Draft, Trades, and Free Agency Shake Up Futures Market

Jay Pryce

Monday, June 26, 2017 2:05 PM UTC

Monday, Jun. 26, 2017 2:05 PM UTC

The NBA futures market is undergoing big swings following the draft, Jimmy Butler trade, and pending free agency, which opens July 1. Here's a look at the adjustments and the forces driving them.

It’s been roughly two weeks since bookmakers began taking action on the future 2017-18 NBA Finals winner. For the third season in a row, the Golden State Warriors (-168) and Cleveland Cavaliers (+330) top the market. The recently concluded draft, Jimmy Butler trade and upcoming free agency have sportsbooks making major adjustments to the odds. Let’s take a look at the biggest moves and pinpoint the primary factors driving the change.


Jimmy Butler Trade

The biggest shock from last Thursday night’s NBA draft came when the Chicago Bulls traded Jimmy Butler and the 16th pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the 7th pick overall. Analysts have poured over ad nauseam the winners and losers of the deal, but in the short term, the move makes the T-Wolves instant playoff contenders.

The betting market believes so, too. Both Chicago and Minnesota opened +15000 odds to win the title at 5Dimes sportsbook on June 15, placing them in the bottom half of betting choices league wide. As of Monday, the Timberwolves have catapulted to +6600 odds, fifth-shortest in the Western Conference. The Bulls, now in rebuild mode, sunk to +25000 odds.

The consensus is that Butler brings veteran leadership to the young T-Wolves, offers a late-game scoring option and will ultimately take pressure off budding superstars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in their development.

Butler led the Bulls in scoring the last three seasons and tallied a team-high 34.1 Win Shares overall. Since 2014, the Bulls were 16-22 SU (19-19 ATS) when Butler sat out, losing by -3.82 points per game at 3.2 average odds. When suiting up, the franchise went 125-101 SU (104-118-4 ATS), posting a 1.35 average scoring margin with a -1.7 average line. Butler proved roughly five points or more to the spread. The betting market suggests similar production in Minnesota will turn a team that went 31-51 last year into a mid-seed playoff contender. The T-Wolves, for what it’s worth, have not played in the postseason since losing the 2003-04 Western Conference Finals.


Clippers Stars To Test Market

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin informed the Clippers front office last Friday they intend to test free agency, declining their player options for the 2017-18 season. L.A.’s leadership has made it clear in the past they plan to sign each to max deals. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the franchise can offer more money than any other team and an extra fifth year per contract. But could testing the market be more than a power move for both Paul and Griffin? The market is certainly playing it safe. The Clippers opened +5000 odds to win the title in mid-June, falling to +6600 after the opt-out news.

Paul will move the betting needle more than any other player this summer. The nine-time All-Star averages a whopping 12.9 Win Shares per season since entering the league in 2005. To give you an idea on his futures market impact, the Clippers went from +10000 odds and a 32-50 SU record in the 2010-11 season to +2000 odds and a 40-26 mark in a strike-shortened 2011-12 season after Paul moved to L.A. from New Orleans. The point guard has led his team to the playoffs in nine of the last 10 years.

Reports suggest Paul will visit the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, and Denver Nuggets before singing a contract. If the cross-town rival Lakers land Paul George over the summer, then they become a possible destination as well. One has to believe the game-changing point guard is seeking a title at this point in his career, and the Spurs and Rockets are closest to overcoming the Warriors in the Western Conference in that department. Each team will have to get creative to clear salary cap space, but expect Paul to consider both seriously. If considering a futures bet on any team in the West, wait to see where Paul signs. He is the difference-maker in the futures market.


Youth Dominate Draft

A record 16 college freshman were selected in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft. What does that mean for the championship futures market? Not much. Don’t expect any of the young and inexperienced rookies to lead his team to glory anytime soon, no matter how much the hype.

Still, some are seeing large swings since the draft. The Lakers are expected to acquire a big-name talent in the summer to compliment the No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball. L.A. moved to +12500 odds following the draft from a +20000 opener. Some hopeful bettors believe Ball can conjure up Magic Johnson’s remarkable 1980 season in which he was the last rookie to win the Finals MVP in defeating the 76ers for the Lakers’ seventh NBA championship. Surprisingly, the 76ers, who selected Markelle Fultz first overall to go with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, dropped from +12500 to +25000 odds. The Celtics, who owned the best record in the East last season and selected Duke’s Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick, are holding firm at their +1400 opener.

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