Today is the second last day of the 2022-23 NBA regular season.
Yet again, play-in tournament intrigue has kept the drama (and NBA odds) alive right to the finish line, with both the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Clippers finding themselves still with a lot to play for.
And I'm focusing on those teams' NBA player props for today’s slate, as my free NBA picks feature Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert doing their part to get the Wolves into the playoffs and Ivica Zubac continuing his steady play for LA.
NBA player props for April 8
Picks made on 4/8/2023 at 8:43 a.m. ET.
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Today’s best NBA player props
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Conley Cans Triples
To put it mildly, this Minnesota Timberwolves season has not gone to plan.
Pegged by many to be chasing 50 wins (and home court in the first round of the playoffs), the Wolves instead have flirted with disaster all year. To keep their season alive, they’ll have to fight their way in through the play-in tournament. However, while the Rudy Gobert (more on him later) trade might go down as one of the bigger overpays in NBA history, the deadline acquisition of Mike Conley is deserving of praise.
Conley is a consummate professional and the veteran leader that the Wolves so desperately needed. He’s sensitive to his teammates' needs on the court in the way a true floor general must be, but critically he doesn’t need the ball in his hands to have an impact. Conley has always been a capable perimeter shooter, but he’s turned into a legit sniper from behind the arc over the last few seasons.
Mike, the PG.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) April 5, 2023
18 PTS / 1 REB / 1 AST / 1 BLK / 1 STL pic.twitter.com/Mq0qx2lPgi
Conley can comfortably space to the corner when Anthony Edwards or Karl-Anthony Towns want to operate with the ball, but he’s also unafraid to pull up off the dribble himself. He keeps opposing defenses honest, and he should be able to punish an inexperienced San Antonio Spurs team whether he’s spotting up or punishing them for going under a screen.
Betting Overs in the waning days of the season is always tricky, but in this case, a final win is meaningful for Minnesota. A victory on Saturday gives it a much better chance to survive and advance, and even though the game is against the hapless Spurs, the Wolves cannot afford to take anyone lightly.
Conley is shooting 42.3% from three over his last five games and has hit 3+ triples in five of his last 10 games. At plus money, I’m betting that Conley will have a major role in pushing the Timberwolves over the finish line.
As for the aforementioned Gobert, he has faced a lot of criticism this season, some fair and some less so. He’s declined in many aspects and the Utah Jazz ecosystem was tailormade to paper over the flaws in his game... but make no mistake, even this version of Gobert is a very effective player.
Gobert’s greatest value comes as a rim protector, but his second greatest talent is unquestionably his rebounding prowess. Even in a down year, while he’s adjusting to a new and unconventional system, Gobert is comfortably among the league’s best on the boards: He’s 93rd percentile in defensive rebounding rate and 81st percentile in offensive rebounding, per Cleaning the Glass.
He’s a giant, yes, but he’s also dogged and great at maximizing position.
27 is doing his thing in the paint ???? pic.twitter.com/JeXEQHepoC— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) April 5, 2023
Gobert is a legit 7-foot-1, two inches taller than either Zach Collins or Sandro Mamukelashvili, the Spurs' center rotation. Collins and Mamukelashvili grade out as average on the glass at best, and the Spurs have zero interest in winning this game and falling behind the Houston Rockets in the race for Victor Wembanyama.
Rudy is averaging 13.7 rebounds over his last 10 games, and with Towns questionable, it’s possible he’s going to soak up all the minutes for Minnesota at center.
Until last night's results, it wasn’t clear how much the Los Angeles Clippers game today was going to matter. With the Pelicans winning against the Knicks, however, the Clippers’ best path forward is to win out.
That shouldn’t prove too difficult as they’re facing off against a Portland Trail Blazers team currently undertaking one of the more brazen late-season tanking jobs in recent memory. But the Clippers need to win, and the Blazers have proven to be dangerous to teams unwilling to take them seriously (hello, Timberwolves).
To that end, Los Angeles will need to play its regulars on Saturday to make sure it secures the victory, and with a normal rotation, Ivica Zubac is a prime candidate to score against Portland. He has long been the unheralded cornerstone of the Clippers and while he’s not remarkable to anyone who doesn’t root for LA, to fans of the team, he’s an indispensable component of their success.
For a team that has gotten more mileage out of playing small than just about anyone else in the NBA, Zubac represents their more traditional approach: Competent, unflashy, and effective.
Zubac has improved so much that the Clippers have all but abandoned their smaller lineups because they can’t afford to play without him. He’s not a high-usage player, but his 130.6 points per 100 shot attempts is in the 78th percentile among all bigs, per Cleaning the Glass. He knows his role and thrives within it.
This version of the Blazers doesn’t have close to 48 minutes of traditional big-man play to match Zubac. He’s going to tower over their diminutive frontcourt players and use his simple but effective combination of pivots and short shots around the rim to punish their lack of size. Zubac has scored 12 or more points in seven of his last 10 games, I’m expecting no different from him tonight.