It can be easy to go a million different directions when thinking about player props. It’s always tempting to look at recent trends and to focus exclusively on those points, rebounds, and assist totals.
But for all the focus on ability, highlights, and flash plays and for those raw counting numbers, the single most important number when it comes to player props is always the same: minutes played. You can’t record any counting stats from the bench. And if you can stay ahead of the books projecting minutes trends, that provides opportunity to play props in the right direction too. We project minutes for you at FantasyLabs and use them to power the Action Labs props tool.
For those who are new to this article, we’ll be using the Action Labs tool to compare our NBA projections to the props posted at a variety of sportsbooks. Each bet is then graded on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the best possible grade. There are five props with a 10 grade as of noon ET on Monday.
Below, I have laid out three prop bets that I’m playing, the case for each bet and the best books to find odds on those player props.
NBA Player Props & Picks
LaMelo Ball over 6.5 assists (+100)
|Hornets at Jazz||+12.5|
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
I’ve been dying for an opportunity to hype LaMelo Ball in this space for a month, and this finally looks like a great spot. Ball is starting to run away with the Rookie of the Year race. With respect to Tyrese Haliburton, Immanuel Quickley, and whoever else is supposed to be in the race, Ball has put distance between himself and everyone else with a huge stretch over the last couple weeks.
Ball moved into starter minutes and then an actual starter role, thanks in part to a bunch of injuries to various Hornets that provided the opportunity. He’s averaging 33.5 minutes per game over the last 11 games, and just look at his outstanding production over that span: 19.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game.
Those are outstanding numbers for any player, but it’s all the more impressive for a kid who won’t even turn 19 until late August. Ball is already the second or third best player on the division-leading Hornets. He might be the best player on the team by the end of the season. He’s defending and hitting threes better than expected, and we already know he had an incredible handle and passing ability.
Ball is instantly one of the league’s best passers, and that’s the angle we’re playing tonight. He’s gone over 6.5 assists in seven of these past 11 games, hitting this over 64% of the time, and he’ll be the full-time point guard tonight with Devonte’ Graham likely out injured.
LaMelo is coming off his worst game in that stretch after a weekend clunker against the Warriors. I expect a big bounce-back effort and an over here. I love this at even odds and will play as high as -135.
Robert Covington, over 6.5 rebounds (-134)
|Blazers at Suns||+6|
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
It looks like Robert Covington is finally settling in at Portland. It was a bit of a rocky transition at the start of the season. Covington was brought in to add defense to a team that badly needed it, but he and Derrick Jones Jr. struggled to add enough defense with so little help around them on that end.
It looked like that would only be exacerbated once C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic went out injured, but instead, the remaining Portland players seem to have settled into their clearer roles and found a rhythm. The Blazers are right back where they usually are, comfortably in the playoff picture even without two of their three best players. Damian Lillard is obviously the biggest reason for that success, but Covington is playing huge minutes and contributing to a positive winning team yet again, like he usually does.
Since missing a week at the end of January, Covington has been a workhorse for the Blazers. He’s played at least 34 minutes in nine of 12 games since, and he’s also seen a big uptick in his rebounds as he plays as more of a big man, like he did last year in Houston.
When the minutes have been there for Covington this season, the rebounds have come. In 20 games with at least 28 minutes played, Covington is averaging 7.4 RPG, hitting this over in 12 of them (60%). In games where he’s gone over 34 minutes, Covington is up to 8.5 RPG, going over this line in eight of 11 games (73%).
We project Covington at 36 more minutes tonight in a tough game against Phoenix, and that puts Covington at 7.7 rebounds and a safe over. As often as Covington is hitting this number, I’m not intimidated by the juice. I’ll play to -150.
Jonas Valanciunas over 1.5 assists (-120)
|Grizzlies at Mavericks||+5|
|Time||8:30 p.m. ET|
I’ve never been the biggest fan of Jonas Valanciunas, who looks like he came to the NBA about 25 years too late, but there’s no question that the Lithuanian has always been productive in his minutes on the court. Valanciunas is always a double-double threat when he gets enough minutes, and like most European big men, he’s a nifty passer too.
Valanciunas averages 1.9 assists per game in his Memphis career. That’s a pretty steady rate over 110 games and three seasons, and he’s at 2.0 APG this season. JV’s minutes are also up a touch. Since missing the back half of January, Valanciunas is averaging 29 minutes per game in eight starts. That gives him a lot of time on the court, and the Grizzlies still dump it into the post to let JV work his magic. All we need is for him to pop the ball back out to a shooter a couple times.
Valanciunas has gone under 1.5 assists in three of his last four games, but don’t let that scare you away. He’s gone over in 12 of his 21 games this season, hitting this over 57% of the time, and that includes a few games where he saw weirdly low minutes. In games with at least 27 minutes played, Valanciunas has multiple assists in nine of 12 games, hitting this over 75% of the time.
Lines this low are always a sweat, but it looks like this one is in our favor. I’ll play the Valanciunas over to -150.
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