NBA Player Props & Picks for Play-In Games: 3 Bets for Pacers vs. Hornets & Celtics vs. Wizards (May 18)
Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Russell Westbrook.
- The NBA postseason is officially upon us.
- The Indiana Pacers will kick things off against the Charlotte Hornets tonight, while the Boston Celtics battle the Washington Wizards in the later game.
- Brandon Anderson found three prop bets to make, and he explains each pick with a full breakdown below.
The playoffs are here.
Well, okay, fine. As my colleague Matt Moore would say, the “playoffs” are not here yet. But the postseason is here, and it’s time to get excited for our first-ever NBA play-in tournament. Tonight, we tip off with a pair of Eastern Conference games, so let’s grab a few props and start this out on the right foot.
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
Jalen McDaniels, Over 6.5 Rebounds + Assists (-100)
|Pacers vs. Hornets||Pacers -3|
|Time | TV||6:30 p.m. ET | TNT|
Oh, baby! The NBA postseason is here, it’s time for games that matter and… we have the Charlotte Hornets and the Indiana Pacers, and we’re playing Jalen McDaniels?
Listen, I’m not gonna lie. I need a little juice for this early East play-in game — a game fit for NBA TV if ever there was one — so let’s grab a couple of props and dive in the deep end.
McDaniels has been starting down the stretch for the Hornets.
McDaniels is the older brother of standout rookie Jaden McDaniels of the Timberwolves. Baby bro Jaden was formerly one of the top high school recruits in the nation, but big bro Jalen gets the first crack at the playoffs, and he’s been making his mark lately.
McDaniels is starting with P.J. Washington as the Hornets’ starting frontcourt. He started the final eight games of Charlotte’s season and has added to the Hornets’ ability to switch on defense, a key component in Charlotte’s potential sleeper status. In these final eight starts, McDaniels has averaged 10.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 30.0 minutes per game.
McDaniels has started 18 games now this season, and he averages 11.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.9 dimes on the year. Notice the rebounding increase over this final stretch, up from 4.5 boards per start, and don’t forget that Indiana is one of the league’s worst rebounding teams.
McDaniels has also recorded multiple assists in four straight games entering the playoffs, and he averages about two per game as a starter. That makes this a better play as a combo prop since the line only moves up two and gives us better juice.
We project McDaniels at 6.7 rebounds, which would be enough to cover the rebounds + assists line even without a single pass, but with 2.0 projected dimes too, that makes this prop a 10 out of 10 in the ratings and gives us more than a 22% edge. Let’s start the postseason out with a winner.
Terry Rozier, Over 2.5 3s (-109)
|Pacers vs. Hornets||Pacers -3|
|Time | TV||6:30 p.m. ET | TNT|
It’s Scary Terry time, and I’m expecting a big night from Terry Rozier since he’s one of the only players on this young Hornets team with any NBA postseason experience.
Don’t forget how good Rozier was for Boston when he was shoved into a starting role unexpectedly. He’s always been one of those irrationally confident guys, and he’s not going to be afraid of the spotlight. Rozier led the Hornets in field goal attempts per game this season, and I expect that to be the case again here.
Rozier has six games of seven or more made 3s this season, including a couple of games with eight and one with 10. The man can catch fire in a hurry, and he’s not going to stop shooting no matter how many times he’s missed.
Rozier averages 8.3 attempts behind the arc per game this season. He’s taken at least five attempts in all but five games and at least eight 3s in 44-of-69 games (64%).
That includes at least eight attempts in all three games against the Pacers this year.
We need makes, not attempts, but more volume gives us more of a shot at the over. Rozier has gone over 2.5 made 3s in 39 games this season, hitting our over 57% of the time.
That’s already in our favor, and so is the likely pace and style of play here. Indiana has been bleeding points without Myles Turner, hitting 18-of-24 game overs without him, so that means even more shots and potential 3s. Plus, since it’s an elimination game, there’s also the upside of the Hornets falling behind and chucking, which would also be a great way to hit our over.
We project Rozier at 3.6 made 3s, so this is another prop we rate 10 out of 10. I’ll play the over to -140.
Russell Westbrook, Under 13.5 Assists (-125)
|Celtics vs. Wizards||Celtics -2|
|Time | TV||9 p.m. ET | TNT|
It has not been a particularly good idea to bet against Russell Westbrook lately.
Westbrook has posted unheard-of numbers down the stretch, and he’s done it game after game and become so absurd that we barely even bat an eye anymore.
Westbrook had more games with a triple-double season than games without. That’s just silly, and he had a triple-double in seven of the final eight games. He had at least 15 assists in every one of those games until the regular-season finale.
That’s not great for our under here, and we’ve lost betting against Russ a few times lately, but it’s just too tasty a line to pass up in the playoffs.
The playoffs are a different animal, and so are an engaged Celtics defense with a huge win on the line. Westbrook will have to deal with Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum at times, and he had relatively tepid assist numbers in three games against the Celtics this season. He had only 23 dimes in three games, including one with only four, his second-lowest assist total of the season.
Boston knows Westbrook well, and the Celtics will force him to beat them by shooting, not passing.
The other thing in play is that 14 is just a whole lot of assists no matter who’s passing the ball.
The Celtics allowed only two opposing players to record 14 assists in a game this year and only five over the last three seasons combined, per Basketball-Reference.
And it’s not just Boston but also the tougher style of play in the playoffs where the defense tightens up and points are harder to come by. Only seven times in the last two playoffs combined did a player record 14 assists in a game — and none of them were Westbrook.
And don’t forget Bradley Beal will be out there, too. Some of Westbrook’s biggest games have come without Beal, and Beal’s presence just means less time on the ball for Russ. You can’t record an assist if you don’t have the ball.
You know all about Russell Westbrook’s playoff struggles. And he doesn’t even have to struggle to miss this. We just need him to stop at 13 assists.
We project Russ at 12.3 dimes, so let’s give it a shot. I’ll play to -140.