FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball Helper: Christmas Day 2020
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 break down this year's Christmas Day slate, which is one of the most anticipated NBA slates of the entire year:
So early into the season, there is, thankfully, minimal injury news across the slate. Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker, and Dallas Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis remain out for their respective squads -- as was the case in the team debuts earlier this week. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is the one high-salary question mark, but he anticipates he will be good to go for the Lakers' clash with Dallas on Friday evening.
Stephen Curry ($8,700): With Klay Thompson sidelined for the entire season, the Warriors' chances to win an NBA championship in 2021 are significantly hindered, but all may not be lost in terms of a rooting interest for fans. Steph Curry appears to be one of the early favorites for this year's scoring title because of lack of quality options to score around him, as his teammates shot just 38.4% in Tuesday's opening game blowout loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Curry took 21 shots in three quarters following a preseason where he took at least 21 shots in both games in which he saw over 20 minutes. Combining that with his 31.3% usage for the night, Curry has too much volume in this offense as a historically efficient player for this salary, even with a potential blowout risk as 9.5-point underdogs to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Jrue Holiday ($7,000): As one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, Holiday's primary job is likely to be defending Steph Curry on Christmas Day, but he may have a solid role on the other end as well. One of the frustrating components of Milwaukee's offense last year was determining the hierarchy on a given night behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, but trading some of their depth for Holiday may make them an easier team to project for daily fantasy. Holiday played a team-high 38 minutes on Wednesday night, pouring in 25 points on his usual efficient shooting (63%). He is projected to do as he did in the Bucks' season opener and smash value at this salary, as numberFire has the point guard projected for 39.6 FanDuel points on Christmas.
Paul George ($7,600): George was maligned in the offseason for his postseason shortcomings, but given that the regular season has returned, and George appears to be 100% healthy again, his performance Thursday should not have come as a surprise. George dropped in 33 points on 72% shooting against the Lakers and added 6 rebounds and 6 assists as well. George hovered in this salary tier much of the NBA postseason, but it was largely because his 39.8% shooting was not indicative of his usual offensive output. While he is unlikely to shoot 72% from the field every night, he has averaged 43.9% shooting each of the last two regular seasons, meaning there is likely a small inefficiency in salary to begin the new season here with George, who had his usual strong role in the season opener in terms of both minutes (36) and usage (25.1%).
Marcus Smart ($6,400): The offensive inconsistency of Smart can make him a volatile player to roster in daily fantasy, so this recommendation is definitely "tournaments only." However, there may still be value with the Celtics guard at this salary, given that Smart averaged 17.0 points, 5.3 assists, and 4.8 rebounds in 38.1 minutes during the last relevant sample we saw him in, which was the Eastern Conference Finals this summer against the Miami Heat. Smart has the same role currently due to a couple of factors, which are both the absence of Kemba Walker, as well as the departure of Gordon Hayward to the Charlotte Hornets. He played 38 minutes on Thursday against Milwaukee, but with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum both scoring over 30 points in their usual workload, Smart was limited to just 3 points on 3 shots. He was the definitive third option amongst current starters for the Celtics offensively last year, so expect a massive uptick from his 7.8% usage on Wednesday during Friday's contest.
Brandon Ingram ($7,300): The salary remains identical for Ingram to his opening night debut, but Ingram showed that -- even despite the new pieces in the rotation -- he is still the bonafide top option in the New Orleans Pelicans' offense. Ingram led the Pels in points (24), shots (19), and assists (11), which correlated to a team-high 27.1% usage amongst players seeing more than 5 minutes. Ingram's salary floated around $8,000 most of the 2019-20 season, so the small decrease to begin the season was likely due to the additions of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams, but at least on Wednesday, neither of the new pieces were able to carve substantially into Ingram's valuable role as a top option that earned him last season's Most Improved Player award. The Heat present a generally stingy defensive test, but they did just allow 25 points to Orlando Magic wing Evan Fournier on Wednesday, so the Miami defense appears to be at least slightly vulnerable on the outside to begin the year.
Tyler Herro ($5,000): On the other side of Ingram in this contest is Herro, who is listed as a small forward on FanDuel but has begun the season in more of a point guard role for the Heat in his second year. Herro only trailed Miami's All-Star tandem Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler in usage on Wednesday (23.1%) and has appeared to create a significant gap between he and Duncan Robinson in terms of which player stays on the floor when Goran Dragic arrives from the bench. Herro saw 32 minutes on Wednesday, and there may be positive shooting regression for the efficient wing, as he went just 1-for-5 from three-point land in his season opener. Herro provides substantive minutes in a nice role against a Pelicans squad that will pace up Miami's roster in general, as New Orleans was 4th in pace last season compared to Miami ranking just 27th.
Kevin Durant ($8,500): No pricing inefficiency early may be more severe than this one, as Durant has been a five-digit salary player on FanDuel his entire career but is just $8,500 -- likely due to some ambiguity about his role early in the season coming off the Achilles injury that cost him all of 2019-20. Durant is very much healthy, and if you faded him on the proposition of not being so, it was entirely lucky on Tuesday night. The former scoring champion dropped 22 points in 25 minutes against his former Warriors squad and likely could have had much more if not for sitting the fourth quarter due to a 28-point lead. At 28.2% usage and 0.64 shot attempts per minute, this is an even better scoring role in Brooklyn than KD had in Golden State, and he should supplement that with his usual rebounding and blocks. Durant is a heavy favorite as the player with the highest draft percentage on Friday, but he's worth every penny in a tighter contest against Boston on Christmas.
Paul Millsap ($4,900): The sign-and-trade of Jerami Grant put to end the platoon that Grant and Millsap had at the Denver Nuggets four spot last season, and Millsap already reaped the rewards on Wednesday. The veteran saw 36 minutes against the Sacramento Kings, which would have been a total of 31 without overtime, but that mark put him third on the team and well above his 24.3 minutes per game average from last season. Millsap was always a fairly productive player, as he averaged 0.97 FanDuel points per minute last season, but it was another story to trust Michael Malone to use his power forward over Grant or Michael Porter Jr. Denver's new rotation is extremely positive for daily fantasy, as six players saw over 30 minutes on Wednesday, and no one else saw more than 16. That lack of depth means roles should be fairly consistent, and there are multiple usable Nuggets to monitor going forward.
James Wiseman ($4,200): Ideally in tournaments for upside, you are not stacking Paul Millsap -- as one of the better values on the slate -- with his center Nikola Jokic, which provides an opportunity to discuss the fantasy prospects of the second overall pick in the 2020 draft on Christmas Day. Wiseman had a better than expected debut after battling COVID-19 leading up to the start of the season, as he posted 19 points and 6 rebounds in 24 minutes after a report he would only play in "short spurts" before Tuesday's game. That means, a few more days removed, it is logical that Wiseman's role -- at the very least -- does not decrease entering Golden State's contest with Milwaukee. Not only is Wiseman more talented than many options in this range, which may lead to greater upside, he may be one of the few Warriors options with minimal blowout risk, as he logged the final 7:46 of the game Tuesday night after it was well out of hand. Value is harder to come by with fewer injuries, so the talented rookie is an interesting option against the top-paced team in the NBA last season.
Other Notable Picks: Nikola Jokic ($9,700), Montrezl Harrell ($5,100)
Austin Swaim is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Austin Swaim also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username ASwaim3. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.