Prop bet #1: Jalen pays ’em
The Indiana Pacers are my official Team Hammer Overs for early 2023-24. Awful on defense (26th in D-rating) while playing at a breakneck, um, pace (fastest in NBA) and scoring in heaps (No. 1 in O-rating), they’re a factory for bloated box scores and have been a profitable mark for opponent props — particularly when said opponent likes to run as well.
Enter the Atlanta Hawks, who are in transition on 20.5% of their possessions this season — a mark that leads the NBA, a hair above the Pacers at 20.1%. Overall, the Hawks play at the NBA’s third-fastest pace, so it’s not as though they’re stalling in their halfcourt sets either.
Put bluntly: Expect scoring in this matchup.
But who to target? He seems like almost too much of a trendy pick at face value, but perusing Jalen Johnson odds for Tuesday, I like the potential of a particular book’s line.
While most shops are trading his points at 14.5, heavily juiced to the Over, FanDuel’s giving us -115 on 15.5, which is well worth the extra point.
Johnson’s scored 16 or more in five of his past seven games, only held below that margin by Top-10 defenses (Miami and OKC), which Indiana most certainly is not.
JJ thrives not only in the transition sets ATL will look to run off most misses, but punishing over-rotations in the halfcourt. He knows both how to create his own look and put himself in the right places, and against a bad defense that yields as many reps as Indiana, Over backers will like the results.
Jalen Johnson prop: Over 15.5 points (-115 at FanDuel)
Prop bet #2: Young and restless
Oh, you thought we were done picking on the Pacers? Not a chance.
Trae Young remains a usage sponge, putting up truly gaudy assist numbers (averaging 11.7 in November), and while his shooting’s been atrocious — 38.2% overall this month — he’s still averaging 24.6 points per game. This feels like a buy-low spot for Young, who, while never exactly a beacon of shooting efficiency, is clearly better than his numbers this No Rain November suggest.
“Due for regression” is a fairly trite angle among handicappers, and while there’s some truth to the logic, the key is to examine why a certain player may regress, whether positively or negatively, against a certain opponent.
We can start, at a baseline, with the Pacers being terrible defensively, playing a fast pace, and conceding lots of transition buckets (16.8 opponent fast-break points per game; third-worst in NBA). Furthermore, they cough up the NBA’s second-most points to opposing PGs and allow the fifth-best shooting percentage from 25+ feet, where Young loves to dial from. Altogether, you’d be very hard-pressed to find a more comfortable kitchen for him to cook in.
Books have anticipated a bigger statistical churn, and given the opponent, it’s justified. Trae Young odds are heavily shaded to the Over, except for his points + rebounds + assists market, found at -105 at a couple of major shops. While you’re implicitly relying on him to grab four rebounds with this market, it allows you to fade juice in the -135 to -145 range on his other popcorn stat Overs, while hedging with multiple avenues to hit the number.
Trae Young prop: Over 39.5 points+rebounds+assists (-105 at DraftKings)
Prop bet #3: Blazed, indeed
For my third prop, I’m turning an eye to one of the NBA’s all-time greats, still doing the damn thing after being around for the better part of two decades.
No, not LeBron James — his generational bridesmaid, Kevin Durant.
KD’s been on an absolute heater, averaging 33.2 points on 53/55/90 shooting splits in November; the kind of groove that you have to assume is somewhat sustainable because, well, he’s Kevin F***ing Durant. He’s been playing increased minutes, and seeing a steady diet of looks (averaging 20.8 shot attempts this month) with the Phoenix Suns‘ other two stars selectively available.
The Suns will again be without Bradley Beal tonight (and for the next couple of weeks), forcing the requisite added scoring burden on Durant, whose total for tonight seems curiously low, given several circumstances. Kevin Durant odds tab his points at 28.5 across the board, with FanDuel giving us a particularly generous -106 on the Over.
Something has to be at play when one of the most consistent scorers in league history is seeing his total significantly below his season average, and almost five whole points below his average this month. That something is the blowout factor, given the Portland Trailblazers‘ 29th-ranked net rating, which explains the massive spread for tonight’s game — sitting around -13 as of late Tuesday morning.
But what the line might not be taking into consideration is Phoenix’s standing in the NBA In-Season Tournament odds (oh yeah, get ready for the funky courts tonight). The Suns currently sit third in West Group A at 1-1 with a net neutral point differential.
A big win tonight, pending Utah’s result, could see Phoenix leapfrog two teams in the Wild Card standings. Every point it beats the Blazers by adds extra equity to its chase for the NBA Cup, adding incentive for Durant to remain on the court and continue taking a blowtorch to opposing defenses, as he’s been doing all month.
Kevin Durant prop: Over 28.5 points (-106 at FanDuel)