NBA DFS Picks Breakdown (Saturday, Dec. 31): Ring in the New Year With Joel Embiid

Saturday features an eight-game slate starting at 7 pm ET.

Let’s dive into some of the top plays on the slate using the FantasyLabs tools and metrics.

Also, don’t forget that for large-field tournaments, you can use our Lineup Optimizer to effortlessly create up to 150 lineups, or use our Lineup Builder if you like to hand-build your lineups.

Note: Projections and Leverages Scores/Ratings may change throughout the day after this article is posted. The NBA DFS landscape changes quickly.

Consult the NBA Player Models directly for any updates as we get closer to lock. Use the PrizePicks promo code LABS to get a $100 sign-up bonus for NBA player props.

NBA DFS Point Guard Picks

Stud

I think it’s safe to say this Luka Doncic guy is pretty good. He’s been one of the best producers in fantasy this season, averaging 1.74 DraftKings points per minute, and he’s taken his game to another level recently. He’s averaged 1.78 DraftKings points per minute over the past month, and he’s scored at least 81.0 DraftKings points in three of his past four games. That includes a ridiculous 110.75 DraftKings points vs. the Knicks, which is the most of any player since the beginning of 2014-15 (per the Trends tool). The only other players to crack triple digits in that time frame are Joel Embiid, DeMarcus Cousins, and James Harden (twice).

Doncic is in a great spot for another big game Saturday vs. the Spurs. They rank dead last in defensive efficiency this season, and the Mavericks’ implied team total of 119.25 ranks fourth on the slate. Doncic leads all players in ceiling projection by more than 13.5 DraftKings points, and he has the potential to break a slate like few others.


Value

The Pistons are going to be without Killian Hayes again on Saturday, which means Alec Burks should maintain a slightly larger workload. He’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in three straight games, and he’s averaged 1.07 DraftKings points per minute for the year. He’s currently projected for more than 26 minutes in our NBA Models, and his $4,500 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 98%.


Fast Break

The Timberwolves have plenty of appeal on the other side of that matchup. The Pistons rank dead last in defensive efficiency, and the Timberwolves are implied for 119.5 points. D’Angelo Russell has posted an average Plus/Minus of +3.05 over his past 10 games on FanDuel, and he’s underpriced at $7,100.

Speaking of underpriced, LaMelo Ball stands out as one of the best pure values ​​at the position on FanDuel. His $9,300 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 96%, and Ball leads the position with a whopping 14 Pro Trends. He’s averaged 1.34 FanDuel points per minute since returning to the lineup, and he’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in all but one game. That includes 58.5 FanDuel points in his last outing, and the game between the Hornets and Nets leads the slate with a 237.5-point total.

NBA DFS Shooting Guard Picks

Stud

James Harden saw a pretty steep decline in value in his first game with Tyrese Maxey back in the lineup. He had just eight field goal attempts, and while he finished with 20 points and 10 assists, he still had just 36.25 DraftKings points. Harden had at least 62.25 DraftKings points in each of his three previous games, so that was a serious step down in production.

However, the 76ers are playing on the second leg of a back-to-back, and there’s a chance that Maxey sits out. That would be a significant boost for Harden, especially in a plus matchup vs. the Thunder. They’ve played at the fourth-fastest pace this season, so Harden has some bounce-back appeal.


Value

The Knicks are another team that will be important to monitor on Saturday. The team is already playing without RJ Barrettand Jalen Brunson is questionable after missing the last two games with a hip injury.

If Brunson remains sidelined, Immanuel Quickley can continue to be trusted in DFS lineups. He’s taken on a monster workload in their absence, logging 50.6 and 43.3 minutes in his past two games. Quickley is also an outstanding per-minute producer, averaging 0.93 DraftKings points per minute, so he’s unsurprisingly racked up at least 42.75 DraftKings points in both contests. He’s currently projected for 34 minutes in our NBA Models, and it would be hard to pass up on Quickley in that scenario.


Fast Break

Desmond Bane is still getting back in the swing of things for the Grizzlies, but he played 28.5 minutes in their last contest. He’s seen a slight increase in playing time in all four games since returning to the lineup, so there’s a chance he could approach 30 minutes on Saturday. Bane has averaged 1.09 FanDuel points per minute this season, so that makes him a viable option at $6,100.

Darius Garland is questionable for the Cavaliers, and his absence would make Donovan Mitchell a quality stud target. He’s seen a team-high 3.5% usage bump with Garland off the floor this season, resulting in an average of 1.24 FanDuel points per minute. The Bulls also stand out as a quality matchup, resulting in an Opponent Plus/Minus of +3.63.

NBA DFS Small Forward Picks

Stud

Kevin Durant could be a contrarian stud target on Saturday’s slate. He’s only projected for around 10% ownership on DraftKings, but the Nets are arguably in the best spot of the day vs. the Hornets. They rank 10th in pace and 23rd in defensive efficiency, and the Nets’ implied team total of 122.25 ranks first on the slate.

Durant is coming off a dominant performance in his last outing, racking up 26 points, 16 boards, and eight assists vs. the Hawks. He’s not on quite the same level as guys like Doncic from a per-minute standpoint, but his average of 1.39 DraftKings points per minute is the top mark among Saturday’s small forwards by a comfortable margin. He also leads the position with 10 Pro Trends on DraftKings.


Value

Sadiq Bey came back to reality a bit in his last contest, finishing with just 22.0 DraftKings points in 30.6 minutes. Still, the playing time is very encouraging for his prospects on Saturday. Bey is dirt cheap at $4,000 on DraftKings, resulting in a Bargain Rating of 99%, and he averaged 0.90 DraftKings points per minute over the past month. If he’s going to continue to play around 30 minutes, he should have no issues paying off his current salary.


Fast Break

Zach LaVine is another potential undervalued target at the position. The Cavaliers set up as a perfect matchup for him, with no team in basketball allowing more made 3-pointers per 100 possessions. LaVine is easily the Bulls’ top 3-point shooter, so this could be a game where he thrives DeMar DeRozan struggles. LaVine is a particularly nice option on FanDuel, given his Bargain Rating of 89%.

Anthony Edwards has had to take on a larger role with Karl-Anthony Towns sidelined recently. He’s increased his fantasy production to 1.26 FanDuel points per minute, and he’s averaged a Plus/Minus of +7.53 over his past 10 games on FanDuel. He has three games with at least 60.5 FanDuel points in his past seven outings, so he has some ceiling at $9,200 as well.

NBA DFS Power Forward Picks

Stud

Julius Randle is back to being a fantasy stud this season. He has always been an excellent per-minute producer, but he struggled mightily last year. However, he averaged 1.28 DraftKings points per minute this year, and he increased that figure to 1.41 over the past month.

Randle draws an excellent matchup Saturday vs. the Rockets, who rank just 28th in defensive efficiency. They have been better at defending the paint, but Randle is capable of doing damage in multiple ways. He’s increased his assist rate by +5.0% with Brunson sidelined over the past two games, so Randle doesn’t necessarily need to dominate the interior to return value in this spot.


Value

Naz Reid has dual PF/C eligibility on DraftKings, and if Rudy Gobert is sidelined again, he should be in your lineup somewhere. Reid has been a monster when given the opportunity to play this season, and he averaged a robust 1.26 DraftKings points per minute over the past month. He racked up 31.25 DraftKings points in 29.8 minutes on Friday, and he’s scored at least 40.25 DraftKings points in his previous four games with that much playing time.


Fast Break

Jabari Smith Jr. is starting to break out. The No. 3 overall pick from the 2022 NBA Draft has averaged 1.13 DraftKings points per minute over the past month, and he has posted a positive Plus/Minus in three of his past four games. He’s also displayed a ceiling of more than 45 DraftKings points during that stretch, yet his price has decreased to just $4,900 for Saturday’s matchup vs. the Knicks.

Keldon Johnson has had some grim shooting numbers for the Spurs of late, but he knocked down 11 of 21 shots on Thursday. Perhaps he’s starting to turn things around, and if he is, he’s undoubtedly underpriced at $6,800. He should also benefit from the expected absence of Devin Vassellwith Johnson increasing his usage rate by +3.1% with Vassell off the floor this season.

NBA DFS Center Picks

Stud

Joel Embiid hasn’t gotten as much attention as Doncic or Nikola Jokic of late, but he’s been playing some outstanding basketball of late. He’s posted a usage rate of at least 42.0% in four straight games, and he’s scored at least 55.1 FanDuel points in three of them.

I have no idea how Oklahoma City plans to protect him, given their current roster. Their only real center option is Mike Muscala, and I think it’s pretty safe to say that’s a mismatch. Overall, Embiid owns an Opponent Plus/Minus of +7.85, with the Thunder allowing the second-most points in the paint per game this season.


Value

Jalen Duren is coming off a subpar showing in his last contest, but he continues to gobble up rebounds at an elite rate. He’s posted a 22.6% rebound rate since moving into the starting lineup, which would be the second-highest full-season mark in the league. Only Clint Capela (23.3%) has grabbed a higher percentage of boards than Duren has as a starter.

Duren has pulled down double-digit boards in nine of his past 10 games, which makes him a candidate for a cheap double-double. His scoring numbers haven’t been nearly as impressive, but he provides a solid floor and a decent ceiling at his current price tag.


Fast Break

The Spurs have eased Jakob Poeltl back into action, but he played 28.6 minutes in their last outing. Poeltl has averaged 1.17 DraftKings points per minute this season, so he can do some damage in less than 30 minutes. He’s also been priced down to just $5,700 on DraftKings, resulting in a Bargain Rating of 96%.

Nick Claxton has posted an average Plus/Minus of +7.70 over his past 10 games on FanDuel, and he’s increased his production to 1.20 FanDuel points per minute over the past month. He has at least 45.1 FanDuel points in two of his past three contests, so he has plenty of appeal at $6,800 in a juicy matchup vs. the Hornets.

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