Wednesday’s Best NBA Player Props & Betting Picks (Jan. 22): All In on Zion Williamson’s NBA Debut
Pictured: Pelicans F Zion Williamson (1), Photo Credit: Carmen Mandato-Getty Images
- Zion Williamson will make his NBA debut tonight vs. the San Antonio Spurs (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN).
- Matt LaMarca analyzes the prop market to determine the best ways to profit off his first NBA game.
freeBetting on props can be one of the easiest ways to build your bankroll. 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.
Odds as of Wednesday afternoon. Check out PointsBet, where Action Network users can access an exclusive promotion to get a 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).
How about a little reminder on just how impressively these bets did last season? Props with a Bet Quality of 10 posted a win rate of 60.31%, and props with a Bet Quality of nine won at a 58.82% clip.
As is the case with most sports, betting on unders proved to be more profitable than betting on overs last season:
- Unders with a Bet Quality of 10: 341-172 (66.47%)
- Unders with a Bet Quality of 9: 457-273 (62.6%)
- Unders with a Bet Quality of 8: 898-589 (60.39%)
- Unders with a Bet Quality of 7: 1447-1086 (57.13%)
- Unders with a Bet Quality of 6: 1992-1663 (54.95%)
Overall, if you just blind bet every under with a Bet Quality of eight or higher, you would’ve won at a 62.1% clip on more than 2,700 bets.
Tonight’s prop piece is going to be a little different. Instead of focusing on the entire slate, we’re going to focus on just one game in particular.:
- San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans: 9:30 p.m. ET
More specifically, we’re going to focus all of out attention on one player.
All eyes will be on New Orleans tonight for Zion Williamson’s debut vs. the Spurs. No rookie has entered the league with this much buzz since LeBron James, and Williamson managed to boost that excitement during the preseason.
He averaged 23.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game while shooting a ridiculous 71.4% from the field. His tremendous power and athleticism was also on full display:
Sadly, a knee injury cost him the first 44 games of his rookie season, but he is expected to make his debut tonight. He will likely be on some sort of minutes restriction, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look to target him in the prop market.
Let’s dive in.
THE PICK: Over 1.5 assists (-118)
Let’s start with his assist prop. Zion is not going to be confused with a distributor. He averaged just 2.0 assists per game during his tenure at Duke and 2.3 assists per game during the preseason.
The Pelicans also have two point guards — Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday — to take care of the majority of the ball-handling. Expect Zion to be finishing more than set up teammates in his pro debut.
That said, this is such a low number. Any NBA player should be able to get two assists by accident if they’re playing more than 20 minutes, let alone a player as talented as Williamson. He handed out at least three assists in two of his four preseason games, and he has the potential to repeat that success today.
This prop has a bet quality of 10 in the Player Prop tool, which makes it the highest-graded Zion prop of the day. I like it up to -125.
THE PICK: Under 5.5 rebounds (-106)
I’m probably most bearish on his rebounding numbers tonight. Williamson averaged 6.5 rebounds per game during the preseason, but he did that over an average of 27.3 minutes per game.
He’s not expected to see as many minutes tonight, so I think it’s reasonable to expect fewer rebounds tonight. Zion played fewer than 27 minutes in two of his four preseason games, and he grabbed five rebounds or fewer in both contests.
The Spurs are also an average matchup from a rebounding perspective. They rank middle of the pack for both team rebounding rate and pace, and they also rank seventh in offensive efficiency. That combination shouldn’t result in a ton of opportunities on the defensive glass.
UPDATE — This has moved up to 6.0 in some places, and you can find the under on that at +120. This is exactly what I was hoping for, and I’m much more comfortable playing the under at that number.
THE PICK: Under 20.5 combined points, rebounds, & assists (-110)
Sorry to ruin the party. I know that it’s more fun to bet on overs, and who in their right mind wants to bet on an under in Zion’s debut? This isn’t about fun, though, it’s about making money. There are just so many uncertainties surrounding Zion right now that taking the over doesn’t make sense.
How many minutes will he play?
Is he fully recovered from his knee injury?
Will he have jitters in his NBA debut?
Zion is great at a lot of things, but he is far from a deadeye shooter. He shot just 25.0% from 3-point range and 68.8% from the free throw line during the preseason, and those numbers are in line with his numbers from college. If his efficiency drops any further — be it from rust or nerves — it’s going to be tough for him to hit the over.
Overall, I don’t think this line is super inflated, but it still seems a touch high. I’m going to wait it out and hope this line rises during the day since I’m sure the majority of the money on these props will come in on the over.
UPDATE — Unsurprisingly, I’m seeing this line up to 21.5 in certain places, with the under checking in at -125. I’m happy to pull the trigger on that number.