We’re now roughly one third of the way through the NBA regular season. At first tipoff back in October, odds were established for which teams would make the playoffs. Some seemed rather speculative, while others were clearly indicative of which players were wearing what color of jersey.
Certain teams have immediately lived up to early expectations. There are others who have not. When we lay down money on futures odds such as making the league playoffs, there are teams we should avoid. The reason isn’t because they stand a chance of missing the NBA playoffs.
The reason is because the money we’d have to wager earns essentially pennies on the dollar when they do. Now, these teams do have some value when betting on the NBA’s odds of making the playoffs. Here are some thoughts on how to combine bets on the obvious teams with a couple dark horse sleepers.
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At the outset of the new season, there were teams deemed almost guarantees to be part of the playoffs. Two of those have not disappointed. Milwaukee and the Lakers version of the LA tandem have each lost only three times.
In fact, the Lakers lost the first game of the season against their Los Angeles rival Clippers. It was those same Clippers who were the early season darlings to win the NBA title. Now, Doc River’s Clippers team has lost games than the Lakers and Bucks combined.
Now, don’t be misled by early season production from teams that built star-laden lineups essentially from scratch. Oddsmakers haven’t lost sight of the facts. The Clippers still hold the best odds of winning everything.
However, the Lakers, and everyone else for that matter, have closed the gap. The Clippers post a +320 to win the championship on FanDuel’s Sportsbook. Milwaukee comes in at third with a +440, but only +90 behind the Lakers.
Milwaukee has moved the needle more than other Eastern Conference teams. Out in the Western half the equation, Houston has lost some ground to the pair of LA teams, but still is deemed an odds-on favorite to make the playoffs.
One team that has made an impressive move is the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs are still picked behind the Rockets for the Southwest Division. However, as with their championship odds, +4,200, the Mavericks playoff odds have also risen to -650.
Once a dark horse darling for futures bets, Dallas is inching closer to becoming a team that is no longer a sleeper. A solid place to begin a playoff bet portfolio would be to take any combination of these five teams.
Both Los Angeles teams, plus the Bucks and Rockets, are not going to produce big payouts. However, let’s look at some teams on the bubble who might make nice paydays. Blending a couple sure-things with these bubble busters will earn us a healthy payday when the NBA playoff brackets become official.
Bet the Bubble
Things the Eastern Conference are leveling out rather quickly. There is a full seven-game gap between the 7th place Brooklyn Nets and the 13th place Atlanta Hawks. With all apologies to the Hawks, we just don’t feel the love for them, the Wizards, Bulls, or Hornets.
That means we’re left with the current 9th best team in the conference having in our modest opinion, the only realistic chance of busting the current top-eight bubble. Detroit is another team that re-tooled their roster somewhat. Plus, they started without their best player, Blake Griffin.
Getting the Pistons at +180, currently within easy striking distance of both Brooklyn and Orlando would be a nice team to pair with the obvious. In reality, the Eastern Conference might produce a surprise, but logic points to this being a nine team race for eight playoff spots.
Now, the Western Conference is a different beast. Utah has underachieved enough to drop their stock slightly. If we assume that the Jazz play closer to their potential the rest of the season, that would put a lock on six of the eight playoff spots in the West.
The rest gives new meaning to the Wild Wild West. Portland’s stock has plummeted. The Trail Blazers weren’t projected as a power team in the conference, but most assumed they would be much better than the 12th best team.
A half-game above Portland are the San Antonio Spurs. Ahead of these members of last year’s Western Conference playoff bracket are three teams that didn’t make it to the dance. Phoenix, Sacramento and Minnesota are all bunched up with a game or tied with Oklahoma.
Sacramento has slightly better payout potential than the Trail Blazers at +145 against +125 to make the playoffs. The Suns seem to be the latest fad in the West. Phoenix is now looking at favorable odds -112, to be part of the eight team Western Conference bracket.
As with Detroit in the East, we still feel Sacramento has enough talent to leapfrog enough teams to sew up a berth. At the moment, only four games separate the 7th place Utah Jazz and the 12th place Trail Blazers.
Of these half-dozen teams, only two will probably make the final cut. Talk about a bubble situation. Paired with the Pistons’ odds, we like the Kings as a pair-up dark horse with any combination of the obvious teams.
The idea when we lay down our wagers is to net a positive payday. However, formulating a strategy to break even isn’t the worst idea. The simple reality is that there is not a lot of money to be made betting on the top 8 or 10 NBA teams to make the playoffs.
Things will certainly change over the course of the next few months. Back in August, the Golden State Warriors sat at a -550 of making the playoffs. Injuries have the once mighty Warriors to the bottom of the Western Conference standings with little or no playoff prospects.
So, the same could happen to other teams as well. But, we think strong consideration should be given to the Kings and Pistons as nice dark horse matches with any combination of the obvious teams.