We’ve got a full slate of NBA action tonight, but there’s only one game the basketball world will have its full attention on. At long last, 35 games into the season, Kyrie Irving finally returns to make his season debut for the Nets on the road in Indiana.
It remains to be seen how many minutes Kyrie will play or what this whole experiment will look like, since Irving cannot play home games and hasn’t even been with the team for most of the season. But with everyone watching, you know we have to start there with tonight’s props.
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
James Harden, Over 9.5 assists (+105)
|Nets vs. Pacers||Nets -8|
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass|
I know you’re dying to play a Kyrie Irving prop in his debut, but I just can’t advise it. We have no idea what to expect from Kyrie. Will he start? Probably. But how many minutes will he get? How rusty will he be? Will he got many shots up or defer to his teammates?
We just don’t know the answer to any of those questions, and the minutes one is the biggest since it directly impacts all the other numbers.
I can’t recommend playing Kyrie — but I’m happy to play his teammate. We don’t have a ton of data with Brooklyn’s three stars all playing together, and obviously none so far this season. But one thing that happened last year with all three guys on the court was that James Harden became the clear floor general and point guard, facilitating the offense and getting Kyrie and Kevin Durant into good scoring position.
You have to believe we’ll see a bit more of that tonight as Harden tries to get Irving into some rhythm. That should mean fewer shots for the Beard and a couple more potential assists.
Besides, this has been a good prop for Harden anyway. Once he got past that slow start over the first six games in particular, Harden has had double digit assists in 16 of his last 25 games. That’s 64% of them hitting this over.
We’re projecting him at 10.6 assists tonight, and I’m not worried about him losing dimes to Kyrie. If anything, he might end up passing to Irving a bit more, and we know Kyrie can certainly convert those looks and make good on Harden’s dimes.
I’m almost always happy to play Harden to hit double-digit assists at plus juice. I’d play to -125.
Jaylen Brown, Over 2.5 threes (+100)
|Spurs vs. Celtics||Celtics -7.5|
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass|
Jaylen Brown is having a moment.
Over the past 10 days, Brown has exploded as a scorer. After coming back from two weeks away, he’s returned with 28.1 PPG over this past month. That includes at least 24 points in each of his last seven games, and it of course includes that 50-piece his last time out.
A big part of Brown’s scoring pop has come as a result of increased volume from the 3-point line. Before this recent stretch, Brown was averaging 6.5 3-point attempts per game and making 2.4 of them. But he’s jumped all the way to 9.3 attempts per game over the last 10, and he’s averaged 3.3 makes per game during that stretch.
This line hasn’t adjusted enough yet to the new increased volume, which was up even before Jayson Tatum missed the last few games. Brown was over 2.5 made 3s in seven of 13 games even before the recent stretch, so this line is about right on from that perspective. He’s gone over 2.5 makes in seven of the last 10 games and has at least a pair of 3s in all but one of them with all this increased volume.
We’re projecting Jaylen at 3.6 made 3s tonight, so that makes this a slam dunk play at even odds and worth playing all the way to -135.
You can also get more aggressive if you want. You can play Brown to hit at least four 3s for +260, or at least five for +690, both at FanDuel. He’s had five makes in three of these last 10 games, so that’s a 30% hit rate versus a 12.7% implied rate. I wouldn’t go crazy since Tatum returns and should vulture some shots, but it’s still worth a sprinkle with that edge.
Anfernee Simons, Over 4.5 assists (+120)
|Heat vs. Trail Blazers||Heat -2|
|Time | TV||10 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass|
The Blazers are crazy shorthanded tonight. CJ McCollum remains out and Damian Lillard has been ruled out again, while Larry Nance Jr. and Cody Zeller are also out. Portland does not have a very deep rotation, so that means the few guys remaining should get outsize minutes and roles again.
Portland’s last game was the first one this season for Anfernee Simons without either Dame or CJ since Simons missed the last two such games, and Simons exploded with a monster game. He had 43 points and seven assists, and he took 16 shots from beyond the arc.
Maybe Simons puts up another big scoring game. His +800 to score 30 or more points at FanDuel seems a bit long. But he can also be a pretty streaky scorer, and there’s no guarantee we’ll see anything close to that huge 3-point volume again if his shots aren’t falling.
What we can feel pretty certain about is that Simons will be out there either way handling quite a bit and running most of the offense. That’s why I’ll stick with the assists tonight. Simons had 10 potential assists last game per NBA Advanced Metrics, and he converted seven of them. That implies a little luck since normally only around half of those convert, but it still means this assists line today is low since we only need five.
We’re projecting Simons at 5.5 assists, and our Props Tool rates this a 10 out of 10. If you want to get more aggressive, you can play Simons at +220 at FanDuel to have six or more assists instead. That’s only one more, but it’s probably going to be cutting it close.
If you’re looking for a few more ways to play the shorthanded Blazers, you might also consider Nassir Little to go over 6.5 rebounds at -130 at DraftKings. He’s projected at 36 minutes with Portland so short, and he’s averaging 8.5 boards per 36 this season. You can also play Simons under 0.5 steals + blocks at DraftKings. That’s at +135, and the diminutive Simons has gone without a stock in 21 of his 31 games, though most of them are off the bench of course.
Build a Same Game Parlay if you like, get aggressive with some of these alternate overs, or just stick with the Simons assists over. I’ll play the over 4.5 dimes at any plus number.