3 NBA FanDuel Studs to Target on Wednesday 12/21/22

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 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 an excellent 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 will likely leave your lineup drawing pretty close to dead.

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

Joel Embiid, C, 76ers ($11,900)

If we lived in an alternate reality where Joel Embiid was guaranteed 35 minutes tonight, I'd jam him into every single lineup.

The MVP finalist from last year wants the trophy this year. He has posted 57.2 FanDuel points per 36 minutes in December on a hearty 37.0% usage rate. Surprisingly, that's dwarfed James Harden's (26.6%) this month in the first extended period where the two have played in Philadelphia without Tyrese Maxey.

Embiid's matchup couldn't be much better. The Pistons are on the second leg of a back-to-back, and this is already the team in the NBA with the second-worst defensive rating (117.8) in the NBA on tired legs. Detroit has ceded the 12th-most FanDuel points per game to centers (53.1), too.

There's just that lone concern I mentioned first. I am unsure the Pistons can keep pace as 11.5-point underdogs, and that could end JoJo's night early. Still, the rest of the stars at center or power forward leave enough to be desired to target Embiid in droves.

LeBron James, SF/PF, Lakers ($11,100)

The other two studs are less risky than Embiid, and they'll carry heavy loads for shorthanded offenses.

The Lakers are still without Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook is potentially in line to join A.D. on the bench for a second straight contest. That will put a lot on the plate of a returning LeBron James in this one.

James has held a whopping 37.8% usage rate with those two off the floor this season, which would put him second in the NBA over the full season to only Luka Doncic. He's turned that into an excellent 53.2 FanDuel points per 36 minutes.

Given L.A. is down so much firepower, LeBron wouldn't be a must-have option in every matchup. Their overall offense could stink. He is facing the Kings, though. Sacramento's 112.8 defensive rating is the 12th-worst in the NBA, and they've ceded the most FanDuel points per game to small forwards (45.8) this year.

Even without two of their three best players, the Lakers are just five-point underdogs in this game with a mouthwatering 240.5-point total.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG/SG, Thunder ($10,400)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is down a couple of troops, too.

Josh Giddey and Darius Bazley won't play due to the illness going around the Oklahoma City locker room. That'll leave quite a bit of the offensive work in SGA's hands.

Without Giddey on the floor (given Bazley's hit-and-miss playing time), Gilgeous-Alexander has posted an identical usage rate -- 37.8% -- to LeBron in his current floor condition. He's actually outpaced LeBron in this floor situation in FanDuel points per 36 minutes (57.7), too. If I could only have one, I'll take the Thunder star.

The 235.0-point total in OKC doesn't lag far behind King James' total, either. Plus, the visiting Portland Trail Blazers have the league's eighth-worst defensive rating (113.9).

In cash games, pair LeBron and SGA together to start. They're the last men standing on their already-mediocre squads. Embiid is a mix-and-match option in tournaments, though.