With the All-Star break coming up this weekend, it’s time to look at the futures market to see if there’s any value on the NBA odds board. Hint: There always is.
God Bless the NBA. After four months of insanity, the world’s top basketball league is taking a break; All-Star Weekend begins Friday and lasts until next Thursday. There will be tons of stuff you can bet on for the All-Star festivities, but let's turn our attention instead to the futures market. Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, how does the betting market view the league -- and where are they getting it wrong?
To find out, we’re going to use the NBA odds at Bovada and compare them to the NBA title projections at FiveThirtyEight. Those projections are expressed in percentages, so we’ll run them through the adorable SBR Betting Odds Converter and see how they match up with Bovada’s odds. And if the Toronto Raptors don’t come out as a bargain, I’ll eat a bug.
Wheeeee! The North
No bugs this time. The Raptors (40-16 SU, 31-25 ATS at press time) have the best record in the Eastern Conference going into the break, but they’re only +2200 to win the title. FiveThirtyEight projects Toronto’s chances at 17 percent; that’s the equivalent of +488 in American odds. This is a damned good team with two All-Stars in Kyle Lowry (plus-5.6 BPM) and DeMar DeRozan (plus-2.6 BPM), and depth at every position on the floor -- not unlike the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons of Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton.
But the Raptors might not be the best NBA pick on the board. How about the Utah Jazz (29-28 SU, 31-26 ATS) at +30000? Utah is on a roll with 10 straight wins at 8-2 ATS, finally getting healthy while also improving its lineup by rescuing Jae Crowder (minus-1.9 BPM) from the Cleveland Cavaliers at the trade deadline. FiveThirtyEight has Utah winning the title 2 percent of the time, or +4900 for a “fair” payout.
If you’d prefer a team with more title gravitas, the Houston Rockets (43-13 SU, 28-27-1 ATS) are your huckleberry. They’re available at +400, second behind the defending champion Golden State Warriors at –180. However, the advanced stats say Houston has played better basketball this year. FiveThirtyEight likes the Rockets to win 33 percent of the time, which works out to +203.
Overall, Toronto is probably the best balance between value and plausible championship material, but why not go ahead and pick all three teams? You’ll end up making a profit if any of them wins the title – and that’s better than a coin flip, according to Nate Silver’s crew at FiveThirtyEight.