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NBA Optimal Lineups Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel Al Horford | Sunday, Jan. 2

Terry McBride



DFS picks for NBA daily fantasy: DraftKings + FanDuel daily fantasy basketball lineups on the FREE stream w/ expert projections + picks on 6/8

Sunday’s six-game NBA DFS slate sees a sprint through the first five games before taking a 2.5-hour break until the tip of the sixth and final contest. the first five games all begin between 6 and 7 pm ET, with the Suns vs Hornets game drawing most of the attention with a 232 total that tops the Vegas board. That game is yielding a number of potential top plays from several salary tiers, but there are quality options on all sides once again. The ongoing trend of available value continues, several of the most frequently optimal players fall into the inexpensive range, allowing FanDuel and DraftKings NBA DFS lineups to come together in any number of quality configurations tonight. With a late-night game that includes several star-caliber options and a few clear plays, it pays to plan for late swapping either into or out of additional shares of options from the final contest. That game also features the night’s second-highest total at 223.5.

This space will always focus on the factors mentioned above, but at times we will call out plays that are over-owned, taking the opportunity to discuss the potential pivots. With six games on the slate, this article will focus on several of the top overall plays on the Boom/Bust Tool. As always, the goal is to find players who are under-appreciated for the frequency with which they land in the optimal lineup in DraftKings and FanDuel NBA DFS projections and simulations.

DraftKings & FanDuel NBA DFS Lineup Optimizer Picks

These picks are made utilizing the Boom/Bust Tool, specifically analyzing the optimal lineup rate, leverage score and boom probability. The optimal lineup rate represents the frequency at which a player appears in the optimal lineup 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. It is important to remember that not all of these NBA DFS picks are highlights, at times we will discuss plays that are outright bad or come at such aggressively negative leverage that they are rendered bad in this space, so be sure to read the analysis and not just the headlines.

Damian Jones: DraftKings — $3,000 — C | FanDuel — $4,000 — C

With starting center Richaun Holmes on the COVID-19 list, the Kings will be looking to several players to fill the void of big man minutes. One of the primary options for an uptick in time on the court is Damian Jones, though his status could be impacted if Alex Len is a full go. Len was cleared from the health protocols but sat out the team’s most recent games for conditioning reasons. Currently, Jones is projected for a 25.5-minute night in Awesemo’s afternoon update. If he approaches that much time on the court it seems likely that Jones will deliver value. The Sacramento big man has produced a 0.96 fantasy point per minute rate on 16.2% usage across all situations this season. Over the last three games, Jones has averaged 21.3 minutes and he has put up 0.98 fantasy points per minute. Jones is a strong rebounder, he has a 15.2% rebounding rate to go with his 65.3% true shooting percentage, while also putting up 1.9 stocks per-36. Jones is a strong play if he is getting the forecasted minutes, but this is a situation that needs monitoring as lock approaches.

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At $4,000 in the singular center spot on FanDuel, the only downside of Jones is the potential opportunity cost, which is somewhat muted by a lack of star power at the position. All of the most expensive and most highly projected options at the center spot also carry power forward eligibility on the blue site, this is a good spot to hunt for value plays. Jones fits into that model well at his low price, he is the most frequently optimal center on the FanDuel slate, and he ranks eighth overall at 26%. The public is trailing the quality of the play, but that hesitation may just be in anticipation of news about his minutes. If Jones’ status for tonight is confirmed prior to lock, it seems likely that the ownership percentage will rise. As it stands, Jones is at a 6.1 leverage score and he looks like an excellent option. The center is carrying a 25.2-point median projection, right around a fantasy point per minute on his projected run. There is a significant upside at the price, Jones has a 35.9% boom score probability that ranks second overall, trailing only Al Horford. If his projection holds in the 25-minute range there is no reason to avoid additional shares of Jones on this slate, he should be rostered ahead of the field as long as he is the most frequently optimal center.

At the flat minimum price on the DraftKings slate, Jones appears to be a somewhat obvious option. He is the most frequently optimal player at any position by almost 10 percentage points, he comes up as the top center option in 38.9% of Awesemo’s simulated slates. The big man has a much heavier popularity burden on this site, the public is projected for 43.9% ownership, but that lands Jones at just a -5.0 leverage score that seems easily playable for the minimum salary. Jones is projected for a 24.7-point median score and he has a whopping 58.5% boom score probability on the slate. There is no reason to really worry about the public popularity, Jones is a fundamental building block for DraftKings NBA DFS lineups this evening, he should be rostered heavily in all situations unless the playing time projection changes, in which case he may have no value whatsoever.

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Jalen Smith: DraftKings — $5,000 — PF/C | FanDuel — $5,300 — PF/C

All of the Suns big men will be out this evening, most notably Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee. This should thrust Jalen Smith into a prominent role in the rotation. Smith saw 27 minutes in a similar situation in the team’s most recent game, and he has averaged 27 minutes a night while putting up a 1.15 fantasy points per minute rate over the team’s three most recent games. The last time out, Smith put up a 30.4-point night in the 27 minutes he received, there is clear upside if we assume he is on the court long enough to deliver. The second-year big man has a 59.9% true shooting percentage with a 16.6% rebounding rate and he racks up 2.4 stocks per-36 this season. For a fair price and with multi-position eligibility on both sites, Smith is a clear asset. The Suns center is also extremely popular on this slate, he is the most negatively leveraged player on both sites, with ownership approaching half of all lineups across the entire NBA DFS industry.

On DraftKings, Smith is projected for to be in 50.1% of the public’s lineups. He has eligibility at both center and power forward on the slate and he costs a mere $5,000. With the points-per-minute upside that he provides, that is simply too cheap if Smith is expected to see anything like the 29.5 minutes for which Awesemo has him projected. At a -19.4 leverage score, even Smith’s 30.7% optimal lineup appearance rate becomes more difficult to chase. While it does seem likely that the ownership is warranted and the play is a strong one, Smith is not an option from the $3,000 price tier, and there are interesting options positionally, though most cost more than Smith even at this price. Still, Smith has a 46.4% boom score probability and a 31-point median projection, it would be difficult to begrudge anyone the play in most situations. If he is rostered, it will be critical to differentiate the lineup construction at some point.

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The situation is very similar on FanDuel. Smith is eligible at both power forward and center for just $5,300 and he is carrying a -17.8 leverage score. The Suns big man is projected for a 30.4-point median projection and he has a 32.9% boom score probability that sits fifth-best overall on the slate. By optimal lineup appearance percentage, Smith is the sixth-best option at any position, but two options above him are power forwards and Jones sits fewer than two percentage points behind him for a far lower price and positive leverage, creating an interesting inflection point in NBA DFS lineup constructions on the blue site. Smith’s 45% ownership is a blight on his otherwise strong probability marks, instead, rostering Jones with a positively leveraged Horford and a pricey but high-probability Domantas Sabonis play in the other power forward spot is a strong base from which to build a lineup. Replacing Jones with Smith in that configuration would drive up the price and create a bad leverage situation, Sabonis would be the more likely candidate to be replaced but that creates a noteworthy change in the median projection.

Al Horford: DraftKings — $7,100 — PF/C | FanDuel — $6,800 — PF/C

Once again, Boston big man Al Horford simply is not getting enough love from the NBA DFS public. The excellent multi-category contributor has eligibility at the power forward and center spot on both sites, and he seems likely to benefit from the absence of teammates like currently questionable Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams once again. Horford can succeed with both of those players on the court as well, but there will be more call for his talents if they are absent. The veteran is projected for a 31.8-minute night which returns an excellent fantasy point projection and strong probability marks across the industry. Horford produces at a 1.11 fantasy point per minute rate across all situations this season, he is an excellent option tonight.

On FanDuel, Horford is the third-most frequently optimal player at any position, and he can be rostered alongside either or both of the big men featured above. The ability to flex Horford’s talents between positions at his affordable $6,800 has significant value, the Boston big lands in the optimal lineup in 30.2% of simulated slates, but he is only projected for 20.4% popularity on the slate, leaving him at an excellent 9.8 leverage score that is second overall on FanDuel. Horford is carrying a 37.4-point median projection and he has a 36.4% boom score probability, the top rate of delivering a ceiling score on the entire slate. Horford should not be skipped on this slate, particularly if the Celtics run shorthanded once again. The public is well behind the curve and the situation should be exploited.

Horford costs $7,100 against a lower salary cap on DraftKings, the impact of the added salary weight is clear but not tragic. Horford lands in the optimal lineup in 20.6% of simulated slates, a dip when comparing one site to the other, but relative to the slate on which he will be played, the multi-position option comes up as the seventh-most frequently optimal player overall, third among eligible centers. Horford is projected for a 36.6-point median fantasy score and he has a 32% boom score probability on the slate. The public is only projected for 10.9% ownership, which is the true appeal of paying a little more to get to Horford on this slate. The reliable Celtics veteran has a 9.7 leverage score tonight, the fourth-highest on the current board, with a couple of players who are currently listed as questionable landing ahead of him. As sneaky plays go, Horford is a strong option that not enough of the public is getting to, he should be rostered around twice the projected popularity.

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

Terry used to do other things, now he writes words on the internet. He hopes his more than 20 years’ experience in season-long and daily fantasy sports and his custom models for MLB, NBA, and NFL don't steer you too wrong when he writes columns and makes picks on A lifetime of experience keeping odd hours make Terry ideal to cover KBO baseball overnight until the world returns to normal. Most of those late night hours have been spent on the couch watching sports, T.V., and movies; just try to shut him up about any of the above. You can find his pop-culture ramblings and more on Sideaction.

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