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.
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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 me from 5 to 6 every weekday and Live Before Lock in the hour leading up until lock each day on the Awesemo YouTube channel.
Note: We changed the format of the article to try and make it a little bit easier to digest. As always, if you have any questions after reading the article, feel free to DM me in Slack.
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Damian Lillard ($10,400 DraftKings/$10,100 FanDuel) takes on a Charlotte team that has struggled defensively recently. The Hornets have allowed the seventh-most points per 100 possessions over the last month and they have played at the fourth-fastest pace over that time. Lillard will still be playing without C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, which means increased offensive responsibilities for the star point guard. He has averaged 1.49 DraftKings points per minute and 35.7 minutes per game in 18 games without McCollum or Nurkic this season. He has a 35.3 percent usage rate and 44.3 percent assist rate in those games.
Luka Doncic ($10,700 DraftKings/$10,600 FanDuel) takes on the Orlando Magic tonight. Orlando is in the middle of the pack in pace and defensive rating over the last month. Doncic has averaged 1.67 DraftKings points per minute with a 35.3 percent usage rate, 12.3 percent rebounding rate and 46.7 percent assist rate in 18 games played alongside Kristaps Porzingis this season.
Kyrie Irving ($9,100 DraftKings/$9,000 FanDuel) sat out of Brooklyn’s last game but he is not on the injury report for tonight’s game against the Spurs. Irving has not surprisingly taken on a secondary role alongside James Harden, but he has still averaged 1.39 DraftKings points per minute with a 33.4 percent usage rate and 31.6 percent assist rate in nine games alongside Harden with Kevin Durant inactive. Irving’s usage rate has dipped a bit as the offense has started to run more through Harden recently, but we can still expect a 30 to 31 percent usage rate from Irving tonight.
LaMelo Ball ($8,700 DraftKings/$7,900 FanDuel) will most likely be playing without Devonte’ Graham and Gordon Hayward again tonight. Ball has averaged 1.26 DraftKings points per minute with a 27.1 percent usage rate and 34.8 percent assist rate in 223 minutes without either of them on the floor this season. Ball played 38.5 minutes without them active last night and should be in line for similar playing time tonight against Portland.
Mike Conley ($6,500 DraftKings/$6,200 FanDuel) sat out of Utah’s last game for rest but he is expected back tonight against the Pelicans. This game has a massive 235.5 point total and Conley is still reasonably priced. He has averaged between 29 and 30 minutes per game this season, but he played 33 minutes against the Heat in his last game so there is the potential for more minutes. He has been very productive this season with a 23.2 percent usage rate, 28.6 percent assist rate and 1.12 DraftKings points per minute.
Michael Carter-Williams ($5,400 DraftKings/$4,400 FanDuel) is priced up on DraftKings but still offers value on FanDuel. Carter-Williams has started six games with both of Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic active this season. In those games, he has averaged 0.77 FanDuel points per minute and 28.2 minutes per game.
Patty Mills ($4,700 DraftKings/$3,900 FanDuel) is another point guard option who is much cheaper on FanDuel than on DraftKings. Rudy Gay, Devin Vassell, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson and Quinndary Weatherspoon are out again tonight for the Spurs so there should be additional minutes available for several players. Mills played 29.8 minutes against the Pelicans on Saturday and is likely to be in the closing lineup for the Spurs again tonight. He has averaged 0.80 FanDuel points per minute this season.
James Harden ($11,000 PG DraftKings/$10,700 FanDuel) has averaged 1.55 DraftKings points per minute with a 28.6 percent usage rate and 39.4 percent assist rate in 36.8 minutes per game in nine games alongside Irving without Durant active this season. In recent games, Harden’s usage rate has typically been 32 to 33 percent as the offense has begun to run through him more than it did when he first joined the team.
Zach LaVine ($9,500 DraftKings/$9,300 FanDuel) faces the Nuggets in a game with a 225.5 point total. LaVine has been excellent this season and he is particularly appealing on DraftKings where the shooting guard position looks like it will be a difficult position to fill tonight. LaVine has averaged 1.27 DraftKings points per minute and 36.7 minutes per game with a 32.4 percent usage rate and 21.1 percent assist rate in 14 games played alongside Wendell Carter without Lauri Markkanen active this season.
Donovan Mitchell ($8,600 DraftKings/$8,300 FanDuel) is a little bit more expensive than I would like with Conley active. Still, the matchup against the Pelicans is excellent and the shooting guard position is relatively weak tonight so I don’t mind overpaying by a little bit to get access to Mitchell’s ceiling, especially in tournaments. Mitchell has averaged 1.18 DraftKings points per minute and 33.2 minutes per game in 25 games played alongside Conley this season and he is likely to produce at a higher-than-normal rate tonight against the Pelicans.
Collin Sexton ($7,500 DraftKings/ $7,100 FanDuel) is more appealing on FanDuel than DraftKings, but he has plenty of upside on both sites. Sexton has played eight games without Andre Drummond and with Darius Garland active this season. In those games, he has averaged 0.90 DraftKings points per minute with a 27.9 percent usage rate and 15.2 percent assist rate in 39.3 minutes per game.
Terry Rozier ($8,000 DraftKings/ $6,800 FanDuel) is another option who looks much better on FanDuel than DraftKings. Rozier only played about 30 minutes last night despite Hayward and Graham being sidelined, but we can normally expect him to play at least 34 or 35 minutes. He has averaged 1.01 DraftKings points and 0.95 FanDuel points per minute in 172 minutes played without either of Graham or Hayward on the floor this season.
Jalen Brunson ($5,200 DraftKings/ $4900 FanDuel) is far from an exciting option tonight, but he looks like a reasonable NBA DFS pick on DraftKings in terms of value since the position as a whole looks unappealing right now. Brunson played 26.6 minutes off the bench against the Nets on Saturday and we can expect similar playing time tonight. Brunson has averaged 0.90 DraftKings points per minute and 26.2 minutes per game in 15 games played with both of Doncic and Porzingis active this season.
Eric Bledsoe ($5,300 DraftKings/ $5,300 FanDuel) has a brutal matchup against the Jazz, but he offers some upside at a cheap price at a position where it is difficult to find much. Bledsoe’s playing time has been inconsistent this season, but he has played at least 33 minutes in three straight games. He has averaged 0.85 DraftKings points per minute this season.
Sterling Brown ($4,200 DraftKings/ $3,900 PG FanDuel) will be a value option to keep an eye on tonight. Eric Gordon is listed as questionable tonight and, while he isn’t on the injury report, John Wall could sit on the second half of a back-to-back. If either of Gordon or Wall miss tonight’s game, Brown would be in line for increased playing time. He has averaged 0.83 DraftKings points per minute this season and has a favorable matchup against the Cavaliers.
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Ben Simmons ($8,800 DraftKings/$9,000 PG FanDuel) could end up projecting as one of the better options on tonight’s slate depending on injury news. Tobias Harris missed the 76ers’ last game and is questionable tonight. Joel Embiid is questionable as well. With Harris out last game, most of Simmons’ minutes were playing alongside Embiid — though he did play some minutes without Embiid on the floor. Simmons has played 130 minutes alongside Embiid without Harris on the floor this season and has averaged 1.21 DraftKings points per minute compared to 1.18 DraftKings points per minute in 558 minutes alongside both of Embiid and Simmons. The real bump for Simmons would be if Embiid misses this game. Simmons has averaged 1.27 DraftKings points per minute with a 24.3 percent usage rate, 13 percent rebounding rate and 40.6 percent assist rate in 292 minutes without Embiid on the floor this season compared to 1.18 DraftKings points per minute with a 20 percent usage rate, 13.3 percent rebounding rate and 31.4 percent assist rate in 688 minutes alongside Embiid.
Michael Porter Jr. ($7,000 DraftKings/ $6,500 FanDuel) has gotten expensive enough that he is a risky option given Mike Malone’s penchant for yanking him out of games. Still, this is a weak small forward position tonight and Porter offers a high ceiling. He also has the potential to play 36-plus minutes if he manages to stay out of Malone’s doghouse with JaMychal Green, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap still sidelined.
Will Barton ($5,400 DraftKings/$4,900 FanDuel) is similar to Porter in that his playing time is relatively inconsistent but he has the ability to play 34-plus minutes if he plays well since the Nuggets are short-handed. The Bulls haven’t been the same great matchup recently that they were earlier in the season as they rank eighth in defensive rating and 16th in pace, but Barton is cheap enough that he looks like a decent value regardless.
Miles Bridges ($4,800 DraftKings/ $5,000 PF FanDuel) played 32.6 minutes off the bench last night and he should see increased playing time again tonight with Hayward doubtful to play. Bridges has been relatively productive this season with 0.85 DraftKings points per minute and the additional minutes that he is likely to get tonight make him project as a strong point-per-dollar value NBA DFS pick.
Cody Martin ($3,500 DraftKings/$3,600 SG FanDuel) moved back to the bench last night but still played 27.2 minutes. He closed the first half and played about 7 1/2 minutes in the fourth quarter. Martin has averaged 0.76 DraftKings points per minute this season and isn’t a particularly exciting option. He does offer some value at a weak position, however, which is useful in allowing us to pay up for top-end options at stronger positions. One big risk for Martin aside from his inability to produce fantasy points at a high rate is that there are a variety of lineups that Hornets can use because they have so many players that can play multiple positions. This means that if Martin is playing poorly, or someone else is playing unusually well, he can play fewer minutes than we expect.
Dwayne Bacon ($3,600 DraftKings/$3,700 FanDuel) is basically the same play as Martin. He should draw the start for Orlando tonight with James Ennis out. Bacon played 29.2 minutes in his start against Utah on Saturday, though about a minute of that came in garbage time. He will most likely play 26 to 28 minutes tonight against Dallas if the game is competitive. Dallas ranks 26th in defensive rating over the last month so Bacon could produce at a higher-than-average rate, but he has only averaged 0.57 DraftKings points per minute in 569 minutes alongside Nikola Vucevic this season so we should definitely keep our expectations in check.
Domantas Sabonis ($10,100 DraftKings/ $9,600 FanDuel) has reached a price point where he is difficult to prioritize over other similarly priced players. That doesn’t mean he is a bad play if you’re able to find a way to fit him into your lineup, however, as he plays huge minutes and produces at a high rate. He also plays a position where it is more difficult to find high upside options. Sabonis has averaged 1.30 DraftKings points per minute and 36.1 minutes per game in 23 games played without Victor Oladipo this season. Malcolm Brogdon is also questionable for tonight’s game and, if he is out, Sabonis is likely to see an uptick in usage rate and assist rate. The matchup sets up better for Sabonis is Embiid (questionable) is out as well.
Kristaps Porzingis ($8,200 DraftKings/$7,800 FanDuel) may be a little bit overpriced for his median projection, but he offers a high ceiling for his price point at a relatively weak position. Porzingis’s ability to block shots adds volatility to his DFS game, which increases his appeal in tournaments. He has played 18 games alongside Doncic this season and has averaged 1.26 DraftKings points per minute in 29.7 minutes per game. If tonight’s game is competitive, we should expect 31 to 33 minutes from Porzingis.
Zion Williamson ($9,000 DraftKings/$8,900 FanDuel) is similar to Porzingis in that I don’t love his salary but he certainly is one of the highest-upside power forward options available. Tonight’s matchup against Utah is a difficult one, but this game also has the highest total on the slate. The Jazz are 7-point favorites so that total doesn’t mean quite as much for the Pelicans, but the game has the potential to be a shootout if the Pelicans manage to keep it close. Williamson leads the Pelicans with 1.26 DraftKings points per minute this season and he has taken a step forward with 1.36 DraftKings points per minute over the last month. Over that stretch, he has a 30 percent usage rate, 11.2 percent rebounding rate and 21.6 percent assist rate compared to a 29.3 percent usage rate, 11.9 percent rebounding rate and 16.8 percent assist rate for the season.
P.J. Washington ($6,200 DraftKings/$6,200 FanDuel) had a monster game against the Kings last night. While we shouldn’t expect anything close to that type of production tonight, he is still a strong option against the Blazers. Washington has benefited greatly when Cody Zeller has been out of the lineup this season and that is likely to be the case again. Washington has averaged 1.17 DraftKings points per minute in 15 games played without Zeller this season compared to 0.82 DraftKings points per minute in 14 games with Zeller active.
Trey Lyles ($4,400 DraftKings/$4,000 FanDuel) played 35.8 minutes against the Pelicans on Saturday. He picked up a few additional minutes from Jakob Poeltl’s first half foul trouble, but still looks like he would have played about 32 minutes. His minutes are risky because I assume that LaMarcus Aldridge will start playing more minutes sooner than later and they will most likely come at the expense of Lyles. Still, he is worth considering as a cheap value option since he clearly has 30-plus minutes in his range of outcomes. Lyles has averaged 0.69 DraftKings points per minute this season so, if you roster him, it’s important to understand that there are a variety of ways for him to fail and that his main purpose is to allow you to get studs elsewhere.
Nikola Jokic ($10,800 DraftKings/$11,000 FanDuel) leads off an absolutely stacked center position tonight. Jokic has been one of the best DFS options this season as he averages about 36 minutes per game and 1.59 DraftKings points per minute. Tonight is no different as he projects as one of the best options on the board.
Joel Embiid ($10,600 DraftKings/$10,800 FanDuel) is questionable tonight but, if he plays, he projects as one of the top scorers on the slate. Embiid is likely to play 34-plus minutes if the game is competitive and he has averaged 1.62 DraftKings points per minute this season. His salary relative to Jokic will make him difficult to roster in cash games, but it means that he will probably be relatively low owned in tournaments.
Nikola Vucevic ($10,200 DraftKings/$9,800 FanDuel) gets a favorable matchup against the Dallas Mavericks. He is closely priced to the other stud centers but offers a little bit of a discount — especially on FanDuel. Vucevic has played nine games with Aaron Gordon sidelined and Evan Fournier active this season. He has averaged 1.57 DraftKings points per minute and 35.7 minutes per game in those games.
Jarrett Allen ($8,500 DraftKings/$7,900 FanDuel) has become more expensive, but he still offers immense upside as he has taken on the bulk of the center minutes for the Cavaliers and he will face a weak Houston frontcourt tonight in a pace-up spot. In eight games played without Andre Drummond since joining the Cavs, Allen has averaged 1.34 DraftKings points per minute and 34.3 minutes per game.
Rudy Gobert ($7,400 DraftKings/$7,700 FanDuel) has been an excellent per-minute producer this season but he has only averaged about 30 minutes per game. Part of the reason for that is that Utah is better than almost every team they play so they are in a lot of blowouts. If this game is competitive, it’s likely that Gobert plays a few additional minutes — especially because Utah needs his rim protection to deal with Williamson. Gobert has averaged 1.25 DraftKings points per minute and 1.30 FanDuel points per minute this season.
Enes Kanter ($7,200 DraftKings/$6,300 FanDuel) has a size advantage against the Hornets’ frontcourt tonight with Zeller doubtful. Kanter has averaged 30.7 minutes per game in 20 games played without Nurkic this season and he has averaged 1.13 DraftKings points per minute in those games. There is some risk that this game goes small with a Carmelo Anthony or Robert Covington versus Washington matchup at center, but I think it’s more likely that Kanter plays 30-plus minutes and rebounds at a high rate tonight. His FanDuel salary makes him an especially appealing NBA DFS pick tonight.
Justin Patton ($3,200 DraftKings/$3,500 FanDuel) started for Houston last night and played 26.1 minutes. About 8 of those minutes were in garbage time, but he did also play about 13 minutes in the first half. As of right now, there isn’t much cheap value on this slate and there are a lot of studs to pay up for. That means that Patton will be useful at $3,200 on DraftKings since we can also roster another center alongside him. The opportunity cost on FanDuel makes it extremely difficult to prioritize him despite his strong point-per-dollar projection.
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