Every now and then I like to play defensive props.
It’s easy to ignore defensive props because it’s just more fun to focus on flashy scoring numbers. Defensive props can also be frustrating and seem unpredictable as we are dealing with 1.5 or 2.5 lines so often. One play can make or break the entire prop, and a 20.5 dot line feels like a much wider range of outcomes.
But so often a player ends up at 18 or 23 points, and that’s really just a game too. We don’t need to be afraid of defensive accessories. If anything, sometimes we should be drawn to them because they are so overlooked which implies better value than sexier lines. Tonight, two of our three pillars are on the defensive.
We’ll be using the Action Labs Player Prop tool to compare our NBA projections to props posted on a variety of sportsbooks. Each bet is then rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best possible rating.
Below I have presented three prop bets that I play, the case for each bet, and the best books to find odds on these player props.
NBA player choice and accessories
Draymond Green, less than 2.5 interceptions + blocks (+100)
|Pelicans vs. warriors||Warriors -9.5|
|Time | TV||10 p.m. ET | ESPN|
Let me get upset for a minute.
There aren’t five current basketball players that I love to watch more than Draymond Green. I have never seen anyone defend like him. His intelligence and sense of play is off the charts, and he’s disruptive in so many obvious and more subtle ways.
Rather than watching the ball in the Warriors’ next game, just keep your eyes on Draymond when he’s on defense. He flies everywhere, defending multiple players on the same possession and properly defending the space between them, constantly moving, constantly thinking and dealing.
It’s a shame that Green only has one Defensive Player of the Year title. He would have been my choice last year, he is my choice this year as head of the current No.1 defense in the NBA, and I think he is an infallible Hall of Famer and should have been part of the ‘NBA 75 team.
And that may sound crazy to you!
This is because defense is incredibly difficult to quantify. We have so many great ways to quantify the NBA offense these days. There’s a new all-in-one metric every month, and we’ve got all kinds of fancy advanced numbers. But we have little means of measuring defense, and all too often we fall back on the double digits we have: blocks and steals.
And just by his stock numbers (flights and blocks), Green is more good than awesome. He’s like Dennis Rodman that way. If you are looking for a statistic to prove its greatness, you will never find it.
And that brings us to today’s bet. As great as Green is, and as well as he and the Warriors defense play, we’re lowering his stock numbers tonight. So far this season, here are Draymond’s stock numbers per game: one, one, zero, four, eight, one, one. He’s averaging 2.3 shares per game, just below that line, but has fallen below in five of the seven games.
It also matches the trends we’ve seen over the past two seasons. Last year, Green had less than 2.5 stocks in 37 of 63 games (59%); the year before, it was below 28 out of 43 (65%). There are games where he absolutely accumulates steals and blocks and inflates his overall numbers, but above all his impact should be seen with the naked eye and in the win column, not in the box score.
Besides, there’s another easy way for Green to fall here – just by not playing much tonight against a terrible Pelicans team that could be destroyed.
The math is in our favor here. Green has been under this line 62% of the time in the past three seasons combined. You never know when it will have one of those 8 title games, but hopefully tonight is another one of those games you have to see to really enjoy.
Myles Turner, over 2.5 blocks (+115)
|Pacers vs Trail Blazers||Pacers +4.5|
|Time | TV||10 p.m. ET | League pass|
Another defensive player of the year contender is Myles Turner, but unlike Draymond Green, he’s a bit flashier with one of those counting stats: blocks.
Turner led the league in blocks last year with 3.4 BPGs, a career high for him. He also led the NBA in blocks in 2018-19. Rim protection is Myles Turner’s specialty. This is precisely what he is here to do. Sure, he can shoot a 3 on occasion and do a few things at the station, and he has his moments of defense in space, but Turner makes his money in the paint protecting the rim.
There was a hiccup for Turner earlier this season where he fell a bit off the rotation, with two games just 14 and 16 minutes away. It seems to be in the rearview mirror now, and Turner is back to his usual minutes and is expected to do it again tonight against a Portland side with a lot of size.
Turner is averaging 2.9 BPG this season – still excellent! – but exclude those two low minute matches and it’s at 3.3 BPG in the other contests, basically the same as last year. He also goes over 2.5 blocks in six of those games. And last year, Turner passed 2.5 blocks in 31 of 47 games, almost two of three. Even counting those outlier games this year, he finished in six of the nine games – hey, that’s two out of three too!
Turner is hitting these blocks at a rate that would normally be around -200, but instead we’re getting juice. Portland tends to have his shots blocked a little less often than most, but not enough to scare me away. Turner has at least two blocks in every game, but the 14-minute one this season, so we’ll have a good shot here. I’ll play -125.
LaMelo Ball, more than 5.5 assists (-145)
|Hornets vs. Kings||Hornets +2|
|Time | TV||10 p.m. ET | League Pass|
Alright, let’s play another traditional prop today – you don’t have to be that defensive!
The books continue to underestimate the passing of LaMelo Ball. We’ve already played Ball’s assists and we’re heading back to the well as the line hasn’t adjusted enough yet. The juice is a bit steeper, but it really should be a higher help so it’s still worth playing.
If you aren’t aware of LaMelo’s passing, you just shouldn’t be watching basketball. Ball is already one of the top 10 assistants in the league, and 10 is almost certainly too high. He sees and invents passes that hardly anyone else in the world can even imagine, often surprising even his own teammates, though they are now getting more used to his abilities.
Ball is averaging 6.3 assists per game this season, which roughly matches the 6.1 APG he averaged as a rookie. He’s crossed that line in seven of nine games so far this season, and he’s missed half an assist in another. The only time he failed was in his worst game of the season, in which he only played 24 minutes on a night off.
And lest you worry about Terry Rozier returning to the lineup, it looks like Rozier’s presence is actually aid Ball numbers. LaMelo has averaged 5.0 APG in matches without Rozier, but is 6.8 APG with him, which was also consistent with last year’s performance.
Ball consistently exceeds that number, and he’s also playing in what looks to be the slate’s most impactful game tonight. Charlotte and Sacramento both like to go out and run, so it should be quick. The books think so too with a total set at 231 while most of the other totals tonight are in the 210s. That means even more opportunities to score and assist.
I’m going to drink the juice on LaMelo and play until -170.