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 get ready for the day’s slate of action 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.
Note: This article takes a very long time to write, especially on slates with a lot of games. In order to get information out earlier in the day, I will post the first few games and then update with the remaining games as I write them on bigger slates. Be sure to check back for updates throughout the afternoon.
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Zach LaVine has been excellent this season- both from a real-life standpoint and a DFS standpoint. There are only three players in the NBA that have a higher true shooting rate than LaVine this season with a usage rate of at least 30 percent. Those players are Joel Embiid, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. He has also contributed a 23.9 percent assist rate this season. LaVine has a 33.1 percent usage rate and has averaged 1.34 DraftKings points per minute in 11 games alongside Wendell Carter with Markkanen inactive this season. He has averaged 1.22 DraftKings points per minute with a 28.5 percent usage rate in seven games with both players active, so Markkanen’s absence should continue to be viewed as a boost for LaVine even with Carter returning to the lineup a few games ago.
Carter played 33.1 minutes against the Kings on Saturday, so he is clearly not on any sort of minutes restriction. His playing time had been trending up and seemingly had only been held down by foul trouble and blowouts. Carter has averaged 26.7 minutes per game overall this season and I think we will see him average 28 to 30 minutes going forward- with upside for more when he isn’t in foul trouble. He has averaged 1.02 DraftKings points per minute in 11 games without Markkanen this season.
Coby White has averaged 35 minutes per game and 0.96 DraftKings points per minute with a 22.6 percent usage rate and 23.6 percent assist rate in 11 games with Carter active and Markkanen inactive this season. He doesn’t stand out as a top point-per-dollar option or a top projected play tonight, but he does offer strong mid-range upside at the guard position in a favorable matchup with the Rockets.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Zach LaVine ($9,500), Wendell Carter ($5,300)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Zach LaVine ($9,800), Wendell Carter ($5,400), Coby White ($5,700)
Update: DeMarcus Cousins is out for the Rockets. His absence opens up even more usage for Wall and Gordon and it also solidifies Tate’s playing time.
John Wall has now played seven games without either of Oladipo or Harden active this season. He has averaged 1.26 DraftKings points per minute with a 36.3 percent usage rate and 40.4 percent assist rate. He is typically playing 34 to 36 minutes in competitive games and is underpriced for a favorable matchup against the Bulls.
Eric Gordon is always a scary player to roster, especially when he isn’t dirt cheap, but he has been very productive this season when he has played without Harden or Oladipo. My rule of thumb for Gordon over the last couple of seasons has been that he is unplayable when the starting point guard and shooting guard are active, he is a good option when one of the guards is out and he is a great option when both guards are out. The reason is that Gordon is productive when he is the No. 1 option on offense, but he loses usage and assists whenever there is a more dominant player alongside him. If Wall and Oladipo are both active, Gordon will play every minute with at least one of them on the floor and we don’t want that. With Oladipo out, however, he will play 12 to 14 minutes without Wall on the floor. These are extremely productive minutes for Gordon. Overall, he has averaged 1.05 DraftKings points per minute with a 27.8 percent usage rate and 19.7 percent assist rate in 32.9 minutes per game in his six games alongside Wall without Oladipo or Harden this season.
Cousins played 36.6 minutes against the 73ers in Houston’s last game. If he does that again, he is one of the best plays on the slate. I don’t expect that to be the case, however. First, the Rockets have said that they plan to part ways with Cousins so that they can develop their younger players and so that he can get playing time somewhere. My guess is that, if Cousins plays tonight, it’s simply because Houston needs his body out there for half the game with Wood still sidelined. The second reason is that the matchup last game against Embiid is different than tonight’s matchup against Carter Prior to the game against the Sixers, Jae’Sean Tate was frequently playing big minutes at center and we were getting 22 to 24 minutes out of Cousins. Houston’s coach said before their last game that he wanted to play Cousins against Embiid as much as possible and that ultimately led to 36 minutes for Cousins. Proceed with caution on Cousins, even if he is active.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: John Wall ($8,000)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: John Wall ($8,500), Eric Gordon ($5,300)
Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas continue to stand out as the top options from the Grizzlies. Morant has averaged 31.9 minutes per game over his last 10 games and he is typically playing 33-plus minutes in competitive games. His salary is still too low for his ceiling as he is capable of 50-plus fantasy points any time that he takes the floor. On average, Morant has produced 1.18 DraftKings points per minute with a 29.3 percent usage rate and 37.4 percent assist rate this season. He has played 278 minutes alongside Valanciunas without Brooks on the floor since last season and has a 33.7 percent usage rate and 28 percent assist rate. He has only averaged 1.07 DraftKings points per minute, but that is in part because he has a 48.7 percent true shooting rate that is well below his career average of 55.2 percent.
Valanciunas has averaged 28.5 minutes per game in nine games since returning to the lineup from the COVID-induced break. He has averaged 1.26 DraftKings points per minute this season with a 24.4 percent usage rate and 21.9 percent rebounding rate. Dallas has allowed the 12th-most total rebounds per game and the 9th-most offensive rebounds per game over the last month.
Clarke started on Friday night and played 33.8 minutes against the Pistons. His per-minute production suffers when he plays alongside Valanciunas, but he has still averaged 0.91 DraftKings points per minute with Valanciunas on the floor this season. Clarke also played most of the minutes that Valanciunas was on the bench Friday so, assuming Memphis’s rotation is the same, we should expect more than 0.91 DraftKings points per minute overall tonight. The increased playing time as a starter offsets any reduction in per-minute production and makes Clarke a decent value at the forward position.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Ja Morant ($7,500), Jonas Valanciunas ($7,200)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Ja Morant ($7,200), Jonas Valanciunas ($7,500)
Kristaps Porzingis is questionable and Josh Richardson is probable. Dallas hasn’t played a game since February 14th and they haven’t played a game without Porzingis since January 30th, so it’s a bit of a guessing game as to who would replace him. Based on Dallas’s last game, I assume that Tim Hardaway Jr. would slide into the starting lineup.
Luka Doncic has been fantastic again this season and is one of the highest projected players on the slate, as usual. He has averaged 1.60 DraftKings points per minute this season and leads the Mavs in usage rate, rebounding rate and assist rate. Memphis was playing well defensively to start the season, but they’ve allowed the fifth most points per 100 possessions over the last month (13 games played). The only concern that I have about Doncic tonight is that the Mavs haven’t played in eight days so it’s possible they play a couple minutes less than normal. That’s not a certainty, however, so Doncic still grades out extremely well overall.
Hardaway played 27.4 minutes off the bench in Dallas’s last game and would probably see increased playing time and usage if Porzingis is out. He has averaged 0.84 DraftKings points per minute overall this season and is only $4,400 on DraftKings and $4,800 on FanDuel. He is a tournament option if Porzingis plays, but will project as a strong value if he replaces Porzingis in the starting lineup. Maxi Kleber would most likely pick up a few extra minutes if Porzingis is out as well. He has averaged 0.73 DraftKings points per minute this season.
If he is active, Porzingis has averaged 1.24 DraftKings points per minute this season and should be able to have success against the Grizzlies’ frontcourt. He is second on the team with a 27.3 percent usage rate and leads the team with a 15.1 percent rebounding rate. He also offers additional upside thanks to 2.7 blocks per 100 possessions.
Top DraftKings NBA Picks: Luka Doncic ($11,400)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Luka Doncic ($11,200), Kristaps Porzingis ($7,800)
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Jimmy Butler has been fantastic this season and he gets a favorable matchup against Oklahoma City, who has played at the league’s sixth-fastest pace over the last month. Butler has averaged 1.42 DraftKings points per minute with a 28.4 percent usage rate, 14.3 percent rebounding rate and 41.0 percent assist rate in 35.9 minutes per game in nine games this season without Dragic and with Adebayo active. If Herro sits, Butler could see even more fantasy production.
Bam Adebayo has also been a very strong fantasy producer this season, though not to the same level as Butler and he plays a premium position. Adebayo has averaged 1.26 DraftKings points per minute with a 24.0 percent usage rate, 15.9 percent rebounding rate and 29.1 percent assist rate in 35.8 minutes per game in the games that he has played alongside Butler without Dragic.
Kendrick Nunn was excellent in 39.8 minutes against the Lakers on Saturday as he benefited from Herro’s first half departure. He has averaged 0.82 DraftKings points per minute and 34.1 minutes per game in his eight starts without Dragic, and his playing time would be even more secure if Herro sits.
Max Strus played about 12 minutes off the bench in the second half of Saturday’s game. He would be an extremely risky option but he is worth a look in large field tournaments if Herro is out. He is close to minimum salary as a small forward on DraftKings and he could see 24 minutes if Herro is out. Again, his floor is extremely low. But he does have a path to relatively big minutes if Herro is out. Andre Iguodala is basically the same play as Strus, except you’re trading volatility for consistency. Iguodala’s minutes are more secure than Strus’s, but we know that he is a low per-minute fantasy producer. Strus’ minutes are less secure and he has only produced 0.64 DraftKings points per minute so far this season, but the sample size is small enough that there is the possibility for more.
It’s difficult to count on Kelly Olynyk for more than about 24 minutes, but he is capable of playing more minutes when he plays well. He has averaged 0.90 DraftKings points per minute this season and is basically priced for 24 minutes at this point. Therefore, he has plenty of upside since we can see him push 30 minutes when he plays well.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Jimmy Butler ($9,200), Bam Adebayo ($8,800)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Jimmy Butler ($9,200), Bam Adebayo ($8,900), Kelly Olynyk ($4,400)
Oklahoma City Thunder
It’s a tough matchup for Oklahoma City, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is always a high upside option because of his role in this offense. He leads the team with a 27.4 percent usage rate and a 32.3 percent assist rate. He also leads the team with 1.22 DraftKings points per minute this season and 34.5 minutes per game over the last month.
Isaiah Roby will most likely start in place of Horford. His salary has increased, but he still offers some value as long as he can avoid foul trouble. It can be difficult to find comparable situations from previous games with Oklahoma City because they have dealt with so many injuries this season, but Roby has started eight games without Horford where Gilgeous-Alexander and Mike Muscala were active. Roby has averaged 26.1 minutes per game and 1.06 DraftKings points per minute in those games. Muscala has averaged 0.96 DraftKings points per minute and 20.4 minutes per game off the bench in those games. He is much less expensive than Roby on DraftKings, but only has center eligibility. He is a power forward on FanDuel but is close in price to Roby.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($8,400), Isaiah Roby ($4,900)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($7,500), Isaiah Roby ($4,600)
Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard has been excellent lately and he is producing at the level that we expected when McCollum was injured. Lillard has averaged 1.48 DraftKings points per minute with a 34.6 percent usage rate and 39 percent assist rate in 675 minutes without McCollum on the floor this season. He will most likely play 36-plus minutes as long as the game is competitive. The matchup isn’t particularly appealing since the Suns have played at the second slowest pace and have the seventh-best defensive rating over the last month, but Lillard still stands out as a top option.
Enes Kanter has averaged 1.10 DraftKings points per minute in 508 minutes alongside Lillard without McCollum on the floor this season. That should be the case for most of his minutes tonight and I expect at least 31 minutes as long as the game is competitive. The Suns rank in the middle of the pack in rebounds allowed to opponents over the last month and, as mentioned before, are one of the slowest teams in the league so the matchup isn’t the most exciting. Still, there is plenty of upside at Kanter’s current salary.
The rest of the Blazers are priced about where they should be for an unappealing matchup against Phoenix. Robert Covington benefits from Harry Giles’ absence as he gets more rebounding opportunities and he is playing huge minutes, but DraftKings and FanDuel have both priced him up significantly.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Damian Lillard ($10,900), Enes Kanter ($7,000)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Damian Lillard ($10,500), Enes Kanter ($6,900)
Devin Booker and Chris Paul both project much better when the other one is not playing. Since they are both in tonight, they look more like secondary plays than priorities on this slate. The Blazers have been one of the least efficient defenses in the league over the last month, but they also rank in the bottom 10 in pace. Booker has averaged 1.05 DraftKings points per minute and 34.7 minutes per game in 24 games alongside Paul this season while Paul has averaged 1.18 DraftKings points per minute and 31.5 minutes per game in those games.
Deandre Ayton is reasonably priced for a center who is likely to play about 33 minutes, but he could have a tough time rebounding against Enes Kanter. Ayton’s production overall is down this season as well, as he has averaged only 1.06 DraftKings points per minute in 24 games alongside both of Paul and Booker this season. Like Paul and Booker, Ayton has tournament upside but doesn’t stand out as a priority on this slate.
All three players are more favorably priced on FanDuel than they are on DraftKings.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Devin Booker ($8,200), Chris Paul ($7,800), Deandre Ayton ($6,900)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Chris Paul ($7,500), Devin Booker ($7,700), Deandre Ayton ($6,400)
Devonte’ Graham is doubtful tonight.
This is a brutal spot for Charlotte and I’m not really interested in their players outside of large field tournaments- especially on DraftKings where they are more expensive across the board than FanDuel. If I do have to look to the Hornets, LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward look like the best pieces simply based on opportunity
Ball has averaged 1.20 DraftKings points per minute and 33.5 minutes per game in eight starts with Hayward active this season. He has a 26.2 percent usage rate and 27.6 percent assist rate in those starts, so he should get plenty of opportunities tonight. Similarly, Hayward has averaged 1.07 DraftKings points per minute this season and 36.1 minutes per game over the last month.
Cody Zeller is a reasonable value option as well, but it’s tough to justify using a center spot on him. He only played 21 minutes against the Warriors, but Golden State has a small frontcourt. It’s likely that Zeller gets more minutes tonight against Gobert and he has averaged 26 minutes per game and 1.05 DraftKings points per minute as a starter this season.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: None
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: LaMelo Ball ($7,600), Gordon Hayward ($7,100)
Mike Conley returned and played 25.3 minutes against the Clippers on Friday. As a result, Joe Ingles returned to the bench and only played 24.7 minutes while Jordan Clarkson played 27.2 minutes. Conley’s return has a negative impact on Ingles and Clarkson as well as Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell has averaged 1.36 DraftKings points per minute in six games without Conley this season compared to 1.17 DraftKings points per minute alongside Conley.
The one player who still looks good at their salary is Rudy Gobert. Gobert’s biggest issue this season has been playing time as he has only averaged 30.3 minutes per game in 16 games played over the last month. He has been extremely productive when he is on the floor, however, averaging 1.26 DraftKings points per minute with an excellent 23.8 percent rebounding rate. He is more expensive on FanDuel than DraftKings, but he has plenty of upside on both sites.
Mike Conley offers upside as well. He only played about 25 minutes in his return, so he could be somewhat limited tonight. He has averaged 1.12 DraftKings points per minute this season, however, so he should be able to outperform his salary if he reaches 30 minutes or more. His salary is especially favorable on FanDuel.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Rudy Gobert ($7,400)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Mike Conley ($5,600)
Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook are always the starting point for Washington- and usually the ending point as well. Both players offer massive ceilings as Westbrook regularly triple-doubles and Beal averages the most points per game in the NBA. In games that they have played together, Beal has averaged 1.36 DraftKings points per minute with a 35.9 percent usage rate in 35.1 minutes per game while Westbrook has averaged 1.45 DraftKings points per minute with a 30.8 percent usage rate in 33.3 minutes per game. If tonight’s game is competitive, both players are likely to play 36-plus minutes. Their expensive salaries, particularly on DraftKings, make them tournament targets instead of cash targets in a tough matchup against the Lakers but there is plenty of upside.
Davis Bertans remains underpriced on FanDuel as he is likely to play 30-plus minutes tonight and he has averaged 0.85 FanDuel points per minute since last season. He has only averaged 0.73 FanDuel points per minute this season, but a lot of that can be attributed to a 57.9 percent true shooting that is 5 points lower than last season. Bertans’ conditioning was an issue earlier in the season, but he appears to have put that behind him and I expect his shooting numbers to improve going forward. That said, it’s still a tough matchup and he’s a scoring dependent player who has a sub-20 percent usage rate so his floor is low.
If you’re looking for a volatile value option on DraftKings, Moritz Wagner is only $3,600 against his former team. His playing time has been all over the place lately, which has been the case for all of Washington’s centers this season except for Thomas Bryant (who is out). Wagner only played 11 minutes in his start against Portland last game after playing 3 minutes in his start against Denver the game before that. The reason that I am intrigued by Wagner in tournaments tonight is that the Lakers don’t have a center that is likely to push him off the floor. The Wizards turned to Alex Len and Robin Lopez to try and contend with Nikola Jokic two games ago and then Robin Lopez played very well off the bench against the Blazers as the Wizards looked to him so slow down Enes Kanter. The combination of Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell is much less imposing for Wagner, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he returned to the 22 to 24 minutes that he played against Boston and Houston three and four games ago.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Russell Westbrook ($10,100), Bradley Beal ($9,900)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Russell Westbrook ($9,400), Bradley Beal ($9,800)
Los Angeles Lakers
James doesn’t get a huge bump from Anthony Davis being sidelined, but he does get one of the best matchups possible as he takes on the Wizards tonight. He has averaged 1.55 DraftKings points per minute without Davis active in 16 games played since the start of last season. He has a 33.8 percent usage rate, 13.1 percent rebounding rate and 45.9 percent assist rate in those games, so the ceiling is enormous. The Wizards are first in pace and 22nd in defensive rating over the last month, so James should have plenty of opportunities to produce against them tonight.
Kuzma is likely to start again in place of Davis and he is favorably priced on FanDuel. Kuzma has averaged 31.8 minutes per game and 0.93 DraftKings points per minute with a 23.1 percent usage rate and 10.1 percent rebounding rate in 12 starts alongside James without Davis since the start of last season.
Harrell has averaged 24 minutes per game and 1.16 DraftKings points per minute in eight games with James active and Davis inactive this season. The Wizards seem like a perfect matchup for Harrell as they don’t have any high-usage, physically imposing centers on their roster. The Wizards are also a terrible rebounding team, which benefits Harrell as well.
There are several wings on the Lakers who offer upside but also have very low floors. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wesley Matthews, Talen Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso are likely to combine for about 100 to 105 minutes tonight. How those minutes will be split up, however, depends on how the game is going and who is playing well. Caldwell-Pope and Matthews are the safest sources of minutes assuming they are both in the starting lineup, with Caldwell-Pope being the better source of fantasy production with 0.62 DraftKings points per minute compared to Matthews’ 0.53 DraftKings points per minute this season. Caruso has averaged 0.74 DraftKings points per minute off the bench while Horton-Tucker has averaged 0.87 DraftKings points per minute. My expectation is that Caruso plays 20 to 22 minutes and Horton-Tucker plays 16 to 18 minutes, but there is plenty of room for more since they only need to surpass Caldwell-Pope and/or Matthews in the rotation which is not difficult to do in any given game.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: LeBron James ($10,400), Montrezl Harrell ($5,800)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: LeBron James ($10,400), Kyle Kuzma ($5,700), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($3,700)
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