We’re about a month into the NBA season, which means it is a good time to take stock of what has happened against what we thought was going to happen before the season began.
In order to do that, we need to compare the present futures market prices to what they were before the first games started. The market we are going to discuss is the NBA championship.
At the start of the season, we had a clear crown. The Lakers were the shortest price at +300 to +350 with the Bucks, Nets and Clippers all around +500 to +600. A lot has changed since then.
The obvious event that tilted this market was the trade of James Harden to the Nets. The Rockets went from 60-1 or 70-1 up to a minimum of 100-1 or more at various
sportsbooks. As odds go up on one team, other teams will have a drop.
That is what happened to the Brooklyn Nets, who acquired Harden. They had the fourth-shortest odds to start the season at an average of +600, behind the Bucks and Clippers. They are still behind the Lakers now, but have leapfrogged Milwaukee and the Clippers to now have the second-shortest odds at +300.
I am not normally one to grab a number that is worse than we were offered before the season, but it makes sense here as the makeup of the Nets has materially changed.
The Lakers now have an even shorter price than they had to start the season. The +300 or +350 preseason is now down closer
to +250. You still make 2.5 times your money if you take them now and they win, but you could have had 3-1 or 3.5-1 before the season and frankly their chances of winning have not improved that much.
Are they still the favorite? Absolutely, but I thought they were too short a price at +300 or even +350, so I still would not be willing to take them now at a lower price of +250.
We do have some value behind those top two. The Clippers and Bucks have both watched their futures number slip a bit into the +600 to +650 range. This is where you can look for a bet if you want some added value from the preseason.
The Bucks have the softer path to the finals, with the exception of a potential Brooklyn matchup in the playoffs. The Clippers would still have to fight through a very tough NBA Western Conference, but an injury to a LeBron James or Anthony Davis would make the Clippers the likeliest favorite. This is where you want to take advantage of market prices sliding backward.
If you liked these teams in the preseason, you should like them even more now.
The last team I wanted to mention here is the Utah Jazz. The Jazz were +3600 before the season, and that number has now been cut in half to +1800.
One of the strongest predictors of playoff success is efficiency on both offense and defense. Last year, we had four teams that were in the top 10 for points scored per 100 possessions on offense and top 10 for fewest points allowed per 100 possessions. One of
them was the Miami Heat, who made a run to the finals at early-season odds that were similar to this year’s Jazz.
The Jazz sit third in points scored and second in fewest points allowed. I’m not saying they make the same kind of run the Heat did, but if you are looking for a team at juicy odds with a
chance to surprise people, the numbers back up Utah being that team in 2021.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240