NBA Futures Betting: Odds and NBA Finals Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 1/12/2011
Betting on championship futures in the NBA is different than any other sport. In the NHL any team that makes the playoffs can win the championship, and we have often seen teams come from nowhere to hoist the Cup. In the NFL the top teams from the regular season often hit a wall when the playoffs start. In the NBA, though, upsets are very rare in the playoffs, and when a team does manage a first-round shocker it almost never carries that momentum into the next round, and surprise teams never make it to the NBA Finals. That means that when you are betting on the NBA futures, looking beyond the few elite teams that everyone is talking about it is probably more of a gamble than is justified by the price.
With that in mind, here’s a look at what’s interesting in NBA futures right now with some predictions (odds are from BetUS):
Miami Heat (+200) - It’s amazing how a bit of time can change things. The price you would have got on this team in late November still wasn’t great, but it would have been better than what it is now.
Back then the team was fracturing -- the coach was on shaky ground, the stars weren’t playing well together, and they were very average. Since November 29, though, they have won 21 of 22 games, and there is little doubt that investment the team made was worthwhile for more than just boosting jersey sales.
Thirteen of those 22 games -- all wins -- have been on the road, so they aren’t going to be worried about traveling in the playoffs -- though they are on track to play the majority of their playoff games at home.
You can argue that they haven’t exactly played a brutal schedule during their current run of success -- they have played only a couple of playoff caliber teams, and they lost to Dallas at home. Their Christmas Day big win at the Lakers, though, shows that they can step it up when it matters.
I would never touch any team at this price this far before the playoffs, but I have no problem at all with the theory that they are the team to beat in the East, and probably in the league.
Los Angeles Lakers (+250) - You can never count this team out -- Phil Jackson is the best ever at coaching to a championship, and I’d want no one on my team more than Kobe. That being said, I just don’t have a great feeling about this squad this year.
They have health injuries that loom over the team, and they aren’t as mentally tough as you would expect - they hit an inexplicable three-game skid around Christmas. They are clearly a very good team, but I just don’t think that this price makes any sense at all.
San Antonio Spurs (+900) - This one is very interesting. The Spurs have won their share of championships in recent years, and they have -- by a wide margin -- the best record in the league right now, yet their odds are just the fourth lowest in the league, and are four and a half times higher than Miami’s.
It’s almost as if people are just waiting for this team to take a step backwards -- as if they aren’t viewed as a serious top-level contender.
The other thing that plagues this team is that they are as dull as a team can possibly be in terms of personalities, so they don’t attract nearly the national attention of the other top teams.
I don’t know that the Spurs can beat the other elite teams in crunch time, but I’ve said that before and seen them cut down the nets, so it’s hard to tell. I would have a hard time arguing against the thought that this team has attractive value, though -- at least compared to the other top contenders.
Boston Celtics (+500) - We have definitely learned one thing about this team -- they need Rajon Rondo. He’s back from his injury now, but doesn’t seem to have found his rhythm yet, and the team is just 5-5 in their last 10. That’s really the problem with Boston right now -- they are too vulnerable to injuries.
They would be in trouble if Rondo went down, or KG, or Pierce, for that matter. The same is true of the stars on the other major teams, of course, but the difference is how vulnerable those stars are for the Celtics. It makes me uneasy.
Chicago Bulls (+2000) - I think one of the four teams above will win it all. In fact, I am quite sure of it. If they don’t, though, then the Bulls will. They have the best point guard in basketball right now, and some very nice, rapidly maturing talent around him. They also have some handy playoff motivation -- to beat the Heat and all of the players that spurned them and their free agent dollars.
Dallas Mavericks (+1200) - The Mavs started out very strong, but they have cooled off lately. I don’t see them heating up sufficiently again to go all the way. They are a very good team, but far form a great one, and it will take a great team to upset one of the top four.
Orlando Magic (+1000) - They have the best two-way player in the league, and they certainly aren’t afraid to be aggressive in pursuit of what they need to do. The problem, though, is that we still don’t know how the trades are going to pay off and if they are going to have the chemistry a team so badly needs in the playoffs.
Their grade is incomplete right now, so all you can really do is wait. At this price I am certainly not tempted to gamble that they will be okay.
Oklahoma City Thunder (+2000) - Have patience, Kevin. You are going to bring a championship to Oklahoma at some point. Just not yet.
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