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How to Bet the NBA First Basket Prop This Postseason

April 27, 2023
nba playoff strategy betting

The NBA playoffs are currently underway. That means it’s time to carefully consider how to profit from the First Basket Prop. In order to have some success, betting the First Basket Prop takes some digging into trends. 

Joel Embiid was unstoppable this NBA season when it came to opening possessions of a game. Embiid led the NBA in first team field goals made this season. The Philadelphia 76ers scored first in 48% of the games in which Embiid started.

The MVP front-runner tied Jonas Valanciunas for the most first baskets with 20 during the season. Embiid made the game’s opening basket in 31% of the games in which he started compared to 25% for Valanciunas. It is simple to understand why Embiid is a good wager on the First Basket prop bet when you consider his early possession usage rate (1.21).

Jaylen Brown of Boston had the second-highest early possession usage (1.01) but did not rank among the top players in the First Basket Prop. With 16 first baskets each, Nikola Jokic and Nikola Vucevic tied for third. Toronto’s Pascal Siakam had 15 first baskets.

Even more intriguing is the fact that most of the top-10 players in this category are centers. In fact, this NBA season, centers made the game’s first basket in 26% of all games. 

Many of those same players continue to compete in the playoffs.

It gets a little bit simpler to predict who will score first in a playoff game with data from the entire season. For instance, consider the Sixers. Although Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, and Joel Embiid collectively scored 80 percent of Philadelphia’s first field goals, Embiid did lead the NBA in first baskets.

Consider the second game of the Sixers-Brooklyn Nets series. At +270, Embiid was the betting favorite to score first. Harris was listed at +950, while Maxey was at +700. Embiid’s 28-foot attempt to open Game 2 was unsuccessful 24 seconds into the game. 

After the Nets missed an easy shot a little over a minute later, Embiid recovered the missed shot and passed the ball to Harris, who made a layup. You would have made $95 if you had staked $10 on Harris to score the game’s first basket.

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

Players like Bam Adebayo of Miami should be handled with caution. Adebayo has taken Miami’s first shot 24 times this season. This season, Vucevic took the opening shot 28 times, the most by any player in the NBA. Embiid took the opening shot 27 times.

In the regular season of the previous year, Adebayo made the Heat’s opening basket 34% of the time. However, he only made the opening basket 10% of the time when Miami advanced to the playoffs last season. 

Watch out for a noticeable increase in first baskets as well. Desmond Bane of Memphis, for instance, only made 16 percent of the Grizzlies’ opening baskets in 2021–22. Bane made 46% of the team’s opening scores in the previous season’s playoffs.

Finding value in the First Basket prop is, of course, the key. Jokic was the betting favorite to score first in Game 2 of the Minnesota-Denver series at +410. The two-time MVP scored 24 of Denver’s first baskets during the regular season. Of those 24, Jokic scored the game’s opening basket 16 times.

He did not score first in Game 2 against Minnesota. In Game 3, Jokic was once again listed at +410 and he did score the first basket of the game.