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NBA First Basket Picks For Friday | Apr. 12

Thomas Snodgrass

Updated: Apr 12, 2024

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The NBA slate for Friday is absolutely loaded.

With 15 games on the slate, bettors can fire darts all over the NBA betting boards.

For those that don’t wish to sweat out overs or unders in all four quarters, look no further than first basket betting.

Some potential first basket scorers carry odds with very high expected values, so in terms of time and profitability, the first bucket can be more interesting than the last.

Here were the five players that scored first baskets on Thursday.

Games (April 11th)First Basket ScorerConsensus Odds
CHI vs. DETNikola Vucevic (CHI)+550
NYK vs. BOSJrue Holiday (BOS)+850
HOU vs. UTAFred VanVleet (HOU)+850
GS vs. PORScoot Henderson (POR)+650
NOP vs. SACJonas Valanciunas (NOP)+400

New Orleans Pelicans’ center Jonas Valanciuns has been a first-basket monster over his last 10 games.

As BestOdds First Basket Stats page shows, Valanciunas has tallied a whopping five first baskets in the last 10, and with his consensus odds ranging from +400 to +550, he’s been wildly profitable for first-basket bettors.

Valanciunas and the Pelicans will visit the Golden State Warriors tonight, and according to BestOdds EDGE, the Warriors have allowed just 20% of their opposing first baskets to centers.

So, even if New Orleans knocks down the first bucket, it may be someone other than Valanciunas that puts the initial points on the board tonight.

Or not, because Valanciunas is rolling early in contests.

Let’s take a deeper look at the huge 15-game slate on Friday and pinpoint a few potentially fortuitous first basket matchups.

As always, all selections are paired with the best odds.

Donovan Mitchell – PG, Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers host the Indiana Pacers tonight, and the opening tip looks to be a winnable matchup for Cavs’ center Jarrett Allen.

Allen has won 75% of his opening jumps, while Pacers’ center Myles Turner has won just 45% of tips, so Cleveland should come away with the first possession.

Indiana has allowed most of their opposing first baskets to point guards (24%), but Cleveland’s point guard, Darius Garland, is not the most prolific first basket scorer.

In fact, in Garland’s 56 starts this season, he has made only one first bucket. Just one!

I still believe that a first basket from the Cavaliers’ backcourt is likely, so I’m leaning towards Donovan Mitchell to sink the first shot.

Here’s a look at Mitchell’s early shot data from BestOdds EDGE:

The shot number that Mitchell has taken for Cleveland has varied from game to game, but he has still connected on two first baskets in his last five contests.

With 13 first baskets on the season, Mitchell is now the Cavaliers’ team leader in initial buckets, so he’s always a threat to put the first points on the board.

When looking at the key first basket data for Cleveland’s expected starting five, the numbers for Mitchell are too green to ignore.

Mitchell is not only leading his squad in first baskets, but also first FGA%.

The Cavaliers should win the opening tip, and in that first possession, no man is more likely to take and make that first shot more than Mitchell.

Pick: Mitchell – First Field Goal (+475) BetMGM

Mikal Bridges – SF, Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets will travel across the East River into Manhattan to take on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden tonight.

The opening tip between Nets’ center Nic Claxton and Knicks’ center Isaiah Hartenstein appears to be lopsided, based on the numbers found at BestOdds EDGE.

Claxton is winning 39% more of his opening tips, and he’s already bested Hartenstein at center court in two head-to-head matchups.

If the Nets don’t secure the opening tip, I’d be shocked.

New York has allowed 37% of the opposing first baskets to small forwards, and that is the highest mark in the NBA.

That would naturally point towards Brooklyn’s small forward Mikal Bridges, whose 10 first baskets this season trails only Claxton’s 16 first buckets on the Nets.

Here’s a comparison of Bridges’ and Claxton’s key first basket stats over the last 20 games, courtesy of BestOdds EDGE.

Claxton may have more first baskets this season, but it appears that his early usage is beginning to wane, with only a 5% first field goal attempt percentage for Brooklyn in the last 20 games.

The Knicks have been burned by early shots out on the wing this season, and I’d expect Bridges to keep up that trend.

Pick: Bridges – First Basket (+700) Unibet

Bradley Beal – SG, Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns will head to Northern California to take on the Sacramento Kings in an interesting Western Conference showdown tonight.

Based purely on the numbers, this opening tip matchup is about as lopsided as it gets.

Domantas Sabonis recently ended a 61-game double-double streak, proving that the Kings’ center can’t do it all.

And one of the things he can’t do is win the opening tip.

Sabonis’ 29% tip win percentage is one of the lowest in the NBA among all starting centers, and against Jusuf Nurkic, who has already beaten Sabonis on the tip twice, he’ll probably lose once again.

The Suns should gain early control in this one, and deciding on who will take the first shot for Phoenix can be tricky.

Look at the first basket stats for the Suns starting five from BestOdds EDGE, and notice that no one player is running away as the top first-basket scorer.

Phoenix is loaded from top to bottom with impressive shooters that can knock it down from anywhere on the floor.

Sacramento has allowed 30% of first buckets to opposing shooting guards, the only team to allow 30% or more, and that makes an interesting case for Phoenix’s Bradley Beal.

Beal is coming off a first basket score in his previous outing against the Los Angeles Clippers and he has now totaled four in the last 20 games, the most first baskets for the Suns in that time.

Also, as shown in the chart of Phoenix’s starting five, Beal may have the second-lowest first FGA% on the team, but he currently has the highest first basket percentage on the Suns.

Beal may not be the most likely to take that first shot, but when he does, he is more likely to make it.

Pick: Beal – First Basket (+950) FanDuel

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About the author

A fan of both the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, which is rare! Thomas provides sports betting content with the intent to educate and enter...

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