by Spencer Patton - 10/27/2008
When wagering futures, "value" in a line can go up in flames faster than the Cub's bullpen does in the clutch. A blown-up knee (Tom Brady) or simply buying into a preseason hype-fest (Cleveland Browns) are examples of the potential value-busters that can sink even seasoned bettors. Season win totals in the NFL, championship wagers in the NBA, and NHL player point totals are some of my favorite futures bets. The trick for the bettor, though, is to distinguish value from a lottery ticket. Understanding the dynamics of the specific sport you are betting is arguably more important than the wager itself.
Let me explain. In the NFL, we have become more than accustomed to the worst-to-first type performances out of previously dreadful teams. Case and point in the NFL is the NFC South merry-go-round at the top of the division over the last few years. Or look at the Tampa Bay Rays in the MLB this year… anything can happen in baseball. However, not all sports offer the same level of parity and dynamic aspect to the playoffs at the end of every year. The sport that evidences this most is unquestionably the NBA. The picture at the end of the year is always the same… same teams, similar results, and little intrigue. The NBA desperately needs a shakeup, but here's the kicker: don't bet on it.
In the NBA, unlike other sports, it's critical to take a long hard look at the favorites before putting your hard earned cash on the line for longshots. What we are seeing the Tampa Bay Rays do now and what we saw the Giants do last year, it just does not happen the same way in the NBA. A startling nine NBA teams, nearly 1/3 of the league, have NEVER won a title… EVER. While teams like the Lakers, Celtics, and Pistons sport 29, 20, and seven Finals appearances, respectively, in their history. The lesson here is simple: for big underdogs - stick with the leagues with parity and balance (NFL, MLB, NHL, in that order). For value in the NBA, though, feel free to make your opinions heard, but make sure your cash is on a favorite.