Saturday Player Props Preview Article


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3 Player Props April 29: Don't Sleep On Denver's Bruce Brown

Phoenix Suns vs. Denver Nuggets
Saturday, April 29, 2023 at 8:30 p.m. ET at Ball Arena in Denver

Denver's Defensive Weakness

Phoenix is a good team for player prop bets because it is well-built to attack a key defensive weakness of Denver's.

The Nuggets struggle to contain the pick-and-roll for the ball-handler play type.

So far in the playoffs, they allow the most PPP (points per possession) against this play type, alongside Golden State.

One might try to downplay this statistic by indicating that Denver only played one opponent.

But that opponent, Minnesota, is not nearly as well-known for its ball-screen attack as Denver's current opponent, Phoenix.

So, it is hard to imagine how the Nuggets' ball-screen defense could suddenly look better against stronger competition.

It's not that Minnesota matched up with them uniquely well, either.

The Nuggets just do a lot of things wrong in their ball-screen coverage attempts.

For example, they prove rather vulnerable to corner threes.

Moreover, when they position star Nikola Jokic in drop coverage, his defense is about as awful as his reputation suggests.

Furthermore, they frequently allow teams to use their ball-screen game to hunt for their preferred matchups.

The list of problems continues.

Key Suns' Scorer

The Suns' offense is built on motion and ball-screens.

Their top scorer in general is star Devin Booker who is also their most dangerous piece when they execute the pick-and-roll for the ball-handler play type, as evident in the frequency with which he runs this play type and his high PPP (points per possession) total in this play type.

Booker also comes in hot, having scored 38 or more points in three of his past four games.

Best Bet: Devin Booker over 30.5 points at -120 with Bovada

Phoenix's Defensive Weakness

In the Suns' last series, against the Clippers, L.A. exposed a significant weakness in their defense.

Spearheaded by Russell Westbrook, the Clippers exposed Phoenix's ability to defend against the dribble drive.

As old as he is, Westbrook especially could repeatedly blow by Suns' defenders.

Suns' defenders will be standing on the perimeter where they will fail to contain an opposing guard, such as Westbrook, who will enter the lane.

This struggle against the dribble drive helps explain by Westbrook surged scoring-wise in his series against Phoenix: he scored 28 or more points on three different occasions, although his 2022-2023 scoring average was 15.9 points per game.

While it is easy to point to the losses of key perimeter defenders such as Cam Johnson and Mikal Bridges, guys who surely have the ability to help contain the dribble drive, the fact is that this problem against dribble drive actions predates their departures.

Value-Laden Nuggets' Player

Westbrook also wasn't the only Clippers' scorer to benefit from the Suns' inability to stop the ball via the dribble drive.

Teammate Norman Powell was also a factor with his driving and scoring.

This extent of a team's ability to attack the Suns by driving means that we can look past obvious candidates, such as Jamal Murray, and go for a more under-the-radar guy.

There is value with Bruce Brown, who, in order to score, likes to drive inside and be aggressive inside the paint, where he capably finishes at the basket.

Given the matchup, he'll want to increase his 4.4 drives per game average.

Best Bet: Bruce Brown over 11.5 points at -105 with Bovada

Nikola Jokic's Point Total

I feel baffled by Nikola Jokic's posted over/under in points.

The total reflects the 25 points that he averaged back in 2021 when Phoenix swept Denver in the Western Conference semifinals.

What is so impressive about Jokic's scoring average in that series is the fact that he played so poorly especially from an efficiency perspective.

This is especially the case as Suns' center Deandre Ayton was guarding him: in this situation, Jokic shot 27 of 64, converting 42.2 percent of his shot attempts.

This statistic indicates that, with Ayton playing his best defensive game and with Jokic struggling to be his usual offensively superb self, he can still finish right around his posted total of 25 points.

I think that he will fly over the posted total.

First of all, that game took place two years ago.

Players change -- they grow and develop.

Specifically, Jokic seems to have figured Ayton out.

These two players have squared off three times in the regular season.

Jokic shot 21-for-33 with Ayton guarding him.

This conversion rate is over 20 percent higher than when Ayton guarded him in that postseason series.

From a motivational point of view, there is also extra onus on the perennial MVP candidate to prove that he can do better against Ayton.

Another factor is that Ayton is coming off a playoff series in which he performed rather poorly, often frustrating his teammates and eliciting the criticism of the media.

Conversely, Jokic scored 28 and 48 points, respectively, in his team's last two games against Minnesota.

Best Bet: Nikola Jokic over 25.5 points at -120 with Bovada