FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball Helper: Saturday 1/16/21

If you're new to daily fantasy basketball -- maybe you started your DFS journey during the MLB or NFL seasons, or maybe basketball is your sport and this will be your first year giving it a shot -- you're in for a treat. The NBA scene changes on a week-to-week, day-to-day, and -- depending on injury news -- even a minute-to-minute basis, making every slate a unique one that requires an ever-changing approach.

With so much changing so quickly, we're here with plenty of tools to help you out. We have daily projections, a matchup heat map, a lineup optimizer, and a bunch of other great resources to help give you an edge.

Daily fantasy NBA is very reliant on opportunity, so you'll need to make sure that you're up-to-date with key injuries. Our projections update up until tip-off to reflect current news, we have player news updates, and the FanDuel Scout app will send push notifications for pressing updates regarding your players.

We'll also be coming at you with this primer every day, breaking down a few of the day's top plays at each position.

Let's break down today's main slate on FanDuel:

The Slate


When setting the table on this slate, it might be easier to just list spots where there is not a little bit of chaos. The Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers continue to battle their COVID-19 protocols, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. For Philly, only Seth Curry remains out definitively from COVID-19 protocols, but Joel Embiid has already been ruled out through the weekend with a knee injury. However, Ben Simmons is on the positive side of the same knee injury he played through on Thursday, so the 76ers are at close to full strength other than Embiid.

For Miami, star Jimmy Butler will miss Saturday's game due to COVID-19 protocols. The Heat could be much closer to full strength, however, as Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic are questionable with a chance to play. Tyler Herro has carried a lot of the load without Miami's stars, and he now is fighting a neck injury that may force him to miss this game. Kendrick Nunn could pick up more work without Herro, provided he can clear COVID-19 protocol.

Elsewhere in the Association, Gordon Hayward is questionable with a hip injury, which forced him to sit Thursday. If he can't go, LaMelo Ball and Caleb Martin should get more usage and minutes inside the Charlotte Hornets' rotation. Jusuf Nurkic is done for several months with his broken wrist, which will significantly open up frontcourt minutes for the Portland Trail Blazers, although it may come in an undesirable combination of Carmelo Anthony, Harry Giles, and Enes Kanter.

Point Guard

Trae Young ($8,800): As often as possible, I would like to pair Young with Damian Lillard to stack point guards in what figures -- at least in terms of pace -- to be one of the top games of the evening for daily fantasy. Once approaching five figures, the salary on the Hawks' young star has plummeted down below $9,000 due to a poor January, where he has failed to score at least 35 FanDuel points three times. Young's usage rate is still a dominant 32.3%, but he has been in a shooting slump. His field goal percentage for the month is just 35.1%, and he really had a rough game last night, shooting just 1-for-11 against the Utah Jazz. Portland's defense is not menacing, giving up the ninth-best opponent field goal percentage (46.8%), so this is a great spot for Young to get back on track.

Kyle Lowry ($7,400): Depending on how ugly the Miami news gets, this could be a three-player position on a four-game slate. Young and Lillard are the clear top options, but if you need savings, the rock solid floor of Lowry shouldn't be ignored. Lowry has failed to eclipse 31 FanDuel points just once in his last 10 games, and his minutes remain outstanding, with at least 32 played in each contest in the span. Our projections are bullish on the Toronto Raptors' All-Star, expecting him to smash value with 40.7 FanDuel points on Saturday.

Other Notable Plays: Damian Lillard ($9,300), Goran Dragic ($5,700; if he plays), Kendrick Nunn ($3,600; if Dragic sits and Nunn plays)

Shooting Guard

Fred VanVleet ($7,900): While Lowry is a steady option worth rostering in cash, VanVleet might be a cornerstone in tournaments. Shooting guard -- in an upset -- is the most undesirable position on the slate with a salary increase to C.J. McCollum, Herro's back injury, and plenty of timeshares otherwise. VanVleet is definitely not in a timeshare. He has seen at least 33 minutes in each of his last nine games, and his ceiling is what makes him such a dynamic play in tournaments, as he has broken 45 FanDuel points five times in those same nine contests. VanVleet will likely not be popular coming off three straight games of not exceeding value at this salary, but his role and usage has not changed, which means he may tap into his ceiling once again.

Devonte' Graham ($5,800): The injury to Hayward certainly eliminates doubt in Graham's role, but he may very well not need the boost. Many expected Graham would be the casualty of LaMelo Ball's breakout rookie campaign, but the two have been able to play together throughout the past six games, a span where Graham has played at least 32 minutes per game and averaged 33.1 FanDuel points per game. Graham is making up for some of his shortcomings in efficiency (just a 29.7% field goal percentage) and usage (just a 19.6% rate on the season) on the defensive end, notching at least two steals in four of the past six contests. He is far from perfect but is a solid contributor on the small slate.

Other Notable Plays: Dillon Brooks ($6,200), Tyrese Maxey ($5,000)

Small Forward

Tobias Harris ($7,500): Harris will already be absorbing rebounding work due to the absence of Joel Embiid, as he leads the 76ers in increase in rebounding with Embiid off the floor (+0.09 rebounds per 36), and that also parlays to the largest FanDuel points per minute (+0.34) increase without Embiid, as well. However, his role could get that much better if Ben Simmons is unexpectedly out for Saturday. Harris led all Philadelphia starters with 13 shots on Thursday, and provided a second career-best game from Shake Milton is not in the works, that offensive usage should slot Harris as the top option at a position that seems deep on the surface but still has plenty of paths to failure.

Miles Bridges ($4,300): This is largely based on the assumption that the Hornets choose to hold Hayward out again. If that happens, Bridges would be an easy pairing with Harris in this spot. The former lottery pick played with Charlotte's final five on Thursday in this same matchup, and his size makes for a natural matchup with Pascal Siakam at the stretch-four spot. Bridges has talent and has been a fine option at 0.84 FanDuel points per minute, but the issue has been getting stable minutes with the rotation. If he can eclipse 29 minutes of court time, he should flourish, as he is averaging 33.8 FanDuel points this season in the two contests in which he has gotten at least 29 minutes.

Other Notable Plays: OG Anunoby ($5,600), Kyle Anderson ($5,600)

Power Forward

PJ Washington ($6,700): A little bit of a copy-and-paste with the Hornets' forward duo of Bridges and Washington, but Washington's salary appropriately reflects that his role has largely stabilized. At the expense of Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller, Charlotte is committing to playing Washington at their center spot. As a result, Washington has seen at least 30 minutes in five of the last six contests, and he has put it to great use by generating 1.14 FanDuel points per minute in that time. Washington is in a perfect matchup against Toronto, as his athleticism makes him a great match for Chris Boucher, and the Raps have struggled to rebound the ball, giving up the eighth-most boards to opponents so far on the year.

Blake Griffin ($6,100): Probably for the remainder of the season, Griffin is likely categorized as a tournament-only play because of his unstable role. He has been resting on back-to-backs as well as occasionally being benched, which make plenty of sense given that he has very little to accomplish on this 2-9 Detroit Pistons squad. However, he is averaging 0.94 FanDuel points per minute and has a path to at least 32 minutes. Griffin will be in play to flash his ceiling, which he has done by eclipsing 38 FanDuel points twice in nine games this year. Josh Jackson heading to the bench is of great assistance for Griffin, as he sees a bump in usage from 20.5% to 22.1% when Jackson is off the floor.

Other Notable Plays: John Collins ($6,800), Robert Covington ($4,400)


Dwight Howard ($4,400): On a four-game slate, the center position is the equivalent of a free square with Dwight Howard. It is not just the news that Joel Embiid will sit, which produced Howard playing over 13 of the final 15 minutes against Miami on Thursday, but also the fact that Mike Scott will also be sitting out this weekend with his knee injury. Given that Philadelphia will need a big body on Jonas Valanciunas, Howard appears well on track for more than 30 minutes at a tiny salary. Normally in tournaments, there is some game theory behind fading a consensus play at a position, but with so little value elsewhere and lack of high-upside alternatives, it might be a good slate to not get cute at the five spot.

Other Notable Plays: Jonas Valanciunas ($7,100), Mason Plumlee ($5,800)

Austin Swaim is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Austin Swaim also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username ASwaim3. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.F