Saturday’s NBA DFS slate is a three-game sprint that tips at 7:00 ET with an interesting game between the Mavericks and Hornets. The contest is carrying a 223-point total with the hometown Hornets favored by just 1.5. Both sides of the game offer plays from essentially every salary tier at a wide range of positions, particularly with Spencer Dinwiddie sitting out for Dallas. The other two games on the slate are both scheduled for 8:00 ET start times and they could not be more different on the NBA DFS target list. The Pistons are in Cleveland to battle the tough defensively-oriented Cavaliers, who are favored by 5.5 in a game with a slate-low 216.5-point total, the game in Washington D.C. offers far more appeal. With the Lakers in town for a game with a slate-leading 227.5-point total and the Wizards favored by three over the lousy, potentially LeBron-less, Lakers. If LeBron James sits out the night, teammate Russell Westbrook will gain appeal despite his miserable performance through most of the season. The Lakers have several other key pieces with questionable tags in the mid-afternoon, news will be important in this game with potential value piece Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also listed as questionable. Getting a strong blend of all three games is important, focusing on mixing in at least two lower-owned players in large-field tournaments makes sense, leverage and ownership data will be critical tonight, as will be the ability to tolerate a bit of discomfort in roster construction.
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 three games on the slate, this article will focus on the top overall plays on the NBA DFS 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 optimizer 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: DK $6,300 — PG/SG | FD $5,200 — PG/SG
The Mavericks will be taking on Dallas at home in a quality contest that offers strong NBA DFS options on both sides. With significant attention going to the massive star in this game, it is fair to assume that anyone reading this knows that Luka Doncic is a good play tonight. The overlooked option in the Mavericks lineup, relatively speaking, is Doncic’s backcourt mate Jalen Brunson, who comes with strong positive leverage on both sites. Brunson seems like a prime candidate to benefit from the absence of Dinwiddie in this game, over the team’s three most recent contests the quality guard has been at just a 0.76 fantasy points per minute rate. Brunson is a 0.91 per-minute player over the full course of the season, but he has concerningly been closer to his recent output if we examine the 196 minutes he has played without Dinwiddie on the floor since the trade deadline. In that sample, since February 12th, Brunson has put up just a 0.77 per-minute rate. his assist rate has notably plummeted from 25.5% for the season to just 13.6% in the sample. Still, with the lackluster recent performance suppressing his pricing and turning off the public, there is a strong tournament opportunity around the typically good contributor. Brunson started the Mavericks most recent game, playing alongside Dinwiddie in the absence of Reggie Bullock, who will return tonight. In that game, Brunson encouragingly posted a 33.6-point FanDuel score in 33 minutes. NBA DFS gamers can expect similar output this evening, but Brunson is not seeing the expected popularity.
The Dallas rotation piece fits in at either guard position on the DraftKings slate for a $6,300 salary. He is a strong option who is significantly underappreciated by the field, despite what looks on the surface like a large amount of ownership. Brunson is projected to be in 32% of the public’s lineups, but that number falls well short of his 38.1% optimal lineup appearance rate in Awesemo’s simulated slates, making him a premium target. Brunson gets to that optimal rate on the back of a 34.1-point median projection, which also helps his boom score probability leap to a 33.63% rate of hitting his salary-adjusted required ceiling score. Brunson ranks second overall by optimal lineup rate, with only Doncic’s ridiculous 46.3% standing above him. With his superstar teammate hitting a 53.87% boom score probability atop the board as well, Brunson lands in fourth, as both Kyle Kuzma at 33.96% and LeBron James at 33.87% leap ahead of him in the category. Brunson is notably cheaper than both of those players, Kuzma costs $8,000 and James is at an apex star salary. Brunson is the least expensive player who has a boom score probability better than 30%, at 27.58% and a $5,100 salary, Caldwell-Pope will be an interesting pivot point if he plays, but he is carrying an efficient ownership projection already, while Brunson can be had at an excellent 6.1 leverage score. Brunson is an excellent option to target for a fair median score, a good chance at a salary-adjusted ceiling, and helpful lineup differentiation in DraftKings NBA DFS lineups tonight.
The FanDuel slate has five players who come up with better than a 50% optimal lineup appearance rate, Brunson ranks second among them at 54.9%. Doncic is the leader in the category on the blue site as well, he comes in with a massive 64.2% rate of landing in the top lineup in Awesemo’s simulated slates, but he is also pulling in more than 60% ownership and comes at slightly negative leverage. Kuzma and James are also on that list, with Jerami Grant rounding out the group at 50.8%. Brunson’s 47.3% boom score probability leads not only that group of five players, given his bargain-basement $5,200 price at either guard position on the slate, but also the entire contest on FanDuel. As the second-most frequently optimal player at any position and the player with the best chance of hitting his salary-adjusted required ceiling score, Brunson looks like a spectacular selection on the blue site. The Dallas guard is projected for a 32.83-point median score and he almost unbelievably comes at positive leverage. The field will be including the dynamic guard in their lineups, make no mistake, Brunson’s 46.2% ownership is the fourth-highest mark on the entire slate. That rate of popularity also happens to leave the player at an 8.7 leverage score that should be targeted for significant attention. Brunson can and should be rostered beyond the field’s projected rates on this slate.
Kristaps Porzingis: DK $7,500 — PF/C | FD $7,500 — PF/C
Even with the Wizards casually managing his workload, unique big man Kristaps Porzingis offers tantalizing upside at what appears to be a dramatic differential between his popularity and his value tonight. The Wizards’ prized trade deadline acquisition is not on the injury report today, he has averaged 26.3 minutes per game over the last three, and he is projected for 27.4 minutes in Awesemo’s latest update. If Porzingis is at just the 1.28 per-minute rate that he has provided under all circumstances from Dallas to D.C. this season, he will be an excellent play without enough popularity, let alone if he is at the 1.32 he has averaged over the last three games or the 1.36 at which he has performed overall since arriving with the team. Porzingis fills the stat sheet across the board, he has a 57.3% true shooting percentage on 27.5% usage for the season and 28% with Washington. The big man adds a strong 11.6% assist rate and a 12.9% rebounding share, he makes 1.8 threes per-36 – though that represents just a 28.9% three-point shooting percentage – and he pads his fantasy scoring with 2.9 stocks per-36. The multi-position player is underpriced and under-owned on both sites tonight, he is an excellent target unless things change dramatically in later updates.
On the FanDuel slate, Porzingis ranks eighth overall with a 41.1% optimal lineup appearance rate, with eligibility at either power forward or center for just $7,500. Given his extremely fair price and flexible positioning it is shocking to see the player at just a 25.2% ownership projection on the site. Almost all of the players ranked above Porzingis can be rostered at multiple positions, and he is the most frequently optimal center, but he is the slate-leader at any position with his gargantuan 15.9 leverage score. Porzingis ranks fourth among eligible power forwards by optimal rate and boom score probability, but two of the three options above him – Kuzma and James – can be rostered at small forward on the slate. The flexibility among the options atop the board is absurd on the blue site tonight, players can be combined in a number of different configurations in an effort to differentiate lineups, it is worth exploring what positional changes do to projection and upside. Porzingis has a 38.26-point median projection and a 28.32% boom score probability despite a playing time expectation of fewer than 30 minutes, if he sees more action he will explode for more value, particularly if the ownership and leverage rates hold toward lock.
The outlook is largely similar on the DraftKings slate. Porzingis has the same flexible positioning and the same salary, although it comes against a lower overall salary cap. The Washington big man lands in the optimal lineup in 30.9% of Awesemo’s simulated slates, the fifth-highest mark on the board at any position. That ranks him as the most frequently optimal center on the site, and he comes up as the second-best power forward option, the top three options on the board are all guards, while Porzingis competes with his teammate Kyle Kuzma for shares. With Kuzma drawing a 29.4% ownership projection, Porzingis has value from a raw ownership and leverage perspective. He will be owned by just 14.5% of the field, roughly half the rate of popularity that Kuzma will see despite similar projections and probability marks. Porzingis has a dominant 16.4 leverage score, while Kuzma has a still-good 3.0 mark in the category. For $500 less, Porzingis is carrying a median projection of 38.3, just three fantasy points below Kuzma, and he has a 31.19% boom score probability compared to his teammate’s 33.96% mark. The pivot is worthwhile for both the cost savings and the massive upgrade in leverage that Porzingis provides.
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Kevin Love: DK $6,100 — PF/C | FD $5,300 — PF/C
A night after posting 12 NBA points and nine rebounds in a 31-minute performance in a game that went to overtime, Cavaliers veteran Kevin Love is expected to return to a more limited bench role, with a 22-minute projection on the board in Awesemo’s afternoon update. Love is admittedly more valuable when he finds himself with an unexpected start at a cheap price, but his low salary and the limited number of options available across both sites on a night with just three games renders the player at least worthy of consideration. Love’s limited playing time expectation seems to be impacting his public popularity, Love is a positive leverage play on both sites tonight, despite his 1.17 fantasy points per minute rate across the season and his 1.09 mark over the team’s three most recent games. After posting 29.8 FanDuel points in 31 minutes last night, Love is projected for mid-20s output across the industry, but he has upside for more and is not getting the requisite attention.
On the DraftKings slate, Love lands with a 14.9% optimal lineup rate that seems underwhelming on the surface, particularly by comparison to the top power forwards on the slate, or even his teammate Lauri Markkanen, who sits in 13th with a 22.3% optimal rate but also has a -5.2 leverage score. Love’s 23rd ranked optimal rate is not all that far off of Markkanen’s probability, and everyone from 16th ranked Dorian Finney-Smith on is at less than a 20% optimal rate. Among those players, only Love and Pistons forward Isaiah Stewart come with positive leverage. The unpopular Cavaliers veteran will be rostered by just 7.5% of the public on the DraftKings slate, leaving him with a highly desirable 7.4 leverage score even for his slightly inflated $6,100 salary. The higher cost and low minutes projection is likely what keeps the public further from the play than they should be, Love has a 12.95% boom score probability on the slate, he can be rostered for marginal upside and premium leverage.
At a $5,300 salary against the higher FanDuel cap, Love gains ground in value but barely picks up popularity. The player can be rostered at either power forward or center at the low price, thrusting him into the optimal lineup in 21.2% of Awesemo’s simulated slates for the blue site. While that puts Love on a different tier from the eight players landing in the optimal lineup in more than 40% of the time, he does rank 15th overall on the board while coming in with a 7.5 leverage score. Love is a strong mix-and-match option from the lower mid-range, he can be combined with other strong leverage plays in the frontcourt, including Porzingis and Jerami Grant, while rostering premium stars at wing and guard positions. Even with a conservative projection for playing time and just a 25.48-point median projection, Love is a go-to option on the slate, he sits one spot ahead of minimum-priced Reggie Bullock by optimal lineup rate; the Dallas value can be rostered at shooting guard for efficient ownership if slightly more salary savings is needed to reach a three-star configuration at other positions.
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