NBA Player Prop Bets, Picks: Look to Al Horford, Ja Morant for Value (January 6)
Elsa/Getty Images. Pictured: Ja Morant
Thursday night means NBA basketball once the NFL season starts to wrap up, and now that there’s no more Thursday night NFL games, it’s time to hoop.
And in my world, that means it’s time to win some NBA props cash.
We’ll be using the Action Labs Player Prop tool to compare our NBA projections to the props posted at a variety of sportsbooks. 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
Al Horford, over 3.5 assists (+126), over 5.5 assists (+450)
|Celtics vs. Knicks||Celtics -1.5|
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
The Celtics are still struggling to find their offense for the season. Boston ranks only 19th in Offensive Rating, per Basketball Reference, and the Celtics rank 24th in Effective Field Goal Percentage and 23rd in assists per game. In short, Boston is still taking too many difficult shots and not generating enough good looks with ball movement and modern offense.
Over the last five games, it feels like the Celtics are making a purposeful change, starting to run their offense through Al Horford a bit more. Horford has always been one of the game’s best passing big men, and he’s been generating some good looks for his Boston teammates.
Horford is averaging 5.6 APG over the last five games, a pretty big leap from his 3.5 APG before this stretch. The advanced numbers bear out the change too. Looking at Potential Assists at NBA Advanced Stats, Horford actually makes the leaderboard at 9.8 per game over the last five, just ahead of Steph Curry and another big man passer he’ll face tonight, Julius Randle. By contrast, Horford had been averaging just 5.9 potential assists per game before this recent stretch. It’s easy to see how many more opportunities he’s getting.
This number, then, is way too low. Horford has at least five assists in four of these five games, and we only need four and are getting a plus number. That means this could be a chance to look for an alternate over. You can play Horford to have at least six assists at +470, or at least eight at +1500.
Eight seems a bit much, though he did do that five games ago. Be careful, though — Jayson Tatum was out for four of these five games and is back now, though Horford still led the team in potential assists with Tatum back last night. Still, six is reasonably within range, especially with an implied 17.5% likelihood.
If you want, you also go back to the Jaylen Brown 3-pointers well which hit for us last night. Brown is averaging 3.4 made 3s on 9.2 attempts over his last 11 games, with at least seven attempts in every game. He’s gone over 2.5 3s (-120) in eight of those 11. You can also play at least four 3s (five of the last 11) at +205 or at least five (three of 11) at +520. The odds are starting to fall but still in our favor.
I probably won’t get overly aggressive on these since both Brown and Horford saw their numbers boosted with Tatum out, but the lower alternate over for both is pretty reasonable and comes off at +1624 as a Same Game Parlay at FanDuel.
If you’re sticking with just the more certain Horford over 3.5 assists, I’ll play confidently at +126 or any plus number.
Ja Morant, under 34.5 points + assists (-108)
|Pistons vs. Grizzlies||Grizzlies -12.5|
|Time | TV||8:30 p.m. ET|
Ja Morant and the Grizzlies are having a moment. The Grizzlies have won six in a row and are firmly planted as the 4-seed now, well above the rest of the fray out West. And Ja Morant is their superstar, a clear All Star and a front runner for Most Improved Player as I predicted back before the season.
Morant is on his hottest stretch of the season as a scorer. He’s scored 33, 41, 30, 36, and 26 over the last five games, his hottest stretch of the season at 33.2 PPG. Right now it looks like Morant could be an All-NBA guy — maybe even a First Team contender. Few players are hotter.
And that’s exactly why it’s time to fade him.
What goes up must come down, and Morant’s hot stretch and buzz has inflated his number a bit too high here. Even for superstars, 34.5 points + assists is a steep ask.
Morant has gone over that number in four of the past five games. But the entire rest of the season, he had only gone over it in seven of 22 games. In other words, he’s gone under 34.5 PA in 16 of 27 games, hitting this under 59% of the time.
All the better that the Grizz are playing the terrible Pistons. That makes it more likely that Memphis coasts to an easier win and Morant sees limited playing time late, further suppressing his numbers. I’m tempted to play Morant’s under 26.5 points and under 7.5 assists together as an SGP, but I’ll play the combo instead as a safer line and just go for the more certain win.
We project Ja at 23.3 points and 7.0 assists. I’ll play to -130.
Devonte’ Graham, over 3.5 assists (-170), over 4.5 assists (+124)
|Pelicans vs. Warriors||Warriors -3|
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
Devonte’ Graham’s assist over has been a nice value bet all season. The books are starting to catch on and move the juice against us, but Graham is also improving as a passer and seeing his assist numbers go up, so there’s still some value there.
Over the past nine games, Graham is up to 5.4 assists per game. His potential assists are up to 10.2 per game, per NBA Advanced Stats. Compare that to his numbers before this stretch, at 4.2 APG and 8.8 potential APG. It’s not a huge uptick but still very noticeable and clear.
During these last nine games, Devonte’ has at least three assists in every game. That’s a very stable floor, and he actually has at least four assists in all but one game. That hits our over 3.5 dimes in eight of nine games, a robust 89% hit rate. Even at -170, that’s only an implied 63% hit rate, so that play is still clearly in our favor.
Graham has at least five assists in five of these last nine games. That means 56% of the time he’s hit this alternate over, and the +124 implies a 45% hit. The advantage isn’t quite as strong, but the payout is much better. If you want to take it a step further, you can play Graham to have at least six assists at +240 — he’s done that in four of the nine games, a 44% hit rate versus 29% implied. Heck, Graham’s had eight assists twice in this stretch and you can play him to hit at least eight dimes at +800: 22% hit rate versus 11% implied. All of these are in our favor so it’s just a matter of how aggressive you want to be.
I still don’t totally trust the Pelicans, and I expect an inspired Warriors performance after a loss last night, so I won’t go too crazy. I don’t recommend playing multiple spots here, in case Graham and the Pels have a dud. Pick your best spot and take a shot. I think I may just take the safest win here and go for the over 3.5. I’ll play that one to -190 or pivot to an alternate over.
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