Per the tradition, we have a five-game featured slate with the first action beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET and being spread out all the way to the 10:30 p.m. ET West Coast nightcap for the main tournaments on both DraftKings and FanDuel. Let’s look at the player pool to discuss the top NBA DFS building blocks today for DraftKings and FanDuel lineups. Be sure to check out the Stokastic NBA DFS & Fantasy Basketball home page, where you can find NBA DFS picks and analysis for each slate of games.
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NBA DFS Picks Building Blocks Today: Christmas Day, Dec. 25
Today we will be changing up the format of this article somewhat and focusing on key things for each of the five games on the main slate. There are also several healthy sub-slates, so keep your eyes out for overlay on this major holiday.
Philadelphia 76ers (-2.5) at New York Knicks (217.5)
There are no pending questions when it comes to the health of the players in the opening game of the slate. Tyrese Maxey is still out, but there is a chance he returns to action prior to New Year’s Eve. Since everyone is healthy, there are no immediate standout options. This in turn has the projected popularity for the players in this matchup mostly sitting in single-digits.
Joel Embiid of course starts off the conversation when it comes to the 76ers, however, with Nikola Jokic in the late-night hammer, it is hard to lock in so much of the salary cap during the first game. In his last 15 games, the Cameroonian has surpassed the 50 fantasy plateau on 13 occasions. During this timeframe, Embiid has averaging 36.7 minutes and 21.8 field goal attempts with a 53.8% conversion rate. This has culminated in 35.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 3.5 combined blocks and steals. Embiid is one of four players who have a median fantasy projection above 50 fantasy points today.
James Harden has leaned into his role as a facilitator first and scorer second. In the eight games since returning from a one-month layoff, The Beard has been sublime. Over these games he is averaging 39.0 minutes, with 20.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 12.0 assists and 1.9 combined blocks and steals. In any game, Harden is capable of having a 60 fantasy point outburst and he has two in this timeframe.
New York has really tightened up their defense and over the last 10 games are allowing 104.1 points per 100 possessions which is the second best defensive efficiency rating in the league. The Knicks are also playing at the fourth slowest pace in this stretch with just 96.4 possessions per 48 minutes. That makes it a little tricky to favor any other 76ers. Each of the key rotation members is in play, though it is going to be more of a personal choice.
Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson are above average options in the holiday player pool and both are fringe core options. Randle contributes across the board and rarely has empty games. Brunson’s upside is usually attained when his shot is finding the bottom of the net, though he is typically the third or fourth option on offense, until crunch time.
Mitchell Robinson always has upside with his propensity to collect blocks, but he will cost us a center slot and he is also good at collecting fouls, particularly against Embiid. RJ Barrett may be finally in the groove and he has scored 74 points in the last two games and has at least 22 in seven of his last eight, making him a fine tournament option.
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Los Angles Lakers (+8.0) at Dallas Mavericks (229.5)
Anthony Davis is out, Russell Westbrook has missed time recently with a sore foot, Thomas Bryant went to the lockerroom late in the game on Friday and of course LeBron James is going to celebrate his 38th birthday next week. Westbrook and James should be good to go and it is likely that Bryant will be as well.
James has a fantasy projection just below 50 fantasy points and we know he thrives on playing these Christmas Day games. Westbrook is trickier as he is still coming off the bench and cannot be trusted to stick in the closing lineup if he morphs into WestBrick. Though as always, Westbrook is live for a triple-double in any game. Patrick Beverley is intriguing for his discounted salary, but he too is hard to envision with 30 minutes, though he has seen that in both of the most recent games.
Dennis Schroder would be better off if Beverly or Westbrook were out and his fantasy production is heavily scoring dependent – and he is all too willing to defer depending who is on the court. Bryant has slotted in as the player tasked with covering for the injured Davis and he has always been a solid fantasy producer, though he is at a somewhat crowded center position.
The playing styles of these two teams is at complete odds. Over the last 10 games, Dallas is playing at the slowest pace in the league, while Los Angeles is playing at the fastest. That is a boon for the Mavericks, particularly those in not wearing a Luka Doncic jersey as there should be additional opportunities and possessions.
Doncic is vying for top honors today with Jokic, Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 23-year-old superstar is leading the Mavs in nearly every key statistical category while also averaging nearly 60 fantasy points per game, which is a career best and 10% more than his production from last year.
Dallas will be without Kemba Walker, Dorian Finney-Smith and Josh Green on Sunday, with rookie Jaden Hardy questionable with a bruised back. This means that there are frontcourt minutes available for Christian Wood, who actually could survive in this matchup both as a starter and a closer, even with his questionable defense. Offense and rebounding are never in question when it comes to Wood, but coach Jason Kidd can be nonplussed with his effort and relegate him to the bench for extended minutes.
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Spencer Dinwiddie does a nice job as a sidekick for Doncic when they share the court and running the offense when Doncic gets a rare break. The rest of the Mavericks are wild cards as they are mostly scoring dependent and Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock and Davis Bertans can all pile up points in a hurry, though they each have deficiencies that can rile up the dander for coach Kidd.
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Milwaukee Bucks (+5.0) at Boston Celtics (224.5)
Sunday marks the first meeting of the season between the Bucks and Celtics. Currently they are separated by only half a game atop the Eastern Conference standings, so this is a bit of a benchmarking affair to see where these teams stand.
Khris Middleton (knee) has missed the last 10 days and he has appeared in only seven games this season – all this month. When he plays, he usually see 26-29 minutes, but we know that coach Mike Budenholzer is far too disciplined to push Middleton and it actually would be a surprise to see the forward suit up.
Boston is one of the best defensive squads in the league and they also have Robert Williams back from injury and he should be in line for 22-24 minutes. That will not dissuade us from rolling out Giannis Antetokounmpo who is essentially matchup proof. Jrue Holiday sees an uptick in his fantasy production when Middleton is out, so he too is a decent option if that is the case.
After that duo, things get a little cloudy and other than Grayson Allen who has pulled ahead of the struggling Pat Connaughton, every other player is projected to be on less than 5% of all rosters.
Similar to James, Jayson Tatum is the other player who falls just short of 50 fantasy points in the Stokastic projections today. Keep in mind these are median projections and looking at the proprietary Stokastic Boom/Bust tool, we can see that there is a solid 20% likelihood that Tatum tallies 53 or more fantasy points.
Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Al Horford and Malcolm Brogdon should all be in our player pool today. Smart is dealing with a sore hip, though he is expected to play. In the event he is out, then Derrick White can be added to the list of secondary Celtics.
Memphis Grizzlies (6.5) at Golden State Warriors (229.0)
This matchup loses a lot of luster with injuries befalling Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins. Desmond Bane (sprained toe) returned on Friday after a six-week absence and he logged 24 minutes in a romp over the Suns in the desert. He is likely to see something in the upper-20s as a reasonable expectation, but we know he can pile up points and fantasy production in a hurry.
Ja Morant is yet another of the stars, just shy of a 50 fantasy point production, though this is the type of defense and shorthanded frontcourt that will have a great deal of trouble keeping him away from the rim. Everyone else looks to be healthy for Memphis, so unless we get unexpected news, it is hard to find any core options. However, for those thinking ahead, perhaps figuring out who could benefit from a big fourth quarter lead, would be one path that is less travelled by The Masses.
For the hometown team, in addition to being without Curry and Wiggins, Golden State has listed Draymond Green (foot) as questionable and JaMychal Green is in the health and safety protocol. On a positive note, Donte DiVincenzo is back from his non-COVID related illness and Klay Thompson should be good to go as well on this island game.
If Draymond is out, then Jonathan Kuminga looks like one of the best point per dollar options, pending foul trouble of course. We may have more news closer to tip off from coach Steve Kerr, though it is unlikely to have his thoughts on the potential starting lineup and key rotation players before the main tournaments have already locked. That makes maintaining flexibility through the first two games of the slate a savvy strategy and it plays doubly well on a major holiday that comes replete with plenty of distractions for DFS gamers.
Additional NBA DFS Picks Building Blocks Picks Today – Sports Wagering Opportunities
Today Klay Thompson is an intriguing option with a 2.5 over/under line on his rebound prop in his matchup against the Grizzlies. In his last eight games playing at least 30 minutes, Thompson has surpassed this milestone seven times.
Though the Stokastic projections have calculated a 67% win rate for this wager, it is currently listed at -160 on BeMGM which works out to an expected ROI of 9%. This makes more sense to use a bet like this as a leg in a straight or same-game parlay to increase the payout potential.
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Phoenix Suns (+4.5) at Denver Nuggets (230.5)
This should be a rousing game between two of the better teams in the Western Conference. There is a chance that Devin Booker (groin) returns to action, but it is unlikely that gamers wait around for that confirmation with this being the last game of the night. That means he will be underrepresented in tournaments, which makes him an intriguing gambit. Of course for those bold enough to take on this uncertainty, be sure to have at least one other player if not two from this game so there is a bailout plan in the event he sits. If Booker is out, then either Damion Lee or Landry Shamet will draw the start, though they have been alternating this duty. Savvy gamers will be using this situation to make or break their holiday slate. Keep in mind that Cameron Payne is also out, so the Suns are going to be scrambling for offensive facilitators if Booker is out.
Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton and Miles Bridges are neutral plays, though they all get an uptick if Booker is out. Paul and Ayton are each projected to be on 15-20% of all rosters, so there is not much of an advantage trying to go over or under the field – particularly if trying to leave maneuverability for the various Booker related scenarios.
Nikola Jokic has again been amazing and he is essentially mirroring the fantasy production of his last two seasons, both of which ended with him holding MVP hardware. Michael Porter Jr. returned after missing a month and he played 27 minutes on Friday. Something in that vicinity makes sense for tonight as there is no need for Denver to push him as they will need him and Jamal Murray (foot), healthy for a postseason run. Murray is questionable, but likely to play tonight.
The return of Porter does take away a little something from Aaron Gordon, Bruce Brown Jr., Bones Hyland and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Though it does not reduce their upside potential, it does make it harder for it to be realized. If Murray is out, this quartet would be the biggest beneficiaries and likely split up most of the responsibilities among their different skillsets.
Final Thoughts on NBA DFS Picks Building Blocks Today
Christmas brings a marathon slate with 10.5 hours between the first and last tipoff times. Be sure to catch the Stokastic NBA Strategy Show at 10:00 a.m. ET on YouTube featuring Rayen Paitnik (RynPak) and Adam Scherer (ShipMyMoney), courtesy of No House Advantage.
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