With so many teams in the Western Conference having a shot at making a run at the title this year, why not take a gamble on a Futures Bet on a decent-priced West contender?
With a little more than two months left in the NBA’s regular season, now is a good time to take a look at the NBA Playoff race in the two conferences and see who is probably headed to some postseason basketball and who will have to fight for one of those few spots really open. As usual, 16 teams will qualify for the 2015 NBA Playoffs—8 from the Eastern Conference and 8 from the Western Conference—although this season the East may probably only deserve to have 4 playing past April 18, when the postseason tips off. And for maybe the novice or new NBA fan, looking at the standings for the duration of this season one might think that the Atlanta Hawks (43-10) and the Golden State Warriors (41-9) are two of the best teams in the league and are on a certain path to meet in this year’s NBA Finals. But maybe nothing could be farther from the truth. The Hawks winning the Eastern Conference probably wouldn’t be as surprising as the impressive Warriors somehow weaving through the wicked minefield that is the Western Conference, but for both teams to breeze through the Regular Season—which ends on April 15—and then win their respective conferences this season and then meet in the NBA Finals would be a bit odd and seem like an earthquake of sorts to a league that’s been dominated by the Spurs, Heat and Lakers this Millennium. But granted, both the Hawks and Warriors have played consistently brilliant basketball all season. But now we’re getting to the point where the rubber meets the road.
The Eastern Conference right now looks like it will be a six-team race for the last two Playoff Spots (#7, #8) with six teams pretty much already in the NBA Playoffs with the records they currently (February 11) have: The Atlanta Hawks (43-10, 5/1 to win NBA Championship, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook), Toronto Raptors (35-17, 20/1), Chicago Bulls (33-20, 8/1), Washington Wizards (33-20, 25/1), Cleveland Cavaliers (32-21, 5/1) and the Milwaukee Bucks (29-23, 200/1). And the six Eastern Conference teams who look like they will be fighting for those 7th and 8th spots are the Miami Heat (22-29, 100/1) and Charlotte Hornets (22-30, 300/1)—currently in 7th and 8th place in the conference—and the Brooklyn Nets (21-31, 300/1), Detroit Pistons (21-32, 300/1), Boston Celtics (19-31, 500/1) and Indiana Pacers (20-33, 500/1).
Counting out the Orlando Magic (13-39, 1,000/1), Philadelphia 76ers (12-41, 9,999/1) and New York Knicks (10-42, 9,999/1) is probably a pretty safe idea as if any of these three actually made the NBA Playoffs this season we should all probably stop talking, writing, watching and betting on this bouncy sport. It’s bad enough that the Eastern Conference gets 8 in as it is and the two teams who end up snagging those #7 and #8 spots could end up with sub-.500 records while maybe three teams from the Western Conference with players on teams with better than .500 records will be left at home watching the precious postseason on their 500-inch HDTVs, crying into their Nachos and incessantly cursing at the silent Moon for not cursing back. You think it’s easy brother. It ain’t.
Which Two Teams Will Likely Make It?
Because they have been there so much recently and have that LeBron-Done-Left-Us chip on their shoulders, it seems the Heat (45/1 to win Eastern Conference, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) will be one of the two teams legally sliding in to the postseason—meaning that five crappy (Can I say crappy?) teams should be fighting it out for that #8 spot, or likely the right to get steamrolled by the likely top-seeded Hawks (9/5 to win East) in the Opening Round. Choo-choo! Who says Life is meaningless? Anyway, that means the Hornets (135/1 to win Eastern Conference), Nets (135/1), Pistons (135/1,) Celtics (225/1) and Pacers (200/1) could all be fighting it out for the last spot and it may just come down to a matter of Dumb Luck. I’m eliminating Boston (8-16 Road) and Indiana (9-19 Road) for their inability to win away from home combined with a sensed Lack O’ Fire this NBA season. So one of the NBA odds makers three 135/1 longshots to now win the Eastern Conference—Charlotte, Brooklyn and Detroit—will probably get that #8 spot, by default almost.
With the Nets so weak in most statistical categories, it seems the slight edge goes to the Hornets, who are #3 in the NBA in Points Allowed (96.9 ppg) and have nice depth and a consistent starting five of Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller, Jeff Taylor, Gerald Henderson and Brian Roberts. The Pistons (10-17 Home) will probably make it hard for both the #7 and #8 finishers in the East, and have assembled their own funky workmanlike starting five with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Kyle Singler, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and DJ Augustin. But, as discussed, it really doesn’t matter who ends up finishing 7th or 8th in the Eastern Conference this season as those two teams will likely both end up just being April Hardwood Chum for the Hawks and either the Raptors (8/1 to win East), Cavaliers (9/5) or Bulls (11/4). Saying you made the postseason in the East this year will be like saying that you saw Nickelback live. Whoopty doo. In the end, no one will really care and these are the types of things to only be bragged about behind closed doors, bubba, knowing that finishing 8th in this conference in this particular season is essentially an entrée of Shame and Diced Carrots.
Like the Eastern Conference, the race for postseason play looks like it could be all but over—even though there are over two months to go in the Regular Season—for all but maybe three teams, with the dynamic Golden State Warriors (41-9, 7/2 to win NBA championship), Memphis Grizzlies (39-13, 18/1), Houston Rockets (36-16, 30/1), Portland Trail Blazers (35-17, 20/1), Dallas Mavericks (35-19, 12/1), Los Angeles Clippers (34-19, 12/1) and San Antonio Spurs (33-19, 7/1) all likely already in although if anyone could fail to make the NBA Playoffs being 15 games over .500 with 2 months left, it’s your Los Angeles Clippers (6/1 to win West). So, the three lucky, or unlucky, teams that will probably be banging heads the rest of the season will be the now 8th-place Phoenix Suns (29-25, 100/1 to win NBA championship) and the basically tied for 9th-place New Orleans Pelicans (27-25, 200/1) and Oklahoma City Thunder (27-25, 18/1). And if you want to know who Oddsmakers and the General Public probably think, or would be leaning to en masse to be that last team, simply look at the odds to win both the NBA championship as well as the West for the three clubs: Suns (100/1, 50/1), Pelicans (200/1, 100/1), and, Thunder (18/1, 10/1). You get the picture. In KD and Russ (25.9 ppg) Ye Trust. Unless, of course, Serge (2.25 BLKPG) is the one who is carrying all of the luggage and portable stereo. If so, then In Serge Ye Trust. Priorities.
Which Team Will Probably End Up Finishing 8th?
With Anthony Davis (24.5 ppg), the Pelicans could squeeze in, but Oklahoma City has more firepower with Russell Westbrook (25.9 ppg) and Kevin Durant (25.9 ppg) and much better Rebounding (#1 in NBA, 46.4 rpg) than either the Pelicans or the Suns with PF Ibaka and C Kendrick Perkins providing two big bodies down low in the paint. With this experienced star-power and higher expectations, the Thunder should find a way to get by New Orleans and The Big Eyebrow as well as a Phoenix Suns team that may be starting to already crumble some (L2, 3-7 L10). So I’m guessing Oklahoma City here and a highly-anticipated and high-scoring Warriors-Thunder matchup in Round 1, here out West where cowboys still exist.
So, a little more than two more months and the NBA’s 82-game Regular Season comes to a close (April 15). And as it appears to be of late, the balance of power in the United States of America’s biggest professional basketball league seems to lie heavily out West. But before you think that there isn’t any value in making a Championship Futures NBA pick at this particular time, think again Broccoli Breath. If you are willing to throw out all of the teams in the entire Eastern Conference—including the admittedly impressive Atlanta Hawks—and then weed out some of the potential pretenders in the Western Conference, you can come up with three or four possibly sweet value-laden plays in my eyes. And, like untapped oil fields laying quietly in wait for that Big-Ass Metal Straw to suck their oh-so sweet Fossil Fuel Shakes, there appears to be value in the Lone Star State of Texas and I ain’t talking ‘bout the Whataburger brother. I’m talking about the defending NBA champion Spurs (7/1) and the best coach in the league, Gregg Popovich, and some grizzled, old vets (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili); the upstart Rockets and James Harden (27.7 ppg); and, the very underrated and seldom talked about Mavericks (16-9 Home, 17-10 Road) and 16-year legend Dirk Nowitzki (18.3 ppg), Tyson Chandler (10.7 ppg/11.8 rpg) and Monta Ellis (20.0 ppg).
Logic says the winner will likely come out of the West and with the team that’s actually playing the best basketball—the Warriors (+11.1 PT DIFF)—just not having much value to be had at current odds of 7/2 and relying so much on the hot, outside shooting of G’s Stephen Curry (23.6 ppg) and Klay Thompson (22.2 ppg), the thought here is that someone in the Western Conference throwing more energy at defense could catch and eliminate the electric Warriors in maybe the second or third (Western Conference finals) rounds.
San Antonio, Houston and Dallas could all very well make a run at the NBA crown this season, and with two months to go before the postseason begins, getting the Rockets or the Mavericks at this current chunky price or even the defending champ Spurs at +625 from 5Dimes—or all three Texas teams for that matter—may seem genius come late May.
NBA Futures Picks: Rockets 30/1, Spurs 7/1, Mavericks 12/1 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)