3 NBA FanDuel Studs to Target on 1/25/21
Basketball is the most consistent sport for daily fantasy purposes.
A top slugger in baseball will have his fair share of 0-for-4 days, and an elite fantasy football player is at risk of having games where his team's offense as a whole is shut down. A high-salaried NBA stud is generally going to get his, though. With so many possessions in a game providing opportunities to produce, top fantasy basketball options will be posting high scores just about every night.
While this consistency puts us in a good position to identify top plays, it also means you can't afford to miss when you're paying a heavy salary to roster someone. Even with strong value plays in your lineup, getting a dud from a stud is likely going to leave your lineup lacking.
Let's get right into it and look at which top players should be the focal points of your lineups today.
Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers
FanDuel Salary: $9,700
It's a big slate with 10 games, so value is going to be there to build around studs. Two really emerge at point guard, while power forward and center are deeper. That'll drive my stud recommendations for today.
Damian Lillard has been pretty locked in with C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic out. With those two off the floor, Lillard has a 31.9% usage rate and a per-minute average of 1.33 FanDuel points over 181.8 minutes this season, via RotoGrinders' CourtIQ tool. That's good for a per-36-minute average of 47.7 FanDuel points. If we stretch that back to last season, he has had a 34.9% usage rate and has averaged 1.36 FanDuel points per minute.
The Portland Trail Blazers are 5.5-point favorites on the Oklahoma City Thunder, who rank just 20th in estimated defensive rating but are top-10 against point guards this season when adjusted for opponent. Either way, Lillard's shot attempts (we project him for 19.5) and minutes (35.7) give him both the floor and ceiling we should want in a stud.
Lillard's status does make Luka Doncic ($10,700) an elite-tier tournament pivot away from Lillard, though.
Nikola Jokic, C, Denver Nuggets
FanDuel Salary: $11,200
So, I know that I said center is pretty deep, but that shouldn't lead us to ignore Nikola Jokic, who is effectively a triple-double machine. He's posted at least 60.0 FanDuel points in five of his past six (and 55.4 in the one in which he didn't get to 60.0). Joker is also getting up shots at an elite clip: 21 or more in four straight.
Jokic faces the Dallas Mavericks in a game with a tight spread and a middling over/under (1.5 and 222.5, respectively), which is certainly nothing to get us to shy away. The Denver Nuggets' average over/under this season has been 222.4, and we know how he's been producing all year. It'll take a lot more than that to get disinterested in the NBA's leader in FanDuel points per minute.
numberFire projects Jokic for 51.8 FanDuel points via 23.3 points, 10.7 rebounds, 8.8 assists, and 1.9 combined steals and blocks.
James Harden, SG, Brooklyn Nets
FanDuel Salary: $9,800
James Harden is certainly a different player in the early returns with the Brooklyn Nets. His usage rate is the lowest among the star trio (21.3%) when he, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant have shared the floor. That also goes for his FanDuel points per minute (1.08). His rates with the Houston Rockets were 29.5% and 1.30, respectively, to start the season.
But his sample with Irving and Durant is just 62.8 minutes, and he has an effective field goal percentage of just 47.6%. His overall usage rate with the Nets is a much better 26.9%, and the per-minute FanDuel production is 1.18.
numberFire projects Harden for 49.8 FanDuel points over 37.4 minutes (1.33 per minute), a very reasonable rate if the shooting improves. Harden has maintained an incredible 40.5% assist rate with the Nets so far, so he's not as scoring dependent as usual. If he starts hitting the jumpers, then the ceiling still remains at a lowered salary. The floor, too, is easier to hit with the assists and lowered salary.