Basketball is the most consistent sport for everyday fantasy purposes.
A top slugger in baseball will have his fair share of 0-for-4 days, and an elite fantasy football player risks playing games that stop his team’s offense as a whole. However, a highly paid NBA stallion will generally get his. With so many possessions in a game that offers opportunities to produce, top fantasy basketball options will post high scores almost every night.
While this consistency puts us in a good position to identify top games, it also means you can’t afford to miss out when you pay for someone. Even with a strong value in your lineup, paying and getting a dud will likely almost kill your lineup.
Which top players should be at the center of your lineups today?
Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF/PF, Milwaukee Bucks ($11,700)
In an alternate universe where we could be guaranteed the Bucks game with Detroit to stay close on Wednesday, Giannis Antetokounmpo would be a lock.
However, with a spread of 15.5 points, concerns about the eruption are very real. Detroit currently has no rim protector with Isaiah Stewart suspended; they are forced between the undersized Trey Lyles or the slow-footed rookie Luka Garza when you use a center at all. Giannis scores 60.3% of his points within the arc, so he sees his team’s biggest boost by far.
The easiest way to manage this risk is to set a probability that this game will stay close, and assign that amount of exposure to Giannis. The numberFire model has the pistons hitting 15 points 52.47% of the time as a good starting point.
Antetokounmpo’s average score in his past nine games is 62.2 FanDuel points, so this salary is more than fair in a vacuum.
With a plus matchup, he’s a great option assuming the Pistons are better than the Orlando Magic done on Monday. Orlando was 41 points behind at halftime and that crushed Giannis’ fantasy.
Jimmy Butler, SF/SG, Miami Heat ($10,100)
Revenge stories are popular targets (even when they shouldn’t be), and there are few in sports like Jimmy Butler returning to Minnesota.
The infamous practice story is well known, and there’s a chance Butler was saving himself for tonight in front of a back-to-back last night in Detroit. Butler only had a 25.3% usage rate in the game – a good step behind his 28.3% usage rate this season.
Butler averages a team-best 1.31 FanDuel points per minute for Miami this season, which would mark a new career high for “Buckets.”
Even without the revenge story, Minnesota is just an objectively good matchup. The Wolves have awarded the fifth most FanDuel points per game to shooting guards (42.08), and the eleventh most to small forwards (41.86).
Whatever Butler’s true classification is, he’s in a positive spot with bonus motivation heading into the holidays.
LaMelo Ball, PG, Charlotte Hornets ($9,300)
In the long grind of the NBA season, you just miss little trends in everyday research.
I was perplexed why LaMelo Ball was so popular on Monday in a so-so matchup with no changes to the Charlotte Hornets‘ rotation in weeks. But whether intentional or not, Ball is just taking on a bigger role for Buzz City, and his salary is more than fair for that.
Ball has a 27.3% usage rate for the entire season, but that has increased to 29.8% in the past week. He has converted that extra responsibility in that trajectory into 1.39 FanDuel points per minute. That figure is even more impressive, given that Ball has racked up 12 turnovers in the past three games to sometimes beat that total.
He has his first NBA game with Orlando on Wednesday. The Magic’s 111.8 defensive rating is the second worst in the NBA, and they were just slammed by Milwaukee for 105 points in three quarters.
He’s significantly underpaid for that current production rate, and the matchup gives him a nice floor to add another game to the sample and see if it goes through.