NBA DFS Picks & Building Blocks: Devin Booker and Khris Middleton = Core Plays! (January 8)

Sunday gets the featured slate underway at an earlier-than-usual time of 6 p.m. ET on DraftKings and FanDuel. There are several options in the player pool worth analyzing to find the top NBA DFS building blocks and NBA DFS picks, including some intriguing playing time situations that provide steady value options. Let’s dig into the NBA DFS picks and core plays like Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and a plethora of Pacers and Celtics ready to step into larger roles with some key players out tonight.

NBA DFS Picks & Building Blocks Today: Monday, January 8

Devin Booker: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Clippers

This is a back-to-back, as well as the third game in four days for the Suns, who fell last night 121-115 to the Memphis Grizzlies. Kevin Durant (hamstring) is likely to miss this game, though he is currently doubtful — so we still are awaiting official news. This season Devin Booker sees nearly an 8% increase in his fantasy points per minute when Durant is off the floor, recording 1.35.

Despite the Clippers having reputation for being an above-average defense, the addition of James Harden and Paul George and Kawhi Leonard being another year older rendered this more of a fallacy than fact. Over the last 10 games, Los Angeles has allowed 118.0 points per 100 possessions, which is in the bottom third of the league.

Booker is projected for 36.3 minutes, which is right around his average, and he oftentimes flirts with 40 minutes, depending on the late-game situations. This game has a 230.5 projected point total, which should lead to ample fantasy goodness for the key participants. The big three for the Clippers are all in play, as are Bradley Beal and Jusuf Nurkic from the Suns.

Update: Durant is now probable.

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Khris Middleton: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Utah Jazz

Damian Lillard is away from the team, attending to a personal matter, which leaves a void of 35.4 minutes and 17.2 field goal attempts. That has Khris Middleton looking like one of the best building blocks across the DFS industry. After dealing with a myriad of maladies over the last two seasons, the three-time All-Star is finally back up to a standard workload of 30 to 33 minutes. When Lillard is off the court, Middleton sees an increase in his usage rate from 20.1% to 31.9%, his assist rate increases from 23.2% to 32.1% and his fantasy points per minute jump from 1.10 to 1.28 for a 16% increase. Add in a good matchup against the Utah Jazz and we should see Middleton make a foray to the 40-fantasy-point plateau. The only caveat is that, for him to approach 50 fantasy points, it is going to need to be on efficiency or volume because he is not likely to see a change in minutes.

Giannis Antetokounmpo averages 1.64 fantasy points per minute alongside Lillard, with a boost to 1.71 and an elite 34.4% usage rate. It is never hard to see Antetokounmpo, but it is fun looking at rates when someone of Lillard’s caliber is out of the picture.

Bobby Portis has not topped 23 minutes or 20 fantasy points in the last five games, but he should get a trickledown benefit filling in for Lillard and, of course, mop-up duty if this game is out of hand. His recent lack of production has pushed down his salary to an enticing level.

Depending on your DFS site of choice, Malik Beasley, Marjon Beauchamp, Andre Jackson Jr. and Pat Connaughton each have merit as tertiary tournament targets.

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Boston Celtics at Indiana Pacers

Jayson Tatum (ankle) and Sam Hauser (shoulder) are both out tonight, and while Hauser is not as productive as Tatum, he is vacating 20 minutes in a glorious matchup. Tatum, of course, is an All-Star and opening up 36.5 minutes and 19.5 field goal attempts. Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Jrue Holiday, Derrick White and Kristaps Porzingis all get a 10% to 15% boost in their baseline projections with Tatum out of the picture. There is a real possibility that four of these five could each reach 40 fantasy points together tonight, which is crazy to think about.

Indiana could be another source of value once the dust settles, with Bruce Brown Jr. (knee), Isaiah Jackson (finger) and Andrew Nembhard (back) questionable. Kendall Brown, Oscar Tshiebwe and Isaiah Wong are also questionable, but they are not regular contributors, so it is more of a situation to see how many understudies are out tonight. This game tips off in the first wave, so we will have all of the injury news by 6:45 p.m. ET.

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Additional NBA Building Blocks Pick — Sports Betting Opportunities

While we want to work in Antetokounmpo to our DFS lineups, he is also an option in the sports wagering market with the under on his 36.5 points prop, which is currently available at odds of -105. Per the true odds of -119 (how OddsShopper measures the potential expected ROI of a given wager), this opportunity has a steady 6% expected ROI as a function of the inefficient line.

It is crucial to take advantage of OddsShopper to look at all the available lines since that can easily be worth another 2% to 3% for your ROI, even on perfectly neutral bets, based on how the different books value things. To demonstrate this very concept, look below — you can see that several books are offering this bet between -120 and -141 for the same under 36.5 and FanDuel is offering a similar -104, but dropping the threshold down to 35.5 points. Be a savvy shopper!

NBA Bet Pro has Antetokounmpo projected for 34.9 minutes and 36.45 points. The two-time NBA MVP is averaging 31.6 points per game, though he has scored 37-plus in just 8 of 35 (22.8%) appearances. He also has four other games between 35 or 36 points, but it demonstrates just how high of a bar the books have set for him tonight.

Utah has tightened up a bit on defense lately and is closer to league average over the last three weeks. Of course, as detailed above, Lillard is out, so that is also pushing up the median projected points for Giannis. He could easily have a 50-plus PRA (points + rebounds + assists) tonight but still fall short of the 37 points needed for us to lose this wager.

Rooting for unders may not be as fun as rooting for overs, but that is where the line value is more often than not when it comes to player props, as the sportsbooks look to use psychology against casual bettors.

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Eric "EMac" MacPherson won the 2007 Fantasy Baseball grand prize (trip for two to the MLB All-Star game) in the Roto format on ESPN. He won again in 2008, this time in the H2H format. As one of the early adopters of daily fantasy sports, EMac has been providing content for baseball and basketball as well as both professional and college football since 2012 for a variety of websites including DraftKings Playbook, FanVice, RotoWorld, Daily Fantasy Bootcamp, and RotoGrinders. He is well into his third decade of fantasy sports and has a wealth of knowledge and experience. Follow him on Twitter @EMacDFS or contact EMac by emailing [email protected].

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