FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball Helper: Sunday 5/22/21

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

LA LakersPhoenix213.5-2.5105.51082124
AtlantaNew York215.5-1.5107108.52230

The Philadelphia 76ers will open their conquest to capture the Eastern Conference title with a fairly clean injury report, although Matisse Thybulle is still not in a position to return for Game 1 with his hand injury. The Washington Wizards will not get back their young contributor, either, as Deni Avdija will also be out to start the playoffs with his leg fracture.

The Los Angeles Lakers were back to full strength for the play-in game and remain so for Sunday, while the Phoenix Suns will get one step closer to 100% with Deandre Ayton returning for the start of their playoff run. Things are also fairly clean with the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks, as the only note is that Cam Reddish will remain out for Atlanta with an Achilles' injury.

The most essential injury domino on the slate is the pending return of Donovan Mitchell for the Utah Jazz. Mitchell is expected to return for Game 1, but he may be subject to a minutes limit in his first action since April 16th. Nothing is official on that yet, however, so stay tuned to the our player news page for updates before lock Sunday.

Point Guard

Trae Young ($8,700): The pivot point at the point spot comes with what to do with Russell Westbrook and his enormous salary, and he is never a bad option. Still, the lack of injuries (and therefore value) makes $12,000 to one player a tough pill to swallow. Young is certainly in play at this salary, as he averaged 50.1 FanDuel points in his final three full games of the season (when Atlanta still had seeding to play for). Young's usage (32.7%) is far and away tops on the Hawks, and that should only increase as they rely on their star to advance.

Derrick Rose ($5,900): Rose finished incredibly well off the bench for the Knicks. His 41.7 FanDuel points per game in the final three contests is well in excess of the needed value at this salary, but Rose also broke 30 FanDuel points in 8 of his past 11 contests overall. With Elfrid Payton definitively in a bench role, there really is minimal doubt in Rose's role, and what is in his favor over his peers is his matchup, as Atlanta -- despite their slower pace -- allowed the third-most FanDuel points per game to opposing point guards in the regular season.

Other Notable Plays: Chris Paul ($7,900), Dennis Schroder ($5,700)

Shooting Guard

Bradley Beal ($9,200): One of the most relevant reasons that Westbrook's salary seems to be at least somewhat inefficient is Beal's insane role handling the basketball at the moment. Beal posted a 38.1% usage rate in Washington's play-in win over the Indiana Pacers, and amazingly that was in just 28 minutes of work in a blowout. Scoring at 0.89 points per minute, Beal is going to drop 40 points several times in this series. The 7.5-point spread in this game feels generous in my eyes, and that is worth heavy consideration before using Westbrook or Beal on this slate.

Seth Curry ($4,900): The shooting guard position is not that strong with Donovan Mitchell up in the air, and that makes a value option at the position worth consideration. As is the case in many playoff DFS slates, someone like Seth Curry with a low usage (17.6%) and meh mark in FanDuel points per minute (0.72) is typically not a priority, but the top-paced Wizards should provide Curry plenty of looks from deep in the series. The Wiz allowed the sixth-most FanDuel points per game to opposing shooting guards.

Other Notable Plays: Devin Booker ($7,800), Reggie Bullock ($4,800)

Small Forward

LeBron James ($10,500): Much of the talk of Wednesday's play-in game was how much LeBron James and the entire Lakers' offense was struggling from an efficiency perspective -- and there is some merit to that with James shooting just 41% from the field -- but it bodes well for his DFS outlook that he still posted 58.2 FanDuel points in that game. LeBron dominating the ball in a playoff setting is nothing new, as he posted a 35.7% usage rate in the play-in game, as well, which was up 3.6 percentage points from his season-long mark. At a tough position on this slate, spending salary for "old reliable" is more than justified.

Rui Hachimura ($5,100): Once again evaluating role compared to salary, Hachimura should see major minutes in a Washington rotation that shrinks for the playoffs. He saw 30 or more minutes in four of the final five regular season affairs, and he played comparable minutes to the other starters in Friday's win over Indiana. Hachimura's 19.2% usage rate the past three weeks is third among Washington's regulars behind Russ and Beal, which should make Rui a stable contributor in what is by far the best fantasy environment of the slate.

Other Notable Plays: Mikal Bridges ($5,900), Bojan Bogdanovic ($5,600)

Power Forward

Jae Crowder ($4,800): Many veterans are throttled back during the course of the regular season and see heavier minutes once the postseason starts. Crowder definitely fit that bill as a key piece for the Miami Heat last year. He went from 28.5 minutes per game in the regular season to 30.0 in the playoffs, and that was despite being limited in 4 of his 22 games last postseason due to an ankle injury. This year Crowder averaged 27.5 minutes sharing the four spot with Cameron Johnson, but Crowder will likely be leaned upon to stop LeBron James in this series and could see a bump in playing time. Crowder eclipsed 27 FanDuel points in three of his final four regular season games even without the minutes bump.

Royce O'Neale ($4,000): While seeing exactly no usage or per-minute production increases, Donovan Mitchell being back is still a huge boost to O'Neale's fantasy relevance. No one has played more minutes alongside Mitchell than O'Neale (1,573) this season, and if fishing for nothing else but a hypothesis, the Jazz likely just need less of Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles on the offensive end, which allows their defensive specialist to shine. With a projection of 20.4 FanDuel points in 30.7 minutes, per our model, O'Neale is a solid value option.

Other Notable Plays: Julius Randle ($9,800), John Collins ($7,000)


Jonas Valanciunas ($8,800): The two play-in games were a perfect illustration of the paradox Valanciunas is trapped inside of. Against the San Antonio Spurs, who aimed to use Jakob Poeltl, Valanciunas was given 37 minutes to work and chowed with 23 points and 23 rebounds, totaling 61.1 FanDuel points. Against the smaller Golden State Warriors, Valanciunas logged just 25 minutes and posted only 24.9 FanDuel points. This series with Utah, a team that obviously wants to use Rudy Gobert as much as possible, should at least bode well for Valanciunas staying on the court.

Other Notable Plays: Joel Embiid ($10,100), Deandre Ayton ($6,200)

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.