We’re closing out the ninth week of the NBA season with a jam-packed, eight-game slate on Sunday. The Celtics and Pelicans tipped off at 3:30 p.m. ET, but today’s props cater to the 7 p.m.-and-later contests.
Unfortunately for hoops fans, a couple of significant injuries impact two of the more intriguing matchups for Sunday. Kyle Lowry is out with a thumb injury against the Sixers, and Kevin Durant will miss a showdown with the Clippers as he continues to rehab from a strained hammy.
With these injuries and a few others, Sunday’s schedule offers some value for anyone looking to capitalize on key players’ absences. Below I’ll outline why I’m leaning into the Nets-Clippers, Sixers-Raptors and Pistons-Magic games to take advantage of what I see as market inefficiencies.
For those who are new to this article, we’ll be using the Action Labs Player Prop tool to compare our NBA projections to the props posted at a variety of sportsbooks. Each bet is then graded on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the best possible grade.
Below, I have laid out three 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
Fred VanVleet Over 7.5 Assists (+110)
|76ers vs. Raptors||76ers -3.5|
|Time | TV||7 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass|
The Raptors are still getting adjusted to their new home in Tampa, and Sunday marks the fifth game this season where Kyle Lowry will be out of the lineup. Fred VanVleet will step in as the point guard in his absence, and I’m really drawn to his assist line against the traveling Sixers. First off, the Sixers’ road struggles continue to be an issue, as they’re 13-2 at home and 7-8 on the road.
The Raptors are 3.5-point dogs, but their projected starting lineup of VanVleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher has churned out the highest net scoring output for Toronto this season, at +41.1 per 100 possessions. Powell has averaged 30 PPG over his last two, and with VanVleet facilitating the offense, the Raptors are a more efficient scoring unit.
VanVleet’s dished out at least seven assists in three of his five games without Lowry in the lineup. While this doesn’t sound all that appealing, the Sixers allow 8.2 assists to opposing point guards this season, according to Hashtag Basketball.
VanVleet is a scorer at heart, but he’s done a great job getting his teammates involved this season, averaging 6.5 assists per game. With Lowry in street clothes, VanVleet’s usage rate is north of 25%, and in a divisional matchup, the ball will be in his hands often. At plus odds, this is an attractive line for VanVleet, and our projections have him going for 8.3 assists, making this bet an 8 out of 10.
Jerami Grant Over 4.5 Rebounds (-123)
|Pistons vs. Magic||Magic -3|
|Time | TV||7 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass|
Grant is trending up as the most improved player this season. He’s gone bonkers since joining the Pistons, averaging a career-high 23.5 points, with 5.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.2 blocks and 0.8 steals per game. Sure, the Pistons sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but since joining the Pistons, he’s still been a revelation for Detroit fans.
Now about his rebounding: You might be taken aback by his recent string of poor performances in the rebounding department. The box score is tainted with some ugly outputs of 2, 2 and 2 over his last three games. So why am I even looking at his rebounding line today? Well, it’s due to the absence of Delon Wright and his matchup against the Magic.
It was announced earlier today that Delon Wright, starting PG for the Pistons, will miss the next two weeks with a strained groin — leaving the Pistons with recent journeyman Dennis Smith Jr. to take the reins. Not too appealing.
Wright is averaging 4.6 rebounds per game, which is good for 12th amongst starting point guards this season, and with Grant being able to do it all, I think he’ll see the biggest uptick in usage with Wright out. Fortunately for Grant, he’ll get his first opportunity to prove it against the worst shooting team in the NBA, the Orlando Magic. The Magic rank 30th in shooting this season at 43% and have been decimated by injuries for much of the season. Aaron Gordon is the Magic’s best defender, and he’s out, leaving Terrance Ross and a plethora of fringe bench players to hold Grant in check.
Despite Grant’s recent rebounding woes, he’s averaging over five rebounds this season in just over 36 minutes per contest. According to Hashtag Basketball, the Magic are allowing opposing small forwards to grab 8.8 rebounds per game. The market is understated, and Grant should be able to hit this line with ease.
I expect him to be heavily involved in all facets of this game, and there is good upside in him pulling down 4.5 rebounds. So much so that I’d play this up to 5.5 rebounds given our projections of Grant grabbing 6.0 rebounds. This prop has a strong bet quality of 10 out of 10.
Kawhi Leonard Over 27.5 Points (-125)
|Nets vs. Clippers||Clippers -6.5|
|Time | TV||8 p.m. ET | ESPN|
Leonard’s name hasn’t surfaced amongst the frontrunners for MVP, but it’s time. His stigma for missing games throughout the regular season continues to devalue his case to win the award. Still, he’s only missed seven games thus far — one more than Sixers star center and MVP frontrunner Joel Embiid.
The Clippers are second place in the Western Conference at 22-9 through Sunday, and Leonard is the primary reason for their success. He’s averaging 26.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists with robust shooting splits of 50/38/88. Since the Claw is not getting the respect he deserves, I think he’ll do what he does best, prove it on the court — and that continues tonight against the Nets.
In their first matchup in early February, the Clips suffered a tough 124-120 road loss against the fully healthy Nets. Leonard dropped a cool 33 points in that game on an efficient 12-of-24 from the field and 8-of-9 from the charity stripe. With KD out of the lineup, Leonard has a prime opportunity to show out amongst the stars. The game’s implied total is second highest for Sunday’s slate at 236.5, with the Clippers a surprising 6.5-point favorite. This game will be closer than advertised, but one thing is for certain: Kawhi will get buckets.
He saw a 31.4% usage rate in their first meeting and has a strong track record against the Eastern Conference this year, averaging 27.8 points per game. Kawhi is widely known as a mid-range specialist, and over the past three games, the Nets have allowed opponents to shoot 61.7% on 2-point field goals, the worst in the NBA over that span. Almost 75% of Leonard’s field goal attempts are inside the three-point line so expect him to exploit the Nets’ weakness in the frontcourt.
Leonard puts up nearly 3 more points when playing at home (28.4) versus on the road (25.5), and according to Fansure, he’s exceeded 27.5 points in eight of his last nine games at home after a win. The Clips have won five of their previous six contests, and this has a revenge game narrative for Kawhi to go off in their race to the top of the Western Conference.
Our projections have Leonard scoring 29.4 points tonight in a potential shootout, so lock-in the over and enjoy the heavyweight bout.