The NBA Player Models are the lifeblood of our NBA product. They house our projections for each player, but that’s just the beginning of what you’ll find inside. You’ll also find our Trends and On/Off tool, Vegas Dashboard, and so much more.
Let’s dive into our models for NBA DFS going position by position, looking at guys with some of the highest ceiling projections and players standing out as values with our predictive Projected Plus/Minus metric.
Note: Projections and Leverage Scores/Ratings may change throughout the day as news comes out after this article is posted. Consult the Player Models directly for any updates.
Top Ceiling: Luka Doncic vs. Miami Heat – $12,400 DraftKings, $12,200 FanDuel
On Friday’s nine-game slate, Doncic has the highest ceiling projection of any player available, leading a “Big Three” that includes Nikola Jokic and LeBron James (both discussed below) as the three elite plays on the board. Doncic is worth a look even at this elevated salary since he’s in a good matchup against Miami that puts him in a pace-up spot. He’ll also have to carry the offense even more with Christian Wood (thumb) sidelined.
Doncic has been forced to miss two games this month on the second day of back-to-backs, but when available, he has continued to put up very high usage rates. He had a 35-point triple-double for 80 DraftKings points and 72.3 FanDuel points against the Lakers just over a week ago and has averaged 36.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 9.1 assists and 1.2 steals over his past 10 games.
Despite his elevated salary, he has exceeded salary-based expectations in seven of his past 10 contests with an Average Plus/Minus of 4.68 DraftKings points.
With Wood off the floor, Doncic’s already-high usage climbs to 39.3% this season. If he gets that kind of heavy load on Friday, he should be able to put up another monster stat line.
Top Value: Tre Jones vs. Los Angeles Clippers – $6,500 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel
Jones has the highest Projected Plus/Minus at point guard on FanDuel and ranks fourth on the whole slate on that site. On DraftKings, he has the sixth-highest Projected Plus/Minus at point guard. Even though the Spurs haven’t been good this year, they have still offered good fantasy options, partly because they rank No. 7 in the NBA in Pace.
The 23-year-old guard has taken the helm of the offense after the trade of Dejounte Murray and put together a very strong season. He has averaged 13.8 points, 6.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 30.6 DraftKings points in 30.1 minutes per game. With Devin Vassell (knee) still sidelined, Jones will have to take a more active scoring role for the Spurs, and that definitely makes him a reliable fantasy option that also brings a high ceiling.
Jones has posted at least 33 DraftKings points and at least 31 FanDuel points in five of his past seven games. During that stretch, he has averaged 19.0 points, 5.6 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 0.9 steals for 33.8 FanDuel points per game. He has also exceeded salary-based expectations on FanDuel in seven of his past 10 contests.
With Vassell on the floor, Jones only has a 19.1% usage rate, but that number jumps to 22.1% with Vassell off the floor and Jones produces 1.05 DraftKings points and 1.04 FanDuel points per minute in his time without Vassell. Getting him at just over $6K is a great value since he brings a high ceiling as demonstrated last Friday when he had 50.2 FanDuel points against the Grizzlies
One other quick note, Jones’ teammate Josh Richardson is especially affordable on DraftKings, where he has exceeded salary-based expectations in nine of his past 10 games. He’s a little pricier on FanDuel, but I still like him enough on DraftKings to include him here as a bonus value pick.
Top Ceiling: Dejounte Murray vs. New York Knicks – $7,800 DraftKings, $8,600 FanDuel
Murray’s departure opened things up for Jones in San Antonio, but Murray himself has landed in a productive spot in Atlanta as well. He has the second-highest ceiling projection at shooting guard on DraftKings and is also in the top eight on FanDuel at the position, even though many of the elite point guards also have shooting guard eligibility.
The Hawks have won four straight coming into Friday’s favorable matchup with the Knicks, and Murray has kicked it into another gear with three straight strong showings. He has scored 27, 28 and 30 points in his three most recent games and posted 49, 51 and 48.25 DraftKings points. His usage has been about the same, but he has caught fire from the field, shooting 64% overall and 58% on three-pointers.
He should be able to keep rolling in a great matchup against the Knicks. He has a 3.0 Opponents Plus/Minus on DraftKings, which is the highest mark in that category for any shooting guard on the slate. He is surprisingly affordable on DraftKings and is a very nice play if he stays so hot and offers elite upside at this price point.
Top Value: Bennedict Mathurin at Denver Nuggets – $5,500 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel
The Nuggets and Pacers matchup should be an up-tempo contest full of fantasy goodness. Mathurin should continue to contribute to increased production in the absence of Tyrese Haliburton (elbow, knee). Mathurin has the highest Projected Plus/Minus of all shooting guards and the second-highest of all small forwards on FanDuel. On DraftKings, he also ranks in the top five in projected Plus/Minus at both positions.
Without Haliburton, the rookie from Arizona has started each of Indiana’s last four games and averaged 22.6 FanDuel points and 24.6 DraftKings points on 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in 28.4 minutes per game. Mathurin has the potential for even more production since he is averaging over 12 field goal attempts per game during that stretch with a 24.1% usage rate.
Top Ceiling: Lauri Markkanen vs. Brooklyn Nets – $9,500 DraftKings, $8,700 FanDuel
The Nets head to Utah to finish their back-to-back, where they’ll have to deal with the Jazz and Markkanen, who has been putting up great numbers in a breakout season. Markkanen has the highest ceiling projection of all small forwards on DraftKings and the third-highest ceiling projection at small forward on FanDuel. He can also slide over to power forward on both sites and has a top-six ceiling projection at that spot as well.
Markkanen recently missed two games with a hip contusion but looked great in his return on Wednesday, scoring 34 points to go with 12 rebounds in a 23-point win over the Clippers. He totaled 61 DraftKings points and 58.9 FanDuel points in 33 minutes in that game.
On FanDuel, Markkanen has exceeded salary-based expectations in eight of his past 10 games with an Average Plus/Minus of 10.02 FanDuel points over that span. He has at least 44 FanDuel points in five of his past six games overall and has emerged as an option that must be considered almost every time he’s on the slate.
Tatum struggled a bit in his matchup with the Warriors earlier this season, so he’ll be out to show that he was an outlier with a big game Thursday.
Top Value: Naji Marshall at Orlando Magic – $5,600 DraftKings, $6,000 FanDuel
While Zion Williamson (hamstring) and Brandon Ingram (toe) have been out, Marshall has become one of my most commonly used players over the past few weeks, and he’s set for success in this contest as well. He has the highest projected Plus/Minus on the entire slate on FanDuel and the third-highest on DraftKings.
Marshall has exceeded salary-based expectations on both DraftKings and FanDuel in six of his past eight games. Marshall has started each of those eight games averaging 34.6 minutes with a 22.8% usage rate. He has turned those opportunities into 31.4 DraftKings points per contest on 17.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.0 steals per game.
The Pelicans have dropped three of their last four games but look for Marshall to help them get back on track in this favorable Friday night matchup against Orlando.
Note: Marshall (toe) is currently listed as questionable at the time of writing. Monitor the news dashboard leading up to lock.
Top Ceiling: LeBron James vs. Memphis Grizzlies – $11,300 DraftKings, $11,400 FanDuel
The Lakers and Grizzlies meet at Crypto.com Arena in the game with the highest over/under on the slate. LeBron is right up there with Doncic and Jokic based on his ceiling projection and has the potential for a monster game any time he takes the floor. The King is listed as questionable due to an ankle injury but assuming he plays through the soreness, he is a great option to consider.
He has played over 35 minutes in four straight games since sitting out Jan. 9 and averaged 34.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 9.3 assists and 1.0 steals in those four contests. He has at least 60 DraftKings points in each of those four contests, highlighted by a monster game against the Rockets that resulted in 74 DraftKings points on 48 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. That performance against Houston is even more impressive since it was the second night of a back-to-back.
The Lakers will need LeBron to continue carrying the load, and he has the second-highest usage projection on the slate behind Luka’s.
Top Value: Aaron Gordon vs. Indiana Pacers – $6,100 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel
The Nuggets have the highest Implied Team Total on the slate as they host the Pacers and have the third-highest Pace Differential of all the teams in action. While Jokic is always a good play (more below), the great spot also makes Gordon a good value to consider. He has the fourth-highest Projected Plus/Minus at power forward on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
Since returning from a two-game absence just before the New Year, Gordon has scored double-digit points in 10 of his 11 games. He has had three games with double-digit rebounds as well, averaging 13.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 29.6 minutes per game.
He popped for 25 points and 41.1 FanDuel points last week against the Magic and is projected to have similar upside in this contest. He’s a nice midrange value to consider on both DraftKings and FanDuel and also brings extra flexibility with center eligibility on FanDuel.
Top Ceiling: Nikola Jokic vs. Indiana Pacers – $11,600 DraftKings, $11,700 FanDuel
Based on his matchup and recent outstanding form, Jokic has to be a consideration in every lineup construction. He and the Nuggets should excel based on the Pace Differential and Implied Team Total highlighted above, and he brings a juicy +4.5 Opponent’s Plus/Minus to his already-sky-high ceiling. Jokic’s projected ceiling is just a tad below Doncic’s but since he’s cheaper, he rates higher in all the value categories. He even climbs into the top eight in Projected Plus/Minus, which shows he’s a good value even at this price.
Jokic has turned in a triple-double in five of his last six games, falling just one assist short in a laugher against the Suns. He has averaged 24.5 points, 12.8 rebounds, 12.0 assists and 1.3 steals for 64.9 DraftKings points and 59.7 FanDuel points over that six-game stretch.
The two-time MVP is playing at a dominant level right now, and in this great matchup should be set for another monster performance.
Top Value: Jericho Sims at Atlanta Hawks – $3,000 DraftKings, $3,600 FanDuel
If you’re going to the other extreme and going cheap at center, the Knicks’ situation offers two great value options in Sims and Isaiah Hartenstein. Both are priced near the minimum on both DraftKings and FanDuel and should be stepping into much larger roles with Mitchell Robinson (thumb) out for at least the next three weeks.
While Hartenstein stepped in as a starter during Robinson’s injury earlier this year, Sims played more minutes on Thursday and offers slightly more upside. He has the highest Projected Plus/Minus of all centers on FanDuel and the second-highest on DraftKings, behind only Hartenstein.
On Wednesday, Sims played 21 minutes after being left out of the rotation for four straight games. He had four rebounds, two blocks, two assists, and two points before fouling out with 14 DraftKings points and 15.8 FanDuel points. Sims has shown good upside based on per-minute stats and has stepped up when given the opportunity.
The second-year center from Texas had over 19 DraftKings points in five games during a six-game stretch earlier this season when Robinson was out, and I’ll take the extra upside with Sims even if Hartenstein gets the start. Since coach Tom Thibodeau seemed ready to give Sims extra minutes Wednesday, he could be the better of the two plays and doesn’t have to do all that much to return great value at this low salary.
Both will be elite value plays, though, so check out this situation if you need salary savings. Interestingly, Sims is eligible at power forward on DraftKings, but Hartenstein is not, but the exact opposite is true on FanDuel. You can definitely use both bigs on either site, though, or include whichever one fits better into the rest of your lineup construction.
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