The NBA has always been a star-driven league, and today we’re focusing on some of its biggest stars. The league announced its All Stars over the past week, and Nikola Vucevic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving will all represent the East. Today we’re playing two of those stars and using two others to fade a couple role players.
For those who are new to this article, we’ll be using the Action Labs Player Prop 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 seven total props graded at 9 or better.
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
Nikola Vucevic over 3.5 assists (-134)
|Magic at Nets||+8.5|
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
Hello again, old friend. Nikola Vucevic might be our most popular play in this column this season, and the Orlando Magic are certainly our most frequent flyers.
Orlando has been shorthanded all season. Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz are out for the year, and Aaron Gordon and Cole Anthony are sidelined indefinitely. The injuries have piled up and left this team with a bare bones roster, and Vucevic has absolutely put this team on his back all year. That’s why the coaches rightfully voted him in as an All Star, because he’s having a monster season with virtually no help whatsoever.
Vucevic is averaging 23.9 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. He’s hitting 2.5 3-pointers per game at 40% from beyond the arc, somehow scoring efficiently and making this offense respectable when he barely even has NBA talent around him half the time.
We’re playing Vooch’s assists tonight because his passing has ticked up since Jan. 31 to 4.0 APG. He’s gone over this line in nine of 12 games since then, and that makes sense since the two best Magic point guards are nowhere to be found right now. Somebody has to create for non-Vucevic Magic, and it turns out that falls on Vucevic too.
There’s a chance the Nets just run the Magic off the court and leave us short of minutes and volume here, but the way Brooklyn plays down to lesser opponents, there’s also a good chance for Vucevic to have a big game against a small Brooklyn team short on defense. I love this over and will play Vooch again up to -160.
Bruce Brown under 2.5 assists (-145), Joe Harris under 1.5 assists (+146)
|Magic at Nets||-8.5|
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
Speaking of MVPs getting back to MVP level recently, have you seen what James Harden has been doing in Brooklyn? Holy smokes is Harden on fire. The Beard is averaging 25.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 11.2 assists per game with the Nets on 50/42/86 shooting splits. He’s been the best player on the Nets since joining Brooklyn and has carried the team to a 7-3 record without Kevin Durant.
Harden is doing everything. He leads the league in assists since heading to Brooklyn, and he’s as efficient as ever. He’s controlling every aspect of the game. And what he’s not controlling, Kyrie Irving is. Irving has clearly taken something of a backseat with Harden and Durant around, but he’s still an elite secondary playmaker and scorer. Between the two of them, Brooklyn has found success letting two stars dominate the ball while everyone around them becomes a role player.
When Harden and Irving play without Durant, the duo dominates the ball and racks up a significant majority of Nets assists. Take a look at how many of Brooklyn’s assists have been recorded by the duo in KD-less games:
- Cleveland: 16 of 23, 70% (2)
- Oklahoma City: 18 of 33, 55% (5)
- Detroit: 19 of 30, 63% (4)
- Indiana: 13 of 20, 65% (2)
- Sacramento: 17 of 31, 55% (4)
- LA Lakers: 16 of 23, 70% (3)
- LA Clippers: 15 of 21, 71% (4)
- Sacramento: 21 of 30, 70% (3)
In those eight games without Durant, Harden and Irving have recorded 64.5% of Brooklyn’s assists, and that number is at 70% or higher in each of the past three Nets games. The duo is totally dominating the ball, and it’s working.
Do you see the number in parenthesis? That’s the total number of assists recorded by the three other Nets starters each game. It’s never been more than five, and it’s an average of just 3.4 assists per game from the three other starters combined. Harden and Irving are either scoring on their own or creating for their teammates.
That’s why we’re fading both Brown and Harris tonight, both of whom are starting right now. Harris has only seven assists in his last seven games, going under 1.5 dimes in all but one of those games. Brown has gone under his 2.5 line all but once in the last 11 games, and he’s only gone over 2.5 four times all season. Brown has only been starting more recently, but in this case that’s actually a bad thing for his assist numbers — it just means more time with Harden and Irving dominating the ball.
The trends here say that there’s only three or four dimes for these two and DeAndre Jordan combined, and that’s why I like grabbing both unders. It’s hard to see them both losing, and I think there’s a good chance both hit.
We project both at 1.5 dimes, and that means both are worth a play. Brown’s under has a 21.7% edge in our favor right now, even at the high juice. I’ll play him to -175 and Harris to +125.
Giannis Antetokounmpo under 13.5 rebounds (-135)
|Pelicans at Bucks||Spread|
|Time | TV||9:30 p.m. ET | TNT|
Don’t look now, but the MVP version of Giannis Antetokounmpo may have resurfaced. The Milwaukee Bucks continue to play without Jrue Holiday for the time being, and that has left the team very shorthanded, since the Bucks traded just about any spare parts they had to add a third star. That left the team’s bench weakened, and now that Holiday has been missing, it pushed the team to a five-game losing streak. It doesn’t help that Khris Middleton has been struggling during this stretch either.
But the Bucks may have found an answer over the past six or so games: the two-time reigning MVP. Antetokounmpo’s numbers have exploded over the past six games to 30.8 points, 14.0 rebounds, and 7.8 assists per game. That’s way up from 28.1 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game up until this stretch.
What sticks out the most is the passing. Giannis has at least eight dimes in all but one game over this six-game stretch. He’s taken on the playmaking and point guard responsibilities in the absence of any other option on the roster, and with more of the ball in his hands, his scoring is up too.
The rebounding numbers are also up lately, but that feels more like variance than a marked change. Rebounding numbers tend to swing like that, and I think the books have overreacted to the Giannis spike by pushing his rebounding line too high here. No matter how good a rebounder you are, 13.5 is a massive number to cover. Antetokounmpo has gone under that line in 23 of 31 games this season, hitting the under 74.2% of the time.
The Pelicans are one of the league’s finest rebounding teams, so boards won’t be as easy to come by. They also play a slower style, so that’s another limiting factor. And as 9-point favorites, the Bucks could end up coasting to victory and limiting Giannis minutes late too.
There are any number of ways to go under here. Look past the 17-, 18-, and 19-rebound games during this recent stretch and take the long view. Grab the under 13.5 up to -150, and if that line drops to 12.5 at your book, our Props Tool still likes that up to around -120 too.
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