FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball Helper: Wednesday 12/25/19

The five-game Christmas Day slate is nearly here. Who should you target on FanDuel?

If you're new to daily fantasy basketball -- maybe you started your DFS journey during the MLB or NFL seasons, or maybe basketball is your sport and this will be your first year giving it a shot -- you're in for a treat. The NBA scene changes on a week-to-week, day-to-day, and -- depending on injury news -- even a minute-to-minute basis, making every slate a unique one that requires an ever-changing approach.

With so much changing so quickly, we're here with plenty of tools to help you out. We have daily projections, a matchup heat map, a lineup optimizer, and a bunch of other great resources to help give you an edge.

Daily fantasy NBA is very reliant on opportunity, so you'll need to make sure that you're up-to-date with key injuries. Our projections update up until tip-off to reflect current news, we have player news updates, and the FanDuel Scout app will send push notifications for pressing updates regarding your players.

We'll also be coming at you with this primer every day, breaking down a few of the day's top plays at each position.

Let's take a look at who you should target on the Christmas Day main slate, which features the marquee Santa Slam contest with a $1,000,000 prize pool.

Point Guard

Point guard is pretty heavy at the top, so we'll probably want to prioritize this position for the Christmas slate. There are actually studs at every position, but the best early values look to be in the frontcourt.

Russell Westbrook ($9,600) is the priciest option at the position and unsurprisingly has the highest ceiling of the slate, based on his 75th-percentile outcome in my simulations. Players with the highest ceilings on small slates always deserve attention. Westbrook also has the added benefit of playing the Golden State Warriors, who are a bottom-five defense when adjusting for garbage time. They also operate at a league-average offensive pace. Additionally, the Warriors rate out bottom-five against combo guards, so Westbrook has plenty of appeal relative to other point guards on the slate.

Kemba Walker ($7,800) will square up with Kyle Lowry ($8,000) and the Toronto Raptors. While Toronto plays good perimeter defense, Walker's price accounts for an 0-for-6 shooting game against the Detroit Pistons this past weekend. Walker produces 1.17 FanDuel points per minute and rates out with the second-best tournament value among point guards in my projections. Lowry, though, has the easier path to production. With all of Toronto's injuries, Lowry has elite usage numbers (27.7% usage ate and 1.31 FanDuel points per minute) with Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, and Norman Powell off the court. Update: We can prefer Walker to Lowry if Gordon Hayward sits.

Rajon Rondo ($4,400) averages 1.02 FanDuel points per minute and is affordable, which helps for the small slate. Rondo draws a mid-level Los Angeles Clippers defense in terms of how they treat distributing guards. He always steps it up in nationally televised games, too. Rondo owns the best floor/ceiling combination among point guards -- adjusted for price -- on the board. Update: LeBron James and Anthony Davis are questionable. If one or both miss, Rondo gets a significant boost, and Alex Caruso ($3,900) and Quinn Cook ($3,500) could be punt options.

Core Plays: Russell Westbrook, Kyle Lowry, Rajon Rondo
Secondary Plays: Kemba Walker, Ben Simmons ($8,000), Patrick Beverley ($4,600; questionable)
Tournament Plays: Jamal Murray ($7,600),
Lonzo Ball ($4,800), Monte Morris ($3,900), Brad Wanamaker ($3,500), George Hill ($4,100)

Shooting Guard

Shooting guard is pretty solid for the five-game slate, so we'll want to save some salary to spend up here.

Even with other options, there's significant opportunity cost in not getting James Harden ($11,700) in your lineups. His floor (47.5 FanDuel points) is higher than any other shooting guard's ceiling (45.9 for Jrue Holiday ($8,300)) in my initial simulations. Harden, like Westbrook, has a cakewalk of a matchup against the Warriors' terrible defense. Harden is third in the NBA in FanDuel points per minute (1.59), and the biggest concern is blowout risk.

D'Angelo Russell ($8,200) has game-stack appeal if we think the Warriors can keep it close. Russell averages a sturdy 1.19 FanDuel points per minute and ranks eighth in the NBA in usage rate (31.2%). As a 9.5-point underdog, Russell does have risk, but the reward is 45-plus FanDuel points for a decent price tag. Update: Damion Lee ($4,400) is a cheap option for the Warriors, as well, if Glenn Robinson III sits.

Fred VanVleet ($7,700) has a 30.1% usage rate in a smallish sample without Siakam, Gasol, and Powell on the court, and that workload alone puts him into play at this salary. Lou Williams ($5,100) is always in play on a short slate because he can light it up. He has 20 points in three of his past four games, and the Los Angeles Lakers are not a particularly opposing wing defense. Williams has a 27.1% usage rate on the year and a per-minute average of 1.05 FanDuel points. With Patrick Beverley questionable, Williams could easily get a bump if Beverley is out.

Core Plays: James Harden, Lou Williams, Damion Lee
Secondary Plays: Khris Middleton ($6,500), Gary Harris ($4,600), D'Angelo Russell, Fred VanVleet
Tournament Plays: Danny Green ($3,900), Jrue Holiday, Ben McLemore ($3,800)

Small Forward

Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,200) and LeBron James ($9,800) are studs in every sense of the word and rate out as elite plays at their position. Antetokounmpo leads the NBA in FanDuel points per minute (1.89). Nobody else produces more than 1.67. The Philadelphia 76ers are stingy against versatile forwards, but it doesn't really matter for Giannis, who has at least 40.5 FanDuel points in every game.

James had 19 shot attempts in 36 minutes in a matchup with the Clippers back on opening night. He added 10 rebounds and 8 assists for 43.0 FanDuel points. He averages 1.49 FanDuel points per minute on the season. It'll be hard to get both James and Giannis in your lineups, and for the price, James looks like the better spend from a range-of-outcomes standpoint. Update: James is questionable to play on Christmas Day. His absence creates a lot of opportunity for Anthony Davis and the cheaper ball-handlers. Keep an eye on this situation.

Paul George ($8,600) is more salary-friendly and is opposite James in the battle for Los Angeles. When sharing the court with Kawhi Leonard ($9,000), George has a 29.0% usage rate and a per-minute average of 1.14 FanDuel points. He and James rate out as slightly safer than Antetokounmpo, given the salary. That makes Giannis a great tournament play when looking to build different lineups from the consensus.

Marcus Smart ($4,700) may not play, as he has no timetable for return due to an eye infection. Gordon Hayward ($6,300) hasn't played since December 12th but sounds likely to return on Christmas. Hayward averages 1.05 FanDuel points per minute and draws a plus matchup against the Raptors, who are sixth-worst against versatile forwards. If Hayward sits, we can boost Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum as well as some of the cheaper Celtics.

Core Plays: Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Tobias Harris ($6,800)
Secondary Plays: Alec Burks ($5,700), LeBron James, Gordon Hayward/Jaylen Brown ($6,700)
Tournament Plays: Brandon Ingram ($8,600), Will Barton ($6,200), Kenrich Williams ($3,800)

Power Forward

The stud options at power forward are Anthony Davis ($10,700) and Kawhi Leonard ($9,000) in that Los Angeles versus Los Angeles game. Both Davis (1.54) and Leonard (1.48) are top-eight in FanDuel points per minute on the season, and both are top-20 in usage rate. Leonard is actually fifth at 33.4%. Davis has 51.1 or more FanDuel points in seven straight games. Both would be priority plays, but power forward actually has solid value options. This should lower ownership on them and make them stellar tournament pivots. Update: If LeBron sits, Davis becomes pretty much a must-roster if you're building a handful of lineups and a core piece in tournament player pools.

Between injuries to Marcus Smart and Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum ($7,300) is in line to build on a hot streak on Christmas Day. He just put up a career-best 39-point showing this weekend and sees his usage rate grow to 32.0% without them on the court.

The best projected per-dollar value looks to be Chris Boucher ($3,900). Boucher plays for the depleted Raptors, and on Sunday, he played 24 minutes and put up 46.4 FanDuel points (21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 steals) against the Dallas Mavericks. Boucher averages a healthy 1.19 FanDuel points per minute (same as D'Angelo Russell, for context) and is likely to see minutes in the mid-20s again against the Celtics. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ($4,100) played 28.5 minutes on Sunday and had 34.8 FanDuel points (18 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal). The minutes for the price are just too nice to ignore on a small slate when reliable savings are hard to find.

Core Plays: Chris Boucher, Jayson Tatum, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis (depending on the injuries)
Secondary Plays: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Al Horford ($6,500), Paul Millsap ($5,000)
Tournament Plays: Draymond Green ($6,500), Daniel Theis ($4,300), P.J. Tucker ($4,800), Kyle Kuzma ($3,900; if no James/Davis)


We have three spend-up options at center, but they don't have quite the pop that the other studs have and could wind up being good tournament pivots on the slate. Joel Embiid ($9,900), Nikola Jokic ($9,400), and Clint Capela ($8,700) do rate out well enough at their salaries, yet none look like must-plays with elite floors and ceilings.

Montrezl Harrell ($5,500) is priced down $2,500 from where he was just a week ago but played 31 minutes on Sunday and had 17 shot attempts. He has flashed 30-point upside even while playing from the bench. Harrell is a productive player (1.19 FanDuel points per minute) who needs around 25 minutes to pay off at that level of effectiveness. He has played 23, 33, 20, and 31 minutes in the past four games with at least 28.1 FanDuel points in all of them.

Brook Lopez ($4,700) has returned at least 35.6 FanDuel points in three straight games while getting at least 26 minutes in each of them. At 1.02 FanDuel points per minute, he should see a fairly high floor against Embiid and the 76ers, despite the fact that it's not an elite matchup. We'll need to save some salary to roster any of the plethora of studs, so Lopez is absolutely in the consideration set.

Core Plays: Montrezl Harrell, Joel Embiid
Secondary Plays: Nikola Jokic, Brook Lopez, Willie Cauley-Stein ($4,600)
Tournament Plays: Clint Capela, Ivica Zubac ($3,900), Mason Plumlee ($4,000), Dwight Howard ($4,400)