NBA Player Prop Bets & Predictions: Anderson’s Top 3 Picks for Wednesday, Including Jonas Valanciunas & De’Andre Hunter (May 26)
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas #17.
- Wednesday's NBA Playoffs slate features three pivotal Game 2 matchups, especially Hawks vs. Knicks and Grizzlies vs. Jazz.
- NBA betting analyst Brandon Anderson targets three NBA player prop bets from those two games, including plays on De'Andre Hunter and Jonas Valanciunas.
- Check out Anderson's full breakdown below, including the sportsbooks offering the best odds for each bet as of writing.
What a wild four days of NBA Playoffs it’s been!
None of the Western Conference’s top-four seeds has a series lead, and the Los Angeles Clippers are already on the brink of elimination, down 0-2 with a pair of home losses. Tonight, the No. 1-seed Utah Jazz hope to avoid the same fate against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Our NBA player prop bets have been on fire to start the playoffs. The picks from this column have gone 5-1 in postseason action — one rimmed-out CJ McCollum 3-pointer away from a perfect start. Let’s keep the momentum going.
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
De’Andre Hunter, over 4.5 rebounds + assists (-113)
|Hawks vs. Knicks||Knicks -2|
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | TNT|
Both the Knicks and Hawks feature a sophomore player who has broken out this season after being prematurely written off as a high-lottery rookie bust. Most people know about RJ Barrett after his breakout with New York, but not many have noticed De’Andre Hunter yet.
Hunter played on the Virginia Cavaliers’ 2019 national championship team, and he might have been its best player as a freshman. He struggled to stay on the court with the Hawks as a rookie but significantly improved his game during the long pandemic break (Atlanta was, uh … not playing in the bubble, as you might recall).
When Hunter returned to the court this season, he looked like the 3-and-D wing Atlanta envisioned next to Trae Young, and then some. Over Hunter’s first 17 games this season, he averaged 17.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 33.3 minutes per game. He knocked down 38% of his 3s and gave the Hawks a legit wing defender for the first time in ages. Suddenly, with Atlanta shorthanded early, Hunter was the Hawks’ second-best player, not to mention a strong candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
Unfortunately, De’Andre Hunter got hurt in his 18th game on Jan. 29. Since then, he has played only six games and is still working his way back. Nonetheless, it was clear in Game 1 that Atlanta highly values Hunter’s skillset. Even though Hunter had started only once in over three months, the Hawks inserted their young wing back into the starting lineup to start the playoffs, leaving Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari to scrap for bench minutes. Hunter didn’t have a huge line but looked good, knocking down a couple jumpers and bothering Julius Randle on defense.
Randle is the reason for Hunter optimism. Atlanta doesn’t have a good matchup for New York’s dark horse MVP candidate — except for Hunter. John Collins hasn’t gotten the job done, Clint Capela is needed at the rim, and no one else fits. That should mean clear minutes for Hunter, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him ramp up from the 22.3 he played in Game 1.
Even if that’s all he plays, it might be enough to clear this total. Hunter had four rebounds in Game 1. He didn’t record an assist but has at least one dime in all but one other game this season. Remember, Hunter averaged 5.6 boards and 2.3 assists before getting hurt this season. Even if he plays only two-thirds of his minutes total from Game 1, he would still be in strong position to go over 4.5 rebounds + assists.
Hunter went over 4.5 rebounds + assists in 16-of-24 games this season, hitting this over 67% of the time. I’m counting on quality minutes from the sophomore, and he should produce if he’s out there. I’ll play the over to -130.
Jonas Valanciunas, over 1.5 assists (-139)
|Grizzlies vs. Jazz||Jazz -9|
|Time | TV||10 p.m. ET | TNT|
Over the last week, Jonas Valanciunas has looked like a star.
First, Valanciunas put up a monster game to knock out the San Antonio Spurs in the first play-in game, racking up 23 points and 23 rebounds and dominating the game. He wasn’t quite as loud against the Golden State Warriors but did have nine points, 12 rebounds, and three assists in only 25.6 minutes. Moreover, Valanciunas added the toughness that helped the Grizzlies get the shock win.
That was cute and all, but most — including myself — counted the Grizzlies out against the Jazz … right up until Memphis punched Utah in the mouth and stole Game 1 on the road. Valanciunas is at the heart of this team’s toughness, and he was huge again in Game 1. He played nearly 40 minutes and had 15 points, 12 rebounds, and three assists. Even more importantly, he played MVP candidate Rudy Gobert to a draw, at least.
Those 39.4 minutes are especially encouraging. Utah will always have a big center on the court, whether it’s Gobert or Derrick Favors. As a result, there is little concern that Valanciunas may get played off the court against a smaller, faster opponent like the Warriors.
Gobert is a key too. Because Gobert likes to sag toward the rim where he’s an elite rim protector, that gives Valanciunas passing lanes, and he has a nice touch as a passer.
Valanciunas has accumulated 12 assists in four games against the Jazz this season. That’s three assists per game — and he has dished out multiple dimes in each meeting, hitting this over all four times the teams have met. When Valanciunas has played at least 28 minutes this season, he’s gone over 1.5 assists in 25-of-35 appearances, hitting the over 71% of the time.
Hopefully, our big guy stays out of foul trouble. We project Valanciunas at 2.5 assists, and I’ll play the over to -155 odds.
Bojan Bogdanovic, under 19.5 points (-105)
|Grizzlies vs. Jazz||Jazz -9|
|Time | TV||10 p.m. ET | TNT|
That was the last time Donovan Mitchell suited up for the Utah Jazz. It was a full 40 days ago, and Jazz fans probably feel like they’ve been wandering in the wilderness without their leading scorer. Mitchell was finally supposed to return in Game 1 before being a late scratch, but it appears very likely that he’ll play in Game 2 tonight.
Mitchell averaged 26.4 points per game this season for the Jazz, so it shouldn’t be particularly shocking to note that Mitchell’s return will shake up Utah’s allocation of minutes, points, shots, and every other stat.
Bojan Bogdanovic is one of those players who could see his numbers swing significantly. Before April 17, Bogdanovic was averaging 15.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. A perfectly nice season! But once Mitchell went out — along with Mike Conley for a chunk of April — those numbers leaped to 22.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. That’s a 48% increase in scoring!
That’s what happens when your team is missing its top leading scorer, and at times, it’s top two guards.
Well, Conley and Mitchell are back tonight, so the number that’s relevant here is Bogdanovic’s previous average of 15.4 points per game — not his exceptional 22.8-point average. Bogdanovic scored 29 points in Game 1, exploding in the fourth quarter to pull the Jazz back into the game. But remember: Mitchell didn’t play that one either.
In the 56 games before April 17, Bogdanovic went under 19.5 points 41 times. That hits our under 73% of the time, giving us a very strong edge. We project Bogdanovic at 15.9 points tonight, squarely about in line with his season numbers before this recent stretch without Mitchell.
Let’s hope that Mitchell isn’t a late scratch again. I love that we’re getting this at nearly a coin flip. Our Props Tool rates this a 10 out of 10, and I’d play the under to -135.