This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, the RotoWire staff gets together and presents their favorite bet on the slate. With only two games Thursday, the options are limited, but player props open up plenty of interesting angles.
Nick Whalen: Bucks to cover 11.5 points vs. Trail Blazers – Fanduel, 11:45am
Given Portland's injuries and the fact that Milwaukee is Milwaukee, this line almost feels a little low. I do wonder if there's a chance Vegas thinks the Bucks could hold Giannis out on the second night of a road/home back-to-back. If he plays – we've been given no indication that he won't – I can't imagine the Bucks not covering 11.5 at home. Even without Khris Middleton, they've been a buzzsaw, and they've reached the point where they rarely struggle against bad teams, which is exactly what the Blazers are right now.
James Anderson: Giannis Antetokounmpo over 5.5 assists (-118) – FanDuel at 9:43 AM
The Zach Collins-less Blazers might be the least equipped team in the league to defend Giannis – their power forward depth was so non-existent that they had to sign Carmelo Anthony. The Blazers' defensive scheme is to keep the center back to protect the rim, and this will be more critical than ever against the Bucks, otherwise Giannis will get dunk after dunk after dunk. So I anticipate Hassan Whiteside waiting for Giannis at the rim on every drive. This should lead to some dump offs to cutters and kick outs to three-point shooters (I also like Brook Lopez over 12.5 points). Giannis averaged 7.5 assists in the two games against the Blazers last year, topping 5.5 in both contests. There are lots of great ways to bet on the Bucks' offense in this one, but this assists line just stands out as being too low.
Eric Neuman: Giannis Antetokounmpo UNDER 31.5 points (+100) – DraftKings, 9:30 AM
The Bucks have played three games in four nights and are on the second half of a back-to-back set. Antetokounmpo has averaged 30.7 points across 30.8 minutes in that three-game span, and as -12.5 point favorites, this seems like a prime spot for coach Mike Budenholzer to exercise caution with the reigning MVP's minutes.
The Trail Blazers are already struggling and will be without Damian Lillard (back). Not to mention, Anfernee Simons (ankle) and Hassan Whiteside (hip) are both questionable. Rather than playing down to opponents, Milwaukee tends to blow them away, as exemplified by their +9.3 point differential (No. 2 in the league). Following this potential game-script, a parlay with the Greek Freak's under and a Bucks' cover would seemingly go hand-in-hand.
Of course, there's always a chance Giannis could replicate Luka Doncic's performance against the Warriors on Wednesday and hit the over on his points in three quarters before watching from the sidelines in the fourth. Or, vintage Carmelo Anthony could show up and keep Portland in it via a shootout. Well, the latter may be a stretch, but anything's possible.
Alex Rikleen: Frank Kaminsky over 14.5 points
With Aron Baynes (hip) out again, Kaminsky should start and see additional minutes Thursday. He's played at least 23 minutes eight times this season, scoring at least 14 points in six of those. He's been on a bit of a hot streak lately, averaging 57% from the field and 52% from three over his last four games. The Pelicans play at one of the fastest paces in the league, and their defense ranks among the league's worst. On top of all that, the Pelicans will again be without their best defensive big man, Derrick Favors (back).
Jeff Edgerton: Trail Blazers at Bucks (-11.5) – DK Sportsbook, 10:31 AM ET
Damian Lillard is out against the Bucks, and Hassan Whiteside may end up missing as well. The Bucks did a decent job of load management with Eric Bledsoe and Donte DiVincenzo in anticipation of this back-to-back game, and Giannis will have a typical night as he picks apart Portland's interior. It won't be a blowout, but the Bucks should safely beat this spread.