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 tool and so much more.
Let’s dive into our models, going position-by-position, looking at guys with some of the highest Ceiling Projections, along with players who are standing out as values with our predictive Projected Plus/Minus metric.
Note: Projections and Leverages Scores/Ratings may change throughout the day after this article is posted. Consult the Player Models directly for any updates.
Top Ceiling: Russell Westbrook vs. Golden State Warriors – $4,800 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel
Westbrook will make his debut when the Los Angeles Lakers open the season against the Golden State Warriors, and his upside on this slate is massive. Beginning life with his fourth team, the former NBA MVP is projected to have a ceiling of 78.51 fantasy points on DraftKings and 70.37 on FanDuel, topping the slate.
There is plenty of talent surrounding Westbrook, including Malik Monk and Kent Bazemore, both of whom shot over 40% from three-point range last year. That should help him match the 14.9 assists he was dishing out per 100 possessions last year and give him space to bring up his scoring numbers from 28.1 per 100 possessions, which was the lowest output he’d had since his second year in the NBA.
Top Value: Jordan Poole – $4,800 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel
Poole is similarly priced on both sites, but the best place to play him would be FanDuel, with a Bargain Rating of 73% compared to 31% on DraftKings. The do-it-all guard out of Michigan rates highly in our projections with 7.1 Pts/Sal on DraftKings and 6.6 on FanDuel, which puts him No. 1 among all point guards.
With Klay Thompson still making his way back from knee surgery, Poole is projected to see 32.43 minutes for Steve Kerr and the Warriors with a 25.7 Usage Projection, which is second only to Stephen Curry. He saw a 25% Usage Rate in 2020-21, so that seems well within reason.
Top Ceiling: James Harden vs. Milwaukee Bucks – $9,300 DraftKings, $10,600 FanDuel
Harden led the NBA in Usage Rate from 2017-19 and followed that up with a 36.3% mark in the 2019-20 season. Last year was a big step back. The seven-time All-NBA guard saw his Usage Rate drop to 28.7% in his eight games with the Rockets and even further to 28.4% with the Nets. Now, without Kyrie Irving in the fold, perhaps Harden will take on a bigger role with Brooklyn.
Because of the step back last year, our model gives Harden a 24.83 Usage Projection, but he carries with him a 67.65 Ceiling Projection on DraftKings and a 64.1 on FanDuel. He’d have the most potential on both sites if not for Westbrook’s dual-position eligibility on FanDuel.
Top Value: Grayson Allen at Brooklyn Nets – $3,800 DraftKings, $3,800 FanDuel
In case you missed the biggest news of the offseason, Allen has a new home in Milwaukee. The Bucks will still be without Donte DiVincenzo as he makes his way back from a foot injury, clearing the way for Allen to get plenty of minutes on the wing.
We project the sharpshooter to play 28.83 minutes, and his Projected Plus/Minus of +6.59 on DraftKings ranks second to only Poole and third on FanDuel to Poole and Westbrook. You can also plug him in at shooting guard on DraftKings.
Top Ceiling: LeBron James vs. Golden State Warriors – $9,000 DraftKings, $8,400 FanDuel
James narrowly edges out Kevin Durant for the highest ceiling of the slate at 65.53 points on DraftKings, though on FanDuel, Durant’s Ceiling Projection of 63.86 is higher than James’ 63.73. With that being said, James’s rating, according to our Player Models is higher on both sites, and with some new talent around him, it’s easy to get excited about his potential on Tuesday’s slate.
He also fits into one of our Pro Trends of players who have a Projected Plus/Minus of at least +3.0, which has out-performed expected points by +4.01 on average.
James’ Bargain Rating of 97% on DraftKings makes him the surefire top play at the position over there, but no one will argue if you want to play Durant ($10,800) on FanDuel.
Top Value: Kent Bazemore at Golden State Warriors – $3,600 DraftKings, $4,700 FanDuel
One of those new faces James will be passing to is Bazemore, who draws a matchup with his former team here. The athletic wing shot 40.8% from three-point range last season and will benefit from playing alongside James and Westbrook, two excellent passers.
Bazemore’s 5.2 Pts/Sal are second among small forwards on FanDuel, and he’s offering a ton of leverage at 79%. He’ll give you even more bang for your buck on DraftKings with a slate-high projected 6.8 points per dollar and a 94% Bargain Rating.
Top Ceiling: Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Brooklyn Nets – $10,000 DraftKings, $11,000 FanDuel
Antetokounmpo will match up with Brooklyn, a team which he successfully helped dispatch in last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals. In that series, he averaged 31.9 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 3.6 assists, and our model projects he could continue to dominate against Brooklyn’s sometimes porous defense.
Antetokounmpo’s Ceiling Projection leads both the DraftKings and FanDuel slates. We project he will deliver at least 5X value with the opportunity for 7.5X his salary on DraftKings and 7.2X on FanDuel with his ceiling.
Top Value: Jordan Nwora vs. Brooklyn Nets – $3,000 DraftKings, $3,500 FanDuel
It’s not often we get a big beneficiary of an injury on Opening Night, but a hamstring injury to Bobby Portis and a calf issue that’s plaguing Semi Ojele will open the door for the 2020 second-round pick to play. We project Nwora to see 16.22 minutes for Milwaukee, and at the minimum salary that will provide you 6.6 Pts/Sal on DraftKings 5.5 points per dollar on FanDuel.
Nwora’s Projected Plus/Minus is +4.9, and per our Trends tool, players with a Projected Plus/Minus of at least three have out-performed expectations by +3.91 points.
Top Ceiling: Anthony Davis vs. Golden State Warriors – $7,400 DraftKings, $8,400 FanDuel
Targeting centers against the Golden State Warriors was a very fruitful spot in 2020-21, so it’s no surprise to see our model expecting big things out of Davis on Opening Night. His Projected Ceiling of 55.89 points on DraftKings is the best you will find outside of Antetokounmpo, and his 57.66 points on FanDuel gives him the most potential on FanDuel, where you can’t roster Antetokounmpo as a center.
Davis also carries with him the highest floor of any center, projected to play 32.12 minutes. His Projected Plus/Minus of -2.4 attaches some risk to his name, though.
Top Value: LaMarcus Aldridge at Milwaukee Bucks – $3,900 DraftKings, $4,100 FanDuel
The Nets added Paul Millsap to an already-crowded frontcourt that includes Nic Claxton and Blake Griffin, but our model projects the veteran big man to receive 18.82 minutes, making him a solid value play on Tuesday’s slate with a projected 19.22 points, which would be 4.9 Pts/Sal on DraftKings and 4.8 on FanDuel.
We project Draymond Green to be the best deal at center on FanDuel with a Projected Plus/Minus of +3.96, but Aldridge is a universal value option at center and provides great leverage on FanDuel (79%) and DraftKings (63%).