NBA Player Prop Bets & Picks for Thursday: Fade Kawhi Leonard, Others on Stacked Card (March 11)
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard.
- The NBA is back in full swing, with a loaded Thursday card featuring 11 games.
- Brandon Anderson, who had a stellar first half of the season with his picks, has three selections for you below.
We’re back! The second half of the 2021 NBA season officially began Wednesday, with a two rescheduled games. However, the true slate is in full Thursday with 11 games on the schedule and I’m ready to rock on props.
Our plays have been doing well this season. We hit the All-Star Break with 167-109 record, delivering a hit rate of 60.5 percent. We’re up nearly 60 units this season, with a healthy 21.6% return on investment (ROI). A $100-per-prop bettor would be up $6,000 on the season.
Suffice it to say, our Props Tool works pretty well.
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.
Below, I have laid out three prop bets I’m playing, the case for each bet and the best books to find odds on those player props.
NBA Player Props & Picks
Deandre Ayton, Under 16.5 Points (-106)
|Suns vs. Trail Blazers||Suns -5|
|Time | TV||10 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass|
I’m still not sure what to make of Deandre Ayton, and I’m not totally sure the Phoenix Suns have an answer to that question either. The Suns are hot and riding high coming out of the All-Star break.
Phoenix has risen all the way to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and had two All-Stars in Chris Paul and Devin Booker. The Suns have gotten big contributions from young players like Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, along with veteran bench players like Cam Payne and Dario Saric.
However, the one player who hasn’t totally fit into all that breakout jazz is Ayton, the former No. 1 overall pick.
Ayton was expected to contend for Most Improved Player and maybe even an All-Star berth this season, with Paul giving him a flurry of easy scoring opportunities. And while Ayton is improving as a defender and dominating the glass, his involvement on offense as a scorer just hasn’t been there.
Ayton is scoring 14.5 points per game, his lowest as a pro. He’s gone under this line in 23 of 35 games, hitting this under almost two-thirds of the time, with only six 20-point games all season.
The scoring is starting to get a little more consistent. Ayton had double-digit points in 13 of his last 14 games heading into the break, and his PPG went up to 15.4 during that stretch. But even in that span, he went under this line 64% of the time, still about the same as his season-long rate.
The high line here could be because of the questionable status of Booker, but our Insider tool gives Booker a 65% chance of playing after a week off (remember, he didn’t participate in All-Star festivities).
Besides, Ayton played four games without Booker at the end of January and averaged just 13.0 PPG in that stretch, so he hasn’t really shown a propensity to step up his scoring when there are more shots available.
We project Ayton at just 13.5 points, a full three below the line, and I think the line could move here if Booker ends up playing as we expect so I’d grab this one before it moves. I’ll play the under to -140 odds.
Kawhi Leonard, Under 7.5 Rebounds (+100)
|Warriors vs. Clippers||Clippers -7|
|Time | TV||10 p.m. ET | Sportsnet|
Kawhi Leonard has not been rebounding as much this season.
Leonard is at 6.3 rebounds per game, his lowest in three seasons. He’s snatching 10.1% of all available rebounds while on the court. That’s Leonard’s second-lowest percentage as a professional, not by a wide margin, but by a significant enough one to matter.
That was especially the case earlier this season. Leonard averaged just 5.3 rebounds per game through the first 19 games of the new season. He went under this line in 16 of those first 19 games.
Then on Feb. 11, Leonard grabbed 11 boards, then 10 more his next game out. He’s averaged 8.0 RPG since those two games, his average way up — but he’s still gone under this line in 5 of 11 games, almost half of them.
The median and ceiling outcome have been a bit higher in this recent stretch, but his overall rebounding has still fallen short. Remember, those lower season-long averages still include this recent stretch too.
And Leonard has gone under 7.5 rebounds in 21 of 30 games for the season, hitting the under 70% of the time. That 7.5 line is also higher than any RPG total in Leonard’s career.
We project Leonard at 35.4 minutes and 6.5 rebounds, and I think that’s what this line ought to have been the way this season has played out thus far. Don’t be fooled by recency bias and a few bigger rebounding games that skew the past 11 games. We’ll bet on Leonard’s rebounding continuing to trail behind his career averages and play this one to -125 odds.
Kyle Lowry, Under 9.5 Assists (+108)
|Hawks vs. Raptors||Hawks -3|
|Time | TV||7:30 p.m. ET | TSN|
The Toronto Raptors are still up against it.
Toronto staggered into the All-Star break badly in need of a week off, but seven days have not solved things yet when it comes to the roster.
Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby missed the two games before the break due to COVID-19 protocols, and all three starters remain sidelined as the second half of the season begins. Patrick McCaw and Malachi Flynn are out as well, leaving the Raptors extremely shorthanded.
And in the final Raptors game before the break, Kyle Lowry took over. Lowry recorded an incredible 19 assists in more than 40 minutes in defeat.
Now, here we are with another game that has “superhero Lowry” written all over it, and that’s why the books have set this line so high.
As Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend.
Lowry is awesome and does a lot of things well, but acting as a superhero is not one of them. The whole point of Lowry is that he’s a piece of a winning team; not the solo engine of one. Lowry plays defense, rebounds, dives for loose balls and takes charges.
He’s not a guy who puts up gaudy numbers. In fact, he hasn’t even led the Raptors in usage with this thin team. That would be Chris Boucher at 28.6%, with Norman Powell (27.3%) not far behind.
Lowry did have 19 assists his last time out, but he also had just six assists the game before in the same situation. And don’t gloss over those 40 minutes played — that was a luxury Toronto could afford since Lowry would have a week off, but with games coming Saturday and Sunday, it would be crazy to expect 40 more minutes in this spot.
We project Lowry at 35.1 minutes, 20.4 points and 9.0 assists. That’s a good game by any means. However, it’s still under this line and one with juice in our favor. Lowry has gone under 9.5 assists in 22 of 29 games this season, hitting this under 76% of the time. And remember, he’s gone under it in 50% of these super shorthanded games as well. I’ll play Lowry’s under to -115.