7 minutes thanks to a 20-2 run from the 76ers’ second unit in the fourth quarter. Embiid has averaged 1.85 DraftKings points per minute with a 43.1% usage rate in 446 minutes without Simmons on the floor since the start of last season. Tobias Harris has been on the floor for 289 of those minutes and Embiid has produced 1.73 DraftKings points per minute with a 40.5% usage rate. In 16 total games played without Simmons and with Harris over the last two seasons, Embiid has produced 1.65 DraftKings points per minute with a 36.8% usage rate. He is a clear top option on tonight’s slate.
Nikola Vucevic ($7,800 DraftKings/$8,700 FanDuel) is wildly underpriced on DraftKings and he offers plenty of upside on FanDuel as well. Vucevic played 35.9 minutes against the Bulls on Wednesday. He led the Bulls with a 29.3% usage rate in that game as well. Since joining the Bulls, he has now averaged 1.34 DraftKings points per minute with a 26.7% usage rate, 18.4% rebounding rate and 19.6% assist rate in 411 minutes alongside Zach LaVine. The addition of DeRozan adds another scorer that could occasionally take production away from Vucevic, but he should be the primary focus of the offense along with LaVine.
Christian Wood ($7,100 DraftKings/$8,100 FanDuel) is another high upside piece from the matchup between the Rockets and the Thunder. Wood played about 32 minutes against Minnesota in the season opener but, like Jalen Green, there appears to be a path for more minutes if tonight’s game is competitive. Wood played about 18 and a half minutes in the first half against Minnesota. It is reasonable to think that he will play about 36 minutes if tonight’s game is close. In 376 minutes alongside Kevin Porter Jr. without Harden or John Wall on the floor since the start of last season, Wood has produced 1.07 DraftKings points per minute with a 25.7% usage rate.
Robert Williams ($6,200 DraftKings/$7,000 FanDuel) had a massive game against the Knicks on Wednesday. More important than his stat line is the fact that Williams was able to play about 45 minutes, including double overtime, and about 35 minutes in regulation. Williams will not regularly play 35 minutes, but it is good to know that it is at least in his range of outcomes. Williams is an extremely good per-minute producer with 1.22 DraftKings points per minute in 13 games started last season and 1.26 DraftKings points per minute in 1,030 total minutes since the beginning of last season. Williams is a volatile player because so much of his production relies on defensive stats as opposed to scoring. Defensive stats are more difficult to project on a nightly basis, so his floor is a bit lower than most other players who produce at a similar per-minute rate, but his ceiling is also a bit higher since steals and blocks are so valuable.
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