The highly-anticipated NBA Play-In Tournament is finally upon us. Typically the eighth seed -and to some extent the seventh seed- of each conference are an afterthought as the postseason arrives, as the top seed is a near sure-fire lock to win the #1 v. #8 matchup. However, this season is different.
On Tuesday night, the #7 seed Boston Celtics (36-36) will take on the Washington Wizards, who at 34-38 hold the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Whichever team wins this matchup will lock up the seventh seed in the East and will take on the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. The loser of the Celtics/Wizards game will take on the winner of the Indiana Pacers v. Charlotte Hornets matchup.
In a typical season, the 34-38 Pacers would have found themselves out of the playoffs via a tiebreaker, while the 33-39 Hornets would have finished a full game out. Yet, it’s entirely conceivable that the Hornets and Rookie of the Year candidate LaMelo Ball could earn a first round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers via a win over the Pacers and either the Celtics or Wizards. It’s also possible that the Celtics and Wizards could get the job done and earn the seventh and eighth seeds where they finished the regular season.
With so many possibilities, there’s real intrigue surrounding the Play-In Tournament.
Let’s take a closer look at the top NBA Play-In Tournament prop picks and make some predictions for these May 18, 2021 matchups.
NBA Play-In Tournament Player Prop Picks (May 18, 2021)
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Caris LeVert to Record Under 37.5 Combined Points, Assists, and Rebounds (-113, Unibet)
Caris LeVert has been an important part of the Indiana Pacers since his acquisition from the Brooklyn Nets. The trade itself may have saved his life after a cancerous growth was found on his kidney as part of his routine physical to finalize the deal. LeVert missed 26 games as he recovered, but once he made his way into the lineup, he made a massive impact.
LeVert is the kind of player who can adapt his individual game to what’s best for the team concept game in and game out. His 20.2 points per game were good for third on the team, while his 5.2 assists per game and 4.6 rebounds per game were the fifth-best mark for the Pacers. The issue at hand for player markets around Caris LeVert is the overinflation of his counting stats value.
LeVert is two games removed from a wildly successful performance against the Los Angeles Lakers in which he went for 28 points, 12 assists, and 5 rebounds (45 combined). However, that game is a statistical outlier when it comes to the 37.5 combined points, assists, and rebounds market. It represents the only time in his last four games that he cleared the 37.5 combined points, assists, and rebounds threshold. In fact, he’s failed to cross the 37.5 line in 13 of his last 19 games. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to find success, but we don’t believe he’ll cross the 37.5 combined points, assists, and rebounds threshold.
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Russell Westbrook to Record Over 13.5 Assists (+100, BetMGM)
On the surface, this might seem like a bit of a stretch. After all, 13.5 assists is a high threshold to cross for most players in the NBA. Russell Westbrook, however, is unlike most players in the league. Following an off-season trade that saw his departure from the Houston Rockets in exchange for fellow high-salary point guard John Wall, many pundits opined that Houston was the clear winner in the deal. Fast forward few months and the Rockets had the worst record in the league at 17-55, while the Wizards have a shot to lock in the seventh seed with a victory against the Celtics. Westbrook has been nothing short of sensational in the second half of the abbreviated season, most recently racking up seven triple-doubles in his last eight games.
When it comes to dropping dimes, Westbrook has been elite. Although he fell short of the 13.5 assist threshold in Washington’s last game of the regular season, he had dished out at least 14 assists in his previous seven games. In his last twelve games, Westbrook has gone over 13.5 assists nine times.
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PJ Washington to Record Over 1.5 Made Three-Point Field Goals (-138, FOX Bet)
When it comes to the ever-changing landscape of professional basketball, three-point shooting has been at the forefront of the conversation. While basketball purists often argue that the fascination with three-point field goals has led to the demise of the midrange game, the fact remains that younger players enter the league chucking from beyond the arc.
PJ Washington has seen an uptick in his three-point field goal attempts in recent months. In February, he attempted just 33 shots from deep in nine games, then put up 45 three-point field goal attempts in 13 games. He followed that up with an astounding 79 attempts in 13 games in April (6.1 attempts per game), then finished the month of May with 62 attempts in nine games (6.9 attempts per game).
Washington is coming off a season finale against the Washington Wizards in which he went 3-9 from beyond the arc, the most threes he’d made since May 7. He’s made at least two shots from beyond the arc in 15 of his last 19 games overall. We expect him to fire off at least five three-point attempts -as he’s done in each of his last 10 games- making at least two.