Tonight, Kevin Durant will take the floor for the first time as a Phoenix Sun. The Suns will be double-digit favorites as they battle the Hornets in Charlotte. I have my eye on the man who will be setting Durant up.
In Boston, the Celtics will host the Cavaliers in a possible playoff preview. Cleveland leads the season series 2-0 after winning two of the most exciting regular season games in overtime. Donovan Mitchell was pivotal in both of those games, and the Cavaliers will need another big performance from him tonight.
Speaking of possible playoff matchups, the 76ers will be in Miami to take on the Heat. This one really will have a playoff feel as the teams played on Monday in Philadelphia, a 101-99 Miami victory. In that game, Jimmy Butler was huge in the victory and nearly dropped a triple double. Can he do it again?
NBA Player Props & Picks
Chris Paul Over 8.5 Assists (-105)
|Time | TV||7:00 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass|
For full transparency, I originally planned on skipping this game. The Hornets enter on a five-game winning streak, but they just lost LaMelo Ball to a fractured right ankle for the remainder of the season. The blowout potential is high here. However, I saw this line, which I believe is a couple of assists too low.
Chris Paul is averaging nine assists per game this season, so if he has an average game, he will go over this line. He has gone over in five of his last nine, including four games with 10 assists. In two other games, he was hooked on eight assists. Keep in mind this is all before he begins playing with one of the greatest scorers in NBA history.
Paul will share the floor with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. Durant was averaging 29.7 points, shooting 56% from the field and about 60% from midrange in Brooklyn. If Paul has a potential assist to Durant, there is a good chance that he converts it. Booker is also a midrange assassin who is averaging 26.5 points. Ayton is capable of big scoring nights as well.
Durant has not played since January, so I anticipate a minutes limit. The Suns will also have to build chemistry. However, the Hornets are a good team to work out the kinks against. They are 28th in scoring defense and 29th in assists.
As an added bonus, this is a homecoming game for Paul, who is a native of Winston Salem, North Carolina. He could look to put on a show in front of his family and friends. The ball will undoubtedly be in Paul’s hands as the quarterback of the Suns offense, and that should lead to at least nine assists. I am taking advantage now, but this line will move to 10 or 11.5 assists with more games played with Durant.
Donovan Mitchell Over 25.5 Points (-115)
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN|
Following his 71-point outburst against the Bulls, Donovan Mitchell went through a rough patch by his standards. However, he has played more like himself of late. He has scored at least 26 points in five of his last seven games, which included four games of 30 points. He is averaging 29.8 points per game in that span.
Tonight, Mitchell gets the Boston Celtics, who present a tough matchup on paper. The Celtics are seventh in Defensive Efficiency and third in defending shooting guards, according to props.cash. Reigning defensive player of the year Marcus Smart will likely be the one guarding Mitchell. However, that has not affected him this season.
Mitchell is 1-for-2 against the Celtics with games of 41 and 25 points. You can also take him for 25 points at -150 if you want to avoid the hook. However, I expect a big performance from Mitchell. As two of the top four teams in the East, it is possible that there is Cavaliers-Celtics series at some point this season, whether it is in the second round or the conference finals.
I am expecting Mitchell play this game with a playoff intensity, where he averages 28.3 points per game for his career. It doesn’t hurt that he averaged 19 shots and nine 3s per game in February. That type of volume should help him score 26 points.
Jimmy Butler Over 32.5 PRA (-110)
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass|
Speaking of playoff performers, few are better than Jimmy Butler. Against the 76ers, Butler has the added motivation of facing a former team along with facing a team that his Heat may see in the first round. On Monday, Butler had 23 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, finishing one assist shy of a triple double.
Monday’s performance continued a string of strong play for Butler. In 10 February games, he averaged 21.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists for 32.8 points, rebounds and assists. He went over this line in six of those 10 games. When he went over, it was relatively sweat free as he recorded at least 35 PRA in all six games and three games of 43 or more PRA.
The 76ers are a favorable matchup for Butler on the boards because center Bam Adebayo has to battle Joel Embiid on the interior. On Monday, Philadelphia’s perimeter players De’Anthony Melton, Tyrese Maxey, P.J. Tucker, Georges Niang and Jalen McDaniels combined for just 13 rebounds. Only Tucker and Melton average more than four boards per game this season.
The Heat will be without Kyle Lowry again, so Butler will again be Miami’s primary facilitator. In games without Lowry this season, Butler is averaging 6.1 assists, and his PRA average increases to 36.2. Additionally on Monday, Butler recorded a double-double, which was +1000. At +750 for tonight, I think it is still worth a sprinkle.