Yesterday we played Damian Lillard, and I noted how I tend to stay away from star props because the lines are so much tougher to get an edge on them. Dame played great as the Blazers upset the 76ers, but he was held without an assist over the final period and came up 0.5 short of our over.
Tonight, we’re playing three stars instead of one, but we’re grabbing the under on all three. Unders tend to be the better plays for stars with high lines, and there’s good reason to bet unders on Karl-Anthony Towns, Russell Westbrook, and Jamal Murray tonight.
It’s Fade the Stars Night here at Action Network!
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
Karl-Anthony Towns, under 4.5 assists (-134)
|Timberwolves at Hornets||Hornets -3.5|
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
The big fella is back, and as a Timberwolves fan, I couldn’t be happier to see Towns on the court.
What a nightmare year it’s been for KAT with everything he’s gone through. Towns didn’t miss a single game his first three NBA seasons, but he played only 35 games last year due to his first significant injury, faced absolute heartbreak in the offseason and now has been dealing with a return from his own bout with COVID-19.
It’s a shame we didn’t get to see a full season from Towns last year, because he was having a monster year. He averaged career highs with 26.5 points and 4.4 assists and had one of the best big-man shooting seasons ever, hitting 3.3 3-pointers per game at over 41% behind the arc.
KAT proved himself to be an absolute superstar, and he didn’t have much help for most of those games.
This season, it’s a different team around Towns with D’Angelo Russell, who is out again tonight and has still only played a handful of games with Towns. Malik Beasley has still barely played with Towns, and Ricky Rubio is back in town too. Finally, KAT has some guard help, more teammates to handle the ball and help out with creation.
And that’s why I’m fading KAT’s assist line here. We’ve only seen five Towns games this season, but he’s gone under 4.5 dimes in four of them (80%). Three of those games have been just three assists. Prior to last year’s assist bump, Towns had averaged 2.6 APG for his career. He’s improved as a passer but with Rubio doing so much playmaking next to him, I am not expecting Towns to match that 4.4 APG from a year ago.
I’m also not sure we’ll see Towns hit heavy minutes yet anytime soon as he ramps back up from his time away. He played only 30 minutes in his return, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stay around that number for a while. That’s another reason to hit the under here.
We’re projecting Towns at 3.2 assists, and that means our Props Tool gives this under a 20% edge in our favor. Some books have this line at 3.5 dimes with juice, but I definitely prefer the safer, higher line. I’ll play under 4.5 to -160.
Russell Westbrook, under 9.5 assists (-110)
|Knicks at Wizards||Knicks – 2.5|
|Time||6 p.m. ET|
Westbrook came storming out of the gates this season with the Wizards. In his first six games with the team, he averaged 20.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 11.8 assists. It was no surprise to see Mr. Triple-Double filling up the box score, nor to see him shooting below 40%, but Russ was also playing almost 38 minutes a game, which was clearly too much.
Westbrook posted a 12-4-8 his next time out, laboring through a season low 33.5 minutes and shooting 4-for-16 in a miserable performance. He sat out the next two games injured and would’ve missed more games if not for lucking into his absence aligning with the extended Wizards team shutdown for health protocols.
Once Westbrook returned, his role changed significantly. Take a look at his numbers since that big break. Westbrook’s minutes are down to just 29 minutes per game. He’s sat out the second half of a back-to-back three times, and his averages have dropped to 20.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists. The scoring is still there — up in terms of per-minute — and the rebounding is still fine, but his assist rate has plummeted.
Westbrook is being managed. Finally. He’s played more than 28 minutes only twice since that extended absence. Still, with Bradley Beal sidelined, tonight could be prime time for Russ Ball, and we know this dude puts up Triple-Doubles in his sleep.
If Westbrook dominates the ball without Beal and if his minutes tick up, he could make this bet look silly. Of course, it’s also possible the Wizards wilt without their star and get blown out, limiting Westbrook’s minutes.
I can’t get past that 6.8 assists per game over the past three weeks. It’s such a far cry from Westbrook’s usual that I have to play him to stay in the single digits here, even with Beal out. Westbrook has only hit 10 dimes once during this stretch, and even that barely cleared the number.
I’ll fade him to -150, and at this FanDuel line, our Props Tool gives this one a 17% edge in our favor.
Jamal Murray, under 5.5 assists (-150)
|Thunder at Nuggets||Nuggets -11.5|
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
I really believed the Murray bubble breakout was real.
Murray leapt to 26.5 points per game in the playoffs. He shot 50-45-90 with five games of at least five 3-pointers and added 6.6 assists, and all of those numbers were even higher before a subdued Western Conference Finals against the Lakers. We saw a different version of the Blue Arrow in the playoffs, a more aggressive one who had the ball a lot more often and who was constantly looking to make aggressive plays.
I’m still waiting for that killer version of Murray to show up in the new regular season.
Murray’s shooting numbers have regressed to the mean — but that was always going to happen. It’s the other numbers that have disappointed. Murray’s scoring has dipped back to 18.1 points per game, and he simply doesn’t have the ball as often this season. Instead, more of the Denver offense than ever has been going through Nikola Jokic, and that’s working just fine for the Nuggets right now. Less time on the ball has meant less playmaking from Murray, and his assist numbers have dropped to 4.4 assists per game this year.
Only four times all season has Murray gone over five dimes. That means he’s gone under this line in 18 of 22 games, hitting the under 81.8% of the time. We’re projecting Murray at 4.0 assists tonight, so I definitely like the under.
Some books are listing this at 4.5 with juice on the under, and our Props Tool likes that one too, but I prefer the safer route with an extra assist to spare. I’ll play the under 5.5 to -180 and otherwise switch to 4.5 at plus juice.