NBA Player Props Betting Forecast: Bam Adebayo, Nikola Jokic Have Value in NBA Finals

NBA Player Props Betting Forecast: Bam Adebayo, Nikola Jokic Have Value in NBA Finals article feature image
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Getty Images/Matt Roembke of Action Network. Pictured (L-R): Caleb Martin #16 and Bam Adebayo #13 of the Miami Heat, Nikola Jokick #15 and Michael Porter Jr. #1 of the Denver Nuggets.

The NBA Finals are here and the Denver Nuggets finally know their opponent: the Miami Heat. Although the Heat almost let this opportunity get away from them after nearly relinquishing a 3-0 series lead, they dominated in Game 7 on the road against the Boston Celtics and now head to Denver for Game 1  Thursday.

There is plenty of value and nuance in this series from a player props perspective, from the stars down to the key role players. This is the final player props betting forecast of the season, and it's been a fun ride with you all throughout the year.

Now, let's dive into how I'm betting player props for the NBA Finals.

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Bam vs. Jokic
Playoff Jimmy 
The Rotational Shooters

The Battle on the Interior: Bam vs. Jokic

All eyes will be on Nikola Jokic in the NBA Finals as he tries to lead the Nuggets to their first NBA Title. Jokic will likely be given the kitchen sink treatment by the Heat, where they try to contain him in any way possible, but their defensive efforts will start and end with Bam Adebayo.

How do you contain someone who is averaging 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 10.3 assists so far during the playoffs on an eFG% of 58.2%? What Jokic is doing is unbelievable, and teams don't have answers for him due to the combination of his size, ability, and basketball IQ. Can Adebayo, arguably the best all-around defensive talent in the NBA, slow him down?

I say no.

Action Network Senior NBA Writer Matt Moore dove into some of the matchup data for Jokic against Adebayo. Here are the "admittedly wonky" numbers:

The last three seasons of Jokic vs. Bam in matchup via https://t.co/z3Ysv2TWyU's admittedly wonky matchup data.

15 minutes: 9-of-15, 20 points, 8 assists

16 minutes: 8-of-12, 17 points, 10 assists

13 minutes: 6-of-13, 15 points, 7 assists

Totals:
52 points
25 assists
44 min https://t.co/ZLeU540XMt

— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) May 30, 2023

This is domination. It's not that Adebayo isn't elite, it's just that Jokic can attack defenders in any way depending on what look they throw at him. He can score or he can facilitate, and he can do it at every level. So what makes the most sense for Miami? I think it's to allow him to score and cut off the passing lanes to keep the rest of his teammates from getting into any rhythm. The Heat have better tools to stop Jamal Murray or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope than they do to stop Jokic as a scoring threat.

Additionally, if they sell out with Adebayo on Jokic, it risks significant foul trouble for Adebayo. If he is in foul trouble, Kevin Love goes from an option (albeit a less than ideal one) to a necessity. Miami would be forced to play Love more minutes, which hurts them defensively, and they would also miss Adebayo's secondary facilitating on the offensive side.

I think Denver may also want Jokic to go directly at Adebayo to force this issue. Considering his success as a scoring threat during the postseason, especially against a similar defensive talent in Anthony Davis, I expect that Jokic will continue to score with ease. Against Davis, Jokic averaged 27.8 points, 14.5 rebounds, and 11.8 assists per game in the Western Conference finals. Miami has even fewer options than the Los Angeles Lakers did. Jokic has averaged 29.9 points throughout the playoffs and 31.8 points over his last 10 games. Two of my favorite Jokic props are for him to average 30-plus points (+300 FanDuel) and Jokic to Score 30-plus points in Every Game (+5500 FanDuel).

Pick: Jokic 30+ Points Every Game


As an aside, these props for "in every game" have diminishing value if you expect there to be more than four or five games, because there are more opportunities to miss. That said, I expect Denver to take care of business in a shorter series, so I find more value on them.

On the flip side, I expect Adebayo to score fairly easily as well. Denver will not risk Jokic getting into foul trouble defending Adebayo, and he's been proficient in the post throughout the season. While he is only averaging 16.2 points in the playoffs, he's had some tougher matchups against Brook Lopez, Mitchell Robinson (whom he excelled against), and then Al Horford and Robert Williams.

However, for the season, Bam averaged 19.5 points and even his median points output was 18. Jokic is not the best matchup for Adebayo due to Joker's pure size advantage, but Adebayo is versatile enough in pick-and-roll that he can be effective. Additionally, in his last four games against Jokic, Bam has averaged 18.8 points. I like him to exceed his series line of 16.6.


Playoff Jimmy the Facilitator

Jimmy Butler is the heart and soul of this Miami team, but his scoring has seen a downturn after his blistering hot start against the Bucks. Overall in the postseason, he is averaging 28.2 points; however, this has dropped to 24.3 points over his last 10 games.

In the Play-In tournament and first round against the Bucks, Butler had five 30-point games in seven opportunities. Since then, he's scored 30 points only once. Now, he will likely be defended by Aaron Gordon, whose size and quickness could prove to be problematic.

If Butler is the Heat's leading scorer in each game, I don't think that is a recipe for success in this particular series. Butler can do more than score, and while his scoring has dipped over the last few rounds, his assists have seen a significant uptick from 5.7 on the entire playoffs to 6.6 over his last 10 games. I think there's some value on Butler to lead the series in assists (+3300 Bet365) but would not play this heavily.

I can see Butler and Adebayo operating well in the pick-and-roll against Jokic like here in their December matchup earlier this season.

Butler can also get the offense rolling with his dribble penetration to send Denver into a rotation.

That is how Miami likely finds success in the series, and in the three games Butler has played against Denver over the last two seasons he has recorded at least eight assists in ever game.

I lean toward him averaging over 5.5 assists per game; however, I do not like Miami at all in Game 1 due to the spot, so I think your best value will be waiting until Game 2 to play an over for Butler (especially if it stays at 5.5 assists) or sprinkling the Series Leader play.

Because I think Butler will be needed as a facilitator more than as a scorer, coupled with my cap of Denver winning in a short series, there's a fun head-to-head bet that I like. It is for Jokic to outscore Butler in each game of the series (+2000 DraftKings).

Jokic is averaging more points than Butler throughout the playoffs and his scoring floor remains higher than Butler's, especially since Jimmy has not had as many ceiling games after turning his ankle earlier in the playoffs.


The Rotational Shooters

Caleb Martin almost captured the Eastern Conference finals MVP Award due to his rapid rise and incredible sharpshooting, but what will his role be in the Finals? Martin has seen his role increase in each round. He just averaged 18.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 38.5 minutes per game on 58.1% shooting and. 46.2% from 3-point range in the Eastern Conference Finals. Those numbers are staggering, but is that who he really is?

During the regular season, Martin averaged just 9.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 21.9 minutes on 46.4% shooting from the field and 35.6% from 3-point range. Respectable numbers for a role, but not the type of performance he had against the Celtics. It's tough to bet on him continuing that level of performance, and betting against him in the per-game market may make sense.

There are no guarantees he remains so locked into the rotation with lines of 15.4 PPG, and 6.6 RPG on DraftKings — this would be a bet on not only a drop in performance, but a decrease in role to take those unders. Of the two, I prefer the rebounds under, due to Denver's excellence on the boards and the raw size advantage they have.

While Martin was just one 3-pointer away from leading the ECF in 3s, it's tough to see him replicating that performance. I would much rather play Michael Porter Jr., who is one of the most consistent 3-point shooters in the NBA, and his size advantage here is important. He is 6-foot-10, which makes him taller than nearly every Heat rotational player other than Cody Zeller. If Miami plays zone, he will get open on the perimeter, if Denver lets him shoot off hand-offs he will almost certainly be shooting over a smaller player.

Additionally, MPJ has an ultra-consistent floor. He's made at least two 3s in 79% of his games this season, better than Murray (70%), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (53%) and, yes, Caleb Martin (41%). Porter averaged 3.0 3s per game this season (in both mean and median outcomes) and in his last game against the Heat, he took a whopping 13 3-point attempts. I fully expect the volume to be there. I'll fund my series leader bet (+400 BetMGM) with a bet on his over 2.8 3s per game (-115 DraftKings).

I like this bet because we have a soft landing at five games. He would need 12, 15, 17, and 20 3s to cash this bet in four, five, six, and seven games, respectively. However, in a five-game series, 2.8 per game lands exactly at 14 3s, so 14 would be a push. Monitor if DraftKings moves this line at all because it would impact the raw totals he may need.

Caldwell-Pope is another Denver zone buster. Our good friend and colleague Jim Turvey likes him to lead the series in 3s (+5000), and that's worth a look. I am looking to bet him on a nightly basis though. KCP is shooting a blistering 41.1% from deep this postseason, and his volume is up — he is making 2.0 on 4.9 attempts, an uptick from 1.8 on 4.2 during the regular season.

Caldwell-Pope is interesting because he has scored 10-plus points in 67% of games during the playoffs, and it has generally coincided with making multiple 3s. However, his Usage Rate remains a concern. While he has never been a high usage player, prior to the Lakers series he simply did not take enough shots. I think we need to wait and see how Game 1 goes to determine if KCP is getting his minutes primarily for defensive purposes or if it is for some scoring on the perimeter.

Finally, even if Tyler Herro returns, I'd expect his role to be limited. It is brutal to come back off an extended injury absence and have to play in any game, let alone the NBA Finals. I'd expect him to maybe be used as a spark plug off the bench for some extra offense, but I would be stunned if he plays anywhere close to 40 minutes per night. Regardless, if he does come back, it may cut into some of those minutes that Martin, Max Strus, Duncan Robinson, or Gabe Vincent have absorbed over the first three rounds.

Bets:

  • Jokic to average 30+ Points (+300 FanDuel)
  • Jokic to Score 30+ Points in Every Game (+5500, FanDuel)
  • Bam Adebayo over 16.6 ppg (-115 DK)
  • Jokic to outscore Butler in each game of the series (+2000 DraftKings)
  • Michael Porter Jr. over 2.8 3s per Game (-115 DraftKings)
  • Michael Porter Jr. to Lead the Series in 3s (+400 BetMGM)
  • Caleb Martin under 6.6 rpg (-115 DraftKings)

Leans:

  • Jimmy Butler to Lead the Series in Assists (+3300 Bet365)
  • Jimmy Butler over 5.5 apg (-115 DraftKings)
  • Caleb Martin under 15.4 ppg (-115 DraftKings)
  • KCP over 1.5 3s (Game-to-Game Basis)

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Jul 15, 2024 UTC