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Fantasy Basketball Picks: Top DraftKings NBA DFS Targets, Values for December 25 Christmas Day Slate

Pearce Dietrich gives his top studs and value plays at each position for the Christmas Day fantasy basketball slate on DraftKings.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Merry Christmas! The NBA celebrates the most wonderful time of the year by spreading out five games throughout the day. The first contest begins Sunday at noon in New York, and the slate ends with a 10:30 p.m. ET game in Denver. The major $250K contest on DraftKings features all five games with initial lock at 12 p.m. ET, but late swaps and pivots will be crucial on this slate with games starting every two hours on Christmas.

Set your DraftKings fantasy basketball lineups here: NBA $1.225M Holiday BBall Special Fadeaway [$250K to 1st]


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Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks, 1 p.m. ET

76ers: 25th in Pace and 2nd in Defensive Efficiency Rating
Knicks: 16th in Pace and 8th in Defensive Efficiency Rating

Studs

C Joel Embiid ($11,400) — For those new to DFS NBA, but even the DFS vets could benefit from hearing this, this fantasy sport revolves around a Holy Trinity. There are three statistics that separate the best from the rest. The Holy Trinity in NBA DFS are Minutes, Usage Rate and Fantasy Points Per Minute (FPPM). One, the player needs to be on the court. Two, the player must be active in scoring. Three, the player must also rebound, assist and earn peripheral stats while on the court. Embiid checks all three boxes. As for the usage box, he is not just the usage rate leader on his team, but he’s one of the league leaders — 36.8%.

SF RJ Barrett ($7,200) — This isn’t the most appealing game environment and it’s the 1 p.m. slate. Both teams play at a below-average pace and have top-10 defenses. DFS players might fade this game based on the total and to maximize pivots in the day-long slate. The result should be low ownership in the 1 p.m. window outside of Joel Embiid. That’s where Barrett comes into play. He is capable of an “everybody look at me” game in the Garden on Christmas Day. And at his price, his performance doesn’t have to be one for the ages.

Value

PF Georges Niang ($3,300) — Heading into Friday’s contest, Niang played 23 minutes or more in three of his last four games. In those three games he scored 28, 17.5 and 19.25 DKFP. He’s not the most appealing punt, but there is one attractive feature to Niang’s game — he chucks threes. He’s taken eight or more three point attempts in three of the last four. If the threes fall on Christmas, then he’ll be the best punt on the slate. The rest of the field will be chasing the Niang lineups for the rest of the day.

SG/SF Quentin Grimes ($4,900) — Just before Thanksgiving, Grimes was promoted to the starting lineup and his minutes jumped from the low 20s to the low 30s. His 13.7% usage rate and 0.72 FPPM are on the low end. On a bigger slate, Grimes would be an afterthought. With only 10 teams in action, Grimes is more than acceptable based on his low salary. In the 13 games since his promotion, Grimes is averaging a 5.7x point per dollar return each night.


Los Angeles Lakers at Dallas Mavericks, 2:30 p.m. ET

Lakers: 2nd in Pace and 17th in Defensive Efficiency Rating
Mavericks: 29th in Pace and 12th in Defensive Efficiency Rating

Studs

SF/PF LeBron James ($10,500) The King loses volume against the slow moving Mavs, but it could only be several possessions. On a full slate, the downgraded game environment would render James a second-tier star. On a small, spread out slate, James is fine. Without Anthony Davis, James has easily taken over the controls for the Lakers. His normal status as a 30/30 DFS guy (over 30 minutes and over a 30% usage rate) hasn’t changed much with Davis out. James is playing slightly more minutes, but he’s not shooting more. His usage rate is the same, but his rebounding and assists — not calculated by usage rate — have increased with AD out.

PG Luka Doncic ($12,500) — Every game is a paced-up spot for the Mavericks, but it doesn’t get much better than this. What’s amazing is that despite the Mavs’ perennially slow-paced attack, Doncic puts up MVP-caliber offensive numbers. It helps that Dallas never has a contributory sidekick that plays alongside Doncic, but it doesn’t seem to hold the team back. His 37.8% usage rate is second in the league to Giannis Antetokounmpo (38.4%), and his 1.6 FPPM trails only Antetokounmpo (1.8 FPPM) and Nikola Jokic (1.7 FPPM).

PG Russell Westbrook ($7,400) — The triple-double monster has been awakened. Even before AD’s injury, Westbrook had rediscovered his game. He nearly earned a triple-double on Sunday (9 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists) before exiting early after only 23 minutes. Westbrook returned to the lineup on Friday and should be good to go on Sunday. This is a big game and a big moment to let the world know he is back.

Value

C Thomas Bryant ($5,600) — He’s always been a competent big man. He grabs rebounds and makes high-probability shots. With Anthony Davis out, Bryant has been allowed to extend that competency across more minutes, and on a team that runs at a fast pace. Heading into Friday night’s contest, he had scored 34, 33, 25.75 and 39 DKFP in his last four games.

PG Patrick Beverley ($3,700) — This was supposed to be the offseason acquisition that made the Lakers contenders. Instead, the Lakers were a joke to start the season and Beverly was the clown. He couldn’t buy a bucket. Beverly has since turned things around and the Lakers are winning. In four of his last six games, he has retuned values of 6.9x, 5.8x, 6.9x and 7.7x. His salary has hardly budged over that span.

SG/SF Austin Reaves ($4,100) — After missing two games, Reaves was listed as available Friday against the Hornets. In the five games heading into Friday, Reaves was averaging 26.25 DKFP in 33.8 MPG with an average return of 6.8x. The kid is lights out from downtown, and he adds just enough rebounds and assists.


Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics, 5 p.m. ET

Bucks: 15th in Pace and 3rd in Defensive Efficiency Rating
Celtics: 17th in Pace and 10th in Defensive Efficiency Rating

Studs

SF/PF Jayson Tatum ($10,900) — The 5 p.m. window makes for great basketball but a poor sampling of DFS action. The rematch of the 2022 Eastern Conference Semifinals will be an incredible game, but offense could be in short supply. Slate breaking performances are not likely to come from this game, but the stars are still stars, and they cannot be ruled out. The Celtics give their stars a lot of minutes, and in a big game like this, Tatum could play 40 minutes. Those excessive minutes could make up for the poor matchup. A 32.5% usage rate, from a player that sometimes gets hot and cannot miss, across 40 minutes should result in a lot of fantasy points.

PF/C Giannis Antetokounmpo ($12,400) — One of the biggest lessons of the 2022-23 season in DFS — or debates — has been that paying up for superstars doesn’t pay off on a nightly basis. The elite DFS picks have been priced out of reach. Antetokounmpo has amazing nights but great nights from players in the $8,000 and $9,000 tier end up as better price per dollar plays, and they allow for stronger builds. The superstars keep performing, so their salaries have yet to sink, but at the same time, borderline superstars priced two to three thousand dollars cheaper are consistently going off on each slate. Giannis can have the best performance on Christmas and score north of 70 DKFP, that’s a tall order against Boston, and he still might not be an optimal pick based on his salary.

Value

C Robert Williams ($4,300) — The man they call Time Lord — don’t even bother Googling the origins of this nickname, you’ll be disappointed with the explanations — is one of the best defensive players in the NBA. The beloved Boston big man could have a big game on Christmas in a matchup that is shaping up to be all about defense. Boards, blocks and lumps of coal could be in Bob’s bag on Christmas.

PG/SG Malcolm Brogdon ($5,300) — The Bucks have one of the best defenses in the NBA. The Celtics have the best offense in the history of the NBA. That’s right. If the season ended today, Boston would statistically be declared the best offense ever. Malcolm Brogdon illustrates how great this team is. The guard is a star and could start for any team in the league. Instead, he runs the second unit for the Celtics and plays 20-30 minutes. This team is relentless. There are no breaks for opponents. It’s wave after wave of above-average to elite players. Over the last 12 games, Brogdon is averaging 28.5 DKFP across 25.8 MPG with an average return of 5.7x. He’s exceeded 6x value in half of those contests and 7x three times.


Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors, 8 p.m. ET

Grizzlies: 7th in Pace and 5th in Defensive Efficiency Rating
Warriors: 1st in Pace and 24th in Defensive Efficiency Rating

Studs

PG Ja Morant ($10,600) — If the Warriors can keep pace, and this is a big ask, then Morant can have a massive game on Christmas. If the Grizzlies blow out the Warriors, then Morant won’t score enough fantasy points to be optimal. Typically, Morant is in the mid-thirties in minutes and carries an elite 36.2% usage rate. The already up-tempo Grizzlies will get a pace boost in this matchup, but the blowout concerns linger. Somehow, DraftKings Sportsbook only has the Grizzlies as 4.5-point favorites. If this game is close, then Morant should go nuts.

SG Klay Thompson ($7,100) — Jordan Poole ($8,300) is the Warriors’ regular season leader, but this is a special slate. Steve Kerr might actually care for once and that might trickle down to his veterans. The Warriors have not played since Wednesday — a near 30-point beat down at the hands of the Nets. Maybe they should start caring a little. Thompson did not play in that game. He last played on Dec. 20 — a near 40-point beat down at the hands of the Knicks. Maybe they should start caring a little. This is a good opportunity for the Warriors to make a statement or lose by 50. If they choose to make a statement, and are able to make a statement, then Klay Thompson will be a vocal leader.

Value

C Steven Adams ($5,100) — In his last 12 games, Adams is averaging 29.6 DKFP in 27.4 MPG with an average return of 5.5x. This is a paced-up spot, so Adams should have a very safe floor barring a blow out. In the GPPs, he will have almost no ownership, but this could be an error, as Adams has exceeded 30 DKFP in six of the last 12 games.

PG Moses Moody ($3,600) — A lot of NBA fans and NBA DFS players are clocking in for the first time this season. No doubt, they will be surprised by the reigning champs’ lineup. Steph Curry is out, but what is more striking is Steve Kerr’s commitment to punting the regular season. The 82 games do not matter. What matters are the four seven-game series in May and June. He’s saving his team for those two months, and resting his stars from October to April. Why run your players into the ground for one extra home game per series? Think about it. Is one home game worth playing hard every night for seven months? Steve Kerr will run rando rotations because he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care if it’s Christmas. Moody could get more run than Santa on Sunday.

PG Ty Jerome ($3,600) — Jerome had a surprising performance last Friday. He did not start in place of Steph Curry, but that was a good thing. His minutes as a starter would likely result in a usage rate that is non-existent. Last Friday, the Warriors changed their rotation without Curry. Jerome played a key role for the Warriors’ second unit by contributing nine points, four rebounds and four assists in 18 minutes. On Tuesday and Wednesday he expanded that role. As the leader of the Warriors’ second unit, he played 24.2 and 26.4 minutes and scored 15 and 30 DKFP.

PF/C Jonathan Kuminga ($5,200) — Whether he deserves it or not, Kuminga is getting nearly 30 minutes of work each night. The results aren’t always pretty, but they are 30 active minutes. Kuminga looks like he is going to run through a brick wall on every possession. Every once in a while, he runs into a big game. He’s also the type of player that can have a big statistical game in a meaningless blowout.

C James Wiseman ($3,400) — This is the definition of chasing. Wiseman scored 30 points (42.5 DKFP) in their blowout loss at Brooklyn. Although he was 7-for-7 in the first half, almost all of his action was blowout run. The Warriors trailed by 20 points less than halfway into the first quarter. Nonetheless, he did shoot 100% and his shots are high-probability shots. He got nearly 30 minutes in the blowout. They will likely get blown out again on Christmas.


Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets, 10:30 p.m. ET

Suns: 23rd in Pace and 11th in Defensive Efficiency Rating
Nuggets: 20th in Pace and 27th in Defensive Efficiency Rating

Studs

C Nikola Jokic ($12,000) — The Joker scored 95.75 DKFP on Sunday. That was a five-game slate with plenty of value at center and he broke the slate. Jokic does everything, everywhere, every time. It wasn’t an anomaly. He scored 82 DKFP on Dec. 14 and 80.5 DKFP the game before that on Dec. 10. All of those game were home games. Denver has been, is and always will be monsters at home with their favorable geographic advantage.

PG Jamal Murray ($6,900) — It was easy to forget about Murray. He was out for ages and this is Jokic’s teams. Murray is back, and while it’s not his team, it doesn't have to be. It doesn’t hurt that Jokic is the type of star that makes the players around him better. On Friday, Murray erupted with a massive fantasy performance and in the six games leading into that contest, he had scored 38 DKFP or more four times.

C Deandre Ayton ($7,600) — First of all, Ayton consistently scores 40 to 50 DKFP each night. He doesn’t break slates but he can. However, on a unique slate like Christmas, Ayton is an intriguing option. With games locking every two hours, having 40-50 safe DKFP in the bank at the end of the night is a wise strategy. If everything goes well, then you leave Ayton in your lineups for the late-night lock and take your winnings. However, if things have not gone your way, or you need to push for something bigger, his salary leaves enough flexibility to work the late swap and chase GPP plays. To completely utilize this strategy, make sure that your lineup has at least two players from the Nuggets and Suns game. This will allow maximal GPP flexibility.

Value

SG/SF Landry Shamet ($4,700) — Starting is overrated. A cheap player that starts gets worthless minutes. All of the usage goes to the stars. Cheap bench players that get minutes are golden. Shamet played 29 and 35 minutes off the bench in his previous two games heading into Friday night. He had a 19.1% usage rate on Dec. 19, but then took a larger role on Dec. 20 with a 28.2% usage rate. His increase from 25.25 DKFP to 45 DKFP was largely due to a 9-of-16 night from beyond arc. While that is unlikely to be replicated, a score between the two seems reasonable.

SF Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($4,600) — Playing in Denver has always been a challenge for away teams. The mile-high altitude is not conducive to running up and down the court. KCP’s splits indicate this advantage. In the last five home games, he’s averaging 22.6 DKFP across 31.6 MPG with an average return of 6.8x. He is playing some of his best basketball in a long time and the Nuggets have won five of their last six games and six of their last seven home games.

PG/SG Bones Hyland ($4,900) — This is KCP with more upside and a bottomless floor. KCP is safer, but Bones is the GPP option. Bones will chuck and Bones will miss. He’s scored 10, 12.25 and 17.25 DKFP in his last three games. However, these abysmal scores are not for lack of trying. He took 15 shots (seven 3-point attempts) on Tuesday. If the shots fall, then Hyland could be a key late-night value pick that breaks the slate.

SG Christian Braun ($3,300) — Following Denver’s loss to the Mavs on Dec. 6, Coach Mike Malone said he had to find minutes for Braun. Since then, the minutes have been found. Braun has played 20, 25, 23, 9, 21 and 25 minutes. Unfortunately, he has done nothing with those minutes. That is until his most recent game. On Dec. 20, Braun drew the start vs. the Grizzlies, and he scored 22.75 DKFP in the Nuggets 105-91 win over the Grizzlies. Michael Porter Jr. returned to the Nuggets lineup on Friday for the first time since Thanksgiving, but he was on a minutes limit. He may not play on Sunday, and if he does, he should again be limited. This opens the door for more playing time for Braun, the Nuggets’ 2022 first-round pick, the 2022 NCAA National Champion and Mr. Kansas Basketball (2019).


Set your DraftKings fantasy basketball lineups here: NBA $1.225M Holiday BBall Special Fadeaway [$250K to 1st]


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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is greenflagradio2) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.