Suns vs. Lakers: The best player prop bets for Dec. 21
The NBA is in a difficult spot. With only a few days until Christmas, huge swaths of players have entered health and safety protocols, leaving their teams drastically shorthanded. This can make it difficult to know which games are still worth watching, as well as what kind of bets make sense.
The Phoenix Suns visiting a full-strength Los Angeles Lakers team would be a seismic event, but with the Lakers down eight players including Anthony Davis, a different kind of intrigue develops. Namely, can LeBron James and Russell Westbrook and a whole host of NBA journeymen (or, more accurately, apprentices) do anything to slow the rolling Phoenix Suns?
The Suns themselves are almost whole, and all three parts of their star trio are back in the fold with Devin Booker having recently returned from his hamstring injury. Health has been one of the reasons for the now 24-5 Suns’ league-leading record. The other reason? They’re really damn good.
Suns vs. Lakers tips off at 10:00 p.m. ET on TNT, and we have the three best player prop bets below.
Wed, December 22 2021, 3:00 AM
LEBRON JAMES OVER/UNDER 41.5 POINTS, REBOUNDS, and ASSISTS
With the Lakers struggling out of the gate, there has been a lot of talk recently about whether or not LeBron James is still a top-five player in the NBA. But a relative lack of team success, and defensive effort that admittedly comes and goes, has obscured how productive LeBron has been throughout the season.
While reading Westbrook and Davis’ box scores on a night-to-night basis might give you whiplash, LeBron has shown the consistency of a superstar, despite the chaos around him. He’s averaging 25.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 6.8 assists with a true shooting percentage (60.0%) higher than the last season he was crowned champion (57.7%).
While his assists and rebounds are lower than his career averages, that’s a product of circumstance more than anything. He’s sharing the playmaking role with Westbrook, and he’s also spent a lot of time playing small-forward alongside two traditional bigs.
Over his last five games, James is averaging 27.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game, with more minutes coming in his usual power forward role, and even a growing number coming playing center. With Davis out for the foreseeable future with an MCL sprain and multiple Lakers bigs out with COVID-19, LeBron will likely continue to see his rebounding and scoring margins grow.
JAE CROWDER OVER/UNDER 1.5 3-POINTERS MADE
LeBron has made a lot of shooters a ton of money in his career, most of whom have understandably had a lot of praise for him after their shared experiences together. But that same plan didn’t pan out when Jae Crowder was traded from the Boston Celtics to the then LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018.
Their personalities clashed, Crowder struggled, and there has been an open enmity between the two ever since, culminating during the Lakers-Suns playoff series last season when Crowder was ejected for mocking LeBron with a salsa dance as the Suns dispatched the Lakers in the first round.
While Crowder’s efficiency from deep this season (35.5%) and attempts per game (5.3) are lower than they have been in years past, there’s enough built-in motivation here to take the Over. Couple that with the Lakers' extreme depth issues on the wing, and this is a solid bet.
DEVIN BOOKER OVER/UNDER 23.5 POINTS
Though his overall productivity might be down, Devin Booker is still having another fantastic year. In some ways, Booker is a victim of the Suns’ success, as their distributed attack leaves his personal numbers looking less gaudy than when he was more of a one-man band a few seasons ago.
Booker has only recently returned from a hamstring injury that has seen him sidelined since the Suns’ rousing home win over the Golden State Warriors on Nov. 30. In his first and only game back, he had 16 points in 26 minutes, and looked comfortable moving around.
Hamstring issues are notoriously difficult, and the slightest overexertion can lead to a re-aggravation and more missed time. For this reason, and because the Suns should be strongly favored to win this game in dominant fashion, it’s reasonable to think Booker's minutes and corresponding production tonight will remain well below his season average of 22.9 points.