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NBA Core Plays – Christmas Day Edition

Christmas day is when the NBA season really gets going and the nice folks over at DraftKings and FanDuel have given us some great contests for the 5 game slate. With this being one of the most public days of the year for NBA DFS, DraftKings has softened their pricing across the board so you can pretty much roster any player you’d like and still be able to build a very strong lineup. There aren’t many notable slate changing injuries, with the Lakers center situation — LaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler are both questionable — being the most impactful barring any surprise inactives.


Point Guard


High End:

James Harden, Houston Rockets, DK: $10,900, FD: $12,400

James Harden has been absolutely cooking in the month of December and rates out as the top overall play on the slate in a matchup with the Thunder. Harden is AVERAGING 74 fantasy points per game over the last 6 games and his price on DraftKings of $10,900 is simply egregious. Add in the fact that Harden’s usage rate should hover around 40% with PG Chris Paul out of the lineup and Harden becomes a virtual must play in cash games, and is a player that I will look to go overweight the field on in tournaments despite his likely massive ownership.

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Ricky Rubio, Utah Jazz, DK: $5,400, FD: $6,700   

There aren’t a lot of great value options at point guard on this slate, but one guy who has flashed enough upside to go 7-8x his salary expectations is Jazz PG Ricky Rubio, who has an exploitable matchup against the Trailblazers who rank 18th DvP against opposing point guards. Rubio is coming off back to back games with over 40 fantasy points, and has a recent great history against Portland; meeting or exceeding value in 3 of their last 4 matchups and a +/- of 8.4 in the three games in which he exceeded his salary expectations.


Shooting Guard


High End:

Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz, DK: $7,100, FD: $7,600  

The shooting guard position on FanDuel is thin at the top end once you drop down from James Harden, but it’s hard to ignore the upside of Jazz SG Donovan Mitchell, who has a solid track record against the Trail Blazers. Mitchell has been an inconsistent fantasy performer thus far this season, but has exceeded his salary expectations in three straight games at home and has posted an opponent +/- of +2.0 over his last 5 matchups against Portland. Mitchell is also a great value on DraftKings, as he has posted a +/- of +6.6 in 51 games since the start of last season where he is priced below $7,500 and plays over 30 minutes.



Sterling Brown, Milwaukee Bucks, DK: $3,200, FD: $3,700  

There are plenty of viable punt options on this slate and for cash games, the safest option may be Bucks SG/SF Sterling Brown, who checks in at only $3,200 and $3,700 on FanDuel. Brown has played some nice minutes for the Bucks off the bench this season and should be able to match or exceed his 21 minute projection in a soft matchup with the Knicks, which could mean big time fantasy production given his +/- of +5.6 in 6 games in which he has played 20 or more minutes this season.

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Small Forward


High End:

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks, DK: $10,700, FD: $11,500

Small forward is the most loaded position on the slate with LeBron James, Paul George, Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, and Jimmy Butler all in nice spots. But for me, it’s Giannis Antetokounmpo who grades out as the top high end option at the position and he should come in at decently ownership with James Harden, Russell Westbrook and the aforementioned LeBron James all likely to be popular options. Giannis has the 2nd highest raw projection on the slate at 54.8 FPTS, and has averaged over 60 FPTS per game against the Knicks over their last 5 matchups.



Kevin Knox, New York Knicks, DK: $5,600, FD: $6,300

Knicks rookie forward Kevin Knox is really starting to find his groove in the NBA and is a great mid-range option in their matchup with the Bucks who really struggle against opposing small forwards; ranking 29th DvP. Not only is Knox playing all of the minutes he can handle right now (36.6 min/game over his last 6 games), but he has also been extremely productive in that time period, averaging over 28 fantasy points per game in that same time period. Knox lit up Milwaukee for a line of 26/4/4 in their last meeting back on December 1st and has the 2nd highest raw point projection among all players priced below $6,000 on DraftKings.


Power Forward


High End:

Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors, $6,300, FD: $7,300  

If we are talking about point-per-dollar upside, it’s impossible to overlook the type of slate breaking, triple-double upside that Warriors PF Draymond Green has at his $6,300 price point on DraftKings. This is a perfect set up for Green in a matchup against the Lakers, who may be without both of their usual rotation centers. Green’s minutes have been steadily rising following his mid-December return from injury; having played 30 or minutes in 5 straight games. Over the last two seasons, Green has posted a +/- of +4.0 in 13 games where he is priced below $7,000 on DraftKings.

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Al-Farouq Aminu, Portland Trail Blazers, DK: $3,900, FD: $4,700

There are so many players that are underpriced on DraftKings that it’s hard to narrow down who the best value plays on the slate are, but you have to think that Trail Blazers PF Al-Farouq Aminu is going to be extremely popular at his $3,900 price point on DraftKings. Aminu has too much upside and plays too many minutes (30 min projection) to be priced under $4k. In fact this is the first time that he has been priced under $4,000 in the last two seasons. The price drop just doesn’t really make sense given he has averaged 23.1 FPTS per game this season with a 67% consistency rating. If you are playing cash games, Aminu should be one of the first names that you click to out your roster.




High End:

Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers, DK: $6,100, FD: $8,100   

There isn’t a clear cut, elite option at center once you drop below Joel Embiid, but from a value perspective you have to love what Jusuf Nurkic has been doing for the Trail Blazers lately. Nurkic has exceeded salary expectations in 5 of Portland’s last 7 games and has been an extremely consistency performer for them this season, which has led to a 70% consistency rating. Add in a great recent history against the Jazz — he has a +/- of 8.0 in the 4 games he has played 25 or more minutes against Utah over the last 2 seasons — and Nurkic makes for one of the best point-per-dollar plays on the slate at only $6,100 on DraftKings.



Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks, DK: $4,300, FD: $5,300

Brook Lopez is one of the top overall value plays on the slate on both DraftKings and FanDuel in an exploitable matchup with the Knicks who rank 19th DvP against opposing centers. Bro-Lo has been fantasy gold in games in which he has played over 25 minutes this season, posting a +/- of +4.6 with an excellent 85% consistency rating in 20 games where he has played 25 or more minutes this season. He should easily meet value given his current 28 minute projection and makes for one of the top options in cash games at center.

There’s plenty of strategy that goes into putting together a winning DFS lineup, and the best place to start is RotoQL’s DFS tools. Our RotoQL Lineup Optimizer is a massive advantage when you’re building lineups, regardless of contest size or site. I’m always there to help, too, so check me out on Twitter (@DFSBenj) for even more NFL, NBA, MLB and PGA daily fantasy content.

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