Championship Futures Odds Update & Betting Value For Our NBA Picks

Ted Sevransky

Tuesday, January 5, 2016 11:24 PM UTC

Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016 11:24 PM UTC

In this article our handicapping expert studies the updated NBA futures odds and looks for betting value for our NBA picks to win the Championship.

I’m always going to start an article like this one with a short history lesson.  NBA history over the past 30+ years tells us something very clearly – longshots don’t win.  Mid-tier teams don’t win.  In an NBA postseason that requires the eventual champion to win four seven game series before getting their rings, the wheat separates from the chaff.  Only the true elites go on to win a title. 

And those elites must have enough depth to withstand the inevitable onslaught of postseason injuries.  Often it’s the healthiest elite team still standing that wins the title, much like the Warriors did over banged up Cleveland last June.

The results don’t lie.  Over the last 20 years (since the defending champion Rockets won it as a #6 seed in 1995), no eventual champion has been seeded lower than #3 in their conference.  And if you look back even further, the results are exactly the same. A #1 seed won the title for 13 straight years, between 1980 and 1992.

Only five teams that were #3 seeds or lower have won it all during the last 35 years, and three of them – Houston in 1995, San Antonio in 2007 and LA in 2002 – were veteran teams that had won previous championships.  When we’re talking about ‘upstarts’ and ‘shockers’, the only teams that come to mind are the 2004 Pistons and the 2011 Mavericks. 

Detroit was good enough to reach the Eastern Conference Finals six years in a row, and were lucky enough to face an injury riddled Lakers team at the tail end of their dynasty.  Dallas had played in the Finals before, and had been in the postseason every year, gaining experience.  Neither ‘upstart’ really came out of nowhere.

With that history lesson in mind, let’s take an updated look at the NBA Future Book odds.  I’m using numbers from  It’s EXTREMELY important to remember that futures odds can vary dramatically from book to book. Each sportsbook tries to limit their own liability; reacting to their own particular clientele while maximizing their potential for a big, profitable payday at the end of the season.

Golden State is currently listed as the 7/5 favorite (+140).  Cleveland is second at 14/5 (+280).  San Antonio is third at 7/2 (+350).  Oklahoma City is fourth at 14:1 (+1400).  Every other team in the league is priced at 20:1 or higher.

While we expect one of the favorites to win, there’s absolutely no reason to lock up your money in January for an NBA Finals series that won’t take place in June UNLESS there are NBA odds available now that won’t be available three or four months from now.  Of the top three favorites, only San Antonio has that potential for our NBA picks, and frankly, at +350, we’re not talking about a major score for anyone who bets the Spurs now and cashes in late June.

Are there any potential ‘live’ longshots in the mix?  The only one that stands out to me at current prices is the Miami Heat at 40:1.  The Heat have a veteran squad, many with previous finals experience and a couple of titles already under their belts.  The top of the East isn’t nearly as strong as the top of the West – teams like Chicago, Toronto, Atlanta and Indiana certainly aren’t juggernauts like the elite teams out West. 

Miami hasn’t been healthy, just starting to find their rhythm and chemistry as a group.  They’ve got a solid shot to earn a #2 seed; tied for the #2 seed right now, despite that mediocre start.  I’m no fan of longshot future plays in the NBA, but at the current price, at least Miami offers some value, allowing you to lock in a profit with a hedge bet should they reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

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