NBA Player Props Betting Forecast: Zion Williamson’s Passing Impact, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George Defense
Getty Images/Matt Roembke of Action Network. Pictured (L-R) Kawhi Leonard, Zion Williamson, Paul George.
The NBA player prop market is hot right now despite the weather cooling off as we approach the middle of December.
With injuries, rotational changes, and rest days, there is plenty of value to be had in the player prop market. This we're looking at Zion Williamson's dominance for the New Orleans Pelicans and the impact of having Paul George and Kawhi Leonard back for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Let's dive in to this week's NBA player props forecast.
NBA Player Props Betting Forecast
The New Orleans Pelicans Are a Wagon
We are about 25% through the NBA season, and it is not the Warriors, or the Suns, or the Nuggets sitting atop the Western Conference. Rather, it is the New Orleans Pelicans who are an impressive 18-8 and just dismantled the Suns in back-to-back games this weekend.
The most impressive thing about the Pelicans' run is that of their 26 games, they have only had CJ McCollum for 22, Zion Williamson for 21, Brandon Ingram for 15, and Herb Jones for 17 of those games. They have been able to contend and take care of business with their depth and rotational ability.
Over their last 10 games, the Pelicans are 9-1 with an 11.7 Net Rating, the best in the NBA while playing at a top 10 Pace in the league. A big reason for their success has been due to Zion Williamson. His odds for MVP were as high as 120-1 (which Brandon Anderson and I bet a few days ago and logged in the Action App so follow us there!) and he is down to 30-1 across most books.
The key here is not only is he healthy but he is decisive and attacking the basket. Over these last 10 games, he is averaging 26.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 4.6 assists on an absurd 65.8% shooting. Zion's most recent prop lines were 26.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. He's cleared the points line in six games, rebounds in six games, but assists in just four games.
He is dishing, but settling in around four for the majority of games. Zion will facilitate, but he does so because it is the right basketball play, not necessarily because he is unselfish. He is decisive in his movements, and his explosiveness makes him nearly unguardable.
I just don't know what you do with Zion's drives. Shamet is in early and is working to get in help because he knows it's coming. Zion is so sudden he's already by Shamet's help and finishes going left. pic.twitter.com/9feL4Juw5E
— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) December 11, 2022
He gets by you on the drive, and if you're able to cover he can dish and find the open man, although that is something he is still improving upon. Additionally, as a ball handler, Zion demands gravity. This affects opponents' defensive rotations and he sets up his teammates.
Over his last 10 games, Zion is averaging 11.3 potential assists compared to 4.8 actual so there should be a bit more assist upside. The player he has assisted the most during this stretch is Trey Murphy. Murphy averages 1.4 assists per game from Zion and it's generally on 3-pointers.
Over this stretch, Murphy has played in eight games and is averaging 2.6 3s. Although he had a tough shooting night on Sunday against the Suns, the Pelicans take on the Jazz next, a team Murphy made 3-of-4 3s against earlier this season but he should see even more run in this next game if Jones and Ingram are unable to suit up.
Willie Green did advise that Ingram and Jones may be able to return this week after missing their seventh and fifth consecutive games. Both Murphy and Dyson Daniels would take hits to their playing time; however, Murphy should still have standalone value and if Murphy's 3s line slides down to 1.5, he has exceeded that in eight of 13 games with Ingram this season.
It's clear that Zion is the best player on this team, and I'm curious to see how Ingram's return may impact that. Zion averages 6.5 fewer points, 3.1 fewer rebounds, and 2.5 fewer assists playing alongside Ingram than without him this season.
While I don't think Ingram's return should affect Zion that dramatically given his recent surge, it may impact the Pelicans' overall offensive fluidity.
Are the Clippers Finally Whole?
The Clippers have been a mess this season — or at least that's how it feels. However, they're 15-13 and just four games out of the top seed in the West and they've had Paul George and Kawhi Leonard for just 20 and eight of their 28 games this season.
This is notable because when both are on the floor, they are outstanding. All lineups with both George and Leonard are +13 points per 100 possessions but those make up just 11.2% of the Clippers' lineups on the season, per Cleaning the Glass.
Leonard has been difficult to bet on this season, but I think there are some spots for value. His props on Saturday were set at 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. While he has struggled to score this season, never exceeding 16 points, he has recorded over 4.5 rebounds in six of eight games and he's dished over 3.5 assists in four of those games.
It seems as if he is rebounding the ball well and is averaging 5.1 rebounds on 8.6 rebound chances this season. If he plays on Monday against the Celtics, I'd look to grab his rebounds prop — Boston is 19th in Rebounding Percentage (49.3%) and with Al Horford and Robert Williams still out, Kawhi should have even more opportunities.
The Clippers' rotations have been difficult to gauge, because of the injuries and health issues they have dealt with. However, when we look at the minutes with Leonard and George, we can find a few notable trends. While the offense is solid with them on, it is the defense that is truly outstanding, allowing just 102 points per 100 possessions which is 9.3 points better than the Clippers' season averages.
The Clippers are not a team I would want to play over props against when both Kawhi and PG are active and in the lineup. This week, those players are likely Brown and Tatum (Celtics), Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves), Booker (Suns), and Beal (Wizards).
Those are spots I'd look to fade those aforementioned wings.