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: Damian Lillard at Sacramento Kings – $11,400 DraftKings, $10,500 FanDuel
The NBA is back, baby! Thursday brings us a great nine-game slate, and Lillard leads the way with the highest ceiling projection on the entire DraftKings slate. On FanDuel, he’s barely behind Luka Doncic, but since he comes at a $1,500 savings, he still is a better option to build around as a ceiling play.
Lillard returns from break with a good matchup against the Kings, and he’ll have to carry even more of the load for the Trail Blazers with Anfernee Simons (ankle) sidelined. With Simons and Jusuf Nurkic (calf) off the floor this season, Lillard has a staggering 41% usage rate and averages 1.69 DraftKings points and 1.61 FanDuel points per minute.
Dame went into the All-Star break on a roll, posting over 55 DraftKings points in his last four games and averaging 61.4 DraftKings points on 37.5 points, 7.8 assists, 7.0 rebounds, and 0.8 steals in 36.9 minutes with a 38.8% usage rate.
Additionally, this game has the second-highest over/under on the slate, so it should be a good environment for big fantasy numbers. With more work, good form, and a good matchup, Lillard is a great place to start your lineups on Thursday.
Lillard’s scoring prop sits at 35.5 on Monkey Knife Fight. You can get a $100 sign-up bonus on Monkey Knife Fight by signing up through our promo link.
Top Value: Killian Hayes at Orlando Magic – $4,700 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel
The Pistons visit the Magic in a matchup of two of the bottom three teams in the Eastern Conference. However, despite the teams’ struggles, they offer some fantasy options. That includes Hayes, who has the highest Projected Plus/Minus at the position on DraftKings and the fifth-highest on FauDuel behind a group of more expensive options.
Hayes was sent to the bench for a few games at the end of January and the start of February but has stepped back into the starting five for the past four games. Even off the bench, he played a vital role for the Pistons as they try to fill in the gap left by the injury to Cade Cunningham (shin).
Hayes has logged at least 29 minutes and had over 30 DraftKings points in two of his past five contests. He had 17 points, nine assists, and 40.9 FanDuel points against the Celtics early in February to earn his way back into the lineup, and in his final game before the break, he produced 30.9 FanDuel points on 10 points and nine assists in a rematch with Boston.
In a favorable matchup against the Magic, Hayes should be set up to return good value and brings the potential to go off for a cheap double-double if things go his way.
Top Ceiling: Jordan Poole at Los Angeles Lakers – $9,100 DraftKings, $8,300 FanDuel
With Steph Curry (leg) still out for at least a week, Poole should continue to get plenty of work as the Warriors return from the All-Star break with a trip to Los Angeles to face the Lakers. Poole has the second-highest ceiling projection of all shooting guards on DraftKings and ranks in the top five on FanDuel, even though he comes at a very reasonable salary.
Poole had a rough stretch earlier this month but rediscovered his groove heading into the break. He had at least 28 points in three of his last four games, with at least six assists in each of those contests. Two of those games resulted in over 50 DraftKings points, including one against the Lakers.
In that matchup about two weeks ago, Poole had 29 points, six assists, five rebounds, two blocks, and a steal for 50 FanDuel points and 50.25 DraftKings points. The Lakers are an even better matchup now that Patrick Beverley is elsewhere.
Since the Warriors and Lakers rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the NBA in Pace the season, there should be plenty of points in this matchup. Given his expected workload, it’s time to schedule another Poole party on Thursday.
Top Value: Malaki Branham at Dallas Mavericks – $4,500 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel
Tre Jones (foot) is doubtful even after a week off, while Jeremy Sochan (quad) is questionable. After Josh Richardson was traded to the Pelicans, Branham should have plenty of usage the rest of the way as the Spurs take a long look at their 19-year-old rookie.
Branham has the third-highest Projected Plus/Minus of all point guards and shooting guards on DraftKings. On FanDuel, he’s only eligible at small forward and is priced up a bit, but he can still bring good value in his expanded role. If you need a value shooting guard on FanDuel, Talen Horton-Tucker, Franz Wagner, and Bennedict Mathurin are good options to consider.
In his nine most recent games, Branham has outperformed salary-based expectations on DraftKings an impressive seven times, with an average Plus/Minus of +8.55. Branham has scored double-digit points in seven of his past eight contests, averaging 18.1 points, 3.9 boards, 2.9 assists, and 14 field goal attempts per contest.
With plenty of work coming his way, Branham should continue to be an excellent value option until Jones returns. The Spurs seem intent on getting as many ping pong balls as possible in the Victor Wembanyama lottery, so they’ll keep giving youngsters like Branham all the run they need regardless of the game situation.
Top Ceiling: Jayson Tatum at Indiana Pacers – $11,000 DraftKings, $10,700 FanDuel
Continuing his breakout season, Tatum was the star of the All-Star game and will return to action in a great spot against the Pacers, who rank eighth in the NBA in Pace and 23rd in Defensive Rating. Tatum brings the highest ceiling projection across the industry at small forward and the highest at power forward on DraftKings.
Tatum has scored 30 points or more in seven of his past 10 games, averaging 28.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 0.9 blocked shots, and 0.9 steals over that stretch. With those numbers, he has exceeded salary-based expectations on FanDuel in seven of his past 10 games, even though he’s been regularly priced over $10K.
With Jaylen Brown back in action, Tatum won’t have to carry the load alone, and the Celtics’ offense will be closer to full strength as they continue their push for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Still, Tatum has brought a high ceiling all season and should be ready for another big game in this smash spot on Thursday.
Top Value: Talen Horton-Tucker vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – $4,800 DraftKings, $5,600 FanDuel
We’ve now reached the Jazz section of this post. Utah brings a ton of value and upside in a matchup against the Thunder, which has the highest over/under on the slate. THT has stepped into a much more significant role for the Jazz since their trade deadline moves, but he remains very affordable. He has the highest Projected Plus/Minus on the entire DraftKings slate. On FanDuel, he brings the second-highest Projected Plus/Minus at shooting guard and the third-highest Projected Plus/Minus at small forward.
Horton-Tucker has previously shown that he brings a lot of versatility and can run the show from his spot on the wing. He has been turning in numbers like a point guard, averaging 7.0 assists per game over his five most recent contests. He has added 13.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocked shots, producing 31.5 DraftKings points and 31.5 FanDuel points in 25.8 minutes per game off the bench.
With Collin Sexton (hamstring) out, there should be even more work available for Horton-Tucker. In this good spot against the Thunder, THT brings plenty of potential and can fit in almost any lineup construction, given his positional versatility.
Top Ceiling: Lauri Markkanen vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – $9,400 DraftKings, $8,300 FanDuel
In that same matchup against the Thunder, Markkanen has the second-highest ceiling projection of all power forwards on DraftKings and the fifth-highest on FanDuel.
He missed Utah’s final game going into the All-Star break but is without an injury designation in this contest. Before missing that game, he posted a nice double-double with 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 46.75 DraftKings points against the Pacers. He had six double-doubles in his 12 games leading into the break, averaging 25.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, and a 27.0% usage rate.
His usage rate is also trending in the right direction, with at least a 30% usage rate in three of his last four games. If he keeps getting that much work, he should be ready to resume his breakout season with a boom against the Thunder.
Top Value: Jerami Grant at Sacramento Kings – $6,900 DraftKings, $6,100 FanDuel
There is a lot of disparity in pricing at power forward between FanDuel and DraftKings, but Grant looks like he’ll be a solid value play on both sites in an expanded role due to the Blazers’ injuries. He brings the highest Projected Plus/Minus of all power forwards on FanDuel and sits just outside the top 10 at the position on DraftKings, where he’s priced a little higher.
Without Nurkic and Simons, Grant will need to help carry the scoring load and has proven up to that task in the past. Before missing two games with a concussion, Grant had back-to-back games with 22 and 23 points against the Warriors and Thunder.
Grant hasn’t been piling up enough rebounds this season to make him an elite option, but at this price, he should provide excellent value in what is expected to be a high-scoring game. It will be his first time playing with the Blazers’ new deadline additions, but he should be the team’s top secondary scoring option behind Lillard. The duo makes a nice mini-stack in the late game.
Top Ceiling: Joel Embiid vs. Memphis Grizzlies – $11,100 DraftKings, $11,700 FanDuel
Even with Nikola Jokic on the slate, Embiid has the highest ceiling projection at center on both DraftKings and FanDuel. The main reason is that he gets a great matchup against the Grizzlies, who are still without Steven Adams, while Jokic has to go against the rugged Cavaliers’ defense.
Heading into the break, Embiid put up great numbers despite playing through several questionable tags. He had nine double-doubles in his past 11 games, averaging 31.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 1.5 steals over that span. He had over 60 DraftKings points in three of his final four games before the break, including 29 points and 14 boards against the Cavs in his most recent game.
Coming back from the break in such a favorable matchup, Embiid is a strong centerpiece to build around.
Top Value: Walker Kessler vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – $5,700 DraftKings, $7,000 FanDuel
For our final value, we’ll go back to the Jazz and with Kessler, who is especially underpriced on DraftKings and provides the second-highest projected Plus/Minus on the slate. On FanDuel, Kessler’s salary is a little higher, but he still has the second-highest Projected Plus/Minus at the position behind only Robert Williams (knee), who is questionable.
Kessler has exceeded salary-based expectations in seven of his past nine games and continues to get plenty of run even now that Kelly Olynyk is back to full strength. The rookie big man from Auburn has averaged 11.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 2.9 blocked shots in 27.7 minutes per game over his past nine games. He’s posted over 33 DraftKings points in six of those contests, highlighted by 42.25 DraftKings points against the Mavs and 53 DraftKings points against the Raptors.
As a solid midrange option, Kessler is a great value, and if you decide to go ultra-cheap at center, Kevon Looney and James Wiseman are both viable options as well.
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