NBA Player Prop Bets & Picks: Zion, Unheralded Roby Highlight Small Slate (Jan. 19)

NBA Player Prop Bets & Picks: Zion, Unheralded Roby Highlight Small Slate (Jan. 19) article feature image
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Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson.

  • Only two NBA games are featured on Tuesday's NBA slate, but Brandon Anderson has come up with three solid picks.
  • Anderson is chasing two sophomores -- including Zion Williamson -- among his best bets spelled out below.

We did it up big on a huge Martin Luther King Day, with one prop for every game and came away 5-4, up almost two units on the day thanks to +140 and +164 hits on a wild rollercoaster day. We missed a couple props by 0.5 and hit another by 0.5 with a rebound by Derrick Rose in the final minute to give us a winning day.

Needless to say, Monday was a wild ride, but tonight will be more serene. There are just two games on the slate, and we’ve got props in both. We are riding two sophomores, one whom you’ve heard plenty about in Zion Williamson and another you might have never even heard of.

For those who are new to this article, we’ll be using the ActionLabs 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.

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NBA Player Props & Picks

Zion Williamson, Over 21.5 Points (-110)

Pelicans at Jazz Jazz -6
Bet Now
Time 9 p.m. ET

Let’s have a little fun, shall we?

This Zion Williamson thing is a little weird. When he entered the league, he was one of the most hyped rookies in history and probably the biggest name since LeBron James.

We waited anxiously for every breathless report from practice and every highlight dunk. We went ballistic at his wild debut against the San Antonio Spurs.

And then, a funny thing happened. Zion stopped getting much buzz. Maybe it’s because the Pelicans missed the playoffs and had a disappointing bubble. Maybe Williamson just didn’t play enough games or minutes. Heck, it might have just gotten lost among the other 10 million things happening.

For whatever the reason, we forgot to collectively freak out about the fact Williamson is averaging 22.5 PPG on 61% True Shooting just 35 games into his NBA career.

And there’s the thing: he’s only getting started and might be making a leap right now.

Over his first six games this season, Zion scored 19.7 PPG on 55% from the field, taking 13.7 shots per game. In the five most recent games, he’s up to 26.2 PPG on 60% with 18.4 shots per game. It’s a palpable difference, and you see it on the court. Zion is playing bully ball.

He’s playing closer to the rim — he hasn’t even attempted a three since December — and powering through opponents. The Pelicans are feeding him repeatedly, letting him overpower the opposition’s defense and do his thing.

In case you’re wondering, 18.4 two-point shots is a lot of twos per game. Per Basketball Reference, Only seven times in the last decade has a player hoisted 18.4 twos per game for an entire season.

The last player to take 18 twos per game and hit 60% true shooting was Shaquille O’Neal in 2003. Before that it was 1997 Karl Malone, then 1995 David Robinson and Shaquille O’Neal in 1994. Starting to get the picture?

Williamson is really, really good and we should be talking a lot more about him. The sample size is still small, and we’ll see if this recent five-game sample means much going forward. For now, we’ll bank on the Pelicans continuing to feed their superstar near the rim and letting him do his thing, even against a very tough interior Utah defense.

I’ll ride the hot hand and play him over 21.5 points up to -135.

[Bet this prop at FanDuel and get an INSTANT $500 deposit match.]

Jamal Murray, Under 4.5 Assists (-115)

Thunder at Nuggets Nuggets -10
Bet Now
Time 9 p.m. ET

Jamal Murray was an absolute fireball in the bubble, but so far this new season, we’ve mostly seen the Murray from last regular season. Maybe Murray is still tired from the bubble. Perhaps that was just a special month, or maybe this is more about the rise of Nikola Jokic. For whatever the reason, Murray’s touches and shots are down from when we last saw him.

It’s not that Murray has been bad. His 20.3 PPG are a career high for the regular season, after all. But his assist rate has dropped from over 22% the last two seasons to under 17% in this one with so much more of the offense flowing through Jokic. Murray has gone under 4.5 assists in nine of 12 games this year. He’s just not getting nearly as many touches and passes this season.

In the three games Murray did go over 4.5 dimes, he played three of his five highest minutes totals this season in tough games against the Suns, Warriors, and Mavs. The Thunder don’t present nearly the same challenge, so we might also get reduce Murray minutes if Denver rolls and wins easily here.

Murray has been at three or four assists in over half his games, and that’s right where we project him, at 3.9 dimes. This should be close, but I’ll play the under to -130.

[Bet this prop at PointsBet and get an INSTANT $500 deposit match.]

Isaiah Roby, Over 4.5 Rebounds (-128)

Thunder at Nuggets Jazz -6
Bet Now
Time 9 p.m. ET

Have you ever bet money on a player you’ve literally never heard of before?

Be honest, you’ve never seen Isaiah Roby play ball, let alone know anything about him. Let me help you out, since Roby was one of my favorite sleepers in the draft a couple years ago.

Roby is a long, gangling forward out of Nebraska with a ton of upside. He has a huge wingspan and is super bouncy with a quick twitch and a terrific second jump. Roby was often forced to play center for the Cornhuskers as the biggest man on the team, even at 6’8″, and he held his own against bigger, more powerful Big Ten centers.

Roby was inconsistent as heck, and the flashes came and went — that’s why you’ve never heard of him and why he wasn’t a first round-draft pick.

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Now, Roby is being pigeonholed into a starting center role once again. The Thunder are starting Roby at center while Al Horford remains sidelined, and he’s been a bright spot.

In three starts this season, Roby is averaging 14.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in 26 minutes a game. He’s snagging a rebound every 2.2 minutes with Oklahoma City, and we only need five. He gets there in 11 minutes at that rate.

Now, all Roby has to do is stay out of foul trouble long enough to stay on the court and get five rebounds against the best center in the NBA in Jokic. That part won’t be easy. Roby, who fouled out last game, is averaging four fouls per start. It’s totally plausible that he could be on the pine with a couple fouls two minutes into this one.

However, if he’s out there, five rebounds should be a gimme. We’re projecting him at 25.3 minutes and 5.5 rebounds, and I’ll play Roby to -145.

[Bet this prop at FanDuel and get an INSTANT $500 deposit match.]

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