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A Guide to NBA Player Prop Bets

by July 9, 2020

There are many “traditional” sports bettors who will stick to the more common sports bets: moneylines, spreads, and totals. However, with the booming DFS industry and the rise in popularity of fantasy sports, player prop bets are becoming the bet of choice for many bettors.

In a sport like basketball, player props typically get a lot of attention. By the game’s sheer nature, individual players have more impact on a basketball game than any other team sport. In football, a quarterback does not play defense and a running back might get only 15 rushing attempts. A baseball player will get four or five at-bats and sometimes not even in the biggest spots. In hockey, a player’s shift is typically two minutes or less at a time.

Basketball has 10 players on the court, and all 10 players must contribute on both ends of the floor. One breakout performance by an individual basketball player can often be enough to will their team to victory. Thus, sports bettors are often drawn to the many player props available for each NBA game.

In this article, we explain the variety of player props typically available, the advantages of betting player props, and advice on how to be profitable when betting on such props.

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What is an NBA Player Prop?

A player prop bet is a wager on a specific player’s statistics or a particular outcome. Player props can be wagered on as part of a season-long bet or on a game-by-game basis.

What Types of Player Props are Available for NBA Games?

The most common player prop is an over/under on how many points a player will score. Suppose the following bet was offered:

James Harden Amount of Points Scored

  • Over 31.5
  • Under 31.5

For this type of wager, a bettor is only concerned with James Harden’s individual scoring line. A wager on the over would mean one believes Harden will score 32 or more points. A wager on the under signifies the belief that Harden will be held to 31 points or less.

In addition to the number of points a player will score, the following are popular over/under prop bets: total rebounds, total assists, points and assists combined, points and rebounds combined, points/rebounds/assists combined, number of steals and three-point field goals made.

While the availability of player prop bets at various sportsbooks varies, keep in mind that there are typically not lines available for every player. On average, a sportsbook will have five player props available for each team.

What are the Advantages of Betting Player Props?

One will never surely understand the benefits of wagering on player props unless they experiment with them. One distinct advantage of player props over full game wagers is that there are fewer variables to account for. When wagering on one team versus another, one must account for all players as well as each team’s coaching styles and schemes. While styles and schemes should factor into a player prop bet, the fact is one only needs to worry about one player as opposed to 20.

Another advantage is how quickly certain player prop bets can be decided. Barring a complete blowout, an against the spread or totals bet comes down to the last couple of minutes or even the final possession. With a player prop bet, an individual may often surpass their projected scoring or rebounding totals by the end of the third quarter.

Lastly, player props can keep bettors entertained in games they may not otherwise watch. For example, a casual NBA bettor might have no desire to watch a Lakers-Timberwolves game and have no lean on who will cover the spread. However, perhaps bettors are so in tune with how LeBron James or Anthony Davis is playing that they have an idea of what their stat lines will look like at the game’s end. Thus, betting on player props may change the way one views a game entirely for better or worse.

Strategies for Betting on Player Props

The most important concept when betting on NBA player props is doing the right research. Do not dismiss the importance of how you predict the full game will play out. In the Lakers-Timberwolves example, if you think the Lakers have a good chance to blow the Timberwolves out, that may affect LeBron James’s output if he has no reason to play much in the fourth quarter. However, compared to betting on a team’s outcome, one needs to look much more into factors like who will be defending the player you are wagering on and how they typically do against players of their caliber.

Another useful strategy is to group two or more related bets together. For example, suppose you think Russell Westbrook will go over his projected assists total. If that is the case, one should look at combining this bet with the over on a player like James Harden or any of his teammates’ point totals. Or, if one projects a game to be low-scoring, that means more missed shots and more opportunities for rebounds for certain players. While this is a risky proposition if you are wrong about your initial inclinations, it could also provide massive returns.

Lastly, if a particular player prop looks too good to be true it most likely is. This rule can be applied to any type of sports bet and not just player props. For example, suppose Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 30 points per game but has an over/under of 25.5 points against a particular opponent. Before blindly proclaiming that the over is a “lock”, take the time to think about why. Has Milwaukee’s head coach declared he is going to limit Antetokounmpo’s minutes? Are the Bucks due for a blowout, meaning Giannis will not play as much? Does their opponent defend big men well? Oddsmakers have access to more insight and resources than casual bettors, so keep that in mind when something looks like an easy bet.

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Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our How To Bet and  Sports Betting Strategy and Advice pages are for you. You can get started with our How To Section — including How to Make an Online Sports Bet — or head to more advanced strategy — like How to Set and Maintain Your Sports Betting Budget — to learn more.

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Mike Spector is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeSpector01.

Basketball, Betting 101