NBA Division Winner Betting Props and Expert Wagering Predictions
It seems a little silly to talk about which teams are going to win their divisions in the NBA. Since the playoff format was changed in 2015 so the top eight teams per conference were ranked according to record, divisions have been entirely meaningless. But oddsmakers still list odds for division winners, and that makes them interesting. In a lot of ways, the playoff format actually makes these bets more interesting than they were before - few people are betting them now, so value could be easier to find than in other, more popular bets. Here's a look at how the division winner futures at Bovada set up right now:
Heading into the season, this seemed like the tightest-grouped, most-tough-fought division out there. You could easily have argued that Toronto, Boston and Philadelphia were the three best teams in the conference. In fact, aside perhaps from Milwaukee, that's a totally obvious argument. But Toronto (-200) has been an absolute wrecking ball in the league so far - they just crushed the Clippers and Warriors on back-to-back nights in California with Kawhi Leonard sitting out. They are a very good team with a 3.5-game lead. There is a reason they are heavily favored. Philadelphia (+330) is trying to figure out how to best use Jimmy Butler, and Joel Embiid for one is unhappy with how it has gone so far. And Boston (+390) was horrible out of the gate, but they have won seven straight and are performing well now. It feels like Toronto's to lose, and they are still a team with upside, so I don't see them losing it.
Detroit (+700) looked like they were going to be right in the mix when they were rolling - they even beat the Raptors in Toronto. But they have fallen back to earth with six straight losses and are just a .500 team now. They seem to lack talent. Milwaukee (-360) is only a half-game ahead of Indiana (+400), but they have one of the two or three best players in the conference, and good depth, so it makes sense they are solidly favored.
This is a tightly-bunched group. Oklahoma City is favored (+200) even though they are a half game behind Denver. The Nuggets (+275) have the best record in the disappointing Western Conference right now and have won eight of 10, but oddsmakers aren't as optimistic as that might suggest they should be. Portland (+380) looked like a better bet a while ago but is really struggling now. And Utah (+415) is the most disappointing team in the league in my eyes, and still isn't back to .500. I like the Nuggets, in relative terms at least, in this group.
The Clippers had been leading for a while, but now the Warriors have taken the lead, with a one-game lead over both L.A. squads. And despite the relatively underwhelming play of the defending champs, there is no doubt that the oddsmakers think this is how things will stay - the Warriors are at a gaudy -4000, with the Clippers at +1600 and the Lakers at +1700. The roommates at the Staples Center really need free agency to work out like they are planning to in order to make this group more interesting.
What a horrifyingly bad conference. Charlotte is a solid favorite at +160, but they are just the sixth seed in the conference, they are just one game above .500, and they are the only team in the division with a winning record. What a mess. Washington is the fourth-place team in the division at 11-17, but they are the second betting choice at +275. Miami (+310) and Orlando (+375) are the other 'contenders' for the conference crown. All four teams are lousy, but the Hornets are probably the least lousy. I don't have any interest in betting any of them, though.
What a bizarre division this is. Everyone on the planet had the Rockets written in in pen as the winner. They are two games below .500 through 26 games, and they are in last of the five-team group and second last right now in the entire conference. Yet the team is the -140 favorite to win the division, which tells you how little respect oddsmakers have for the group. And San Antonio, currently fourth in the division, is the second choice at +530. The division feels like it is upside down right now, and people seem to expect it to flip over again before it's done. New Orleans is third at +560. Current division leaders Memphis are the fourth choice at +710, with the Dallas Luka Doncics, currently second, the fifth choice at +950. I am much more skeptical of the resurgence of the Rockets than the oddsmakers are, but my issue here is that I can't decide who I like to win it better.
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