The NBA playoffs are all fun and games until the injuries start to pile up.
Unfortunately, we have two key injuries to star players on the favorites from each conference, and it looks like we won’t see Khris Middleton or Devin Booker on a basketball court again anytime in the near future.
But the show must go on, and one player’s injury is another player’s opportunity. Shifting minutes and roles always means opportunity in the props world, so we need to go hunting tonight.
Using the Action Labs Player Prop tool, 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.
Let’s take a look at tonight’s offerings.
NBA Player Props & Picks
Trae Young, Over 4.5 turnovers (-135)
|Heat vs. Hawks||Heat -1|
|Time | TV||7 p.m. ET | ESPN|
The season is on the line for Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks tonight. The Hawks are down 0-2 but return home to an arena where they’ve been vastly better than on the road all season, and the Hawks will still believe they can keep their season alive. They’ll need a huge game from their superstar to do it.
That might be difficult, though, because Young has really struggled against Miami all season. He had 25 points, six rebounds, and seven assists in Game 2, and that would be a pretty good line for many players, but it’s not quite enough for the guy who led the NBA in both points and assists in the regular season.
But the real problem was the turnovers.
Young racked up 10 turnovers and continues to struggle against Miami’s switching defense. He had six turnovers in Game 1 too, and he’s had at least four turnovers in all six games against the Heat this season. Young had games with seven and eight turnovers against Miami in the regular season too, two of his three highest turnover games.
Young is averaging 6.5 turnovers per game against the Heat this season, a full two turnovers above this line. And don’t forget, he’s handling and playing more than ever in the playoffs and will likely do so again tonight in a game with the season on the line.
If you want to fade Young overall, the numbers are in your favor there too. He’s under 40.5 points + rebounds + assists in five of six Heat games on the season and is averaging only 22.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 6.7 assists.
But even if you’re worried Young will have a big offensive game, he can still go over the turnovers line pretty easily. Avoid the PRA fade if you like, but play the over on this turnovers line as high as -175.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Over 13.5 Rebounds (-134)
|Bucks vs. Bulls||Bucks -2.5|
|Time | TV||8:30 p.m. ET | ABC|
Things can turn in a hurry in the NBA playoffs, and they might have turned Wednesday night for the reigning champs.
The Bucks came out lethargic in Game 1 and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, but the Bulls were even worse and Milwaukee escaped with a win. They didn’t get so lucky in Game 2. The offense played like it was stuck in molasses again, and this time DeMar DeRozan and Chicago made them pay. The Bulls stole the game and home-court advantage.
But that wasn’t even the worst of it. Khris Middleton sprained his knee late in the game. He’s out for these Chicago games and likely the rest of the series and beyond. The Bucks are still missing veteran guard George Hill too, and Bobby Portis played limited Game 2 minutes with an injury.
Simply put, the Bucks are running out of bodies. It’s a good thing they have a superhero on the roster.
We saw what happened when things got tight last year in the playoffs. Bud finally let Giannis Antetokounmpo loose to play more minutes and let his Greek Freak flag fly. Giannis saw huge minutes when he was needed most, and he put up some truly absurd stat lines.
With the way the Bucks are struggling to find offense right now, and with their only good two-way wing out and Jrue Holiday unable to find his shot, they’re going to need every second they can get from Antetokounmpo. That makes me want to play a points line an alternate points lines, looking for 35 or 40 points or more. But at 33.5 points, the books have already boosted this pretty high.
Instead, I’ll stick with the more reliable number, the rebounds. Antetokounmpo has racked up 16 and 18 over the first two games of the series, and he had games with 16 and 17 against Chicago in the regular season too. We know Giannis should play heavy minutes in what may likely be a close game, and we know he can put up some monster counting numbers.
Even better for our prop if Bobby Portis is out or limited. Better too if Milwaukee tries to juice the offense by cutting some Brook Lopez minutes, moving Giannis to center, and adding some shooting. That puts even more emphasis on Giannis dominating the glass.
You can play an alternate for 16-plus boards at +172 if you want — remember, he’s already done that four times against Chicago this season.
Jae Crowder, Over 9.5 Points (-116)
|Suns vs. Pelicans||Suns -1.5|
|Time | TV||9:30 p.m. ET | ESPN|
Just like in the Milwaukee game, we’re left hunting for value for an NBA title favorite suddenly missing its star. In this case, it’s the Phoenix Suns who will be without Devin Booker for at least the next couple games. Just like the Bucks, the Suns also lost Game 2.
But Phoenix has been much more successful without key players. While Milwaukee slogged through the season, the Suns saw significant time missed from every key rotation players sans Mikal Bridges but coasted to the league’s best record anyways. This is not a team built around stars, but a team’s team. The Suns already know how to adjust without a star.
With Devin Booker out, expect Landry Shamet to get the start. He’s a like-for-like replacement as a movement shooter. Shamet won’t replace all of Booker’s points though, obviously. Throwing out the final week of games when Book missed a few games as the team rested for the playoffs, and we have 11 other games to go off of this season. Shamet started all 11 and averaged 10.7 PPG.
Truthfully, the name I really want to smash here is Cam Johnson. His scoring average skyrocketed from 12.5 PPG to 17.8 PPG with Booker out. In nine games, he hit 35 3-pointers with at least three in all but two of the games and four or more in over half of them, averaging 3.9 treys per outing. If you can find Johnson points, 3s, and alternate overs, you have to play them.
Beyond Johnson, the rest of the scoring is spread out. Deandre Ayton scores a couple more points a game, but his prop has gone up accordingly. Ditto Mikal Bridges. But Jae Crowder’s prop line hasn’t risen, and that’s our angle.
Crowder averaged 12.1 PPG in those 11 games without Booker. He averaged only 8.9 PPG over the rest of the season. That’s a 36% increase, but it’s hidden in the season-long numbers where he comes out at 9.4 PPG, which is what this line reflects. With Booker out, everyone has to take a couple extra shots. That includes Crowder, who should also see increased minutes.
If you want to consider a more aggressive play, Crowder had 15 or more points in four of those 11 games (36%) and that’s playable at +420. But you can do even better. Crowder has long been a bellwether for team success. The Suns are 12-2 this season when Crowder scores at least 13 points. You can parlay Crowder’s 15 points with a Suns moneyline win at +656 for an aggressive play.
As for the points over, I’ll happily play to -145. It’s never a fun ride with Crowder, and there’s always the risk of an ugly 1-for-10 night, but with Booker out the numbers are in our favor. And remember — don’t forget to look for those Cam Johnson overs.