As much fun as it is to play the stars, props are often more profitable playing role players. They’re not quite as public, so the lines aren’t scrutinized quite as closely because books know they won’t get as much action. Books know they’ll always get more bets on a LeBron James points over than for any random Javonte Green prop, no matter what the line is.
Some days, though, it’s the right time to play the stars. If the lines are right, everyone is playable. And today, we are star searching.
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.
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
Zach LaVine, over 3.5 assists (-150)
|Bulls vs. 76ers||Bulls +2|
|Time | TV||7 p.m. ET | League Pass|
The new-look Bulls have been a wonder to behold. Chicago ranks seventh in Offensive Rating at Basketball Reference. They’re somehow even better in Defensive Rating at fifth, and fourth in the entire NBA in Net Rating. The city of Chicago is absolutely buzzing for this team. The ball is zipping around and finding good shots, and there are plenty of them to come by on an offense featuring Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.
No Chicago Bull is averaging five assists per game, but a whopping five of them are putting up at least 3.9 dimes per outing. Call that the Lonzo Ball effect. Ball is so intelligent and moves the ball so smartly and efficiently, and it has an energizing effect on the entire team. Suddenly, everyone is sharing the ball well — and besides, LaVine, DeRozan, and Vucevic were all bigger facilitators in past roles too.
Tonight we’re playing LaVine’s assists over. He’s leading the team at 4.9 APG, exactly what he was averaging a season ago. His scoring and shots have barely flinched either. It’s clear this is still Zach’s team, and he’s still getting plenty of touches.
LaVine has at least three assists in every game, and he’s gone over 3.5 in six of his seven games. Last year, he cleared 3.5 dimes in 39 of 58 games, hitting this over 67% of the time. Our Props Tool is projecting LaVine at 5.1 assists again tonight, right about at his usual. This line seems an assist too low, so I’ll drink the juice and play to -170.
Trae Young, under 25.5 points (-108)
|Hawks vs. Nets||Hawks +4.5|
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN|
The Hawks have been up and down so far this season, and the team looks like it’s still trying to figure out how exactly to balance all the minutes and shots now that they actually have everyone, for the most part, healthy.
The big men rotation is a bit short, and John Collins is a question mark tonight, but suddenly there are a ton of guards, wings, and handlers looking for touches. Bogdan Bogdanovic was a breakout star late last season. De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish are impressive young wings. Kevin Huerter is a high usage guy off the bench who would start for many teams. Lou Williams and Delon Wright can barely even get on the court.
Of course, Trae Young leads the team and isn’t exactly going to lose minutes to Lou and Delon, but his shot profile has changed dramatically this year. He’s down to only 5.3 3-point attempts per game after being as high as 9.5 two seasons ago, and he’s taking a career-high 14.0 shots per game inside the arc. He’s much less efficient there and, more importantly and much discussed, isn’t drawing those free throws this season.
Even with the huge bump in 2s, he’s down to just 5.3 free throw attempts per game. His free throw rate was at 49% a year ago. It’s all the way down to 27% now. Those freebies just aren’t coming, and that means a couple easy points are gone each night, plus fewer points from behind the arc where he’s been ice cold.
Young is averaging 22.9 PPG this season. He’s gone under this line in four of seven games but has gone way under when he does, with games of 13 and 15 over the last week alone. Trae did go over this line by half a point his last time out but needed a season-high 11 free throws to do it. With tonight’s game on national TV against James Harden and the Nets, this is going to be a big topic of discussion with the league’s two biggest stars affected by these new foul rules and loss of free throws. I don’t expect either of them to spend much time at the line tonight with the whole world watching.
We’re projecting Young at 22.2 points. I think he has a better shot of finishing around 20 than getting to 25 or above. I’ll fade Trae here and play to -125.
Anthony Edwards, under 4.5 assists (-135)
|Clippers vs. Timberwolves||Timberwolves +1.5|
|Time | TV||8 p.m. ET | League Pass|
Is Anthony Edwards a star yet? If he isn’t already, he sure looks well on his way. The sophomore made a big late season push for Rookie of the Year last season, and he’s already made a big splash in the new year.
Edwards knocked down six 3s in the opener, and he’s hit 24 points or more in four of the six games. Ant’s 3-point volume is up, and he’s getting a ton of shots up, though his 2-point percentage and efficiency have left plenty to be desired.
Edwards is playing big minutes, over 35 per game, and taking on massive volume. Tonight it looks like Minnesota could be without both D’Angelo Russell and Patrick Beverley, who is listed as questionable. That has led the books to spike Ant’s props numbers across the board, and I’m not sure I’m with them. Edwards is already playing so much and hoisting so many shots that I’m not sure there’s room for a ton of more volume. I expect more Karl-Anthony Towns and a lot more Malik Beasley in particular.
What I don’t expect is for Edwards to suddenly turn into a great creator. It’s just not a strength for him yet. It’s in development. Edwards has gone under 3.5 assists in five of his six games this year. He’s gotten right to three in four of them, but an under is an under. He went under this line in 82% of his games last year too, and remember, he was playing without most of his stars for quite a few of those games too.
Our Props Tool projects Edwards at 3.1 assists, right about where he’s been in most games this season. I would’ve set this line at 3.5, and with Minnesota shorthanded, that would be a stay-away. With the line a dime higher, I’ll play the under. I’ll play to -165.