Merry Christmas, y’all!
It’s an NBA Christmas, and we’re doing it up big. We may not have our usual cast of stars for this Christmas slate of hoops with so many names missing in COVID protocols and otherwise, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a little Christmas cash all day long as we watch basketball!
After all, missing players just means opportunity for the next man up, and that’s often where we can find out best angles playing props. We’ll be using the Action Labs Player Prop tool to compare our NBA projections to the props posted at a variety of sportsbooks.
Below, I have laid out five Christmas prop bets that I’m playing, the case for each bet and the best books to find odds on those player props.
So let’s get into the holiday spirit, make a few puns, and win some cash along the way. Cuz all I want for Christmas … is wins.
NBA Player Props & Picks
Kemba Walker, Over 24.5 PTS + REB (-115)
|Hawks vs. Knicks||Knicks -7|
|Time | TV||12 p.m. ET | ESPN|
Yeah, there is just no way I’m starting out my Christmas Day slate with anything other than a Kemba Walker over or three.
As the rest of the NBA went to crap over the past week, the fun part has been the renewed opportunities for the guys left for dead. For most of them, it’s been a COVID opportunity. In Kemba’s case, it was the injury to Derrick Rose along with a number of Knicks in the health protocols. Either way, he’s making it count.
It looks like this holiday could go much better than the last one. Walker was benched around Thanksgiving and hadn’t even seen the court in three weeks since, but this Christmas miracle has thrust him back into the limelight. In three games over the past week, Walker has dazzled crowds with 31.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game, including a massive 44-point explosion on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Kemba has entertained at MSG for years, and it’s time for a Christmas show. Walker has scored at least 21 points in each of these last three games, and he’s playing huge minutes at over 40 per game in classic Thibs style. All those minutes have also given him big rebounding opportunities, with six, eight and nine in these games.
I’m banking on heavy minutes and a whole lot of shots, so I’ll play the points + rebounds combo over. It’s entirely possible Kemba hits this over-24.5 on points alone, but those rebounds should help us close the gap if necessary.
If you want to add to your position or get more aggressive, you might also consider playing Kemba to go over 3.5 made 3s at +125, also at DraftKings. Walker has made at least three treys in each of these games, going over twice, and more importantly he is averaging 11.3 attempts per game. You can even set up a Same Game Parlay if you want to stack a few Kemba plays together.
I’ll play the over 24.5 points + rebounds to -135.
Jrue Holiday, Under 19.5 Points (+100)
|Celtics vs. Bucks||Bucks -6.5|
|Time | TV||2:30 p.m. ET | ABC|
Come on, like I wasn’t going to play Jrue for the holidays.
It’s been Holiday SZN lately with Jrue lighting it up while Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton have been out — that’s the upside of having those three stars, after all. Giannis has missed the last five games, and Holiday has scored at least 24 points in each one of them (barring the one he also missed), averaging 28.5 PPG during that stretch.
But in Holiday’s 23 games before that, he was averaging only 16.0 PPG, and he had only scored 24 twice the entire season — one of which was another game without Antetokounmpo.
Well, Giannis has cleared COVID protocols, and though it’s not a lock yet that he will play, you have to believe he will do all he can to be out there for Christmas. Remember, we thought we saw the end of Giannis in the playoffs only for him to come back after missing just two games to win Finals MVP and lead his team to a title. We really think a little pandemic is going to stop him?
If Giannis is back — and now that Middleton is back in the lineup too — Holiday should revert back to his complementary role, and that means far fewer shots and points. This line is inflated because of the recent hot stretch. In games with Giannis on the court, Holiday has gone under 19.5 points in 16 of 20 games, hitting this under 80% of the time. And even if Antetokounmpo doesn’t play, Holiday could just finally cool down after this torrid stretch.
We’re projecting Holiday at 17.2 points, safely under this line, and we’re getting the under at even odds. Wouldn’t be Holiday SZN without a little Jrue prop.
I’ll play this under to -125. Happy Holidays.
Draymond Green Over 7.5 Assists (+105) | Over 2.5 Turnovers (-175)
|Warriors vs. Suns||Suns -6|
|Time | TV||5 p.m. ET | ABC|
Unfortunately, we won’t get a full team effort from the Warriors. Klay Thompson had initially hoped to play by Christmas but isn’t back yet, and both Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins are in COVID protocols, while Andre Iguodala remains out.
That’s a whole lot of missing minutes, ball handling and offense, and it means the Warriors are basically down to Steph, Draymond, and a heap of role players. And that leaves a whole lot of usage for Curry and Green.
Over the past four games with Poole out, Draymond Green is averaging 9.0 assists per game, going over 7.5 dimes in all three. He’s gone over this line in half his games for the season, a 50% hit rate for a prop we’re getting at plus juice — and remember, most of those games included far more handlers and, often, Green sitting out minutes late in an easy Warriors win.
I’m looking for a lot more time on the ball from Draymond, and that should lead to both assists and turnovers. Green is averaging a whopping 15.0 potential assists per game with Poole out over these last four, and we only need half of those to convert to hit our assist over at plus juice.
But with great power comes great responsibility. All that extra Draymond handling inevitably always comes with a few turnovers too. Green has had three or more turnovers in 11 of his past 14 games, hitting this over 79% of the time and averaging 3.6 turnovers per game with at least two in every game.
This turnover line looks high but implies only a 64% chance of going over, so it’s still heavily in our favor. Draymond had five turnovers each of the past two games. For all his greatness, he still gets sloppy sometimes. I’d even look to play an alternate turnovers over line if it comes available.
I’m happy to play the over on both the assists (to -120) and turnovers (to -200) because they both come from all the extra handling. You might be dreaming of a white Christmas, but I’m hoping we make a little Green.
Russell Westbrook, Under 9.5 Rebounds (-115)
|Nets vs. Lakers||PK|
|Time | TV||8 p.m. ET | ABC|
Welcome to the Crypto.com Arena! The Staples Center is gone, and this is the first new game in the Crypt. And the Lakers could use a fresh start with the direction this season is heading.
Los Angeles pushed all of its chips into the center by trading Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavius Caldwell-Pope and more for Russell Westbrook in hopes that the triple-doubles king could be that third Lakers star and help bring a title to LA.
But the experiment hasn’t gone too well so far, nor anything else for the Lakers this season. Anthony Davis is out injured for the foreseeable future, and Westbrook has seen his numbers go up and down, usually of the down variety when he’s playing next to LeBron James.
The rebounds in particular fluctuate drastically depending on whether or not LeBron is in the lineup next to Westbrook. Just look at the numbers. In 12 games without James this season, Russ has 123 rebounds, an average of 10.1 per game and over this line in half of them. But in 21 games with LeBron playing, Westbrook has only 133 boards, his average plummeting to 6.3 RPG. In games with LeBron, Westbrook has gone under 9.5 boards in 17 of 21 games, hitting this under 81% of the time.
Well, you know The King will be on the court on Christmas, and that means this is a great spot to fade Westbrook’s rebounds. Our guy loves to hit those round numbers, but he has only five triple-doubles this season and just isn’t getting as many rebounds as usual. His 7.8 RPG is his lowest in seven seasons.
I can’t offer any Christmas or holiday puns for Russ, so how about a little bonus prop for his competitor? The Nets are crazy short-handed, but James Harden has gone under 40.5 points + assists in 23 of 26 games (88%) this season. And only James Harden has a beard thick enough to rival Santa himself.
I’ll fade Westbrook’s rebounds to -140.
Jalen Brunson, Over 5.5 Assists (-115)
|Mavericks vs. Jazz||Jazz -12.5|
|Time | TV||10:30 p.m. ET | ESPN|
Unfortunately, we’re not getting the Dallas Mavericks team anyone hoped would show up on Christmas evening. Luka Doncic remains out in COVID protocols, and most of the other Mavs you know are out too. Kristaps Porzingis is an injury question mark, while Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, Trey Burke and Maxi Kleber are all still in protocol as well.
And that has left Jalen Brunson to pretty much do everything.
Brunson has been up to the task with some big-time numbers over the past five games, all with Doncic out. Brunson has averaged 20.6 points and 8.4 assists per game, and those numbers are no fluke. Per NBA Advanced Stats, Brunson is averaging a whopping 18.0 potential assists per game during that stretch, sixth highest in the entire NBA. That makes this assists line look preposterous, and that’s why this is my favorite prop on the Christmas board.
Brunson has gone over 5.5 assists in each of these past five games, and this is a great spot to play an escalator prop and try for eight or even 10 Brunson assists. As of publishing Christmas Eve, I’m not seeing any alternate overs available just yet, but you may want to check back for those.
For now, we’ll stick with the traditional over. It’s the top play on the board in our Props Tool, and we’re projecting Brunson at 8.4 assists, a full three dimes over this line. That gives us a huge 31% edge here, and I’ll play Brunson all the way to -150 if necessary and would even consider him at 6.5.
But wait! We didn’t mention Christmas at all in that one. I suppose that means I owe you one more bonus Christmas prop to wrap our evening …
Joe Ingles, Over 0.5 Turnovers (-250)
|Mavericks vs. Jazz||Jazz|
|Time | TV||10:30 p.m. ET | ESPN|
Oh you better believe we’re playing Jingles Bells to finish our day out.
Joe Ingles didn’t have a turnover in six of his first nine games. But he’s had at least one turnover in 18 of the 22 games since, hitting this over 82% of the time. This line is high at -250 but still implies only a 71% hit rate, so it’s in our favor even with the juice. All the better if the Jazz blow out the Mavs and leave a little extra run for Ingles and the backups. We only need one turnover.
J. Ingles all the way!
J. Ingles bell, J. Ingles bell, J. Ingles bell rock. pic.twitter.com/tZOXtRNKRo
— nba paint (@nba_paint) December 24, 2021