NBA Player Prop Bets & Picks: Jokic, Kuzma Highlight Plays in Nuggets-Lakers Battle (Thursday, Feb. 4)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images. Pictured: Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic.
- There are just five games on Thursday's NBA card, but that doesn't mean Brandon Anderson doesn't have you covered.
- He has targeted three prop plays, including two from the Nuggets-Lakers showdown below.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets met last September in the Western Conference Finals. Although the Lakers won the series in five games, it was a hard-fought, hotly contested confrontation.
The Nuggets, who nearly stole Game 2 before a last-second Anthony Davis shot sunk them, did take Game 3 before the Lakers pulled away to close things out en route to the championship.
Tonight, these franchises meet again and we’re playing a player prop from both sides in that showdown.
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
Brandon Clarke, Over 13.5 Points (-110)
|Rockets at Grizzlies||Grizzlies -3 (DraftKings)|
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
Brandon Clarke is one of my favorite young players in the NBA, and not just because he has such a tasteful first name.
I thought he was the steal of the draft a year ago, and I had Clarke top three on my draft big board, rating him almost as valuable as Ja Morant. It’s no surprise the Grizzlies have taken such a huge step forward with Morant and Clarke giving them such great minutes.
Memphis is a surprise division leader, even though it was without Morant for several weeks and continue to miss Jonas Valanciunas, who is still in the health protocols. And don’t forget, Jaren Jackson Jr. has yet to play this season, too.
That means Clarke and rookie Xavier Tillman have been the starting big men for the Grizzlies, and they have helped them rank fourth in Defensive Efficiency this season.
Clarke is an elite team defender and a very high IQ player on both ends. He’s a major lob threat on offense, tending to get a lot of high efficiency baskets in the flow of the game. That was not the case early in the season.
Clarke struggled out of the gate with an ugly 46 percent True Shooting over his first six games, along with a 96 Offensive Rating on 10.5 points per game. Those are totally foreign numbers from anything we saw from him last year or in college at Gonzaga.
He’s been a different player logging big minutes next to Tillman ,and with Morant back in the lineup. Clarke is right back to 58% True Shooting over his last six games, which includes a 127 Offensive Rating.
The volume has returned as well, with him averaging 14.7 PPG over that recent stretch. Houston tends to run opponents off the arc and force things inside, and I like Clarke and Tillman to have good nights because of that reason.
Clarke’s over points is the top play on our Props Tool today, with a 16.8% edge in our favor. He’s gone over this number in seven of his last nine games, and we’re projecting him at 17.1 points.
I’ll play Clarke confidently, going as high as -140 odds.
Nikola Jokic, Under 7.5 Assists (-140)
|Nuggets at Lakers||Lakers -5 (FanDuel)|
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
Nikola Jokic has been an absolute monster this season. He was my Quarter Season MVP pick, and honestly, I don’t think the race is particularly close at this point. Jokic is averaging 26.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.6 assists. Those are career highs, with his shooting numbers are up across the board as well.
Through mid-January, Jokic was averaging a triple double. As of January 17, he was around 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. However, his assist numbers have faded some as of late. Michael Porter is back in the lineup getting more touches, and it looks like teams are daring Jokic to beat them as a scorer and pushing the ball out of his hands, thus making other Nuggets beat them.
Over the last seven games, Jokic’s scoring is up to 30.0 PPG, but his assists have plummeted to just 5.3 per game. He’s had six assists or fewer in all but one of those games, easily going under this number.
Those assist numbers echo what Jokic did in the playoff bubble against the Lakers. They defended Jokic similarly, and his numbers fell off from 25/11/6 the first two rounds to just 22/7/5 against the Lakers. He had five or fewer assists in all but one game against Los Angeles.
It’s never fun betting against a superstar, which is what we’re doing here. However, there’s good reason at this point to fade Jokic’s assist numbers until they start to bouncing back closer to that double-digit range.
I’m grabbing under 7.5 assists while it’s available at FanDuel, but most books have this line at 6.5 with plus juice. I’ll play the 7.5 to -160, but if it disappears, I’m happy to play the 6.5 at plus juice as well.
Kyle Kuzma, Under 10.5 Points (+100)
|Nuggets at Lakers||Lakers -5 (DraftKings)|
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
Unlike Jokic, I am just about always quite happy to fade Kyle Kuzma. He scored 17.3 points per game over his first two seasons, which got everyone excited because he did it while wearing purple and gold. Yet, he was never a particularly efficient or winning player.
Kuzma’s numbers dropped precipitously last year on a much better team, as he moved to a reserve role and fallen even further this season. Kuzma is below double digits now, averaging 9.9 PPG.
And let’s be fair here — Kuzma’s role has changed. He’s not scoring as much in this new spot, but his rebounding is up and his defense has improved significantly. He’s more of a role player with the Lakers, and that’s better for Los Angeles.
However, we’re still going to fade his scoring here.
Kuzma’s average drops even further if you remove five starts. Without those games, he’s down to just 8.6 PPG off the bench this season, like he will be in tonight’s contest. Kuzma also averaged 9.6 PPG in the playoff series against the Nuggets in a similar role, never topping 11 points there.
We project Kuzma at 8.5 points, and at even odds, that gives us a 15.5% edge in our favor. Our Props Tool also rates this a perfect 10, so I’ll play to -125 odds.