Sometimes, it can be profitable to play the stars. If you have the right read on a star in line for a big game, he can plow past a line like it’s nothing. Stephen Curry’s points over in a show-me game against Kevin Durant sure felt like easy money.
But a lot of the time, it’s far easier to focus on the props from the little guys around the edges of the roster. Books know the stars are sexier and typically set much sharper lines on those guys, while the rotation players often show more value. That’s especially true when you can identify young players stepping into new or increased roles, and that’s the angle we’re playing tonight on three young guys just starting to establish themselves.
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
Talen Horton-Tucker, over 2.5 assists (-130)
|Lakers vs. Bucks||Lakers +9|
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN|
Welcome back, Talen Horton-Tucker!
The Lakers returned only three players from last year’s playoff roster: LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the newly-extended Horton-Tucker. THT is a key player on this team, one that is desperate for core guys and extended minutes from young, energetic players.
And he’s made his return with quite a flourish. Horton-Tucker had 17 points in his season debut, then exploded to lead the team in both scoring and rebounding with 28 points and six assists against the Bulls.
THT is back!! Well, sorta. Horton-Tucker played 37 minutes in that Bulls blowout. While other starters rested, he got extra run to shake off the rust.
Still, the numbers are impressive, and it’s clear THT will have a big and immediate role on this team. But we’re not playing Horton-Tucker’s scoring tonight, which I’m still not sure will be reliable. He’s not going to hit four 3-pointers every night like he did against the Bulls.
Instead, I’m targeting one of my favorite Horton-Tucker skills: his playmaking. He’s a unique player with a wide skill set. One of those unique skills is his creation off the dribble and passing ability. That flashed at Iowa State, and it’s flashed in limited NBA minutes even as a very young player.
So far this season, Horton-Tucker has only three assists in two games. But he had 10 potential assists in those games, so the opportunities are already there. Last year, THT had an assist every 7.2 minutes on the court. He averaged 2.8 assists per game, over this line, but only while averaging 20.1 minutes. He may not get 37 minutes again against Milwaukee, but he should be well above last year’s total with the Lakers needing warm bodies.
There’s still no LeBron, so that means more handling and playmaking opportunities for the Lakers’ talented (and only?) youngster.
We’re projecting THT at 5.0 assists tonight, double this line, making this one of the top props on the board with a 31% edge in our favor. I’ll play to -165.
Wendell Carter Jr., over 21.5 points + rebounds (-110)
|Magic vs. Knicks||Magic +12|
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | League Pass|
Coming into the season, it was unclear which young Orlando Magic players would step up. With Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon gone, plus Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz still out on the mend, there were plenty of minutes, usage and shots to go around.
Already, we’re seeing Cole Anthony break out in his sophomore season for Orlando, and we wondered which big man would step forward: Mo Bamba or Wendell Carter Jr.
As it turns out, the answer appears to be both of them.
Both Bamba and Carter are playing at least 29 minutes a game and putting up career-best numbers while starting together as twin bigs, with both able to stretch the court. Each player has averaged over 1.6 made 3-pointers per game. Bamba is at 11.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, and Carter has been even more productive at 13.7 points and 9.9 boards.
Actually, those numbers are a bit depreciated. Carter had three games where he randomly played under 19 minutes and saw a big dip in his numbers. He averaged 10.0/6.3 in those games. In the other 11 games, he’s at 14.7 points and 10.8 boards, really impressive numbers and 25.5 points + rebounds, far above this line. He’s had at least 18 points + rebounds in every one of those games and gone over 21.5 in eight of the 11, with two other misses by a single bucket.
The high floor is the story here and what makes this play so appealing. There’s always the chance Carter just doesn’t get his minutes, but if he gets his usual run of 30+ minutes, he will very likely be in play or over this line.
Sometimes it’s just better to bet on minutes and volume. And when it’s a minutes play, that usually means we’ll grab a combo line like this to get some extra outs and double down on our advantage. I’ll play the over to -135.
Chimezie Metu, over 10.5 points (+100)
|Kings vs. Timberwolves||Kings +2.5|
|Time | TV||8 p.m. ET | League Pass|
Allow Chimezie Metu to introduce himself. Metu was a top-35 recruit to USC, where he played with future NBA alumni DeAnthony Melton and Jordan McLaughlin, typically putting up around 15 points and eight boards a night as the man in the middle.
Metu never really made his mark as a presumed NBA Draft prospect in three seasons before going 49th in the draft and spending several years mostly in the G-League. Then, this summer, he got his break: a roster spot on the Nigerian national team that beat Team USA and played at the Olympics. And now it appears he’s finally getting his NBA opportunity too.
Metu played two minutes in his season debut 12 days ago. He played 19 minutes his next time out but scored only two points. But his third game was a breakthrough, with 13 points off the bench. And the real notable part of that stat line was 3-of-7 behind the arc. Context is key here. Metu made 13 3s his entire USC career. He had 14 in his NBA career until this past week. Now, he’s hit eight in three games.
Metu moved into the starting lineup on Friday, playing as a stretch four next to Richaun Holmes. Eat your heart out, Marvin Bagley. Metu matched his career-high with another trio of 3-pointers on eight attempts, then hit 2-of-6 in his second start. That’s 21 3-point attempts in his last three games after he’d attempted 44 3s total his entire career before the last week.
The Kings are telling us something with how they’re using Metu, and I’m ready to react early. Our Props Tool likes all of Metu’s overs in his new role, but I’m focusing on the scoring, especially against a Timberwolves team that tends to leave shooters open in its over pursuit.
Metu has scored 13, 14 and 16 his last three games, and it’s not all just behind the arc either. He’s making some looks at the rim and getting to the line too. I’ll play the newfound volume and ride this Metu over to -125.
His name is Chimezie, and he’s pleased to Metu. Actually, it’s pronounced Meh-to. And the way he’s playing, you might want to learn how to say it.