Top 3 NBA Player Props for May 20: Don’t Sleep on D’Angelo Russell

D'Angelo Russell Los Angeles Lakers Warriors
D’Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates against the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinal Playoffs. Harry How/Getty Images/AFP

Top NBA Picks for Saturday

  • D’Angelo Russell Over 1.5 3-Pointers Made (-140) at Bet365
  • D’Angelo Russell Over 4.5 Assists (+100) at Bet365
  • D’Angelo Russell Over 13.5 Points (-105) at BetMGM

Things were a bit different the last time D’Angelo Russell played for the Los Angeles Lakers. It was six years ago; Russell was 20, and was basically drummed out of L.A. after he secretly recorded teammate Nick Young admitting that he was cheating on his then-fiancee, Iggy Azalea.

Russell’s reputation still hasn’t recovered. He was an All-Star with the Brooklyn Nets in 2019, but they were more than happy to send Russell to the Golden State Warriors in the Kevin Durant trade; the Warriors were themselves content to flip Russell to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Andrew Wiggins.

While Russell has earned praise for helping to revive the Lakers since his arrival at the trade deadline, he’s also been looked down on for his poor defense – most notably by Bruce Brown, his most vocal opponent on the Denver Nuggets.

When combined with his somewhat awkward personality, Russell’s shortcomings tend to obscure just how good he is on offense. Each of our three NBA picks for Game 3 this Saturday between Denver and L.A. is on Russell going Over his posted total: for 3-pointers made, assists and points.

Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Saturday, May 20, 2023 – 08:30 PM EDT at Arena

Why Do People Hate D’Angelo Russell?

Maybe because he wants it that way. Russell has said many times in the press that he plays with that proverbial chip on his shoulder; he wants his opponents to hate him, and Russell’s not afraid to get up in his teammates’ grill, either.

Brown is correct about Russell’s defense, though. It’s never been his strong suit, but to be fair, Russell’s defense has improved in recent years to become only somewhat below average – and his offense more than makes up for it.

This is especially true with this iteration of the Lakers. They desperately need his 3-point shooting (41.4% in 17 regular-season games after the trade), which Russell Westbrook (29.6%) wasn’t able to provide – and for that matter, neither does LeBron James (32.1%), who went 0-for-10 in the first two games of the Western semis.

The projections at FantasyData have Russell scoring 2.63 made threes this Saturday, and we only need him to connect twice for a -140 payout on the NBA odds board at press time. The Nuggets’ defense is solid on the perimeter, and they held Russell to zero threes in Game 1 and just one in Game 2, but that was in the Mile High air at Ball Arena. We’re betting on better things happening in L.A.

NBA Pick: D’Angelo Russell Over 1.5 3-Pointers Made (-140) at Bet365

Why Doesn’t D’Angelo Russell Pass the Ball?

You have to have it in your hands first. Russell has only posted 5.7 assists per game in his career, and 6.1 per game since re-joining the Lakers, but that’s in part because Russell’s a gifted shooter. And on this particular team, it’s often James who brings the ball up the court.

We’re looking at a relatively low total of 4.5 assists for Russell in Game 3, with a payout of +100 if he goes Over; FantasyData projects Russell to dish 5.51 assists this Saturday, leaving more than enough potential profit margin to wager a single unit of your bankroll.

The Nuggets are also not as good at limiting assists as they are 3-pointers. They rank No. 16 in the former category at 25.7 per game, and No. 3 in the latter at 11.4 per game.

We’re still willing to risk a single unit on Russell’s 3PM prop given what we discussed above, but it’s a higher-variance bet than his Assists prop, so don’t overdo it.

NBA Pick: D’Angelo Russell Over 4.5 Assists (+100) at Bet365

How Many Points Will D’Angelo Russell Score?

According to FantasyData, Russell will drop 17.21 points on the Nuggets this Saturday, right in line with his Lakers regular-season average of 17.4 – and his career average of 17.7.

Russell’s Points Scored prop, on the other hand, only has the total at 13.5 points as we go to press, with –105 juice attached to the Over. Even when it comes to the thing that Russell does best, the betting public just doesn’t value him all that much.

Smart bettors do, though. They’re looking for the tertiary scorers on high-profile teams like the Lakers, not the big guns like James and Anthony Davis. Russell gains even more value playing in their shadows, so bet accordingly, and enjoy Game 3.

NBA Pick: D’Angelo Russell Over 13.5 Points (-105) at BetMGM is your sports betting command center. Read featured betting strategy compiled from a panel of leading sports betting experts.

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