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🏀 Slate Starter: NBA DFS Strategy for DraftKings + FanDuel | Monday, 3/1

Eric Lindquist



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Welcome to March Madness: NBA edition. As if the first few months weren’t filled with enough chaos and commotion for you, things could get even weirder in the near future. Playoff contenders will start running starters out there for Tom Thibodeau-type minutes, bottom dwellers with nothing to play will surely start up TankFest 2021, and COVID is still a thing. That means we’ll have our work cut out for us coming up, but I’m up to the challenge if you are. With that said, let’s dig right into some NBA DFS picks and strategy for Monday’s seven-game slate on DraftKings and FanDuel.

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Be sure to check out the Slate Starter podcast, featuring yours truly and Rynpak, to get the first look at NBA DFS lineups for today’s slate!

NBA DFS Slate Starter: Picks & Strategy | March 1

Monday’s 10k Club

The stars-and-scrubs build is the preferred build of many GPP specialists for a pretty obvious reason: Studs put up the most fantasy points. So long as there’s value — be it through an increased role due to a teammate’s injury or a blatantly mispriced player — pairing them with top-end talent theoretically locks in the highest floor/ceiling combo. But as the season goes on, players become more accurately priced for their level of production. That means the days of playing multiple underpriced studs in the $8,000s and $9,000s on DraftKings and FanDuel are fewer and farther between because their tags have shot to the moon.

Monday is a prime example of this, as you’ll see some of the usual suspects on the top end of the $10,000 range, along with two recent additions to the five-digit club:

First off, are Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Nikola Vucevic contractually obligated to appear on every slate together? It feels like we can’t get them on separate days to save our lives lately, but I digress. Vucevic and Domantas Sabonis are obviously the newcomers I spoke of. This is not just the high point of their DraftKings pricing for the season, but of their careers. A plethora of injuries to the Magic have opened up Vucevic’s rise to $10,200, while the Victor Oladipo trade combined with a nice minutes boost for Sabonis has created a player worthy of a $10,100 tag.

But how do we go about prioritizing all of these studs on the slate? For one, we’ll have to see which position the best value emerges at. That’s normally a more pertinent question for FanDuel, but considering Sabonis is the only player above with dual-position eligibility, it’s extremely important on DraftKings today too. So should Embiid sit, something tells me Dwight Howard at $3,500 would elevate to one of the best values on the board. That would make for a slight downgrade to Jokic’s and Vucevic’s priority, as we would already be pretty well taken care of at the center spot.

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We also need to factor in matchups and game environments. For example, James Harden is coming off two duds, but the Nets will still be absent Kevin Durant and create track meets with all of their opponents (in this case, the Spurs). Harden has averaged 1.38 DraftKings points per minute in his 257 minutes with Kyrie Irving on the court and Durant off it. That rate would make him the second-worst point-per-minute producer out of the $10,000 studs (Sabonis 1.31), but the ungodly amount of run he’s sure to receive more than makes up for that.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, finish your process by comparing these players’ leverage scores on Awesemo’s Boom/Bust tool. Rather than simply factoring in ownership or sim results as individual entities, the Boom/Bust tool combines the two together to show who is going over- or under-represented. Sure, you can target anyone in this range for tournaments and it’s not going to be a mistake. But everyone on this list is borderline matchup-proof and capable of a massive ceiling in any spot, so getting over the field on the lower-owned ones is surely the best possible process for tomorrow.

The Hornets’ Nest

The 76ers could be a fountain of value or a barren wasteland depending on how their injury news shakes out. The Nuggets just got P.J. Dozier back, which mucks up the backcourt lottery I’ve been buying tickets to for weeks. And while I’d expect random value to show up somewhere in some way, it could get bleak out there if we don’t.

Which brings me to the Hornets. I talked for a bit on Live Before Lock how I was expecting some funny business from the Hornets’ starting lineup, and boy did we get it. Bismack Biyombo and Jalen McDaniels started and stunk it up, P.J. Washington started and careered it up, and LaMelo Ball kept being the ridiculous rookie he’s been since Day 2 (Day 1 didn’t go so hot). After an unlikely come-from-behind win on Sunday, they head to Portland on Monday for yet another high-total matchup with the Trail Blazers.

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Obviously, I don’t have any idea when or how the Gordon Hayward, Devonte’ Graham and Cody Zeller news will shake out. But I do know it is the last game of the night locking at 10:30 p.m. EST, making it imperative to have some contingency plans in place should that news come out after 9 p.m. EST. Fortunately, there’s a number of suitable Blazers at multiple price tiers that could help you mix-and-match on DraftKings. But on FanDuel, understanding the pivots you’d need to make no matter what happens is imperative. Because players are locked in at their one position over there, it’ll take a little more work to know what the swaps off of (or onto) Hayward would need to be. But it’s too good of a game with too many potential upside plays to just write off, so it’s work well worth doing.

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Final Thoughts for Your NBA DFS Lineups

  • I suppose I didn’t even give you a lean on my favorite of those $10,000 studs on DraftKings. If I can get to Harden and Jokic together, that sounds like the party I want to be involved in most. But Embiid could go ridiculously under-owned should he give it a go due to the questionable tag next to his name. If news comes out late that he’s in, I assure you I will have a ton.
  • I really want to go back to the fantasy-friendly duo of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. A date with this current iteration of the Jazz might seem freaky, but with only a 6.5-point spread and a plump 235.5 total, the risk is certainly worth the reward to me.
  • Just play Kristaps Porzingis.

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