3 NBA FanDuel Studs to Target on Thursday 1/12/23

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 ($11,500)

I've got a strong feeling of déjà vu from writing up Nikola Jokic yesterday.

With a 13-point spread, Jokic was in line to dominate Phoenix's frontcourt backups so long as the game stayed close. It didn't, so Jokic was just so-so for FanDuel in 28 minutes. The 10-point spread tonight in Philadelphia is not only closer, but the visiting Thunder have most of their key players.

To me, that puts Joel Embiid on the map. Embiid's month of January might be going a bit under the radar as the Sixers have crushed opposing squads, but he's averaged an absurd 70.0 FanDuel points per 36 minutes since the calendar turned.

OKC allows the sixth-most FanDuel points to opposing centers, so this is a positive matchup for a guy already crushing. They also allow the most second-chance points per game (16.0) set to tackle Embiid, one of the league's best offensive rebounders.

Embiid, between the salary and his star-studded team at full health, won't be popular. He can absolutely blast past 60 FanDuel points if this game stays close.

Kyrie Irving, PG/SG, Nets ($9,300)

Embiid is a great way to get different considering these next two studs will be overwhelmingly popular.

Kyrie Irving is a no-brainer with Kevin Durant now publically sidelined for a while with a knee injury. This is Brooklyn's first game in a marquee spot with Boston, so he'll be drafted in droves tonight on FanDuel.

First of all, this salary is a $600 bump from his last main slate, so Kyrie isn't a "bargain". He's just a much safer option with Durant out. The Nets' offense funnels through him given a 36.8% usage rate, and Irving has seen significant lifts in usage rate (6.6 percentage points) and FanDuel points per 36 minutes (+5.96) with K.D. off the court.

There is a path to failure here. Irving's scoring-centric output (65.4% of his FanDuel production comes from points) means a cold night from the field could lead to a total bust. Plus, the Celtics have a top-10 defensive rating (111.0), and the Nets' net rating drops from +6.1 to -1.6 with Durant off the floor. A blowout is possible.

Still, Irving's usage makes him a top-projected guard by numberFire today, and he's a staple for cash-game formats.

Jimmy Butler, SF/PF, Heat ($9,200)

Irving's path to failure is plausible. I'm not sure Jimmy Butler has one at this salary.

The Miami Heat's cornerstone player sees his production shoots toward the moon with Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro off the floor, and both will miss Thursday's game against Milwaukee.

Butler's usage rate bumps from 24.7% overall to 26.6% with that duo on the bench, and his FanDuel production per 36 minutes jumps dramatically. Jimmy Buckets produces 45.8 FanDuel points per 36 overall (hence this salary), and that balloons to 56.0 as the primary facilitator without his starting backcourt.

His floor is tremendously high given this offensive role, and he showed what a monstrous ceiling his usually stingy defense can bring on Tuesday, recording three blocks and four steals. That was a bit fortunate, but you're getting a contribution there from Butler (2.70 blocks plus steals per 36) every night. It's less lucky for him than others.

At likely an astronomical draft percentage, I'm not outthinking the room and fading him. Despite the 217.5-point total, this game is actually a pretty fun one to stack with Bam Adebayo, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Jrue Holiday also performing well in our projections.