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 vs. Philadelphia 76ers – $9,900 DraftKings, $9,200 FanDuel
There are four elite point guards on Thursday’s four-game slate, and their ceiling projections are incredibly similar. I give Lillard the slight edge over James Harden, Stephen Curry, and Kyrie Irving due to his matchup and the fact that he has the highest usage projection of the four. His ceiling projection is the third-highest on the entire slate on DraftKings, just slightly ahead of the other three options. You could build around multiple elite guards, but if you’re going with just one top-ceiling point guard, Lillard would be my choice. He’s the only member of the quartet that has a positive Opponent Plus/Minus since the Sixers have been a good matchup for guards.
Lillard has made big-time matchups like this Dame Time regularly throughout his outstanding career in Portland. This season he’s averaging a career-high 29.3 points to go with 7.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds with a 32.3% usage rate, which would also be the highest mark of his career.
The 32-year-old has been heating up lately, with at least 30 points in his last six games and at least 40 points in three of his last four. He has over 54 FanDuel points and over 55 DraftKings points in four straight games after going off for 44 points, eight assists, three rebounds, and 61.75 DraftKings points on Tuesday in Denver.
Lillard’s numbers have been even better this year at home than on the road, so building around him in this home matchup is a play to consider.
Top Value: Marcus Smart vs. Golden State Warriors – $6,500 DraftKings, $6,300 FanDuel
Of the four games on the main slate, the game with the highest over/under is the NBA Finals rematch between the Celtics and the Warriors, and the Celtics have the highest Implied Team Total of the eight teams in action. It’s also a good pace-up spot for Boston since the Warriors lead the NBA in Pace, giving Boston the second-highest Pace Differential on the slate.
The Celtics are hopeful that Jaylen Brown (adductor) can return from a three-game absence, but even with him in the projections, Smart is still a solid play to consider at this salary. He had the second-highest Projected Plus/Minus at point guard on DraftKings and the third-highest on FanDuel. He’s also in the top five on both sites at shooting guard in Projected Plus/Minus.
Since returning three games ago from an injury of his own, Smart has looked sharp, averaging 13.0 points, 9.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.3 steals for 35.8 DraftKings points and 33.8 FanDuel points in 34 minutes per game. He played 35 minutes and had 35.5 DraftKings points and 38.3 FanDuel points in Boston’s earlier matchup with the Warriors, and that kind of production would make him an excellent value from his salary of just over $6K.
He has also flashed a little higher ceiling lately with two double-doubles in his three games since returning with over 39 DraftKings points in each of those games.
Top Ceiling: Anthony Edwards vs. Toronto Raptors – $8,900 DraftKings, $8,700 FanDuel
While Karl-Anthony Towns (calf) has been sidelined, Edwards has emerged as a regular fantasy contributor who has to be considered almost every time the T-Wolves take the court. On this slate against Toronto, he has the highest ceiling projection at shooting guard on DraftKings and the third-highest on FanDuel, where Irving and Harden also qualify as shooting guards.
Edwards also brings the extra versatility of being eligible at small forward, where he has the second-highest ceiling projection on both DraftKings and FanDuel. That extra flexibility makes him a good fit in multiple lineup constructions.
Wednesday night was not Edwards’ strongest performance, as he struggled to just 7-of-17 shooting for 16 points in 37 minutes in a narrow loss to the Nuggets. Before that floor game, he had been rolling with three straight games exceeding salary-based expectations and posting over 45 DraftKings points.
Before Wednesday’s letdown, he averaged 25.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.4 steals in his previous 12 games while reaching at least 42 DraftKings points in nine of those 12 games.
In this matchup against the Raptors, look for Edwards to bounce back with a stronger showing as he continues to carry Minnesota’s offense.
Top Value: Gary Trent Jr. at Minnesota Timberwolves – $6,600 DraftKings, $7,000 FanDuel
On the other side of that matchup in Minnesota, Trent has been stepping up for the Raptors. He brings similar versatility to Edwards, qualifying at both shooting guard and small forward on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
Trent has exceeded salary-based expectations in eight of his past 10 games with an average Plus/Minus of +7.4 on FanDuel and +8.5 on DraftKings during that 10-game timeframe.
He has scored at least 18 points in 11 of his last 12 games, averaging 22.6 points and adding in 3.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 2.1 steals in his 36.5 minutes per game. He has become a key contributor in the starting five for Toronto and has been logging large workloads regularly, often playing over 40 minutes per night.
He has the highest Projected Plus/Minus at shooting guard on DraftKings and the fifth-highest at small forward. On FanDuel, he has the fourth-highest projected Plus/Minus at shooting guard and the third-highest at small forward.
Top Ceiling: Jayson Tatum vs. Golden State Warriors – $10,800 DraftKings, $11,000 FanDuel
Tatum and the Celtics will get their second rematch of the season against the team that beat them in last season’s NBA Finals. He comes in with the second-highest ceiling projection on the entire slate on both DraftKings and FanDuel, and he has made a regular habit of going off and breaking slates lately.
In four of his past six games, Tatum has exceeded salary-based expectations even at his elevated price point. He is coming off a massive 51-point game on Monday that resulted in 71.25 DraftKings points and 65.3 FanDuel points against the Hornets.
Tatum has scored at least 20 points in 17 straight games, averaging 32.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 0.9 steals in 36.9 minutes per game over that stretch. He has at least 52 FanDuel points and DraftKings points in four of his last six contests.
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: Josh Hart vs. Philadelphia 76ers – $4,900 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel
Hart has the highest Projected Plus/Minus at small forward on DraftKings, where he’s still priced under $5K. He’s a little pricier on FanDuel but also brings more versatility with shooting guard eligibility. He ranks in the top six at both positions in projected Plus/Minus on FanDuel.
As has been the case throughout his career, Hart has been stuffing the stat sheet in multiple categories this season with the Trail Blazers. His scoring is down a bit to just 9.5 points per game, but he still contributes 8.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.1 steals in 34.2 minutes per game. The arrival of Jerami Grant has a lot to do with his reduced usage, but Hart still manages to contribute enough in other categories to be a solid mid-range play.
He has at least 25 DraftKings points in five of his past seven games and brings a good ceiling with double-double potential.
Top Ceiling: Ben Simmons at Phoenix Suns – $7,100 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel
Simmons has the third-highest ceiling projection at power forward on DraftKings and the fourth-highest on FanDuel. He also brings unique eligibility with point guard as his second position on FanDuel and center as his secondary spot on DraftKings. Wherever he fits into your roster construction, he’s set for success against the Suns in this matchup.
The Nets have dropped three straight since the injury to Kevin Durant (knee), and Simmons and Irving both missed one of those three contests. They’re both on track to play in Phoenix, though, and hopefully will be able to overcome the absence of KD.
Simmons had his best fantasy game of the season on Tuesday without KD and Kyrie. He finished with 49.5 FanDuel points and 52 DraftKings points on 10 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, four steals, and two blocked shots. He doesn’t usually score many points, but his contributions in other categories keep him very fantasy relevant. He has exceeded salary-based expectations in six of his past 10 games, including four of his past seven.
The Nets need Simmons and Kyrie to step up, and Simmons is still priced relatively affordably for the ceiling he offers due to his multi-faceted production.
Top Value: Royce O’Neale at Phoenix Suns – $5,700 DraftKings, $5,600 FanDuel
The Nets’ fluid positional roles also impact O’Neale’s eligibility. On FanDuel, O’Neale is a small forward and power forward, while on DraftKings, he is only eligible at shooting guard. Like Simmons, though, he can provide value wherever you can fit him in. He has the third-highest Projected Plus/Minus at shooting guard on DraftKings, the third-highest Projected Plus/Minus at power forward on FanDuel, and the second-highest at small forward on FanDuel, behind only Edwards.
O’Neale had been a great play until a disappointing performance on Tuesday when he was widely owned and returned just 7.0 DraftKings points and 5.4 FanDuel points. Before that, he had exceeded salary-based expectations in seven of his previous eight games, including a run of four straight games with a Plus/Minus of at least +10.0 on FanDuel and +8.0 on DraftKings.
During his six games before Tuesday’s letdown, he had averaged 9.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game. If he gets back to that level, he can return to his status as a very nice value play with multi-category potential similar to Simmons, although his ceiling isn’t quite as high.
Top Ceiling: Joel Embiid at Portland Trail Blazers – $11,000 DraftKings, $11,500 FanDuel
Embiid has the highest ceiling projection on the entire slate, partially because he also has the highest usage projection at 37.9%. Embiid seems to always be in a smash spot, and this matchup with the Trail Blazers is especially favorable since he has a Opponents Plus/Minus of +3.1, the second-best matchup for any center on the slate on FanDuel.
Embiid has ramped back up to a full workload after missing three games early in January. He had 35 points, 11 rebounds, and 60.75 DraftKings points against the Lakers on Sunday, followed by 41 points, nine rebounds, and 59.25 DraftKings points against the Clippers on Tuesday. He has produced at least 55 DraftKings points in seven of his past nine games, including contests where he was at less than 100%.
Fully healthy and ready for this juicy matchup, he should be a priority as you try to figure out how to squeeze the most you can out of your salary cap.
Top Value: Precious Achiuwa at New York Knicks– $3,700 DraftKings, $4,500 FanDuel
Achiuwa is an excellent option if you go cheap at center, especially on DraftKings, where he has the highest Projected Plus/Minus on the entire slate.
After missing almost two months with a torn ligament in his ankle, he has ramped back up to play over 20 minutes in each of the Raptors’ three most recent contests, providing good defense and rebounding.
He has exceeded salary-based expectations on both FanDuel and DraftKings in his past five games, averaging 11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per contest, coming off the bench for an average of 21.1 minutes per game.
Toronto’s rotation is constantly in flux, but Achiuwa has carved out enough playing time to be the best value big man on Thursday’s slate.
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