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 at Washington Wizards – $12,500 DraftKings, $12,500 FanDuel
Doncic has the highest projected ceiling on Thursday’s four-game slate by a wide margin. Joel Embiid comes with the second-highest ceiling and doesn’t even come with five DraftKings points of Doncic’s ceiling projection. He also brings the highest median and floor projection on the slate since the superstar has been consistent to this point in the season.
Doncic leads the NBA with a 38% usage rate and is projected for a slate-leading 41% usage rate on Thursday as the Mavs remain without Christian Wood (knee). Without Wood on Wednesday, Doncic posted a 44.7% usage rate, taking 29 shots in Dallas’s loss to the Magic. He finished with 24 points, six rebounds, six assists, and 51.5 DraftKings points in a “down” performance and should be able to produce a monster stat line if he gets similar usage in Thursday’s matchup in Washington.
So far this season, Doncic has produced 1.68 FanDuel points and 1.74 DraftKings points per minute, which is by far the best production rate on this slate. He has posted over 55 FanDuel points in nine straight games, averaging 34.8 points, 8.3 assists, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game over that stretch.
As usual, Doncic comes with a hefty price tag, but no player on this slate comes close to matching his consistency or his upside.
De’Anthony Melton at Atlanta Hawks – $6,000 DraftKings, $5,600 FanDuel
One of the key metrics on FantasyLabs to help pinpoint value is projected Plus/Minus, which shows a player’s projected production compared to their salary. On FanDuel, where he’s still slightly cheaper, Melton brings the highest projected Plus/Minus of any player on the slate. On DraftKings, where his price has climbed a little bit, he still brings the third-highest projected Plus/Minus of any player on the slate and the highest of any point guard.
The 76ers have a few entries in my picks for this four-game slate since they have the top Pace Differential on the slate as they visit the Hawks. They rank seventh in the NBA in Pace, which is by far the highest of any team on the slate.
Melton has been huge for the 76ers since they lost James Harden (foot). Melton has started and played over 30 minutes in his three most recent games, producing 29.3 DraftKings points and 30.3 FanDuel points per contest on 11.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.3 blocked shots.
Melton showed his ceiling with a great game against the Knicks with over 40 FanDuel points, but he did settle into a less active role on offense with the return of Embiid on Monday. He still had a solid 25.4 FanDuel points, though, and his contribution of defensive stats makes him a relatively safe mid-range value to target in this nice spot Thursday.
Top Ceiling: Brandon Ingram vs. Portland Trail Blazers – $8,700 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel
The banged-up Blazers roll into the Big Easy on Thursday to finish their back-to-back against the Pelicans. New Orleans has the highest implied team total on our Vegas Dashboard and will also be playing for the second night in a row after beating the Bulls in Chicago on Wednesday. In the win, Ingram had 22 points and fell just one rebound short of his first double-double of the year, finishing with 38.25 DraftKings points and 36.3 FanDuel points. Ingram brings the third-highest ceiling projection at shooting guard on DraftKings and the fifth-highest on FanDuel.
Earlier this season, Ingram missed four games with a concussion, but other than the game he left early with that injury, he has over 37 DraftKings points in every contest. He came near a triple-double earlier this season against the Hornets with over 50 DraftKings points, and he has that kind of upside again in this spot, making him an excellent play to build around.
Top Value: Spencer Dinwiddie at Washington Wizards – $6,200 DraftKings, $6,300 FanDuel
This is a potential revenge game for Dinwiddie, who played 44 games for the Wizards before they traded him to Dallas last season. He comes in with the third-highest projected Plus/Minus of all the shooting guards on DraftKings and the sixth-highest on FanDuel. Those numbers are based on projections with Tim Hardaway Jr. playing, but he would gain even more potential usage and value if Hardaway is rested or limited on the second night of Dallas’s back-to-back.
Dinwiddie has started all 10 games for the Mavs this season and averaged 30.6 DraftKings points and 29.6 FanDuel points in his 32.7 minutes per game. He has averaged 16.9 points, 4.4 assists, and 3.1 rebounds per contest but has regularly outperformed those averages and his expectations over the past few games. Dinwiddie has scored at least 20 points in three of his past four games and has posted a positive Plus/Minus in seven of his past eight games.
On Wednesday in Orlando without Wood, Dinwiddie had a season-high 29 points and chipped in good non-scoring numbers to finish just under 50 fantasy points. Without Wood again on Thursday, he should get another chance to carry more of the load.
Top Ceiling: Tobias Harris at Atlanta Hawks – $7,100 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel
Harris has also been stepping up for the 76ers over the past few games since the injury to Harden. In this good spot against the Hawks, he brings the highest projected ceiling among all small forwards on DraftKings and the third-highest at the position on FanDuel.
Even with Embiid’s return on Monday, Harris posted one of his best all-around games of the season against the Suns, producing over 40 fantasy points on both DraftKings and FanDuel with 21 points, eight rebounds, six assists, and a steal in a season-high 38 minutes.
He has played over 30 minutes and produced over 31 FanDuel points in his past five games, averaging 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.0 blocked shots. He has produced 1.22 DraftKings points per minute with a 22.1% usage rate with Harden off the floor this season, compared to just a 16.6% usage rate and 0.89 DraftKings points per minute with Harden on the floor.
De’Andre Hunter vs. Philadelphia 76ers – $4,900 DraftKings, $4,800 FanDuel
On the other side of this exciting Eastern Conference matchup, check out Hunter as a cheap play on the wing, as the former No. 4 overall pick continues to carve out a significant role next to his two superstar teammates in the backcourt. He has the second-highest projected Plus/Minus of all small forwards on both DraftKings and FanDuel. He’s one of only two players with a projected Plus/Minus of over +1.0 coming into the day, along with the Wizards Will Barton.
Hunter has started all 11 games for Atlanta, averaging 22.9 DraftKings points and 21.8 FanDuel points in his 29.5 minutes per game. His usage rate of 20.6% would be a new career-high, but he isn’t the team’s primary option on offense, with Trae Young and Dejounte Murray soaking up a lot of usage. Hunter has scored double-digit points in every game this season and matched his season-high with 22 points against the Jazz on Wednesday.
He has averaged 15.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.1 assists this season, but he has exceeded salary expectations and projections in three of his past four contests, so he should be in an excellent spot to provide value from under $5K again in this matchup.
Top Ceiling: Jimmy Butler vs. Charlotte Hornets – $9,100 DraftKings, $9,000 FanDuel
Butler and the Heat are in a great matchup as well as they host the Hornets. The Heat have the second-highest implied total on the slate and are one of three teams not on a back-to-back. On both DraftKings and FanDuel, Butler has the highest ceiling projection and the highest median projection of all the power forwards on the slate by a slight margin over Zion Williamson and Kristaps Porzingis.
Butler missed a pair of games with left hip soreness, but he returned on Monday and posted over 42 DraftKings points for the third time in his four most recent games. He totaled 16 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and six steals in his 33 minutes against Portland with a 26.8% usage rate, which is only slightly over his season average.
If he plays the 35 minutes he’s projected for in this contest, he should be able to stuff the stat sheet in multiple categories and brings the best power forward ceiling available. He has produced 1.2 DraftKings points and 1.18 FanDuel points per minute this season.
Top Value: Rui Hachimura vs. Dallas Mavericks – $4,100 DraftKings, $4,200 FanDuel
If you opt to go cheap at power forward, Hachimura presents the second-highest projected Plus/Minus at the position on DraftKings and the fourth-highest on FanDuel. He’s only slightly behind Maxi Kleber. Hachimura brings a higher ceiling than Kleber and presents more upside, but Kleber is a little cheaper on both sites, giving him a better projected Plus/Minus.
Hachimura has provided a nice spark off the bench for the Wizards this season and has outperformed salary expectations in four of his past five games. He has scored double-digit points in nine of his past 10 games, averaging 11.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.0 assists. He had a 10-point, 10-rebound performance last week against the 76ers for his best showing of the season and matched his season-high with 16 points on Monday against the Hornets.
While the Wizards remain with Bradley Beal (health and safety protocols), they’ll need other players to step up and take more of the scoring load, and Hachimura is a sneaky way to grab a piece of the increased usage as a cheap play off the bench.
Top Ceiling: Joel Embiid at Atlanta Hawks – $10,900 DraftKings, $10,500 FanDuel
Embiid should be set up for a run of dominant performances while Harden is out, but he hasn’t been able to find his stride yet this season. He returned on Monday after missing four of five games, and he posted 33 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists for 55.5 DraftKings points in 37 minutes.
He should be even more in the flow as he gets back to 100% and should get more usage as well. He is projected for a 34.95% usage rate, which is the third-highest on the slate behind Doncic and Trae Young. When available, Embiid has had no trouble posting numbers, producing 1.3 DraftKings points and 1.32 FanDuel points per minute.
Because he is a little cheaper than Doncic and brings a similar ceiling, Embiid is a strong challenger for the top stud on the slate.
Maxi Kleber at Washington Wizards – $3,400 DraftKings, $3,700 FanDuel
Projected Plus/Minus loves Kleber tonight in this matchup. He has the highest projected Plus/Minus of any player at any position on DraftKings and the third-highest behind Melton and Embiid on FanDuel.
Kleber is projected to play 30.05 minutes with Wood sidelined once again and has shown in the past that his versatile, all-around game can meld nicely with Doncic running the show. Without Wood on Wednesday, Kleber logged 33 minutes, eight points, three rebounds, and a steal. While his 14.75 DraftKings points won’t leap off the page, the fact that he got that much run shows there’s the potential for a much bigger night on Thursday, and given his past success stuffing the stat sheet, he has way too much upside to ignore under $4K on such a small slate.
Depending on how you build your roster, Kleber can fit at power forward or center, giving increased flexibility to spending the salary you save on superstars in other spots.
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