NBA Playoff Player Prop Bets, Picks: Three Picks for Saturday including Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving & Michael Porter Jr. (May 22)
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Michael Porter Jr.
With the Play-In games out of the way and first-round series set in stone, we can officially kick off the 2021 NBA playoffs! Saturday features four games, beginning as early as 2 p.m. ET with the Heat and the Bucks. As usual, our player props will target players from the later games, including players from the Mavs-Clippers, Celtics–Nets, and Blazers-Nuggets games.
The first player I’m targeting is Kawhi Leonard. His current steals + blocks market sits at 1.5, and I expect him to be active defensively against the Mavs in Game 1. To close out the remaining props, I’m rolling with Kyrie Irving to hit 2.5 3-pointers and Michael Porter Jr. to fall short of 8.5 rebounds versus Portland.
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
Kawhi Leonard over 1.5 steals + blocks (-150)
|Mavericks vs. Clippers||Clippers -6|
|Time||4:30 p.m. ET|
Leonard made his way back to the court in early May after missing eight games with a foot injury late in the season. However, he appeared to injure his hand shortly thereafter, causing him to miss the final two games of the regular season. “Being 70-whatever games we’re in right now, you’re gonna have nicks and bruises … just gotta keep fighting through it,” Leonard said.
Injuries are nothing new or out of the ordinary at this stage in the season. In fact, the additional time off should only improve Leonard and the Clippers’ preparation for a deep title run. Although, it’s hard to ignore his statistical regression in the six games he played in May. His points and rebounding numbers dipped to 18.2 points and 5.0 rebounds in only 31.8 minutes per contest.
While I’m confident Leonard can get back to his seasonal averages of 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists, I’m more optimistic that he’ll be active on the defensive end of the floor in Game 1. In two previous matchups versus Dallas this season, Kawhi swiped four steals in their first game and two in the second game. He didn’t register a block against the Mavs, but it’s “The Claw” we’re talking about here.
Throughout his playoff career, Leonard is averaging 1.8 steals and 0.7 blocks per contest. According to NBA Advanced Stats, Dallas allows the 10th most steals to opposing teams in their last five games. However, they’re seventh-best in the NBA at preventing teams from blocking their shot attempts over that span.
Leonard is one of the few NBA players to rank in the 96th percentile in steals in each of the last five seasons per Cleaning the Glass, and in the NBA Bubble, he jumped up to the 75th percentile in blocks. Dallas is tied for ninth in the NBA in turnovers per game (11.8) in their last five games, which offers good upside for Leonard to put the clamps on the Mavs in Game 1. We project “The Fun Guy” to collect 2.0 steals + rebounds, and given his history against Dallas and playoff pedigree, I’m taking the over on his 1.5 steals + blocks market.
Kyrie Irving over 2.5 3-pointers made (+107)
|Celtics vs. Nets||Nets -8|
|Time | TV||8 p.m. ET|
First off, congratulations to Uncle Drew for becoming the fifth player in NBA history to average at least 25.0 points per game with 50/40/90 shooting splits. Irving finished the season averaging 2.8 3-pointers per game, tying his career-high while attempting at least seven from beyond the arc throughout the regular season.
The Brooklyn Nets are an elite three-point shooting team, with four players shooting over 40% from distance, including Irving at 40.2%. While I could choose a few different players for this specific prop, Irving morphs into the alpha in the playoffs, and I think he’ll get busy against Boston.
Boston comes into Game 1 as one of the best teams in the NBA at forcing teams away from the 3-point line. Over their last five games, the Celtics allow the fewest 3-point attempts to opposing teams at 30.6 per game over that span. Though the Celtics found success preventing threes, they haven’t stopped teams from making them. In their last 10 games, opposing teams connected on nearly 40% of their three-point attempts (39.7), ranking 27th in the NBA over that span, per NBA Advanced Stats. So why Kyrie?
In 27 games with James Harden at point guard this year, Irving is averaging 2.8 3PM per contest. Here are his 3-point shooting numbers in three games versus Boston this season: 7-for-10, 5-for-8, and 0-for-6. Even with the one-game outlier, he knocked down at least five threes in two of their three matchups. He’s also found his groove from deep recently, making at least 2.5 3-pointers in six straight games. And according to Fansure, he’s exceeded 2.5 three-pointers in five consecutive games as a favorite, with an average of 4.0 three-pointers made per game over that stretch.
The Nets are eight-point favorites tonight, and this game has the highest implied total of the slate at 231.5. Uncle Drew averaged 2.3 3-pointers in the playoffs for his career, but with an arsenal of players around him to get him shots, this should be an excellent spot for Kyrie to hit his 3-point line. We project him to net 2.9 3-pointers, with a bet quality rating of 7. At plus odds, this is a strong bet for the over.
Michael Porter Jr. under 8.5 rebounds (-150)
|Blazers vs. Nuggets||Nuggets -1|
|Time | TV||10 p.m. ET|
Porter Jr. has been spectacular for the Nuggets. According to StatMuse, Michael Porter Jr. posted the second-highest eFG% for a player that scored at least 19 points per game in NBA history. It is truly ridiculous to think that it’s Wilt Chamberlain and then MPJ. But I’m not here for his scoring. I’m going to tell you why I’m fading his rebounding market against the Blazers in Game 1.
In three games versus Portland this season, Porter Jr. averaged a mere six rebounds per game. Now, it wasn’t all bad. He did snare 10 rebounds in their first meeting this season, and in the final game of the season, he grabbed three rebounds in 15 minutes of action. The second-year pro’s rebounding averages dropped considerably over the last month, from 7.7 in April to 5.5 in May. To better emphasize Porter Jr.’s rebounding woes relative to his current rebounding market, he’s eclipsed 8.5 rebounds just once in his last 17 games. Furthermore, Porter Jr. failed to exceed 8.5 rebounds in 11 of his previous 12 games as a favorite, per Fansure.
The Nuggets hold a short edge as one-point favorites tonight. But over his last 12 games as a favorite, MPJ averaged a mere 6.2 rebounds per game. If you’re even more confident, you can grab his rebounding line under 7.5 at near-even odds at a couple of books. While his scoring is prolific, Porter Jr. isn’t as aggressive on the glass against the top eight in the Western Conference, only pulling down 5.9 rebounds per game in 17 games this year. While our projections have him grabbing 9.9 rebounds, I’m playing the under on his rebounding line of 8.5 and could go as low as 7.5.