A total of 24 of the NBA’s 30 teams were back in action last night as play resumed after the All-Star break. The lucky six that got an extra day of vacation were the Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers.

By the time Friday night comes to an end, everyone will have been back in action following the NBA’s showcase event in Indianapolis last weekend, and we will have begun the final one-third of the season.

By the end of the weekend, we should have a clearer picture of who is showing up for the second half of the season, who is mailing it in, and whose championship aspirations look better now than they did going into the break.

The Celtics (+250), Nuggets (+400), Los Angeles Clippers (+500) and Milwaukee Bucks (+600) are the only teams with single digit odds, which is sort of a slap in the face of teams such as the West-leading Timberwolves (+2000) and the second-in-the-East Cleveland Cavaliers (+2500) and the sneaky good New Orleans Pelicans (+5000), Sacramento Kings (+5000), and Indiana Pacers (+6600). If we do not have chalk hit this year, there is an opportunity in the championship futures market that is best seized upon in late February rather than waiting for the odds to drop and regretting that you did not grab them in the month that included a Leap Day.

The weekend will include a slate of three games on Saturday and 11 games on Sunday, three of them national broadcasts on ABC. A clearer picture should emerge of who is a contender and who is a pretender. For now, if you are locked in on one of the above-named and priced teams being a lock championship winner, by all means go out and bet them.

We are not prepared to say that about anyone, although we will point out that the lack of national media coverage for the Timberwolves and Cavaliers does a disservice to how good they are and how real their championship aspirations are. As for who will be the Most Valuable Player, that race may be more of a toss-up than many are being led to believe. Remember, a month ago Joel Embiid had a minus price for that award, and now he is hurt and ineligible.

So for now, it is at least worth pointing out that the best player on the team with the best record, Jayson Tatum is +3500, Donovan Mitchell of the Cavs is +15000 and Anthony Edwards of the Wolves is off the board. Also, Kawhi Leonard of the Clippers, who are 2 1/2 games out of first place in the West, is +5000. Those are some very long odds on some absolutely great players, and there is still a lot of season left.

Let’s have at tonight’s games, including some of the six teams that got an extra vacation day because they bribed the schedule-makers at NBA headquarters (that is a joke).

NBA Player Prop Bets Today for Friday, February, 23, 2024

Trae Young (ATL) to have 50 combined points, rebounds and assists

The Raptors played at home last night against the Nets and won by 28, and then flew all the way to Georgia after clearing U.S Customs. The Hawks did nothing, so that right there is an immediate advantage.

Trae Young and Dejounte Murray are the players to keep an eye on here. Young has averaged 34.3 points and 14.3 assists in three previous games against the Raptors this season, two of them wins. If form holds he should surpass 50 combined points, rebounds and assists, and this is the best Young line out there at any gambling site.

The Pick: Trae Young to have 50 combined points, rebounds and assists (+450)

Anthony Edwards (MIN) to score 40+ points 

In case you glossed over it above, Edwards is not on the board for MVP, nor is Karl-Anthony Towns, who scored 50 in the NBA All-Star Game. That is not an oversight, and the likelihood is that voters will check the Timberwolves box by voting in Rudy Gobert for Defensive Player of the Year and possibly even Chris Finch for Coach of the Year. If Edwards goes out and scores 60 or 70 once or twice, maybe the conversation will change. Until then, his season-high stands at 44, set three games after Christmas against Dallas. With the Bucks at 3-7 under Doc Rivers and with Giannis cursing and griping and moaning about all of the changes in Milwaukee, from ownership to the roster, we are not exactly feeling the Bucks’ mojo right now. They are not a great defensive team, and Edwards wants some national respect.

The Pick: Anthony Edwards to score 40 or more points (+1100)

Anfernee Simons (POR) to score 35+ points

The Nuggets had an easy time against the Wizards in Denver last night and then traveled to Portland, where the Blazers have been resting and are listed as 9.5-point underdogs. The Nuggets are an NBA-worst 1-6 against the spread with a rest disadvantage, and they will never quite be at a disadvantage like this one as Portland has not played since Feb. 15 when they lost their sixth in a row, a 37-point loss to Minnesota. The Blazers are a bad team that has some good players, and we are banking on the youngest of them, Simons, going for at least 25 as he did in the first three games of February. He has scored in the 40s twice and has four games of at least 30 points. Either he or Scoot Henderson will be the permanent offensive replacement for Damian Lillard moving forward. Simons has started all 93 games he has played the past two seasons, and his scoring average is at a career-high 22.9 points per game. He is more established than Henderson, who is out with an adductor strain.

The Pick: Anfernee Simons to score 35+ points (+550)

Jimmy Butler (MIA) to have a double-double

New Orleans is on the second night of a home back-to-back after defeating the Houston Rockets by 22, while Miami will have Jimmy Butler back after he missed three games because of a death in the family. It will be Butler’s first game since February 7 when he had a triple-double against the Spurs, his first of the season. In the previous game he had 23 points, eight assists and eight rebounds, so he was trending toward a triple-double before he got one. With Tyler Herro listed as questionable with a sore right foot, the secondary scoring option on the perimeter may end up being Duncan Robinson. When Herro sits, Butler becomes a de facto point guard, and the guy did not have any triple-doubles last season. Well, last year does not matter, and at this price it is a flyer-worthy wagering choice. He had four triple-doubles two seasons ago and five the previous two seasons, so we know he is capable, even at age 34. And a double-double is easier.

The Pick: Jimmy Butler to have a double-double (+450)

Odds are subject to change*

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