FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball Helper: Thursday 12/31/20

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 four-game slate, which locks at 7:00 pm Eastern.

Point Guard

Elfrid Payton ($5,200) - Payton is easily our top value at point guard for tonight, as our algorithm projects him for 28.4 FanDuel points (5.46 FanDuel points per $1,000 in salary). Payton's New York Knicks are the largest underdogs on the slate at 9.5 points against the Toronto Raptors, who are 11th in opponent-adjusted FanDuel points per minute in the NBA since the start of last season. Payton, though, has had at least 15 shot attempts in each of his past two games with 7 assists in each. He should get to 30-plus minutes, which no other value point guard can expect.

John Wall ($7,000) - Wall -- and DeMarcus Cousins -- will make his debut after a league-mandated quarantine and comes in with a reasonable salary. He'll cede touches to Cousins and James Harden, of course, but the Houston Rockets' 118.0-point implied team total is highest of the slate by 5.5 points, and the spread is only 5.5 points in their favor against the Sacramento Kings. Houston has played fairly slow offensively (23rd in offensive seconds per play to start the season), but the Kings are 8th, and Houston ranks 6th in adjusted pace since the start of last season. All this points to offensive production for the Rockets, and at his salary, Wall has plenty of room to smash value.

Others to Consider: De'Aaron Fox ($7,900), Lonzo Ball ($6,800), Kyle Lowry ($8,000)

Shooting Guard

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($8,400) - James Harden is the premier play on the slate in terms of raw fantasy point projections, so let's table that. He's a great play. But it's a small slate, and that means opportunity cost comes into play. We project Harden for 56.4 points, and the next-best projection belongs to fellow shooting guard Gilgeous-Alexander at 42.9. In fact, four of our top-six projected players are shooting guards: Harden (56.4), Gilgeous-Alexander (42.9), Donovan Mitchell ($7,900; 39.6), and Devin Booker ($7,500; 39.4). If Harden goes off for 70-plus fantasy points, he'll be nearly impossible to replace, but if we anticipate that he takes a step back because of the debuts from Wall and Cousins, we can take advantage of the other options at shooting guard. It's worth noting that Harden is currently the core piece of our optimal lineup. The pivot away from Harden is primarily relevant because of the small slate, where game theory matters more than on a larger slate where popularity is dispersed. Gilgeous-Alexander and the Oklahoma City Thunder play a fast-paced, middling defense in the New Orleans Pelicans.

Buddy Hield ($5,400) - Hield and the Kings are on the other side of the Rockets game, and their 112.5-point implied team total is tied for second-best on the slate. We actually project Eric Bledsoe ($4,800) for more fantasy points per $1,000 (5.81) than Hield (5.32), but this all goes to show that we do have ways to get away from Harden if we so choose. Shooting guard is deep tonight despite the small slate. Hield is averaging just 0.71 FanDuel points per minute but draws a mostly soft perimeter defense.

Others to Consider: James Harden ($11,500), Donovan Mitchell ($7,900), Eric Bledsoe ($5,400)

Small Forward

Brandon Ingram ($9,400) - So, that whole conversation about Harden and opportunity cost is the inverse for Ingram. Whereas we have viable alternatives at shooting guard to Harden, there aren't many -- if any -- pivots away from Ingram at small forward. We project Ingram for 37.0 FanDuel points and no other small forward for even 30.0. That's not a good value rating (3.93 FanDuel points per $1,000), but he has two games with more than 50 FanDuel points (60.3 in the opener and 50.2 on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs). The Thunder are tough on wings, but a 50-point outing from Ingram is likely going unmatched at small forward tonight.

Norman Powell ($3,800) - Powell is our top projected value at the position (20.8 FanDuel points, good for 5.47 per $1,000). The Raptors are heavy favorites on the Knicks by 9.5 points, so this could be a get-right spot for Powell, who is struggling mightily (as acknowledged by head coach Nick Nurse). Powell is averaging only 0.67 FanDuel points per minute, down from 0.92 last year. The cold start should leave him a little overlooked, as well.

Others to Consider: RJ Barrett ($6,200), Danuel House Jr. ($4,100), Mikal Bridges

Power Forward

Julius Randle ($8,000) - Power forward is a deep position on the slate with Randle, Pascal Siakam ($7,400), Zion Williamson ($8,300), and Christian Wood ($8,800) at the top. Siakam comes with the easiest salary of the four, but it's Randle with the best value projection, per our algorithm. Randle also puts forth the best per-minute FanDuel point average of the four early on this season (1.21) with Williamson (1.15) and Wood (1.13) close behind. Siakam is lagging at 0.97. Randle, though, is getting big minutes (34 or more in all four games) and most recently played 44 two days ago. He has 15 or more shot attempts in all four games, which has led to 25-plus points in three straight.

Royce O'Neale ($3,800) - O'Neale rates out as an elite value play (5.97 projected FanDuel points per $1,000 in salary) despite some red flags. Namely, he has just 5, 4, and 3 field goal attempts through three games (with 6 total makes) but has gotten to 20-plus FanDuel points in two straight because of some peripherals: 19 total rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block over that span. At 0.54 FanDuel points per minute, he's unlikely to be a can't-miss play. Where the real value comes from is if he gets you access to those with untouchable ceilings -- Harden, Ingram, Randle, Williamson, Rudy Gobert ($7,700) -- and they erupt.

Others to Consider: Zion Williamson ($8,300), Pascal Siakam ($7,400), Marvin Bagley III ($5,100)


Rudy Gobert ($7,700) - Gobert is projected for 39.1 FanDuel points, and only Deandre Ayton ($7,100) is also projected above 30.0 FanDuel points among centers. Gobert's matchup with the Phoenix Suns is a promising one. Gobert is yet to fall shy of 40.0 FanDuel points in any of his three games and has at least 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 assists in each.

Others to Consider: Deandre Ayton ($7,100), Steven Adams ($5,400), Mitchell Robinson ($5,200), Al Horford (5,400)