A light night of NBA DFS action is upon us with a meager three-game slate. If you’re anything like me and didn’t get to your late swaps before the Lakers game started last night, you probably suffered from the chaos and welcome a bit of a news respite. For those Awesemo subscribers who were able to make their DraftKings NBA and FanDuel NBA late-swaps from the cancelled Pelicans – Spurs game in time to include LeBron James‘ key performance, congratulations, you probably turned a tidy profit. Tonight, with just three games on tap, we’ll delve a bit into the middle tier after looking at the top two plays. We’re looking for those NBA DFS picks that offer reliability of production along with upside while slipping slightly under the public radar. As always, this article comes out ahead of lock, and many things will change with our NBA DFS picks. Be sure to follow the @AwesemoNBA Twitter handle for all the latest breaking news (via our NewsGod).
NBA DFS Picks: Optimal Lineup + Leverage Leaders
These picks are made utilizing the boom/bust tool, specifically analyzing the optimal-lineup rate, leverage score and boom probability. Optimal-lineup rate represents the frequency at which a player appears in Awesemo’s simulated DraftKings NBA and FanDuel NBA slates. The leverage score is the difference between the optimal-lineup rate and projected ownership, while the boom probability indicates a player’s likelihood of hitting a ceiling score. It is important to remember that not all of these NBA DFS picks are highlights, and we will also be discussing bad chalk and shaky investments in this space, so be sure to read the analysis and not just the headlines.
DeMarcus Cousins – Houston Rockets
DraftKings – $6,000 – C / FanDuel – $7,200 – C
Would it be OK with you if we just rename this space the Cousins List until Christian Wood comes back? Despite the major price bump on FanDuel, Cousins looks like one of the best options on the three-game slate once again. He is less expensive and as close as we can get to a lock in DraftKings NBA contests tonight as well.
Cousins is a productivity monster when he is on the court, soaking up usage and producing in multiple categories. This season he is rolling along with 1.37 fantasy points per minute, and Awesemo has him projected for 28 minutes. Over the team’s last two games, both without Wood, Cousins has a team-leading 29.7% usage rate. We saw him play a terrible game in the first of those, yet he still managed to hit his ceiling score requirement for the money based on his production rebounding and blocking shots. The next time out, his most recent game, Cousins dominated, playing 28 minutes and putting up 28 points 17 rebounds and five assists for more than 50 fantasy points at a cheap price.
Tonight he will have to do more on the blue site. The increased salary has a heavier expectation on his numbers, but he still leads the entire slate with a tremendous 66.5% optimal-lineup rate in FanDuel NBA simulations. He actually maintains positive leverage with the higher price, coming in with an also-slate-leading 11.8 leverage score and a 42.7% boom score probability. Cousins looks like a nearly mandatory building block at a center position where the competing options pale by comparison.
On DraftKings Cousins looks even better. At a lower price and with the ability to roster multiple centers and eliminate any fears of opportunity cost, he’s basically a lock play. Cousins appears in 85.1% of optimal lineups in DraftKings NBA contest simulations. The center is cheap and will be popular, drawing nearly 90% ownership, but I have no issues with just hitting the lock button and working from there at this price. We can safely ignore the -3.0 leverage score at these levels; it’s either on board or not.
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Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards
DraftKings – $9,900 – SG / FanDuel – $10,300 – SG
One of the more underrated stars in the league, Beal has monster upside on his 35-minute Awesemo projection tonight. He produces 1.43 fantasy points per minute, and Beal’s usage has not been damaged by the presence of usage sponge Russell Westbrook.
Beal is the league’s leading scorer by a fairly wide margin, putting up 34.5 real-life points per game on 48.9% from the field, 36.5% shooting from 3 and a .599 true-shooting percentage. Even at a high price like this, there is upside for days in the player’s ability and rates, and he is forcing himself into lineups on both sites.
In DraftKings NBA contests, Beal comes in with a strong 46.2% optimal-lineup rate and a 3.1 leverage score, meaning the public is not getting to him enough. The 23.9% boom score probability and median projection exceeds 52 fantasy points. I would have no problem exceeding the field by 25% on Beal exposure.
In FanDuel NBA contests, where we are required to play two shooting guards, Beal actually increases his optimal-lineup rate despite a notably higher price. The shooting guard lands in 60.9% of optimal lineups in simulations while dragging along a 28.4% boom score probability. The field is not on him enough either despite Awesemo’s projection that he will be in more than half of all lineups. The leverage score is a strong 6.4, suggesting we should be looking for more Beal.
Alec Burks – New York Knicks
DraftKings – $5,300 – SG / DraftKings – $5,300 – SG
Burks is back to health and has returned to a prominent role in the Knicks rotation. With a dearth of reliable ball handlers and playmakers, Burks is frequently asked to manage ball-handling duties and run the offense. Two nights ago we saw this lead to an 18-point, four-rebound, one-assist effort that handily paid off his low salary. With a relatively inexpensive price tag once again, Burks is an intriguing option from the mid-range. He is not quite popular despite his 1.02 fantasy points per minute and 30-minute projection.
In FanDuel NBA contests, Burks offers an 18.3% optimal-lineup rate and a 16.2% boom score probability, along with a median projection that exceeds 25 fantasy points. He is the type of option I like to look for on a short slate, with a reliable floor for the money and upside to a ceiling score that is not drawing enough attention. Burks has a 2.8 leverage score, and it will be easy enough to get ahead of the field’s 15.5% exposure on the blue site.
On DraftKings Burks extends how good he looks. At the same price, we have the ability to move him around our roster, which adds significant value to the play. He appears in a full 24% of optimal lineups in DraftKings NBA contest simulations, carrying a 10.5% boom score probability and a 2.9 leverage score. Burks is an excellent mix-and-match option to extend above the field for on this site as well.
Luke Kennard – Los Angeles Clippers
DraftKings – $6,000 – SG/SF / FanDuel – $5,500 – SG
Kennard and a number of his Clippers teammates will be thrust into significant action over the next week or more. Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have both landed in the league’s COVID-19 protocols, meaning they will not be able to play in the team’s next few games. That obviously leaves a gargantuan minutes and usage vacuum atop the Clippers’ rotation. Several Clippers are on the board tonight, including Marcus Morris, Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum and Reggie Jackson, but Kennard is the one who intrigues me from an exposure perspective.
On FanDuel Kennard carries a 29.7% optimal-lineup rate, which compares favorably to several of those teammates who are all pulling public exposure projections nearly twice what Kennard will be rostered. With a low price at the position and a 24.2% boom score probability, there is upside to getting to the non-name-brand player who casual NBA DFS players will be loathe to click. The Clippers wing is pulling down a healthy 7.2 leverage score, making him a more sneaky approach to a popular team play this evening.
In DraftKings NBA contests, Kennard slots in as either a shooting guard or small forward, and he appears in a monster 34% of optimal lineups. This should make him one of the critical components for success, but he is trending toward going well under-owned with a 6.1 leverage score. He is not unpopular by any means, but the numbers suggest that utilizing the flexibility of position, price and production that Kennard offers is a clear path toward optimal lineup construction tonight, making him one of the leading underrated NBA DFS picks on the slate.
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