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The NBA Slate Starter: NBA DFS Strategy for DraftKings + FanDuel | Friday, 5/7

Eric Lindquist

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We’ve made it to the end of another insane week of late season NBA DFS in one piece (although the Rockets will surely try to change that tonight). At least the last two days of writing up the Nuggets backcourt and Mavericks frontcourt proved profitable, making the madness was well worth it. Hopefully we can isolate another terrific spot tonight, so let’s dig right into some NBA DFS picks and strategies to utilize for this 10-game slate over 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 the slate and make NBA DFS picks for DraftKings and FanDuel!


NBA DFS Slate Starter: Picks & Strategy | May 7

Friday’s Fireside Chat: Pay Attention to Motive

It’s pretty ludicrous to think next week will be our final week of regular season NBA DFS. With the amount of emphasis we’ve been forced to give to short-handed (see: tanking) teams of late, that’s not entirely a bad thing. Still, while the days of forcing in Pistons and Rockets will be over at long last, that also means the slates will be much smaller by default with fewer games on a nightly basis. But my goodness, it’s going to relieve a lot of headaches not seeing “rest” next to 48 names a night on the injury report, as taking leisurely days-off is no more come playoff time.

Speaking of the playoffs, that’s going to be our focus for today. As daily fantasy sports players, we could really care less how 99.9% of teams are doing in the standings for a majority of the year. We might have a generally idea based on the Vegas lines we look at every day on OddsShopper, the top place on the web to find which sportsbook has the best line and odds posted for your plays. But for all intents and purposes, the playoff picture itself isn’t something we concern ourselves with whatsoever.

Well, that’s about to change drastically in these final nine days of regular season hoops. You’ll hear exponentially more talk on Awesemo shows that stress which teams have something to play for, and which are simply going through the motions. The ones twiddling their thumbs in anticipation of vacation time are pretty obvious at this point — the Pistons, Thunder and Rockets are all doing a fantastic job of making their intentions known (wish the Timberwolves would join them). But because of the NBA’s addition of a play-in tournament this year, there’s more than just the normal vying for the final seven- and eight-seeds going on. Rather, every team currently fourth-through-12th in the Conference standings still has a ton to play for, incentivizing teams to avoid resting their players in order to improve upon seeding (and theoretically, the quality of the product).

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How does the play-in tournament work, you ask? Doesn’t matter yet. All you need to know right now is that if teams are capable of snagging a six-seed-or-better, they will do everything in their power to get one and avoid the play-in games altogether. Let’s take a look at what the playoff picture would look like if the season ended today (courtesy of NBA.com):

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Right now, only the top three teams in the Eastern Conference and top 4 teams in the Western Conference are mathematically locked-in to a top-six seed and will avoid the play in tournament. They’ll still be playing in order to secure home court over the next few days, but given minimal fan attendance, it doesn’t seem nearly as important as it would under normal circumstances. That means every other team on the board will be in an all-hand-on-deck sort of situation — with the exception of maybe the Lakers, who might prefer getting healthy above all else.

Which brings us to perhaps the most glaring example of this new playoff format at work: Friday’s all-important Lakers – Trail Blazers matchup. The current six- and seven-seed in the West will collide at 10 p.m. EST, with the winner taking the front seat on the road to the playoffs. LeBron James has already been ruled out for the Lakers, but the real question mark here will be Anthony Davis. He sprained his ankle right before the end of the first half versus the Lakers on Thursday, but reports were he actually sat out the rest of that game due to back spasms. With full awareness that Davis might be made of actual glass, anticipate him doing everything in his power to suit up in Portland tonight, killing most of the potential value from the Lakers despite the fast-paced game environment.

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And from the Portland side — and for a number of other contenders — the most fascinating part about Friday night will be how condensed their rotation becomes during this sprint to the finish. In fact, there’s already some signs of that about to take place as the Trail Blazers make their push. Here’s the minutes from their last outing, a 141-105 beatdown versus the Cavaliers (courtesy of PopcornMachine.net):

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The top six listed players don’t count due to the blowout, so it was in essence a nine-man rotation. However, Norman Powell was forced to sit out that game but is expected back tonight, making the whole team a bit overpriced for a normal situation on DraftKings and FanDuel. But this is no ordinary situation, as the Blazers will surely give Powell as many minutes as he can handle and remove almost all run from Derrick Jones Jr. and Nassir Little. Additionally, Jusuf Nurkic should see the lion’s share of center minutes, perhaps even more than the 60/40 split he and Enes Kanter have had. And as is typical of important games the past few years for the Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will most likely be run into the ground for 40-plus minutes should this game stay close.

From an NBA DFS perspective, the major players from gigantic games such as this simply must receive bumps going forward. That’s one of the reasons Awesemo’s projections are so important this time of year, as they do an unbelievable job of incapsulating nuances such as which players are on teams playing in high-stakes situations, and which are not. But long story short: study which teams have the most to play for, which are playing cheap no-names, and combined the two to make some exceptional NBA DFS picks these last few days of the NBA DFS regular season.


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Final Thoughts for Your NBA DFS Lineups

  • Someone asked a question on Live Before Lock about playing Robin Lopez at the minimum on FanDuel, to which we scoffed and said that was asinine. Lopez promptly proceeded to put up a 40.4 fantasy points at 0.3% ownership in the $7.77, so this is a formal apology to that person if you’re reading this.
  • There’s simply no way to break down which Rockets to prioritize without news on who’s in and who’s out. Be sure to tune in to the Deeper Dive and Live Before Lock shows on the Awesemo YouTube Channel, as this team will likely be the most important one to get right on the night.
  • Just play Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Follow us on all of our social channels! Check out our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for more great Awesemo content. Looking for more NBA DFS help tonight and the best NBA DFS picks? Our NBA DFS projections today are updated regularly, including whenever any relevant news breaks. We also have DraftKings rankings, FanDuel rankings and Yahoo! ownership rankings for today's slate. Check out our DFS NBA rankings for fantasy points and values that are derived directly from Alex Baker's own NBA DFS projections tonight. View our FanDuel NBA ownership projections, our DraftKings ownership and our Yahoo! ownership projections.

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