3 NBA FanDuel Studs to Target on 1/15/21

The Clippers get a great matchup, making Kawhi Leonard a strong play at his salary. Who else is worth spending up on tonight?

Basketball is the most consistent sport for daily fantasy purposes.

A top slugger in baseball will have his fair share of 0-for-4 days, and an elite fantasy football player is at risk of having games where his team's offense as a whole is shut down. A high-salaried NBA stud is generally going to get his, though. With so many possessions in a game providing opportunities to produce, top fantasy basketball options will be posting high scores just about every night.

While this consistency puts us in a good position to identify top plays, it also means you can't afford to miss when you're paying a heavy salary to roster someone. Even with strong value plays in your lineup, getting a dud from a stud is likely going to leave your lineup lacking.

Let's get right into it and look at which top players should be the focal points of your lineups today.

Kawhi Leonard, SF, Los Angeles Clippers

FanDuel Salary: $9,600

Our model is high on Kawhi Leonard, which makes a lot of sense.

The Los Angeles Clippers draw the Sacramento Kings, who rank dead last in estimated defensive rating to start the season. They should be allowing 116.3 points per 100 possessions, based on the underlying data. That's 8.6 more points per 100 than the 16th-ranked Orlando Magic, for some context. The Kings are also 6th in offensive seconds per play to help with some added possessions (though they are 22nd in adjusted pace since the start of last season).

Leonard has played minutes when healthy, including 38-plus in two straight. He has been more up-and-down in the production column than we'd like for a usual stud (50 or more FanDuel points in five of the past eight games but fewer than 40 in the ones where he didn't get to 50). But the matchup lines up for a big outing.

Paul George, SG, Los Angeles Clippers

FanDuel Salary: $8,800

Paul George, like Leonard, is also playing elevated minutes (38 or more in six straight), and it's hard to gloss over George just because I talked about Kawhi. Leonard does have a better raw FanDuel projection (46.3 to 43.5) and also a bigger gap over the rest of the position than George offers us, yet George's salary is lower.

George has yet to get up fewer than 12 shot attempts in a game and has only once busted with fewer than 34.7 FanDuel points. In addition to solid point totals (21 or more in seven straight games), he has been pitching in with rebounds and assists to get to a per-minute average of 1.22 FanDuel points.

The Kings are very weak against opposing shooting guards (26th in player-level adjusted FanDuel points per minute allowed since the start of 2019-20). We project George for 25.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 2.2 combined steals and blocks for an all-around good line.

Luka Doncic, PG, Dallas Mavericks

FanDuel Salary: $11,600

Luka Doncic is a really interesting play tonight firstly because, I mean, he's Luka Doncic. But his salary is sky high at $11,600 after a tear of huge outings: 60.7, 78.3, 51.2, and 77.1 FanDuel points.

He faces the Milwaukee Bucks, who rank fourth in estimated defensive rating this season and first in adjusted defensive rating since the start of last season. He played them in August and saw 41.6 minutes but compiled 82.3 FanDuel points, thanks to a 36-point, 14-rebound, 19-assist triple double with only 2 turnovers. No, we can't just copy and paste that, but Doncic has averaged 1.48 FanDuel points per minute against top-10 point guard defenses since the start of 2019-20, a strong rate when we can presume a tinge of skepticism about him in such a tough matchup.

We project him for 4.85 FanDuel points per $1,000 in salary and to record 18.5 more FanDuel points than the PG3 for the slate, the largest gap for any player at any position.