Betting NBA First Basket Prop This Postseason

Apr 19, 2023

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With the NBA playoffs in full swing, it’s time to take a long look at how to benefit from the First Basket prop. It’s an interesting prop that requires an in-depth look at some of the trends. Let’s start at the top.

This NBA season, Joel Embiid was unstoppable when it came to first possessions of a game. This season, Embiid made the most first team field goals in the NBA. In 48% of the games he started, the Philadelphia 76ers scored first.

The MVP candidate earned 20 first-basket wins throughout the season, tying Jonas Valanciunas for the most first baskets. In 31% of games that he started, Embiid made the first basket of the game, compared to 25% for Valanciunas. Add in Embiid’s early possession usage rate (1.21) and it’s easy to see why he is a strong bet in the First Basket prop.

Interestingly, Boston’s Jaylen Brown had the second-highest early possession usage (1.01), but he was not among the top players in the First Basket prop. Nikola Jokic and Nikola Vucevic tied with 16 first baskets and Toronto’s Pascal Siakam had 15.

What’s even more interesting is that of the top-10 players in this category, most of them are centers. In fact, centers made the opening basket in 26 percent of all NBA games this season.

Several of them are still playing in the playoffs.

With a full season worth of data, it becomes a bit easier to predict which player will score first in a playoff game. For example, look at the Sixers. We know Embiid led the NBA in first baskets, but the trio of Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris combined to score 80 percent of Philadelphia’s first field goals.

Take Game 2 of the Sixers series with the Brooklyn Nets. Embiid was the favorite to score first at +270. Maxey was listed at +700 and Harris at +950. Twenty-four seconds into Game 2, Embiid’s 28-foot jumper missed. Roughly a minute later, the Nets missed an easy shot, Embiid grabbed the rebound and he dished to Harris who made a layup. If you had put down $10 on Harris, you made $95.

In betting the First Basket prop this playoff season, the 76ers, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, and Phoenix Suns have the highest concentration of first basket scorers among the most predictable teams. Brooklyn, Golden State, and Minnesota are among the least predictable.

Be careful with some players like Miami’s Bam Adebayo. He has taken Miami’s first shot 24 times this season. Vucevic took the first shot 28 times this season. That was the most by any player. Embiid took the initial shot 27 times.

Last year, Adebayo made the Heat’s first basket 34 percent of the time in the regular season. When Miami went to the playoffs last year, he made the first basket just 10 percent of the time. That’s a noticeable drop off.

Also be on the lookout for a noticeable rise in first baskets. For example, Memphis’ Desmond Bane only hit 16 percent of the Grizzlies first baskets in 2021-22. In the playoffs last year, Bane hit 46 percent of the team’s initial scores.

The key, of course, is finding value in the First Basket prop. In Game 2 of the Minnesota-Denver series, Jokic was the favorite to score first at +410. During the regular season, the two-time MVP scored Denver’s first basket 24 times. Of those 24, Jokic scored the first basket of the game 16 times. Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. scored the first basket in Game 1.

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