3 NBA FanDuel Studs to Target on Thursday 12/9/21

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 up for someone. Even with strong value plays in your lineup, paying up and getting a dud is likely going to leave your lineup drawing pretty close to dead.

Which top players should be the focal points of your lineups today?

Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers ($10,600)

The choice between Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic is like choosing between my two puppies, Oreo and Daisy, but Embiid gets the write-up.

The $500 in salary saving goes a long way a three-game slate that is short on value. Not only that, but I want to roster Aaron Gordon in plenty of spots, as well, and Jokic gobbling boards hurts my lineup's upside if Gordon is in there, too.

Embiid has been a beast since returning from COVID-19 protocols less than two weeks ago. In that span, his usage rate (35.5%) and his FanDuel points per minute mark (1.58) are both higher than Jokic's.

The Utah Jazz are surprisingly a good matchup for bigs despite the presence of Rudy Gobert. They've allowed the 10th-most FanDuel points per game (53.81) to opponents with a primary position of center.

All in all, Embiid is the nod for me in one lineup, and this fork in the proverbial road is a key choice on Thursday's slate.

LeBron James, SF/PF, Los Angeles Lakers ($10,400)

When getting contrarian and spending elsewhere, the Lakers' trio is the obvious spot.

There's an argument all three are over-salaried, and in that event, it's best to take the role with LeBron James. James has a 31.9% usage rate the past two weeks -- which he's turned into a sporadic 1.24 FanDuel points per minute. His 30 real-life point effort on Tuesday was spoiled on FanDuel with just 4 rebounds and 5 assists to go with it.

Both Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis have a sub-25.0% usage rate in that time period. Davis is shooting just 18.8% from deep this season (yikes), and Westbrook's rebounding takes a nose dive (4.91 per 36 minutes) when he shares the court with LeBron and AD.

You can make an argument for fading all three, but if you are seeking a stars-and-scrubs approach, LeBron is the best way to use the extra salary that may be left over after your center.

Donovan Mitchell, SG/PG, Utah Jazz ($8,400)

Donovan Mitchell's consistency has taken a leap with his role in the Jazz offense this season.

Once volatile, Mitchell has now posted 44 or more FanDuel points in five straight games. With Mike Conley returning to more consistent production levels, as well, one would guess that Mitchell's role has diminished and is due for a downturn soon.

Not at all.

In those same five games, Mitchell has a 34.1% usage rate. That's actually increased from his season-long 32.7% usage rate. Even with Utah's rotation at full power, Mitchell's dominance of the pecking order is actually increasing.

When seeing his minutes, Mitchell has been as steady as they come, and the 3.5-point spread in the contest with Philadelphia implies a good chance Mitchell gets his run. He also correlates well with Joel Embiid should this one stay close, and that makes him an interesting way to spend.