FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball Helper: Sunday 1/17/21

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 break down today's main slate on FanDuel:

The Slate

PhiladelphiaOklahoma CityTBD+3.5TBDTBD412
New OrleansSacramento229+1.5115.25113.75269
IndianaLA ClippersTBD-6.0TBDTBD1628

This four-game slate should be a rare one not too impacted by COVID-19 protocols, as the only affected players have been out for over a week now, which includes Philadelphia 76ers guard Seth Curry and Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr.

News affecting this slate elsewhere begins with 76ers center Joel Embiid -- and also backup forward Mike Scott -- that will leave an absence in the Philadelphia frontcourt for the second straight night. As was the case Saturday, Dwight Howard should be the main beneficiary of the absences. In Sacramento, the New Orleans Pelicans will be without guard Lonzo Ball for a third straight contest due to his knee injury. That will open up usage in the backcourt again and should lead to another start for Josh Hart. Al Horford also remains away from his Oklahoma City Thunder team for personal reasons, which should lead to another start for Isaiah Roby.

Point Guard

Ben Simmons ($8,300): Any time a team is without one of its stars, the other stars usually benefit from the increase in usage -- even more so than the players replacing said star's minutes. That has been the case with Simmons, who came an assist shy of his second-straight triple-double in the absence of Joel Embiid on Saturday. Simmons has not yet demonstrated a ceiling in these two games, however, as he has scored fewer than than 11 real-world points in both, but a better matchup lies ahead for Simmons on Sunday. The Thunder have the 11th-worst defensive rating in the NBA and will be down their top defender Al Horford. Contrasting that with Simmons' last bout with the Memphis Grizzlies, whom have the seventh-best defensive rating, Simmons should look to score the ball more frequently and make solid on his usual strong rebounding and assist numbers.

De'Aaron Fox ($7,300): The Sacramento Kings under Luke Walton have always been a bit of a fantasy enigma, and consider their treatment of Fox lately under that category as well. Even given that Tyrese Haliburton is playing well, it is still bizarre to see the Kings' consensus best player randomly get benched, but that has happened to Fox in two of the last four games. That probably leaves him solely for consideration in tournaments at this point, but his salary is fair to take that risk in spots given his ceiling, as he has broken 40 FanDuel points in 7 of his 12 full games this season. Fox has eclipsed 41 FanDuel points in the last two contests he has seen over 30 minutes, and he has a great matchup against the Pelicans, who have ceded the third-most FanDuel points to opposing point guards.

Other Notable Plays: Malcolm Brogdon ($8,800), George Hill ($4,500)

Shooting Guard

Donovan Mitchell ($7,800): Mitchell's salary is a bit of a head-scratcher in this spot given his recent performances. His floor has been incredibly solid -- he has eclipsed 33 FanDuel points in seven of his last eight contests -- but he has also flashed upside by scoring more than 40 FanDuel points twice in that span, as well. This game appears to be the least desirable -- in terms of pace -- on the slate, but there is still reason to target players against the Denver Nuggets, who hold the sixth-worst defensive rating in the NBA. Mitchell is the best way to attack the Nuggets. He leads the Utah Jazz in usage rate (32.3%) among starters by a good margin, as the next highest is Mike Conley at just 23.8%.

Eric Bledsoe ($4,900): There are two huge "what if" scenarios that bring Bledsoe into play in all formats on this small slate. The first and most important is his role, as he should return to his gig of 30-plus minutes as a starter once healthy, but it is still worth checking the New Orleans' starting lineup to verify he does send Nickeil Alexander-Walker back to the bench for Sunday's game. Assuming he starts, the other question to be answered is the potential of making a great improvement upon his pedestrian rate of 0.83 FanDuel points per minute thus far in 2020-21, as no Pelican sees a greater increase in FanDuel points per minute (+0.22) without Lonzo Ball on the floor.

Other Notable Plays: Paul George ($8,700), Gary Harris ($4,600)

Small Forward

Will Barton ($6,100): After burning several DFS players early when he began to start for Michael Porter Jr., Barton has begun to find his stride starting for Denver. Barton has eclipsed 32 FanDuel points in back-to-back games and is firmly the third option behind Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. He comes at a significant discount in salary to those two. Again, the Utah/Denver contest would ordinarily not be a fantasy go-to, but on a four-game slate, there are individual matchups to exploit. Barton certainly has one of those, as the Jazz are allowing the second-most FanDuel points to opposing small forwards.

Josh Hart ($4,400): Hart is the continuation of a Pelicans-themed helper due to the Ball injury, but the Pelicans also just have a great overall matchup with the Kings, who are ninth in the league in pace as well as boasting the worst defensive rating. There really is no downside for Hart if he ends up heading to the bench for Bledsoe, as he would be the primary option on the second unit. Hart has had trouble cashing in on his minutes in January. He is averaging nearly a full workload of 29.3 minutes this month but has struggled from three-point land, shooting 29.2% from distance in the same period. The weak Kings' defense may be the remedy to Hart's scoring issues, as the low-salary forward is expected to be on the court with plenty of chances to exploit this matchup.

Other Notable Plays: Tobias Harris ($7,500), Luguentz Dort ($4,100)

Power Forward

Zion Williamson ($7,700): Power forward is surprisingly tricky for a position that usually has a depth of options who see plenty of time at center and therefore have high floors. With the salary increases to Domantas Sabonis and Darius Bazley, it is hard to spot the cornerstone starter at a reasonable salary beyond Zion Williamson, who also has the same Kings matchup to exploit that we've mentioned throughout the helper. New Orleans is not a resounding favorite, either, so with the Ball injury at hand, multiple Pelicans players can still make the optimal lineup on FanDuel. Zion has a tremendous floor for this salary, as he has scored at least 37 FanDuel points in each of his last four games.

Bojan Bogdanovic ($4,300): The one key injury not mentioned so far is Joe Ingles, who does occupy plenty of usage as Utah's sixth man and will miss this contest with an Achilles injury. While that does not bump any player into the Jazz starting five, it likely does better protect the large roles of both Bogdanovic and Royce O'Neale, and therefore both should see in excess of 30 minutes inside a thin rotation. Bogdanovic and O'Neale boast an identical averages of 0.71 FanDuel points per minute, but Bogdanovic comes as a $700 discount in salary in addition to having a far superior role in terms of usage rate (20.3% to 8.8%) than the defensive specialist O'Neale does.

Other Notable Plays: Domantas Sabonis ($9,600), Royce O'Neale ($5,000)


Dwight Howard ($4,400): This section could be copied-and-pasted from Saturday's helper. On Saturday, Dwight Howard had 8 points and 18 rebounds in 34 minutes on his way to smashing FanDuel value -- at this exact salary -- with 40.1 FanDuel points. Many philosophized that Tony Bradley would split time with Howard, but Bradley played just nine minutes in Philadelphia's close loss to Memphis on Saturday. The 76ers are just 3.5-point favorites on Sunday, so this should be a close contest in which Howard sees the majority of time at center. Howard now sits at 1.09 FanDuel points per minute on the season and is playing well, so therefore Sunday's message remains the same as Saturday's -- don't get cute at center.

Other Notable Plays: Nikola Jokic ($11,500), Steven Adams ($5,800)

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.F