NBA Player Prop Bets & Picks: Fade LeBron James in Game 1 (Friday, Sept. 4)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers.
- LeBron James and the Lakers open their series with the Rockets at 9 p.m. ET on Friday, and the King is a bit more human as a scorer in Game 1s.
- See why Brandon Anderson is fading his points prop, plus the other bets he's making for tonight's NBA action.
Betting on props can be one of the easiest ways to build your bankroll, especially in the NBA postseason. Sportsbooks tend to offer lower limits and take less action on props than they do on games, so they don’t have as much incentive to post an accurate line.
That’s where our Player Prop tool comes in handy. We compare our industry-leading NBA projections to the props posted at a variety of sportsbooks to identify the best plays each day. Each bet is then graded on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the best possible grade.
|Win-Loss (Win Pct)|
|Bet Quality of 10||775-572 (57%)|
|Bet Quality of 9||942-776 (54%)|
|Bet Quality of 8||1432-1263 (52%)|
Friday’s player props come from both of the slate’s games:
- Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat at 6:30 p.m. ET on TNT
- Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets at 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
NBA Player Prop Bets
Milwaukee Bucks, Khris Middleton
The Prop: Over 6.5 rebounds (-135)
Well, this is it for the Bucks. Down 0-2, this isn’t an actual elimination game, but it’s as close as you get in the NBA considering no team has ever overcome a 0-3 deficit. Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer has been painfully reticent to make adjustments (our very own Matt Moore wrote about that here), but he’s going to have to try something new in Game 3, and the most obvious solution is to play his two best guys more often.
The Bucks need Middleton’s scoring and individual creation out there as they struggle to score in the half court against Miami’s many wings. Middleton is averaging 7.3 RPG these playoffs with at least six rebounds in all but one game, and he’s only gone over 33.5 minutes once.
After a miserable series against the Orlando Magic, Middleton is finally getting going these last two games. I expect him to clear that 33.5 minutes mark tonight and that should give him plenty of rebounding opportunities. We’re projecting Middleton at 7.8 boards, so I’ll play him here up to -160.
Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James
The Prop: Under 29.5 points (-118)
LeBron James is a slow starter in Game 1 of a playoff series. Historically, James gets stronger as playoff series go on, stronger and more aggressive. He tends to hang back a bit early on in the series as he studies and analyzes the opponent and tries to get his teammates going, then attacks later once he has his prey fully in his sight.
And lest you think that’s just a narrative, check out the numbers. In Game 1s over LeBron’s playoff career, he averages 26.8 PPG. In all other playoff games, that number jumps to 29.4 PPG. That’s nearly a 10% increase and, as you might imagine, not exactly a small sample size. James has played 46 playoff Game 1s in his career. He’s scored at least 30 points in only 17 of them, and 12 of those were with the Cleveland Cavaliers where he had his weakest supporting casts. In the firs round against the Portland Trail Blazers, James scored 23 points and 10 points in the first two games before taking over late with 38, 30, and 36 in the last three.
James has never seen a playoff opponent like the small-ball Rockets before, and he knows the Lakers will need more him to win this series. Expect him to funnel things through the Anthony Davis mismatch early and often and look to get his other role player teammates involved. I’ll confidently play the under here to -150.
Houston Rockets, Jeff Green
The Prop: Under 4.5 rebounds (-110)
Apparently, Jeff Green is an all-world center now. Green was a huge part of the Rockets’ series win against the Thunder, stretching OKC’s big men out to the 3-point line and killing them with 2.9 3s per game at 47%. Green should present the same problem against the Lakers big men.
As the OKC series went on, though, Green saw his role muted. After playing 37 and 38 minutes in Games 2 and 3, he dropped to around 31 the next two games and then 18 and 21 to conclude the series. Green’s shots were still falling, but his defense wasn’t holding up, and head coach Mike D’Antoni relied more on Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker at the 5.
I see that trend continuing against the Lakers, with the Rockets needing Tucker’s post defense and Covington’s defensive length and instincts out there a bit more than Green’s offensive versatility. LA should dominate the glass with all their big men, making rebounding opportunities for Jeff Green few and far between.
We’re projecting a quiet game from Green at 21.2 minutes and 3.1 rebounds. That makes this prop a 10 out of 10 and worth playing as high as -150.