NBA DFS Picks & Building Blocks: Injury Uncertainty! (April 26)

Friday has a very unique 5:30 p.m. ET tipoff for the NBA Playoffs, so don’t get caught watching the paint dry and be sure to set lineups 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. Let’s dig into the NBA DFS picks and core plays like Damian Lillard, Pascal Siakam, Kawhi Leonard and, of course, Luka Doncic, along with a variety of secondary players as premium targets.

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NBA DFS Picks & Building Blocks Today: Friday, April 26

NBA DFS Picks: Building Blocks

Damian Lillard: Bucks at Pacers

Stokastic’s Fantasy Point Projections
DraftKings: 46.09 | FanDuel: 44.01
Stokastic’s Rostership Projections
DraftKings: 8.9% | FanDuel: 10.4%
DFS Salary
DraftKings $9,300 | FanDuel: $9,700

Giannis Antetokounmpo (calf) remains highly doubtful, and Khris Middleton missed practice with a sprained ankle. The expectation is that Middleton will play, but it is still going to be Damian Lillard who is tasked with willing the Bucks to victory in Indiana.

Keep in mind this game tips off at 5:30 p.m. ET, as ESPN has all three NBA games and, of course, the NFL Draft coverage. The Worldwide Leader is looking to maximize everything, leading to the earlier-than-normal start.

The Pacers are 6-point home favorites, having crushed the Bucks in Milwaukee 125-108 on Tuesday. Of course, we were reminded that anything can happen when the Heat beat the Celtics in Boston 111-101, despite being extreme underdogs. That is the beauty of 3-point and free-throw variance, which brings a little chaos to some of these matchups. The better team should win a seven-game series most of the time, but the lower seeds stealing a game or two in the opening round is very much in play.

Lillard is a strong candidate to be a top-3 fantasy performer on Friday’s slate, though he is one of half a dozen players projected in the 40- to 45-median-fantasy point range. Usage and opportunities will be on his side, as well as a good matchup — but the Clippers have a good matchup against Dallas and the Pacers do as well against Milwaukee. We can see by the projected popularity above that Lillard is likely to only be on one in 10 tournament rosters in today’s featured tournaments. If it ends up being Dame Time, that is very low.

Pascal Siakam has taken 25 and 23 field goal attempts, which is WAAAAAAY above the 16.4 he averaged over the last 17 regular season games. Tyrese Haliburton is still not at full strength, so it has been the former Toronto Raptor Siakam who has become the primary postseason scorer. If he can post a third consecutive game with 35-plus points and 11-plus rebounds, he will make everyone who missed the boat very, very verklempt.

Obi Toppin appears to be the punt du jour on DraftKings, while Aaron Nesmith has that honor on FanDuel.

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Kawhi Leonard: Clippers vs. Mavericks

Stokastic’s Fantasy Point Projections
DraftKings: 37.1 | FanDuel: 37.51
Stokastic’s Rostership Projections
DraftKings: 10.1% | FanDuel: 16.6%
DFS Salary
DraftKings: $7,800 | FanDuel: $8,600

Kawhi Leonard missed the last eight regular season games and the opener in the Dallas series. He returned for Game 2, playing nearly 35 minutes. That workload was not too much of a surprise, as it made sense that Los Angeles would not bring him back after a three-week layoff until he was ready for regular minutes — especially after winning Game 1.

The surprise was that the Mavericks were able to best the Clippers and now are at home for two games, with the series tied 1-1. Luka Doncic is still a premier play, but featuring him and Nikola Jokic every day is getting a bit repetitive. He and Kyrie Irving will be the priorities from Dallas, though they may not be the only targets.

Daniel Gafford suffered a back injury and played just over nine minutes on Tuesday, lasting only 73 seconds in the third quarter after being cleared to return. He did not practice, and if he is out, then that will be more minutes for rookie Dereck Lively II. In the event Gafford is out, it will be interesting to see how many gamers assume that Maximilian Kleber is going to get serious minutes. That is unlikely to be the case, as the drafting of Lively and in-season trades for Gafford and PJ Washington were intended to help keep Kleber from being overworked in the postseason.

After playing in 74 of the 75 regular season games for the Mavericks during the 2019-20 pandemic-shortened season, Kleber has appeared in 50, 59, 37 and 43 games for 189 out of a possible 318 matchups. Keep in mind the 2020-21 season was just 72 games instead of the standard 82. That is a 59.4% appearance rate, as the now 32-year-old just cannot stay healthy. In the last three postseasons, keeping in mind Dallas did not qualify in 2022-23, Kleber has averaged 26.7, 25.4 and 27.0 minutes per game, starting just four of 27.

He is unlikely to start tonight because his biggest asset for the Mavericks is his ability to play defense and handle switches onto the likes of Leonard, Paul George and even James Harden, as well as providing spacing with his long-range accuracy. It would be a surprise for him to go over the 26- to 28-minute range, so while he is far from a bad play, it is crucial to understand where his ceiling is and know that he still needs to get there via efficiency, and that still gives him a ceiling in the low-20s for fantasy points. The Mavs prefer to have him available for 8 to 10 minutes in the fourth quarter and are unlikely to deviate from that strategy.

Circling back to Lively and Washington, the expectation is that they will divvy up the 15 or so minutes allocated to Gafford, which will in turn make them the most likely to get a bump if the journeyman center is unable to go tonight. Tim Hardaway Jr. is also out, though his 15 to 16 minutes can easily be distributed across the rest of the healthy players without any one in particular getting a direct 10-plus-minutes bump.

Wrapping up the Clippers, the return of Leonard capped Amir Coffey’s minutes as he moved back to the bench, and the rest of the reserves saw fewer but similar minutes as Game 1. That keeps Russell Westbrook and Norman Powell in play as tertiary targets, with the Los Angeles first five being the key clicks.

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Today’s Top Sports Betting Pick

Will the real Aaron Nesmith please stand up?! Tonight Nesmith’s under on his 2.5 assists prop is actually available at plus money, with Unibet, SugarHouse and BetRivers offering a +128 line and DraftKings not too far behind at +124.

By using OddsShopper to do the heavy lifting when researching favorable bets, we can quickly spot inefficient lines like this one, and having accounts at multiple sportsbooks allows us to pivot to the best number quickly.

When looking at the true odds of +110 (how OddsShopper measures the potential expected ROI of a given wager), there is a tasty 8.4% expected ROI with the current line.


NBA Bet Pro has Nesmith projected for 35.3 minutes and 1.69 assists, which is below the threshold for tonight’s under. Of course, that does not account for variable actual outcomes, which is where the 48% win probability becomes a useful data point and stresses why we need to take this wager only at +110 or higher and preferably +120 or better.

So why is this a terrifying wager? Well, just by looking at the two playoff games, we can see that Nesmith played 36.5 minutes and had seven assists on Tuesday, and 36.8 minutes with three assists on Sunday. So how sustainable are those results, particularly the seven assists? For perspective, Nesmith averaged 27.7 minutes and 1.5 assists per game, both of which were career highs. Digging a little deeper, we can see that his per-36-minutes assist rate is only at 1.9 for each of the last two regular seasons.

The real answer seems to be that he just got lucky, with 10 of his 11 “potential” assists over the last two games being converted into buckets. That simply is not going to hold, as even the best passers only convert around 50% to 60% of all potential assists. This is going to be a wager that has us on the edge of our seats, but it does have a tremendous expected ROI on a long-term time horizon.

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Final Thoughts on NBA DFS Picks & Building Blocks Today

Get all the latest news and updates for NBA DFS picks today on the Stokastic NBA Live Before Lock Show at 4:30 p.m. ET on YouTube, breaking down all of the key elements for today’s slate. Brought to you by Sleeper – new users, use this link to receive a $500 first deposit match! Full details here.

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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