NBA Player Prop Bets, Picks: It’s All About Secondary Stars in Wizards vs. Bucks, Celtics vs. Magic & More (Wednesday, May 5)
Kamil Krzaczynski/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Khris Middleton.
- Players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard dominate the headlines, but it's the secondary stars that will determine a championship.
- Brandon Wheaton has decided to focus on three of those secondary stars in tonight nine-game NBA slate.
- See which one he's fading and which pair he's buying as their teams enter the homestretch of the NBA regular season.
Tonight is about the secondary stars. When you think of the Celtics, Blazers and Bucks, the names Jayson Tatum, Damian Lillard, and Giannis Antetokounmpo come to mind first, and they should.
But those teams can only go as far as their secondary stars take them, and tonight we’re looking at Kemba Walker, CJ McCollum and Khris Middleton for our best player props.
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
Kemba Walker, under 5.5 assists (-125)
|Celtics vs. Magic||Boston -11|
|Time | TV||7 p.m. ET | League Pass|
This is just a straight-up fade of Kemba Walker’s minutes and work load.
Walker practiced Tuesday and is back in the lineup tonight after missing four games with a strained oblique, but I’m not confident he’s just going to step into a major role or his usual minutes just yet. Strained obliques don’t just heal themselves overnight, and Walker has been banged up all season. The Celtics have to play the long game right now and nurse Kemba back carefully to health. They’d like him healthy tonight, but they need the healthiest Kemba they can get in the playoffs.
Don’t forget how careful the Celtics were with Walker when he returned from injury at the start of his season. After missing Boston’s first 11 games, Kemba returned and started but played only 19.6 minutes. He played only 21.7 minutes the next game and didn’t cross the 30-minute barrier until his seventh game of the season, despite starting all of them.
This isn’t quite the same length of injury or rehab, but I still expect a very cautious outing from Walker tonight, even with Jaylen Brown sidelined. Besides, it’s only the Magic, and Orlando is resting most of its veterans too. This is a great spot for a rehab-type start for Walker with limited minutes.
Kemba has played 20 games this season at or under 32 minutes, a line I’d be shocked if he crossed tonight. In those 20 games, he averages 4.55 assists per game and has gone under 5.5 dimes in 15 of them, hitting the under 75%.
This is a straight-up minutes fade for me, but it’s a good spot to fade overall even despite that. We project Walker at 32 minutes and still only 4.8 assists even then, with Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum and Evan Fournier taking some of the creation load. If his minutes are lower than that 32, that projection only drops further.
I’ll play the under to -145.
CJ McCollum, over 2.5 threes (-143)
|Trail Blazers vs. Cavaliers||Portland -12|
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | League Pass|
With CJ McCollum, this is also a volume play, but it’s positive volume in his case.
McCollum has been shooting the lights out all season. And this year, it’s not just quality but also quantity. Since moving into the Blazers starting lineup, McCollum had attempted 6.2 3s per game over the past five seasons entering this one. He was making 2.4 per game at 39.8%. Great results, just not enough of them.
The Blazers have remedied that problem this season by having McCollum get far more shots up. This season, he’s attempting 9.1 3s per game, nearly a 50% increase in volume, and he’s still right at 39.5%, his usual mark. That means three more attempts a game, and his season average has increased to 3.6 makes per game, another 50% increase because, well, that’s how math works.
And don’t forget, McCollum has had a handful of games with limited minutes this season because of injuries. He’s played 25 or fewer minutes six times. In his other 34 games, he’s had at least eight 3-point attempts 76% of the time. And if he’s getting at least eight shots up, as a career 40% shooter, we have a very good chance of finding at least three makes in there.
Even including the lower minute games, McCollum has at least three 3s made in 28 of his 40 games this season, hitting this over exactly 70% of the time. Not sure what the books are doing here — this line is a full 3-pointer too low. I’ll play the over 2.5 as high as -180.
Khris Middleton, over 4.5 assists (-138)
|Wizards vs. Bucks||Milwaukee -3.5|
|Time | TV||8 p.m. ET | League Pass|
Everyone keeps treating the Bucks like the same team they’ve been the past few seasons, but they really aren’t that. And of course, that’s especially because Jrue Holiday is far better and a much better fit than Eric Bledsoe, but it’s not just that. Khris Middleton has taken yet another step forward too, especially as a playmaker.
Over his last 18 games, Middleton is averaging 20.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists. Not many guys can put up a 20/6/6 each night out while raining fire from every shooting spot on the court, but that’s what Middleton has become.
He’s at 5.5 assists per game on the season now, a significant increase from what was already a career-best 4.3 APG last year. And in this recent 18-game stretch, he’s up even further. During this stretch, he’s gone over 4.5 assists in 14 of the 18 games, hitting the over 78% of the time. That includes over in four of the last five games.
A game against the Wizards used to mean pausing to consider a potential blowout and limited minutes, but with Washington on fire lately, that shouldn’t be a problem either. This should be a tight game, and Middleton should get his minutes and his usual opportunities.
This line feels low too. We project Middleton at 6.4 dimes, giving this prop more than an 18% edge in our favor. I’ll play the over 4.5 assists as high as -170.