After having to watch teams like the Boston Celtics and Memphis Grizzlies mail it in for the final few games of the regular season – think Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wishes he had sat his starters (i.e. the now-injured and Game 1 doubtful Manu Ginobili) for a second straight night on Wednesday? – the NBA playoffs can’t arrive a moment too soon. And they do on Saturday. With that said, the books are rolling out the props.
Today let’s look some player performance odds courtesy of Bodog and then offer some NBA picks and predictions for betting. First off, the highest-scoring player (per average) in the conference quarterfinal round. As expected, Thunder star Kevin Durant is the 5/2 favorite to win this prop. Durant won his second straight scoring title this year, by a full point over the Heat’s LeBron James. Durant seems set up to win this considering his Thunder are likely to be in a shootout with the defensively challenged Nuggets. Denver allowed the 10th-most points per game during the regular season. The only playoff team to have allowed more per game was the Knicks, who just don’t bother to play any defense. In four meetings with Denver, Durant averaged 31.5 points per game this season.
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James at 5/1 is the second-favorite. Of course, his Heat face the Philadelphia 76ers. Doug Collins’ Sixers were actually a solid defensive club during the season, allowing a little over 97 points per game. James’ Heat had no trouble with Philly this year, but LeBron averaged only 22.7 ppg against the Sixers. Only five other opponents held James to a lower average. Plus I’d argue Dwyane Wade (10/1) is better value than James because LeBron probably will be more of a distributor in the playoffs. In fact, I believe Wade is one of the best values on the board.
The other favorites are Carmelo Anthony (6/1), Kobe Bryant (8/1) and Derrick Rose (8/1). Melo has to share points with Amare Stoudemire, Kobe just isn’t the scoring machine he used to be and defenses will totally key on Rose and make other Bulls beat them. But I would go with the Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki at 18/1. I’m a bit surprised Dirk is so far down the board because probably no playoff team is so dependent on one player to score (maybe the Bulls with Rose) than Dallas is on Dirk. On the negative side, he only averaged 21.7 ppg against Portland this year and looked tired in April, averaging just 19.0 points per game. But Dirk usually turns it on in the playoffs – he has averaged at least 26.7 ppg in the past three postseasons.
Bodog also offers the highest-rebounding player prop (per average) in the first round. This might seem like a lock with Dwight Howard the top rebounder among players in the postseason and Howard is the 3/2 favorite with the Magic facing the Hawks. The worst rebounding team in terms of average rebounds for an opponent in the playoffs is the Knicks, but no one on the Celtics is likely going to average double-figure rebounds against New York. Another bad rebounding team is the 76ers, but the Heat don’t have a player on their roster who may get double-digit rebounds in any one game in that series (LeBron might).
The Grizzlies’ Zach Randolph is the second-favorite at 5/1, and he did average 14.8 rebounds per game in four matchups with smallish San Antonio during the regular season. I like Chicago’s Joakim Noah as the best value on this prop at 8/1. Yes, Noah hasn’t really been the same since returning from a sprained ankle, but the Indiana Pacers are a poor rebounding team. And the Bulls haven’t been playing Noah a ton of minutes, but he obviously will be in there for around 38-40 in the postseason, barring blowouts. Noah has averaged 13 rebounds per game in the previous two preseasons and should be at that number again to just edge out Howard.
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