It continues to be a very tricky time around the NBA with so many names missing to injury or in COVID protocols. That means books are offering fewer props right now until closer to tip, and it means we should continue to be cautious.
Tonight we’re playing two guys who won gold in Tokyo this summer plus another young player who’s about to get his second chance.
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 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
Robert Williams, Over 7.5 points (-120) + escalator props
|Warriors vs. Celtics||Celtics +3.5|
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN|
Oh my God, is that Robert Williams’s music?!
It might very well be. The Celtics are the latest team to lose bodies to COVID protocol, and theirs are big ones — literally. Al Horford is out, along with Grant Williams and Jabari Parker, and that suddenly leaves the Celtics perilously thin at big men. And it might finally mean a second chance for Robert Williams.
Williams got off to a monster start to the season, averaging 10.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game over the first 12 games. He did that in part to his huge minutes load at over 32 per game, and of course the Celtics were shorthanded early and had to give Williams big minutes.
But those minutes faded badly, and Williams is averaging under 21 minutes over the past nine games. The numbers have fallen off with the loss of time. He’s down to just 6.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game over this recent stretch.
Still, Williams is such a huge body and a dynamic athlete that he’s always a threat to get to eight points and hit this over, even in limited minutes, because he’s only four lob or put-back dunks away at all times. Williams went over 7.5 points in nine of those first 12 games, but even as his minutes dropped, he’s still over 7.5 points in five of the last seven games.
If you aren’t sold on Williams getting huge minutes tonight, you can stick with just the standard points over. He’s hit that in 67% of his games this season, even with the minutes dropping.
But I see a spot to get more aggressive here. Williams is young and full of energy, and he’s been a guy Boston has turned to for huge minutes at times when the team needs bodies. I don’t see Enes Kanter staying on the court long defensively against the deadly Warriors shooters, and that may make Williams the only real option in the middle.
I’m also playing Williams to score 10 or more points at +162 at FanDuel. He did that in eight of the first 12 games with the sort of minutes load I’m expecting tonight and even got to double digits in four of the last seven even after his time fell off. That’s really only one more dunk than the standard over.
But I’m not stopping there. I’ll also consider two other alternate overs as a standard escalator props play. I’ll sprinkle Williams to score at least 15 points at +980. He did that in three of his first 10 games, and he should get some easy dunks on a small Warriors team.
I’ll also sprinkle Williams at +370 to record a double-double. I won’t go too hard after rebounds since he relies heavily on the offensive glass and Golden State leads the league in defensive rebounding. But Williams had a double-double in six of his 12 games to start the year when minutes were high, so the price is heavily in our favor if we get 30-plus minutes again.
The minutes are the key here. If you don’t trust, just stick with the standard over-7.5 points. But if you believe, you might invest a couple units and split them up accordingly and have a little fun.
Keldon Johnson, Over 18.5 PTS + REB (-120)
|Spurs vs. Jazz||Spurs +11.5|
|Time | TV||9 p.m. ET | League Pass|
Keldon Johnson was a popular breakout candidate for the Spurs this season, and it makes sense. The guy did win an Olympic gold medal this summer after all, and it was reasonable to expect him to break out after that experience.
Instead, it’s Dejounte Murray who has broken out for San Antonio, while Johnson’s numbers have stagnated a bit. He’s only had six games of 20 or more points, and the hustle rebounds he was racking up last season have waned a bit. Murray is probably stealing some of that production in both cases.
But this line has dropped too low, and that makes Johnson a value play here. There’s also a tiny glitch in the numbers leaving us some value. Johnson missed a game a week ago, and he also played his two season-low minutes games just before and after sitting that one out.
If you throw out those two games, Johnson is averaging 15.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game on the season. That’s 21.4 points + rebounds, and it’s a decent margin above this combo 18.5 line. Sure enough, Keldon has gone over that line in 17 of the remaining 24 games, hitting the over 71% of the time. And we’re projecting him at his usual 32 minutes tonight, so the volume should be there.
I’ll back the Olympian to take care of business like usual tonight. He may not be a breakout star, but he can win us some money anyway. I’ll play to -140.
Damian Lillard, Over 24.5 points (-105)
|Hornets vs. Trail Blazers||Blazers -2.5|
|Time | TV||10 p.m. ET | League Pass|
It’s not often that we play a bonafide superstar in this space, but I’m looking for a big night from Damian Lillard.
It hasn’t really been Dame Time that often this season. Maybe Lillard’s clock needs some new batteries or something? Dame doesn’t look fully healthy, and his shots just haven’t been falling. But the volume is still there. The minutes remain superhuman, and Lillard is still getting a ton of shots up.
Still, Lillard’s not hitting them and his scoring has fallen off mightily this season. He’s averaging only 22.0 points per game thus far, his lowest since 2015, and if you’re looking for a reason to back Dame in his per-game numbers, you probably won’t find it. He’s only gone over 24.5 points in nine of 23 games, just 39% of the time. Still, at 24.5 points, this line is just one bucket above his scoring average, even after the dip.
And the reason I like tonight as a bounce-back spot for Dame is the matchup. Charlotte plays at the league’s fourth fastest pace, so that should mean extra possessions and shots. The Hornets also rank dead last in Defensive Rating and allow 116.4 PPG, highest of any team in the league. More tempo and more points allowed can only be a good thing for the opponent’s leading scorer.
Our Props Tool can’t resist Dame tonight, projecting him at 28.4 points and giving this one a 14% edge in our favor. I’ll stay away from alternate overs here since Dame has only three 30-point games this season, but I think we can get to 25. I’ll play to -125.