The new NBA postseason includes 20 teams, but by the end of Wednesday, we’ll already be down to 18. It’s our first two elimination games, and we’ve got two pretty evenly matched games on our hands.
Elimination games mean heavy minutes for the best players, so even in tighter and often more defensive games, that typically means eyeing overs for the guys you expect to see extra minutes.
Below, I have laid out five prop bets that I’m playing using the Action Labs Player Prop tool to compare our NBA projections to the props posted at a variety of sportsbooks. Let’s bet some must-win-game props!
NBA Player Props & Picks
Kevin Huerter, Over 2.5 3-Pointers (+104) | Over 3.5 3-Pointers (+280)
|Hornets vs. Hawks||Hawks -5|
|Time | TV||7 p.m. ET | ESPN|
The best guy playing in Wednesday night’s play-in games is unquestionably Trae Young. He is still pretty disastrous on defense, but you can make a decent case that he’s been the best offensive guard in the NBA for the season. After a slow start adjusting to the foul rules, Young has upped his game and is a threat to put up 30 points or 10 assists — or both — any given night.
Believe it or not, though, the Charlotte Hornets have defended Trae Young about as well as any team in the league. The Hornets don’t play much defense, but they’ve schemed to take Trae specifically away, putting Terry Rozier on him throughout the game and pressuring Young early to get the ball out of his hands, then playing heavy ball denial to stop Trae from getting it back.
In his last game against the Hornets, Young scored only nine points on a brutal 3-of-12 shooting night, his worst of the season. He shot under 39% for the season against Charlotte and averaged just 20.8 PPG. He was even worse last year against the Hornets too, so this is not a new thing. In six games the last two seasons against Charlotte, Young is averaging 17.5 points with 5.0 turnovers per game on an ugly 35% from the field.
Expect Charlotte to force the ball out of Trae’s hands, and that will put a lot of pressure on Atlanta’s secondary playmakers to get the job done, namely Kevin Huerter and Bogdan Bogdanovic. And Huerter in particular has stepped it up in these Hornets games.
Where Young is struggling, Huerter is thriving. He’s averaging 18.0 PPG against Charlotte, almost 50% higher than his season-long 12.1 average, and he’s hit 17-of-31 3-pointers with at least four makes in three of the four games. That’s 4.2 makes per game, almost double his season average of 2.2.
Huerter’s shot volume has been higher over the past month with John Collins out already, and it should be even higher with Charlotte’s defense slanted toward Young. We’re getting plus odds on Huerter going over 2.5 made 3s, so you have to like that.
I’ll also play four-plus treys at +280 since he’s done that in three of the four Hornets matchups this year and should get the volume against a poor defensive team. You can play five makes at +720, and that’s a big ask for a postseason game but probably worth a little sprinkle if you play the first two in a game that should be fast and high scoring.
LaMelo Ball Over 3.5 3-Pointers (-125)
Unlike the Hornets, the Hawks do not really have any pesky point-of-attack defenders to throw at the opponent’s star point guard, just a lot of bad perimeter defense.
That should leave LaMelo Ball plenty of room to work with, and he’s been firing up a ton of 3s lately. The whole Hornets team has since the All-Star Break, actually. The Hornets have the league’s No. 2 Offensive Rating since the break per NBA Advanced Stats, even without Gordon Hayward, and it’s largely because of the increase in 3-pointers. Ball has made 3.5 treys per game on 44% behind the arc, while Rozier (3.2 on 41%) and Miles Bridges (2.2 on 40%) are doing their part too.
Ball is up even more over the past month. In his last 14 games, Ball is hoisting 9.1 treys per game, and he’s making 4.4 of those 3s at a blistering 48% from behind the arc. He’s gone over 3.5 made 3s in 11 of those 14 games, a 79% hit rate to this prop compared to an implied 56%.
Be careful about going too nuts on an escalator here. Ball has actually gone under his 24.5 points line in 19 of the last 22 games, so the scoring is trending toward mostly just the 3s. Then again, he should be in a spot to see a big uptick in minutes too, and that only helps in volume. You can play five-plus 3s at +172 at FanDuel if you like too.
Even in today’s NBA, four 3s is a big enough ask for a postseason debut, so I’ll stick with that and play the over 3.5 treys to -150.
Dejounte Murray, Over 40.5 PTS + REB + AST (-120)
|Spurs vs. Pelicans||Pelicans -5.5|
|Time | TV||9:30 p.m. ET | ESPN|
Since trading Derrick White, Dejounte Murray has been doing just about everything for the Spurs.
Many wondered if San Antonio would have a breakout candidate for Most Improved Player this year with DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge finally out of the picture, but early in the year it was tough for Murray to stand out with Keldon Johnson, Derrick White, and Jakob Poeltl also doing their thing.
But with White gone, the first-time All Star has absolutely exploded. Since the White trade left the Spurs shorthanded — and ostensibly playing for next year and ceding the play-in race to the Lakers, HEYO!! — Murray has put up massive numbers. He’s averaged 25.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 9.5 assists a game for the Spurs in just under 36 minutes, adding 2.1 steals and 1.7 treys too.
Murray has been a superstar. He’s basically posted Russell Westbrook numbers (but with defense!), and he’ll be asked to do as much as he can possibly handle in an elimination game. But it won’t be easy. Rookie Herb Jones will make Murray’s life miserable, and his shooting numbers have been rough against the Spurs.
That’s why I’m sticking with the combo PRA line here. Murray has gone over his posted points line of 23.5 in 13 of the last 19 games, and he should get into that range again, but sometimes the shots still don’t fall and the Pelicans have played pesky defense. Instead I’ll factor in the rebounds and assists too and just let Dejounte rack up playing time and counting numbers. He can put up 12 rebounds or 15 assists any given night, so we’ve got a lot of outs there. Murray has gone over 40.5 PRA in 13 of 20 games (65%) since the White trade.
He’s also had a double-double in 13 of the 20 games, but there’s not much value playing that one at -145. I will, however, sprinkle the triple-double. Dejounte has had three since the White trade, and he’s been two PRA away from three more. That one comes off at +475 at PointsBet, and though it could be a lower scoring, defensive game, that should only boost the rebounding opportunities so he should get close in big minutes.
Bonus NBA Prop Bets
- Jakob Poeltl to Record a Double-Double (+185 DraftKings): The Spurs-Pelicans game should be played mostly inside the arc, and San Antonio will need big minutes from Poeltl to battle against Valanciunas. Since the White trade, he’s averaging 14.1 points and 9.9 rebounds in 29 minutes, with 10 double-doubles in 23 games. That’s a 43% hit rate versus an implied 35%, and we should get a few more minutes here too.
- Jonas Valanciunas, Over 2.5 Assists (+100 DraftKings): Before his minutes ramped down to end the season, JV averaged 3.8 APG over a 10-game stretch with at least two assists in every game, going over this line eight times (80%). He was a monster in last year’s play-in and has been handling a bit more with Brandon Ingram hobbled, so let’s hope for another big game.