Playoff Seeding Trends as the Season Comes to a Close

Jason Lake

Thursday, April 10, 2014 2:51 PM UTC

Thursday, Apr. 10, 2014 2:51 PM UTC

Everything changes next week. When you’re betting on the NBA playoffs, you need to switch up your game a bit if you want to maximize your success. Here are some of the major seed-based trends to keep an eye on.

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to April 9 inclusive:

103-80-2 ATS

25-23-1 Totals 

Let the real games begin. There will be no more tanking, no more maintenance days, none of that stuff that made the 2013-14 NBA regular season so profitable – and yet so painful at times to watch. But that’s not the only thing that’ll be different when the postseason tips off next week. You’ve also got the best-of-seven series format, which turns each successive game into an exercise in countermeasures and counter-countermeasures. The result: The best basketball on the planet.

The NBA betting market also goes through some important changes at this time of year. More casual fans start opening their wallets when the postseason comes around, and the closer we get to the NBA Finals, the more money they spend. This is fantastic. Combine the playoff structure with the relatively predictable “square” action, and you get some fairly useful NBA betting trends that can guide your decision-making process.

Whats at Stake in Current NBA Playoff Races

Lucky Number One
Although casual NBA bettors tend to overplay the favorites, that hasn’t stopped the 1-seeds from cashing in against the No. 8 teams in the first round. Last year, the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder went a combined 6-4 ATS, improving the top seeds to 58-51-4 (53.2 percent) in the first round dating back to 2003. The home team in this series, however, went 3-7 ATS to fall to 64-45-4 ATS (58.7 percent) – still highly profitable – while the favorites went an even 5-5 ATS, leaving them at 61-47-4 (56.5 percent). That still speaks volumes to the difference in quality between the top and bottom playoff seeds.

We Try Harder
Just like the No. 2 brand is often a better value than the market leader, the No. 2 seeds have been raking in more money than the top teams in the NBA playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks managed to go 7-3 ATS in last year’s first round, with the Spurs doing most of the damage in a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers. That puts the 2-seeds at a mouthwatering 63-45-8 ATS (58.3 percent) since 2003. Favorites in this series, by the way, are 60-47-8 ATS (56.1 percent).

Take a look at the top NBA Championship Betting Futures

Cover your eyes, folks, because the Denver Nuggets were 3-seeds last year, and they dropped the cash in each of their six games against the Golden State Warriors. The Indiana Pacers got some of that back in a 4-2 ATS series against the Atlanta Hawks, but Denver’s indiscretions still leave the No. 3 seeds barely treading water at 61-61-2 ATS since 2003. Too bad there’s no established basketball betting value from fading the third-best NBA division winners in each conference – don’t forget, though, the playoff format changed in 2006 to give the fourth-place team in the standings the No. 3 seed if the fourth-place team has the better record.

Group of Death
Once you get to the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup in the first round, you don’t usually see much difference between the two teams, and it shows in their performance against the NBA lines. The Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn Nets went 5-8 ATS last year, leaving the No. 4 seeds at 61-64 ATS (48.8 percent) in the first round since 2003. Home teams also don’t have much going for them at 65-62 ATS (51.2 percent). Again, keep in mind that since 2006, the No. 4 seed can be a division winner with a worse record than the actual fourth-place team in the conference. That’s what happened to the Clippers last year, and it hurt them at the pay window.

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