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Ja Morant will return to the Memphis Grizzlies tonight after serving a 25-game suspension for “conduct detrimental to the NBA.” We would like to predict that he is the last NBA player to post something inappropriate on social media, but that would be a bad bet.

Hopefully, the two-time All-Star is a changed man, and coach Taylor Jenkins said Morant’s commitment to physical workouts has been exemplary.

Morant and the struggling Grizzlies will face the New Orleans Pelicans in the first half of a TNT doubleheader, and the Grizzlies really need him. After finishing second in the Western Conference last season, they are an abysmal 6-19 and are currently on a five-game losing streak, tied with Portland for 13th place in the West.

Morant is their engine, and when you have been running without your primary engine for 25 games, you usually find yourself with some ground to make up. For the Grizzlies, that means finding a way (just like the Golden State Warriors) to make it into the West’s Top 10 to qualify for the play-in tournament.

With Houston overperforming and Phoenix underperforming and sitting in 10th, there are going to be at least two very good teams (on paper) left out of the postseason mix.

Tonight will begin to tell us whether the Grizzlies can begin engineering a massive turnaround with one-third of the season already in the books. Memphis is an 8.5-point underdog.

Best NBA Player Props Today – Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023Pick #1: Ja Morant 3+ 3-pointers

Predicting Morant’s point total is tricky because the last time we saw him play, he scored only 10 points on 3-of-16 shooting in a Game 6 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. The Grizzlies lost by 40 points and were thus eliminated.

Seven of those shots were 3-pointers, and Morant made two of them. In fact, he made two or more 3-pointers in four of the five games he played against the Lakers, and he jacked up 300 3s last season and converted them at a rate of 30.7% – down nearly four percentage points from the previous season.

Presumably, Morant has been working on his 3-point shooting during his eight months of downtime. With Luke Kennard and Marcus Smart injured and not playing, we should expect to see Morant,Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. firing away from outside. The fact that the game is on TNT will have the Grizzlies stoked, and the +220 line for this wager is far more appealing that the +100 line for Morant to score at least 25.

The Pick: Ja Morant to make at least three 3-pointers (+220).

Pick #2: Giannis Antetokounmpo over 1.5 blocks

The Greek Freak takes on the French phenom tonight in a game that is surprisingly not being televised nationally, and you can be quite certain that TNT will be looking for highlights from this game to show during halftime of both ends of its doubleheader. This game features the top two shot-blockers in the NBA in Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez and San Antonio’s Victor Wembanyama, but we like Giannis to join the block party for this reason: In three of the last four games, Antetokounmpo has totaled only one block. This is aberrational for Antetokounmpo, who has gone two straight games without a single block only one other time all season. He has at least 2 blocks in eight of the Bucks’ 26 games, and it is a certainty that he will be looking to reject his fellow 7-foot European in their first NBA meeting. This is a nice price for just two rejections. Lopez, conversely, has a +235 line to surpass 3.5 blocks.

The Pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo to block at least 1.5 shots: +245.

Pick #3: Derrick White over 1.5 blocks

Steph Curry did not make a 3-pointer last game, snapping his NBA record streak of making at least one in 268 consecutive games. He has to make six or more 3s to get you a plus line on the parlay card, so we aren’t going anywhere near that, especially with Jrue Holiday defending him. Instead, we are going with a guy who has not been getting enough credit for what he has been bringing to the East’s No. 1 team. Derrick White has been an across the board statistical producer, and he is coming off a game against Orlando in which he blocked three shots. In the NBA, 6-foot-4 guards are not typically shot-blockers, but White has 10 of them this month in seven games after totaling 12 in October and November combined. He has had three games with three or more blocks, two this month. So that is his personal trend, and we are riding it at this enticing price.

The Pick: Derrick White to go over 1.5 blocked shots (+265).

Pick 4: Jusuf Nurkic 15+ rebounds

Curry wasn’t the only NBA superstar to fail to make a 3-pointer on Sunday. It also happened to Kevin Durant of the Suns in a victory over Washington. It was the first time all season the 30.4 ppg scorer did not make a single 3, and the first time it had happened to him in a regular season game since Jan. 2 when he was still with Brooklyn. So, we stay away from him, too, and instead look to the “Bosnian Beast” to have a feast against the team that traded him to Phoenix. Check out Nurkic’s rebound totals from the past four games: 17, 12, 22, 13. There is a +950 line on Nurkic having at least 18 rebounds, but we are figuring that if this one does not stay close for all that long, Nurkic will not get the minutes needed to go from 15+ to 18+. As it is, +295 is a nice line for a guy who has been producing the way Nurkic has.

The Pick: Jusuf Nurkic to grab at least 15 rebounds (+295).

Odds are subject to change* 

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