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
Stephen Curry ($11,000 DraftKings/$10,400 FanDuel) is the most expensive player on DraftKings and the fourth most expensive player on FanDuel. There is a tendency to view Curry as a step below the other top-tier DFS options, but that really has not been the case under his current playing conditions. Since the beginning of last season, Curry has played 964 minutes without either of Kelly Oubre or James Wiseman on the floor. He has a 37.3% usage rate, 9.4% rebounding rate, 26.9% assist rate and has averaged 1.67 DraftKings points per minute. If Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins are on the floor, Curry has averaged 1.60 DraftKings points per minute with a 35.3% usage, 10.5% rebounding rate and 24.9% assist rate over 650 minutes. He has a favorable matchup tonight against a weak Oklahoma City team and he is likely to play 36 to 37 minutes if the game is competitive. Furthermore, if the Warriors blow out the Thunder and Curry does not need to play that many minutes, there is a very good chance that he produced at an above average rate since he accounts for so much of Golden State’s offense.
Luka Doncic ($10,900 DraftKings/$10,900 FanDuel) has an excellent matchup against the Houston Rockets. It is obviously early in the season, but Houston is eighth in pace through their first three games after playing at a top 10 pace last season as well. Doncic has produced 1.60 DraftKings points per minute with a 35.3% usage rate, 12.5% rebounding rate and 44.4% assist rate in 42 games played alongside Kristaps Porzingis over the last two seasons.
Dejounte Murray ($7,300 DraftKings/$7,800 FanDuel) remains reasonably priced on a slate where many players are at increased price tags. Murray has averaged 33.4 minutes per game through San Antonio’s first three games and he leads the team with 14.3 potential assists per game. The next closest players on the Spurs are Derrick White and Jakob Poeltl at 7.7 potential assists per game. Murray has averaged 1.12 DraftKings points per minute over his first 100 minutes this season after averaging 1.11 DraftKings points per minute last season.
Mike Conley ($5,700 DraftKings/$6,300 FanDuel) does not offer the same number of minutes as the previously mentioned guards, but he is inexpensive and is a strong per-minute producer. Since the start of last season, he has averaged 1.07 DraftKings points per minute and 29.6 minutes per game in 44 games played alongside Donovan Mitchell. He has only produced 0.89 DraftKings points per minute so far this season, but he has only played a total of 56 minutes, so his production is not concerning yet. On a relatively short slate, Conley projects as a strong value.
Jalen Brunson ($4,200 DraftKings/$4,500 FanDuel) played about 26 minutes against the Raptors in the season opener and then he played about 23 minutes against the Raptors. He has produced 0.94 DraftKings points per minute in 24.9 minutes per game across 39 total games with Porzingis and Doncic active since the start of last season. He therefore projects as a strong point-per-dollar value option tonight against Houston. My primary concern with Brunson is in tournaments where he is projected to be one of the most popular players on the slate. He may be the “safest” of the inexpensive value options, but there are still plenty of alternatives that can outscore him at lower ownership.
Alec Burks ($3,800 DraftKings/$4,300 FanDuel) is one of the less popular, less expensive value options that has similar upside to Brunson even if he is not locked into as many minutes. Burks played 16 minutes in the season opener, followed by 18 minutes in the second game and 25 minutes in his most recent game. Any of those minute totals are possible tonight as his playing time depends, in large part, on how he is playing and how the team is playing as whole. Burks has averaged 0.95 DraftKings points per minute over the last two seasons, so he produces at a rate similar to Brunson. Brunson projects higher and is “safer” because he has a higher minutes floor than Burks. Burks’ ceiling is just as high, however, because he can also play 26 minutes if he is playing well and closes the game ahead of Evan Fournier.
Julius Randle ($9,500 DraftKings/$9,700 FanDuel) is playing huge minutes right out of the gate, which is not a surprise since his coach is Tom Thibodeau and that is what Thibodeau always does. Randle’s DFS production has not been affected by the additions of Kemba Walker and Fournier, as Walker has clearly taken a backseat offensively and Fournier’s 23.1% usage rate is modest as well. Randle has a 33% usage rate, 14.4% rebounding rate and 26.8% assist rate in 114 minutes played so far this season. He has produced 1.54 DraftKings points per minute over that time. Randle has averaged 1.27 DraftKings points per minute since the start of last season and he should produce at that rate going forward.
Tobias Harris ($8,000 DraftKings/$7,400 FanDuel) is finally close to appropriately priced on DraftKings, but he is still a great value on FanDuel. Harris has averaged 1.12 DraftKings points per minute so far this season and he has averaged 1.12 DraftKings points per minute alongside Embiid without Ben Simmons on the floor since the start of last season as well. Harris is likely to play about 34 minutes if tonight’s game is competitive and he stands out as a top option on FanDuel and a high upside tournament option on DraftKings.
Michael Porter, Jr. ($6,200 DraftKings/$6,900 FanDuel) had another disappointing game last night. His price tag is about as cheap as it is going to get (probably) as a result of his poor start to the season. Porter has only produced 0.80 DraftKings points per minute through his first three games. He only has an 18% usage rate and 48.5% true shooting as well. In addition, his rebounding rate is down to 6.8% from 13.1% last season. As of now, his struggles seem like a sample size issue that will be corrected sooner than later. Porter played 203 minutes alongside all of Nikola Jokic, Will Barton and Aaron Gordon without Jamal Murray on the floor last season. He produced 0.98 DraftKings points per minute. In 1,075 minutes alongside Jokic with Murray on the bench (and not accounting for the others), Porter produced 1.02 DraftKings points per minute. He only had a 21 to 22% usage rate last season, so it is not like he has seen an alarming decrease in usage so far this year even though it has dropped off a bit. The biggest difference for Porter is that his true shooting percentage overall last season was 65.6% compared to this season’s 48.5%. His effective field goal percentage has dropped from 64.6% to 47.1%. The best thing to do with players who are decreasing in salary because of poor shooting is to roster them — though this is a difficult matchup against Utah, so Porter could have another poor performance. It is also worth noting that Porter is averaging about five less rebound chances per 36 minutes this season than he did last season. The rebound chances are a bigger concern for me than the poor shooting.
R.J. Barrett ($5,600 DraftKings/$5,700 FanDuel) never really inspires confidence when you plug him into a DFS lineup, but he is relatively inexpensive and has a big role for the Knicks under Thibodeau. He has averaged 35.2 minutes per game through the first three games of the season and he has averaged 10.3 rebound chances per game, which is third on the team behind Randle and Mitchell Robinson. Barrett is also fourth on the team with five potential assists per game. He only has a 17.3% usage rate so far this season, which is down from 23.1% last season, and it would not be surprising to see him continue to lose shots with Evan Fournier essentially replacing Reggie Bullock in the starting lineup. Still, Barrett’s usage rate should increase at least somewhat going forward and he offers peripherals as well.
Keldon Johnson ($5,200 DraftKings/$5,600 FanDuel) has suddenly become a high usage player with DeMar DeRozan no longer on the Spurs. While Dejounte Murray has maintained a 22.9% usage rate this season after a 22.8% usage rate last season, and Derrick White has gone from a 21.9% usage rate to an 18.5% usage rate, Johnson has increased from a 19% usage rate to a team-leading 26.5% usage rate. Granted, he has only played 94 minutes and it is likely that his usage decreases somewhat going forward. Still, he showed a similar willingness to shoot in the preseason as he has a 25.5% usage rate in 220 minutes since the start of the preseason. Johnson has averaged 31.5 minutes per game and 0.94 DraftKings points per minute so far this regular season.
Darius Bazley ($5,000 DraftKings/$5,400 FanDuel) offers some volatility tonight, which is welcome at his inexpensive price point. Oklahoma City has used a three-center rotation in, with Derrick Favors, Isaiah Roby and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl splitting minutes. Favors is out tonight, so there are a few ways that rotation could go. First, Roby and Robinson-Earl could just play more minutes. Second, Mike Muscala could slide into the rotation in place of Favors which would limit the DFS appeal of all three centers. Third, and the one that would benefit Bazley, is that the Thunder could use him at center to fill the minutes vacated by Favors. This would likely lead to increased production from Bazley, and it would be easy to do against a small Golden State frontcourt. It would also allow Oklahoma City to get additional minutes to young wings like Aleksej Pokusevski that they have not been able to really fit into the rotation so far. It is not farfetched to think that a team like Oklahoma City that does not care about winning right now would rather get more minutes for Pokusevski than for Muscala. If that is the case, then Bazley should get center minutes. Even if he does not get center minutes, he is inexpensive for his average production of 0.87 DraftKings points per minute since the start of last season.
Nikola Jokic ($10,600 DraftKings/11,100 FanDuel) has produced at a higher rate without Jamal Murray on the floor since the start of last season. In 1,362 minutes alongside Murray, Jokic has averaged 1.56 DraftKings points per minute with a 28.3% usage rate and a 34.4% assist rate. In 1,573 minutes without Murray, Jokic has produced 1.65 DraftKings points per minute with a 34% usage rate and 37.9% assist rate. The increased average production elevates his median projection, and the increased rates indicate a higher ceiling without Murray as well. He has a tough matchup against Utah on a back-to-back, but he is such a well-rounded player that he is nearly matchup proof.
Joel Embiid ($9,800 DraftKings/$10,000 FanDuel) has produced 1.57 DraftKings points per minute this season and 1.66 DraftKings points per minute alongside Harris without Ben Simmons since the start of last season. Embiid should play about 32 minutes tonight if the game is competitive. The center position always has strong options, but there are fewer on tonight’s short slate so the opportunity cost to rostering Embiid is lower as well.
Keep in mind that Embiid is questionable (as usual). The assumption is Embiid will play, but if he does not, Andre Drummond becomes an elite option. Harris and Tyrese Maxey would see increased projections as well. Drummond is also questionable. If he sits along with Embiid, then Paul Reed should get increased time and Harris and Maxey should see a ton of usage.
Dwight Powell ($3,300 DraftKings/$4,000 FanDuel) is far from exciting, but he projects as a strong point-per-dollar value tonight — particularly on DraftKings where he is close to minimum salary, and there is not much value to work with at the moment. Powell played 20.2 minutes in the season opener but appeared to lose about four minutes to garbage time at the end of the game. He then played 24.6 minutes against the Raptors. Powell should play 22 to 24 minutes tonight in a favorable matchup against Houston. He has averaged 0.65 DraftKings points per minute in 126 minutes alongside Doncic and Porzingis since last season and 0.85 DraftKings points per minute in 712 minutes alongside Doncic without accounting for Porzingis. Based on Dallas’s rotations in the first two games, 40 to 50% of Powell’s minutes should come without Porzingis on the floor.
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Check out our NBA DFS rankings for fantasy points and values that are derived directly from Alex Baker's own NBA DFS projections. We also have FanDuel ownership rankings, Yahoo! rankings and DraftKings NBA rankings for today's slate. Looking for more NBA DFS picks today DraftKings and the best NBA DFS picks today? View our FanDuel ownership projections, our Yahoo! NBA ownership projections and our DraftKings NBA ownership projections. Our NBA projections FanDuel are updated regularly, including whenever any relevant news breaks.
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