NBA Player Prop Bets & Picks: 5 Picks for Every Christmas Day Game (Dec. 25)
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images. Pictured: Forward Serge Ibaka (9) during national anthem in 2019.
- Five props for five Christmas Day NBA games. What else could you ask for this holiday season?
- Brandon Anderson breaks down five props lighting up the new Action Labs prop tool, including LeBron and Giannis under props.
Merry Christmas, y’all!
What a gift it is to get NBA basketball this Christmas. Back on March 11, we didn’t know if we’d even get NBA again in 2020. Instead, we got a perfectly executed bubble, an incredible, memorable playoffs, another LeBron James championship — and now we get the start of a new season too. Well done, NBA and everyone involved.
We’re off to a scorching start on props this season at 5-1 on our best bets so far after going perfect on Wednesday night. Prop bets are a great way to build your bank roll, and there are serious margins to be had early in the season.
Christmas means NBA, and we’ve got five games today featuring the best teams in the league and many of its brightest stars. And as a special treat today, we’re going five deep on our props, offering one best bet from every Christmas Day game so you’ve got something to root for all game long.
For those who are new to this article, we’ll be using the NBA Insiders 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. You can also use the tool to find the best price at 40 different sportsbooks for any props you want to bet.
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
|Click on a game to jump ahead|
|Pelicans vs. Nets||12 p.m. ET|
|Warriors vs. Bucks||2:30 p.m. ET|
|Nets vs. Celtics||5 p.m. ET|
|Mavericks vs. Lakers||8 p.m. ET|
|Clippers vs. Nuggets||10:30 p.m. ET|
Moe Harkless under 6.5 points (-105)
|Pelicans vs. Heat||-3.5|
|Tipoff||12 p.m. ET|
Hark-less, herald angels sing!
We’re starting Christmas Day off with Miami’s new Christmas-named forward. Harkless got the start as the Jae Crowder replacement, playing alongside Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson. And if Moe Harkless is playing, you know he’s out there for one reason and one reason only: defense.
Harkless has always been a great defender, and Miami prioritizes defense. But the reason you didn’t even remember Harkless was on this team, and why he’s bounced around the NBA during his career, is because the man simply doesn’t add much on offense. Harkless averaged 6.6 PPG over the last three seasons, right at this number. He scored a whopping three points in his Miami debut, going 1-for-4 from the field and hitting one of his two threes.
That’s Harkless in a nutshell. He played 23 minutes in the opener, right in line with his recent seasons, and he pretty much only shoots when he absolutely has to. He’s never averaged a full three pointer per game in any season and typically takes around five shots a game.
He also averages 1.4 free throw attempts per game, so you’re not getting any freebies. At under 6.5, you’re basically just hoping Harkless doesn’t randomly hit a pair of threes. He did that six times all last season and finished under 6.5 points in 37 of 62 games, hitting this prop at a 59.7% clip.
This is the only prop on the board rated higher than an 8 in the early game, and we’ve got it at a perfect 10, with 4.8 projected points for big Moe.
How could you fade Moe Harkless? We’ll find a way, Kanye, and we’ll do it to -130.
Giannis under 14.5 rebounds (+100)
|Warriors vs. Bucks||-10|
|Tipoff||2:30 p.m. ET|
Perhaps you’ve heard of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s two-time defending MVP. Giannis may have missed the tying free throw in the final seconds of the opener to cost the Bucks the game, but you know Giannis will show up on NBA Christmas for all his devoted fans.
So why are we fading him?
It’s simple really: it’s because the Bucks are so good and because the Warriors are so, well, not. Milwaukee is a double-digit favorite against Golden State, and the Warriors got run off the court in their opener against Brooklyn. That game was over midway through the second quarter, and with Milwaukee ostensibly an even better opponent and the Warriors still missing Draymond Green, this game looks like a blowout too.
For that reason, I’m hunting Bucks unders here. Unders are almost always the better play, all things being equal, because it’s always just easier to hit an under. An off night does the trick, but so does a tweaked ankle — or a blowout that limits playing time.
Antetokounmpo has seen his rebounds per game increase every single season in his career. He was at 13.6 last season, up from 12.5 the year before. Even still, this 14.5 number is a heck of a line. Giannis was under 14.5 rebounds in 37 of 63 games last season (58.7%) and again in the opener, where he had 13.
He’s not even hitting this number most of the time anyway, and all the better if this game is over in the third quarter. It’s hard to rebound while you’re laughing on the sidelines, after all. All the better that we’re getting even odds here, but I’d play this one up to -125.
Kevin Durant over 3.5 assists (-105)
|Nets vs. Celtics||+3|
|Tipoff||5 p.m. ET|
Kevin Durant is back in action, and that alone feels like a Christmas gift worth celebrating.
Durant looks like himself so far, and that alone compels me to bet on him while this still feels like a brand new toy I just unwrapped for Christmas. KD has shown no signs of rust so far in his return from tearing his Achilles. He was great in the preseason and scored 22 in the opener, though he had only 5 boards and 3 assists.
That latter line is our focus here since it feels like an overreaction to one game. Durant made a big leap as a playmaker his MVP season in 2014, hitting a career high 5.5 assists per game at the time and averaging 5.3 APG ever since. And remember, that’s across two teams, too, so it’s not like we should just expect all that playmaking to disappear even on a team where Kyrie Irving dominates the ball at times. It’s not like Durant didn’t play all those previous games with Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook.
One culprit for Durant’s low assist totals so far? He simply hasn’t played many minutes yet, and that will probably change in a game that should be close all the way. We don’t know yet if there will be a minutes cap here, but Durant averages an assist every 6.7 minutes since his MVP season.
We’re projecting Durant at an even 5 dimes, and I’m not sure what’s sillier — the 3.5 line, which feels a full assist too low, or the fact that the over is still nearly even odds. I’d be willing to play this as high as 4.5 assists at -125 odds, so you’ve got a lot of leeway here and a chance to enjoy the return of KD.
LeBron under 7.5 rebounds (+115)
|Mavericks vs. Lakers||-6|
|Tipoff||8 p.m. ET|
Fading LeBron on Christmas doesn’t feel like a particularly sound idea, but we cashed in on a LeBron fade on Opening Night, so maybe we can fade the King successfully a second straight game.
Remember, there are always a number of ways to hit an under. The easiest way is conventionally, of course — just by coming up short. LeBron averaged 7.8 rebounds per game last year for the Lakers, his lowest total since 2016. He also did that in 34.6 minutes per game, his lowest total ever.
In case you forgot, LeBron is old and has a lot of mileage on those legs, and he just got done winning another championship like three minutes ago. James is playing with June in mind already, and everyone is expecting him to take it easy at the start of the season. That should be the case even more so as he plays through a tweaked angle he sustained against the Clippers.
This is nothing but a volume and effort play. Even the King is mortal, so think of this as betting against LeBron playing a full load or going whole hog after those last couple rebounds. James had only five boards in 28 minutes in the opener. If his minutes are a bit limited again as expected, the rebounds total should be too.
All the better that we’re getting plus money here. I’ll play this down to -110.
Serge Ibaka under 14 points (-119)
|Clippers vs. Nuggets||+2.5|
|Tipoff||10:30 p.m. ET|
Santa Claus goes by many names around the world — Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Saint Nicholas, and more. As we wrap up a profitable Christmas Day, we’ll hope Santa goes by one more name: Sergeballu LaMu Sayonga Loom Walahas Jonas Hugo Ibaka.
Ibaka was a big Clippers addition this offseason as a Montrezl Harrell replacement, giving LA a very different sort of player and a guy who should give the Clips much more defense and versatility in the playoffs. He was never expected to replace Harrell’s numbers, but he put up a solid 15 points in his Clippers debut, hitting a pair of threes and adding 3-of-5 from the charity stripe.
That big debut probably pushed this line a full point or two above where it ought to be. Ibaka did score over 15 PPG his last two seasons in Toronto, but he shouldn’t be as much of a scorer in LA, where he’ll have to share shots with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams, and Marcus Morris. These scoring spikes will come at times, but he’s not going to hit multiple threes or get to the line five times most games.
We’re projecting Ibaka at a more modest 10.6 points, providing a lot of margin for error here. There’s also a chance Ibaka concedes minutes to Ivica Zubac in this matchup since Zubac should match up better with Nikola Jokic. Zubac played 30 or more minutes in three of the final four playoff games against Jokic just a few months ago.
Hopefully Serge Ibaka’s Christmas gifts are en absentia, gifting our wallets by staying out of the scoring column. Our Props tool rates this as the only 10-rated prop in the Christmas finale, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the line drop to 13.5 or 13 but would consider playing anyway. At 14 points, I’ll play it to -140.