Friday NBA Player Prop Bets, Odds & Picks: Where to Find Value on Chris Paul, Two Other Defenders (April 2)

Friday NBA Player Prop Bets, Odds & Picks: Where to Find Value on Chris Paul, Two Other Defenders (April 2) article feature image
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Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns.

  • People often look at NBA player props from an offensive perspective, but Friday is all about the defense.
  • Brandon Anderson is eyeing three plays in three of Friday's games, including a bet on point god Chris Paul.
  • Check out how he's finding betting value using our Action Labs prop tool.

Are you feeling frisky? Let’s get a little defensive.

It feels like half the league’s stars are questionable heading into a weird Friday slate, so we’re going to do something a little different today. We’re only playing defensive props.

It won’t be easy. Defensive stats are notoriously high variance and unreliable, and players only get a couple stocks (steals + blocks) per game, if that. But books don’t pay quite as much attention to these numbers either, so let’s see if we can find some serious margin and steal a few wins.

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.

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NBA Player Props & Picks

Marcus Smart, Over 1.5 STL (+125)

Rockets vs. Celtics Celtics -11.5
Time | TV 7:30 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass
Best Book BetMGM

Marcus Smart is a great defender. There, you’re convinced, right?

It’s tough to rack up steals, no matter how defensive you are, in the NBA. Smart is one of the league’s elite guard defenders and can guard every position, and he is routinely near the top of the league in steals. He’s averaged at least 1.5 steal per game in all but one NBA season, and he’s at 1.6 SPG for his career.

Smart is playing a career high minutes per game this season at over 32 per game, and his minutes are up even higher lately at 37.1 MPG over the last six Celtics games. More time means more opportunity for steals, and it sure looks like there should be opportunity for steals tonight against a weird Rockets team.

Houston ranks top 10 in the NBA in most turnovers, and the Rockets have been especially turnover prone lately as they continue to adjust to all the new pieces. D.J. Augustin may settle this team down eventually, but he’s turned it over more than one in every six Houston possessions so far, and Kevin Porter Jr. is handling the ball a lot and still turns it over a ton as a young player. The absence of John Wall and Eric Gordon doesn’t help either.

Smart has at least one steal in 23 of 29 games this season, and he’s gone over 1.5 steals in almost half his games, 14 of 29. This feels close to a coin flip, and one weighted perhaps slightly in our favor with the increased playing time lately. That makes this worth a shake at +125 or any plus number.

Our Props Tool also likes Kemba Walker to go over 1.5 stocks. You get credit for blocks on that one too, and Kemba blocks more shots than you’d think. He’s gone over 1.5 stocks in 14 of his 29 games and is at +145, but if you’re only playing one Celtics, I’ll take the guy known for his defense.


Nerlens Noel, Over 2.5 STL + BLK (-155)

Mavericks vs. Knicks Mavericks -6
Time | TV 7:30 p.m. ET | NBA TV
Best Book BetMGM

Nerlens Noel is a stocks machine. It’s essentially the skill that has kept Noel in the league all these years, despite all the injuries and the inability to ever really find an offensive role.

No wonder Noel has found a home with Tom Thibodeau in New York. Just look at some of the defensive lines Noel has put up this season: six blocks and a steal against the Cavs, four blocks and two steals against the Heat, three of each against the Pistons.

Those are huge stock numbers, and steals and blocks are incredibly valuable because live-ball turnovers tend to lead to some of the best value scoring possessions at the other end of the court. That’s Noel’s role on offense — starting, not finishing.

With Mitchell Robinson out again for the Knicks, it’s Noel or bust at center at this point. Taj Gibson and Obi Toppin are the next biggest hopes, but Noel is playing pretty strong minutes lately as long as he doesn’t get in major foul trouble. We’ll need him to stay out of foul trouble tonight since Dallas is not particularly turnover prone, but Noel always finds a way.

Noel has gone over 2.5 stocks in 25 of 42 games this season, hitting the over 60% of the time. He’s over in 11 of 19 starts, hitting this over 58% of the time, right in line, and he’s gone over 2.5 stocks in five straight games.

At -155, we need to hit this prop 60.8% of the time for it to be profitable. That’s right where he’s been hitting this season. We project Noel at 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals tonight. That would be 3.9 stocks and an easy win. We just need enough minutes to get there. I’ll play to -175.


Chris Paul, Under 2.5 STL + BLK (-185)

Thunder vs. Suns Suns -13
Time | TV 10 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass
Best Book BetMGM

We went over on our first two defensive props, so let’s play it a little safer in our third and go under. It’s really never a bad idea to fade stock numbers just because they’re so difficult to come by.

Chris Paul is one of the great point guards of all time, in part because he’s such a strong two-way player. It’s no coincidence that teams and defenses get better everywhere CP3 goes, and Phoenix has been no exception.

The Thunder are a young and inexperience team, and that makes them turnover prone. Of course, it also makes them blowout prone. The Suns are firing on all cylinders right now, and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see Phoenix win this one comfortably. That could mean fewer minutes for Chris Paul, so that’s one easy way to hit our under.

We may not need the help. Paul has gone under 2.5 stocks in 37 of 46 games this season. That hits the under a whopping 80.4% of the time, which would theoretically make this playable as high as -400. Suddenly that -185 doesn’t look so bad now, does it?

If you’re feeling more aggressive, you can play just the steals to go under 1.5 at +115. That’s a much more positive return on investment if you hit the under, but CP3 has a block in only 11 of 46 games so I feel good about adding in the blocks for an extra 1.0 margin and giving us a far better shot of hitting.

We project CP3 at 1.4 steals, so that’s right at his steals under, making that one a coin flip perhaps slightly in our favor. But we project 0.2 blocks, so that’s why it shifts so strongly in our favor going under 2.5 stocks, plus we get some protection against Paul getting to two steals. Oklahoma City is a super athletic team, so I’m not expecting any blocks tonight.

I’ll drink the juice as high as -250 here. The odds are in our favor.

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