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.
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 I 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.
NBA DFS Deep Dive: DraftKings + FanDuel Picks | Jan. 18
Giannis Antetokounmpo has averaged 1.62 DraftKings points per minute in 31.1 minutes per game this season. His usage, rebounding and assist rates are down from last year, but he is still one of the most productive per-minute fantasy producers in the league. Milwaukee is frequently involved in blowouts, which lowers Antetokounmpo’s minutes per game average, but tonight’s game only has a two-and-a-half point spread. It also has the highest total on the slate. The Bucks have only played five games that were decided by 10 points or less this season. Antetokounmpo has played in four of them and has averaged about 33.8 minutes per game. He only played 30.2 minutes in a three-point win on Friday, but he was limited by foul trouble. We can expect 34 to 36 minutes from Giannis tonight as long as this game remains close and that gives him a massive ceiling at an inexpensive price tag by his standards.
Khris Middleton is the second option in Milwaukee’s offense and he has been very productive this season. Middleton has averaged 1.26 DraftKings points per minute with a 25.2 percent usage rate and he has averaged 32.3 minutes per game. Like Giannis, we can expect Middleton to get a few minutes more than his average as long as this game is competitive. Middleton also offers some extra value because he is a small forward and that is a tough position to fill.
The rest of the Milwaukee starters will benefit if this game is competitive as well, but they are harder to prioritize at their price points and positions. Jrue Holiday has averaged 1.06 DraftKings points per minute this season, but he is the clear third scoring option offensively and he is also behind Middleton and Antetokounmpo in assist rate. Add in that he plays a premium position and it’s tough to get to him outside of taking shots in tournaments.
Brook Lopez played 33.7 minutes against Dallas on Friday and I like his matchup against Brooklyn. Lopez doesn’t rely on rebounding so DeAndre Jordan’s presence shouldn’t affect him much and he should get open looks away from the basket against this defense. The problem is that the center position is strong, even on a four-game slate, and Lopez doesn’t come particularly cheap. Donte DiVincenzo is priced up on DraftKings, but he offers value at the shooting guard position on FanDuel. He has averaged 25.1 minutes per game and 0.91 FanDuel points per minute this season, so he projects well at only $4,400 in this matchup.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Giannis Antetokounmpo ($10,400), Khris Middleton ($8,000)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,200), Khris Middleton ($8,000), Donte DiVincenzo ($4,400)
Harden made his Brooklyn debut yesterday and scored 32 points with 14 assists and 12 rebounds in almost 40 minutes of action. He appears to have also magically lost about 40 pounds since his trade from Houston, judging by pre-game photos. Irving is questionable for tonight’s game due to COVID protocols. If he plays, we can only make educated guesses about how production will be distributed among the main three players since it will be their first game together. If he sits, we already know that Harden and Durant can have big games together.
If Irving plays, I’ll still be interested in the trio in tournaments since they have high ceilings, but they’ll be more difficult to trust since I expect that we see production shift from game to game based on who is playing well that night. The order that I would prioritize them if they’re all healthy is Durant, Harden and then Irving. I think that it’s still Durant’s team and he will end up as the number one option. He also plays the weakest position from a DFS standpoint. I think Harden will be the second option and he will have some games where he just takes over because he is shooting well. I expect Irving to take a step back as he cedes usage to Durant and Harden. One thing that would help Irving is if he gets to play with the second unit like Harden did yesterday. That is the first thing I will be looking at once they all play a game together because whoever is getting to play without the other two on the floor will get a nice bump in production.
Outside of Durant, Harden and Irving, I don’t see much to be interested in if they’re all active. Jordan only played 23 minutes against Orlando last game as Brooklyn closed with a small lineup and there’s no reason they can’t do so again tonight. Salaries on most of Brooklyn’s secondary options have increased as well as a result of the games that they played short-handed. One exception is that Joe Harris is only $4,500 on FanDuel, but he should still be a distant fourth option in this offense and has only averaged 0.82 FanDuel points per minute this season as is.
If Irving misses the game, it increases my interest in Durant and Harden. Their minutes were staggered against Orlando and that increases the ceiling for both of them. Durant had a 38 percent usage rate and 26.3 percent assist rate while Harden had a 37.5 percent usage rate and 52.2 percent assist rate. Both players played about 40 minutes in their first game together.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Kevin Durant ($10,100), James Harden ($10,800)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Kevin Durant ($10,500), James Harden ($10,300)
Jalen Brunson was questionable and didn’t play yesterday, but he isn’t on the injury report for tonight’s game so I am assuming that he will be back. Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell are all still out. Tim Hardaway Jr. is questionable after missing yesterday’s game.
Despite the players missing the game due to COVID protocols, the Mavericks still have plenty of players. They used 11 players yesterday (eight for more than six minutes) and now appear to be returning Brunson and, possibly, Hardaway, Jr. My point here is that Dallas isn’t a team where every available player has to play 30 minutes like we have seen recently in Miami and Philadelphia. That said, there is still increased opportunity for players to step up due to the number of rotation minutes available with four, and possibly five, main rotation players sidelined.
Luka Doncic is the starting point here as always. He had a monster game yesterday against Chicago with 36 points, 16 rebounds and 15 assists in 37.5 minutes. He was more productive on a per-minute basis in game with Kristaps Porzingis than without him last season, so it isn’t surprising that Porzingis’s return hasn’t negatively affected Doncic. While the Raptors are typically an unappealing DFS matchup, that hasn’t been the case this season. Toronto is 14th in pace and 22nd in defensive rating through their first 12 games. Doncic is expensive but looks like one of the best pay-up options on the slate once again.
Porzingis played 33.4 minutes last night and we’ll need to keep an eye out for status updates since this is the second leg of a back-to-back. He isn’t on the injury report, so I am assuming that he plays for now. Porzingis has played 21, 29 and 33 minutes in three games since returning from injury and, if he is going to be allowed to play 33-plus minutes again tonight, he looks like an excellent value at $6,900 on FanDuel. Porzingis has averaged 1.27 DraftKings points per minute since the start of last season.
There isn’t much to prioritize here outside of Doncic and Porzingis, unless a couple of players end up missing this game that I am expecting to play. I think that Brunson could step into a substantial role tonight, especially if Hardaway, Jr. remains out. Josh Green played 32.2 minutes last night while Wesley Iwundu played 30.4 minutes, Trey Burke played 28.7 minutes and Tyrell Terry played 15.4 minutes. This tells me that Brunson shouldn’t have trouble finding minutes and he has averaged 1.05 DraftKings points per minute this season.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Luka Doncic ($11,000), Jalen Brunson ($4,000 if active — safer if Hardaway is out)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Luka Doncic ($11,200), Kristaps Porzingis ($6,900), Jalen Brunson ($3,900 — same caveats as above)
It’s tough to distinguish between Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam, but all three look like strong options tonight against a short-handed Dallas squad. VanVleet and Siakam have each averaged 1.10 DraftKings points per minute this season. Siakam leads the team with a 24.8 percent usage rate while VanVleet is second at 23.8 percent. VanVleet is also second in assist rate at 28.6 percent. VanVleet has averaged 35.8 minutes per game while Siakam has averaged 35.7 minutes per game. Lowry leads the team in minutes per game at 36.3 minutes and has averaged 1.08 DraftKings points per minute. He is third on the team with a 22 percent usage rate and leads the team with a 30.7 percent assist rate.
Chris Boucher has been the best per-minute fantasy point producer on the team with 1.38 DraftKings points per minute. He leads the team with a 15.8 percent rebounding rate and has also contributed a 21.1 percent usage rate. He hasn’t started a game yet this season, but he has been starting the second half of games which helps to solidify his playing time. The Mavericks’ primary center, Willie Cauley-Stein, isn’t a big, high-usage center that is likely to give Boucher problems on the defensive end. For this reason, I expect Boucher to approach 30 minutes tonight after playing 30.8 minutes against the Hornets in his last game. He has only averaged 23.5 minutes per game this season, but he has played his way into a bigger role with 29.1 minutes per game in his last five. The only times that I think we should be concerned about Boucher’s minutes are against high-usage centers who have a significant size advantage but that isn’t the case tonight as he faces a Willie Cauley-Stein led frontcourt.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Fred VanVleet ($7,900), Kyle Lowry ($7,700), Pascal Siakam ($8,400), Chris Boucher ($7,100)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Kyle Lowry ($7,400), Chris Boucher ($8,100), Fred VanVleet ($8,000), Pascal Siakam ($8,200)
Latest NBA DFS Content
- 📽️ The NBA Late Slate, Swap & Sweat Strategy Show for DraftKings + FanDuel | Tonight 2/26
- 🏀 DraftKings Cheat Sheet: Late Slate NBA Picks for Daily Fantasy Lineups with Stephen Curry
- 🏀 FanDuel Cheat Sheet: Late Slate NBA Picks for Daily Fantasy Lineups with Draymond Green
- 🏀 NBA Picks: Expert Survey (Premium) | 2/26/21
- 🏀 The Deep Dive: NBA DFS Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel | Friday, 2/26
- Awesemo DFS on Youtube
Houston will be without John Wall, Danuel House, Brodric Thomas, Dante Exum and Chris Clemons. Sterling Brown is questionable. Eric Gordon and DeMarcus Cousins are both available and Victor Oladipo is expected to make his Houston debut.
Oladipo should step into a huge role right out of the gate for Houston. The absence of Wall will open up ball-handling responsibilities and Oladipo is the most likely candidate to pick them up. Oladipo only played 12 minutes without Malcolm Brogdon on the floor with the Pacers this season, but he averaged 1.11 DraftKings points per minute in 199 minutes since the start of last season. Keep in mind that Oladipo was returning from a major injury last season, so his baseline rates were lower. Overall, he averaged 0.93 DraftKings points per minute so his production as a primary ball-handler was a big step forward. This season, he has averaged 1.14 DraftKings points per minute and I think it is likely that he performs at a higher rate with Wall out for Houston. He averaged 34.2 minutes per game with Indiana this season and it’s only been a week since he last played so I am assuming that his conditioning won’t be an issue.
Christian Wood should get a ton of usage tonight as well. He has averaged 1.43 DraftKings points per minute with a 27.6 percent usage rate in 139 minutes without James Harden on the floor this season. If we add John Wall to the floor as a proxy for Oladipo, Wood has a 24.4 percent usage rate over 41 minutes played. He has gotten very expensive, but he’s a very productive player and has a great matchup against a Chicago team that ranks second in pace and 27th in defensive rating so far this season.
Gordon is returning for the Rockets and he offers some value with Wall out as well. The simple rule of thumb for Gordon over the last couple of seasons has been if Harden and the point guard are in, don’t roster him. If Harden or the point guard are out, he is a decent option and if both are out then plug him in. Oladipo isn’t as high usage a point guard as Russell Westbrook was last season, but I still expect him to limit Gordon’s production. That said, I also expect Gordon to have his minutes staggered with Oladipo so he runs the offense whenever Oladipo is on the bench. Gordon averaged 0.80 DraftKings points per minute in one game with Westbrook and without Harden last season and 0.80 DraftKings points per minute in four games with Chris Paul and without Harden two seasons ago.
Cousins is difficult to trust since the Rockets have only used him alongside Wood as a last resort and now they’re getting healthier. Unless Wood is in foul trouble or injured, it is tough to see more than 18 or so minutes for Cousins. If Wood were to get in foul trouble, or something else weird happens, however, Cousins doesn’t need many additional minutes to become a great play at his salary. He has averaged 1.44 DraftKings points per minute so far this season, making him a low-floor, high-ceiling GPP option.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Christian Wood ($8,900), Victor Oladipo ($7,500)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Victor Oladipo ($7,500), Christian Wood ($9,800), DeMarcus Cousins ($4,500)
The Bulls will be without Otto Porter, Tomas Satoransky and Chandler Hutchison tonight. Garrett Temple and Patrick Williams are both probable. Porter’s absence should open up more minutes for a combination of Thaddeus Young, Temple and Denzel Valentine while also solidifying Williams’ playing time. There isn’t one player that immediately stands out as a great play because Porter is out, but it makes the path to a good game slightly easier for all of those players.
Zach LaVine has been excellent this season, averaging 1.25 DraftKings points per minute with a 30.0 percent usage rate and 23.9 percent assist rate in 35.5 minutes per game. Houston ranks toward the middle of the pack in defensive efficiency and pace this season, but they have been a favorable matchup for opposing ball-handlers. Houston has allowed the eighth most pick-and-roll possessions per game and ranks in the 44th percentile in efficiency defending the pick-and-roll. This bodes well for LaVine, who is fourth in the league with 12.6 pick-and-roll possessions per game and ranks in the 78th percentile in efficiency.
Coby White is Chicago’s only other player that has averaged more than 30 minutes per game this season. He has averaged 34.8 minutes per game and 0.93 DraftKings points per minute. His salary has increased to a point where he is difficult to justify in cash games because he is too expensive for his median projection, but he still has tournament upside because of his ability to score in bunches when he gets hot. White leads the team with a 25 percent assist rate in addition to his 21.1 percent usage rate.
Young has averaged 23.3 minutes per game this season but has only played 13 and 19 minutes in his last two games. He has a good chance to get back to 24-plus minutes tonight without Porter available. Young has averaged 0.90 DraftKings points per minute this season and looks like a decent point-per-dollar value on this short slate.
Wendell Carter, Lauri Markkanen and Williams all have some tournament appeal if they are low-owned since they’re in a decent matchup and are all capable of being productive players. The reason that I don’t anticipate prioritizing any of them is a combination of playing time and salary. Markkanen can be expected to play about 30 to 32 minutes, while Carter has averaged 27.4 minutes per game this season. Williams has averaged 26.9 minutes per game this season but has a path to play more than 30 with Porter out. He has been the least productive player of the group, however, averaging 0.72 DraftKings points per minute this season compared to 1.12 points per minute for Markkanen and 1.05 points per minute for Carter, Jr.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Zach LaVine ($9,500), Thaddeus Young ($3,800)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Zach LaVine ($9,300), Lauri Markkanen ($6,100), Thaddeus Young ($3,800)
Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry is the starting point here, as usual. He has had a couple disappointing games this season but has also shown off his massive ceiling. Overall, he has averaged 1.39 DraftKings points per minute with a 31.2 percent usage rate and 32.2 percent assist rate. Curry has averaged 34.5 minutes per game this season as well. The matchup is a tough one, but Curry is capable of monster games against anyone. I don’t think he stands out as a top play among the pay-up options, but I will be very interested in getting to him in tournaments if he is low-owned.
I could make a case for rostering any of the other starters in GPPs, but I don’t have any reason for recommending them other than “they could play well”. Obviously that analysis isn’t particularly useful, but there really isn’t a reason to be confident in any of these guys in a tough matchup against the Lakers. Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre will get scoring opportunities, but we can’t rely on them to produce at a high rate in this spot. Draymond Green leads the team in assist rate but only has an 11.4 percent usage rate so it’s hard for him to post a big game. James Wiseman is inexpensive and has played 26 and 27 minutes in his last two games, setting back-to-back career highs in minutes played. He has averaged 1.09 DraftKings points per minute this season, so he is an interesting value option because he should exceed his salary if he gets another 26 or 27 minutes, but we have to acknowledge that he was averaging about 19 minutes per game with Draymond Green active prior to his last two games (one of which came without Eric Paschall).
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Stephen Curry ($9,800), James Wiseman ($4,600)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Stephen Curry ($9,800), James Wiseman ($4,400)
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have a good matchup here against the Warriors. Golden State has played at the league’s third-fastest pace and ranks 19th in defensive rating. James and Davis both look underpriced for the matchup (and Davis obviously looks better if James misses the game, though I am assuming he plays). James has averaged 1.49 DraftKings points per minute this season while Davis has averaged 1.33 DraftKings points per minute. The only thing not to like about either of these two is they have averaged 31.8 and 31.9 minutes per game. The Lakers are frequently involved in blowouts and Frank Vogel is in no hurry to play James or Davis heavy minutes this regular season after the shortened offseason. They still have 34-plus minute upside, but the normal expectation is that they play into the low-thirties. They can certainly put up a big game in that amount of time, but it makes their ceiling a little bit lower than most of the other pay-up options who could play five or six additional minutes.
After Davis and James, there isn’t a lot that I like. I think we can take shots on Dennis Schroder in tournaments since he is the third scoring option, but we saw him play almost all of his minutes alongside James again last game. That makes two games in a row and it hurts Schroder’s upside if Vogel continues using this rotation. Caldwell-Pope is a decent value option as we should expect 24 or 25 minutes at a near-minimum salary. He’s unlikely to win you a tournament on his own, but he has averaged 0.83 DraftKings points per minute this season and this is a matchup where he could pick up a couple steals and get some open three-point looks against Golden State’s weak defense.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: LeBron James ($9,700), Anthony Davis ($9,300)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: LeBron James ($9,500), Anthony Davis ($9,500)
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.
📽️ The NBA Late Slate, Swap & Sweat Strategy Show for DraftKings + FanDuel | Tonight 2/26
🏀 DraftKings Cheat Sheet: Late Slate NBA Picks for Daily Fantasy Lineups with Stephen Curry
🏀 FanDuel Cheat Sheet: Late Slate NBA Picks for Daily Fantasy Lineups with Draymond Green
NBA DFS Ownership Projections: Showdown & Single-Game
NBA DFS Ownership Projections: Night Slate
NBA DFS Ownership Projections: Express Slates
NBA DFS Projections for DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo and FantasyDraft Daily Fantasy
Awesemo’s NBA DFS Rankings (FREE TODAY)