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 find the best NBA DFS picks on DraftKings and FanDuel!
Following in Adam Scherer’s footsteps, I plan to update this article with notes at the top until about 6 p.m. EST. After that, be sure to check out the Deeper Dive show and Live Before Lock in the hour leading up to lock on the Awesemo YouTube channel.
Note: The format of this article has been changed to position-by-position. Love this modification, as the Deeper Dive show covers the game-by-game breakdown later in the day with the most updated news available.
UPDATE (5:24 p.m. EST): DERRICK ROSE is OUT. We’ll have to wait on Elfrid Payton’s status, because if he plays this screams “stay away.” Tune into the Awesemo YouTube Channel for the Deeper Dive and Live Before Lock to stay updated on this news and its implications.
UPDATE (5:30 p.m. EST): KAWHI LEONARD is IN, MARCUS MORRIS is OUT. With the news coming out this early, I expect the ownership to get up there, but undoubtably a play to go to.
UPDATE (5:32 p.m. EST): JERAMI GRANT is OUT. See what the starting lineup is, but Sekou Doumbouya enters the conversation at $3,000 on DraftKings.
UPDATE (5:50 p.m. EST): ZION WILLIAMSON is DOUBTFUL. Brandon Ingram, Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams all get boosts.
NBA DFS Deep Dive: DraftKings + FanDuel Picks | March 4
Damian Lillard ($10,700 DraftKings/$10,100 FanDuel) has by far the best matchup among the high-end point guards. Sacramento is dead-last with a 118.9 defensive rating, a full 2.5 points from the next team. Lillard was quiet on Wednesday night until the deep go-ahead dagger, but I certainly don’t expect that to affect his ownership. So long as C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic remain out, there is little doubt who the Trail Blazers offense will be playing through. With a 32.7% usage and 1.4 fantasy points per minute on the year, it’s undeniable that Lillard has slate-breaking potential in this spot.
Russell Westbrook ($10,400 DraftKings/$9,600 FanDuel) most likely will avoid the Paul George and Kawhi Leonard individual defense tonight, opening up for a showdown against Patrick Beverley with whom he has had a longtime beef. In 25 games against Beverley for his career (including the playoffs), Westbrook averages 28.7 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.9 assists. There are also stakes built in from the Westbrook/George failed partnership in Oklahoma City. You don’t need me to tell you Westbrook has upside, but he currently projects for only 15% ownership on FanDuel at that advantageous $9,600 salary.
Dejounte Murray ($7,900 DraftKings/$8,700 FanDuel) has a massive disparity between his tags on the two main sites. He has posted a 24.9% usage rate over the last month, and has solidified his status as the Spurs’ No. 2 alongside DeMar DeRozan. The Spurs – Thunder are currently pegged for the second-lowest total on the slate (218.5), yet the entire game profiles extremely well with LaMarcus Aldridge being ruled out and Al Horford presumably to follow.
Kyle Lowry ($8,400 DraftKings/$8,500 FanDuel) played 35 minutes in Wednesday’s surprising blowout lose to the putrid Pistons. The Raptors are actually the largest underdogs on the board today (+8), as the same absences for the Raptors from yesterday will remain. It is hard to get a large enough sample on the season with Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam off the floor, but in those 81 minutes, Lowry does stand out with 1.37 DraftKings points per minute, identical to Chris Boucher.
Derrick Rose ($5,900 DraftKings/$6,200 FanDuel) profiles as one of the highest-owned plays on the slate and should be good to go after an inconclusive COVID test. What this game lacks in total (208.5) it more than makes up for in Tom Thibodeau minutes (a lot). Rose was scratched right before lock of their recent game against the Spurs, and the Knicks were subsequently blasted. Rose now enters this pseudo spot against his former team and should be right back to his 30-plus minutes he’s enjoyed of late. Have Frank Ntilikina, Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks exposure ready to go should he get ruled out. (NOTE: Elfrid Payton was upgraded to questionable. I would have little interest in Rose or these other guards should Payton play.)
Dennis Smith Jr. ($4,800 DraftKings/$5,500 FanDuel) on the other side of this game also looks like exceptional value. Coming off the best game of his Pistons stint (and perhaps career), Smith gets the ultimate revenge spot against his former team. He has clocked in at 27 minutes for three consecutive games and is starting to find his footing offensively. The triple-double was most likely an outlier, but that $4,800 tag is still enticing with Josh Jackson already ruled out. Jerami Grant out for a second consecutive night would further solidify Smith’s increased role.
Brad Wanamaker ($3,000 DraftKings/$3,900 FanDuel) I expect to be the highest-owned play on the slate. With Stephen Curry and Draymond Green already ruled out and Kelly Oubre listed as questionable, Warriors chalk night is in full effect. In 204 minutes with Curry and Green off the floor this season, Wanamaker puts up 0.77 DraftKings points per minute. That’s more than serviceable at the minimum on DraftKings at the 25-plus minutes of run he’ll be projected for.
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DeMar DeRozan ($8,200 DraftKings/$8,500 FanDuel) is small forward/power forward eligible only on DraftKings but makes for the most expensive shooting guard I’d want to utilize on FanDuel with Bradley Beal‘s price ballooned up to $10,400. DeRozan, like Murray, should benefit slightly with Aldridge’s absence. In his 245 minutes without Aldridge on the court this year, DeRozan averages a solid 1.2 DraftKings points per minute, popping him off the page.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($9,000 DraftKings/$8,200 FanDuel) is one half of my favorite shooting guard tandem on FanDuel for today. Horford has yet to play on a back-to-back this season, and Hamidou Diallo‘s absence solidifies an even larger offensive role than Gilgeous-Alexander already has. The Spurs are middle of the road in terms of pace this season (14th in the NBA) , but Gilgeous-Alexander is simply underpriced for his increased opportunity in this game.
Paul George ($8,600 DraftKings/$7,900 FanDuel) is already a great play at these prices in this hardwood track meet against the Wizards. But should Leonard sit, George will be a borderline must for all of my lineups on DraftKings. That may sound strange to hear since his price is significantly better on FanDuel, but the opportunity cost at the position would make it hard for me to over-invest in just one spot unless the leverage score in the boom/bust tool were too good to pass up.
Devin Booker ($8,100 DraftKings/$7,600 FanDuel) is yet another shooting guard drastically underpriced on FanDuel. Again, the opportunity cost the position is high, but it’s undeniable what kind of ceiling Booker has put on display as of late. This is as close to blowout concern as I’ll ever have, but the Golden State Warriors are second in pace this season and should help qualm those worries. If he stays below 10% ownership on FanDuel, he’ll make for a great tournament option.
Andrew Wiggins ($6,400 DraftKings/$6,200 FanDuel) is going to pop off the page with Curry and Green out and could ascend even further should Oubre miss. He carries the most blow-out risk on this entire team, but he would also likely be the main reason if they were to keep it close. His Timberwolves/Warriors rates from the 2019-20 season are more representative to the random situation he finds himself in tonight (no Curry that entire season either). In 54 games with both ball clubs, Wiggins had a 26.9% usage rate, 13.9% assist rate and averaged 36.3 FanDuel points per game. Regardless of your feelings about him as a player, he’s an outstanding play tonight.
Terence Davis ($3,700 DraftKings/$4,500 FanDuel) feels like a DraftKings-only play to me tonight with the influx of elite shooting guard options we have on FanDuel. We will have to see what happens to this ownership as adjustments are made for the Golden State value, but Davis’ 21 minutes were surely capped due to the blowout on Wednesday. Should this game stay closer and should he shoot better than the 0-for-5 from deep last night, Davis has upside at just $3,700, albeit at extreme ownership.
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk ($3,100 DraftKings/$3,700 FanDuel) could be roped together with the likes of Wayne Ellington and Rodney McGruder again should Grant miss. All three went ballistic at their salaries on Wednesday, and are all viable again to varying degrees with Jackson already ruled out. Mykhailiuk would make the most sense since he started and played a whopping 37 minutes. That’s a lot of time at a tag that cheap (unless your name is P.J. Tucker).
Kawhi Leonard ($9,100 DraftKings/$9,700 FanDuel) is fresh off burning the world on Tuesday with his late scratch due to back spasms. Depending what time he gets ruled in, he could make for an elite tournament play that’s too low-owned for this spot against the Wizards. There is this rumor matriculating NBA DFS circles that the Wizards are an improved defense as of late. I am not buying it, and even if I were, they still rank first in the league in pace on the season and within the past month. No matter how you slice it up, Leonard sticks out with his 1.34 DraftKings points per minute this season; he just has to play.
Jimmy Butler‘s ($9,400 DraftKings/$9,500 FanDuel) and Bam Adebayo‘s statuses are yet another massive piece to this slate’s puzzle. The Pelicans have reverted to their abysmal defensive ways, catapulting themselves to 29th in defensive efficiency on the year (116.4). While the “Q” tag next to Leonard is unlikely to affect his ownership a whole lot, it carries a lot more weight next to Butler in a less obviously exceptional matchup. His rates are nuts this season: 27.5% usage, 38% assist rate, 1.38 FanDuel points per minute. Sign me up if he goes.
Jaylen Brown ($8,200 DraftKings/$8,400 FanDuel) I’ve admittedly overlooked nearly his entire career. He has been battling knee problems for the past few weeks, so the All-Star break should do him some good. Before then, however, he gets a date with this depleted Raptors team. His usage has trended down in the Celtics’ last two — 23% and 20%, respectively — but those feel like anomalies. For perhaps the first time all year, I’m prioritizing him over the likes of Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker on both sites (admittedly, part of that is he’s small forward eligible on both and they’re not).
Brandon Ingram ($8,300 DraftKings/$7,800 FanDuel) is a FanDuel-specific play for me. Should Leonard and Butler be ruled out, Ingram becomes much more interesting on a site where you have to play two small forwards. He blew up my lineups with his dud against Chicago, but he still sported a 36% usage rate in the contest. He’s in a great bounce-back spot against the Heat tonight, especially if Butler misses.
Norman Powell ($7,000 DraftKings/$7,400 FanDuel) comes with some sticker-shock, but he might actually be too cheap for the role he steps into with VanVleet and Siakam off the floor. Even in a blowout, Powell saw 38 minutes against the Pistons en route to 46.25 DraftKings points, so the court-time feels semi-secure regardless of game flow.
Mikal Bridges ($5,400 DraftKings/$5,700 FanDuel) could see a few extra minutes with Cameron Johnson ruled out today, not that there’s much room to go up from the 36 he played against the Lakers on Tuesday. The 76.2% true shooting he’s enjoyed for the past month is most likely unsustainable, but ride the wave now.
Kent Bazemore ($3,500 DraftKings/$4,200 FanDuel) falls into the umbrella of potentially phenomenal value plays in the aftermath of the Curry and Green news. Oubre’s status probably has more to do with Bazemore’s prospects of starting, but after 31 minutes and 26 DraftKings points on Wednesday, I don’t care either way. He’s undoubtedly going to be one of my highest-owned pieces, as any time he’s on the court he does work as evidenced by his 0.95 DraftKings points per minute on the season.
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Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,000 DraftKings/$11,300 FanDuel) needs little explanation. He is averaging 1.74 FanDuel points per minute over the past month, lower than the closer to 2.0 points per minute we saw last season. But 38 minutes of Giannis at 1.74 is better than 30 minutes at 2.0, so knowing extended minutes are in store so long as this game stays close makes him a priority on this value-laden slate.
Julius Randle ($9,600 DraftKings/$9,300 FanDuel) is enjoying a career renaissance thanks to Thibodeau’s allocation of minutes. Through 36 games, Randle is third in the NBA in minutes played per game (36.5), making him viable in almost any spot in any matchup until his tag reaches the $10,000 range. He’s also averaging a career-high 7.5 assists per 100 possessions, making him difficult to see but an attainable triple-double threat.
Domantas Sabonis ($9,800 DraftKings/$9,200 FanDuel) makes for a complicated situation. If he goes, I will want a bunch on FanDuel. If he sits, the entire Pacers team becomes yet another source of value on this value-stuffed slate.
Zion Williamson ($9,300 DraftKings/$8,900 FanDuel) was given the “matchup-proof” designation by Rynpak on the Slate Starter podcast Wednesday night. I don’t know what I could possibly say that could top that.
Marvin Bagley ($6,700 DraftKings/$6,800 FanDuel) is only coming up at around 5% ownership on FanDuel where you have to play two power forwards. I’m all for going on top of that against the Trail Blazers in large-field tournaments, as the minutes and role feel more secure of late with Hassan Whiteside out of the picture due to health-and-safety protocols.
Robert Covington ($5,900 DraftKings/$6,000 FanDuel) could not possibly be any hotter right now. But with minutes of 38, 38 and 40 in his past three, he could easily bury you at these tags in the late-night hammer if you don’t have exposure. He averaged 0.85 DraftKings points per minute over the last month, and with his current court time as a small-ball five, that is more than enough to make Covington viable in any format.
Nemanja Bjelica ($4,000 DraftKings/$4,400 FanDuel) is hard for me to get a grasp on today. I don’t quite understand the 30%-plus ownership he’s currently pegged for on DraftKings. But on the other hand, the Kings are looking to showcase any tradeable pieces as the deadline approaches. In the highest-totaled game on the slate, you could do worse than Bjelica at $4,000. That said, the Warriors pieces are cheaper and feel more secure with their minutes.
Juan Toscano-Anderson ($3,100 DraftKings/$4,700 FanDuel) jumps out on DraftKings sitting at near minimum. Again, we will have to see what that starting lineup ends being for the Warriors, but I’m guessing Toscano-Anderson will be in it. Plus, you should have a bunch of lineup spots to pivot on and off of to react to news and how your lineups are fairing in the earlier window of games.
Nikola Jokic ($10,900 DraftKings/$11,400 FanDuel) is head and shoulders above the position on FanDuel, with a $4,100 difference between his salary and the next available center (Deandre Ayton). Jokic coming off back-to-back 75-fantasy-points games and now faces a possible Sabonis-less Pacers team. He’s in impeccable form and feels like an impossible fade to me on both sites.
Enes Kanter ($7,400 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel) is outrageously-priced on DraftKings considering he’s only seen 23 and 24 minutes in the Blazers’ past two games. But center is going to be so concentrated on FanDuel, and Kanter is advantageously priced enough for me to want some shots on him here. It is concerning for Kanter’s prospects to see Portland willingly play so much small ball with Covington at the five, but Kanter still averages 1.15 FanDuel points per minute. I would be remiss not to have a little in the event he sees those minutes extended back into the 30s against Richaun Holmes and the Kings.
Chris Boucher ($6,600 DraftKings/$6,600 FanDuel) is center-only on DraftKings and power forward-only on FanDuel. You know what you’re getting into with Boucher; if he sees the minutes, he’s a smash. If he doesn’t, that lineup is dead. Against the Celtics, with some of these smaller hybrid centers such as Daniel Theis, Tristan Thompson and Robert Williams, I am hoping Boucher can stay on the floor. His offensive firepower will be needed to keep this game close, so he makes a viable pairing with your preferred Celtic runback in hope of a close game.
Nerlens Noel ($5,200 DraftKings/$5,500 FanDuel) got the switch from power forward to center on FanDuel, which should make him the highest-owned player at the position considering his role and price. His minutes, just like Randle’s, are outrageous under Thibodeau right now. Even in a blowout loss to the Spurs, Noel received 37 minutes of run. Who cares that he hasn’t eclipsed 10% usage in the Knicks’ last four? He is averaging 0.95 DraftKings points per minute, Mitchell Robinson and Taj Gibson continue to be out, and Thibodeau has expressed zero interest in letting someone other than Noel or Randle man the five.
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