Wednesday NBA Player Prop Bets, Picks: How to Play LaMelo Ball, SGA (Oct. 20)
Adam Pantozzi/Getty Images. Pictured: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Editor’s note: Looking for Thursday’s props? Click here.
Did you see it?
A minute into the fourth quarter of the NBA season opener, James Harden dribbled casually through the lane, then hit a cutting Joe Harris heading to the hoop. What might have been a layup was rejected to Brook Lopez at the rim, robbing Harris of two points and Harden of an assist — and ultimately leaving both our Nets plays under instead of over, as we played them.
That’s how close the margins can be in the NBA, and it’s a good reminder not to panic. The season is a marathon, not a sprint, and we have hundreds and hundreds of props ahead of us this year. We won’t win every single bet, not even close. Sometimes, like the 76ers, we just need to take a deep breath and trust the process.
These prop lines will be a bit wonky early on. We don’t know exactly what minutes or roles to expect or even which guys are healthy or playing, and neither do the books. Expect the lines to fluctuate a lot as we settle in over this first week, but trust your instincts when you spot a play you like and pounce before the value is gone.
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 that I’m playing, the case for each bet and the best books to find odds on those player props.
NBA Player Props & Picks
LaMelo Ball, over 5.5 rebounds (+105)
|Pacers at Hornets||Pacers -1|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
LaMelo Ball is the reigning Rookie of the Year, and what a debut campaign it was. He averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 6.1 assists his first season in the league, dazzling crowds with highlight passes on the nightly.
Those numbers actually obscure Ball’s great rookie campaign a bit. During the month of February, LaMelo really stood out. With the Hornets a bit shorthanded, Ball got extra minutes, playing almost 35 MPG, and he leapt to over 20 PPG during that span. That was largely due to the absence of Devonte’ Graham from the Charlotte guard rotation, and now that Graham has moved on to New Orleans, Ball should be a permanent fixture in Charlotte’s lineup with plenty of minutes.
Ball is a big point guard at 6-foot-6, and he’s an excellent rebounder for a guard because of his size. He averaged a rebound every 4.86 minutes as a rookie. At that rate, he would only need 26.8 minutes to go over this rebounding line on average, and it’s obvious he should get well more than that most nights going forward.
As a starter last season, Ball went over 5.5 boards in 17 of his 31 games, covering this line 55% of the time. That was even better over Ball’s final 10 games after he returned from a long injury spell, when he went over 5.5 rebounds in seven of those 10. And now that we’re seeing a stronger, more physical LaMelo in the preseason, he should have an even easier time snagging boards.
I think this line is a rebound low and probably gets to 6.5 pretty quickly. That’s closer to what I expect from Melo, so that leaves real value here, especially at plus money. We project Ball right at 6.5 boards, and I’ll play to -120.
Robert Williams, over 14.5 points + rebounds (-110)
|Celtics at Knicks||Knicks -1.5|
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
Folks, it’s Timelord SZN.
Robert Williams has always produced while on the court. He’s an outrageous athlete, even by NBA standards. Williams swallows shots whole on defense, and he leaps past opponents for rebounds or alley oops like he’s playing against junior high schoolers out there.
The problem has been staying on the court. Partly due to constant foul trouble and partly to just not looking like he knows where to be at times, Williams has had a hard time getting consistent minutes. That led to way too much Tristan Thompson last season in Boston, and it’s probably part of why the Celtics added Al Horford.
But Williams is looking more reliable lately and as springy as ever, and with Thompson gone and Horford out for the season opener, the Celtics don’t have much choice but to give Timelord as many minutes as he can handle. And if he gets enough time, he is going to produce and could smash this number.
Williams played at least 22 minutes in 20 games last season. In those 20 games, he averaged 19.8 points + rebounds, and he went over 14.5 in 18 of the games, covering this line 90% of the time and usually with ease. Williams is starting, and with Enes Kanter and maybe Grant Williams the only other “big” options on the roster, he should get playing time well north of 22 minutes if he can stay out of foul trouble.
You never know how those minutes will go with Timelord, but if he actually plays enough, he could easily top this line by nearly halftime. You can isolate points or rebounds if you prefer, but they’ll come together if he gets the minutes so I prefer to play them both. At 14.5, I’d play all the way to -175, and I don’t mind playing over 15.5 if it gets there either.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, over 4.5 assists (+115)
|Jazz at Thunder||Jazz -13.5|
|Time | TV||9 p.m. ET|
As I went back over the data from last year this offseason, one of the overlooked players who leapt off the page to me was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. This dude was an absolute star last season — we just collectively forgot to notice and hype him enough because the Thunder were so terrible and because SGA was way too good to tank right so Oklahoma City shut him down for the final couple months.
I think Gilgeous-Alexander might have been a top 10 guard last season. He’s already that good.
If he’s that good, OKC may be stuck with another tricky tanking decision later in the year, but right now Gilgeous-Alexander is a full go, and all the numbers from last season assure us he should play a full minutes load when he’s ready to go. So how did SGA do in the 35 games we actually got last year? Pretty darn well. He averaged 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists, and he did that as a 22-year-old with precious little help and a super young roster around him.
That part certainly hasn’t changed. The Thunder have intriguing young talent like rookie Josh Giddey and sophomore Aleksej Pokusevski, but SGA is still the engine of this offense and will get all the touches and usage he can handle.
Gilgeous-Alexander saw a big leap in points and assists last year with Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder out of the picture, and that makes sense. Giddey will get some touches, but he’s a rookie coming over from international play so it’ll be a steep learning curve. SGA will get his and already did just fine as a creator in the preseason, averaging an assist every 4.4 minutes. That’s even better than last season’s breakout, when he was at one dime every 5.7 minutes.
Even at that old rate, anything north of 25 minutes gives us a great chance at an over, and if the assist rate goes up this year, this line will end up far too low. SGA went over 4.5 assists in 25 of his 35 games a year ago, covering this number 71% of the time. I think the books are overreacting to Giddey’s presence here. Gilgeous-Alexander will see more than his fair share of the ball, and he’ll put up numbers even against a tough Jazz defense.
This is another line that I think will be at least a full assist higher soon enough. And we’re getting it at plus money? Looks like OKC isn’t the only one feeling a little Giddey. I’ll play at any plus number or down to -120.