NBA Player Prop Bets & Picks: How to Value CJ McCollum & Damian Lillard (Wednesday, May 12)
Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Damian Lillard #0 talks with CJ McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers.
- The red-hot Portland Trail Blazers take on the West’s likely No. 1 seed Utah Jazz in tonight's marquee game.
- Brandon Anderson is playing two props tonight from that game using our Action Labs projections.
- So, what should we expect from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum?
We’re down to just a few games left in the NBA regular season, and the marquee game on tonight’s slate pits the red-hot Portland Trail Blazers against the likely top-seeded Utah Jazz. Two of our top three props tonight come from that one game.
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
Raul Neto, Over 10.5 points (-118)
|Wizards vs. Hawks||Hawks -6.5|
|Time | TV||7 p.m. ET | ESPN|
Did you know that the Washington Wizards have players other than Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal? It’s true. They even field five actual basketball players each night.
After all, someone has to convert all those Westbrook assists. Westbrook’s assist over/under line is up to an absurd 14.5 by the way. I commented on how silly it was that Westbrook’s line was up to 11.5 assists a few weeks ago — and he’s been so good since then that the line has raised by three full assists.
Our Props Tool rates that under as the best player on the board today, but I’m done betting against Russ numbers this season. Instead, I’m going to be on one of his teammates who should benefit if he gets those 15 assists (which, by the way, he has each of the last five games!).
Enter Raul Neto. Neto has actually started the last 13 games for the Wizards as Washington continues its surprising turnaround push for the playoffs, and he’s mostly out there for his veteran savvy and his defense. But Neto can score some when needed, and the Wiz need to replace 31 points missing tonight with Bradley Beal sidelined.
Neto scored 12 his last time out against in this exact same matchup against the Hawks, and Beal was out in that game too. Neto took 11 shots, a good sign for us.
The last time Beal was out, Neto took 17 shots and scored 24 in one of his best games of the season. When Beal missed a week around the end of April, Neto averaged 11.0 points per game in those four games despite starting only once and playing under 25 MPG, and he averaged 10.5 shots per game.
The takeaway here is that Neto is getting shots up when Beal is out. He’s gone over 10.5 points in four of those last six Beal-less games, and he’s taken enough shots to get there easily in the two unders too.
We project Neto at 13.5 points, giving us a real margin for error here. I’ll play the over to -140.
Damian Lillard, Under 28.5 points (-116)
|Trail Blazers vs. Jazz||Jazz -1|
|Time | TV||9:30 p.m. ET | ESPN|
So, we’re betting against Damian Lillard. Yes, that Lillard. The one in the MVP race with 30 or more points in five straight games. The one on the scorching hot Trail Blazers, who are now 8-1 over their last nine with a +136 point differential.
So, why are we betting against Lillard?
He is averaging 28.7 PPG on the season now, right at this number. He had 50 earlier this season, and the only surprise about that is the fact that he’s only hit 50 once all year. Lillard has gone over 28.5 points in 34 of 64 games, hitting the over just over half the time.
Again … why the take under?
Because of the opponent. The Jazz are elite defensively, even as they limp into the playoffs a bit, shorthanded. Lillard can be defended by elite teams, because the rest of the Blazers aren’t good enough to stop defenses from blitzing Dame and getting the ball out of his hands and forcing him into bad shots.
In the season opener, Lillard had his worst game of the season with just nine points. Notice how I had to write out the word instead of a numeral? Lillard was so bad against Utah in the opener that he didn’t even pass the AP-style test of hitting 10 or higher and getting numerals. He shot 4-of-12 from the field. The other Jazz game came a month ago. Lillard scored 23 in that one but shot 8-of-21.
Lillard blitzed the Jazz last year when Utah’s defense wasn’t as good, but Utah has traditionally been tough on him and Lillard has gone under 28.5 points in 16 of 27 career games against Rudy Gobert’s Jazz. That’s a 59% hit rate to our under.
We project Lillard at 23.7 points, far short of this line, with nearly a 19% edge in our favor. The Jazz are still pushing to lock up the 1-seed, so expect their defense to show up here. I’ll play to -135.
CJ McCollum, Over 2.5 3s (-115)
|Trail Blazers vs. Jazz||Jazz -1|
|Time | TV||9:30 p.m. ET | ESPN|
If Lillard isn’t going to put up a big scoring line on the Jazz, someone else will have to score for Portland, and that someone is probably CJ McCollum.
This McCollum 3-pointer line remains too low, so we’ll keep coming back to it. The argument remains the same. McCollum is averaging a career-high 23.0 PPG this season in large part because his 3-point volume is up.
Instead of taking under six 3-point attempts per game like he did for most of his career, he’s all the way up to 9.0 attempts per game this season. That means he’s making 3.6 treys per game, by far a career best, and it means this number still feels a full 3-pointer too low.
McCollum has at least seven 3-point attempts in all but eight of his games this season. He almost always gets his shots up, and if he gets that many shots up, even a colder shooting night gives us a shot at three makes. In those two earlier games against the Jazz, McCollum attempted 10 and eight 3-pointers, right around his usual output. He made three in each, hitting the over both times.
For the season, McCollum has at least three 3s in 30 of his 44 games. That hits the over 68% of the time. Even better, he has at least two makes in all but four games, and one of those four was with super low minutes after his injury return. Two makes gets us within range of a winner in a game with a coin-flip line that should be close late.
We project McCollum at 3.4 makes tonight, right around his season average, and this remains a good bet. I’ll play to -135, and I’m happy to play both of these Blazers bets together.