FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball Helper: Thursday 1/7/21

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 five-game slate, which locks at 7:30 PM Eastern Time.

Point Guard

Four of the 11 most expensive players on this slate reside at point guard, so the high-range options at the position are certainly plentiful. Luka Doncic ($11,100) headlines the position, coming in with a salary $1,100 heftier than any other player at the position. Luka is fresh off a performance where he dropped 60.7 FanDuel points three days ago in a game in which he saw a ridiculous 41.4% usage rate. Doncic would need 55.5 fantasy points in order to return 5X value (or 5.0 fantasy points for every $1,000 in salary), and the issue is that he hasn't topped 53.7 in any of his five career games against the Denver Nuggets. That said, Denver has ceded the sixth-most fantasy points to the position so far this year, according to FantasyPros. Our model has Donic recording 54.5 FanDuel points, just 0.4 points fewer than our top-projected player on the slate.

The three other options who will cost you a pretty penny are Kyrie Irving ($10,000), Damian Lillard ($9,200), and Ben Simmons ($8,700). Kyrie has now eclipsed 50 (what he needs for 5X tonight) in three of his last six games, and his volume should be through the roof without Kevin Durant in the lineup. One concern is that our Brandon Gdula ranks the Philadelphia 76ers as the 10th-toughest matchup for the position, according to his matchup sheet. Kyrie should be quite popular on tonight's limited slate, so there is valid reason to fade him in tournaments. On the other hand, Lillard gets to face a Minnesota Timberwolves defense that Gdula has as the third-worst against point guards. Dame would need 46 for 5X, and that's a number he's reached just twice in seven tries this season. Meanwhile, Simmons has topped 45 in two of his last three. Our model projects him to be the best value of the four high-salaried point guards.

Now onto the value plays. Despite the return of De'Anthony Melton ($3,800) on Tuesday, Tyus Jones ($5,400) still managed 28 FanDuel points in 32.2 minutes of action. It was Jones' third consecutive game with at least 27.5. Luckily for Jones, he gets to face a Cleveland Cavaliers defense that Gdula ranks as dead last against the point. Speaking of the Cavs' defense, Melton gets to square off against them, as well. In fact, he's our model's top-projected value on the entire slate (as of Thursday afternoon). He recorded 18.9 FanDuel in 15.8 minutes in his return, and he's bound to see a heavier workload in his second game back.

Shooting Guard

The shooting guard position is not one where we need to break the bank on tonight's slate. In fact, our model's top-four projected values at the position all have salaries under $6K. We'll start it off with Malik Beasley ($5,600), who's projected to be the second-best value on the entire slate. Beasley has played 38.1 and 37.7 minutes in his last two outings and has produced 48.9 and 27.2 FanDuel points, respectively, in the process. The matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and 'Wolves has a projected total that's eight points higher than the total for any other game on the slate, so you'll definitely want some exposure there.

In that same salary range, you can look to Dennis Schroder ($5,300) for some salary relief. numberFire's algorithm has Schroder projected for 28.5 FanDuel points, and he'd need only 26.5 to achieve 5X. The San Antonio Spurs rank as one of the best matchups for point guards, which is Schroder's primary position. Seth Curry ($5,000) has been a pretty reliable fantasy producer for Philly thus far, and his salary is quite reasonable. In order to attain 5X, Curry would only need 25.0 FanDuel points -- he's topped 28.0 in five of his last seven.

There are a couple of intriguing mid-range options at this position, as well -- namely Collin Sexton ($6,900) and Caris LeVert ($6,500). LeVert's 37.3% usage rate and 1.42 FanDuel points per minute without Durant and Spencer Dinwiddie on the floor this season are impossible to ignore. He would need 32.5 to accrue 5X value at his salary, which is a number he's surpassed with ease three times this season. In two games without KD on the court this campaign, LeVert has seen usage rates of 38.3% and 43.7% to go with outputs of 61.3 and 36.7 fantasy points, respectively. That's the upside you're chasing.

Meanwhile, with Darius Garland and a hoard of other players out for the Cavs, Sexton has to be on our radar. The 34.5 points he'd need for 5X value is a mark he's exceeded in five of his eight efforts this season. And, as I mentioned earlier, Memphis is just awful against guards.

Small Forward

There's only one (active) player with a salary above $8K at small forward, and that's LeBron James ($10,100). Despite being just the fourth-most expensive player on the slate, our algorithm projects LeBron to be the highest scorer. At his lowest salary this season, King James would need 50.5 FanDuel points to return 5X value, and he's gotten pretty darn close to that number in each of his last five games -- posting no less than 48 in any of those contests.

On the value side of things, Kyle Anderson ($5,900) is one play who our model wants you to consider. Anderson has underwhelmed in his last two outings (just 22.8 and 21.0 FanDuel points), but prior to that, he'd exceeded 36.0 in three of four. At tonight's salary, he'd need 29.5 to pay off 5X -- numberFire's algorithm projects him for 32.6. It helps that the Cavs rank as the third-best matchup for small forwards. Speaking of matchups, Will Barton ($6,000) gets one against a Dallas team that Gdula has as the second-worst against the position when adjusted for competition. Barton has now played three games without Michael Porter Jr. in the lineup, and he's posted 29.2 and 36.9 FanDuel points in his last two.

As for salary-saving plays, there are a couple of interesting ones at small forward. In the two games without Darius Garland in the lineup, Cedi Osman ($5,200) has been the direct beneficiary, posting 42.9 and 27.5 fantasy points in 38.5 and 32.9 minutes, respectively. The Grizzlies, Osman's opposition, have surrendered the second-most fantasy points to small forwards this season. For extreme savings, let's look to Danny Green ($3,900) and Derrick Jones Jr. ($3,900). Both players need 19.5 to achieve 5X. Green has put up 20.4, 26.7, and 31.1 FanDuel points in his last three, while Jones has topped 21.0 in two of his last three. I'd prefer Green at what's likely to be lower rostership.

Power Forward

Our model's top projected value at the four is Juan Hernangomez ($4,200). Hernangomez is coming off a game two days ago in which he torched the Nuggets for 46.6 FanDuel points. While it was just the first time this season he'd eclipsed 15 fantasy points, it also marked his second straight game with more than 25 minutes of action -- his previous season-high was 18.5.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Anthony Davis ($10,400) while talking power forwards. AD is $3,600 more expensive than any other player at the position, and our model has him outscoring the next-closest power forward by a whopping 18.6 FanDuel points -- that's not to be taken lightly. That said, our model's projection of 49.9 FanDuel points for him means that Davis is only returning 4.8X value. With plenty of star-power at other positions, fading Davis might not be the worst idea.

Maxi Kleber ($4,000) is coming off a game in which he failed to register a single real-life point, which could keep the masses off him tonight. Kleber had posted 23.5 and 24.7 FanDuel points in two of his three outings prior to that dud. While the ceiling for Robert Covington ($5,000) is nowhere close to what it was when he was with the Houston Rockets, he should still garner some consideration. Gdula ranks the 'Wolves as the seventh-best matchup for power forwards, and Covington has surpassed 25 fantasy points (what he needs for 5X) in four of his last six games.


The center position is quite loaded for a five-game slate, including three players with salaries above $9K. At the top are Nikola Jokic ($11,300), Joel Embiid ($9,900), and Andre Drummond ($9,200). Jokic would need a massive 56.5 FanDuel points just to reach 5X, and he's going up against the ninth-toughest defense against centers when adjusted for opponent. Meanwhile, Embiid is facing a Nets team that ranks fifth-worst against the position when adjusted for opponent, and you can get nearly the same upside as you would with Jokic for $1,400 less. Embiid is the preferred play if you're going to pay up at center. Drummond has failed to reach even 40 FanDuel points in any of his last four, which makes him a risky play.

Our algorithm's top-projected value at center is Jusuf Nurkic ($6,200), who faces a Minnesota team surrendering 4.3 more FanDuel points per game to the position than any other team in the league. Nurkic has topped 31 fantasy points (which is what he needs for 5X) in three of his last six contests. In that same range, you can also look toward Jarrett Allen ($6,300). Allen has posted 39.2 and 57.1 in his last two, with the latter coming in his first start in place of DeAndre Jordan.