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NBA DFS Picks: DraftKings + FanDuel Optimal Lineup + Leverage Leaders | 1/12

Terry McBride

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EMac gives his favorite NBA DFS picks for Yahoo + DraftKings + FanDuel daily fantasy basketball lineups Donovan Mitchell | Monday 4/12/21

Well, tonight should be interesting. The NBA DFS slates are completely different from site to site, with FanDuel completely forgoing the Heat – 76ers game scheduled for 7 p.m., instead starting their five-game slate half an hour later. DraftKings NBA contests will include the early game, assuming it happens. The Heat are another team dealing with a COVID-19 exposure, landing numerous players in the league’s health-and-safety protocol and winnowing the active Heat roster to only eight or nine players. We saw the NBA take the most recent Heat game off the board in the middle of the afternoon, and we could see that happen again today. As always, this article comes out ahead of lock, and many things will change. It is imperative that you follow along with our NewsGod’s Live Blog for the latest news and lineup information for DraftKings NBA and FanDuel NBA, Yahoo and SuperDraft NBA DFS picks.

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NBA DFS Picks: Optimal Lineup + Leverage Leaders | Jan. 12

Note: For our purposes in today’s column, I am focusing on the five games that are on both slates.

Domantas Sabonis – Indiana Pacers

DraftKings – $9,300 – PF/C/ FanDuel – $9,200 – PF

I know, I know, you don’t like reading about the same player every time he’s on the slate just as much as I don’t enjoy writing about the same guy with such frequency. The problem is Sabonis has been increasingly valuable among NBA DFS picks night after night. We won’t spend much time here, but the power forward looks like the best play of the night on both sites by a wide margin. He carries a 53.6% optimal lineup appearance rate and a massive 14.2 leverage score for his $9,200 on FanDuel. In DraftKings NBA contests, he adds center eligibility and has a similarly massive 14.6 leverage score. His optimal lineup appearance rate leads the slate by far at 41.3%. In fact, on both sites Sabonis is more than 15% more likely to be in the optimal lineup than the next closest player at any position. I never like to use the word lock, but …


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Cedi Osman – Cleveland Cavaliers

DraftKings – $6,000 – PF/C / FanDuel – $5,100 – SF

Osman seems like one of those players that NBA DFS gamers are reluctant or even loath to roster. On value, he makes it into lineups, but people in the various DFS communities always seem to bemoan having him, and his disappointments seem to draw more attention than his successes or ceiling scores. Osman is coming off a game in which he started slow and drew the ire of chat rooms everywhere. By the end of the night, he reached a reasonable 28.6 on his $5,100 salary on FanDuel. It was an OK performance that neither tanked you nor won you a GPP. This will likely have a slight suppressive impact on his public ownership tonight in what appears to be a great spot.

Osman comes in at the same price on FanDuel and carries a 27.6% boom rate to go along with his 37.5% optimal-lineup rate. He is going under-owned so far on the slate and is carrying a very healthy 8.0 leverage score. Osman is averaging 0.82 FanDuel points per minute so far this season, with upside toward the point-per-minute range. If he’s playing in the 32-minute range, he could deliver significant value to your FanDuel NBA lineups.

On DraftKings Osman looks very solid as well. He adds power forward eligibility, and his increased price tag is pushing even more of the public away. With a 10.8% boom score, the odds of a ceiling game are thinner, but his 16.4% optimal lineup appearance rate ranks 14th overall on the site and among the leaders in his price tier at any position. Osman is drawing insignificant ownership and an 11.1 leverage score. It will be easy to leverage up on Osman on DraftKings tonight, and the play seems worthwhile as a mix-and-match in various roster constructions. Playing 15-20% Osman against his 5% public ownership has solid upside and low risk.

As a quick Cavaliers bonus, center Andre Drummond looks like a spectacular option among the available NBA DFS picks at the center position on both sites again tonight.

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Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz

DraftKings – $9,300 – PF/C / FanDuel – $7,800 – SF

Mitchell looks like a good pay-up option among NBA DFS picks on both sites. Carrying a strong raw point projection and a 31.3% optimal-lineup rate, the shooting guard should produce a quality score with ceiling upside on FanDuel. He has gathered 1.03 FanDuel points per minute this season, slightly down from last year and definitely down from his bubble days. We know there is upside, and with a 3.7 leverage score, there is strong upside in getting ahead of the field.

In DraftKings NBA contests, Mitchell adds eligibility at the point guard spot and maintains an optimal-lineup rate of 13.1 with a 4.1 leverage score. He carries only an 8% boom score, which suggests a limited ceiling given the distribution of options at the position. He’s still a strong option given the leverage, but there are other constructional directions with equal value.

(The Rest of the) Indiana Pacers

We touched on Sabonis at the top of the page, but several of his teammates are key figures on the slate tonight as well. With Victor Oladipo expected to sit out the second night of a back-to-back and T.J. Warren out with injury, there are interesting values available in this lineup.

Small forward Justin Holiday is pulling both a quality optimal lineup appearance rate at 31.3% on FanDuel and a positive leverage score of 1.7. Holiday should see significant minutes in the starting lineup tonight, which he will need given his current rate of 0.7 FanDuel points per minute. We’ve seen more production than that from Holiday in the past, however, and we should consider his 44.8% boom rate a significant indicator of his upside for just $4,500. On DraftKings Holiday is priced up to $5,000, pushing his boom score all the way down to 19.4%. His optimal-lineup rate of just 17.4% is less interesting but not insignificant. The very appealing part of this play on DraftKings is the 8.9 leverage score. Holiday is under-owned despite the decreased site-to-site value.

Aaron Holiday should also see an increased opportunity on tonight’s slate. Coming in as a $3,300 point guard or shooting guard on DraftKings, this Holiday looks terrific with a 14.4% optimal lineup appearance rate and a leverage score of 10.8. His raw point projection isn’t blowing the doors off anyone at just 19.6, and his 13.9% boom score is not the highest, but his is a significantly under-appreciated value play on the slate as of our current projections.

On FanDuel Aaron Holiday is a minimum-price point guard at $3,500, putting him firmly in play on that site as well. The numbers are similar; Holiday has a 17.3% boom score and appears in the optimal lineup in 15.9% of our FanDuel NBA simulations. The leverage score of 9.4 on a minimum-priced player with relevance is something we just don’t typically see, however. If Holiday sees the role we are currently expecting for him, there is no reason not to jump on the play. Let others sweat the recent performance of just 0.6 fantasy points per minute. There is upside to 0.85 or more at minimum price and a 30-minute projection.

Forward Doug McDermott is a fun value play when he gets some run. With a 26-minute projection at $3,700 on FanDuel and $3,900 on DraftKings, McDermott is in play for me on both sites. He looks better on DraftKings at the moment, partly due to his small forward eligibility and the general positional flexibility of the forward and flex spots. McDermott appears in 18.6% of optimal lineups in DraftKings NBA simulations. With a 6.7 leverage score and an 18.4% boom rate, there is under-appreciated upside in McDermott.

For FanDuel the play is drawing more attention, pushing the leverage score to a -3. This is still a playable point, however, and McDermott’s boom score of 23.7 and optimal-lineup rate of 17.6% have appeal. The optimal lineup rate ranks McDermott third at the power forward position on the blue site, though his boom score is fifth. The primary competition for value at the power forward spot appears to be Trey Lyles, who is drawing a -6.1 leverage score and very similar optimal lineup appearances. Both will be popular and both should be in lineups, but there is also significant opportunity cost at the position given the available stars.

Center Myles Turner is having a very strong start to the season and has produced for NBA DFS gamers with 1.2 fantasy points per minute. Turner is priced at a reasonable $7,400 on FanDuel, which renders him neither spectacular nor overly negative. He has a 12.3% boom score and a slightly negative leverage mark of -1.5 while appearing in just 3.2% of optimal lineups. He is in play, but there are better options at the center spot on FanDuel. On DraftKings his reduced $6,200 price puts him in play more, with the option to roster multiple centers adding to the appeal. Turner is carrying a -1.0 leverage score and an optimal-lineup rate of 8.7%, alongside a 12.5% boom score. I prefer the Turner play in DraftKings NBA DFS tournaments.

Starting point guard Malcolm Brogdon is the other featured player in this lineup tonight. Brogdon should see significant run. He has a 37-minute projection in Awesemo’s statistical projections, and with an average of 1.16 fantasy points per minute, we should be able to rely on steady production with upside.

Brogdon costs $8,600 on DraftKings, where he appears in 17.8% of optimal lineups in our simulations. His 20.6% boom score ranks 10th overall and fourth among point guards. With a strong raw point total and a 0.9 leverage score, we can edge up over the field on Brogdon with ease tonight.

In FanDuel NBA contests, Brogdon is drawing more attention, pulling him to a -2.7 leverage score. His boom rate is pushed up to 30.2%, however, and he appears in 27.3% of optimal lineups, both ranking second at the point guard position. As the second-most expensive option on the slate, we could see Brogdon’s ownership projection drop him closer to even in the leverage metric as we approach lock. Regardless, I expect process will push me above his 27.3% public ownership projection tonight.

With all the value in this lineup, alongside the Sabonis play, we will inevitably face the question of, how many Pacers is too many Pacers? On a slate of this size, my preference is typically to limit to three players from any individual team, and I would hope to bring a key opposing player back in most of those lineups, though I don’t create a rule to force it. At a certain point, rostering too many players chasing the same finite amount or production can cannibalize the overall upside of a lineup.


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Terry used to do other things, now he writes words on the internet. He hopes his more than 20 years’ experience in season-long and daily fantasy sports and his custom models for MLB, NBA, and NFL don't steer you too wrong when he writes columns and makes picks on Awesemo.com. A lifetime of experience keeping odd hours make Terry ideal to cover KBO baseball overnight until the world returns to normal. Most of those late night hours have been spent on the couch watching sports, T.V., and movies; just try to shut him up about any of the above. You can find his pop-culture ramblings and more on Sideaction.

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