The path to the NBA Finals continues Thursday with two more national TV games on TNT. An appetizer features the burned out husks of the Wizards and Nets rosters before the exciting main course. That will see the Bucks and Suns play out an NBA Finals rematch in Phoenix. Each week throughout the season, TheLines will look at some matchups for the televised slates and try to figure if there are any TNT NBA player props worth a look.
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Brooklyn Nets At Washington Wizards
Yes, the battle of burned out husks.
Once possessing a roster that was the envy of every single other team in the league — and nearly being favored over the field in futures markets at a couple of points — the Nets have lost nine straight. Kevin Durant is out injured, and James Harden has been traded to the 76ers. Even reliable secondary scorer LaMarcus Aldridge has missed several games injured.
For the Wizards, foundational star Bradley Beal will have season-ending surgery on his wrist. Whether he’s played his last game in Washington will be another story for another (futures) article. For now, a team that started the season with some promise looks mid-lottery bound again.
The last two weeks, Washington ranks dead last in differential, an incredible -21.6 per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning The Glass. Their offense also ranks dead last, with the defense fourth-worst.
Montrezl Harrell Props
It’s possible the market hasn’t quite capture just how bad this offense has become, and if that’s the case, look to unders pretty much across the board for the Wizards.
They’ve been turning to their bench for scoring and Montrezl Harrell might get more of a look in a good matchup against a soft interior Nets defense. He’s poor on defense but they have to get some scoring, and Harrell can definitely do that here. And the Nets don’t attack the rim all that much so he won’t be exploited as heavily on that end.
Rebounding has never been a strong suit and variance is high with any player coming off the bench, but Harrell shouldn’t have a high bar to clear on his points prop here
Kyrie Irving Props
Assuming Harden sits again, expect Kyrie Irving to shoulder a heavy usage load. The Wizards are not playing good defense, as mentioned, but Irving’s contributions tend to be more defense-agnostic than most players because of the difficulty of the mid-range shots he frequently attempts.
While it’s easy to assume we can bet an over on points here, the Wizards’ recent tendency toward lower-scoring games and the market likely posting a high line make it a wait-and-see spot. Don’t anticipate any free money. If anything we might find more value on an Irving over if a limited/disengaged Harden does play and reduces market expectations.
Milwaukee Bucks At Phoenix Suns
A Finals rematch from last season might very well prove to be a finals preview this season, with both teams close to the top of their respective conferences’ future markets. It’s been a bit of a slow start for Milwaukee but the team may finally be coming together with good health and eight wins in 10 games. As for the Suns, they’ve dominated the league with the best record and best differential.
Last year’s matchup turned when Milwaukee began pulverizing the Suns inside and on the glass with their size. That won’t be much of a factor at this juncture as Brook Lopez, a key component of that strategy, remains out injured.
Devin Booker And Chris Paul Props
Everything with Phoenix revolves around the excellence of their two guards, Devin Booker and Chris Paul. Both players are shooting the ball with uncanny accuracy in the mid-range in particular, but where the Bucks have been willing to concede shots is behind the 3-point line.
Given that the Bucks allow a high frequency of 3s but have the defenders to make life difficult on Booker and Paul, one wonders if these high-IQ players might lean more into passing. In all likelihood, they’ll recognize the higher value shots Milwaukee is inviting for the team outside the arc and feed their teammates.
Should those shots fall, we could quickly see Paul and Booker surpass their assist props.
They also might take more 3s than usual for the same reasons. Over their 3s merit a look as well.
Khris Middleton And Giannis Antetokounmpo Props
The Suns allow an ideal shot diet, taking away almost everything inside and shifting opponent 3-point attempts heavily above the break. For the modern analytically-inclined superstar, that makes things tough.
For a player like Khris Middleton, that gives him the potential to thrive. He takes a ton of mid-range shots and converts them at a well above-average clip.
Jrue Holiday is even better in terms of accuracy, but he will have a tougher defensive assignment in all likelihood, as well as some Chris Paul defense with which to contend. That might sap his ability to contribute his usual amount on offense.
Conversely, will Giannis Antetokounmpo be able to get his spots on the interior and wreck like he usually does? Statistically speaking, it looks unlikely. But, Antetokounmpo is one of those players who can rise above these tendencies and bend the defense to his will, so this battleground may determine the outcome of the game.
His mid-range offense was clicking against the Lakers on Tuesday as well, so it’s possible he stays hot and the Suns’ scheme works in theory but not in practice.