What a wild first 10 days of this new NBA season! The Lakers and Nets can barely win a game, and the standings look upside down in many places.
On today’s BUCKETS podcast here at The Action Network, Matt Moore and I talked about three of the early buzzy Cinderella teams: the Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte Hornets, and Cleveland Cavaliers. Tonight, I’m playing two of the brightest young stars on two of those teams for today’s props.
For those who are new to this article, 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
LaMelo Ball, Over 5.5 Assists (-105)
|Hornets vs. Heat||Heat -6.5|
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN|
The Charlotte Hornets have been one of the delightful early surprises of this young season, and they’ve been led by their two young stars in LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges. This early Hornets buzz (groan) looks real.
Bridges has been an absolute stud with his dazzling dunks and huge scoring load, but we’re focusing on the precocious sophomore today.
Ball was awesome in the season opener, with 31 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists in a huge comeback win over the Pacers. He hit seven 3s in that one and repeated the feat against the Celtics a week later.
But his worst game of the season came his last time out against the Magic. Ball shot an ugly 3-of-14 from the field and recorded just seven points and three assists, by far his lowest line of the season in both areas.
I think that poor game is buying us some value tonight. Ball ended up playing only 24 minutes in that game as the Hornets went to their bench options and got the win anyway, but I’m not worried about a repeat performance. In the other four games this season, Ball has recorded seven, six, five, and nine assists. That’s three overs on this assists line and under just once, and by only one.
Ball is averaging 6.0 assists per game this season, and that’s right about in line with where he was at last year once he was inserted into the starting lineup, at 6.2 APG. In 36 professional starts, Ball has gone over 5.5 assists 21 times, hitting this over 58% for us.
That’s a nice little edge, but it’s actually the floor that has me intrigued. In seven other games, Ball has hit exactly five assists. That doesn’t help us in the end — a loss is a loss in betting, no matter how close you get — but it does tell me that in 28 of Ball’s 36 starts, he’s been within one assist of hitting this prop.
That means 78% of the time, we’ve had an excellent shot at this over. And remember, assists take two to tango; Ball’s Hornets teammates are playing much better this season and have a better chance of finishing the passes he’s dishing out these days.
We project Ball at 6.9 assists, and that gives us some value here against the Heat. I’ll play the over to -135.
T.J. McConnell, Over 4.5 Assists (-140)
|Pacers vs. Nets||Nets -8.5|
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass|
The poor Pacers just can’t get or stay healthy. Indiana is already missing Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren, and now they’ll be without Malcolm Brogdon too on Friday night. That leaves just two remaining starters for the Pacers, and it should put T.J. McConnell into the starting lineup.
McConnell is in over his head as a regular starter, but he’s excelled off the bench the last couple years for Indiana. He’s started only 10 games the last four seasons but is a fighter who defends hard and forces a lot of steals. He’s a true point guard in every sense who relishes setting up his teammates.
McConnell has averaged an assist every 3.8 minutes with the Pacers over the last two seasons, but he usually only gets 20 or 25 minutes a night. He should be well over 30 minutes tonight, and that could give him a shot of smashing this assist line, maybe even doubling it.
In those 10 starts over the past four years, McConnell has averaged 6.9 APG and gone over this line seven times. Even better, the diminutive point guard played at least 26 minutes in 28 games last season for the Pacers — and he went over 4.5 dimes in all but one of those games.
There’s no guarantee of those minutes tonight, but with the Pacers so shorthanded, I like our chances. Let’s hope McConnell dimes up Domantas Sabonis and rookie Chris Duarte in what should be an up-and-down game against the Nets. The juice is steep here, but I’ll drink it all the way to -175.
Evan Mobley, Over 7.5 Rebounds (-105)
|Cavaliers vs. Lakers||Lakers -8|
|Time | TV||10:30 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass|
We played Evan Mobley’s rebounding over his last time out on Wednesday night, and he came through. Mobley had 12 points and 10 rebounds, along with two blocks and a steal. It was the second double-double of Mobley’s career and, more importantly for us, he went over his 7.5 rebounding line with ease.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Mobley has played five games as a professional now, and he’s had at least eight rebounds in four of them. His official totals so far: 9, 5, 11, 8, and 10. Even better, he’s starting to hit the glass on the offensive end now too, with three offensive rebounds in each of his last two games.
The Cavs were a poor rebounding team last season but have taken a big step forward this year with Mobley and Jarrett Allen leading the way.
Evan Mobley was my favorite prospect in the draft this year, and he’s already looking like a future star. He’s been awesome defensively the last few games, showing his rare ability to mirror and swallow opposing guards whole, and he’s been a much better rebounder than expected too.
As we talked about on Wednesday, Mobley was often pushed around at USC but added a heap of muscle and weight this summer. That strength has helped him gobble up more rebounds, and he’s benefiting by playing at the four too, with Allen stuck facing opposing centers and playing against the biggest, strongest guys.
The healthy Lakers would certainly be a new test, but these Lakers don’t look particularly healthy. LeBron James is a question mark again, and Anthony Davis has not been cleared yet either. I do expect Davis to play, but even then he’ll probably be limited. Davis has also spent over half his minutes at center this season, so Mobley is probably rebounding against guys like Carmelo Anthony and Kent Bazemore.
Mobley averaged a rebound every 3.4 minutes in the preseason, and he’s been almost as strong in the regular season. He high points rebounds well and has displayed intelligent positioning.
For all their presumed size, the Lakers have actually ranked near the bottom of the league in rebounding this year, so I’m not afraid of this matchup. I’ll just keep riding with Mobley until the books adjust this another rebound further like they should. I’ll play the over to -130.