Basketball is the most consistent sport for daily fantasy purposes.
A top slugger in baseball will have his fair share of 0-for-4 days, and an elite fantasy football player is at risk of having games where his team's offense as a whole is shut down.
A high-salaried NBA stud is generally going to get his, though. With so many possessions in a game providing opportunities to produce, top fantasy basketball options will be posting high scores just about every night.
While this consistency puts us in a good position to identify top plays, it also means you can't afford to miss when you're paying up for someone. Even with strong value plays in your lineup, paying up and getting a dud is likely going to leave your lineup drawing pretty close to dead.
Which top players should be the focal points of your lineups today?
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG/SG, Thunder ($10,500)
Wednesday's 15-game slate presents plenty of star options, but I'll start with the surprise one of the 2021-22 campaign so far.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has single-handedly carried the Thunder from the Victor Wembenyama Sweepstakes to a play-in conversation. His 32.8% usage rate blows the rest of the team away, and he's converted an elite 1.45 FanDuel points per minute so far.
Luckily, his two-game slump should shake some popularity on this full state. SGA's usage in those clunkers isn't really the issue (31.6%); he just shot 37.5% from the field, which is well down from his 52.6% rate this season.
This Wednesday matchup with Denver is sublime, too. There's a 231.5-point total on deck, and the Nuggets have struggled to defend point guards this year. They've allowed the 12th-most points per game and 3rd-most assists per game to opposing floor generals.
Nikola Jokic, C, Nuggets ($10,500)
On the other side of Gilgeous-Alexander, Nikola Jokic is a surprise top option, as well.
Jokic had spent a week in health and safety protocols, so I didn't expect to see him today -- but especially yesterday. He was a shocking start on Tuesday against Detroit, and he appeared totally healthy, well, and normal. The Joker logged 36 minutes, posting 31 points, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds.
The back-to-back dynamic makes the reigning MVP a bit of a question mark, but he looked totally fine last night. With that, I think we can look to him in this excellent matchup with the Thunder.
OKC just struggles with size. Aleksej Pokusevski is out with an ankle injury tonight, and the shot blocker had been their lone source of interior defense this season. As is, they've allowed the fifth-most rebounds to opposing centers -- including 29 in two matchups with Jokic so far.
The total projects a shootout in this one, and Jokic pairs well with SGA in tremendous individual matchups for both. They'll be my building blocks in a single-entry lineup tonight.
Dejounte Murray, SG/PG, Hawks ($9,500)
While the environment in Oklahoma City is great, the best of the day is in Atlanta.
There's a gargantuan 239.5-point total between the Kings and Hawks with no shortage of big-name stars to choose from. While De'Aaron Fox, Trae Young, and Domantas Sabonis should carry significant popularity, it appears that Dejounte Murray won't. That's enticing in this game environment for the stat-stuffing guard.
We watch box scores in NBA daily fantasy more than we should, and most will cross off Murray for having failed to eclipse 36 FanDuel points in four straight games. That's not even close to good enough for this salary.
Still, Murray has averaged 1.18 FanDuel points per minute this season, and his usage rate in this cold spell (23.8%) isn't wildly different than his season-long rate (25.8%). He's been the victim of 39.4% shooting in this stretch, so I'd have expected to see the usage drop a tick as shots aren't falling.
In a back-and-forth game, Murray also averages nearly two steals per 36 minutes (1.91), so he's got plenty of ways to contribute as a sneaky tournament option.