NBA Player Props Forecast: Round One of the Eastern Conference

NBA Player Props Forecast: Round One of the Eastern Conference article feature image
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Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts after missing a shot at the end of the first quarter against the Orlando Magic at Kia Center. (Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images)

The NBA Playoffs are here! I'll be previewing each of the matchups in the upcoming rounds to give some insight on how I will be betting these markets.

I will be giving series-long prop angles, series leader bets, and per game bets as well. 

Last season we smashed with the series leader bets going 14-15 (+26.01 Units) (ROI 95.63%)! Let’s make this season even more successful than last. 

EASTERN CONFERENCE 

Sunday, Apr 21
7:00pm ET
TNT

The Pacers square off against their divisional foes the Milwaukee Bucks in a matchup that the Pacers have dominated this season winning the season series 4-1. The biggest concerns and variables are the status of not only Giannis Antetokounmpo (calf) but also Damian Lillard (adductor) who may not be 100% either. Woj reported that the Bucks are preparing to be without Giannis for the beginning of the series and this may be a series that the Pacers can take an early command of. They opened as high as +250 in the market and have since moved down to favorites at -120. 

Giannis has absolutely dominated in this matchup so it’s a shame he looks to miss some time. In 5 games, he has scored an absurd 26, 30, 64, 37, and 54 points while pulling down double digit boards in each game. It has not been as easy for Lillard though who has averaged just 20.3 ppg. Lillard should not be favored to lead the series in scoring (-175).

The Pacers simply have no real answer for Giannis and he has been the key to the Bucks’ offense in the games he has played. Although he may miss a game or two, as long as Giannis returns by Game 3 I’d consider playing him for the Series Points Leader at what should be a very long number considering he has to make up for multiple games; however, he is one of the few players in the league let along in the matchup, that could put forward multiple 50 point games in a short span. It’s a sprinkle considering the re-injury risk and he may not be 100% but if I could get something longer than 25/1 I’d likely bite. 

Giannis missing time would also impact the Bucks’ defense which already has been a sieve this season. The Bucks generally play drop defense which remained effective when they had Jrue Holiday; however, the perimeter defense with Damian Lillard has been brutal. The Bucks lack a true point-of-attack defender and they are generally tied to their defensive scheme due to their personnel. 

The Bucks have been torched by lead guards this season and Tyrese Haliburton is one of them.

In five games against the Bucks, Haliburton has averaged 27.0 points, 11.0 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game. He has enough scoring that he could lead the series and is worth a bite at (+600 Bet365). One of my favorite bets though is Haliburton to record 20+ Points in Every Game (+800 Fanduel). He has hit that threshold in all 5 games this season with a low of 22 points in just 31 minutes. He should see upper 30s or even lower 40s in the Playoffs. Additionally, this is a way to bet on the Pacers to win in fewer games. The fewer games the Pacers play the more value a bet like this (which is essentially an open parlay with a max of 7 games) has. If we get a 7 game series it is likely -EV; however, if it’s a sweep or a 5 game series there should be some skin on the bone considering I think his points prop of 19.5 is simply too low to begin with in Game 1. 

One other way to bet on Haliburton is in Game 1. Haliburton to record over 24.5 Points + Rebounds. He has exceeded this in every game against the Bucks this season. While there is consistency with the scoring, there is significant upside with the rebounds. He has logged 6, 7, 5, 9, and 2 rebounds with an average of 9.4 rebound chances – those chances represent a nearly 50% uptick from the 6.7 he averages on the season, per NBA Advanced Stats. I like the combo prop here because I can capture the upside of both stats in a plus and fast-paced matchup. 

It absolutely is notable that Haliburton did all of that without Pascal Siakam. However, the guards have dominated in this spot. Siakam should still be able to get his though but he has been a bit less consistent against the Bucks. He has averaged 20.9 ppg in 8 games against the Bucks over the last three seasons but he has more games below 15 points (3) than games above 30 (2). 

Bets:

  • 1 Unit – Tyrese Haliburton over 24.5 PR in Game 1 (-110)
  • 0.25 Units – Tyrese Haliburton to record 20+ Points in Every Game (+800 FD)
  • 0.25 Units – Tyrese Haliburton Scoring Leader (+600 Bet365)

Leans:

  • Giannis Points/Rebounds Leader Bets

Saturday, Apr 20
1:00pm ET
ESPN

The 4/5 matchup in the East is going to be an ode to 90s basketball and I would not be surprised to see multiple games with both teams scoring fewer than 100 points. This should be a series dictated by defense; however, there still is some opportunity here for series leader bets.

Donovan Mitchell is the clear best offensive player in this series; however, the Magic’s defense is absolutely nails. They have some of the league’s best point-of-attack defenders including Jalen Suggs and Jonathan Isaac. While Mitchell should lead the series in scoring (-220), I’m uninterested at the price. 

The assist leader market is intriguing here. In this series, the assist leaders between these two teams are as follows: Garland (6.5), Mitchell (6.1), Paolo Banchero (5.4), Caris LeVert (5.1). While these numbers are close, the pricing is not. Garland is the favorite (-140 – DK), Mitchell (+370 FD), Paolo (+450 – MGM), LeVert (+4000 DK). Considering the defense here for both teams, assists may be difficult to come by and the variance here is something to watch for. Mitchell should be the head of the offense for the Cavaliers, and the difference between him and Garland’s averages is fairly minimal. Their odds should not be so far apart. I’m also interested in LeVert. While I would not expect him to lead the series, he has a puncher’s chance given the averages. No player besides these four average more than 4 assists per game in this series. 

Bets:

  • Donovan Mitchell Assists Leader (+410 FD)
  • Caris LeVert Assists Leader Sprinkle (+3600 FD)
Saturday, Apr 20
6:00pm ET
ESPN

The Knicks face off against the 76ers in a showdown between two of the East’s best teams. Joel Embiid’s health looms large in this matchup. He did not appear to be operating at 100% in the Play-In Game against Miami but he still was productive. This series against the Knicks may be his toughest test. The Knicks have a multitude of Centers that they can deploy on him to keep the pressure on with fresh legs. This should impact his ability to score and he may just wear down as the series progresses. One thing I've already noticed is Philly is playing more drop with Embiid now. His mobility is a bit limited and they have to commit to that defensive scheme because it is a bit less strenuous. 

This should open the door for Jalen Brunson. Brunson torches drop defense and he should be able to lead the series in scoring (+100). Given the variance though, I think the better play is to take Brunson over 28.7 ppg for the Playoffs. Brunson is averaging 33.1 ppg in his last 20 games and has been tremendous without Julius Randle. Although he scored just 19, 20, and 21 in three games against the Sixers in February and March, none of those games featured Embiid and the Sixers' defensive scheme was different. In the one game Embiid played, Brunson dropped 29 alongside of Julius Randle back in January. I like the Playoff ppg because if they advance they will get an elite matchup against the Pacers or the Bucks, both of whom struggle defensively. I also like Brunson to go over his Game 1 Points prop of 29.5, a number he has exceeded in 9 of his last 10 games.

Josh Hart should continue to have success against the Sixers too. Hart has played 4 games against the Sixers this year. He has tallied 15, 12, 11, and 19 rebounds against them with one triple double. His rebounds are a look throughout the series. Especially when you consider Embiid's health, Josh Hart should be looked at for the Series Rebound Leader (+200 DK). Since his return, Embiid is averaging 10.2 rebounds per game, which is a respectable number but he has not been nearly as dominant on the glass as he had been previously.

As for assists, Jalen Brunson is underpriced at (-140 Bet365). He has averaged 7.8 assists per game against Philly this season with 2, 12, 8, and 9 dimes. Since March 1st, Brunson leads all players with 6.9 assists per game, Hart (5.9), Maxey (5.6) Embiid (5.2) and Lowry (4.7) trail behind. I do not see much value on Maxey given Embiid's return and the (+900 Bet365) for Embiid is not juicy enough. I do think that you could supplement a Brunson bet with a sprinkle on Kyle Lowry (+25000 MGM). Lowry is someone that Nick Nurse trusts and is willing to give the keys to the offense at times. Lowry just played 30 minutes in the Play-In Game against the Heat, and with that kind of volume, he could certainly catch fire dishing to Embiid or the perimeter.

Bets:

  • 1 Unit – Jalen Brunson over 28.7 ppg Playoffs (-110 MGM)
  • 1 Unit – Jalen Brunson over 29.5 Points in Game 1 (-105 MGM)
  • 0.5 Units – Josh Hart Total Rebounds Leader (+200 DK)
  • 1 Unit – Jalen Brunson Total Assists Leader (-140 Bet365)
  • 0.05 Units – Kyle Lowry Total Assists Leader (+25000 MGM)

Sunday, Apr 21
1:00pm ET
ABC

The Celtics should dominate this series – they won all three games these teams played against each other and Miami will be without Jimmy Butler (MCL) and Terry Rozier (neck) missed another game against the Bulls.

Tatum is one player that should excel. In those three games he averaged 8.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game. I like his Playoff Long Rebounds over which is set at 8.1. Last season he averaged 10.5 and although it was without Porzingis, Kristaps is not a great rebounding threat himself. The 8.1 is too low considering the uptick in minutes we should expect from Tatum who likely goes from 35.7 mins to 40+ now that it is the Postseason.

Another angle for this series is Jaylen Brown's turnovers. "Vase Hands" as our good friend, Brandon Anderson, likes to call him has played 13 games against the Heat over the last two seasons. He has had at least 3 turnovers in 10 of those 13 games. If we get a 2.5 turnovers line I'll be all over it.

As for Miami, without Jimmy Butler we need to look toward Jaime Jaquez. He has averaged 15.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.0 assists without Butler in his career. Jaquez just had a strong performance against the Bulls on Friday night with 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. I'd look for his PRA or just his Points in Game 1.

Bets:

  • 1 Unit – Jayson Tatum over 8.1 Rebounds per Game for Playoffs (-110 MGM)

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Nick Sterling
May 21, 2024 UTC