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.
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.
NBA DFS Deep Dive: DraftKings + FanDuel Picks | Jan. 26
Los Angeles Clippers
Leonard and George haven’t both sat out in a game yet this season, so we will need to do some educated guessing here. Luke Kennard started in Leonard’s place in both games that he missed earlier this season and he also started in place of George when he missed a game, though Marcus Morris was out for all of those games as well. Morris hasn’t been active in a game yet that both of Leonard and George didn’t play in. My guess is that Kennard and Morris replace George and Leonard in the starting lineup tonight. I also think that Reggie Jackson will start in place of Beverley. It is possible that Lou Williams starts instead of one of these three, but my guess is that they will continue to use him off the bench.
Kennard has averaged 0.88 DraftKings points per minute with a 22.0 percent usage rate in 101 minutes without Leonard or George on the floor, including the preseason. Morris has averaged 0.93 DraftKings points per minute with a 22.5 percent usage rate in 39 minutes including the preseason. Jackson has averaged 0.87 DraftKings points per minute with a 24.1 percent usage rate and 24.8 percent assist rate in 235 minutes including the preseason. Williams has played 818 regular season minutes without either of them on the floor since the start of last season and has averaged 1.34 DraftKings points per minute with a 34.7 percent usage rate and 38 percent assist rate. Of those 818 minutes, only 30 have come this season. In those 30 minutes, he has a 23.9 percent usage rate and has averaged 0.88 DraftKings points per minute.
DraftKings and FanDuel both did a decent job of increasing prices on the relevant players so we will actually have to make some decisions as far as who to prioritize in our lineups. I think that Morris’s salary looks the most favorable on both sites and it will be worth looking at Jackson, Williams and Kennard in tournaments as well.
Nicolas Batum has only played four minutes without either of Leonard or George on the floor this season, but he has averaged 0.82 DraftKings points per minute overall and is likely to see an increase in per-minute production with so much more usage available. He played about 36 minutes last game and I expect that we see him play mid-30s in minutes again tonight against Atlanta.
Serge Ibaka should see an increase in usage as well as the Clippers will need him to score more than he normally does. He has averaged 1.01 DraftKings points per minute overall this season and I expect that production to increase without Leonard or George. It is also less likely that the Clippers close with a small lineup tonight since they are missing two of their normal wings and their starting point guard. This is especially true if Clint Capela is active for the Hawks. Ibaka played 227 minutes without Kyle Lowry or Pascal Siakam on the floor with Toronto last season and averaged 1.14 DraftKings points per minute with a 25.4 percent usage rate.
If Ibaka plays fewer minutes than expected, then Ivica Zubac is probably playing more than we expected. He averaged 1.24 DraftKings points per minute in 184 minutes without George or Leonard on the floor last season.
Finally, Terance Mann is the minimum salary on FanDuel. He has averaged 0.77 FanDuel points per minute without George or Leonard since last season and is likely to play at least 22 to 24 minutes tonight.
The breakdown here is pretty messy because we have so many new players on the Clippers with no sample size of production without Leonard or George available, but there are probably going to be at least one or two Clippers who outperform their salaries even at the elevated prices tonight.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Serge Ibaka ($6,600), Marcus Morris ($4,700), Reggie Jackson ($6,800)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Reggie Jackson ($5,000), Serge Ibaka ($5,800), Marcus Morris ($5,000)
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It’s a good thing this is the first game of the night, because it’s an absolute mess. Young and Capela missed Atlanta’s last game and they were replaced by Rajon Rondo and Onyeka Okongwu in the starting lineup. Gallinari started the second half in place of Okongwu. I expect that we see a similar rotation tonight if Young and Capela are out. Rondo played 29.9 minutes and would project as a strong value, while Gallinari were limited to 18.7 and 15.8 minutes and would be difficult to roster unless we get word that their playing time restrictions will be increased.
Young and Capela are both priced up because of the short slate, but they would be high-upside targets if they are available on not on minutes restrictions. Young has been relatively disappointing this season, but he has still averaged 1.34 DraftKings points per minute and the Clippers should be much worse defensively tonight without Leonard, George or Beverley on the floor. Capela has been a monster so far this season, averaging 1.34 DraftKings points per minute with a 19.9 percent usage rate and 24.3 percent rebounding rate. While he only averaged 1.14 DraftKings points per minute with a 16.6 percent usage rate and 21.4 percent rebounding rate with Houston last season, it is interesting to note that his rates increased when he wasn’t playing with Russell Westbrook. Specifically, his rebounding rate without Westbrook on the floor was 24.0 percent which is in line with this season’s rebounding rate and he averaged 1.25 DraftKings points per minute.
Kevin Huerter started and played 29.2 minutes against the Bucks last game, but he has potential to play 34-plus minutes tonight, especially if all three questionable players are sidelined. De’Andre Hunter logged 41.6 minutes last game and should be in line for big minutes again tonight, especially if any of the questionable players are out. He has averaged 0.94 DraftKings points per minute this season.
Finally, John Collins will be a stronger option than normal if Capela is out. He is unlikely to get many center minutes if Capela is active now that Okongwu is back as well but, if Capela sits, Collins will probably get most of his minutes at center. Collins has averaged 1.26 DraftKings points per minute with a 23.7 percent usage rate and 17.5 percent rebounding rate in 857 minutes at center since the start of last season.
To summarize, if all of the questionable players are active, everyone’s value takes a hit but Young and Capela would be high upside targets on a three-game slate as long as they aren’t limited.
If Young sits, it opens up usage for everyone and makes Rondo a top value assuming he starts again. If Capela sits, it makes Collins a top mid-range option as he should see a ton of valuable center minutes. It also opens up more minutes for Hunter. If Reddish sits, it opens up minutes for Hunter and Huerter in particular.
I am going with the assumption that Okongwu won’t play more than about 16 minutes regardless of who is active, and Gallinari won’t play more than about 20 minutes. If we get word that either of those assumptions are incorrect, then they may end up looking like good plays.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: See summary above
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: See summary above
The Wizards are short-handed again tonight. They will be without Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown, Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Ish Smith. Raul Neto is questionable after missing their last game.
Bradley Beal is obviously the starting point here. He has been excellent this season and it seems like it gets overshadowed by the Westbrook addition, the Wizards’ struggles as a team and now the COVID situation. Beal has averaged 1.47 DraftKings points per minute with a 37.1 percent usage rate and 24.4 percent assist rate overall this season. You may say those numbers are inflated because he has played a few games without Westbrook, but he has averaged 1.43 DraftKings points per minute with a 38 percent usage rate and 20.4 percent assist rate in the eight games that he has played with Westbrook active. Beal has also averaged 36.2 minutes per game in those eight games. He looks like a top play on the slate in any format.
Westbrook gets to face his former team, though the players are much different than when he was there. He was limited to 25.3 minutes on Sunday in his first game back from injury and we’ll have to wait and see if he is on a minutes restriction again tonight. Assuming that he is, it will be difficult to spend up for him despite his excellent per-minute production this season.
Jerome Robinson started Washington’s last game and played 35.3 minutes while Garrison Mathews played 34.6 minutes off the bench. Both players will probably need to play big minutes again tonight as they are the secondary scoring options on this version of the Wizards. Robinson has averaged 0.77 DraftKings points per minute since the start of last season while Mathews has averaged 0.79 DraftKings points per minute.
Robin Lopez and Alex Len split all of the center minutes prior to garbage time, with Lopez playing 24.4 minutes and Len playing 20.7 minutes. There is no guarantee that Jordan Bell doesn’t join the rotation and still some minutes tonight, but it is encouraging that Lopez and Len both played reasonable minutes last game. Lopez has averaged 0.86 DraftKings points per minute with Washington this season and Len has averaged 0.99 DraftKings points per minute for his career.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Bradley Beal ($9,900), Alex Len ($3,300), Garrison Mathews ($4,200), Jerome Robinson ($4,000)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Bradley Beal ($10,300), Garrison Mathews ($4,300), Jerome Robinson ($3,600)
DeMarcus Cousins appears to be in line for another start after playing 32.8 and 29.8 minutes on Friday and Saturday. He was in line for more minutes in the game Saturday as well, but it was a blowout in the fourth quarter. These were the most minutes that we have seen from Cousins this season and they came on both ends of a back-to-back, so I am confident in his minutes for as long as Wood is out going forward. We can say whatever we want about whether or not Cousins is a good basketball player right now, but there is no question that he is a good fantasy producer. He has averaged 1.39 DraftKings points per minute overall this season and 1.56 DraftKings points per minute in his three starts this season. Now he gets one of the most favorable matchups in DFS as he takes on the Washington Wizards.
John Wall was limited to 20.7 minutes in his first game back from an injury on Saturday, which makes me hesitant to project him for more than about 28 minutes tonight. He could certainly play more, but the Rockets were clearly being cautious with him in his first game back. This will be his first game playing alongside Victor Oladipo, but he has averaged 1.05 DraftKings points per minute overall this season. The matchup against his former team is great and he has a ton of upside if he is allowed to play more minutes than I am anticipating, but he is also a risky option because of those playing time concerns.
Oladipo has a 32.9 percent usage rate and 30 percent assist rate in his first 98 minutes with the Rockets. This will be his first game playing with Wall and I expect his usage and assist rate to decrease as a result. Still, he averaged 1.14 DraftKings points per minute with the Pacers this season and I don’t think playing alongside Wall and Cousins is drastically different than playing alongside Brogdon and Sabonis as far as available usage and facilitating opportunities. Oladipo’s salary carries some risk, but it is a great matchup and a short slate.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: DeMarcus Cousins ($6,000), John Wall ($6,900), Victor Oladipo ($7,900)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: DeMarcus Cousins ($7,200), John Wall ($7,700)
New York Knicks
Alec Burks started in place of Bullock on Sunday and I expect him to start again tonight. He played 27 minutes while Rivers played 28.5 minutes off the bench. Burks has some upside as he has averaged 1.05 DraftKings points per minute with a 23 percent usage rate this season, but it is a tough matchup against Utah. Burks has averaged 0.98 DraftKings points per minute with a 20.5 percent usage rate in 112 minutes alongside Julius Randle this season.
Randle only played 32.7 minutes against Portland on Sunday as Obi Toppin played 15 minutes off the bench. I don’t expect Randle to only average 33 minutes per game going forward, but I think it’s logical to think that he may lose a couple minutes off his 37 minute per game season average as Toppin returns to full strength. The potential for fewer minutes, an expensive price tag, and a tough matchup makes Randle look like a tournament play at best tonight.
RJ Barrett only played about 23 minutes last game as he lost playing time to a combination of Rivers and Kevin Knox. Like Randle, I expect that Barrett plays heavy minutes more often than not going forward but there is increased risk now that the Knicks are closer to full strength.
Immanuel Quickley had a big game as he split 24 minutes with Elfrid Payton against Portland. It reinforces the upside that Quickley has, but he is no longer priced as the back-up as he is nearly as expensive as Payton. It’s a tough matchup and I don’t trust the playing time for either point guard, so they are limited to large field GPP options for me.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Alec Burks ($5,300 looks like a much better play if all of Atlanta is active)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Alec Burks ($5,300 with the same caveat as above)
Utah’s rotation is at full strength tonight as Derrick Favors is listed as probable.
The matchup against the Knicks is a tough one as they are last in pace and fourth in defensive rating this season. Utah themselves are 23rd in pace and third in defensive rating, so this has the makings of an unappealing DFS game all the way around.
Pricing on Utah is a little bit more favorable than it is on the Knicks, however, as we can still look to Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley as reasonable tournament options. Mitchell has averaged 1.19 DraftKings points per minute this season while leading the team with a 31.9 percent usage rate and also posting a 24.9 percent assist rate. Gobert leads the team with 1.23 DraftKings points per minute and the center position isn’t particularly strong tonight outside of Cousins. Conley has averaged 1.13 DraftKings points per minute but only 29.9 minute per game, so he is difficult to trust at a mid-range salary.
Top DraftKings NBA DFS Picks: Rudy Gobert ($7,200)
Top FanDuel NBA DFS Picks: Rudy Gobert ($8,300)
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