NBA First Basket Prop Report: Team Frequency, Player Frequency, Best Bets

The First Scorer player prop is exciting for two reasons. It is settled in the first moments of the game, so there is no sweat throughout the game. You either win or lose, and you know it right away. This knowledge is an advantage since the direction of your live betting can be forged on this knowledge of gain or loss. Second, the plus odds (virtually always between +350 and +1250) can multiply your money fast. However, the drawback is that the first scorer is generally random, so it’s extremely hard to predict. Can a trend be identified though? Any insight can boost your expected value and help make educated bets. 

Team First Scorer 

In order to choose a player, it’s important to know how often the team scores first. If a team only scores first 15% of the time, then it’s a disadvantage to bet on a player from that team to score first. Here is how every team stacked up in February 2022:

The only teams to score first in at least 66.7% of their February games were the Celtics, Warriors, Spurs, and Grizzlies. On the other end of the spectrum, the teams to score first less than 40% of the time were the Wizards, Pelicans, Raptors, Timberwolves, 76ers, and Cavaliers. Factors that can influence these percentages are whether the center usually wins the tip off, or the team rosters lethal, efficient scorers. If a team wins the tip off but has a low FG%, then it’s likely they miss, leading to the other team scoring first. Team defense can also affect these percentages. Teams who play strong defense and force contested shots give themselves a better chance to be the first scorer. Now that we know which teams scored first often, let’s look at how often a player scored first in their games.

Player First Scorer 

While identifying teams can be helpful, knowing which players score first is more insightful. The Celtics score first the most, but does that mean Jayson Tatum is the right bet to score first since he is the best player on the team? Not at all. Usage % can tell you who has the ball the most, but they may pass early in the game, meaning role players score first more often than the star. Below is a chart with the top 29 first scorers in February based on how often they scored first in their games.

Betting on the Celtics was correct, but Tatum would have been an awful choice from a results perspective. Jaylen Brown blew the field away by scoring first in an astounding 54.5% of Celtics games. His odds were hovering around +300 to +600, so Brown was extremely profitable in February. Luka Doncic was 2nd with a first scorer percentage of 40%. Doncic dominates the ball for the Mavericks and is the engine of their offense. While he racks up assists, Doncic is a score-first player who loves to attack the basket, where high percentage shots are taken. Miles Bridges was 3rd by scoring first in 33.3% of Hornets games. LaMelo is a pass-happy point guard for the Hornets who can find the open man with ease. Bridges benefits from this situation with high quality shots. Jae’Sean Tate, Kevon Looney, Julius Randle, and Jarrett Allen round out the top seven players at 30%. Tate and Looney are surprisingly great given that they do not dominate the ball. 

How Often Player Scored First For Respective Team

Combining team first scorer and player first scorer shows how often the player is the first scorer compared to how often the team is the first scorer. The blue bar in the graph shows the percentage that a player scores first in their games, while the orange bar shows how often the team scores first in their games. For example, Jaylen Brown’s blue bar is at 54.5%, which means he scores first 54.5% of the time in Celtics games. Brown’s orange bar is at 81.8%, which means the Celtics score first in 81.8% of their games. 

Jarrett Allen was tied 4th at 30%, but the Cavaliers are last as a team at scoring first. This means when the Cavaliers score, it will most likely be Jarrett Allen. On the flip side, Kevon Looney is also 4th in player first scorer percentage, but he doesn’t even score first for the Warriors half the time. Because the Warriors are extraordinary at scoring first, Looney benefits from the high volume. He is not, however, a dominant scorer who commands attention early in the game. Overall, looking at both teams and players is the best process. The most important one is player frequency, though, as the percentage of the time they score first in a game is the actual statistic needed for first scorer. Looking at team first scorer percentage is useful, but not as vital. 

Based on this information, potential best bets going forward are Jaylen Brown, Luka Doncic, Miles Bridges, Jae’Sean Tate, Kevon Looney, Julius Randle, Jarrett Allen, and Doug McDermott. McDermott surprisingly scores first quite frequently, although the Spurs often scoring first as a team is a big factor behind that. While these were the best bets for February, March could be different because game flow and player efficiency can easily swing in the NBA. With that in mind, it is safer to go with the top first scorers in February who consistently have many touches. That indicates Jaylen Brown, Luka Doncic, Miles Bridges, and Jarrett Allen as players to watch going forward.