FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball Helper: Wednesday 12/23/20

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 tonight's 13-game slate, which locks at 7:00 PM Eastern Time.

Point Guard

At point guard, Luka Doncic ($11,400) is in a tier all by himself in terms of salary -- he comes in $1,500 more than any other player at the position. At his salary, Luka would need to put up 57 FanDuel points in order to achieve 5X value (or 5.0 fantasy points for every $1,000 in salary), which is the baseline we'll be looking for. Doncic totaled 57 or more in 25 of his 61 games last season, including more than 60 in two of his four outings against the Phoenix Suns. With Kristaps Porzingis off the court last season, Luka saw a ridiculous 38.6% usage rate and averaged 1.6 FanDuel points per minute. The Dallas Mavericks have the third-highest implied total on the slate, which means Luka could be cooking to start the season.

In the next tier are Russell Westbrook ($9,900), Trae Young ($9,700), Damian Lillard ($9,200), and Ben Simmons ($9,200). Based on last season's adjusted FanDuel Points per Minute surrendered, Simmons has, by far, the easiest matchup of all the top-tier point guards, whereas Young has the toughest. Our models have both Westbrook and Young returning under 4.5X value. Finally, John Wall ($7,000) could end up being a slate-winning play if James Harden were to be unavailable.
(Update: Wall is expected to miss tonight's game due to COVID contact tracing.)

In the mid-range, numberFire's algorithm has both Malcolm Brogdon ($6,600) and Ricky Rubio ($6,100) returning top-four value at point guard. Neither player has a particularly tough matchup. However, with Derrick White out, Dejounte Murray ($6,200) could end up being the best bang for your buck.

Our model's top-projected value plays are De'Anthony Melton ($3,900) and Terry Rozier ($4,600). Rozier gets a matchup against a Cleveland Cavaliers team that allowed the most adjusted points per minute to point guards. For an even lower salary, Shake Milton ($3,800) could be an excellent salary-saving plug-in.

Shooting Guard

If Harden were to be out, the shooting guard position would comprise mostly of mid- and lower-range values. There are 10 players at the position with salaries ranging from $7,000 to $8,400, but our model sees three of them surpassing 5X -- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($8,100), D'Angelo Russell ($7,500), and DeMar DeRozan ($7,500). SGA is particularly intriguing. He would need 40.5 FanDuel points -- a number he topped 17 times last season -- to achieve 5X. It's worth noting, that in a limited sample size of 89 minutes, SGA saw a 33.2% usage rate and averaged an additional 0.11 FanDuel points per minute with Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder, and Danilo Gallinari off the court last season. A matchup with the Houston Rockets is never one to shy away from.

Our model's top-projected value at the position is Devonte' Graham ($5,700). Graham would need just 28.5 fantasy points for 5X value, and he reached or exceeded that number in 45 of his 63 games last season. In fact, Graham is our model's sixth-best projected-value on the entire slate. Not far behind Graham is Buddy Hield ($5,200), who could see a more consistent role with Bogdan Bogdanovic having departed in free agency. numberFire's algorithm has Hield coming pretty close to 6X value in his season-opener.

In the bargain bin, you can certainly do worse than looking towards either Luguentz Dort ($3,900) or Donte DiVincenzo ($4,500). Dort is behind only Graham and Hield in terms of projected value, and like SGA, he too should see an expanded role for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Meanwhile, DiVincenzo figures to have a more expanded role for the league's best offense, and tonight the Milwaukee Bucks might be without D.J. Augustin, his primary competition for minutes in the backcourt.

Small Forward

The small forward position features the most expensive player on the slate, Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,500). The back-to-back MVP winner comes in with a salary that's $3,300 more than any other player at the position. That's not to say that you should pay up. Our algorithm has Giannis totaling 58 fantasy points, the most of any player. The 57.5 points Giannis needs for 5X is a number he surpassed in 32 of his 63 games last season, and he also topped 50 in 16 of the other 31 games.

With Kevin Love and Kevin Porter Jr. out for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Larry Nance Jr. ($5,100) figures to put his salary to shame. Nance topped 43 FanDuel points twice in the seven games he was on the court without Love in the lineup. With Al Horford and Josh Richardson off the court last season, Tobias Harris ($6,600) saw bumps of 3.8% in usage and 0.11 FanDuel points per minute. Both players were dealt elsewhere this offseason, which should leave Harris with a more fantasy-friendly role.

In the lower range, our model has four plays that are projected to return fantastic value -- Justin Holiday ($3,600), Patrick Williams ($3,500), Miles Bridges ($4,600), and Troy Brown ($4,200). If you want to load up on studs, Williams is definitely intriguing at a minimum salary. The fourth overall pick in this year's draft saw 25 or more minutes in each of the Chicago Bulls' four preseason games, and he posted 21.6 and 24.4 FanDuel points in two of them -- he would need 17.5 for 5X.

Power Forward

Speaking of salary-saving options, Daniel Theis ($4,200) and Davis Bertans ($4,700) are our model's top-two projected values on the entire slate, not just at the position. Theis would need 21 fantasy points for 5X, and he reached or exceeded that in 43 of his 65 games last season -- including in 11 of the 13 games in which Enes Kanter was inactive (Kanter was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers this offseason). Bertans figures to see a bump in usage and minutes with Rui Hachimura out. At an even steeper discount, Nerlens Noel ($3,900) is a top play based on numberFire's algorithm.

Christian Wood ($6,400) was going to have a large role in Houston regardless, but if Harden were to be inactive, Wood could be one of the slate's top plays. In order to reach 5X, Wood would need 32 FanDuel points, which is a number he eclipsed with ease in 14 of his final 15 games with the Detroit Pistons last season.

In the more expensive range, John Collins ($7,700) should be a good play with Clint Capela not suiting up. Collins will be going up against a Chicago team that ranked second-worst against power forwards a season ago.


Both Joel Embiid ($9,400) and Andre Drummond ($8,400) are worth saving up for at center. Our model has them recording 48.4 and 45.1 FanDuel points, respectively -- both good enough to exceed 5X. Drummond will be going up against a Charlotte Hornets team that ranked worst in the league against centers last season, and Embiid will face a Washington Wizards team that ranked fourth-worst. Given their ceilings, both players are worth paying up for. Drummond could prove to be the better value with Kevin Love out.

If you want to save close to $1K, you can look towards Deandre Ayton ($7,600). Our model projects the former first overall pick to be the third-best value at the center position.

Don't worry -- if you want to conserve salary for other positions, there are plenty of options, namely DeMarcus Cousins ($4,500) and Aron Baynes ($4,200). numberFire's models have both players dwarfing 5X value, though Cousins is the top-projected value at the position. In three preseason games with Houston, Cousins averaged an impressive 31.5 FanDuel points in just 17.7 minutes per contest.
(Update: Cousins is expected to miss tonight's game due to COVID contact tracing.)