NBA DFS Picks Breakdown (Thursday, Jan. 5): Nikola Jokic or Luka Doncic?

Thursday features a small four-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 our FanDuel promo to get three months of free NBA League Pass.

NBA DFS Point Guard Picks

Stud

Luka Doncic headlines another Thursday slate as the player with the highest ceiling in our Tournament Model. Over the last six games, Doncic has shown his massive ceiling. During that time, Doncic is averaging a near triple-double with 44.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 9.8 assists per game. He has shot a 56.2% from the field while averaging a monstrous 81.2 DraftKings points per game. Doncic is clearly the best pay-up option on this small slate.

After having the luxury of playing against poor defensive teams over his last six games, Doncic will get a tougher challenge against the Celtics, who rank eighth in Defensive Rating this season. Despite the difficult matchup, Doncic is matchup-proof, and he proved that earlier this season against the Celtics. The Mavericks lost by 13 points, but Doncic still scored 42 points while shooting 17 of 28 from the field with nine assists and eight rebounds in 40 minutes. Don’t let the tough matchup deter getting exposure to the highest-ceiling player on the slate.


Value

Losers of five-straight games, the Jazz have started their descent down the Western Conference standings. To make matters worse, those five losses have come from a combined 15 points.

In his fourth season with the Jazz, Jordan Clarkson has started each of his 39 games while averaging a career-high 20.6 points and 4.4 assists per game. He has scored over 20 points in eight-straight games while shooting 50% or better in each of his last four.

The Jazz are tied for the highest implied team total on the slate at 118.5 points, as they are 6.5-point road favorites against the Rockets. These two teams rank 26th and 27th in Defensive Rating this season, so don’t expect much defense to be played in this matchup. With backup point guard Collin Sexton out with an injury, Clarkson has increased usage rate and production and is one of the best values ​​on FanDuel.


Fast Break

Playing on a back-to-back, Ja Morant only played 27 minutes last night as the Grizzlies led the Hornets by 29 points at halftime and won by 24 points. Morant still reached over 40 DraftKings points, but his ceiling was cut short due to the blowout. The Grizzlies are tied with the Jazz for a 118.5 implied total as the Magic rank 24th in Defensive Rating this season. Morant’s salary is high, but he is a great tournament player at lower ownership tonight.

NBA DFS Shooting Guard Picks

Stud

Scoring the ball is not a problem for Jaylen Brown, averaging a career-high 27.2 points per game while shooting 49.8% from the field. The statistic that basically decides if he will have a boom or bust game is rebounding. Brown has scored 20 or more points in 33 of his 36 games this season and is averaging a career-high 7.1 rebounds per game. He has posted games where he has recorded one rebound and other games where he has recorded 14-15 rebounds, and that’s typically what determines whether or not he returns value.

Playing against the Mavericks may be about as good of a rebounding spot as Brown will get this season. The Mavericks rank last in Rebounding Percentage (47.6%) entering tonight’s games. They only grab 38.9 rebounds per game, which is the lowest in the league by far. Brown has an excellent chance for double-digit rebounds in this matchup.


Value

Marcus Smart is another Celtics player worth getting exposure to at the guard position. He should serve as the primary defender on Doncic, and he’s projected to play over 34 minutes while being priced at $6,000 on both DraftKings and FanDuel. With an 80% Bargain Rating on FanDuel, Smart is best utilized on that site where his team-leading and career-high 7.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game can rack up more fantasy points.

Smart is still averaging double-digit points, but he can stuff the stat sheet in various ways. He is a way to differentiate from Brown and Tatum while still getting exposure to the best offense in the league. The Celtics are three-point road favorites against the Mavericks as they continue to lead the league in Offensive Rating while scoring a league-high 118.6 points per game. Prioritize Smart on FanDuel, where he remains a little too cheap.


Fast Break

Jalen Green is a pure scorer and leads the Rockets with a 27.6% usage rate. The Rockets are 6.5-point home underdogs, and one of two teams with only 10 wins this season, but they are fairly competitive in most of their games. With the Jazz struggling, especially on defense, Green looks like a strong value play in the mid-range on both sites. Most of his fantasy points come from scoring, as he is averaging a career-high 21.3 points.

NBA DFS Small Forward Picks

Stud

Add Jayson Tatum to the list of Celtics players in a great spot against the Mavericks. Like Brown, Tatum is averaging a career-high in scoring and rebounding while putting up over 30 points per game. Some players get up for nationally televised games, and Tatum is definitely on that list. After getting embarrassed by the Thunder last game, expect Tatum to bounce back against the Mavericks, who are without their top defender. Dorian Finney-Smith.

In seven games without Finney-Smith this season, the Mavericks’ Defensive Rating drops from 113.8 to 117. In their last game against the Mavericks, Tatum had 37 points and 13 rebounds for 66.25 DraftKings points. He is another player who can dominate the glass and reach a double-double. Expect Tatum to go shot-for-shot with Doncic in this marquee interconference showdown on TNT.


Value

The absence of Sexton also helps Malik Beasley, as it opens up much more playing time and usage for the sharpshooter. Using our On/Off Tool, Beasley has seen approximately a +1.0% usage bump with Sexton off the floor this season. In the eight games Sexton has missed, Beasley is averaging 16.8 points while attempting double-digit 3-pointers per game. A very high 68.8% of Beasley’s field goal attempts have come from behind the arc.

This is an excellent matchup for Beasley to get cooking from long distance. The Rockets allowed a league-high 14.6 3-pointers made and 39.4 3-pointers attempted to opposing teams this season. Beasley has made over 37% from downtown in each of his past four seasons. With no Sexton and the Rockets’ inability to defend the 3-point line, Beasley is in for a nice game tonight at a very cheap price tag.


Fast Break

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are two small forwards with significant ceilings whenever they take the floor. The main piece of news we are waiting on for this small slate is George, who is questionable but did travel with the team. Make sure to monitor our news dashboard for its status the closer we get to lock. Leonard would look pretty awesome at his salary if George is unable to go against a Nuggets team that ranks 25th in Defensive Rating this season.

NBA DFS Power Forward Picks

Stud

Lauri Markkanen was tenths of a second from hitting a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer last game but didn’t get his shot off in time. Markkanen took this leadership role with the Jazz and ran with it. In his first season with the team, Markkanen is averaging a career-high 23.9 points per game while shooting 52.9% from the field and 42.3% from behind the arc. He is almost in the 50-40-90 shooting club, shooting 86.8% from the charity stripe.

Markkanen can score from all over the court, so even though the Rockets have allowed the fifth-fewest points per game in the paint this season, that doesn’t affect him. Over the last five games, Markkanen has also had some massive rebounding games pulling down 12, 14, and even 16 rebounds. If the Jazz are going to right the ship and get back to winning games, Markkanen will be a big reason for their success.


Value

The best value play on this small slate in our model is Rockets forward Kenyon Martin Jr. He has the highest projected Plus/Minus on both sites as he is priced at $3,500 on DraftKings and $3,900 on FanDuel. Martin Jr. is coming off a game where he played 25 minutes and scored 16 points while shooting a perfect 7-of-7 from the field. He made two 3-pointers, but most of his production came from inside the paint, setting him up for success tonight.

The Jazz’s defense has plummeted since their hot start. They allow a league-high 56.1 points per game in the paint while their opponents shoot 48.5% from the field. In his third season in the league, Martin is averaging a career-high 10.5 points per game while shooting 55.4% from the field. That type is production priced under $4,000 on both sites is almost impossible to find, making Martin one of the best plays on the slate.


Fast Break

Christian Wood is starting to find his groove since moving full-time into the starting unit. Over the last five games, Wood is averaging 23.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 46.4 DraftKings points per game. He has scored 40 or more DraftKings points while posting a positive Plus/Minus in each of his last five games. He will need to be even better tonight than the Mavericks, who have won seven-straight games, host the Celtics, who have the best record in the Eastern Conference.

NBA DFS Center Picks

Stud

Nikola Jokic is the only other player on the slate who truly rivals Doncic in terms of ceiling. Like Doncic, this is a tough matchup for Jokic as the Clippers rank fifth in Defensive Rating. This game also features the lowest total on the slate at 228 points, but the Nuggets are still five-point home favorites as they have won 10 of their last 13 games. Jokic continues to perform at an elite level averaging nearly a triple-double with 25.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 9.5 assists.

Surprisingly, the Clippers are allowing 49.4 points per game in the paint this season, which ranks 18th in the league. They are still a top-10 rebounding team, but Jokic is matchup-proof. He has posted a triple-double in two of his last three games as he leads the league with nine triple-doubles. Jokic is $800 cheaper on DraftKings and $1,300 cheaper on FanDuel than Doncic. Feel free to get to whichever player fits your lineup best, as they each have monster ceilings.


Value

The center position is so different from site to site, making it difficult to suggest one value play that looks good on both sites. We’ll split this section up a bit and recommend a few options.

For DraftKings, Steven Adams remains way too cheap at $5,700 with a 99% Bargain Rating. Ivica Zubac also has a 99% Bargain Rating at under $5,000. It is also only a matter of time until Robert Williams plays more than 20 minutes, and he is only $4,100 on DraftKings. All three players stand out as fantastic values, and playing two together is definitely viable.

FanDuel is completely different, where both Magic centers Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba have the highest projected Plus/Minus at the center position. Priced in their own respective tiers, the Magic are still playing short-handed as players continue to sit due to their altercation against the Pistons last week. Outside of those two, Kelly Olynyk has also shown upside for the Jazz, which features the best game environment on the slate.


Fast Break

The last center that hasn’t been mentioned is Jaren Jackson Jr., who is also power forward eligible on both sites. He is averaging a league and career-high 3.1 blocks per game while still averaging 15.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. He is best utilized on FanDuel with his block upside, but Jackson Jr. is a great way to get different on a slate flooded with center options. Expect Jackson Jr. to be active against this young Magic frontcourt.

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