FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball Helper: Thursday 1/21/21

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 and COVID-19 situations. Our projections update up until tip-off to reflect current news and we also have player news updates.

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.

Please note: When I'm referencing a player's value figure, it is the number of fantasy points scored for every $1,000 in salary. Typically, a value figure of 5.0 (meaning, 5.0 FanDuel points for every $1,000 in salary) is the minimum baseline we'll be targeting.

Let's take a look at who you should target on tonight's three-game slate, which locks at 7:30 PM Eastern.

Slate Overview

Via Brandon Gdula's matchup sheet, this table shows each team's spread and implied total (plus the over/under for their game). It also includes opponent-adjusted offensive rating and the adjusted defensive rating for each team's opponent, including league-wide ranks for each.

Teams are sorted by implied team total.

Team Opp Over/
Spread Implied
Rank Opp Adj.
MIL LAL 228.5 -2.0 115.25 114.7 6 105.6 3
LAL MIL 228.5 2.0 113.25 114.3 7 103.4 1
UTAH NO 216.5 -7.0 111.75 115.1 4 111.3 19
GS NY 215.5 -4.0 109.75 100.1 30 111.3 18
NY GS 215.5 4.0 105.75 100.4 29 112.1 24
NO UTAH 216.57.0 104.75 109.0 18 109.6 14

Given that the Los Angeles Lakers-Milwaukee Bucks game total is 12 points higher than any of the other two games on the slate and the fact that we have a tight spread, we'll want as much exposure to that matchup as we can muster up.

Power Forward

Key stud: Power forward is undoubtedly the most loaded position at the high-end on this slate, as it features three of our model's top-five projected scorers. This is where we'll want to dust off our wallets. Of course, we'll start with Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,300), who is projected to outscore all other players on this slate by 8.6 FanDuel points. Giannis has recorded at least 59 fantasy points five times in his last nine outings, and he topped 55 in both of his matchups with the champs last season. With Milwaukee's back-end of their back-to-back (against the Washington Wizards) postponed tomorrow, don't be surprised if Giannis sees a heavier-than-usual load in this matchup.

Other studs worth considering: Julius Randle ($9,000) gets a matchup against a Golden State Warriors team that's allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to power forwards this season. Randle has posted fewer than 42.9 FanDuel points just once in his last nine outings. Anthony Davis ($10,000) gets a far tougher draw, though his upside always keeps him in the conversation.

Core play: numberFire's algorithm projects Draymond Green ($5,400) to be the second-best point-per-dollar play on the entire slate. Dray has eclipsed 29 FanDuel points in three of his last five games. Our model has him projected for 29.4.


Core plays: Four of our model's top-six projected value plays are all at the center position, so you definitely won't have a shortage of options here -- I'll highlight the two I'd want the most exposure to. James Wiseman ($4,400) is numberFire's top-projected value on the entire slate. He's facing a New York Knicks team that's allowed the second-most FanDuel points to opposing centers, according to numberFire's defense-versus-position page. At his modest salary, Wiseman would need only 22 fantasy points to achieve value (5.0 points per every $1,000 in salary) -- he's topped that in three of his last four games. In fact, in two of his last three outings, the rookie has managed 35.0 and 33.2 FanDuel points. That'll play. Going against Wiseman, Mitchell Robinson ($5,600) is our model's second-best projected value at the position. In his last 10 efforts, Robinson has had 5 outputs of at least 32.4 fantasy points. Given that the Warriors are ceding the 10th-most fantasy points to the position, another performance like that is certainly not out of the question.

Other option to consider: Steven Adams ($5,200) has been hit-or-miss at times lately, but he has amassed at leas 28.7 FanDuel points in six of his last nine -- he needs 26 for our baseline value figure.

Small Forward

Core play: RJ Barrett ($6,700) has the friendliest matchup at the position, and his salary is quite reasonable. On the season, Golden State is surrendering the sixth-most fantasy points to small forwards. Barrett has posted 38.7 and 40.0 FanDuel points in his last two games, and he's trumped 33.5 (what he needs for a 5.0 value figure) on seven different occasions.

Other core(ish) play: In his last four games, Kelly Oubre ($5,600) has averaged 33.7 fantasy points. To start the season, he's accrued at least 28 fantasy points eight times. The Knicks are one of the stingier teams against small forwards, but Oubre is one of the best plays at the limited position.

A stud to consider: LeBron James ($9,500) is on the slate, so we're not going to not talk about him (aren't double negatives fantastic?). We know what the King is capable of, but he just hasn't showcased the same ceiling this year as he has in prior seasons. LeBron's season-high in FanDuel scoring is 56.2, and he hasn't reached 50 in any of his last seven games. He should have a pretty solid floor in a matchup this spicy, but James is a better option for cash games than GPPs.

One more for the road: Speaking of that spicy matchup, another way to get exposure to it is by rostering Khris Middleton ($8,000). The good news is that Middleton has posted at least 41 FanDuel points in four of his last six games -- he would need 40 for a value figure of 5.0. However, the bad news is that he's tied for his highest salary in two seasons, and he's recorded fewer than 40 in 8 of his last 12 outings. While I wouldn't completely fade Khris, I also wouldn't advise too much exposure tonight.

Point Guard

Key "stud": In Milwaukee's eight games that have been decided by fewer than 15 points this season, Jrue Holiday ($7,600) has averaged 39 FanDuel points -- that includes four contests with more than 40. With this game having a spread of just 2.0 points, per FanDuel Sportsbook, there's a good chance that we get a solid performance from the Bucks' prized offseason acquisition.

Value options from New Orleans: Our model's top two projected values at the position both play for the New Orleans Pelicans -- Eric Bledsoe ($4,700) and Lonzo Ball ($5,500). Bledsoe's been anything but consistent this season, but at his salary, he'd need just 23.5 FanDuel points to accrue a value figure of 5.0. numberFire's algorithm projects him for an even 24.0 tonight. Meanwhile, Ball was on a minutes restriction on Tuesday, but he can be a fantastic value if that were to be lifted for tonight's matchup. Keep an eye on our player news page for updates.

Other option: Though the Knicks are getting healthier, Elfrid Payton ($5,300) is our model's third-best projected value at point. Payton has had six games with at least 29.1 FanDuel points this season.

Shooting Guard

Core plays: Our model's fourth-best projected value on the slate is Donte DiVincenzo ($4,400). Donte's posted duds in each of his last two, but prior to that, he had racked up at least 23.3 fantasy points in 8 of 12 outings. Like Holiday, DiVincenzo's been stellar in close games for the Bucks. In their eight games decided by fewer than 15, he has posted an average of 25.5 FanDuel points. numberFire's algorithm projects him for 23.2 tonight. Though our model's projection is far from optimistic, I do like Jordan Clarkson ($6,300) tonight. When adjusted for competition, the Pels rank fifth-worst against shooting guards and sixth-worst against point guards. Meanwhile, Clarkson has garnered at least 33.2 FanDuel points in four of his last six games.

Other options: games. When adjusted for competition, the Warriors rank second-worst against shooting guards and ninth-worst against points guards -- enter Alec Burks ($5,800) and Reggie Bullock ($3,600). In an ideal world, Burks would have a lower salary in his first game in nearly a month, but he did average 32.3 FanDuel points in his three healthy games this season. As for Bullock, Austin Rivers' likely absence should secure him a decent number of minutes for at least one more game. At just $100 more than the minimum, Bullock would need only 18 fantasy points to return a value figure of 5.0. If you're looking to load up at studs elsewhere, Bullock could be a decent way to save some much-needed salary.