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Expert NBA Fantasy Rankings & Value Plays Today for DraftKings & FanDuel | 1/17/22

Tyler Schmidt

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Free No House Advantage picks today and props for the Thursday NBA DFS slate using expert projections & Awesemo's rankings tonight.

There are two slates on this Martin Luther King Day, but this article will cover the five-game main slate that starts at 7 p.m. ET on DraftKings and 6 ET on FanDuel. With that, NBA DFS injury news will be a big part of tonight’s process. Be sure to check the Awesemo NBA Starting Lineups page to see who is in, who is out and who is starting as news breaks, and look at the NBA DFS rankings and projections before making your NBA fantasy picks today for DraftKings and FanDuel lineups.

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DraftKings & FanDuel NBA Fantasy Rankings Today

*Grades are ordered DraftKings, FanDuel. Initial grade indicates a player’s strength of output, with the value grade indicating their strength as a play in relation to their salary.

C JaVale McGee — Grades: C, C | Values: A, A

Our rankings are operating under the assumption that Deandre Ayton will not be playing tonight as he left the last game due to injury. That will open up the door for JaVale McGee to likely draw the start. They may go with Jalen Smith, so monitor the Suns starting lineup closer to lock. In the 10 games that McGee has played without Ayton this season, he is averaging 12.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 27.8 DraftKings points per game.

This is a great matchup specifically for McGee against the Spurs defense. They allow the fourth-most points in the paint this season with 49.5 per game. The Spurs also rank 26th in both total rebounds and offensive rebounds. McGee is a monster on the glass and in the paint. He is also extremely efficient as he is shooting a career-high 65.9 percent from the field. If starting, McGee provides great value. He is popping everywhere on DraftKings where he is incredibly cheap. McGee has the highest ownership, highest boom percentage, and Awesemo projects McGee to be the best value on DraftKings tonight.

PF Keldon Johnson — Grades: C, C | Values: B, A

Sticking in the same game and another value play with Spurs forward Keldon Johnson. This game between the Suns and Spurs features the second-highest total on the slate at 227 points with the Spurs being 5-point home underdogs. Johnson has been disappointing lately as he has not topped 30 DraftKings points in eight-straight games, but he has double-double upside. Johnson is affordable on both sites as he has the second-highest ownership on DraftKings and FanDuel.

The game environment in this matchup is the most intriguing. The Spurs rank fourth in pace this season, while the Suns rank sixth. There will be many possessions in this game for Johnson to reach value. It will not take much at his cheap salary. Johnson should thrive in this time of game environment. Awesemo projects Johnson as the highest value play on the Spurs tonight. He is a cheap way to get exposure to this game that allows the ability to pay up for studs.

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SF LeBron James — Grades: A, A | Values: C, B

The stud with the highest projection on the slate tonight is LeBron James. It is still very weird to see James as center-only eligible on DraftKings. With how loaded this slate is with center, he is difficult to prioritize. However on FanDuel, James is both small forward and power forward eligible and provides more roster flexibility. The Lakers are coming off of an absolute dud performance where they got blown out to the Nuggets 133-96. That game provided just the second time in the last 13 games in which James failed to score 31 or more points. Awesemo projects he gets close to that scoring output tonight.

It is obvious by now that LeBron James is matchup-proof. Not only is James playing at an elite level lately, but he is playing heavy minutes. James has averaged 36.7 minutes per game this season which ranks tied for third in the league. It is the most he has played with the Lakers since arriving. He simply has to without Anthony Davis in the lineup. James ranks second in the league behind Kevin Durant in scoring with 28.9 points per game. It is the most he has scored in a season since 2009-’10 with the Cavaliers. James will be difficult to ignore despite his strange positional eligibility on DraftKings.


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C Jusuf Nurkic — Grades: A, A | Values: B, A

Another slate, another Jusuf Nurkic siting in this NBA DFS Rankings article. Nurkic is popping once again in our NBA DFS Rankings as the best rated player on both sites. The Trail Blazers are slowly getting healthy as CJ McCollum is expected to play tonight after being out since Dec 4. Norman Powell is also questionable as he has been out for 10 days in the COVID protocols. Those two guards will certainly help keep the Trail Blazers competitive moving forward. However, will Larry Nance Jr. still out, Nurkic will be locked into another 30 or more minutes again tonight.

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The Magic have been a below average defense as they rank 25th in defensive rating this season. Mo Bamba is finally back for the Magic, but Wendall Carter Jr. is still out due to injury. This matchup between the Trail Blazers and Magic is expected to be the closest matchup on the slate with the Trail Blazers favored by just two points on the road. According to our boom/bust tool, Nurkic has the second-highest boom percentage on FanDuel and the third highest on DraftKings.

SG Donovan Mitchell — Grades: B, B | Values: D, C

One of the best plays on FanDuel tonight is Donovan Mitchell. For some reason his salary remains very affordable despite Mitchell being incredibly consistent. The Jazz are playing on a back-to-back after beating the Nuggets last night 125-102. Mitchell poured in another 31 points as that was the third time in his last four games that Mitchell has scored 31 or more points. He is being very aggressive lately. Mitchell has the third-highest usage rate in the league at 33.1 percent.

Mitchell’s matchup against the Lakers tonight is very enticing as they rank third in pace this season. They allow 113.3 points per game, which ranks as the fourth highest in the league. This game also has the highest total on the slate at 232.5 points, with the Jazz implied to score 117.75 points. Another big benefit to Mitchell is the incredibly high minutes that he has played lately. He has not played under 33 minutes in a game since Dec. 17. His minutes provide a very solid floor with a very high ceiling. The minutes are great, the usage is high, and the matchup is fantastic.


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We also have Yahoo! NBA rankings, FanDuel ownership rankings and DraftKings rankings for today's slate. Looking for more NBA DFS picks FanDuel and the best NBA DFS picks? Check out our NBA daily fantasy rankings for fantasy points and values that are derived directly from Alex Baker's own DFS NBA projections. View our Yahoo! NBA ownership, our FanDuel NBA ownership projections and our DraftKings NBA ownership projections. Our NBA projections FanDuel are updated regularly, including whenever any relevant news breaks.

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