NBA Player Prop Bets, Picks: 3 Angles for Thursday, Including Jimmy Butler & Damian Lillard (May 27)
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, left, looks on with his teammates.
- There are three NBA playoff games on the docket on Thursday night, starting with the Bucks vs. Heat.
- Brandon Anderson has been delivering his player props all season, and his first two picks come from that game before a Damian Lillard number in the late slate.
- Anderson breaks down his three picks, which are full of stars, for the latest bit of playoff action.
The NBA Playoffs series shift to the underdog teams Thursday, at least by seeding. That’s because the schedule brings a trio of Game 3 showdowns, with the hosts teams returning home for the first time to play in front of energized crowds that have been waiting for this moment for two (or more) years.
With so much on the line, we’re playing props featuring three All-Stars.
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
Khris Middleton — Over 5.5 Rebounds (+130)
|Bucks vs. Heat||Bucks -1.5|
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | TNT|
Sometimes, everything changes in the playoffs. Other times, things stay the same. This is, hopefully, a case of the latter.
The books have underrated Khris Middleton’s rebounding all season. We just keep on playing Middleton rebounding overs and profiting. Middleton has averaged at least 6.0 rebounds per game three consecutive seasons with the Bucks, and he’s done that in only 31.5 minutes per game over that stretch. That’s one rebound every 5.2 minutes on the court, a steady production rate.
And remember, that’s in only 31.5 minutes. The Bucks will play Middleton much more in the playoffs, at least when they’re not raining actual fire on the opponent and hitting a million 3s in the first half like they did in Game 2.
In Game 1, Middleton played almost 45 minutes (with the help of an overtime) and got to six rebounds. If Game 3 is close, it would be pretty reasonable to expect him to play 38 to 40 minutes again, especially after a pretty easy Game 2 effort.
This season, Middleton went over 5.5 rebounds in exactly half of his regular season games, hitting the over 34 of 68 times. That already puts this in our favor when this bet is at plus juice.
But dig a little deeper and it’s even better. Middleton played under 32 minutes in 18 of those games, and since rebounding is a volume game as much as anything else, he was over 5.5 rebounds in only five of them. Fair enough, but we are surely expecting a heavier minutes load in a playoff game.
Take those games out and now Middleton is over 5.5 rebounds in 29 of 50 games, hitting our over 58% of the time.
At one rebound per 5.2 minutes, Middleton only needs to play 29 minutes for this bet to tilt in our favor. If this game is close and Middleton plays enough, he could easily project closer to seven or eight rebounds.
This is one of those bets with varying lines, and that’s enough margin in our favor that I’m playing the more aggressive one. I’ll play the over-5.5 at +130 odds and down to +110, and then if it drops further than that, I’ll pivot to over-4.5 over at FanDuel.
Jimmy Butler — Under 0.5 3-Pointers (+175)
|Bucks vs. Heat||Bucks -1.5|
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | TNT|
Folks, today we are blessed. We get to bet against a guy who hates shooting the basketball. Well, shooting the basketball from beyond the arc.
Jimmy Butler made 25 3-pointers this entire season. He made 29 last season, giving him a whopping 54 in 110 Miami Heat games, less than half a 3-pointer per game. Butler never fancied himself a 3-point shooter, and now that this is fully his team, it’s clear he’s been told he just doesn’t have to shoot if he doesn’t want to.
Butler attempted only 102 shots beyond the arc all season. That’s just under two attempts per game. On top of that, Butler made a 3-pointer in only 17 games this season. That’s just 17 overs in 52 games, meaning Butler hit this under 67% of the time. And we are getting plus juice — significant plus juice!
Of course, the wet blanket here is what happened in Game 1. It’s not just that Butler made two 3s in that one, but also that he attempted nine of them. That was Butler’s highest of the season. In fact, it was only the fourth time this season he’s taken more than four 3-pointers in a game.
And to anyone who’s watched the Bucks defense and knows how they like to push opponents to take a ton of outside shots, especially the less confident shooters, that looks like a big problem.
However, Butler didn’t make a 3-pointer in Game 2 and he didn’t even attempt one either. That’s a stark contrast to Game 1 and the sort of thing that doesn’t happen coincidentally, even with shorter minutes in the blowout. Butler clearly did not want to shoot 3s in Game 2.
Let’s hope he keeps his Ben Simmons tribute alive in Game 3. What could be sweeter than Butler going under 0.5 made 3s by not even trying one? Yet, we won’t be greedy. Our man can shoot all he wants, so long as he doesn’t make one from deep.
Look, if you give me +175 to bet against Jimmy Butler making a 3, I’m taking the bet. The man doesn’t want to shoot. I’d play this down to +135 odds.
Damian Lillard — Under 8.5 Assists (-105)
|Blazers vs. Nuggets||Blazers -3.5|
|Time | TV||10:30 p.m. ET | NBA TV|
Damian Lillard sure has been filling up the assists in his stats line lately.
Lillard has 10, 13, and 10 assists over his last three games. Two of those were in the playoffs, with another one in the regular season finale that kept Portland out of the play-in tournament. And all three of those games came against these Denver Nuggets.
So why in the world are we betting against that trend continuing and taking Lillard to have eight or fewer assists?
Well, it’s a matchup thing. If you watched Game 2, you saw Lillard absolutely light things up for the first half. He scored 32 first-half points and had an incredible eight made 3-pointers. At halftime, though, Aaron Gordon reportedly asked to defend Lillard in the second half, and Gordon’s size threw Lillard off (so did the ref show we got in the third quarter).
Now it’s up to Portland to respond to that, and the most obvious way is by taking Lillard off the ball some and removing Gordon from the equation. Gordon is easily Denver’s best defender, but Lillard isn’t Portland’s only weapon, and he’s also still a weapon even without the ball with his off-ball movement and outstanding shooting and spacing.
That would leave room for CJ McCollum and Norman Powell to operate, so it could be a winning strategy, but it wouldn’t be great for Lillard’s numbers.
Even when Lillard does have the ball, the Nuggets could limit his chances by throwing Gordon or bigger bodies at him. They could also trap Lillard with two guys out near half court, which would likely mean him passing out to a teammate for a 4-on-3 opportunity. However, that’s not an assist unless the guy catching the pass scores right away. It’s more of a hockey assist, and we don’t pay the price for those.
Lillard went under 8.5 assists in 40 of 66 games this season before these last three outings. That’s a 61% hit rate to the under, so we’ll play the under here to -120 and hope Lillard is too busy scoring to bother with assists in this game.