Best NBA Prop Bets Tonight (December 20): Live updates on LeBron James points, Raptors stats & more

Welcome to our Wednesday NBA Prop-A-Shot, where we unveil our favorite prop bets of the night before following all of the action live. What’s on tap tonight? A loaded 10-game slate featuring LeBron James, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, and much more. Here’s how this works:

  • Before the first games tip, we share our top prop bets and hand-picked wagers for the night.
  • During the live window, we’ll follow our picks, surface any noteworthy lines, AND detail the angles and opportunities we look for in the live betting market.
  • At the end of the night, we will follow up on each bet, discuss which of our wagers hit and which missed, and go over any major storylines or surprising developments in the NBA that may have shaken up the betting world.

This is a great chance for you to uncover new strategies before and during NBA games, and see what kind of interesting moneyline, spread, and over/under developments take place throughout the course of the night. Whether you’re thinking about dabbling in betting for the first time or you’re a seasoned bettor looking to sharpen your edge, we’ve got you covered!

Remember to check back throughout the evening for updates, live value betting opportunities, and all the betting results as the games conclude. Good luck, have fun, and may the odds be forever in your favor! 

All odds courtesy of BetMGM, an authorized gaming operator of the NBA.

Live betting updates and developments

  • (8:38 p.m.) The Wolves are out-rebounding the 76ers in Philly 28-17 and outscoring them 34-22 in the paint. The Sixers also can’t get anybody else going outside of Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. They have a combined 44 points — no other Sixer has eight. 

Betting insights/trends approaching 8:00 p.m. window

  • Rockets vs. Hawks — Nobody wants to give Ime Udoka’s Rockets respect for its awesome defense. Well, that means we have a value opportunity — BetMGM is giving Atlanta an implied total of 116.5, an UNDER we would hammer without hesitation. As we detail in the player props section below, Houston has gone 11-1 at home with a +12.8 average scoring margin while allowing an NBA-low 97.8 points per home game.
  • A whopping 72 percent of the Bulls vs. Lakers handle is on the Lakers -3.5, which seems peculiar given how hot Chicago has been lately and how bad Los Angeles has been on the road (5-9 SU and ATS). Take a look at our colleague Steph Noh’s X post about the Bulls’ success since Zach LaVine exited the lineup due to injury. We’re backing the Chi +3.5 tonight

UPDATE: Just 2:07 into Bulls vs. Lakers, LeBron had scored or assisted on all nine of L.A.’s points, with Chicago a little slow out of the gates. The Bulls responded, though, going on an 8-0 run to flip a 9-4 L.A. lead to 17-11 Chicago. 

Live betting updates, value betting opportunities

  • The Magic and Heat have raced to a furious pace out of the gates in Orlando, but both teams have been missing open shots early. With Jimmy Butler OUT but the total still quite low for this game (214.5), we like the value with the live OVER here. Go off, Tyler Herro and Franz Wagner!
  • We’re already loving our UNDER pick with the Sixers-Wolves. At the nine-minute mark of the 1st quarter, Minnesota is shooting 1-of-7 from three-point land, these teams have combined for five turnovers, and the score is an ugly 17-16 Wolves.

Betting insights/trends approaching 7:00 p.m. window

  • The Pacers vs. Hornets game at 7 p.m. ET has reached a massive over/under total of 245.5 points, with 64 percent of bettors hammering the OVER. That’s way too high for us, considering Charlotte is missing LaMelo Ball and Mark Williams and Indy’s Tyrese Haliburton should be able to dictate the flow of the game. We would bet Terry Rozier’s OVER of 23.5 points but Charlotte’s UNDER of 118.5.
  • The Cavaliers vs. Jazz game (7:10) has also generated a lot of OVER buzz, with the total now sitting at 225.5. However, the OVER has actually only gone 5-6 when the Cleveland is a home favorite, and the Cavs rank top 10 in scoring and opponents field-goal percentage. The value bet here is with Utah’s team UNDER of 111.5 (-105)
  • The 76ers vs. Timberwolves game has skyrocketed up to 225.5 points, with over 85 percent of BetMGM bettors hitting the OVER. Where does everyone think the points are coming from with two of the strongest defensive cores squaring off in Philly? Hammer the UNDER — it’s a UNDER trifecta for the 7:00 p.m. window!

Joel Embiid points

As incredible as the reigning MVP has been this season, we also recognize how amazing the Timberwolves’ defense has been this season. Minnesota has held opponents to 43.6 percent from the floor and 105.9 points per game, both best in the NBA. This is an entirely different squad — at least culturally and fundamentally — than the one Embiid averaged 35.5 points per game against last season. 

JoJo’s on an insane hot streak offensively, even for him. However, we think Rudy Gobert and friends will rise to the challenge of facing Embiid on the road. If any squad can slow this guy down, it’s Minnesota. The only big man to drop 30 points on Minnesota all season was Zion Williamson on December 11. In their three games since then, the Wolves have allowed just 29.3 points per game to opponents’ entire starting front courts. We like JoJo’s under and the Wolves to cover. 

LeBron James points

Many will look at the Bulls’ awful 11-17 record and think Los Angeles will easily roll them on the road, leaving LeBron with a poor chance of hitting his OVER simply due to game script. However, look closer and you’ll see that Chicago has won six of its past nine games after starting 5-14. Since Thanksgiving, Billy Donovan’s squad has defeated reigning MVP Joel Embiid and the 76ers, the defending-champion Heat, and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks.

LeBron might not be able to play 30 minutes and chill for the majority of the fourth quarter — chances are the King will need to rule the court until the final whistle of this one. Everything about the Bulls has changed since the first month of action — they’re pushing the pace more, shooting better, scoring more points, and playing better defense. The team that closed out the In-Season Tournament with a 3-12 record in November has flipped the script.

Meanwhile, the Lakers need a get-right game. Since winning the IST over the Pacers, they’ve dropped three of their past four games and now sit as the eighth seed in a stacked Western Conference. One of those Ls was by 14 points to the 4-20 Spurs, a game that saw Bron finish as a -28. Contrast that with his plus-minus in L.A.’s past five wins with him active — +19, +36, +12, +16, and +26 — and you realize quickly that King James still needs to rule the court for the Lakers to stay in power. 

L.A.’s current two-game slide is just the second losing streak of its 2023-24 campaign, and we don’t expect it to continue tonight. Since the start of the 2022-23 season, LeBron has averaged 32.8 points per game in games that snapped Lakers losing streaks (six games total with Bron in the lineup). This number feels like a layup for the best player in the game against a squad with a confident and constantly-improving offense but below-average defense. 

Tyrese Haliburton assists Pacers vs. Hornets

If this number was 10.5, we would probably go OVER. Haliburton has logged 11 assists in two straight games and six of the Pacers’ past seven, and he averages an NBA-best 11.9 dimes per game on the season. However, 12.5 seems way too high, actually lending value to the UNDER. 

Hali played big minutes during the IST. The loss to the Lakers in the IST Championship concluded a five-game stretch in which the star point guard averaged 37.3 MPG. The Pacers have also been traveling a bunch lately, with eight of their past 10 games tipping off outside of Gainbridge Fieldhouse. These could all be contributing factors to the knee issue that kept Hali sidelined in the Dec. 16 loss to the Wolves.

Whatever the reason, Haliburton has hit the skids — at least by his standards. He has 18 turnovers over Indy’s past four games (4.5 per game) after averaging just 2.5 TOs per game through Dec. 1. He’s forcing things for the first time all season, and Rick Carlisle clearly knows something is amiss so he’s been resting him more than usual. Backup one-guard T.J. McConnell has logged minutes per game during this latest stretch than he has all season. 

Scottie Barnes rebounds

We’re taking on some juice on this OVER (the UNDER is currently listed at plus odds), probably because this number is on the verge of being bet up to 8.5 or higher. Barnes has double-digit rebounds in three of Toronto’s past five games, including an incredible 17 his last time out against the Hornets on Monday. The 2021-22 Rookie of the Year now averages 9.2 boards per game, so backing him to grab eight or more in a big game seems like a good idea.

The Nuggets are a great rebounding team. They rank in the top 10 in offensive and total rebounding, while also allowing the eighth-fewest opposing defensive and total rebounds per game. However, great rebounding teams have not stopped Barnes from crashing the boards this season. If anything, big man Jakob Poeltl will be neutralized by Nikola Jokic and Pascal Siakam will be battling with Aaron Gordon, making a quietly strong Barnes a dark horse to rack up eight-plus boards for the 21st time in 27 games.

Nikola Jokic rebounds

We just alluded to the fact that Jokic and Jakob Poeltl will be battling down low tonight, but it bears repeating. The two-time MVP averaged just 10.5 rebounds per game against Toronto last season — pedestrian for him — and we just don’t picture him going off on the glass this evening.

The Raptors have lost seven of their past 10 games and won’t be much of a match for the defending-champion Nuggets, who once again carry a dominant record at 18-10 (third in the West). Look for this game to be relatively in hand by the midpoint of the fourth frame, with Joker posing a casual 20-10-10 triple-double along the way. 

Jalen Brunson points + assists

We would love if this prop was at -110 instead of -130, but bettors can’t always be choosers. One thing’s for sure, though: we’re not betting any Brunson unders anytime soon. The 2022 breakout has enjoyed an even better sophomore season in New York, and he just keeps getting better as the season progresses. Take a look at his per-game splits by month so far during the 2023-24 campaign: 

Month (# of games) PPG RPG APG SPG
October (4) 19.8 3.8 4.5 1.3
November (14) 26.6 3.6 5.6 0.9
December (8) 26.8 4.4 6.6 1.5

Most importantly for us, the soon-to-be All-Star is averaging a combined 33.4 points + assists so far in December. The good times should continue to roll against the Knicks’ cross-town rivals in Brooklyn. Across four games against the Nets last season, the Brunson Burner averaged a combined 34.1 points + dimes. This one’s an easy OVER for us as long as it stays below 33.

Trae Young points

This one also feels like an easy bet. Young averages just 28.1 points per game on the season, Atlanta is on the road against one of the stronger defensive teams in the NBA, and the Hawks have dropped seven of their past 10 games. Sure, Trae has been shooting the ball well as of late — but Houston has been flat-out phenomenal under Ime Udoka. Take a look at where the Rockets rank across a handful of defensive metrics: 

Metric Stat (Rank)
Opp. PPG 107.3 (2nd)
Opp. FG per game 38.3 (1st)
Opp. FG% 44.0 (3rd)
Opp. 3PT per game 11.2 (5th)
Opp. 3PT%  31.9 (1st)
Opp. APG 23.0 (1st)

Those last two stats hurt Young the most, as he will have trouble getting his three-point shot going and creating for others. The Rockets just simply make life difficult for opposing perimeter players and point men, and we simply can’t see Trae going off against them at Toyota Center.

The devil’s advocate in us knows he averages more points on the road than he does at home, but this ain’t your typical road opponent. Udoka’s squad has gone 11-1 at home with a +12.8 average scoring margin while allowing an NBA-low 97.8 points per home game. Trigger Trae will turn into Ice Trae this evening, and not in a good way. We’re also taking Houston to cover the -3.5 spread.

Kawhi Leonard points

After a slow start to the James Harden era in L.A., the Clippers have started clicking on all cylinders. They have won eight games in a row and nine of their past 10, rocketing up to a fifth-place tie with these very Mavericks. Many will credit the Beard for this awesome stretch, and it’s no secret that Harden has been great. But the man who has the most fingerprints on this 9-1 run is Leonard

Kawhi has played every game this season — a remarkable feat for the guy who put “load management” in the sports dictionary — and he has demonstrated the kind of efficient offensive excellence we have seen from him in his NBA Finals runs of the past. Over the past 10 games, he has averaged 29.1 points per game while shooting 63 percent from the floor. On the season, his shooting splits are an unconscious 52/44/87. 

The Mavs have been a thorn in the Clippers’ side throughout the Luka Doncic era — and while he would never admit it, we bet Kawhi will be getting up even more than usual for this road game. Dallas operates a “best defense is a good offense” strategy, one of the many reasons this game’s over/under has been set at a whopping 236.5 points. We’re betting the OVER on the total as well as the OVER on Kawhi’s scoring total, a number he has hit in four of his past six games. 

Kristaps Porzingis points

  • Best bet: OVER 21.5 (-110)
  • Celtics at Kings — 10 p.m. 

With Jayson Tatum nursing a left ankle sprain and out for the tail end of Boston’s back-to-back in Cali, Porzingis reenters the Celtics’ lineup after sitting on Tuesday. The Unicorn will need to take on a heightened offensive role, especially if Harrison Barnes is guarding his buddy, Jaylen Brown. These types of games are exactly why GM Brad Stevens aggressively pursued KP in the offseason — he gives them an added height advantage and scoring punch they have far too often lacked during the era of the Jays. 

As great as Tatum can be, he still finds a way to bog down the Celts’ offensive rhythm late in close games. Part of the problem is cultural — everyone in green resorts to getting the ball into JT’s hands and then watching him as he isolates and takes contested, low-percentage fall-away jumpers from beyond the arc. It’s like Groundhog Day, New England edition. In a way, Boston’s offense could benefit from a night without its franchise player. 

With JT out of the lineup, Jrue Holiday and Derrick White can create more for Brown, Porzingis, and perimeter shooters like Sam Hauser. We like KP to hit his OVER here and Boston to cover the +2.5 they are getting in Sacramento. The Kings have been a great story since their beam-lighting emergence in 2022, but they have been a bit inconsistent this season. Plus, De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis — the heart and soul of this squad — will have Holiday/White and Porzingis/Al Horford guarding them. The beam stays dark tonight.

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