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NBA Optimal Lineups Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel Jalen Brunson | Friday, Jan. 7

Terry McBride



A nine-game Friday NBA DFS slate is already showing some absurd probability plays that have been created by various absences around the league. On top of the standout value plays there are a number of high-quality star players and good differentiation options from the midrange. The Vegas board includes several games with distinctly high totals, including a 232.5 between the Bucks and the Nets and a 229 in the nightcap between the Hawks and Lakers. With premium stars in both of those contests, expect some high scores from the top shelf on a night with plenty of opportunities to reach for it at a variety of positions.

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 nine 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.

Jalen Brunson: DraftKings — $7,000 — PG/SG | FanDuel — $5,300 — PG/SG

And here it is again, NBA DFS fans, the most obvious play on the board because of the extreme degree to which he is in optimal lineups across the industry. Dallas superstar Luka Doncic is doubtful for tonight, nursing an ankle injury, which immediately rockets Jalen Brunson to the top of the board on both DraftKings and FanDuel. The Mavericks guard is an excellent option at his fair price on one site and he is a ridiculous value on the other. Brunson has a 0.96 fantasy point per minute rate on 22.4% usage in all situations this season, but in 396 minutes without both Doncic and big man Kristaps Porzingis on the floor, Brunson sees an uptick to 28.1% usage and his production jumps to a 1.04 per-minute rate. Brunson is slated for extreme popularity on both sites, but he has a gargantuan leverage score where he is priced up and he is only slightly into negative leverage where he is a free square.

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On the FanDuel slate, Brunson is absurdly priced at just $5,300, and he has eligibility at both guard positions. He is easily the most valuable play on the board on the blue site today, and by probability metrics, he may be the top play of the year so far. Brunson is pulling in an almost comedic 80.5% optimal lineup appearance rate, only slightly outpaced by his projected 82.9% ownership rate. It is safe to assume that the player will be in most lineups this evening, his performance will be a massive inflection point for the slate, if he posts even a marginal fantasy score it will take down four-fifths of the entries in contests. Still, Brunson is extremely likely to deliver for the discounted price. He has a 44.9-point median projection that is already ahead of value and his boom score probability is a skyscraping 87.1%, one of the highest marks of the year on either site. Brunson is much more likely to be a foundational piece, even at this ownership he is a virtual lock play on the site, point-per-dollar value simply does not get much better than this.

At a $7,000 price that is far higher relative to a lower salary cap, Brunson is still a slate-leading play on DraftKings. He has a 53.3% optimal lineup appearance rate on the slate, 2.9 percentage points ahead of $3,500 center Hassan Whiteside and more than 10 percentage points above everyone else on the slate. Brunson is projected for a 47.3-point median fantasy score and he has eligibility at both guard spots, making him an excellent option with strong flexibility in a variety of lineup builds. The Dallas guard is projected for a 72.1% boom score probability, but the public is way behind the priced-up play on this site. Despite his slate-leading optimal lineup rate and second overall boom score probability, Brunson is projected for just 39.9% ownership, leaving him with an excellent 13.4 leverage score on the DraftKings slate. Simply put, the best overall play of 2022 so far is dramatically under-owned on DraftKings, Brunson can and should be rostered aggressively.

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Jordan Nwora: DraftKings — $5,000 — PF | FanDuel — $5,800 — PF/SF

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is probable to return to the lineup this evening, but it seems likely that Jordan Nwora will see another start and an opportunity for significant minutes, given the number and nature of missing players in the team’s rotation. Nwora played 40 minutes in the team’s most recent game, posting just a 29.2-point night on FanDuel, but he was a 1.11 per-minute performer on 25.4% usage last season, and his significant drop to just 19.4% usage can be partly to blame for the 0.85 per-minute rate across all situations this season. Nwora has just an 8.4% assist rate and 9.6% rebounding share. He needs to score to post fantasy points, but he is capable when he receives opportunities, and he is under-owned on both sites given his probability metrics and pricing.

Nwora is a $5,000 power forward on the DraftKings slate, where he ranks 16th overall with a 13.5% optimal lineup appearance rate. That frequency in the top lineup in simulations lands him fourth among eligible power forwards, with several of the options ahead of him carrying multi-position eligibility. One of the options is Antetokounmpo, who is slated for one of the better nights among the pay-up options and should be strongly considered for lineup shares across both sites, assuming he plays. In either situation, Nwora is still a worthwhile play on his own. He has a 28.5-point median projection and a 28.7% boom score probability on DraftKings but the public is projected for just 9.5% ownership, leaving him at a highly playable 4.0 leverage score. Nwora is a solid low-owned differentiation play from the mid-range for DraftKings NBA DFS lineups tonight.

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On FanDuel, Nwora lands at a 10.7% optimal lineup appearance rate that drops to 31st overall on the slate but sits fewer than eight percentage points behind eighth-ranked Christian Wood, who appears in the optimal lineup 18.5% of the time as a $7,500 power forward or center. With a wide plateau of similarly rated players, it makes sense to look to categories like boom score probability and leverage to help make decisions. In this case, Nwora stands out as the second-highest leverage play outside of the top-six by optimal lineup appearance rate with a 5.5 score. He is projected for just a 5.8% public ownership share, roughly half the rate at which he is in the optimal lineup. Nwora has a 28.4-point median projection on the blue site and his 16.5% boom score probability ranks similarly to his optimal rate. As a differentiation play that does not require much exposure to gain leverage on the field, it makes sense to look in Nwora’s direction more frequently than the public on the FanDuel slate.

Utah Jazz

The entire Jazz roster is currently listed as either out or a game-time decision, but several of the players who are expected to be available look like excellent upside plays that come with major negative leverage concerns. On DraftKings, three of the four players at the top of the board by optimal lineup appearance rate come from the Jazz, with Hassan Whiteside, Jordan Clarkson and Rudy Gay landing second through fourth with optimal lineup appearance rates of 50.4%, 42.2% and 42.1%, respectively. The trio is also projected for outsized ownership on the site, Clarkson comes in with a 51.8% ownership projection and a -9.6 leverage score, Gay is at a 54.3% popularity rate and a -12.2 leverage score, and Whiteside is projected for a massive 70.3% public exposure rate, leaving him at a -19.9 leverage score that is the worst mark on either site. The only rate higher than Whiteside’s ownership projection is his boom score probability, which lands at 77.7% to lead the DraftKings slate. He will be an incredibly popular play, but at $3,500 and a 24.8-minute projection, it is justifiable. Clarkson has a 63.3% boom score probability and Gay comes in at a 64.1% mark. Each player has a strong upside, their optimal lineup rates should not be ignored, but it will be important to pay attention to differentiation in any lineups that these players are utilized in and consider alternatives that could pay at these ownership rates.

On the FanDuel slate, Whiteside is far less valuable with a wildly different $5,300 price as a center-only option. He is carrying just a 17.5% optimal lineup appearance rate, but he is projected for 25.6% popularity, leaving him at a -8.1 leverage score. The public appears to be rostering the center too frequently, simply because he is getting so much attention by virtue of his utility on the other site, on this side of town there is little reason to get to Whiteside at such negative leverage in a key position. He does project well with a 33-point median projection and a 46.4% boom score probability, but there is too much weight to get ahead of the field on the optimal rate. Gay comes in at a 30.7% optimal rate with a 41.6% boom score probability for $4,800 at either forward spot, but he lands at a -10.5 leverage score with 41.2% of the field on the play. Clarkson is a similarly leveraged play at -10.6, but he carries the top optimal lineup rate in the trio on the blue site, coming in at a 49.8% that sits second to — and more than 30 percentage points behind — the rate at which Brunson is in the optimal lineup in simulated FanDuel slates. Clarkson has a 58.6% boom score probability with a 35.3-point median projection, but he is dragging the anchor of a 60.4% popularity projection into the slate. Getting to shares of all three players is a viable approach, but with negative leverage scores across the board, it makes sense to target rates somewhat below where the field’s exposure is projected on this site.

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

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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