Get your NBA DFS fix while you can — we might be in for a bit of a break. With multiple games canceled this week due to the league’s ongoing struggles with COVID-19 exposures, the league issued new mandates for team travel and player quarantine. Today’s slate lost the Hawks – Suns game already, so be sure to stay tuned for any additional changes. The good news is we still have a ripe seven-game slate of NBA DFS picks on what should be a fun night of daily fantasy basketball. As always, this article comes out ahead of lock, and many things will change.
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NBA DFS Picks: Optimal Lineup + Leverage Leaders | Jan. 13
These picks are made utilizing the boom/bust tool, specifically analyzing the optimal lineup appearance rate and leverage score, as well as the boom probability. Optimal lineup appearance 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.
Julius Randle – New York Knicks
DraftKings – $9,100 – PF/C/ FanDuel – $9,100 – PF
Randle has had a wild start to his second season with the Knicks. Getting all the minutes and usage he can handle in new coach Tom Thibodeau’s brutal rotation, Randle is the focal point of all things Knicks. He has nearly a 27% usage rate and a 39.2% assist rate, becoming a key distributor for teammates and boosting his ceiling over where it was in previous seasons. Of course, Randle needs those teammates to deliver on the other end of his passes, and the always-volatile forward has to get his own scoring and counting numbers, but there is something to like in his 1.19 fantasy points per minute. His price has skyrocketed since the start of the season but seems to have leveled after the last few games. Even at $9,100, Randle looks like a solid investment on both sites.
He adds center eligibility in DraftKings NBA contests, where he appears in 21.7% of optimal lineups in simulations. His nearly 50-fantasy-point median projection and 28.9% boom score rank among the slate leaders, and we can get Randle at a 3.8 leverage score with afternoon ownership projections. I can easily get ahead of the field at under 20% ownership.
On FanDuel, Randle looks even better. He carries a 33.9% boom score alongside a 35.2% optimal lineup appearance rate. We get Randle at a 6.7 leverage score on FanDuel, making him one of the primary plays at the power forward position. His optimal lineup appearance rate ranks nearly 14 percentage points higher than the next-highest player at the position, at similar ownership and a lower price. That player’s name is Giannis Antetokounmpo.
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Jarrett Allen – Brooklyn Nets
DraftKings – $6,700 – C / FanDuel – $7,200 – C
This one is interesting. The Nets have been playing a fairly tight rotation between Allen and veteran DeAndre Jordan through most of the early part of the season. NBA DFS gamers have been waiting for one shoe or the other to drop so that we get a boost in minutes for players who can produce when given enough time and opportunity. Allen is the naturally more appealing option, but Jordan typically comes cheaper. Last night Nets coach Steve Nash took us one step closer to our vision. Allen received 35 minutes, while Jordan remained nailed to the bench in a coach’s decision. While I don’t expect Jordan to sit the entire game tonight, we are hopefully seeing a full reallocation of center minutes. Awesemo has Allen projected for 32 minutes tonight. At his rate of 1.16 fantasy points per minute, that is extremely appealing for the price.
On FanDuel, Allen is carrying just about the expected amount of public ownership at 15.2%, making it easy to get above the field if we decide to. His 38.8% boom score and 39.7 raw FanDuel point projection rank first and second at the center position on the blue site tonight.
On DraftKings, Allen costs less and will therefore be owned slightly more. He makes for an excellent option, appearing in 24.3% of optimal lineups in simulated DraftKings NBA contests. His 32.4% boom score and 39.3 raw point projection rank among leaders at the position, and the ability to play Allen alongside other high-end center options at his affordable price adds to the appeal. With a 2.6 leverage score, the public is not getting to Allen enough on DraftKings tonight. I would look to push well above the field while moving him around in different lineup configurations.
Without a team that really jumped out to discuss, and not wanting to only write up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander yet again (he looks great), I figured we could take a look at the point guard spot on both slates. Point guard is a critical spot for NBA DFS. As the team’s primary ball handlers, these players control their own destinies to a degree, and they need to produce reliably when we roster them. There are some interesting decision points at various salary tiers at the position on both sites tonight.
Sacramento point guard De’Aaron Fox is one of the most popular players on the FanDuel NBA DFS slate tonight, pulling him to a whopping -10.3 leverage score. He appears in just 15.4% of optimal lineups in Awesemo’s simulations, fifth at the position but further from the top-ranked player on the list than he is from the 10th-ranked at the position. Fox is not overly expensive at $7,300, keeping his boom score in a good range at 22.2%, but the other metrics suggest we can look to some of the other quality options and just play Fox at or even below the field.
On DraftKings Fox draws lower ownership but still pushes negative with his -4.1 leverage score. He appears in just 10.5% of optimal lineups, 14th among available players at the guard spot, 11th among eligible point guards. Fox has a fine median projection of 36.9, but his 12.2% boom score suggests there is not much upside and, again, we can find better options.
The top point guard by both boom score and optimal-lineup rate on DraftKings is the aforementioned Gilgeous-Alexander. Following him by boom score is Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic. The pair is followed immediately by several of the most expensive high-end players in the game, namely LeBron James, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard. That these five players are ranked to this level by boom score, and with just one significant difference when sorted by optimal lineup appearance rate, it appears to be a big pay-up night at the position on DraftKings. We’ll get back to FanDuel after a deeper look at three less expensive options.
The big difference in optimal-lineup appearances in simulations of the DraftKings NBA DFS slate is Knicks rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley. The sharpshooting guard is projected for 20 minutes in Awesemo’s most recent statistical rankings, and he costs just $3,100 on DraftKings. This lands him in 22.7% of optimal lineups in simulations on the site against a 4.5 leverage score. Quickley has just a 17.8 point projection, however, and is only carrying an 11.4% boom probability, making this a bit of a risky play if we’re looking for raw points. We pick up a better point projection but land in fewer optimal lineups and hit ceiling scores less frequently in paying up to fellow Knicks point guard Austin Rivers, who could see more than 30 minutes again tonight.
One player at the position who is not getting the attention he may warrant on DraftKings is Lakers guard Dennis Schroder. His performance has been erratic this season, down to 0.87 from his 0.96 fantasy points per minute last season. Schroeder offers appeal with a guaranteed role in the starting lineup, and he lands in 10.7% of optimal lineups with a strong 4.8 leverage score. His 29.2 raw point projection stands above some of the other value options, though Schroder is more at the bottom of the middle tier than he is the top of the inexpensive group. His 7.2% boom rate agrees.
Some of the names are the same in FanDuel NBA DFS contests, but the situations are wildly different. To start, Rivers costs just $4,500 and is pulling down a position-leading 29.9% optimal-lineup rate, with slightly positive leverage at 1.4. Rivers is carrying a reasonable raw point projection and has a 24.2% boom score that ranks him second at the position. The play is completely different; I actually want to roster Rivers on FanDuel. I wish I were playing on DraftKings.
With positional requirements winnowing the list of eligible NBA DFS picks at the position, our second-ranked option by optimal lineup appearance rate is Lillard, followed by Doncic. Both stars are high-quality and you know you can plug-and-play them if you have the salary. At their level I don’t want to sweat the relatively tame -3.6 leverage on Lillard, and I won’t get too excited about 3.8 leverage on Doncic when he costs a full $11,300.
By sheer value, another Knicks point guard enters the discussion. At just $5,700, Elfrid Payton continues to appear near the top of these rankings, and he will until he stops getting minutes or FanDuel decides to change his price. Payton is never fun to roster and has produced just 0.89 FanDuel points per minute so far this season. He appears in 20.2% of optimal lineups and has a 20.7% boom score, but his -4.1 leverage score makes him an avoidable speedbump for me tonight. I’ll have some, but I would like to be well under the projected ownership.
Charlotte rookie LaMelo Ball has been nothing short of dazzling on many nights early in his career. With a 29-minute projection tonight, the priced-up guard is going to be a tricky play for many people making box score based NBA DFS picks. While he has a fine raw point projection and could certainly put up a ceiling score at his 20.2% boom rate on FanDuel (15.1% on DraftKings), Ball is coming up in just 14.5% of optimal lineups. This ranks him just sixth at the position by that metric, with two of those options at significantly higher salary and two well below. There are several other guards just behind him on the list at lower prices and better leverage as well.
One such guard, and the player we will close with, is Nets scorer Caris LeVert. With a positional change on the site and an $8,000 price tag, LeVert is suppressed in public ownership, boom score and optimal-lineup rate tonight. However, his raw projection of 34.2 fantasy points on FanDuel and 35 on DraftKings comes against just a 28-minute projection. This is with LeVert getting second unit minutes, which is a good thing for the player; he sees more usage as the focal point of the Nets offense in that role. However, if we can add a few additional minutes in a close game, the projection will jump given the player’s 1.27 FanDuel points per minute. With just 5.6% projected ownership on FanDuel and less than 1% on DraftKings (where he maintains small forward eligibility as well), LeVert could offer sneaky upside on both sites tonight for minimal investment.
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