The NBA Deep Dive is our most in-depth NBA DFS article, offering analysis of some of the top picks and optimal strategy for DraftKings and FanDuel lineups on the slate today. Used in conjunction with Awesemo’s NBA DFS projections, ownership projections and Boom/Bust tool, it should help you to improve the quality of your lineups. With news breaking throughout the day and the NBA injury reports being released, the best place to find all of today’s starters is our Awesemo NBA Starting Lineups page.
The Deep Dive: NBA DFS Picks & Optimal Lineup Strategy
Fred VanVleet ($7,500 DraftKings/$8,800 FanDuel) takes on the Washington Wizards tonight. Washington has been one of the fastest teams in the league over the last few seasons and they have also been one of the least efficient defenses. They have a new coaching staff, and no longer have Russell Westbrook, so it is possible that they play at a slower pace this season. It is unlikely, however, that they are significantly better defensively based on their personnel. VanVleet should benefit from the departure of Kyle Lowry and the injury to Pascal Siakam. He averaged 1.19 DraftKings points per minute with a 31.4% usage rate and 32.3% assist rate in 287 minutes without either of them on the floor last season. While the addition of Goran Dragic does give VanVleet another ball handler to contend with, it is unlikely that he plays as large a role in the offense as Lowry did.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($7,200 DraftKings/$7,600 FanDuel) has a difficult matchup as a 12-point underdog on the road against the Utah Jazz. Utah finished as the third most efficient defensive team last season and there is no reason to think that they will not be a top tier defense again this season. Still, Gilgeous-Alexander is affordably priced, and he should dominate touches in Oklahoma City’s offense. He averaged 1.21 DraftKings points per minute with a 28.8% usage rate and 31% assist rate last season. He also led the Thunder with 33.7 minutes per game — and that number is especially relevant because Oklahoma City was involved in plenty of blowouts last season, which shows what to expect from Gilgeous-Alexander even in a game with a large spread.
Dejounte Murray ($6,800 DraftKings/$7,700 FanDuel) averaged 31.9 minutes per game last season, which was the second most behind DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan is now a member of the Chicago Bulls, which could benefit Murray as he could take on a larger role offensively. The Spurs did not add any high-usage players that are likely to replace DeRozan’s role in the offense. In 1,300 minutes played alongside DeRozan last season, Murray averaged 1.12 DraftKings points per minute with a 23.4% usage rate and 23.2% assist rate. In 839 minutes without DeRozan, he averaged 1.10 DraftKings points per minute with a 22% usage rate and 27% assist rate. At the very least, expect similar production from Murray as last season, but there is a good chance that he will be even more productive this season without DeRozan.
Spencer Dinwiddie ($4,900 DraftKings/$6,500 FanDuel) only played three games for the Nets last season before partially tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the season. He appears ready for the start of the season with the Wizards, however, as he played 21, 22, 25 and 26 minutes over his four preseason games. Dinwiddie is a productive fantasy option when he is on the floor, and he should get plenty of playing time with Washington. Since the start of the 2019-20 season, Dinwiddie has averaged 1.16 DraftKings points per minute in 2,058 minutes played. This preseason, Dinwiddie produced 1.08 DraftKings points per minute with a 22.7% usage rate and 31.7% assist rate.
Jalen Green ($4,200 DraftKings/$5,500 FanDuel) looks like one of the best value options tonight — particularly on DraftKings. He chose to play in the G League last season instead of playing in college and then he was drafted second overall by the Rockets. He averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 32 minutes per game in the G League. This preseason, he produced 0.79 DraftKings points per minute with a 22.3% usage rate, 14.1% assist rate and 6.6% rebounding rate in 112 minutes played. It is always difficult to say exactly how long it will take a rookie to produce at a high level in the NBA, but at Green’s price, it will be pretty difficult for him to disappoint out of the gate.
Tyrese Maxey ($4,000 DraftKings/$4,600 FanDuel) is priced as if he is a bench option for the Sixers, but he will start tonight with Ben Simmons suspended and Shake Milton sidelined. Maxey averaged 0.93 DraftKings points per minute overall last season. Not surprisingly, his per-minute production decreased when he played with the starters, but he still averaged 0.79 DraftKings points per minute in 163 minutes played alongside Joel Embiid without Simmons on the floor.
Jalen Suggs ($4,000 DraftKings/$4,800 FanDuel) takes on the San Antonio Spurs in his NBA debut. It is likely to be an abomination of a basketball game between two horrible teams, but Suggs should get plenty of opportunities at a cheap salary. The fifth overall pick out of Gonzaga played 67 minutes in the preseason and averaged 0.77 DraftKings points per minute with an 18.7% usage rate and 19.6% assist rate.
Chris Duarte ($3,300 DraftKings/$4,500 FanDuel) is not the most exciting NBA prospect since he is already 24 years old, but he should slide into plenty of playing time in his Pacers’ debut. Duarte is close to the minimum salary on DraftKings, and he averaged 1.06 DraftKings points per minute with a 26.8% usage rate and 18% assist rate in 92 preseason minutes. Of those 92 minutes, 65 were played alongside Domantas Sabonis. Duarte was still productive in those minutes as he averaged 0.97 DraftKings points per minute with a 25.6% usage rate and 16% assist rate.
Brandon Ingram ($7,700 DraftKings/$8,400 FanDuel) is likely to benefit from Zion Williamson’s absence. Ingram averaged 1.25 DraftKings points per minute with a 31.5% usage rate, 26% assist rate and 8.4% rebounding rate without Williamson on the floor last season compared to 1.09 DraftKings points per minute with a 26.9% usage rate, 19.5% assist rate and 7.6% rebounding rate alongside Williamson. The addition of Jonas Valanciunas in place of Steven Adams adds a higher usage player to the frontcourt, but it should still be a net positive for Ingram for as long as Williamson is out.
Tobias Harris ($7,600 DraftKings/$7,200 FanDuel) is another likely beneficiary of Ben Simmons’ suspension. Harris produced 1.20 DraftKings points per minute with a 28.6% usage rate, 23.3% assist rate and 13.5% rebounding rate in 717 minutes without Simmons on the floor last season. Embiid was on the floor for 294 of those minutes and Harris averaged 1.12 DraftKings points per minute with a 25% usage rate, 22.2% assist rate and 14.6% rebounding rate. By comparison, he averaged 1.09 DraftKings points per minute with a 22.3% usage rate, 11% rebounding rate and 14.6% assist rate in 1,735 minutes alongside Simmons. It is likely that Harris’s minutes will be staggered with Embiid’s tonight, which would allow Harris to play about 14 to 16 minutes without Embiid or Simmons on the floor.
Jaren Jackson Jr. ($5,900 DraftKings/$7,000 FanDuel) will probably one of the most popular players on DraftKings as he is clearly underpriced tonight against Cleveland. Jackson is a productive player when he is on the floor, but he has struggled with injuries and foul trouble during his career. He averaged 1.13 DraftKings points per minute in 395 minutes played last season and 1.42 DraftKings points per minute in 96 preseason minutes this season. In the preseason, he posted a 26.6% usage rate and 15.7% rebounding rate. If he can avoid foul trouble, he is likely to play 30-plus minutes tonight against Cleveland.
Evan Mobley ($4,500 DraftKings/$4,800 FanDuel) makes his NBA debut tonight against Memphis. It sounds like Mobley will debut at the three as the Cavs go with a big lineup consisting of Lauri Markkanen and Jarrett Allen in the frontcourt. While it would probably be better for Mobley’s DFS outlook if he were starting at the four, he still projects as a strong value option. Mobley led the team with 127 preseason minutes and produced 0.98 DraftKings points per minute with a 16.3% usage rate, 16.2% rebounding rate and 10.3% assist rate.
Scottie Barnes ($3,400 DraftKings/$5,200 FanDuel) is another completely mispriced rookie on DraftKings, who also offers some value on FanDuel though he is more appropriately priced. The fourth overall pick out of Florida State led the Raptors with 131 minutes played this preseason. He was very productive with 1.07 DraftKings points per minute. He only had a 17.6% usage rate, but he led the team with a 29.5% assist rate. Of his 131 minutes played, 63 of them came alongside Fred VanVleet. In those 63 minutes, Barnes still averaged 1.01 DraftKings points per minute with an 18.1% usage rate, 27.7% assist rate and 11% rebounding rate.
Desmond Bane ($3,200 DraftKings/$4,600 FanDuel) is likely to see extended playing time with Dillon Brooks sidelined for tonight’s game. Bane averaged 0.70 DraftKings points per minute in 17 starts last season. This preseason, Bane was extremely productive with 1.11 DraftKings points per minute. In 66 minutes alongside Ja Morant in the preseason, Bane averaged 0.97 DraftKings points per minute with a 23.8% usage rate. It likely that his per-minute production lands closer to last season’s average than his preseason average, but that is still enough to make him a strong value option at close to minimum salary on DraftKings.
Joel Embiid ($10,600 DraftKings/$11,000 FanDuel) stands out as one of the top pay-up options tonight and he should be relatively easy to get into lineups given all of the value at other positions. Embiid averaged 1.84 DraftKings points per minute with a 43.6% usage rate, 22.2% assist rate and 21.5% rebounding rate in 463 minutes without Simmons on the floor last season. In 294 minutes alongside Harris and without Simmons, Embiid produced 1.70 DraftKings points per minute with a 41.5% usage rate, 17.2% assist rate and 19.4% rebounding rate.
Nikola Jokic ($10,400 DraftKings/$11,400 FanDuel) is always a top option as he is one of the best per-minute producers in the NBA. Jokic averaged 1.60 DraftKings points per minute last season and that number increased to 1.64 DraftKings points per minute without Jamal Murray on the floor. In addition to an uptick in per-minute production, Jokic’s percentages increased substantially without Murray on the floor as well which points to an increased ceiling for Denver’s big man. Jokic had a 34.1% usage rate and 39% assist rate without Murray on the floor last season compared to a 28.3% usage rate and 34.4% assist rate alongside Murray.
Karl-Anthony Towns ($9,700 DraftKings/$10,800 FanDuel) is another expensive center option with massive upside as he faces the Houston Rockets tonight in a game with a 231-point total. Towns averaged 1.43 DraftKings points per minute with a 29.6% usage rate, 17.3% rebounding rate and 21.6% assist rate. While he does not project quite as well as Embiid or Jokic, he offers similar upside given his ability to produce at a high level in every stat category.
Robert Williams ($5,100 DraftKings/$6,300 FanDuel) will be difficult to prioritize tonight because there is so much opportunity cost at the center position. That said, if you are looking to pay down at center and spend up at the guard or forward spots as part of a contrarian build, Williams makes a ton of sense. He averaged 1.27 DraftKings points per minute overall last season and 1.22 DraftKings points per minute in the 13 games that he started. In his starts, he also averaged 23.7 minutes per game. He could even play a few more minutes than that tonight if he is able to avoid foul trouble. If getting away from the top-tier centers tonight, it should be with an excellent per-minute fantasy producer like Williams who has the potential to 10x his salary.
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