NBA Player Prop Betting Picks: 3 Opening Night Plays, Including How to Fade Rajon Rondo
Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Rajon Rondo.
- The NBA season tips off Tuesday night, and our daily NBA player props are back after a stellar 2020-2021 season.
- With Bucks-Nets and Lakers-Warriors leading the slate, we're targeting James Harden, Joe Harris and Rajon Rondo.
- Get all three of our favorite props for Tuesday night and try the Action Labs props tool to get every prop with value.
We’re back!! It’s been a long three months without NBA basketball in our lives, but we finally made it to Opening Night.
If this season is anywhere near as profitable as last, we are in for a fun ride. Shall we review? During the regular season last year, we went 257-208-13, hitting 55.3% of our props to go up +94.6 units, a sparkling 20.3% return on investment.
We did even better in the playoffs, hitting 66% of our picks for a 29% ROI, and that means we finished our season 328-245, successfully converting 57.2% of our props with a 22.0% ROI.
Let’s put it another way: If you never watched a minute of ball last year but bet $100 on every prop in this column, you are now up $12,602. You’re welcome.
Still, past success is no guarantee of the future, and we’re all at $0.00 on the new season, so let’s start the year out with some winners. Know that we’re flying blind early in the season since we have no new data, no starter minutes or lineups — of course, that’s true of the books too. We’ll take some educated guesses, play history where we can, and trust the Props Tool.
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.
Those cash money props we just talked about from last season? Every single one of them came straight out of the Props Tool, right into this article.
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
Joe Harris, Over 10.5 Points (-110)
|Nets vs. Bucks||Nets -1.5|
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | TNT|
Opening Night is a tough play because we’ve got only four teams playing, and only one of them has a predictable rotation. What will the Nets rotation look like? We know Kevin Durant and James Harden will play, but everything else is murky with Kyrie Irving missing and a glut of big men.
The one other guy we can be pretty confident will play big minutes, though, is Joe Harris. Harris is the perfect complementary piece in this Brooklyn offense. The defense can’t cover everyone, and if the Nets know they’re going to have someone left open, why not make it one of the greatest shooters on the planet?
Joe Harris led the NBA with a 47.5% 3-point percentage last year, and he led the league in 2018-19 too. And his numbers have been just as strong and often stronger since Harden showed up. Since Harden joined Brooklyn on January 16, Harris averaged 14.0 PPG and hit 3.1 3s per game on 47%.
Though we have only three regular season games of data with Harden and Durant but no Kyrie, one of those games came against these Bucks, and Harris scored 20 and hit five 3s.
Of course, we do have some more Harris data against the Bucks. The last time we saw him, he was having an absolute nightmare series against Milwaukee in the playoffs. He scored only 9.6 PPG across those seven games and couldn’t hit a shot to save his life, finishing the series under 35% from the field.
So it goes — sometimes shooters run cold. What’s important from that series is that Harris kept playing and kept shooting. Even ice cold Harris took over 10 shots a game, including 7.0 3-point attempts.
Harris should get minutes and shots, and some of those shots will likely be open. We know the Bucks allow more 3s than a typical team, and we know Joe likes to shoot.
This line feels a couple points too low, especially with Irving out and Harris as the clear top off-ball shooter. Harris went over 10.5 points in 46 of 69 games last season, covering this line 67% of the time. He had at least nine points in all but 10 games, putting us within a single shot of a cover.
We’re projecting Harris at 13.3 points. This line looks badly mispriced. Let’s get a win on the books. I’ll play to -140 and would play over 11.5 if needed.
James Harden, Over 8.5 Assists (-130)
|Nets vs. Bucks||Nets -1.5|
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | TNT|
James Harden averaged 10.8 assists per game last season. That included 10.4 in eight Houston games and 10.9 in 36 Brooklyn games. Not all of those came with KD and Kyrie of course — very few of them came with all three — but it turns out Harden is pretty good at passing and playing point guard.
Harden was already the point last season. Remember how Kyrie said so himself? And now that Irving isn’t around, that leaves a whole lot more touches and time on the ball for Harden.
And with great respect for Patty Mills, rookie Cam Thomas, and our guy Joe Harris, these are not guys who are going to take much of the ball away from Harden. He will be the guy orchestrating things in this offense when Durant isn’t scoring.
Harden averaged an assist every 3.36 minutes with the Nets last season. He was around one every 3.77 minutes even sleepwalking through the preseason. Remember, this was the greatest offense in league history last year, and Harden was a big reason for that.
Don’t be afraid of Harden’s numbers from the couple seasons before last. There’s no Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul to share the back court with Harden now — nor a Kyrie.
We’ll see how the new Nets season shapes up, but right now, 8.5 assists is just too low of a line. Harden went over 8.5 dimes in 25 of 36 Nets games last season, hitting this over 69% of the time. Nice, right? And one of those games, Harden only played four minutes too.
One thing you’ll learn quickly in the props world is not to be afraid of drinking the juice on the right bet. At -130 on the over, that’s an implied 56.5% chance of hitting. Since Harden hit this 71.4% of the time last year (without that four-minute stint), that would mean this line should actually be closer to -250.
I wouldn’t play it that high, but I do like it all the way to -165. You can also play Harden to go over 10.5 assists for plus juice at BetMGM, but at +110 there’s not enough of a boost there for me to give up the two-assist cushion. Let’s just get the W.
Rajon Rondo, Under 3.5 Assists (-130)
|Warriors vs. Lakers||Lakers -3.5|
|Time | TV||10:00 p.m. ET | TNT|
No one ever said all these props would be sexy.
We’re fading Rajon Rondo here, and we’re mostly just fading how many minutes Rondo will even get on the court. And why Rondo specifically? Well, because most of the other random Lakers veterans don’t even have lines.
Remember, this is a team with heavy roster turnover from last year. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are back, but with Talen Horton-Tucker injured, every other Opening Night name in a Lakers jersey is new from last season. Hello, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony. Welcome Kendrick Nunn, Malik Monk, Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington, and Austin Reaves.
There are a lot of new names on this roster. Are we sure Rondo is going to be out there all that much? Westbrook is going to log big starter minutes, we can be sure of that. Nunn should be the first guard off the bench, and he handles the ball a lot. Bazemore is needed for his defense, and Monk and Ellington are necessary shooters.
The one thing the Lakers don’t really need a ton of? That’s playmaking since Russ and LeBron are already there to run the show.
We’re projecting Rondo at 9.1 minutes, just 11th on the team. That’s not long to make an impact.
There’s no question Rondo is a good assist man. If he’s out there, he’ll be creating. He averaged an assist every 3.9 minutes last year, about the same as his previous time with the Lakers. That’s a pretty good rate, but it still means Rondo needs about 14 minutes to hit this over, and I’m not sure he gets them.
If you’re fading Rondo minutes and want to double down, you can also bet the under 0.5 made 3s at DraftKings at +145. Rondo has attempted one trey every 8.8 minutes the last three years, and he’s a career 36% shooter. If you’re just antsy to gamble, you can give that one a shot and hope he misses his one or two shots, or maybe doesn’t even get one up.
I’ll fade the assists. Maybe Rondo doesn’t get the playing time. Maybe he passes to Lakers shooters who miss. Maybe he gets played off the court defensively by Steph Curry and the Warriors. I’ll take my chances and play the under here to -150.
Let’s start our year out with three winners!
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