On a largely dormant Thursday for professional basketball, only four teams will be in action on a two-game NBA DFS slate that currently looks relatively straightforward. The primary injury question marks come in the Denver rotation, with Jeff Green, Will Barton, and Bones Hyland currently questionable, while the other three teams are essentially consistent with recent form. Both games on the board feature targetable stars and healthy game totals, with the early matchup between Brooklyn and Philadelphia landing at a 235 and the late-night affair between Denver and Golden State at a 228.5. Both games have point spreads of less than five, they should be highly competitive situations that see the primary players from each team in the closing minutes of each game.
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 two games on the slate, this article will focus on the top leverage 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.
NBA DFS Optimizer Picks for DraftKings & FanDuel Lineups
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.
Jordan Poole: DK $5,200 — PG/SG | FD $6,300 — PG/SG
The biggest surprise of the day in perusing Awesemo’s premium NBA tools is the massive positive leverage score available on a player as good as Golden State’s Jordan Poole on just a two-game slate. Poole is expected to see his usual 30 or so minutes off the bench for the Warriors, a role in which he has contributed 0.93 fantasy points per minute across all situations this season and has been at a 1.14 per-minute mark in recent games with a host of missing teammates. In 219 minutes since the beginning of February that were played without Otto Porter Jr., Gary Payton Jr., Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala, Poole is averaging 1.04 fantasy points per minute. For the season, Poole has a strong 59.2% true shooting percentage with a 19.1% assist rate and 5.2% rebounding percentage, and his usage bounces from 24% to 26.9% in this situation.
Poole stands as both the most frequently optimal player at any position and the top leverage play on the DraftKings slate. The backup guard checks into the top lineup in 56.9% of simulated slates for his $5,200 price tag across both guard spots and the public is falling short of appropriate ownership for that trajectory. Poole’s flexibility gives him tremendous upside and helps to get to premium pieces at other positions, the guard has an excellent 36.15% boom score probability from the mid-range, ranking him third overall on the slate behind only centers Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid by their probability of hitting a required DraftKings ceiling score. Poole costs half as much as the superstar centers, he has a 31.2-point median projection that gives him strong value from that tier, and he will be popular on the slate. The field is projected for a 45.8% ownership mark, but that leaves the Warriors’ guard with a slate-leading 11.1 leverage score that can be targeted for much more weight than the field is projected to reach.
Poole checks in at a higher relative salary on the blue site, which has a different shape than we find across town. The top of the FanDuel optimal lineup rate column is dominated by stars and upper mid-range players, including Poole’s teammates Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, as well as James Harden, Kevin Durant, Embiid, and others. Still, Poole ranks eighth overall on the site despite his bump to a $6,300 salary. He maintains eligibility at both guard positions on the FanDuel slate, with his 29.49-point median projection helping him to a 13.26% boom score probability. For the higher cost, the likelihood of hitting a ceiling score comes down notably from site to site, but Poole remains a strong play, that lowly boom score rate still ranks 14th on the slate, putting Poole in the mix for shares in lineup constructions of all types. The positional flexibility that Poole provides helps create the necessary rotation of guard options around the firmer big man tentpoles that are on the slate. Poole has a targetable 12.1 leverage score, leading the slate despite his 27.6% ownership projection, he should be rostered well beyond the point to which the field is currently projected to include him.
Kevin Durant: DK $10,300 — SF/PF | FD $10,400 — SF/PF
Nets superstar Kevin Durant will sneak up on precisely zero gamers on Thursday’s NBA DFS slate. Everyone with a pulse will at least consider him for roster spots, but if we were surprised to find a player as good as Poole at positive leverage on a two-game slate, the best word for finding Durant also in that position may be flabbergasted. One of the top handful of players on any given slate and one of the league’s apex superstars, Durant checks in under-owned on both sites. He has fair pricing for both his median outcome and his potential ceiling score, arguably coming in a bit cheap for the potential upside. Durant has produced 1.32 fantasy points per minute across all situations, despite the wild swings in the Nets personnel this season. Durant has been more in the 1.08 per-minute range in recent games, however, coming in at or near that rate in the average situation since the start of February. At a 62.7% true shooting percentage, a 26.4% assist rate, and a 9.6% rebounding percentage, it is immediately clear that Durant has more to offer than the current rates, the recent performance is a benefit in that it lowers his cost and popularity, making him a more appealing target on both sites.
On the FanDuel slate, Durant is the fourth-most frequently optimal player at any position. He falls in behind Thompson and Curry from the Warriors at the board’s peak, as well as former teammate James Harden, who sits third at a 51.9% optimal rate. Durant is mere percentage points behind. He lands in the top lineup in 48.6% of Awesemo’s simulated slates for the blue site. There are several options who fill similar positions at similar optimal rates for less salary on the board, including Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris, who costs just $6,400 at the same multi-forward eligibility. Harris is a 44.1% optimal play who has a 14.88% boom score probability, while Durant lands at 16.64% and a median projection 16 fantasy points higher than Harris’. The Nets forward is clearly the better option, a notion with which 47.6% of the field is expected to agree. Even at that popularity projection, Durant is a positively leveraged play, although just barely, he has a 1.0 score in the critical differentiation category. With a bit of room between the public and the ceiling, it makes sense to include Durant in a few additional lineups across a full slate.
On the other side of the industry, a $10,300 salary has Durant landing with slightly less value from an optimal lineup perspective but gaining ground in the leverage category. The tradeoff is worthwhile in this case, it is easy enough to include Durant in lineup combinations of all types, and his 36.8% optimal lineup appearance rate is still the sixth-highest at any position on the slate. The superstar is the night’s second-most frequently optimal player at small forward and power forward, behind Klay Thompson at the former and Nemanja Bjelica in the latter. After marking the first time in which Bjelica will ever be mentioned in the same breath as Durant, it is important to point out that the Warriors backup gains that score by virtue of a $3,100 salary and flexible positioning. Bjelica is projected for just 19.7 minutes and is a points-per-dollar play only. Durant compares far more favorably with second-ranked Jokic or third-ranked Embiid in the overall fantasy point scoring discussion. The Nets forward has a 48.4-point median projection and a solid 18.69% boom score probability, he should be rostered in far more lineups than where the field is projected. Durant has a 6.8 leverage score that is easily the top mark in his salary tier, he is an important pay-up option for all types of lineups on DraftKings tonight.
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Seth Curry: DK $4,700 — SG/SF | FD $4,600 — PG/SG
With his more expensive brother also on the slate, Nets wing Seth Curry is easy to miss on tonight’s slate. The value guard comes at an easy price point on both sites tonight and he has relative scoring potential beyond what it costs to include him in a number of lineup combinations. Curry averages 0.76 fantasy points per minute across all situations this season, lackluster performance but a mark that is in line with the 0.73 that he posted on less usage last season. Curry is projected for around 30 minutes for Brooklyn tonight, in his most recent game the wing put up a clunker of a 15.1-point performance on FanDuel in 32 minutes, he is a volatile play that has per-dollar upside on this slate, but he is by no means reliable. Curry has a 60.1% true shooting percentage with a 17.3% assist rate, but he is primarily a scorer who needs his three-point shot to fall. If he gets hot in the right situation, there is ceiling-score potential available for relatively low ownership.
On the DraftKings slate, Curry is the ninth-most frequently optimal player at any position, landing in an exact tie with his brother at 30.6%, for around half the price. The $4,700 Curry can be rostered at shooting guard or small forward, giving him access to five lineup spots in a DraftKings build. That positional flexibility can be critical for a variety of combinations, Curry’s 23.3-point median projection may not be the most impressive number on the board, but he has a 6.0 leverage score with just 24.6% of the field rostering him on a two-game slate. Curry has an 11.86% boom score probability on the DraftKings slate, again not an overly inspiring number but one that can be targeted when the player is under-owned for the rate at which he appears in the winning lineup in Awesemo’s simulations. Curry is an interesting piece for potential differentiation, with tempered expectations tonight.
Curry compares less favorably to his brother on the blue site, Stephen climbs to second overall with a whopping 57.1% optimal lineup appearance rate for his low $9,100 salary, while Seth slips to 10th for his $4,600 cost. The less expensive Curry still has a 38.7% optimal lineup rate on the FanDuel slate and he is projected to be far less popular than that mark would warrant. With eligibility across both guard positions, the “lesser” Curry can be combined with a number of the top options for ceiling score and optimal lineup appearances, he has an excellent 9.4 leverage score on the blue site, making him one of the top targets for differentiation. With a fixation on some of the top names and salaries on the FanDuel slate, it will be important to include premium players who possess both fantasy point scoring upside and positive leverage, Curry is one such selection despite his low season-long per-minute rates, he can be rostered ahead of the field with a realistic understanding of the player’s most likely range of outcomes.
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