You have to love these final weeks of the NBA regular season when the tanking teams just let the freak flags fly.
Tanking season is typically code for youth movement. The teams bad enough to tank are usually bad in part because they’re very young, and late in the year is the perfect time to turn the keys over to the rookies and youngsters, ramp up the minutes and usage, and give them a chance to develop. And that of course gives the us opportunity to play props.
We’ll be using the Action Labs Player Prop tool to compare our NBA projections to the props posted at a variety of sportsbooks. Below, I have laid out seven 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
Corey Kispert, Over 0.5 Steals + Blocks (-140)
|Mavericks vs. Wizards||Wizards +8.5|
|Time | TV||7 p.m. ET | League Pass|
Imagine if Corey Kispert had still been on Gonzaga this season. Imagine how many open 3s he would have hit all year with Drew Timme dominating the paint and Chet Holmgren wreaking havoc. The Kispert ‘Zags would probably still be playing this weekend.
Alas, Gonzaga is done but Kispert is still playing, and he’s seeing more minutes than ever. It was a slow start to Kispert’s NBA career. He came off the bench the first few months and was lucky to see five or 10 minutes many nights. But as Washington put Bradley Beal on the injured reserve and turned its attention toward the future after the All-Star Break, Kispert’s minutes are soaring.
Since the break, he’s playing 31.4 minutes per game, and sure enough, he’s making 2.3 treys at 38% too, doing the thing he was drafted for. Unfortunately, the books have caught on and bumped Kispert’s points and 3-point lines beyond being favorable. But they haven’t really bothered with his defense yet, perhaps because Kispert isn’t exactly known for his defensive prowess. He’s not a great athlete or a top defender, but he’s smart and plays the right angles and space, and that allows him to make plays.
Kispert has 52 stocks (steals + blocks) this season in 1617 minutes. That’s one steal or block every 31.1 minutes on the court. And at this point the math is pretty easy, considering that’s almost exactly the number of minutes Kispert is playing lately.
In fact, when Kispert plays at least 24 minutes, he has at least one stock in 24 of 34 games, hitting this over 71% of the time. And he’s played 29 minutes in nine straight games, including at least 34 in three straight, so this is only going in one direction.
Look, not every play has to be sexy. Sometimes you just need a win. Let’s keep an eye on Kispert and get that single solitary steal or block anytime tonight amidst his many minutes. We project him at 1.3, a pretty sizable advantage compared to the line of 0.5. I’ll play to -170.
Jalen Green, Over 3.5 3-Pointers (+145) | Over 4.5 3-Pointers (+325)
|Kings vs. Rockets||Rockets +2.5|
|Time | TV||8 p.m. ET | League Pass|
The Kings and the Rockets play for the second time in three days tonight, but it’s really the “Kings” and the “Rockets.” De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis have long since been sidelined for Sacramento. Houston will be without Dennis Schroder, Eric Gordon, and Christian Wood with phantom injuries.
That means the kids are playing, and they are playing fast. These teams played at a huge pace two days ago and would’ve scored far more than the 239 points they had if shots were falling. The Rockets are leaning all the way in on youth development. Star rookie Jalen Green and reclamation project Kevin Porter Jr. are getting all the usage they can handle, and we’re seeing plenty from rookies Usman Garuba, Josh Christopher, and Daishen Nix too.
One man whose shots have been falling lately is Jalen Green. Green has been mostly overlooked this season as the players drafted around him exploded. No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham has been a monster late in the season. No. 3 pick Evan Mobley leads the Rookie of the Year Race, with No. 4 pick Scottie Barnes making a strong closing push. Green has been nowhere in the mix, but he’s closing the year strong.
Entering the final week of March, Green had scored 23 or more points only eight times in his career. Now he’s done it four times in the last week, and the big difference has been a massive uptick in 3-point volume. Just look at the huge 3-point attempts over the last four games: 10, 11, 15, and 14. Those are four of the five highest number of attempts in Green’s young career, and it should come as no surprise that he’s also recorded four of his five best 3-point shooting outputs too.
Green has made five, six, six, and six 3s his last four games, averaging 5.75 makes on 12.5 attempts and racking up 27.5 PPG. The Kings are bottom five in the NBA against opposing shooting guards and second to last in 3-point percentage allowed, letting opponents get up clean looks all game. And remember, these teams just played two nights ago when Green hit 6-of-14 treys so we know he can put up a big number.
This line has risen fast but it hasn’t gone far enough. I’ll play the traditional over at +145, implying a 41% hit rate, and I’ll grab the alternate over 4.5 makes too at +325. When a guy is getting up double digit 3s a night in a game that will play out this fast, the sky’s the limit.
Aleksej Pokusevski, Under 8.5 rebounds (-125)
|Pistons vs. Thunder||Spread|
|Time | TV||8 p.m. ET | League Pass|
Few players in the league scream tanking, development, and freak flag more than Aleksej Pokusevski.
Poku is like if the Monstars visited Chet Holmgren and stole all of his talents. He is wildly long and gangling with oodles of oddball talent that occasionally comes together in bursts of greatness but often looks mostly confusing.
You never know what sort of results Pokusevski might get any given night. He’s scored double-digit points in 12 of his last 14 games. He had 11 assists against the Blazers earlier this week, coming just two rebounds short of a triple-double. Four times since the All-Star Break, he’s recorded at least two steals and two blocks in the same game. He put up 10/15/5 on Miami. It’s dealer’s choice really, and it’s a wonder to watch.
But even as Poku’s general counting numbers are on the rise as he gets more minutes, he’s still super thin and not particularly strong on the glass and that’s the angle we’re playing tonight as this rebounding line ticks just a hair too high. Pokusevski is under 8.5 rebounds in 52 of 60 games this season, though of course that’s not particularly fair since the minutes haven’t been there.
But even if we narrow the window to just games since the break when Poku has been playing 28 minutes a game, he’s still at just 7.0 RPG, going under this line in 15 of 18 games (83%). And sure, he’s started only half of those games and the minutes are still trending up a bit, so let’s narrow it further. Over the last nine games, he’s played 27 minutes in each game but is still averaging only 7.2 RPG and still going under this line in 13 of 17 games, hitting our under 76% of the time.
I love Pokusevski and love watching him develop and grow before our eyes. But we’re fading Poku tonight against a tough Pistons team closing out its season well. We project Pokusevski at 7.3 rebounds, and I’ll play to -155.
Bonus NBA Prop Bets
- Franz Wagner, under 8.5 rebounds + assists (-135 DraftKings): Wagner has quietly had an outstanding rookie season for this surging Magic defense (no, seriously!). He’s averaging 4.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game as a terrific connective piece and playing consistent minutes. But he’s also gone under this line in 50 of 77 games (65%) despite starting every one of them, averaging 7.6 RA per game both for the season and over the last 10 games.
- Mo Bamba, over 1.5 steals + blocks (-130 DraftKings): Bamba has at least two stocks in 46 of 66 games, hitting this over 70% of the time. His blocks have dropped a bit lately but Toronto is smaller in the paint and ranks top five in most blocks allowed. Bamba has at least one stock in 56 of 66 games, and the Raptors have allowed five straight centers to record at least two stocks.
- Davion Mitchell, over 2.5 turnovers (-115 BetMGM): You know we’re not going anywhere on this one. Mitchell continues to play massive minutes and usage for the Kings. Over his last six games, he’s playing 41 minutes and putting up 22.0 points and 7.3 assists per game, but he’s also at 3.5 turnovers, over this number in five of the six (83%) with at least four TOs in four of the games, including last time out against these Rockets.
- Cade Cunningham, over 6.5 assists (-120 DraftKings): Back to the well on Cade again too, even though we missed yesterday. The No. 1 pick continues to put up huge numbers over the last 11 games at 23.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 7.7 assists. It’s probably too late for a Rookie of the Year push, but he ranks top 10 in Potential Assists during that span with at least six dimes in every game. We only need one more than that, and the Thunder allow the third most assists.