With the two big football games taking up a lot of public attention, not to mention the addictive allure of the explosive Top Shots market, we could have a slight downturn in the sharpness of the basketball slate in store. On a night with standard-size prize pools, despite the major competition from the other sport, there could be advantage in diving in and grinding out some DraftKings NBA and FanDuel NBA lineups. We are taking a look through the boom/bust tool in search of some of the best plays, with a specific eye toward where the public might be asleep at the switch on a busy Sunday. We are not looking to bullseye a 0.1%-owned play with these picks, we are looking for small advantages that occur at all ranges of value, salary and projection, which can add up to unique lineup combinations and small two-player variants from the optimal construction path. 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.
Damian Lillard – Portland Trailblazers
DraftKings – $10,000 – PG / FanDuel – $9,700 – PG
This one is no secret whatsoever. With C.J. McCollum hitting the shelf for the foreseeable future following a foot fracture, Lillard has dynamite upside, and the price has not quite caught up. FanDuel specifically still has Lillard under $10,000, though he looks equally solid for that salary in DraftKings NBA contests.
Lillard has averaged 1.23 fantasy points per minute this season, playing with McCollum in the rotation on staggered minutes. Lillard will pick up a big uptick in usage as the last major weapon standing for the banged up Blazers. On FanDuel he is appearing in 50.2% of the optimal lineups. Despite his salary, he still has a whopping 46.9% boom score probability, suggesting the major upside of the play. Lillard will be very popular tonight, but he still lands with a positive leverage score at 4.3, meaning there is probably upside in owning him well beyond the field’s investment.
On DraftKings Lillard increases in salary, which is the only thing that suppresses his other marks slightly. He lands in a slate-leading 33.1% of optimal lineups in simulations while pulling down a strong 35.7% boom score. Lillard is slightly less popular on overall volume, but his leverage score is closer to even given the lower optimal-lineup rate from site to site. Still, the public is slightly underweight on the play on the site tonight, making him a strong option to push above the field here as well.
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Aaron Gordon – Orlando Magic DraftKings – $7,400 PG/SF / FanDuel – $7,800 PF
Update: Aaron Gordon ruled out.
The ability to roster Gordon as a point guard on DraftKings is an absurd luxury that the big man has earned by taking on the backup ball-handling duties with the team lacking depth at the position. The Magic power forward is still underpriced on the site and looks like a terrific option for both upside and to gain leverage on the field. Gordon is slated for 33 minutes in our projections, and he has clear upside to 36 minutes in the right situation. For 1.11 fantasy points per minute at a good price, that’s all we really need to see, considering the known role. He is currently questionable for tonight, so monitor news and adjust accordingly. Assuming he goes, Gordon looks great, pulling in a 28.9% optimal-lineup rate alongside a 23.5% boom score probability on DraftKings while turning up a nice 6.3 leverage score. The public is not getting to Gordon enough for the evolution of the nature of his minutes. This is a good spot to get overweight. On the blue site, the price is slightly higher and we have to roster Gordon as a power forward. Still, he looks like one of the better options on the slate as a whole, and the best option at the position. Gordon is coming up in the optimal lineup in 29.8% of FanDuel NBA simulations and has a 25% boom score probability. Gordon is under-owned on this site as well, coming in with a 5.3 leverage score. Barring changes or his total absence from the game, I will be over the field on Gordon tonight.
Marcus Smart – Boston Celtics
DraftKings – $6,100 – PG/SG / FanDuel – $6,400 – SG
Dipping into the mid-range and going down the board slightly in search of lower total public ownership, Smart turns up immediately as an interesting name. The Celtics guard should see his usual complement of minutes and usage, with upside for some additional run in the wake of the injury to backup point guard Payton Pritchard. The Celtics have several options to whom they can turn for those minutes, but none are remotely as good a player as Smart. He should be in an all-he-can-eat situation.
On FanDuel Smart ranks 21st overall by optimal-lineup rate at 16.1%, but when we sort for shooting guards, he leaps to fourth. There is ceiling appeal to the play and some floor safety given his role, the expected run and the fact that he is a frequent producer in ways that do not require him to score real-life points. With a 19.6% boom score probability and essentially even leverage, I think we can exceed the field on the play without taking on too much opportunity cost or deviating too far afield from the optimal constructions.
Smart is even more interesting in DraftKings NBA contests, where he costs less and can be rostered as a point guard. His overall public ownership is below 15%, and he is appearing in 19.1% of the optimal lineups, creating a positive leverage situation and an asset on which we should push up well over the field.
Gordon Hayward – Charlotte Hornets
DraftKings – $7,500 – SF / FanDuel – $7,800 – SF
Continuing our theme of looking for mid-range plays with lower public ownership but similar upside to some of the more popular NBA DFS picks on the slate, I’m intrigued by Hayward. He signed what many thought was a whopper of a contract with the Hornets in the offseason, following his comeback from a devastating injury and year-long rehab. To date he has more than delivered on the Hornets’ investment and is currently producing at 1.09 fantasy points per minute, a return to near his peak pre-injury form.
The small forward ranks seventh among forward-eligible players on DraftKings, appearing in 13.1% of optimal lineups. That compares favorably to the fourth-ranked player at 16.8%, with higher raw scoring upside and boom score probability. Hayward slots in at 13.2% on the latter of those marks, giving him solid upside for his 11.9% public ownership projection.
In FanDuel NBA contests Hayward is similarly owned, coming in at just 13.7% public exposure — remember this is a five-game slate — which is underweight to his value. Hayward lands in 16.5% of optimal lineups in simulations and has a 15.4% boom score probability. All of the top options at the small forward spot on FanDuel look like they have slightly positive leverage scores, though Hayward’s 2.8 leads the top seven when sorting by optimal-lineup rate. With the lowest overall public ownership projection in that group — by a not insignificant 4% — Hayward makes for a high-end pivot from options both above and below on the salary spectrum.
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