NBA Handicapping: NBA Championship Futures Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 4/19/2012
We are in the home stretch of this lockout-shortened NBA season. As we look ahead to the playoffs it’s a good time to look at the NBA Championship futures odds to see what stands out as interesting and what seems like a bad idea (all odds are from Bovada):
Miami Heat (21/10)
At this point the Heat are heavy favorites to win it all and their odds are almost twice as low as Chicago and Oklahoma City at 7/2. The obvious question, then, is if they deserve that much respect. It could be that I still haven’t forgiven Lebron James for that ridiculous TV special, but I’m just not buying it. The Eastern Conference could be tough, especially if Derrick Rose can get healthy and Boston can stay hot. Dwyane Wade’s health is always a question. The point guard position remains a concern. The team has forgotten how to shoot from outside recently, and that makes it easier for teams to put pressure on James and Wade. There are still real questions about Erik Spoelstra’s command of this team and his ability to get the best out of them in a pressure situation. Add it all up and it spells a whole lot of uncertainty in my eyes. Can the Heat win it all this year? Absolutely. Are they this much better than everyone else, or this much more likely to win? Not in my eyes. Whatever the opposite of value is, this defines it.
Chicago Bulls (7/2)
Do you feel lucky, punk? If you think that Derrick Rose can stay healthy through the playoffs and can quickly recover his form as the playoffs get underway then there is very nice value here, especially compared to the Heat. In my eyes the Bulls with a healthy Rose are the best team in the league and it’s not close. Rose has missed time thanks to four different, unrelated injuries, though, so his health is far from guaranteed in the playoffs. He plays hard, and he gets fouled hard, so it’s definitely a gamble betting at this price. Without Rose the Bulls are still a good team, but they certainly aren’t the second best in the league, and would be very hard-pressed to win it all.
Oklahoma City Thunder (7/2)
This price suggests that the Thunder are the best team in the West and have at least twice as good a chance of winning as any other Western team. I can buy that — or at least I could have if you had asked me at the beginning of April. Since then, though, the team has been flat, they are struggling along at just .500, and they have lost games they have no business losing. While a flat spot in the season is inevitable for most teams this one is more concerning than some. For starters, there is an almost team wide drop off in production, and with it signs of decreased focus and chemistry. This is a young team, so you really shouldn’t be seeing a lot of fatigue. It could be a sign of bigger problems, or a passing phase. Either way, this price would make me nervous until we see a turnaround.
San Antonio Spurs (7/1)
I do not believe that there will be a surprise winner of the championship this year. The Mavericks last year were as close to a surprise as we ever see in the league. Of the elite contenders, then, the Spurs seem to offer the most value. They are playing brilliant defense. They have surprising depth and strong chemistry. They have a lot of experience in winning titles. Tim Duncan knows this could be his last chance. His role is diminished, but he’s playing the best he has played in a couple of years, and is the driving force for the defense. They are well coached, and they have fewer ego issues to deal with than any other team. I’ll be honest and admit that I gave the Spurs little respect heading into the season. I was wrong on that one, though, and I’ve definitely changed my tune.
L.A. Lakers (15/1)
Simply, no. Kobe Bryant isn’t as healthy as you would like. His chemistry with the team is far worse than it has been in years. The depth is an issue. The coaching is a bigger issue. If this team was any other than the Lakers they would be at least at 30/1 — and they wouldn’t be that attractive at that kind of price.
Boston Celtics (16/1)
I don’t trust their age. But with age comes experience and the core of this team has the right kind of experience. Rajon Rondo is the real deal, and the team has played very well down the stretch. I don’t love their chances, but this price seems at least interesting — especially compared to the Lakers. I wouldn’t bet on them at this price, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who wanted to.
L.A. Clippers (22/1)
This is the last of the teams that I consider a viable championship contender. This price — and this place in the hierarchy of the league — makes a lot more sense than what was available on the team right after the Paul deal. I still don’t like it, though. I just don’t think this team is ready for prime time yet. Paul and Griffin don’t have the chemistry they need to have yet, and the team is absolutely brutal from the foul line. This team will get better than it is in a year or two, and I’ll consider them more seriously now. At this point, though, I just don’t see the value here.
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