NBA Player Prop Bets, Picks for Thursday, Including CJ McCollum, Chris Paul & More (June 3)
Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Phoenix Suns standouts Chris Paul, left, and Mikal Bridges.
The first round of the NBA Eastern Conference’s first round of playoff games is a wrap, but three of the four series in the West are still in action.
On Thursday, we head into a pair of Game 6 affairs, with both the Portland Trail Blazers and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers on the brink of elimination. Could this be LeBron James’s last playoff game of the year?
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
CJ McCollum — Over 30.5 Points + Rebounds + Assists (-115)
|Nuggets vs. Blazers||Blazers -5|
|Time | TV||8 p.m. ET | TNT|
This has not been CJ McCollum’s finest playoff series thus far.
Doesn’t it feel like McCollum has largely failed to put his stamp on the series yet? What was the CJ game? What’s the McCollum moment that comes to mind? There aren’t many, at least not good ones, and he’s too good of a player to keep down for too long.
McCollum’s shooting has been quite cold at just 44% from the field, and he’s yet to score more than 22 in a game. However, this is the end for the Blazers if he doesn’t show up and history tells us he’s due for a big game at some point.
That said, this feels like the night, with Portland going home and the season on the line. Plus you have an exhausted Damian Lillard, who can’t put up a barrage of 3-pointers every single time out.
We’ve been playing McCollum’s 3s over frequently in this space, and our Props Tool likes that one again, but I’m shooting for a bigger target and just going for a big game overall.
McCollum is averaging 40.3 minutes per game for the series and always plays huge minutes in Portland’s biggest games without tiring down, so that shouldn’t be a problem. And even in a quieter series, McCollum is averaging 20.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game.
That rebounding number is way up from McCollum’s season average, with at least six boards in four of the five games, and his assists number has risen the last two games with Denver forcing the ball out of Lillard’s hands more often. McCollum has 15 assists the last two games, so I definitely want the assists and rebounds in on our bet.
Still, we’re going to need McCollum to score or we aren’t getting there, and that’s one thing he hasn’t done very well yet this series. He’s shooting 35% on 3s, and has gotten to the free-throw line two or fewer times in all but one game. Even so, McCollum is getting a lot of shots up, and though he has yet to crack 22 points, he’s also scored at least 18 every game.
That’s a very high floor for a player already playing around his low point as a scorer, and McCollum has actually gone over 30.5 PRA in all five playoff games, even with his lack of huge scoring nights.
I think we finally get a big game from him, and with McCollum, we know that could mean going over 30.5 on points alone if he really gets hot. However, with his rebounding and assist numbers up, we might not need such a huge effort. Either way, I want the over and I’ll play to -135 odds.
Chris Paul — Under 8.5 Assists (-134)
|Suns vs. Lakers||Lakers -2|
|Time | TV||10:30 p.m. ET | TNT|
So, can the Phoenix Suns really do it? Can Chris Paul knock his buddy LeBron James out of the playoffs and deal him his first first-round series loss ever?
He’ll have to do it on the road if it’s going to happen, because James and the Lakers are back to the Staples Center. He’ll also have to do it with potentially one healthy shoulder.
The Suns have announced that Paul will be active, and you know he’ll certainly give it a shot, but that shoulder has not looked quite right since the Game 1 injury. And it sure looked like he injured it again in the Game 5 win.
Like it or not, that’s one very easy way to go under this assists number — just from getting limited action from Paul. After all, you can’t get nine assists from the bench and I don’t think Cliff Paul is around to help out on this contest.
There’s also the chance that Paul ends up playing fewer minutes in a blowout, and that could go either way. In Game 5, it was because the Lakers no-showed and it was a victory lap. If Anthony Davis is out, it’s not impossible that could happen again.
It could also go the other way if “Playoff LeBron” shows up and the Lakers run out to a big lead, leaving the Suns to call off the dogs early and save their energy for a deciding Game 7 showdown.
So… what if Paul actually plays his usual minutes?
Well, that hasn’t gone so well this series either. Paul is averaging only 9.4 points and 6.8 assists per game this series. And granted, he’s playing only 28.2 minutes per game and clearly isn’t healthy, but that’s part of the equation here. Paul has gone under 8.5 assists in four of his five games this series, and the only over was by just one assist.
The Lakers’ defense is really tough, and these are low-scoring, tight games. If Los Angeles has any chance in this one, it will almost certainly be because the defense showed up.
Honestly, with Paul’s shoulder ailing, I’m surprised we are getting a line this high. There are just too many ways for him to go under, so I’ve got to fade Paul in this spot. I’ll play to -150 odds.
Mikal Bridges — Under 13.5 Points + Assists (-110)
|Suns vs. Lakers||Lakers -2|
|Time | TV||10:30 p.m. ET | TNT|
This has been a breakout season for Mikal Bridges, who is one of my favorite young NBA role players.
Bridges has length for days and has become an All-Defense caliber defender, plus he’s a high intelligence player with a great feel for the game who makes smart, intuitive plays. He’s also becoming a very nice shooter, hitting 42.5% of his 3s this season with 4.4 attempts per game. Bridges averaged 13.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in the regular season.
So, why are we betting against him?
Well, look at Bridges’ numbers this postseason: 9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. He’s down in all three areas, and that’s despite his minutes actually ticking up to 33.0 per game. And he hasn’t gone cold as a shooter, either. Bridges is shooting 42.9% from behind the arc for the series, with at least two makes in every game. So, what’s happening?
First, Bridges is a 3-and-D guy, and the D is the important role in this series, because he’s spending a significant chunk of each game attempting to defend James. That’s a great way to use up your energy. And it’s pretty normal for top defenders to score less at the other end, because they’re saving all they’ve got for the defensive end of things.
Bridges is also making only 1.0 field goal per game inside the arc in the playoffs. The Lakers’ defense is too smart to give up some of these easy back cuts and too big when he does get near the rim. The defense being that good also means Bridges isn’t getting much time on the ball — Phoenix needs Paul or Devin Booker doing as much handling as possible.
That means fewer shots and fewer potential assists, and that’s quite alright with Phoenix as long as it means Bridges keeping James in check.
Really, this is a bet on James. It’s an elimination game for The King, and he’s going to make life tough on Bridges, Jae Crowder, Cam Johnson and anyone else unfortunate enough to get in his way.
Bridges has gone under 13.5 points plus assists in four of five games this series, so I’ll bet on him doing under again here. I’ll play to -130 odds.