A five-game NBA DFS slate awaits us on Thursday night. After the mind-bending James Harden trade yesterday, there are a ton of pieces moving around the chess board again tonight. There are a number of question marks and a few very interesting value plays for such a small slate in both DraftKings NBA and FanDuel NBA contests. The slate includes a shorthanded rematch between the Heat and 76ers as well as a Rockets team that is playing without not only the departed Harden but also star guard John Wall. The bulk of the value as well as the ownership is currently coming from those three teams on both sites. With all that concentrated ownership of NBA DFS picks, this slate should be a fun ride. As always, this article comes out ahead of lock, and many things will change. Be sure to follow the @AwesemoNBA Twitter handle for all the latest breaking news (via our NewsGod).
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NBA DFS Picks: Optimal Lineup + Leverage Leaders
These picks are made utilizing the boom/bust tool, specifically analyzing the optimal-lineup rate and leverage score, as well as the 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.
The Heat are playing short-handed once again in their rematch with the 76ers. This began as a Kelly Olynyk feature, but there are several relevant players on the Heat tonight, so we’ll look at the full squad. In the version of this game that we saw just two days ago, Olynyk played 45 minutes in a 3-point loss that went to on overtime. Even if we ignore the extra frame, that’s still 40 minutes of run in a standard game. Olynyk should be in an all-you-can-eat situation again tonight.
In FanDuel NBA contests, Olynyk appears in 35.4% of optimal lineups but is carrying a -15.5 leverage score. The public is all over the inexpensive play at the power forward spot. Olynyk comes with a raw point projection in line with players $2,000 more expensive at the position, and he has the highest boom score probability at 52.7%. There are very good pay-up options at the position, and I wouldn’t have issues getting away from half the field by playing two of them, but Olynyk looks like very edible chalk tonight despite the negative leverage score.
On DraftKings, Olynyk adds center eligibility but goes up in price. This drives down both his boom score probability and his optimal-lineup rate, along with his ownership. He is less popular, creating a -8.1 leverage score. That looks better on the surface than the FanDuel number, but the overall play is not as strong. I am fine working in some shares of Olynyk on DraftKings, but I think we can come in comfortably below the field.
Other options on the Heat include Duncan Robinson, who is a small forward on FanDuel and a shooting guard on DraftKings. Robinson is pulling decent scoring metrics and essentially level public ownership with his 26.6% optimal-lineup rate on FanDuel and 18.0% rate in DraftKings NBA contest simulations. Robinson is fine on both sites.
Precious Achiuwa is drawing significant attention, pushing his FanDuel leverage score to a -8.8. But given his inexpensive price and 44.8% boom score probability, along with a 26.6% optimal-lineup rate, Achiuwa appears to be another strong value piece on the blue site.
In Achiuwa’s case, the value increases when we change sites. He picks up power forward and center eligibility at just $4,400 in DraftKings NBA contests. Awesemo has Achiuwa projected for 28 minutes, and if he comes close to that mark, he should deliver strong value for the money. Our ability to move him around the board in various lineup constructions on DraftKings adds to the appeal. Achiuwa pulls down a 24.3% optimal-lineup rate and a high-quality 32.2% boom score probability, seventh overall on the site.
My favorite play on the Heat on both sites is Tyler Herro. On FanDuel he is a $6,500 shooting guard and he costs $7,300 on DraftKings, where he is eligible at either guard spot. Herro is carrying a 37-minute projection and has put up 0.89 FanDuel points per minute so far this season. He appears in 63.1% of optimal lineups in FanDuel simulations and currently has an 8.4 leverage score, meaning the public isn’t nearly as on top of this play as it should be. With a 57.4% boom score and a raw point projection above 40 fantasy points, what are we waiting for?
On DraftKings Herro looks almost as solid. His higher price pushes the numbers into a lower tier overall, but he is still a leader in most categories. The most appealing of our metrics is his 5.8 leverage score, meaning that the public is underweight on his 34.1% optimal-lineup rate and 37.3% boom score probability. Unless things change dramatically, I want to load up on Herro shares as one of the leading NBA DFS picks on both sites tonight.
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Christian Wood – Houston Rockets
DraftKings – $7,700 – C / FanDuel – $8,100 – PF
With the departure of Harden, it appears to fully be Christian Wood time for the Rockets. The primary building block for the Rockets’ immediate future should be on display tonight in a game for which the Rockets will also be minus Wall and potentially without Eric Gordon as well. This should leave plenty of minutes and usage for Wood, as well as several of his teammates.
In DraftKings NBA contests, Wood is a center who lands in 36.6% of optimal lineups in simulated slates. His 50.6% boom score probability outweighs the -4.9 leverage for me, particularly on a site where we can roster multiple centers. I want to leverage the 48.7 raw point score with significant upside for more on a player we’re already seeing post 1.25 DraftKings points per minute before this team was shuffled to focus on him.
On FanDuel Wood slots in at the power forward spot but costs more. This does nothing to impact his boom score probability, which is coming in at 52.4%, along with an optimal-lineup rate of 42.2% and a 1.1 leverage score. Wood appears to be a fundamental building block in FanDuel lineups tonight, even with his significant ownership projection.
DeMarcus Cousins – Houston Rockets
DraftKings – $4,700 – C / FanDuel – $4,600 – C
The specter of Cousins seeing 20 or more minutes in an unpredictable situation looms large over decisions for this slate. This is a player who inhales usage and exhales fantasy points whenever he is on the court. With 1.58 fantasy points per minute on FanDuel and a 1.53 mark on DraftKings, the only thing stopping a massive score is the limited run.
Coming at just 16 minutes in Awesemo’s latest run of projections, Cousins is on the board for tournament play on both sites. He carries a raw fantasy point projection of 26.6 that is already reasonable for the price and a boom score probability of 33.6% on FanDuel and 23.3% on DraftKings. Cousins demonstrated his rapid scoring capability in his most recent outing, putting up 13 points and 13 rebounds in just 17.8 minutes against the Lakers on Tuesday night.
Cousins appears in 13.0% of optimal lineups in FanDuel NBA contest simulations, with a whopping 6.8 leverage score. On DraftKings, the productive center lands in 13.4% of optimal lineups and increases his leverage score to 10.4. Cousins is an inexpensive and underappreciated asset on this slate. His range of outcomes is broad, and I think it could be an interesting spot on which to get ahead of the field.
Tobias Harris – Philadelphia 76ers
DraftKings – $7,900 – SF/PF / FanDuel – $7,600 – SF
In my not-so-humble opinion, you’re just not an NBA DFS player if you’ve never experienced a lineup that was savagely burned at the hands of Tobias Harris. The 76ers forward is a player who haunts the “if only” stories of GPPs past, but we have to play him fearlessly in a great spot on both sites tonight.
Returning to the Sixers lineup after clearing the COVID-19 protocols, Harris takes up his third-banana role alongside stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Despite what seems like ongoing disappointment, Harris has been quite productive this season, posting 1.14 FanDuel and 1.15 DraftKings points per minute, up from a 1.04 average last season. Harris should thrive tonight if he comes close to his 36-minute projection.
On FanDuel the small forward has a 26.1% boom score probability and appears in the optimal lineup in 18.9% of simulations. What appeals to me the most is his 6.8 leverage score. The public is reluctant to get to Harris in overwhelming volume, making him a player I will happily add to my portfolio when his shares are so undervalued.
On DraftKings, Harris adds eligibility at the power forward spot but goes up by $300 in price. His boom score probability drops to just 14%, and he appears in only 11.1% of optimal lineups. He is still very much in play as a mix-and-match piece and is carrying an appealing 4.9 leverage score, but his upside, by comparison, is more limited in DraftKings NBA contests. It will be easy enough to still double up on the field’s current 6.2% ownership projection, however, and the ability to flex Harris around the lineup keeps him in play as a useful luxury among NBA DFS picks tonight.
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